Tuesday, July 17, 2012

In Search of the God-factor

Read Judges 17-18.

Verse 6 of chapter 17 contains a recurring theme that characterizes the book of Judges and explains the 7 cycles.  "In those days there was no king in Israel.  Everyone did what was right in his own eyes."  The statement should immediately alert us that the account here is historical to the writer and that the time of writing was later when Israel had a king.  The closing chapters of Judges are stories, providing specific examples, that fit into the previous cycles.

Micah was thief.  He stole silver from his mother.  When she pronounced a curse on the one who took her money, Micah confessed and gave it back to her.  In her warped thinking, she decided to counter the stated curse she had put on her son with some sort of religious good work.  Obviously influenced by the pagan culture around her, she took part of the silver to make an idol to worship as her god.  Such an act was an abomination to the LORD.  If that were not enough, they hired their own private priest to lead their false worship.  Sadly, this was one of Moses' grandsons.

The situation is full of pride and rebellion against the LORD.  They had their own god, their own priest, their own way of worship.  All self-made and had nothing to do with the God of Heaven.

In chapter 18, even the tribe of Dan lost their spiritual bearings.  They forcefully took Micah's god and his priest as their own.  Then, they slaughtered a wealthy, non-threatening city so they could move in.  The name of city was changed to Dan.  They set up the god they stole as their own and Dan became a center of idolatry.

My mind goes back to a message from Louis Giglio.  He said in effect, "If you have to carry your god on your shoulder, you need a new god."

It is pride and rebellion in the heart and mind of finite human beings that think they are smarter than the Infinite Creator.  Humans left to themselves will always put their trust in something to "bless" them.

Instead of worshipping and praying to nature, the stars, and man-made objects, let us worship the One who created and sustains all that we see, including us.  As scientists in Europe are searching for the God-factor in the mass of the universe, the Apostle Paul knew the answer a long time ago.  Concerning Jesus, he wrote, "...all things were created through him and for him.  And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together."  (Colossians 1:16b-17)

Monday, July 16, 2012

5 Insights from the life of Samson

Read Judges 15-16.

Samson was an answer to prayer and prophecy at his birth.  Godly parents raised him.  Even before his birth, he had been dedicated to God in a Nazarite vow for life.  God used him to avenge and overthrow the oppression of the Philistines.  Indeed, he "judged Israel twenty years" (16:31).  Yet, his lack of self-discipline when it came to his pride and his view of women cost him dearly.

Physically, no man or any group of men could match him.  But he was totally oblivious to the cunning of immoral women.  He never caught on or learned.  He used women, toyed with them, and gave into them.

There seems to be an absence of understanding that the blessing of his strength came from God, not muscle nor long hair.  Time and time again, he neglected his spiritual health and strength.  The saddest words concerning Samson is found in 16:20-"...he did not know that the LORD had left him." 

1. Godly parents do not guarantee godly children.  We all, as individuals, must give an account to the LORD for our own responses to Him.
2. We all were designed for a life dedicated to God. 
3. We all need protection from our vulnerabilities. 
4. God will get glory from a life-one way or another. 
5. Life is about fulfilling the purposes of God in our generation.

Friday, July 13, 2012

It's My Life. I'll Do What I Want.

Read Judges 14.

During this time the nation of Israel lived under the oppressive rule of the Philistines.  In response, God chose a man named Samson to liberate his people.  From his early years, "the Spirit of the LORD began to stir him" (13:25).  The angel of the LORD gave his parents instructions on how to raise him.  Samson would be under the commitments of a Nazarite (not Nazarene).  He was not to drink any alcohol, be strict about what he ate, and not to cut his hair.  In the teaching from Moses, this was a voluntary vow for a period time to separate oneself for a special service to God.  The Bible provides instances where such a vow was made by the parents for the life of their child.  Such was the case with Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist.

Samson is renown for his physical strength.  But he was a man who violated his vow repeatedly with moral weaknesses.  Instead of seeking a godly woman for a wife from Israel, he lusted after one who did not worship the LORD from the Philistines.  The Mosaic law prohibited such a union.  He would not listen to God's word, nor the wisdom and objections of his parents.  Why?  Because "she is right in my eyes" (14:3).

