Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
When Joshua neared the end of his life, he gathered the nation of Israel to Shechem and reminded them of all the ways God had helped them over the years, wanting them to never forget that they had conquered the Promised Land only by the power of God. He also wanted them to know how to stay victorious and not lose the land which the Lord had given them, which is why he charged them to choose to serve God rather than false gods.
What is recorded in the Old Testament can teach Christians who are under the New Testament (Romans 15:4). Like Israel, Christians are victorious over sin and eternal death…but only through the grace and power of God. Yet these victorious followers of God must never forget that their adversary, Satan, is a very sore loser. Just as he did not like to see Israel possess the land of Canaan, he does not like it when he sees a Christian living in victory. Thus, saints should never forget the power the devil has to tempt them to fall away and lose their victory. It would do Christians well to heed the words of Joshua which he gave to Israel.
He had told them to fear the Lord (v. 14). We don’t like to think of God as someone we should fear, but the Bible actually looks at fearing God as a good thing (Psalm 25:14; 31:19). Fear of God doesn’t require anyone to be cowed by the Almighty as one would be in front of a tyrant because God is good. The type of fear we all need to have for God is a reverential, holy fear that sets Him apart in our minds and hearts and places Him first in absolutely everything in our lives. Christians don’t need to fear what the rest of the world fears if they learn that if they please God, it doesn’t matter whom they displease. The opposite is true as well. If God is displeased with us, it doesn’t really matter whom we please. No one can please God without fearing Him, and those who fear God the most are the ones who love Him the best.
Joshua also told Israel to repent by putting away the false gods of Egypt (v. 14). Like Israel, sometimes Christians allow the bad things of their old life to come into their new life. When that happens, the danger of falling away and losing the victory of salvation is real (2 Peter 2:20-22). The good news is that God recognizes that no one other than His Son is perfect, and out of love has provided a way for Christians who sin to still remain victorious: by walking in the light and penitently acknowledging the sins they commit in order to continually receive forgiveness (1 John 1:7-9).
Joshua then told Israel to choose to serve God sincerely and faithfully as he and his family had done (vs. 14-15). Christians must choose to do the same. Their service must be their very best, whole and complete, lacking nothing. God wants our entire lives to be sacrificed to His service (Romans 12:1). That cannot happen when we allow school, sports, careers, hobbies, family and friends – all good and necessary things in and of themselves – to take higher precedence. Joshua, as the leader of his family, had chosen to lead them to put God first. Last week was Father’s Day. Dads, make the same choice Joshua made for you and your families. Take time every day to teach your children the Bible and make sure you live it out in front of them. That’s how you bring everlasting victory to yourself and your loved ones (1 Tim. 4:15-16).
Joshua knew that victory is found only in God, and the same is true for us today. If you want real, eternal victory, Jesus is the only place to find it. Choose to live for Him.