Put Away the Strange Gods, Jos 24:23



Strange gods are gods other than the Almighty God of the Bible.  They are typically represented by images, like the images Rachel stole from her father, Laban, Gen 31:19, or the molten calf that Aaron made in Ex 32:4, or the molten and graven images that Micah had in Jud 17:4, or the image of Dagon, the Philistines’ god, 1 Sam 5:2-4, and so forth.

In Jos 24:23, Joshua said, “Now, therefore, put away, said he, the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the Lord God of Israel.”  The reason is that they were serving these gods and trying to “also serve the Lord,” Jos 24:18.  People cannot serve two masters, Matt 6:24.  That’s why Joshua said, “Ye cannot serve the Lord,” Jos 24:19.  The people replied, “but we will serve the Lord,” Jos 24:21.  They didn’t.  

The thing about strange gods is that, if you have them, you will end up serving them instead of the Lord.  It’s the nature of man to worship the god that he sees rather than the Almighty God whom he cannot see.  God knows this and so do we.  The strange gods come between man and God.  There is evidence that strange gods have influenced people in the emergent church movement.  For one thing, the “worship” services are more and more visual, with lights and video.

God’s instructions to Israel, in Deut 7:25-26, regarding these strange gods was thus.  “The graven images of their gods shall ye burn with fire: thou shalt not desire the silver or gold that is on them, not take it unto thee, lest thou be snared therein: for it is an abomination to the Lord thy God.  Neither shalt thou bring an abomination into thine house, lest thou be a cursed thing like it: but thou shall utterly detest it, and thou shalt utterly abhor it; for it is a cursed thing.”

These gods are an abomination to God and they become a snare and a curse to man.  They control you through superstition, like the Athenians in Acts 17:22, and bring you into reproach with God.  Paul told the Athenians, “Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.  And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent,” Acts 17:29-30.  We certainly know that men who worship strange gods and statues should repent.  

Yet, have we ever considered that what Joshua told Israel in Jos 24:23 might also apply to us, spiritually?  Is there a strange god among you that you serve more than you serve the Lord God?  How about the strange gods of your religion, business, career, education, television, knowledge, money, family, internet, recreation, body and so forth.  These things can as easily come between you and God as a statue can between an idolater and the Lord.  Col 3:5 says that covetousness is idolatry.

If you have strange gods that have come between you and the Lord, then here’s what you must do:

Identify these strange gods – “the strange gods which are among you.”  Israel denied that strange gods would cause them to forsake the Lord, Jos 24:16.  But they did just that.  They forsook the Lord.  I’ve been with many people who have gotten right with God after a tragedy or a deep affliction in their lives and they have confessed the thing that put a wedge between them and God.  You should search your heart and thoughts diligently and regularly to see what may be between you and the Lord.  When you find it, identify it and confess it.  And remember, evil spirits can draw you away from the Lord just like Satan filled Ananias’ heart to lie to God in Acts 5.  Guard against these things.

Put away the strange gods – “put away, said he, the strange gods.”  It may seem very hard to do this.  But if you treat your strange god the way that Moses treated the golden calf, you get that thing out of there in a fury and a hurry.  One preacher told of visiting a fellow who lived in a second floor apartment.  When the preacher was approaching the fellow’s apartment, he saw the man coming out of his apartment with his TV on his shoulder.  The man threw it over the railing and then invited the preacher in.  He said that thing was a curse to his family and he put it away.  Whatever is coming between you and the Lord needs to be put away.  If it’s your job or your family or something that you can’t literally “put away,” then at least put them down and exalt the Lord.  Don’t forsake the Lord.

Incline your heart unto the Lord – “incline your heart unto the Lord God of Israel.”  The thing to do after you put away the strange god is to then get closer to God.  Put away something bad and replace it with something good that draws you closer to the Lord.  Get into the word more, pray more, fellowship with believers more, come to church more, draw close to God and stay close to God.  And guard yourself against anything that would come between you and God.

Conclusion: as Bible believers, we don’t worship strange gods represented by statues.  Nevertheless, we can have things that come between us and God that are just like the strange gods of idolaters.  We need to be careful to identify these, put them away and incline our hearts to God.