It’s a powerful statement that Joshua makes. He lines out all that the Lord has done, promised, and covenanted. God’s covenant with Abraham as Abraham and Sarah left their homes and risked it all to go to where God was leading. God’s covenant with the Moses, Aaron, and the Hebrew people as they lead them out of slavery to the land that God has promised. All these promises that God makes to the people and the promises that God keeps with the people.
Now Joshua asks the people around him the big question, “What are you going to do about it?” All these promises made and kept by God, Joshua wants to know, who will it be that you serve? It’s time that you people make your choice. Will it be God or will it be something, or someone, else that you choose?
It’s an interesting dynamic that develops here. In most everything in our life of faith we make no choices. We don’t choose God, God has already chosen us. We don’t choose faith, faith is a gift from God the Holy Spirit. We don’t choose forgiveness, that comes from God through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. These are not choices we make.
We can make one choice, though. We can choose to serve God. Or not. God will not force or coerce us into serving. God will not use some kind of leverage to get us to do something. God does not dangle a carrot in front of us to get us to avoid the stick. Whom we serve is up to us. Whom we serve is our choice. We can choose to serve God. Or not. Quoting the band Rush in their song Free Will, “If you choose not to decide You still have made a choice.”
Whom we serve is very closely related to first commandment in the small catechism that we talked about last week. The one where we will have no other gods ahead of God – including our car, our house, our hobbies, and our kid’s sports schedules. It can be a struggle to keep priorities in line as to whom we are serving.
There’s a couple of good reasons to keep those priorities in line, however. One is about us and the other is about everyone else. Both are ultimately about God. The first thing is that we generally don’t feel good about ourselves when we ignore someone who has kept their promises to us. There’s a group of people, sociopaths I think it is, that genuinely don’t have that kind of empathy for others. Most of the rest of us do, so honoring the promises kept on our behalf keeps ourselves in balance. We feel better about ourselves.
The other reason, is that our serving God is our response of thanks to all that God has done, is doing, and will be doing in the future. God freed the Hebrews from slavery to Pharaoh in Egypt, God frees us from slavery to sin, and in the future God is going to free us from slavery to death with a promise of eternal life. We can’t change that, cause that, fix that, or earn that. Nada. But we can respond to that. We can choose to respond to all of that.
It’s funny sometimes how those choices play out. There’s the obvious things we choose to serve God with. Our prayer life. Our Bible study and reading life. Our helping with outreach projects here and in other venues. Our giving. Our worship attendance. The obvious things. But there are other things not so obvious. Like the person who goes out as a trained storm spotter during bad weather to help keep people informed and safe. Like the person who drives the drag around baseball and softball fields in the summer so youth leagues have a decent field to play on. Like the person who responds with grace to a perceived slight rather than responding in anger.
It comes down to serving God isn’t limited to church stuff on Sunday’s. Serving God isn’t a checklist but instead of more of a mindset. A mindset that recognizes all that God has done and chooses to do something about it. A mindset that chooses to serve the Lord. Always.