The Old Testament is brilliant for clear reminders of God’s character. I remember noticing in Isaiah the repetition of ‘I’ statements as a reminded that it is God who brings, who gives, who loves and we have it again here. Throughout Joshua’s recount of Israel’s history one thing is truly evident: it all occurred because of God.
Following on from this history lesson Joshua gives the people of Israel a choice:
If it doesn’t please you to worship Yahweh, choose for yourselves today the one you will worship: the gods your fathers worshipped beyond the Euphrates River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living. As for me and my family, we will worship Yahweh.
The word I find most interesting in this entire passage is the word “today”. When Joshua states “choose for yourselves today” he is suggesting that there is an inevitability in worshipping a god. The question is not to worship or not to worship. No, the question is which god will you worship. I find this interesting reading from a society that is dripping in indecision. By virtue of the prevalence of gnosticism, those who believe there is a God but are unsure which one, we see that we often don’t like to have to nail our colours to the mast. Yet here there is a sense of immediacy and urgency.
The other thing that I have noticed is Joshua’s call to renew his people’s covenant with God comes after a reminder of God’s ample and unfailing provision. The method employed for this reminder is a historical recount. I wonder if, in our modern church context, we have become devoid of such a historical culture. I remember, when I first heard that Church History was a subject at Moore, puzzling over the purpose of such a subject. Surely the Bible is all we need to focus on, not the development of the church. I’m beginning to see this differently.
Church history is an ongoing reminder of God’s agency in the world. It operates as a focus pull to draw our attention away from worldly worries and onto issues of spiritual significance. I love the certainty that the tribes of Israel have in God’s provision when they reply to Joshua saying:
We will certainly not abandon the Lord to worship other gods! For the Lord our God brought us and our fathers out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery… He protected us all along the way
Their response is jubilant from a strong cultural memory. They recall God’s provision and protection clearly, even if it happened to their fathers instead of them.
How often do I reflect on God’s agency in my life when trying to garner the courage to trust him again? How regularly do I reassure myself of his past provision? I’ve been tempted to tattoo these lessons on me as a permanent reminder, I’m being convicted of these values again.
I fear in our modern world we can get wrapped up in the value of doctrine and arguments to the detriment of story and memory. God is more than an abstract concept, he’s the head of our family. He has shown on innumerable occasions his direct agency in our lives, we need to remember these things. Just like Joshua’s final words we need to recall:
You see this stone – it will be a witness against us for it has heard all the words the Lord said to us, and it will be a witness against you, so that you will not deny your God