“Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors 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.”
Serve the Lord
The words of this passage are some of the most famous in the entire Bible. Perhaps you’ve seen them artfully displayed in someone’s home—maybe even your own. They are a beautiful expression of faith in the Lord and commitment to him.
When separated from their context, however, their beauty can be blurred by a potential misunderstanding. They can give the impression that human beings are capable of choosing to believe in God all on their own.
But, in context, these words were spoken to people who already believed in the true God. Joshua, a great leader of God’s people, spoke these words shortly before his death. The Promised Land had been conquered, and Israel had a new home. Joshua knew that the Israelites would be tempted to serve the false gods of their new homeland.
But the Lord was not one god among many. He was the only true God who had given the land to them. The people already had the gift of faith from the Lord. So Joshua did not present them with a choice to come to faith, but a choice to serve God in thanks for the faith they already had.
The Bible makes it clear that by nature all human beings are spiritually dead because of sin. Dead people cannot choose to bring themselves to life. Instead, God brings the spiritually dead to life through the good news about his Son, Jesus, who paid for the sins of all people on the cross. God uses this good news to create faith in the hearts of people who would never have believed this on their own. This means that Christians can be certain of their salvation because God has done it all for them!
When God gives people faith, they become Christians, but they remain sinners. Because of sin, they cannot serve God perfectly. They need God to help them renew that purpose. That is why they can confess with Joshua, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Lord, give me a strong faith to serve you all my life. Amen.