Joshua 24:1-2, 14-18
Who is your God? Joshua’s God, our God, is the Triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Who is your God? is a question people need to wrestle with. Some follow Allah, the god of Islam. Others worship nature, or things in nature, like cows, or trees. Others follow god who is inside.
Allah, the moon god Muhammed wished to elevate, is not the Triune God. A cow, which is good or milk or food, is not God. A tree, which is used for paper or construction, is not God. The Triune God, who is so great, filling heaven and earth, including the wood, the air, our bodies and by faith our very hearts—he is God.
Which God Will You Follow? is question that each and every human being must answer. How one answers that question determines whether life with be one of divine benediction or selfishness. How one answers that question determines whether eternity will be one of eternal pleasures or eternal destruction. Which God Will You Follow?
Joshua is at the end of his life and leadership, at the ripe old age of 110. His words are somewhat of a last will and testament, and an encouragement for those he leads to follow the true God.
But he gave them a choice. They could follow the gods of their past. They could choose to follow the gods or the present, the gods around them in the land of Canaan. Or they could follow the God of the past, present and future. “Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 15 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”
Who are the gods their forefathers worshiped beyond the River? He doesn’t say, but he takes them back to Egypt, in which land was many gods. Remember the interaction our God had with the gods of the Egyptians? Think of the 10 plagues.
Aaron touched the Nile River with his staff and the water of the Nile and the rest of the country turned to blood. The fish died, their drinking water was gone and the River stank. Pharaoh was not real impressed but the water remained blood for seven days, the perfect length of time to show that our God ruled nature.
Remember the plague of frogs? Frogs were in their food, their clothes, their homes. The magicians were able to duplicate this, as they duplicated the water to blood, but only Moses could take away the frogs. Both the blood and the frogs were an attack on the Egyptian goddess Heket, goddess of water. It was also an attack on Geb, god of the earth.
Where was Hathor, goddess of love and protection during the plague of flies? Where was Isis, goddess of medicine and peace during the plague of the boils and sores? Where was Nut, the goddess of the sky during the plague that rained hail down in the form of fire? Where was Seth, the god of storms and disorder when God sent locusts from the sky to consume what the hail storm left? Where was Ra, the sun god, during the three days of complete darkness?
Pharaoh, was the ultimate power in Egypt. Pharaoh was the greatest of the gods in Egypt. He was considered to be the son of Ra himself. Pharaoh could not stop the death of all the firstborn in Egypt.
Israel could go back to the gods of the past, to Heket and Geb, to Isis and Nut, to Seth and Ra, even Pharoah, gods their forefathers worshiped across the River. But what can they do that our God can’t? What can they even do? What can they do to calm the anger of the Triune God against sin?
So, you can go back to the gods of the past, or you can worship the gods of the present, the gods of the Amorites, around you. Do you remember why God had the Israelites wipe out all the nations in Canaan? “It is on account of the wickedness of the nations of these nations that the LORD is going to drive them out before you.” (Duet 9:5) The Lord’s patience had run out.
Our God is so great. God told Abraham, before his son Isaac was even born, that he and his descendants would “be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated for 400 years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves and afterward they will come out with great possessions. You however, will go to your fathers in peace and will die at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” (Gen. 15:13-16) The sin of the Amorites will become so great in the land of Canaan, that God will use the Israelites to destroy them as the Lord’s judgment.
But what made them so evil? Their gods. Like the Egypians, they too worshiped many gods. Canaan’s chief god was El: or “god.” He was a dark, shadowy figure, who killed members of his own family to become leader of the gods. El was a lustful pig who is depicted as a bull in a field of cows. So guess what El was about? Guess what their worship consisted of?
Then there was Baal. Baal was the storm god and the god of rain and fertility. Asherah is also a well-known god of the Canaanites. The worship of these gods consisted of prostitution, the sacrifice of children, the worship of snakes and divination. Lustful abandon without any moral decency was the result of the worship of the Canaanite gods.
So, what was the result of the Canaanites worshiping these gods and the resulting immorality? God warned Israel before going into the promised land, “Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that am going to drive out before you became defiled. Even the land is defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants.” (Lev. 18:24-24)
So, you can go back to the gods of the Egyptians, which didn’t help the Egyptians. Or you can follow the gods of the people living around you, gods like El, Baal and Asherah, who the Lord abhors, but it you do, “And it you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you.” (Lev. 18:28)
How about following the God of the past, the present and the future? The God who chose Abraham to be the father of many nations, and from whom to bring the promised Savior. The God who told Abraham that his descendant would go to a foreign country, be slaves and come back in four generations, 400 years later!, and who made good on that promise. The God who made exposed Heket and Geb, to Isis and Nut, to Seth and Ra for what they are: idols. Idols=nothings.
How about serving the God who stands in judgment over the false of gods of El, Baal and Asherah who lead their followers into rebellion? The God who drove out in judgment the nations that lived in the land of Canaan before Israel? The God who hates wickedness, rebellion and sin?
How about serving the God whose history goes back to before time, the eternal God who, in love created this world, announced the Savior to the first sinners, who kept the promise for 4,000 years. How about following the God who kept a faithful remnant of believers from the fall until now, through two captivities for Israel?
The question needs to be answered every day? Which God Will You Follow? Ra and Baal may be far from your minds, but what challenges to take our loyalty away from this God? Our intellect—we’re pretty smart. If not college degrees then at least degrees from the school of hard knocks. We know a lot. Or maybe you don’t feel you have to know a lot, as long as your retirement plan is fine. Well, if that might not be the case, at least you have your health. Is there something that threatens for supremacy over God in your heart? Good grades? Popularity? As the false gods found out in Egypt, and in Canaan, as every unbeliever finds out, and it is good for us to remember too: The Lord will put up with a lot of things in the human heart, but being second place is not one of them. The demands and deserves to be first. And to use a phrase in Leviticus, we all deserve to be vomited out of the land.
The God of the past, present and future is so because of His love. In the past, he kept his promise to send his Son. In the past, the Son came, and though that was in the future for the Israelites in our text, they trusted in the same God of the past, present and future. Already in the past, this God has sent Jesus to win the hearts of sinners back to this God. By living the way this God demands, by offering his life as payment for any failure to live according to God’s demands, Jesus brought God and mankind back together in a relationship of love. The God of the past, present and future is so because whatever goes on, whatever battle is being waged around you or in you, this God of the past, present and future is going to see you through to the other side, whether that’s to the other side of the battle, or to the other side of existence. See, this God of the past, present and future wants you with him for all eternity in paradise, where nothing of the past can bother, where everything God has done in the past is worthy to give God praise and glory.
Which God Will You Follow? Of course you know the answer to that question. The God of the past, present and future! Joshua reminded the Israelites just before our text: “You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the LORD your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed” (Joshua 23:14). Nor has any of God’s promises failed us.
So, for us, it not just who we will follow, but how. Joshua said, “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness.” Literally, God wants us to serve him “in all sincerity and truth.” In sincerity: serve the Lord with your heart in it. With love and gratefulness to God in your heart give glory to the God the past, present and future. And serve the Lord in truth. Serve him not based on feelings or inclinations, but based on the truth of God’s Word.
So, you may have all the answers for a sinful world, serve him sincerity. You may have all the sincerity in the world—sincerely proclaim, then, the truth of God’s Word and his saving Name.
I wish to close with Joshua’s well-known words in answer to the question, Which God Will You Follow? These are not only Joshua’s words, but Israel’s words. These are my words and yours: “But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” Amen.