READ: Joshua 24:16-24
(16) The people answered, “We’d never forsake God! Never! We’d never leave God to worship other gods.”
(17-18) God is out God! He brought up our ancestors from Egypt and from slave conditions. He did all those great signs while we watched. He has kept his eye on us all along the roads we’ve traveled and among the nations we’ve passed through. Just for us he drove out all the nations, Amorites and all, who lived in the land.
“Count us in: We too are going to worship God. He’s our God.”
(19-20) Then Joshua told the people: “You can’t do it; you’re not able to worship God. He is a holy God. He is a jealous God. He won’t put up with your fooling around and sinning. When you leave God and take up the worship of foreign gods, he’ll turn right around and come down on you hard. He’ll put an end to you–and after all the good he has done for you!”
(21) But the people told Joshua, “No! No! We worship God!”
(22) And so Joshua addressed the people: “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen God for yourselves–to worship him.”
And they said, “We are witnesses.”
(23) Joshua said, “Now get rid of all the foreign gods you have with you. Say an unqualified Yes to God, the God of Israel.”
(24) The people answered Joshua, “We will worship God. What he says, we’ll do.”
PRAY: “As you read of the Israelites’ passionate desire to follow God (“We’d never forsake God!”), what is your reaction to them? When you take a bird’s-eye view of the history of Israel, noticing their many rebellions against God and inability to stay committed, what does it make you think and feel? Do you relate to Israel at all–in their desire, in their failure, or both? Talk to God about your thoughts and feelings, eventually sitting quietly to listen for his response.
THINK/LIVE: Write about your prayer experience. What was it like for you? What stood out to you about the Israelites? About yourself? About God? If you contemplated your own fickleness or zeal, do you sense that God is leading or challenging you in some way regarding this? Make a note of anything that seems significant.
Passages like this and the feelings/thoughts they dredge up have been convicting for me on many different levels over the course of my life. When things have been going well, it’s been difficult for me to believe that the Israelites could ever turn their backs on God. However, over the course of the past three years, it’s been no trouble at all.
It’s easy to give God an unqualified yes when things are going well. But, when it looks like God is leading your through the valley of the shadow of death, those yeses become more and more hesitant and more and more conditional. There have been many times when I’ve wanted a guarantee other than Heaven if I am going to be required to walk the path I’m on at the moment. I’ve prayed many prayers to that effect, as well. None of them has been granted, so far as I can remember. Especially during these last three years.
However, the moment that my prayer changed from “God, if you’ll just….” to “God, it doesn’t matter if I ever get what I want, I will worship you and give you all the praise and honor and glory,” suddenly, my situation didn’t look as bleak. Nothing had changed but my attitude, but BOY! What a change!
I’ve learned a few things about the Israelites, God, and myself over the past year or so. For one, I’ve learned that I really am no different than the Israelites. I’m forever chasing after one thing or another that is not God, until He lets me get into some hot water that brings me crawling back to Him. And all the while, God is there. Waiting for me to come back to my senses, as soon as I realize that I’ve been chasing after everything BUT Him. Sometimes that realization takes longer than other times. But eventually they all look like desperation over being constantly disappointed at never being fulfilled, at never being satisfied. Yet, when I give God an unqualified yes, I begin to realize that the things I had been using to fill my need for fellowship with God are all woefully inadequate to fill that need. But, there’s God.
I don’t know who all is reading this. I don’t know if you are walking with the Lord, or what your walk looks like right now. Maybe you are going through something so painful you feel like God has left you to fend for yourself and try as you might, every time you cry out for comfort, it seems to come back void. If that is you, can I suggest something? Give God unfettered access to your heart. Ask Him to search you and see if there is any offensive way in you. Then ask Him to lead you in the way everlasting. And then, regardless of what you think He might show you, be receptive to it. Trust Him. Know that He loves you enough to only reveal to you what He wants you to work on right now and that He will be with you every step of the way. What God cares about is your character and transforming you more and more everyday into the image of His Son. If it feels like He is trying to cut too deeply, ask Him to help you bear up under the pain until the cutting is done. Know that sorrow may last through the night, but joy will come in the morning. And when you get the chance to see just how intricate a design He has for your life one day, you will be grateful that you have allowed Him to do this painstaking work in your life. I beg you, today, give God your unqualified yes.