The book of Joshua has one verse that is far more well known than any other in its pages:
“Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)
I said that this one verse is known far better than any other in the book, and that is true even in comparison with the verses just before andd just after this one. The entire chapter is well worth your time to read and meditate upon, but I am willing to bet that hardly 1 in 50 of us who are familiar with this verse could really say anything about what the rest of the chapter talks about, particularly what the next few verses of the chapter hold.
After Joshua has made this challenge to the people of Israel, what is their response? Well, it is basically exactly what it should be. They profess that the Lord will be there God. They say “far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord who brought us into this land and gave it to us.” They disclaim any allegiance to other gods, and promise to follow the true and living God. What more could you ask or hope for from the people?
And yet, despite this positive response, Joshua gives a rather surprising answer (does it surprise you like it does me in some ways?). He tells them:
“You will not be able to serve the Lord, for…” (verse 19).
Now, I have left off the important rest of what Joshua says in explanation of his words. I have done that intentionally. Before you go and read the rest of the verse and chapter (which I truly hope you will), let me suggest that you make your best prediction of what you might find. Why does Joshua answer this way? What is his reasoning behind his words? Why does Joshua say that the people cannot serve God? Perhaps the answer will be instructive.
And once you do read what he has to say, perhaps you can think about this question:
Is Joshua’s reasoning as true today for us as it was then for Israel? Has anything changed?
Well, I found this chapter profoundly insightful recently, and I hope that you will as well.