In our own lifetime, Bob Dylan once profoundly noted in song: “You’re going to have to serve somebody.” Almost 3500 years earlier, Joshua, the great successor to Moses, made the original call to action: “Choose this day whom you will serve.” People have been waffling ever since. ♦
Beyond political, social, regional and cultural allegiances, all humanity throughout history has been confronted with the question of ultimate loyalty. Whom do you serve? Whom do you worship? The King? Caesar? The General? The Pope? The President?
Overlay that with religious deities and you have another array of those to follow and worship: Jesus, Brahma, Allah, Krishna, etc. Or perhaps you choose to follow none, believing all religion is a farce and the concoction of man to satisfy his need for meaning, or more cynically, his need to control his own destiny and that of others.
Either way, it’s your choice.
As Bob Dylan once profoundly noted in song: “You’re going to have to serve somebody.” He continued, “It may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you’re going to have to serve somebody.”
In striking simplicity, Dylan nailed it.
It’s a Matter of Will
But Dylan wasn’t the first to be so accurate. Almost 3500 years earlier, Joshua, the great successor to Moses, made the original call to bold action on this issue of loyalty. In Joshua 24:15, to the people of Israel, he says: “Choose this day whom you will serve.”
And people have been waffling ever since.
Of course it is a matter of will. As Oswald Chambers points out, “When God gives a vision of truth it is never a question of what He will do, but of what we will do.” Indeed it is a deliberate calculation, and literally between you and God. There is no intermediary here, and this is not a group decision. It’s on us as individuals to weigh the evidence and options and decipher truth from lies, distortions, and counterfeits.
“But I Have Chosen,” You Say
Perhaps you say “I have chosen.” Like countless followers, you’ve “chosen” the One True God: the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who came into the world in the flesh as the Lord Jesus Christ, who died and rose from the dead, and lives today in this earthly realm through the Holy Spirit in the Church, His people.
So what’s the problem?
Are you really right with God? Have you selected sides so that you’ve heaped all of your heart loyalty and devotion to God into what, out of human necessity, needs to be revisited every single day to avoid plunging into distraction, Christian complacency and dullness of spirit? Are you all in?
“Well, no, if you put it that way. But I believe in Jesus. Isn’t that enough?”
That will ultimately be God’s call, not mine or yours. But it is not a passive, intellectual assent. The Christian walk is a battle. It requires a firm commitment of the heart to face the onslaught of a physical and spiritual world that seeks to neutralize and deaden. It’s an all-out surrender of your will to the will of Him that is in you. But in many cases, and admittedly for most of my own life, we settle for a comfortable middle-ground. Unfortunately there’s really not a half-way compromise of loyalty and devotion to God. As Christ himself said, “So, because you are lukewarm — neither hot nor cold — I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” – Revelation 3:15-16 (see Biblical Viewpoint post: Hot, Cold or Lukewarm in the Marketplace).
Yes, we all need to consider the full commitment issue.
We Need a Joshua
The well-meaning American Christian is no different from the chastised Israelite under the wise and stern leadership of Joshua. In the 24th and final chapter of the book of Joshua, that long historical narrative of the God-led movement out of the wilderness, the Israelites had now settled in the Promised Land of Canaan, the promise fulfilled. At the end of Joshua’s life he gives them final instructions to “fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness.” It is on them to live in full obedience to God.
It’s a strong word but tinged with doubt as he knows the tendency of these people to buckle under pressure, court other idols, and compromise with ungodly cultures around them.
We Promise, We Promise!
But the people of Israel, when challenged boldly by Joshua to put aside their foreign gods and “incline your heart to the Lord,” step forward with great conviction and confirm their commitment to the Lord:
And the people said to Joshua, “The Lord our God we will serve, and his voice we will obey.” – Joshua 24:24
But good intentions are hollow. By the second chapter of the next book in the chronology, the book of Judges, the people of Israel, like wayward children, had descended once again into apostasy:
And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord…they went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were round about them, and bowed down to them; and they provoked the Lord to anger. – Judges 2:11-12.
Like them centuries later, we too have the ongoing choice of whom we’re going to serve and remain loyal. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
Have you truly chosen your loyalty?
“Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness…. 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.” – Joshua 24:14-15