A Musing about Who We will Serve

Joshua 24:15 Revised Standard Version

And if you be unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”


A Musing about Who We will Serve


There is a story about a photographer assigned by a national magazine to take pictures of a massive forest fire. He flew into the closest major airport and found his driver holding his name on one of those huge placards. The photographer was on a deadline, and he was worried about daylight hours, so he had his driver take him directly to the small airstrip near the mountains where the massive fire was raging. The assignment editor had told him a small plane would be waiting at the airport to fly him over the fire.


The photographer arrived at the airstrip just an hour before sundown. Sure enough, a small Cessna airplane stood waiting. He jumped in with his equipment and shouted, “Let’s go!” The pilot, a tense–looking man, turned the plane into the wind, and soon they were in the air, but flying quite erratically.


Not paying too much attention to the way the pilot was flying, the photographer directed him where to go. “Fly over the north side of the fire,” he said, “and make several low-level passes.”


Looking at the smoke and blazing fire, the nervous pilot exclaimed, “Are you sure? Why would you want me to do that?”


“Because I’ve got to take these pictures and I am on a deadline!” yelled the photographer. “I’m a photographer, and photographers take pictures.”


With an even more worried look on his face, the pilot replied, “You mean you’re not the flight instructor?”


When life takes you flying into trouble, you will want to know who is there with you. Is it someone who just wants to get a good look at the trouble you are going through, or is it someone who has the power to help you face it?


In the text at the start of this week’s musing, I used the famous words of Joshua who proclaimed boldly, “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.”


It is a beautiful verse of scripture and is often seen in artwork or in calligraphy at people’s doorways.


However, its origins are less poetic and more far more accusatory towards the Hebrew people, if we look at the context in which Joshua shared them.


In this verse Joshua is now beyond exasperated with the Israelites. He reminds them in a crystal-clear manner about all that God has done for them since God made the original covenant with their forefather Abraham.


First God gave Abraham a new promised land. Later the Lord delivered the Hebrew Nation out of slavery from their Egyptian masters. Joshua notes that through Moses and Aaron, the Israelites have been cared for and are being returned to the Promised Land.


And yet Joshua notes what he has witnessed from the Hebrew people. He notes the reprehensible behavior they demonstrated as they wandered the wilderness with Moses. Everything from the creation of the Golden Calf to what he had seen prior to their current unfaithfulness. He pleads with his people to turn away from the gods their fathers worshipped while in Egypt and continued to worship in the wilderness even after God had shown God’s might through the plagues, Passover, and deliverance through the Red Sea. Joshua wants to remind them of their history and about God’s love in both their lives and their ancestors’ lives. He leaves no doubt in his firm conviction that it is better to serve the Lord who took care of them than to fall prey to false gods who make false promises and require immoral sacrifices but do nothing to help.


His oft-quoted famous statement is the conclusion to his declaration about where his allegiance lies and where the Israelites’ allegiance should be as well.


In essence this speech is Joshua’s “line in the sand” moment. He says you have to choose the path of following the one true God or the other false gods. He reminds them that the choice to follow God leads to justice and prosperity, while those who continue the treacherous path of serving false gods will find nothing but lies, disappointment, and pain. He ends by bolding claiming his family would be serving the Lord.


Joshua is asking them to be sure that they know who their pilot is before they get in the plane.


We are confronted with the same question. Who will we choose? Because as the poet of Greenwich Village Bob Dylan sang, “You’re gonna have to serve somebody. Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord. But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.”


There are plenty of temptations out there. Plenty of false prophets wanting our allegiance and resources. All of these “gods” make promises that never come true. They say they can provide total safety and complete comfort and unimaginable wealth but then when they do not deliver, they blame everyone but themselves.


The God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and David and Mary and Lydia, Joan of Arc and Mother Teresa and Martin Luther and John Calvin and MLK and Joni Eareckson Tada and Rachel Held Evans and Jimmy Carter and you and me makes no promises like that on this side of heaven and that promised day. Instead, we are offered that which we really need: compassion, love, grace, hope and our Lord’s presence.


Each day we are asked anew who we will follow. Who will be our flight instructor? I pray we all have the courage to declare with Joshua – “as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.”


Alleluia Amen.

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