Joshua 24:15  But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.”


          One of the most important breakthroughs in my recovery from divorce was the recognition that I have choices.  I can’t always (or even usually) choose the circumstances that confront me, but I can always choose how I will respond to those circumstances.  If I am insulted, for example, I have many options.  I can hurl my own insult back, I can sue for slander, I can ignore it, I can tell the world about it, I can try to understand it, I can consider if it might be true and try to learn from it, I can respond with kindness…the list goes on and on.  It is like that with any situation; there are always choices.


          The ability to choose our responses seems to be one of God’s many gifts.  Certainly God gave Israel choices.  Even when it came to the Ten Commandments, God did not impose those laws on the people.  God presented the commandments and asked Israel if they were willing to accept them as their law.  Now here, after 40 years in the wilderness, as a new generation prepares to enter the Promised Land, they are asked to make the same decision their parents made.  It’s sort of like Israel’s Confirmation.  Joshua reminds them of the story of those God brought out of Egypt, starting way back in the time of Abraham.  Once they have heard the history, it is time to decide:  will they continue to serve this God. 


It seems like a rhetorical question…of course they’ll serve God, they say.  There will be no other gods for them.  But Joshua pushes them.  This isn’t just a ceremony.  This is a real choice, and they need to think about it since the choice they make will have consequences.  God will take their vows seriously and expect that they mean what they say.  This is not a church begging for members.  This is the leader of Israel saying, “Think about it, folks.  You have a real choice; and a choice for the God who led you through the wilderness comes with a set of expectations for behavior and life together in community.  Don’t make it lightly.”


The choice before Israel is before us every day.  We often treat the question of whether we will follow Jesus as a rhetorical question, but it is not.  It is a lifetime commitment with life-changing consequences.  When I decided to follow Jesus instead of some other religion, I willingly bound myself to a certain set of laws and choices.  I decided that I would limit the choices I would have in responding to those who hurt me, and I obligated myself to sacrifice to protect those being hurt by others.  I accepted the obligation to behave as a steward rather than an owner of the earth and the resources given to me, and I decided that I would put God rather than other things at the top of my priority list.  I signed up to help the poor and to advocate for justice rather than sticking my head in the sand.


Israel didn’t always live up to its promise, and neither do I.  But I’m trying as best I can to live according to the choice that I made.  You have that choice as well.  God does not force us to make it.  God doesn’t say, “Here are my commandments, do them or else.”  God says, “Here are my commandments, will you join the community of people who live this way?”  Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.


God of choice and promise, help us to truly see the choices before us.  Amen.


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