Passing the Torch - Part Five
THEME: Determining to Follow God
This week’s lessons recount Joshua’s charge to Israel’s leaders, which teaches us how we should respond to God in light of what he has done for us in the past, as well as what he promises to do in the future.
Well, we come to the last part of Joshua’s charge, and it’s in the form of a challenge. He challenges them not to drift along, but rather to make a choice for God. Perhaps it's not as clear here at the end of chapter 23 as it’s going to become in chapter 24, where the very word, "choose" occurs: "Choose you this day whom you will serve," says Joshua. But that’s still the idea here in chapter 23. Joshua says,
I'm about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul
that not one of all the good promises of the Lord your God has failed. Every promise
has been fulfilled. Not one has failed. But just as every promise of the Lord your
God has come true, so the Lord will bring on you all the evil He has threatened until
He has destroyed you from this good land He has given you. If you violate the
covenant of the Lord your God which He commanded you, and go and serve other
gods, and bow down to them, the Lord’s anger will burn against you. And you will
quickly perish from the good land He has given you (vv. 14-16).
He’s telling them to choose the Lord and don't drift along. You know, we live in a day when people are drifting. One thing that strikes me so much about our contemporaries is that people are increasingly unable to make a decision and then stand by it. You ask someone, “Well, what are you going to do about this?” and they say, “Well, I think I’m going to do this.” But the next day, they decide that they might do something else. You never know what they’re going to do until the time finally comes. Sometimes they simply decide to do what presents itself as the easiest way to go in the situation.
Christians shouldn't be like that. Christians, on the basis of what God has done, determine to know and follow His law. They live this way because they have already made a choice to do so. You know, you save yourself a lot of agony in the Christian life if you get that settled first and early in your mind. Early on in our lives, we must decide that we’re going to go God’s way. Then when the challenges come—and they do come—we already are on the right path. And when things are difficult, we say, "Well, Jesus never promised they'd be easy. But that’s a decision I’ve already made. I already decided to follow the Lord as Joshua and the other great characters of the Bible did."
And yet, I don't want to leave it there because there are always people who wrestle with these things and wonder if they can make a decision, or if they ought to make a decision. I notice that when God challenges us to do something, He never just leaves the question open as if He’s indifferent as to how you may choose and whether you go to the right or to the left, whether you choose God or Baal. God always gives inducements to do the right thing. In this last portion of Joshua 23 I notice that there are four times when Joshua uses the word “good,” as well as once in chapter 22. It occurs twice in terms of the good promises of the Lord and three times in reference to the good land that He has given.
That's the point, you see. It's not just that we should obey God because it’s our duty to obey Him, though that is true. It's not just that perhaps it might be wise to obey Him, though that is also true. But it’s that this is the good thing to do. God is a good God, and His promises are good promises, and His gifts are good gifts. So if I can put it this way, if you really want the good life, then the thing to do is decide for God early and follow Him faithfully to your life’s end. Consider some of the verses that tell us about the goodness of God and the good things that He has for His people.
Psalm 34:8 says, "Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him."
Psalm 100:5 declares, "The Lord is good and His love endures forever."
In Psalm 103:5 David affirms, "He satisfies your desires with good things."
Psalm 69:16 speaks of the goodness of God’s love.
Psalm 119:39 asserts that all God’s laws are good.
Nahum 1:7 observes, "The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble."
Romans 7:12 argues, "So then the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous, and good."
Romans 8:28 says that “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”
Romans 12:2 admonishes us “…to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
James 1:17 declares, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."
In John 10:11, Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd.
Psalm 84:11 affirms, "The Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless."
These verses are not misrepresentations. God does not lie, and He is master of the understatement. When God says that His way is good, He means that His way is superlative, tremendous, the absolutely best thing you and I could possibly experience or know. So because that’s true, why not follow Him? Why not determine to follow Him now? Why not determine to follow Him wholeheartedly, without reservation, and without drawing back—just as Joshua did—and be blessed for it as he was?
- Based on Joshua 23:14-16, what underlying theological idea does Joshua give for why Israel should choose to follow the Lord?
- From the lesson, as an application from Joshua 23:14-16, what is the main reason why we should continue to obey God?
Go over the verses given that talk about God’s goodness and the good things he does on behalf of his people. Consider how God has been good to you, and praise him for them.
Are there any areas in your life where you do feel yourself to be drifting and not making a determined choice to follow the Lord? Confess this before God, and ask him for the grace and help of the Holy Spirit to give you a renewed desire to follow hard after him in obedience and love.