Clean Slate. A New Year. A new beginning. I feel when a new year begins that it is like getting my slate wiped clean so that I can start over fresh. Last year, I chose one word to focus on for the whole year. That word was peace. This year the word I chose is – Purpose. What is my purpose in this life? I know that I have more years behind me than ahead so I don’t need to waste anytime. I will be looking at changes I need to make in my life as I seek this purpose. What about you and your new beginnings? Do you have a focus word for the year?
Recently, we have been studying the book of Joshua at church. In the last chapter of Joshua, he gives the people a challenge to begin a new. Joshua is nearing the end of his life. He gathers the people together to give them a message from God.
When a year ends, do you ever reflect on the blessing’s God has given you during that year? It is easier to look back and see God’s hand in your life. Joshua is looking back throughout the history of Israel and listing the many ways God had blessed them. Let’s take a look.
- (v3) God had given them the land of Canaan
- (v5) When Israel is in bondage in Egypt, God delivered them.
- (v6-12) He protected them from the Egyptians, Amorites, king of Moab, Perizzite, Canaanites, Hittite, and Girgashites.
- (v.13) God gave them land on which they had not labored, cities in which they had not built, and vineyards and olive groves which they had not planted.
Joshua tells them to “fear” (reverence) the Lord, serve Him with sincerity and in truth. He instructs them to stop their idol worship that their fathers had done and serve the Lord. Israel throughout their history entangled themselves in the worship of foreign gods. God tells them numerous times to stay away from this practice. “you shall not worship their gods, nor serve them, nor do according to their deeds; but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their sacred pillars in pieces.” Exodus 23:23
What is an idol? An idol is anything that is put ahead of God. Do we have idols in our life today? Prosperity, self-gratification, family, friends, and children can all become idols today. Joshua tells them that if they find it disagreeable to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve, the foreign gods or the one true God. Joshua makes a personal declaration to the people:
“but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (v15)
Joshua knew exactly what he is going to do and he plainly states it. He makes a deliberate choice to choose the Lord.
The people’s response, “For be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods;” (v16) Then they list the things the Lord had done for them.
“You will not be able to serve the Lord, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgression or you sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you after He has done good to you.” (v19-20) Have you ever thought about God being jealous? Let’s take a look at the Ten Commandments.
“You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God,” Exodus 20:4-5
If the people started turning away from him and turning their backs on Him, God will not take that lightly, but He will bring judgments on them. God loves all of us. Can you see our heavenly Father wanting to protect his children in this warning? When I would discipline my children, I would give them a choice to be obedient and if they refused then they would suffer the consequences but I never stop loving them. The Bible tells us that the Lord disciplines the ones He loves (Hebrews 12:6)
The people continue to say, “They would serve the Lord.” Then Joshua then tells them again to put away foreign gods and turn your hearts to the Lord. Because of their decision, they would now be accountable to God and to each other.
Once again the people exclaimed, “We will serve and obey the Lord.”
As we begin 2017, take time to do a life assessment. Who do you choose to serve? Are there any idols in your life that need to be gone? Are there changes you need to make in your life to grow closer to the Lord? Take time to reflect on the blessings of 2016 as we all look forward to the blessings of a new year.