Samson's physical strength caused him to believe he was invincible.  This type of pride always leads to a downfall.  At the celebration leading up the marriage, his wife-to-be demonstrated her loyalty to her own people, not Samson.  Her heart was full of deceit.  It cost thirty men their lives and the woman was given to another.  Verse 4 is not an endorsement by God of Samson's sin.  Rather, God had a bigger plan to unfold and overthrow the Philistines.  He would use this occasion to begin the process.

Insights from a bad example:
1. Concerning Parents.
"Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  Honor your father and mother (this is the first commandment with a promise) that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land." (Ephesians 6:1-3)  When a child grows to be an adult, they are responsible for their own behavior before the Lord.  While they may not be under the obedience of parents, for all-time they are to honor their parents.

2. Concerning Temptations.
The first sin was one prompted by the lust of the eyes.  Eve "saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes..." (Genesis 3;6).  1 John 2:16 warns us, "For all that is in the world-the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions-is not from the Father but is from the world."

3. Concerning Sin.
The desire to live life according to one's own wishes is rebellion against God's ownership.  It is this very sin that sent Jesus to die on the cross.  "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:6)

4. Concerning God.
The LORD is in control, even when a person sins.  No matter what, He uses every situation in our lives for His glory and His purposes.  "Surely the wrath of man shall praise you" (Psalm 76:10.  "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28).

Thursday, July 12, 2012

5 Evidences of Godly Character

Read Judges 13.

The sixth cycle began when the next generation "did what was evil in the sight of the LORD".  This time God used the Philistines to oppress them for forty years.

Yet, even in the worst of times, there were always those who did love and serve the LORD.  Such were Manoah and  his wife.  Though most of the tribe of Dan had moved north, these two remained in the inherited land allotted to their family by Joshua.  They were a faithful couple who had no children.  Then, the angel of the LORD appeared and foretold the birth of their son.

This is at least the fourth appearance of the angel of the LORD in first thirteen chapters of Judges.  Who is this "angel"?  Though he looks like a man (v.6 and v.10) and Manoah did not realize at first that he was the angel of the LORD (v.16), the identity is obvious from previous mentions from Genesis to here.  Nowhere is it more clear than here.
1. Very awesome appearance (v.6).  The word awesome is so overused in American slang that it has lost its meaning.  To stand in awe involves the emotions of fear and reverence.  It is a rightful response to God and His word.
2. His name is Wonderful (v.18).  Isaiah 9:6, referring to Messiah, "...and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."
3. They had seen God (v.22).  This was no one else than a preincarnate appearance of Jesus Himself.

We learn a lot about the spiritual character of Manoah and his wife.
1. They recognized the presence of God.
2. They believed the message from God.
3. They prayed to God for more understanding of His word, especially His teaching to raise their child. (v.8, and v.12)
4. They offered sacrifices to "the one who works wonders." (v.19)
5. The LORD blessed them. (v.24)

May those five things be true of us today.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Hope for Marginalized People

Read Judges 10:6-12.

The sixth cycle of the book began as the next generation of people turned from the LORD to serve all the false gods of the cultures around them.  As a result, the LORD "sold them" to the Philistines and Ammonites for eighteen years.  In their distress, Israel cried out to God for help, confessing their sin.  God gave them a bit of a history lesson of His faithfulness and what He had done for them in the past.  He even mocked them by saying, "Why don't you go ask those other gods to help you?"  The people responded by getting rid of the vain things they had worshipped.

Notice that the LORD did not immediately overthrow their enemies.  Instead, the Ammonites decided to fight against Gilead.  The question at this time of the people was for a man to lead them in battle.  Now we meet Jephthah.

Jephthah was evidently from a prominent family.  The city is named after his father, Gilead.  But his mother was a prostitute and so the rest of the family rejected him.  Even the leaders of the city hated him (v.7).  As an outcast, he left town.  Jephthah was also a leader.  Other marginalized and outcast men followed him.  However, the most important note about him was that he had a personal relationship with the LORD (v.11).

