What I’m Thinking: Difficult Question

Joshua asked the leaders of Israel if they would commit to follow the God who had freed them and brought them to their ancestors’ home. The answer was not as obvious as it seems.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the twenty-fourth chapter of the book of Joshua (Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25). The book of Joshua has had a great deal to describe: the entry of the people of Israel into their promised land; their earliest days in their return to the home of their ancestors. At the end of the book, Joshua (no longer a young man; the book describes his death shortly afterward), Joshua summons the elders of the people – their leaders, the ones who will take them into the next generation – and challenges them with one simple question. Well, maybe not so simple.

The question is: “Will you follow the God who has brought you here?”

It’s not an obvious answer. There were lots and lots of deities to worship in those days: the gods of the Egyptians, of course; the gods of the Canaanites in whose land they now lived; the gods of other peoples whom they had encountered or would encounter in the coming decades; and, of course, they had the option of continuing to worship the God who had brought them out of Egypt and who had brought them to this place.

Now, Joshua does not make this a simple choice. He told the elders that there were consequences to doing this, that he was afraid that the people of Israel would not follow the laws and the guidance and the will of God that had been set out through Moses and through Joshua himself. The elders, over and over again, responded, “We will follow the Lord.”

If there were a Scripture of more relevance in our day – all right, there’s plenty – but. My God. We speak these same words over and over again – “We will follow our God” – but who do we really follow?

We follow the lure of our self-interest. We follow the call of our prejudices. We follow the call of those who would preach to our prejudices. We follow greed.

As I look at our situation in this pandemic, it is so clear that we have favored the greed of our nation over the lives of our people. And yet with those elders so many many centuries ago, we still say, “We will follow the Lord.”

Joshua wanted everybody to know: it’s not easy. And sure enough, it’s not. I think we have to return once more to this question. Who will we follow? Who are we following? Who have we been following and what has that brought us?

The assertion of the Scriptures, the assertion of the prophets, the assertion of Jesus, the assertion of the apostles who preached his word following him is: if we follow God, things will go well, or at least better. But if we follow these other deities, especially the ones that we create out of our own selfish desires, we know where that leads. It leads to illness, to heartbreak, to suffering, and to death.

I know it’s not easy, but let’s follow the Lord.

Categories What I'm Thinking | Tags: , | Posted on November 2, 2020

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