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October 17, 2021 | Doug Sauder
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“But Joshua said to the people, ‘You cannot serve the Lord, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins.’”—Joshua 24:19 (NKJV)
At first glance, the words of Joshua above appear a bit confusing and contradictory. These words don’t sound like the God we read about in the rest of the Bible, does it? Not only that, but hasn’t the entire Book of Joshua been all about Israel serving the Lord?
We need to understand something here, something at the forefront of Joshua’s mind when he uttered these words. Israel’s history, though gloriously gilded with God’s handiwork on her behalf, also had a blemish. The sin of idolatry historically haunted God’s people. It’s no coincidence that when God gave the Ten Commandments to His people, the first dealt with the issue of idolatry.
As Joshua is about to fade from the scene, he’s deeply conscious of the specter of idolatry and its sway over his beloved countrymen. Israel couldn’t serve the Lord according to their idolatrous disobedience in the past. Nor could God forgive such idolatry in the sense of simply looking the other way without consequences. We know Joshua was looking through this lens of idolatry because he says as much in the very next verse: “If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you, after He has done you good” (Joshua 24:20 NKJV).
Why such a hard line when it comes to idolatry? Whenever something is given priority above the Lord, which is essentially what idolatry is, it undercuts every aspect of the spiritual life. God is our source of all things good, but idolatry has the effect of cutting the connection with Him. When that happens, nothing but bad happens!
Idolatry is that serious, which is why Joshua speaks so strongly on it. People express their strongest sentiments with their final words, and this is the last recorded command of Joshua to the people he spent a lifetime serving and leading. “Put away the foreign gods which are among you, and incline your heart to the Lord God of Israel” (Joshua 24:23 NKJV). May we take idolatry just as seriously in our own lives by seeking the Lord first and foremost in all things!
DIG: What was on Joshua’s mind when he spoke his final words to Israel?
DISCOVER: Why is idolatry such a big deal?
DO: Spend time reflecting on the essential definition of idolatry and how it might be defined in your own life.
Pastor Dan Hickling serves our online community, also known as the Calvary Chapel Online Campus. He and his wife Becky have been married for 22 years and have two children, Lauren and Danny. Both Dan and Becky have been part of the CCFL church family for 22 years and have served in full time ministry for 20 of those years.