The reason the Ammonites gave for the invasion was that Israel had taken their land.  Jephthah knew the history and retold it to them.  Their forefathers had mistreated the nation of Israel and God gave them the land.  As a steward Jephthah proclaimed, "All that the LORD our God has dispossessed before us, we will possess." (11:24)  His dependency was on the LORD as he entered into battle. (11:27)  That truly was all he needed to win, but, in the emotion of the moment, Jephthah made a foolish vow.  With his daughter being an only child, this meant he would have no descendants.  If that heartbreak was not enough, the tribe of Ephraim angrily expressed their offense that they were not included in the fight against the Ammonites.  So, a small civil war broke out.

Jephthah served as Israel's judge for six years.  Three minor judges followed him.  Ibzan led the nation for seven years; Elon for ten, and Abdon for eight.  So, Israel experienced a total of thirty-one years of peace.

Personal insights for us all:
1. It does not matter where you came from.  What matters is where you are going.  My friend Dr. Crawford Loritts often says, "Don't let your past define you."

2. We are responsible for our own reputation.  Our character and conduct, good or bad, is no one else's fault or responsibility.

3. Our future is determined by our personal relationship with the Living God and our stewardship of all that He has given to us.

4. If we are faithful, there will come a time when we will be needed for an opportunity God had planned for us all along.

5. We must guard our hearts and minds when we are at an emotional extreme, high or low.  That is when most people make their worst decisions.

6. Whenever a person serves God's purpose faithfully, there will always be those who are offended.  Our goal is not to strive for the impossible task of pleasing everyone.  There is One is heaven we absolutely must please.  "And whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him." (1 John 3:22)    

Monday, July 9, 2012

God's Response to Evil Leaders

Read Judges 8:33-10:5.

Cycle number five describes a national implosion.  There were no outside nations oppressing them in this time period.  They fought against each other.

As good as Gideon was, he left a terrible legacy.  He had many wives who gave birth to seventy sons.  Then, there was at least one concubine with whom he fathered another son.  That son's name was Abimelech.  When Gideon died, it appears that he left a family and a nation with neither defined nor spiritual leadership.

This next generation did not remember the LORD and what He had done for them.  In this void, Abimelech, with selfish ambition, rose to take power and control of Israel.  He first killed all but one of Gideon's sons and ruled for three years.  Jotham, the youngest son of Gideon, escaped.  He then went to Shechem to preach a prophetic message to the city leaders.

When challenged by what seems to be an even more godless man, Gaal, the civil war breaks out.  Abimelech proved to be ruthless in putting down all those who opposed him.  He must have thought himself to be invincible in personally leading the attacks.    Any warrior in those days would know the dangers of rushing a wall or tower.  No king would have been fighting on the front line.  It cost him his life.

A couple of minor judges followed, providing national leadership and peace for a total of forty-five years.

1. When a people have an evil leader, everyone suffers.
2. In the worst of times, God has His people who can and will deliver His word.
3. The dissension was instigated by God in order to overthrow Abimelech. (9:23)
4. Though an unnamed woman was credited with mortally wounding him, it was God who "returned the evil of Abimelech, which he committed against his father in killing his seventy brothers." (9:56)
5. "And God also made all the evil of the men of Shechem return on their heads." (9:57)

God's justice may seem slow to us but in His time He will right every wrong.  No one gets away with sin.

God's hand is at work, even using evil people do accomplish His will.

God's goal is to bring people back to worship Him so they may experience righteousness and peace.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

When Things Look Impossible

Read Judges 7-8.

Cycle number four continues as Gideon had now become a leader of an army that would deliver Israel from the Midianites.  In what seems to be a strange assessment, God told Gideon he had too many soldiers for the battle.  The reason the LORD gave was that with so many, the army could take the credit and glory for the victory.

In the winnowing process, Gideon's army was reduced from 32,000 to just 300 men.  It was a humanly impossible assignment.  So, when these few men conquered Midian, everyone would know it was God's power and give glory only Him.

When Gideon's army blew the trumpets and flashed their lamps, the army of Midian that could not be numbered (7:12) thought they were surrounded!  120,000 of the enemy died (8:10).  Though exhausted, Gideon and his men chased the Midianites clear across the Jordan.  Those who refused to support them along the way paid so with their lives.  Thus, God relieved the nation of its oppression and established Gideon's national leadership.

The nation asked him to "rule over us" (8:22).  Notice his humility and submission to the LORD.  Truly, God was the ultimate ruler over the nation.  Gideon provided a leadership of peace for the next forty years.

