“gods at war” pt 2 (inspired by Kyle Idleman)
At the end of Joshua’s life, he lays down a challenge to the people of Israel and identifies choices for them, “Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshipped 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 of 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.” Joshua 24v14-18
When we think about gods today, don’t think about little statues, but think about what we “serve” and what we “fear”. In our modern society we may find people who serve the following: money, pleasure, power, love, relationship, experience, qualifications, acceptance, security, peace …
Joshua identifies the choices for the rescued people of God in the following way, which may help us think this matter through:
(i) To serve gods we’ve inherited from our family. “gods of your forefathers beyond the River”. This is referring to beyond the River Euphrates back in the time of Abraham. We know that Israel retained these gods despite their worship of the LORD (e.g. Genesis 31v19).For us, these are gods inherited through the family line; we never labelled them ‘gods’, they were just part of family life; we never realised we worshipped them, it was just what life seemed to be about. What things did my parents work towards, serve and fear? To what degree do I now also work towards, serve or fear these things – just by nature?
(ii) To serve gods from our past experience. “gods … in Egypt”. This refers to their personal past where they were enslaved before God set them free. It is hard to completely throw off the past. The Israelites retained a tendency to go back to the gods of Egypt in times of trouble (e.g. Exodus 32). What do we tend to fear because of our experience of life? What did we used to be enslaved by? What did we used to serve? Are we endanger of being enslaved again? What is our “go-to” place in trouble? Have we as Christians simply switched to a more acceptable enslavement, but underneath the same gods are being served?
(iii) To serve gods of those around us. “gods of Amorites where you now live”. This is referring to the predominant culture around them. We know the Israelites constantly struggled with the temptation to serve the gods around them as well as God (e.g. Judges 2v11). What gods does our culture today consider important and serve (see list above)? We as humans naturally absorb what is around us: to what degree am I also serving these gods?
(iv) To serve the LORD. Joshua declares his allegiance and the Israelites respond to his appeal, “Far be it from us to forsake the LORD to serve other gods! [ O yeah!!] 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… ” (v16-17)
There is an important principle in the Israelites’ answer. As they reflected on what God had done for them, they were determined to serve Him and Him only. When they forgot about what God had done or hit on hard times, the temptation became too great, and they would succumb to serving other gods. The key to us serving God and Him alone is to remind ourselves of what He has done for us in Jesus Christ – it is the power of the witness of the New Testament and our own personal testimony. This is what John writes in Revelation 12v11 “They overcame him [ the evil one / accuser] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” There is power in the blood of Christ to set us free, and there is also power in our testimony of what God has done through our own lives to overcome whatever it is costing.
May we keep reminding ourselves of what God has done – this is the power of sung worship as we declare God’s goodness and let the truth resonate within us.
With love and blessing,