Ye Cannot Serve The Lord Jos. 24: 14-25 CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO
As Christians, we are constantly being challenged to love the Lord with all our heart [Deut 6:5]. God doesn’t want any competitors. “He is an holy God; he is a jealous God,” [Jos 24:19]. He is the only master that we are to serve [Matt 6:24]. When Jesus was tempted to worship the devil in Matt 4:10, he quoted Deut 6:13 to the devil, “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him ONLY shalt thou serve.” We are to love him and serve him alone. But there are things that come up in our lives that direct our love and service away from him.
Before Joshua died, he spoke to Israel in Jos 24:14-15 and charged them to:
- Fear the Lord;
- Serve the Lord in sincerity and truth;
- Put away their strange gods; and
- Choose “this day” whom ye will serve.
They replied, “God forbid that we should forsake the Lord, to serve other gods,” [Jos 24:16]. It was unimaginable to them, at this time, that they could wholly forsake the Lord to wholly serve their other gods. They thought they could continue serving the Lord and the other gods of their fathers at the same time.
To make their point, they recounted the miraculous works of God in getting them out of Egypt, in getting them through the wilderness, and in getting them victoriously into the Promised Land [Jos 24:17-18]. They concluded by saying, “Therefore will we ALSO serve the Lord; for he is our God.” They wanted to serve the Lord like Joshua’s house committed to serve the Lord [Jos 24:15].
But Joshua rebuffed their profession and said, “Ye cannot serve the Lord,” [Jos 24:19]. Why would he say that? He had just encouraged them to choose and they had chosen to serve the Lord. They even said in verse 21 exactly what Joshua said in verse 15, “we will serve the Lord.”
The trouble is that they were not wiling to put away their strange gods. Look what they said in Jos 24:23-24. They said that they are going to serve the Lord and obey his voice, but they don’t say anything about putting away their strange gods. That’s often the trouble with people who come to Christ from idolatrous religions. Catholics often won’t put away the idols of their religion. Paul had to deal with the Thessalonians about that [1 Thes 1:9].
But people who come to Christ from idolatrous religions are not the only ones who have trouble with “strange gods.” Joshua asked if they would serve “the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell,” [Jos 24:15]. That is, not only are people tempted to serve the gods of their fathers, but they are also tempted to serve the gods of their friends.
Our trouble is that we don’t recognize these “gods” that keep us from serving the Lord. We need to recognize what they are and deal with them and we have to put them away. Many Christians are serving “mammon,” [Matt 6:24]. They are drawn away by the idols of Hollywood, the idols of the music industry, the idols of the sports industry, the idols of the business world, the idols of educational institutions and the idols of science falsely so called. Anything that competes with your devotion to and love for the Lord Jesus Christ and his words is a “strange god” that will eventually pull you away from serving the Lord completely.
Look what happened to Israel by Jud 2:11-13. Their worship of Baal and Ashtaroth pulled them away from serving the Lord and they ended up forsaking the Lord. Many a good Christian has fallen prey to gods similar to these. The devil knows your area of weakness and will present you with just the right thing to move you away from the Lord. If he can get you to share devotion between the Lord and one of these gods, he can get you to pull away entirely in time.
A student enters college lovingly devoted to the Lord. In the first year, he is infatuated with worldly wisdom and he sets his Bible down. In the second year, he is infatuated with a girl and he quits going to church. In the third year, he has fully forsaken the Lord. A young woman enters the business world and suddenly her schedule is so full that she quits serving the Lord. These stories are repeated over and over again every year.
You must search your heart diligently to see if there are “strange gods” that are demanding your attention. They could be sports, movies, imaginations, ambitions, goals, dreams, desires, lusts and the like. They are anything that keep you from fully loving and serving the Lord. You may have all the desire in the world to serve the Lord. But if you don’t get rid of those “strange gods” in your life, you will never be able to serve him.
Conclusion: Like Joshua charged Israel, you must make a choice. Choose “this day” whether you are going to serve the Lord or one of the strange gods. If you choose to serve the Lord, and I hope you do, then you must also choose “this day” to put away the strange gods that are among you. If you don’t, then Ye cannot serve the Lord.