Today's Reading: Joshua 24:1-33
I love the Bible. I know I say that a lot. I love the story of the Bible, I love the drama of the Bible, I love the rhythm and cadence and patterns of the Bible. I love reading about the multi-millennia story of God and his people that we see in the Bible. And I have to admit, that sometimes I am more in love with the Bible than with the God of the Bible...
That's a constant tension for me...to look past the intricacies and nuances of the text - to peel all that away - and see God; to see and contact with the singular focus and object of everything in the Bible. Who is God? What is he doing? How do we connect with him? What is the nature of our relationship with him? I have to constantly ask myself these questions otherwise I lose touch with what is most important about the Bible.
I love what is happening in Joshua 24 because it's one of those scenes that forces me to refocus and get back to what the Bible is ultimately all about: God. The book of Joshua is a dramatic book packed full of some of the most exciting stories in the Bible. After wandering for 40 years around the wilderness learning how to depend on God, they are finally allowed to enter the Promised Land, where they see God do even more neat stuff. Israel (and by proxy, us) gets a front row seat to watching God's power on full display. This entire book is like long, detailed account of what will ultimately take place during the three days form the cross to the empty tomb. In fact, Jesus' real name - his Hebrew name - is Joshua ("Jesus" is a Greek transliteration).
When all is said and done, there's a call and opportunity to renew the covenant - the relationship between God and his people. It's essentially laid out as "Look at everything you have seen and heard that God has done for you! Don't forget this. The time has come to make a choice: will you choose to live here in this land and worship the God who has done all these things? Or will you reject this God and continue worshiping the other gods?"
Ultimately, for this moment anyway, the people unanimously declare that they will be faithful to God. But I'm struck once again by the fact that, based on Joshua's speech, God has done everything he's done despite the persistence of Israel (at least some) to continue to worship God alongside gods. They continue to group God in among a whole bunch of other gods they can pick and choose from when it's most convenient. God still blessed them and did some pretty amazing things for them!
For me, a passage like this is one more reason I feel like it's good to have a healthy sense of our own sin and brokenness. Not to wallow in it, but to be very aware of it. God's grace is not just something we are given when we've managed to overcome and eliminate sin and unfaithfulness in our life; God's grace is precisely for those moments when we are sinful. Sin does not preclude us from being able to enjoy God's grace - it's the reason God's grace is so incredible! It's the reason why we may be moved to echo the same words that Israel declared that day: "We will serve the LORD our God and obey him!"