Many of us, at one time or another in our lives, have decided to follow God. But how firm is our choice? What kind of commitment does God require of us? Let us study today a passage from the book of Joshua where the Israelites faced the same questions.
Background: In Joshua 24:1-13, Joshua gathered all the Israelites and recounted how God had led them out of Egypt, and how God had led them into the land of Canaan. Joshua was already old at that time, and he wanted to make sure the Israelites would be faithful to God even after Joshua leaves the scene.
II. BIBLE READINGS
Joshua 24:14 “Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshipped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 15 But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” 16 Then the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the LORD to serve other gods! 17 It was the LORD our God himself who brought us and our fathers up out of Egypt, from that lad of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we traveled. 18 And the LORD drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land. We too will serve the LORD, because he is our God.” 19 Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the LORD. He is a holy God; He is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. 20 If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.” 21 But the people said to Joshua, “No! We will serve the LORD.” 22 Then Joshua said, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the LORD.” “Yes, we are witnesses,” they replied. 23 “Now then,” said Joshua, “throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.” 24 And the people said to Joshua, “We will serve the LORD our God and obey him.” 25 On that day Joshua made a covenant for the people, and there at Shechem he drew up for them decrees and laws. (NIV)
A. The Choice (vv. 14-18)
- What choices were the Israelites asked to make? (vv. 14-15)
- What did they choose? Why? (vv. 16-18)
- Today, what are the choices before us?
- What is the equivalent of “foreign gods” (v. 14) in our lives today? Give examples.
- Give examples on how these “gods” crowd out God from His rightful place in our hearts
B. The Firm Commitment (vv. 19-25)
- Notice that the reasons given in vv. 16-18 by the people for their choice to serve the Lord was based on what the Lord had done for them. Why is this not a good basis for choosing God? Why did Joshua not accept the quick response of the people? When we come to God, do we usually think of what we can get from Him, or what He is like and how we can know Him and love Him and serve Him?
- What character traits of God did Joshua stress? (v. 19) What is the meaning of God as “holy” God? A “jealous” God? Why did he stress them, and how does it apply to us? Jealousy is usually understood to be a negative trait. Why is God described as “jealous”?
- One reason it is important for us to remember that God is a jealous God is because we oftentimes want to serve God and “other gods” at the same time. Give examples.
- What did Joshua say the consequences will be if the Israelites forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods? (v. 20). How did the people respond? (vv. 21-22)
- How important it is to make a firm commitment to God? What are the practical effects if we do and if we don’t? Verse 22 gives us an idea on how to make a firm commitment – to have witnesses to the commitment we make. How does this help us carry out our commitment?
- What was required of the Israelites to show their firm commitment to God?(v.23). What hinders us from throwing away the “foreign gods” mentioned earlier? How can we overcome these hindrances?
- How can we “incline our hearts to the Lord” (v.23)? What are the obstacles that may hinder you from carrying out your commitments to “incline your hearts to the Lord”? How do you propose to overcome these obstacles to sustain your spiritual growth?
How firm is my commitment to God? Is Jesus Christ really my Lord?