Two insights for today.
1. God wants to work in situations thought impossible so He alone will get the credit.
Jesus said, "What is impossible with men is possible with God." (Luke 18:27)

2. God wants to use people who know they do not have what it takes to get the job done, but are willing to trust God to accomplish His work through them.
The Apostle Paul wrote, "We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us." (2Corinthians 4:7)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

When God Does Not Answer Our Questions

Read Judges 6.
Cycle number four begins in the first verse.  The next generation of Israelites "did what was evil" and "the LORD gave them into the hand of Midian seven years."  The people then cried out for help.  But this time we are given much more detail of what took place.  First, God sent an unnamed prophet to point out the sin of the nation.  Second, "the angel of the LORD" appeared.  From the previous reference in Judges 2:1, this is none other than a pre-incarnate appearance of the Son of God Himself.  We are told He sat under a tree, waiting for the encounter with Gideon.

Commentators have stated that since Gideon was beating out the wheat in a winepress that meant he was hiding from the enemy and that the harvest must have been very small.  Yet, in a bit of prophetic humor the LORD called him a mighty man of valor.  Truthfully, Gideon was anything but such a man.

Gideon's questions show either a lack of understanding or the common responses of one who is suffering.  Why has this happened to us?  Where is God when we need Him?

Notice that the LORD answered neither question.  He simply called Gideon to go save Israel from the Midianites.  In response, Gideon poured out his inadequacies.  Then, the LORD said, "But I will be with you." (v.16)  One person with God is a majority every time.  The LORD chose to demonstrate His power to Gideon as proof of who He was and assurance of victory ahead.

There were no more questions from Gideon at this point.  Once he realized God's call on his life, God's presence with him, and God's power available to him, Gideon worshipped and obeyed.  When he personally took the bold step of destroying the false gods that had been erected, God protected him and clothed his leadership with the Spirit of God.

The fleece test Gideon used was not to determine God's will.  He already knew that.  But in his timidity and lack of faith, he wanted the reassurance that the power and presence of God was with him. 

Highlights not to miss.
1. When we are suffering loss or harm, rather than seek answers to the questions "why" or "where is God when I need Him", instead seek what God wants you to do.  Seeking answers can be enlightening but all to often drown us in the past and self-pity.  Knowing what God wants us to do and taking right actions will move our lives forward.
2. If it is God's will, then we can count on God's presence and power to go before us.
3. God wants our willingness to obey and worship Him alone.  Nothing will build our faith like doing the will of God.
4. Our future is assured.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

How God Works for Our Success

Read Judges 4-5.

Cycle number three begins with the very first verse.  After 80 years of peace, Ehud, the judge who delivered them, died, the new generation left the God who loves them to go their own evil way.  This time the LORD raised up King Jabin of Canaan to conquer and enslave Israel for 20 years.  Then, the people cried out to God for help.  God responded by using Deborah, a prophetess and judge.

Deborah chose Barak to lead Israel's army in the overthrow of the Canaanites.  Barak's insistence on Deborah going with him was probably assurance of presence of wise counsel and the presence of God.  Barak exercised great faith in taking this assignment and completing it.  He is listed in Faith's Hall of Fame in Hebrews 11:32.

In her prophecy statement to Barak, she said, "Up!  For this is the day in which the LORD has given Sisera into your hand." (4:14)  The scripture makes it clear that the LORD went before them and caused the Canaanite army to flee.  Sisera escaped and was killed by a woman, Jael.  "So on that day God subdued Jabin the king of Canaan before the people of Israel." (4:23)

The victory was followed by a long, narrative duet by Deborah and Barak.  Then, the nation enjoyed peace again for 40 years.

The lessons of the repeating cycles are the same.  God will not allow people to go on indefinitely in sin.  Sin has devastating consequences.  Yet, when sinners abandon their sin to obey the LORD, He faithfully responds with forgiveness and deliverance.  In freeing His people, God has a plan for them and a time for the plan (4:14).  God even goes before His people to clear the way ahead.  But notice they still must do the fighting and pursuing.  God will not do it for them.

