The Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
August 26, 2018
Joshua 24:1, 2a, 14-18
Then Joshua assembled all the tribes of Israel at Shechem. He summoned the elders, leaders, judges and officials of Israel, and they presented themselves before God. Joshua said to all the people, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: “Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” Then the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the LORD to serve other gods! It was the LORD our God himself who brought us and our fathers up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we traveled. And the LORD drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land. We too will serve the LORD, because he is our God.” (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Commitment. Commitment is a word that people use on a fairly regular basis. And yet, while commitment is a word that many people use, I am not so sure that commitment is a concept that many people understand or put into practice. According to Webster’s dictionary commitment very simply means, “To pledge or promise to do something.” To me that definition is rather vague. In a marriage class that I have taught in the past I emphasize that at least when it comes to a Christian marriage commitment is, “The desire of an individual to maintain or improve the quality of the relationship for the joint benefit of the partners. It is evidenced by both a desire and actions to not only continue in the relationship and to improve it, but to sacrifice for it, to invest in it, to link personal goals to it and to seek the partner’s welfare.” Now to me at least that is a much more in-depth definition of commitment.
Our sermon text for today, my friends, very clearly and very emphatically speaks to us about: Commitment! Our goal then this morning is to look at commitment from two different perspectives. First, we want to look at God’s commitment to us. Then, in light of God’s commitment to us we want to look at our commitment to God.
Our text for this morning takes place shortly before the death of God’s servant Joshua. By God’s grace and under Joshua’s leadership the Children of Israel had now entered into the Promised Land. By God’s grace and under Joshua’s leadership the Children of Israel had taken possession of the Promised Land and broken up much— but not all— of the Canaanite resistance. By God’s grace and under Joshua’s leadership the twelve tribes of Israel had each been given a portion of the Promised Land as their inheritance for the generations to come. While many of the hardships and difficulties were now behind them, Joshua knew that the Children of Israel still had some very difficult days and some very difficult tasks to overcome. Joshua also knew just how fickle, just how rebellious, just how stiff-necked God’s people could be! Therefore, Joshua assembles the Children of Israel at the city of Shechem and he speaks to them about: Commitment! First and foremost, however, Joshua reminds the people of God’s commitment to them!
Since our text for today skips verses 3 through 13 of our text and since I consider those verses to be extremely important for a proper understanding of our text, I have included an insert in your bulletin that includes all of Joshua 24:1-18. I invite you to take out that insert. In Joshua chapter 24:2 we hear Joshua say to the people of Israel, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says….” Then Joshua recounts for God’s people all of the ways in which the Lord their God evidenced His commitment to His people through actions. Look at verse three, “I took…I gave.” Verse four, “I gave…I assigned.” Verse five, “I sent…I afflicted…I did…I brought.” Verse six, “I brought.” Verse seven, “he (the LORD) put darkness…he brought…what I did” Verse eight, “I brought…I gave…I destroyed.” Verse ten, “I would not listen…I delivered.” Verse eleven, “I gave.” Verse 12, “I sent.” Verse 13, “I gave.” As the LORD has Joshua recount the history of God’s Chosen People from the days of Abraham to the days of Joshua how many times does He emphasize what He has done to evidence His commitment to His people? That’s right! Twenty-one times! Twenty-one times in just eleven verses the LORD, the God of Israel, says to His people, “This is what I have done for you!” Why? Why does God do this? I think the answer to that question is quite simple and quite important.
As the people of God gathered there in the Promised Land at the city of Shechem the Lord, the God of heaven and earth, reminds them of His commitment to them— a commitment that was evidenced in not just words but also in actions.
