Guard your Church, O Lord, with your perpetual mercy; and because in our frailty we cannot stand without your support, keep us always from all that may harm us; and lead us to all that is profitable for our salvation, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Joshua 24 : 14 -24
“Now fear the Lord and and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away your 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 others gods! It was the Lord our God himself who brought us and our fathers up and 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.”
Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.”
But the people said to Joshua, “No! We will serve the Lord.”
Then Joshua said, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the Lord.”
“Yes, we are witnesses,” they replied.
“Now then,” said Joshua, “throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.
And the people said to Joshua, “We will serve the Lord our God and obey him.”
On that day Joshua made a covenant for the people, and there at Shechem he drew up for them decrees and laws.
Matthew 6 : 24 – 34
“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one, and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. 1You cannot serve both God and Money.
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even 2Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ Or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
1Certainly to be devoted to the increase of wealth. . . rules out that devotion to God which alone is the ground of human integrity or wholeness. (H. Melinsky).
2Here the point is that the king was proverbial for magnificence. But not even that magnificence can compare to the way the flowers are clothed. One points to the basic unit; Solomon’s clothes could not compare to that of even one of the flowers. (Leon Morris).
The fundamental condition of human nature is weakness. We are created for dependence upon the Lord - totally; he is to be our strength and our complete reliance is to be upon him. Our frailty as mere creatures is huge in every way. Physically we can only survive within very limited and congenial conditions that are moderated for our comfort. We have a well defined, confined range of adaptability and functional capacity. Under the force of various pressures and weights our bone structure is brittle and subject to fracture, and the flesh that envelopes our various vital organs and inner parts is very soft and tender. How vulnerable we happen to be. Humans can only prove to be strong in comparison with each other.
As a race we are all highly exposed to threatening dangers and hazards that can snuff us out in a moment and each of us eventually falls victim to the summons of death - brief life, earthly extinction. The best minds are ultimately delicate given the enormous strains and uncertainties in life that can be brought to bear, and the most resilient constitutions can eventually crack and collapse. In ourselves, under honest scrutiny, we are by nature extremely feeble. Most crucially, as a result of our breach with our Maker and Sustainer, we are fatally flawed and defective in a moral way, being also volitionally erratic, and subject to being easily swayed and unpredictable. It is only outlandish hubris that can cause us to be boastful and self-reliant. Written across our character in bold letters is the devastating description of the content of our hearts, “wickedness and inconstancy”.
It is our inconstancy, even as believers, that is addressed in our Scripture lessons for the day. With our speech we make great assertions and utter very solemn vows, but in fact our inner attitudes and outward behavior fall dismally low beneath the talk of the tongue, that instrument of falsehood and deception. It is even possible for we Christians to be unaware of the gravity of conceited, casual, insincere speech before God, and even directly in communication with him.
Joshua gives Israel opportunity to assess its genuineness of professed allegiance to its gracious liberator and deliverer. “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.” In reply Israel recites the benefits it received in covenant with the Lord, but Joshua knows the tendencies of the people to still cling to foreign gods they have discovered beyond the River and also currently adopted in the land they have by grace inherited. He declares their inability to cast these gods away. He knows that in spite of their profession of loyalty to God they remain untrue, and by intimating that in their hearts that they are wavering, he deftly touches on their inconstancy by posing an unavoidable decision: “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves. . .” Choices are determined by desires. The will of sinful man is not the arbiter of our deepest desires but their captive. Hence Joshua’s verdict on Israel’s verbal superficiality, “You are not able to serve the Lord.” The holiness of God, the claims and prerogatives of God do not appeal to the Israelites. Their false declaration acknowledges him but in their desires they abandon him.
Former idols of the heart may still beckon to us and stick to us annoyingly, and we can be tempted to cling to them and fall in line with their seductive suggestions - the acquisitions and ambitions fostered by the gods of gratification and worldly greatness are alluring, and may even take on a pronounced religious guise. We may wrongly perceive that “he is our God”, but he may simply be the figment of our own self-serving imagination and wants. Idols that are fabricated in the misled mind are, of all fancies, most dangerous. The Lord must teach us about ourselves as well as about himself. We must match together in a state of holiness. Serving the Lord is a costly, painful dying to self. We are not able, as Joshua recognized, to serve the Lord but by his grace and enabling alone.
The Lord Jesus is, of course, fully acquainted with our divided loyalties and inconsistencies, but he warns us that no one can really serve two masters, exercise a duality of devotion, or adhere to a plurality of allegiances. He specifically instances the ancient and yet very modern god, Mammon, a name which is now accurately rendered as Money. The pursuit of wealth and wellbeing for our own sakes and satisfaction is exceptionally perilous. Riches are not sinful in themselves. The moral issue to consider is how affluence is gained and as to how it is dispersed, but in our fallen state riches can cultivate many evils; failure in probity and rectitude, greed, arrogance, presumptuousness, social superiority, and that most fatal flaw of lack of reliance upon God.
Our secret interior idols are simply expressions of the inclinations of the heart. Pursuit of our own preferences and proposed glamorous and gratifying results is the essence of idolatry. The goals and gains of our self-will are images of our own selves usurping the sovereignty and supply of the Lord. Our hearts are the chapels of our own ungodly desires and devotion. We neglect the comforts and commands of the word of God, his speech of endearment and demand. We repel his companionship and wise control.
The words of the Lord Jesus are powerfully striking and convicting, and they bring us to our knees in penitence and prayer:
“Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one. And you shall love the lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”