Listen to the teachings! Joshua reminds the people of God’s faithful history with them. He invites them to revere and serve God. The people respond positively, but then comes a hard portion of this text: Joshua does not affirm this facile response from the people; instead he tells them that they cannot serve the Lord because God is holy and jealous. He points out some potential problems in the relationship. Despite that challenge, the people affirm faith in God. Joshua challenges them yet again, saying that they will serve alien gods. Again the people respond that they will serve and obey God.
How do we listen for the voice of God in this text? Our times offer many temptations to serve many deities who are foreign to the God Joshua speaks of. We face countless temptations each day, ones that range from our reactions to one another or to problems and on to our choice of activities and the ways we use time. Each morning when we wake, we reaffirm our awareness that the love of God is fresh and new. How does our morning prayer keep us fresh to God’s grace throughout the day, especially as we deal with the tyrants and demands that are part of each day’s schedule? These demands can become the alien gods. Like Joshua and the twelve tribes, we too need an alertness to see those things that tempt us to turn from God.
Notice also in the verses that follow today’s reading that Joshua sets a stone under an oak tree and states that the stone will serve as a witness to the people’s choice. What physical item reminds you of your choice to serve God? Some people wear a cross—whether as necklace or tattoo. Others keep another religious object to serve as a reminder. I think each of us carries a living reminder of grace and obedience: the voice of conscience and the voice of the Holy Spirit.
O God, help us face our challenges, name them, rest awhile in your presence, and then return to serve you afresh. Amen.
This week’s passages speak of ultimate commitment or of the return of Jesus or they speak in parables that reflect a protagonist who has been delayed in an anticipated appearance. Living so far from the time of the texts makes it difficult to appreciate the urgency with which the issues arose in various communities and the crises they precipitated. Eschatology, however, is not to be thought of merely as a speculative venture in which curious religious people gamble on a time when the world will end. In the Bible, the coming advent of God demands from and warrants for the people of God a distinctive style of life. In Joshua 24, Israel receives an opportunity to de ne itself by identifying its God. First Thessalonians 4 comforts anxious believers who are worried about the fate of their deceased parents. Jesus’ resurrection is not an isolated event, Paul argues, but the beginning of the resurrection of all people. The prospect of Jesus’ return forms the basis for hope.
• Read Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25. When have your ministry activities become so time-consuming that you lost your connection to God? How can you regain that connection?
• Read Psalm 78:1-7. Which of the teachers in your life are you most grateful for? Why?
• Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. How concerned are you with the end of time? What would you say to someone who claimed to know when the “end of the age” would be?
• Read Matthew 25:1-13. What part has fear played in your journey of faith? What does fear have to do with receiving God’s love?
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