In the duet, we learn some additional take away principles of success.
1. "Leaders took the lead." (5:2a)
Dr. Lee Roberson originally coined the phrase, "Everything rises and falls on leadership."
Olan Hendrix asked, "Have you ever noticed that the bottle neck is always at the top?"
Every nation, organization, church, and family needs godly and/or good leadership to survive.  But leadership is not a position, it is an active endeavor.  People never achieve all their potential as a group unless leaders take the lead.

2. "The people offered themselves willingly." (5:2b)
No person can lead anything alone.  A person is not a leader unless someone is following them.  The people within a nation, organization, church, or family have the responsibility to follow godly and/or good leadership.  Concerning the Macedonian believers Paul wrote, "...they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us." (2 Corinthians 8:5)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Lessons Learned the Hard Way

Read Judges 3.

There are two reasons mentioned as what God was doing with the nation.  Pagan people groups lived all around them.  First, He was testing them to see if they would reject spiritual corruption and obey His word.  Second, this new generation grew up without knowing how to go to war when needed.  They had to learn both.

Their moral and spiritual failure of God's tests did not happen over night.  The compromises took place over time, step by step.
Step 1. They lived among the unbelievers.
Step 2. They intermarried with the unbelievers.
Step 3. They served the pagan gods of the other culture.

This, then, began cycle number one in the book.
God was not going to tolerate their disobedience and evil in rejecting Him.  So, He brought King Cushan-rishathaim of Mesopotamia to enslave them for eight years.  The people cried out to God for help and the LORD raised up a godly national leader.  His name was Othniel, the nephew of Caleb.  Note that it was not the leadership of Othniel that delivered them, but "the Spirit of the LORD."  The nation experience peace for 40 years.

Cycle number two begins in verse 12.
After 48 years, another generation had grown up who did not desire to live in honor of the LORD.  So, God energized King Eglon of Moab, along with a some allies, to conquer and enslave Israel for eighteen years.  Then, the people cried out to God for help and the LORD raised up Ehud to deliver them.  God gave the nation 80 years of peace.

There are four insights here for us.
1. The power of influence.  All of us need to be fully aware of our surroundings.  God has left believers in this world to influence our culture, not the other way around.  Indeed, those who live for Christ will increasingly find themselves living counter to culture.  We are "in the world but not of the world."

2. The priority of teaching the next generation.  It is our duty, responsibility, and mission to teach the generations behind us what God's word says and how to put it into practice.  Otherwise, the consequences of shame, loss, and ultimately enslavement are well documented here.

3. The purpose of accountability.  It has never been the plan of God that one should live without accountability.  Self-reliance is a recipe for disaster.  That is why godly, transparent relationships are crucial to our spiritual growth and maintenance.  Close friendships and/or marriage partner, and Bible teaching churches are core elements to the Christian life. 

4. The primacy of godly leadership.  When people are in need of leadership, the LORD does not raise up a committee.  He does not ask for a majority vote.  He raises up a godly leader, empowered by His spirit, and appropriately accountable.  The book of Judges demonstrates repeatedly that one leader in the power of God can rally and deliver a nation.  Let us pray for such a leader for our nation.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

What Happened to God's Grandchildren?

Read Judges 2.

Someone once said, "God does not have any grandchildren."  That could not be more clear than in this chapter.  The first generation coming out of Egypt saw firsthand the miracles of God.  Moses even wrote down the word of God and their commitments so they would not forget.  The second generation benefited as they wandered in the wilderness.  God provided their daily food and needs.  When the second generation came into the land, they saw first hand God's power and miracles under Joshua's leadership.

But when Joshua died, "there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD or the work that he had done for Israel.  And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals."" (v.10-11)  This resulted in their loss of God's power in their nation and placed them in "terrible distress."

In their helplessness, the nation cried out to God for help.  The LORD responded by raising up a new national leader, called a judge.  That was followed by a time of victory and peace.  But as soon as the judge died, the people abandoned God and plunged back into pagan worship.  That was followed by oppression from a neighboring nation, great distress, helplessness, crying out to God for help, a new judge, and a time of peace.

This cycle repeated itself 7 times in this book.  Walk Thru the Bible described it this way:
1. Sin-the nation falls in to pagan worship
2. Servitude-the nation suffers under an oppressive enemy
3. Supplication-the nation cries out to God for help
4. Salvation-God responds by raising up a new national leader to deliver them
5. Silence-a time of peace

In verse 22, God called each generation to a spiritual test to see if they would live according to His word.  Whatever grade the previous generation made on their test did not apply to the next. 

