Thursday, February 14, 2013

Total Commitment

Joshua:  14 "So now: Fear (reverence, respect) GOD. Worship (serve) Him in total commitment. Get rid of the gods your ancestors worshiped on the far side of The River (the Euphrates) and in Egypt. You, worship GOD. 15 "If you decide that it's a bad thing to worship GOD, then choose a god you'd rather serve—and do it today. Choose one of the gods your ancestors worshiped from the country beyond The River, or one of the gods of the Amorites, on whose land you're now living. As for me and my family, we'll worship GOD." 16 The people answered, "We'd never forsake GOD! Never! We'd never leave GOD to worship other gods. 17 "GOD is our 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. 18 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 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 (rebellion) and sinning. 20 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 (yield your hearts) to GOD, the God of Israel." 24 The people answered Joshua, "We will worship GOD. What He says, we'll do." Joshua 24:14-24 (The Message Bible).

Joshua 24 records Joshua’s final words to the Israelites at Shechem. He challenged the people to make a sensible choice. The people had to choose whether they would love and worship the true and living God with total commitment or other gods of the land. In taking a strong stand for God, Joshua made a total and wholehearted commitment to love and worship the true and living God of Israel. Likewise, Joshua called on the people to put away their idols and gods (Joshua 24:14) and to love and worship the true and living God above all other gods (Joshua 24:23).

God desires and demands our total allegiance and commitment to Him (Exodus 20:3-11; Hosea 2:13). There is only one God and only one true faith taught in the Holy Scriptures. The true God is the God revealed in Jesus Christ (John 17). Yet, our world wants to accept many religions or combine aspects of one religion to another (Romans 1:18-25). These actions are called syncretism and are not new. Ancient Israel was constantly tempted to absorb or combine Canaanite worship of fertility gods and goddesses into the worship of God. Moreover, the first century Roman world worshipped many gods and all sorts of cults flourished. Gnosticism found in the first century Roman world is similar to the modern day New Age movement.

God is “a jealous God” (Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 4:24; Joshua 24:19) and He will not tolerate rivals. He does not want to be one of several gods in our lives. The true and living God wants to be Lord of all with our total heart commitment to Him (Exodus 20:3). Even more, God will not tolerate unfaithfulness and idolatry. Other gods or idols can also be money, jealousies, prejudices, status, or fame. Yet, seeking these idols and other gods can cause one to lose sight of the meaning of life and of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). The true meaning of life is to love and obey God (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14; Matthew 22:34-40). God wants our total commitment, which means our wholehearted love, faithfulness, and allegiance to Him as God (Joshua 24:14, 23). He wants everyone to make a sincere and honest commitment to Him first from the heart (Matthew 6:33). God wants a personal and close relationship as their God. The true and living God of the Holy Scriptures desires to be love, respected, and worshiped first and foremost (Exodus 20:3; Matthew 6:33).

Worshipping other gods or idols is spiritual adultery (Deuteronomy 6:4-6; Jeremiah 3; Ezekiel 16; Hosea 2). Idolatry means any object of love, affection, and worship that comes before God. The apostle Paul seemingly enlarged the meaning of idolatry to include covetousness and greed (Colossian 3:5). In fact, the Holy Scriptures are clear about the evil and dangers of practicing idolatry (see e.g., Psalms 115:4-7; Isaiah 44:9-20; Jeremiah 2; 1 Corinthians 8:4-6; 1 Corinthians 10:14, 19-21; 1 John 5:19-21). None is more graphic and devastating than that in Isaiah 44:9-20. The idol is made by a man but is powerless to help the man. The idol begins as a piece of a tree and made into a god. Thus, the man worships no more than a block of wood. God is Spirit (John 4:24). One of the prominent and distinguishing features of the true and living God is the reflection of His divine image found in Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:15-23). God desires our true spiritual worship from our hearts, minds, and souls and not to any “… graven image…” or idol (Exodus 20:4-5; Exodus 32).

Joshua was not the only person to encourage the people to wholeheartedly follow God. Moses challenged the people to wholeheartedly worship God (see Deuteronomy 30:15-20). Moses encouraged the people to choose

“. . . between life and death, between blessings and curses. . . . Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying Him, and committing yourself firmly to Him. This is the key to your life. And if you love and obey the Lord, you will live long in the land . . .” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20 – New Living Translation).

Moreover, Elijah challenged the Israelites on Mount Carmel, “. . . How long are you going to sit on the fence? If God is the real God, follow Him …” (I King 18:21 – The Message). Hosea also challenged the people and prophesied “Israel, have nothing to do with idols. I, the Lord, am the One who answers your prayers and watches over you. I am like a green pine tree; your blessings come from Me. . . . The Lord’s ways are right. Good people live by following them . . .” (Hosea 14:8-9 – New Century Version). Moreover, the apostle Paul challenged the people “So if you're serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides…” (Colossians 3:1 Message Bible).  

Yet, humans are unable to totally worship God without God’s help (Joshua 24:19). By choosing God, He gives us His Holy Spirit to help us obey and serve Him while on earth (John 14 – 16). God had chosen Joshua to lead Israel because Joshua had the Holy Spirit within His heart to obey, serve God and lead Israel (Numbers 11:16-30; Numbers 27:18; Deuteronomy 34:9). Joshua was concerned for God’s glory, obedience to God, and the benefit of the people. We too can obtain God’s Holy Spirit just like Joshua by turning our hearts to God with love, openness, and a desire to follow Him as our God. God says, "Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit" (Zechariah 4:6; see also Hosea 1:7). Humans can only through God's Holy Spirit obey and faithfully serve God. With God and His Holy Spirit on our sides, we can do anything (Matthew 17:20; Matthew 21:21; Mark 10:27)!

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