[forthright] Take Your Pick

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From: "Forthright Magazine" <forthrightmag@...>
Date: Mon, 14 Apr 2008 11:48:20 -0300
Forthright Magazine
Straight to the Cross

Discovering the Kingdom of God, by Tim Hall
Help your friends discover the real thing.


Take Your Pick
  by J. Randal Matheny, editor

I have yet to hear a preacher get it right. I'm sure
there's one out there who's on target, but every time a
speaker uses the passage, he misses the point.

Not that he's preaching false doctrine. By no means.
The point he makes is valid, except that's not exactly
what the passage is saying.

Here's the offended text:

   Now obey the Lord and worship him with
   integrity and loyalty. Put aside the gods
   your ancestors worshiped beyond the
   Euphrates and in Egypt and worship the Lord.
   If you have no desire to worship the Lord,
   choose today whom you will worship, whether
   it be the gods whom your ancestors worshiped
   beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the
   Amorites in whose land you are living. But I
   and my family will worship the Lord!
                            Joshua 24:14-15 NET

In gospel meetings I often heard preachers use the
phrase, in KJV language, "choose you this day whom ye
will serve," but they never seemed to get around to
reading the rest of the verse or, if they did, glossed
over it.

The choice, according to these preachers, was between
God and whatever stood in the way of exclusve service
and full obedience to him. (Excellent point, and Joshua
was getting to that. He wanted the Israelites to serve
God with "integrity.") But the oft-quoted phrase, used
in that sense, wasn't Joshua's point.

Joshua wanted to show the absurdity of serving any God
but the Lord.

So say you don't want to serve the Lord. That option
sticks in your craw? Who's left? Those gods that
Abraham and company chunked when they left Ur? Or the
Egyptian deities who got trounced with plague after
plague? Or the Amorite gods who were helpless to keep
the people of God from taking their land?

Joshua's point: if you don't want to serve the Lord,
take your pick; they're all worthless.

At first glance, the people would see a multiple choice
of gods, from all over, of all stripes, shapes and
colors. Like a kid in Baskin-Robbins. So hard to
choose, so many good flavors.

But once you started looking up close, you'd discover
none of them lived up to the media hype. The claims
were flat, the gods false.

The only true choice, therefore, was to serve the Lord
who had rescued the people out of Egypt.

But it is still a choice. Joshua's words echo what were
called suzerainty treaties, conditions imposed by a
conquering king upon his vanquished enemies. This is
the way it's going to be from now on. You serve me, and
I'll take care of you.

No, God was indeed the conquering king, but he wanted
willing subjects. He left them a choice. And he wanted
to show them the only true choice, but it was still
theirs to make.

Rebellion would be punished, faithfulness would be
rewarded. You could chose your god, but you couldn't
choose your consequences. Each choice brought its
unfailing results.

So they actually had two choices: If they refused God,
they could take their pick among the abandoned and
ineffective gods of the pagans. None of those would get
them anywhere.

So what does that mean for me?

It's not likely I'll set up some wooden, stone or metal
images. (There are lots of people out there who still
do, however.)

Our gods are of a different stripe. Greed. Ambition.
Money. Power. Envy. Jealousy. Resentment. Pleasure.
Gods that infest the heart, twist the mind, warp the

If we don't want to serve the Lord exclusely, what's
left? Merely these dinky deities that can never deliver
on their promises. These (in)human idols that
constantly tip over when the Spirit breezes by.

Don't want God? Take your pick from this motley mix of
no-good, washed-up idols. Paw through this junk-pile of
broken images, ground-up golden calves, incinerated
icons and see if you can find some fragment to fire
your passion and feed your need.

On second thought, there's not much there, is there? We
watch stupid celebrities bow down to popularity. We
follow power-hungry politicians who make their deals
with the devil. We read of exhausted executives
sacrificing family and health for the upward climb. We
hear next-door neighbors neighing lustily after
pleasure. It just doesn't add up.

"So we too will worship the Lord, for he is our God!"

The right choice, the best choice, the only real

And we've got the history to prove it.

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