No one can take God's tests for us.  Godly parents do not guarantee godly children.  Parents are commanded to teach their children by precept and by living example (Deuteronomy 6).  But each generation, each person, is responsible and accountable for their own response to God.  The consequences for not listening and abandoning the LORD are devastating.  Great blessing, forgiveness, deliverance, and peace await those who cast their helplessness on Him.

Monday, July 2, 2012

When Coexistence Becomes Sin

Read Judges 1-2:5.

Controlling the land and taking possession of it are two different issues.  Joshua led the nation into the land, exercised great power over it, and set the boundaries for the tribes.  But the land was far from being occupied by Israel.

One by one the tribes set out to take the land that God had given to them.  Yet, about a half-dozen times we are told that a particular tribe "did not drive out" the inhabitants.  Instead, they worked out a covenant of coexistence.  Most often that meant that rather than death, those who lived in the land submitted to forced labor.

While on one hand that may sound like a wise, even merciful, thing to do, it was in direct violation of what God told them to do.  The command was clear.  Israel was not to make any agreements with the surrounding peoples.  The reason was not to display military might and power over others.  From the beginning of the conquest, the LORD warned them against spiritual compromise.  The Canaanites had rejected the God of Heaven to worship their multiple man-made idols.  In Genesis 15:16, God told Abraham that his descendants would return and take the land at that time because of the completed sin of the Amorites.

There can be no compromise or coexistence with sin and false worship.  God is a jealous God and will not share the honor due Him with anyone or anything. 

The good news is that the people repented in tears for their disobedience.  Then, they worshipped the LORD.

The Apostle Paul wrote that believers in Jesus are the temple of the Holy Spirit.  In stating his case, he quoted Leviticus 26:12 and continued-"God said, I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty."

We must be diligent and vigilant about the spiritual areas of compromise and attempts at coexistence with sin in our lives.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

A Decisive Message for the Nation

Read Joshua 24.

In the previous chapter, Joshua addressed the nation's leaders.  Here in his final words, he spoke to all of Israel.  He began with a history lesson.  It is a walk through the first five books of the Bible.  His message had three parts and then a most interesting back and forth about the challenge.

1. How did we get here? (vv.1-12)
Notice how Joshua is actually presenting this on behalf of God Himself, "Thus says the LORD."  Beginning with God's call of Abraham, Joshua recounted their family lineage.  Next, he reminded them of the days in Egypt and how God miraculously delivered them.  He mentioned the wilderness wandering and how God gave them victory over enemies along the way.  Then, God brought them into the land and gave it to them, just as he had promised Abraham centuries before.

2. Where are we? (v.13)
God said, "I gave you a land" with cities they did not build and crops they did not plant.  This was their inheritance from the LORD.  They were to enjoy it all.

3. What do we do now? (vv.14-28)
Fear the LORD.  This is more than just a reverential awe of the Almighty.  If anything, one should have learned through Israel's journey that God knows how to mete out judgment here and now.  Sin has consequences.  Respect and right responses to what God has made clear is life and death.  Paul wrote, "Knowing the fear (terror in KJV) of the Lord we persuade others." (2 Corinthians 5:11)

Serve the LORD.  Here the scripture says this is to be done "in sincerity and in faithfulness."  Integrity is demonstrated in how we live out what we say we believe.  This is not a vocational statement as much as a demonstration of our faith.  "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:31)

Incline your heart to the LORD.  Which way are you leaning, toward the LORD or away from Him?  One translation puts it, "make up your mind."  Joshua's challenge to the nation was, "Choose this day whom you will serve." (v.15b)

His conclusion is the famous quotation, "But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."

The exchange that followed is a curious one indeed.  The people responded with agreement, "We also will serve the LORD."  Then, the preacher, if you will, said, "You are not able."  The people responded again, "No, but we will serve the LORD."  All this proved to highten the seriousness of their commitment.  Joshua made it a national covenant, wrote it down, and dedicated a monument for it so they would remember what they promised.

These are serious reminders for all of us.