Joshua was now an old and weathered man who had been with the Israelites through the invasion into Canaan and wanted to be absolutely certain this young nation to be understood their responsibilities and their loyalties to the God who had brought them this far.
I still remember the words of another old, now deceased, pastor who commented to me, "God's word cannot be compromised. God is not a democracy, a passing fad or a debate. He is the absolute authority. End of discussion." Hold that thought for a moment.
Back to Joshua, he found it necessary to give these people a short history lesson from the trip of Abraham to the gift of the land they now occupied, "God gave you a land you had not worked and cities you had not built and grapes and olives you did not plant." In other words, this people had been given a paradise they had not earned or deserved. Here comes the clincher, "Choose the god or gods you wish to worship and serve, but as for me and my family, we choose the true God." Wisely, but somewhat naively, the people reply, "Like you, we choose the Lord, as He is our God." So far so good.
Something very amazing happens. Joshua says, in my rather home-spun translation, "Whoa! Don't jump on this too quickly. Do you know what you are saying? You can't simply give lip service to this God Almighty. He is not your everyday idol. He will not tolerate even the most casual loyalty to lady luck or whatever other talisman you think you can't do without: lucky charms, lucky socks, Tarot cards or your innocent horoscope. If you turn your back on Him, trust fortune or fame to carry you through, He will take away all the blessings He has given you, and He will destroy you." I will bet there was a long sigh and a "pin drop" silence.
Who knows who was the first to speak? We do know the voice was unanimous, "We understand. We choose God!" They certainly did not mean a god but The God!
It seems that in today's world of a "melting pot" process, constant conflict and overwhelming change (please, I am not speaking politically), that we cannot exist without constantly compromising almost everything we hold sacred and secular. I would like to believe that I understand the value of political correctness, personal sensitivity and inclusiveness. Every person deserves his or her belief, culture, ideas or family choice, and so every person should be cherished and understood and accepted.
However, being cherished, understood and accepted does not mean that I must water down my faith, re-write my Bible or give away my country in order to be all-inclusive.
I think I had best slow down and mention my own personal disclaimer: I believe Jesus clearly means to accept the unacceptable and love the unlovable. That is Good News and not sorts-Good News. I also believe in absolute freedom. However, as philosopher Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote, "Freedom is choice." He means that I have the right to choose. I cannot opt out or not choose. There are always two choices: choose this system, belief, action or choose that system, belief, action. There are rules and rewards in either choice: Drive as the law stipulates or drive like an idiot and make up the rules as you go: keep your license and your car or walk and learn to ride a bicycle.
The people spoke as one, "We have chosen the Lord, to serve Him."
What happened to the people? Read on, grasshopper, read on.