“Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.  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.”
You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.
The road of life is filled with many choices:
- Whom will I marry?
- Where will I live?
- What will I do for a living?
- How will I raise my children?
- Who will educate my children?
- Will I believe in God? And if I do, is there more to it than simply believing he exists?
- What will be the standard of my moral conduct?
Today’s Scripture highlights the most important choices we must make. And, as the rock group, “Rush,” observed, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”
In the preceding verses of Joshua 24, Joshua took the children on an historical reconnaissance in order to remind them of who God is and what God had done for them in the past. Implicit in this was the covenant that God had made with Israel and how they could, therefore, also look to the future fulfillments of God’s promises…IF.
When God made covenant with Israel, it included blessings and curses. Obedience, faithfulness, and loyalty would be rewarded with divine blessing beyond their wildest imaginations. Disobedience, unfaithfulness, and treason, on the other hand, would result in God’s curses. It seems so obvious as to which should be preferred.
And so, after laying out the history of God’s love for his people, Joshua presented the people with a choice. He told them to serve God only and to throw away the idols of their past. Whom would they serve – the gods of their ancestors or the living God? Joshua answered as the covenant head of his home by declaring publicly, “…as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
It is interesting, and quite telling, to see how this theme of choosing between the Living God and the god of the age – between covenant-faithfulness and spiritual adultery – is repeated over and over again in God’s Word. The fact is, we will all bow before something or someone, simply by the living of our lives. Who will be the object of our worship is the choice ever before us.
James lays out the choice before us with crystal clarity. He says that friendship with the world is hatred toward God. What exactly dos he mean here? Well, he’s not talking about loving people and desiring to minister to them. Instead, he has in mind what Paul had in mind in Romans 12:2 – love for and conformity to the sinful, fallen, disobedient patterns of this world, this present age of man and its ruler, this kingdom of darkness (as Paul puts in Colossians 1).
James follows by saying that “anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world [in the way described in the previous paragraph] becomes an enemy of God.” James is essentially putting before God’s covenant people in the New Testament the same choice that Joshua put before God’s covenant people in the Old Testament: Who will they bow their knees to: the gods beyond the River, the gods of the Amorites, the state, secular worldviews, modern American materialism, Hugh Hefner’s Playboy hedonism, the falsehood of neutrality in education propagated by secular humanists, the superficial entertainment mentality of much worship in today’s churches, selling out the gospel (compromise?? Embarrassment??) by watering down the message, and on and on and on?
James calls people who do this “adulterous.” They have left their first love to cozy up to the gods of the Amorites and the gods of Egypt.
People cry out for their free will, their rights, and their autonomy. God gives them that option, but not with impunity. There are consequences to foolish choices. This seems to be so patently obvious, that it needs no examples. People may choose Baal or Molech or Ra or the god of this age if they so choose. They can exercise their moral choice to their heart’s delight. They can revel in their “free will.” But the wrath of God will be leveled against all such unrighteousness and ungodliness as a manifestation of the curse.
This curse can come in countless ways. After all, its dispenser is an infinite Being. A corrupt culture, pagan children, radical illiteracy, increased levels of crime, escalating godlessness in the public square, countless babies born to unwed mothers and into extreme poverty, babies who never make it outside the womb, drugs, violence, sexual and monetary hedonism, the worship of self (even in…or especially in the church), etc. Don’t misunderstand me: God is not going to curse us for these things. These things are the curse.
Had God’s covenant people not spent the last 100 years committing spiritual adultery with the temptress of the age, we might not be experiencing all that we are.
By God’s grace, however, we learn that God’s people are always being called back to covenant faithfulness – to throw away all the other gods of our past and love, obey, worship, and serve the one true God… and him only. Each and every day that we are granted another day to live, we are given another opportunity for repentance and covenant-faithfulness. And like all covenants, it starts with an individual and his family.
So choose this day whom you and your household will serve. There’s only one right answer.
Grace and Truth,