This past week we gathered with 22 family members and friends to enjoy a wonderful celebration. After the feast concluded, the crowd splintered into smaller groups that shape in various places around our house. Three or four gathered around the television to watch the football game. Two sat at the counter to catch up on the latest developments and accomplishments in the lives of their children. Four more sat on the sofa in the living room. A few more moved out onto the deck for fresh air, while the rest lingered around one side of the dining room table, filling the air with the low rumble of warm conversation.
Eventually the evening hours approached and you could tell that the gathering was drawing to a close, my father-in-law spontaneously clinked his fork on his coffee cup to call the clan back together. As he looked around the room and surveyed a couple generations of family, it was obvious that he was also metaphorically looking across time through the lens of his 80+ years of life. With his voice full of emotion, he began to enumerate the many blessings associated with the faces that stood around our kitchen table. After recounting some wonderful stories of his lifetime, he concluded with a challenge to us to always value what he regarded as most important thing in this life: Relationships.
Perhaps this was isn’t too far from Joshua’s mindset in chapter 24 of the book that bears his name. By this point, Joshua has seen a lot over the span of his long and storied life. He began life in Egyptian bondage, and as a young man took his place at Moses’ side as God’s mighty hand lead His people out from under the harsh rule of Pharaoh. He saw the Lord part the Red Sea, tasted manna and dressed in clothes that never wore out as the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years. Later, as Moses’s successor, he lead the Hebrews through the parted waters of the Jordan River, watch the walls of Jericho crumble, and led the Israelites to conquer their enemies and settle in the Promised Land of Canaan.
And so, it’s in chapter 24 that as he pauses to survey the faithfulness and power of God in his life. Joshua gathers the leaders and people together to give them a final challenge.
“Now fear the Lord and serve Him with all faithfulness.” ~ Joshua 24:14
Serve Him with ALL faithfulness….
That statement doesn’t leave any room for casual faith. It doesn’t give the option of following God only when it’s convenient or personally beneficial. While the world will never have a shortage of things that distract us and tempt us away from following the Lord’s voice, (and we won’t always get it right,) we’re still called to consecrate ourselves to the Lord and invest in serving Him. But this kind of commitment comes from a deeper place than following mere words and getting busy in some sort of religious activity. In verse 23, Joshua gives us the key when he encourages us to “yield (our) hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.”
I guess the easiest way for me to think about this right now is to go back to my father-in-law’s words from this past week. Believers need to focus on the thing that’s most important: Relationship. And in this case, a relationship with Christ. When knowing Him becomes our priority, following and serving the Lord will no longer be obligation, but becomes the overflow of a joyful and grateful heart.
“Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, … But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” ~ Joshua 24:15