Does God we do anything like that for us as we gather together as the people of God today, my friends? Absolutely! In fact, if the Holy Spirit chose to continue the list of ways in which the Lord God has evidenced His commitment to you that list would be quite long, wouldn’t it! Just think about it for a moment. The God of heaven and earth evidenced His commitment to you when the virgin conceived and gave birth to the eternal Son of God. He evidenced His commitment to you by living an absolutely perfect life for you— in your place. He evidenced His commitment to you by enduring the rejection and the ridicule of many of the people of Israel— as we saw in our Gospel Lesson for today. (See John 6:60-69) But more than anything else the Lord, the one and only true God, evidenced His commitment to you on the hill called Calvary. (Pointing to the cross) Could there possibly be a more powerful evidence of God’s commitment to you than the sacrifice of His own Son on the cross as payment in full for the debt of sin that you owed to God? (Pointing to the cross)
What does this mean then, my friends? What practical application does God’s commitment to you have in your day-to-day life? Think about this: Every single morning when you get up and look at yourself in the mirror, God’s commitment to you assures you that no matter what may or may not happen today, no matter what is happening in your world around you, no matter what is happening in the Middle East, no matter what is happening in Sacramento or in Washington, no matter what is happening in the economy, no matter what is happening at home, no matter what is happening at school, no matter what is happening at work— no matter what!— you can look in the mirror and by the grace of God you can say— I am saved! I am saved for all of eternity! I am a dear child of God! And if anyone ever dares to try and rob you of that certainty remember the evidence that God Himself gives to you to remind you of His commitment to you! Remember the baptismal font where God evidenced His commitment to you by completely washing away all of your sins and adopting you as His dearly beloved child. Remember the holy Supper where God evidences His commitment to you by giving you His true body and blood as undeniable proof that all of your sins are completely forgiven. Remember the inspired Scriptures where the Lord your God evidences His commitment to you by not only reminding you of everything He has already done for you, but by also revealing to you the eternal blessing that He has stored up waiting for you in His heavenly home. Remember the most powerful evidence of God’s commitment to you— the cross of Jesus Christ. (Pointing to the cross)
In the light of what God has done for you, in the light of the evidence of God’s commitment to you, the LORD your God comes to you today and He says to you the exact same thing He said to the Children of Israel through Joshua: “Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.” It is critically important for us to remember that just as God spoke these words to His Chosen People of old, people who had already been brought into a covenant relationship with Him, so also God speaks these words to you— people who have already been brought to faith in Jesus as your only Savior from sin! These words are not spoken in the context of Justification, how we were “Declared: Not Guilty!” by God Himself. Our Justification is purely the work of God the Son alone. These words are not spoken in the context of Conversion, how a person becomes a Christian. Our conversion is purely the work of God the Holy Spirit alone. No, my friends, these words are spoken in the context of Sanctification, how we openly live the faith that God has created in our hearts. Each and every day we choose whom or what we are going to “serve” as our God. As we live our lives, as we spend our money, as we use our talents, as we set our priorities, as we live as a child of God in this sin-filled world we are not only choosing whom or what we are “serving,” but we are also giving evidence to others as to whom or what we are “serving” as our God!
With that in mind, let me suggest this: As you stand in front of that mirror in the morning and remember God’s commitment to you, as you stand in front of that mirror and know deep down in your heart that purely by grace through faith you are a saved child of God— saved for all of eternity— daily recommit both your heart and your life to your Lord. Start each and every day of your life by saying to yourself, “Today I will give testimony to the fact that I am a Christian.” As you go through your day ask yourself, “How can I faithfully serve my Savior today? What can I do to humbly show my commitment to my God?” And when you lay your head down on your pillow at night and reflect upon your day remember the cross of your Savior. (Pointing to the cross) Remember that even if, even when we stumble in our commitment to God, our God never stumbles in His commitment to us.
Tragically, the Children of Israel who gathered here at Shechem, the very same people who boldly said to Joshua, “Far be it from us to forsake the LORD to serve other gods…We too will serve the LORD, because he is our God,” tragically, it did not take long for God’s own people to lose sight of their commitment to their God. Almost as soon as Joshua and his generation of Israelites had died the Children of Israel abandoned the promise they made here at Shechem. One of the re-occuring laments in the book of Judges is found in the words, “The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD; they forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs” (Judges 3:7). Don’t let that happen to you, my friends. Don’t let your commitment to your Lord slip away. Whatever you need to do to remind yourself of God’s commitment to you, do it! If that means having a cross in every single room of your house— then do it. If that means writing down on a piece of paper the words, “I am a saved and baptized child of God!” and then placing that note in your desk or in your pocket or in your purse or taping it to the bathroom mirror where you can’t help but see it over and over again— then do it. Do whatever it takes to keep your heart and your life focused on God’s commitment to you so that like Joshua here in our text you too will always have the commitment that empowers you to say, “But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
To God be the glory!