By Lonnie Mozingo, Jr
“And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Jos 24:15)
This verse has been greatly abused by the religious world. Many sermons have been preached suggesting that it teaches a need for the lost to choose between God and satan, between heaven and hell. However, a close examination of this verse, coupled with an understanding of the Doctrine of Salvation as taught in God’s word, will quickly show that the above application of the verse is wrong.
A careful reading of the text reveals two key points. First, the choice was presented not to the alien peoples of the region (the Amorites, Perizzites, Canaanites, etc.) to become Israelites, but rather the choice was given to the Israelites alone. The Israelites were not being asked to choose to become God’s people, they already were. Second, the choice is not between God and a false god. The choice is between one set of false gods and another set of false gods (…whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell…).
Joshua was not presenting a choice between eternal salvation and eternal damnation. That is not a choice men are given. That is reserved by the Lord who made the choice of whom he would save before the world began. (Eph 1:4; 2Ti 1:9)
The choice Joshua was presenting was between two sets of false gods. The premise was this–“And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve….” Joshua was saying that if it seems bad, harmful, vexing (i.e. evil) to serve the true God, then take your pick of the other gods, they are all the same, one is just as bad as the other.
How true this is. If one is not going to serve the true and living God, it matters not which false god he chooses to serve. The Hindu god, the Muslim god, the Buddhist god, etc. are all the same. Different false gods appeal to different people, the humanist is attracted to the god of Self, the muslim is attracted to the draconian god of the muslim, the sensual minded are attracted to the gods of Hinduism, the austere are attracted to the god of Buddhism, but in reality they are all the same. It matters not which one is chosen. They are all false.
After giving this choice to the Israelites, Joshua then makes this bold declaration– “…but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua is saying, I do not consider it vexing, adverse or “evil” to serve the Lord. I am going to serve the Lord and not only am I, but also my family. Here Joshua assumed the God given role of the husband/father as the head and leader of the family.
It is the solemn responsibility of the husband/father to lead the family in the service of God. This leadership role is given and affirmed by God throughout scripture. In Eph 5:23 Paul says, “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.” The husband is the head of the family and the saviour of the family. Just as Christ is responsible for the eternal salvation (from hell to Heaven) of the elect family, so the husband/father is responsible for the temporal deliverance (from error to truth) of his family.
A beautiful example of how this occurs is found in Ac 16:1-40 wherein the jailor is told, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” Paul was not suggesting that if a man believes on the Lord his family will automatically go to heaven. The jailor and his family were already eternally saved by grace or they never would have believed. Belief was not the means but the evidence of their eternal salvation. This is not eternal salvation it is gospel or temporal salvation. This time or gospel salvation was experienced by the jailor when he believed, and it is obvious that his believing not only had a saving influence on him but also on his family, for the scripture goes on to say, “And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.”
God never has nor ever will place the responsibility of saving his people from their sins with a husband/father or any other human. That responsibility was given to Jesus Christ alone. (Mt 1:21; Isa 9:6; Joh 6:38-39) But God has given to men the solemn responsibility of saving their families from error to truth, from the influence of the world to the influence of the Word. (Eph 6:4) It is the husband/father’s responsibility to save the family from physical want (1Ti 5:8) and spiritual want (Eph 6:4). This is accomplished not only by the providing of food and raiment, but also by the father accepting the responsibility of getting the family to the preaching of the gospel and worship service at the Church, by reading and teaching the Bible to his family during consistent and regular family devotions, by leading the family in prayer and by living according to the teachings of the word of God as an example to be followed.
In this age of relativism, many men have abdicated this responsibility preferring to let their families explore their own options and make up their own minds. But Solomon said, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Pr 22:6)
Our relativistic world would surely view Joshua as a narrow-minded chauvinist. If you accept your leadership role, no doubt they will revile you the same way. But if you are to be the leader God requires you to be, you must accept this persecution as part of suffering for Christ sake. (Mt 5:11-12; 1Pe 3:14)
Joshua told God’s people long ago, if you’re not going to serve God, choose whom you will serve, as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua accepted his God-given role as leader. He spoke for his family. Do you speak for yours?
Lonnie Mozingo, Jr.