January 4

How Can We Serve God Better?



Text: Joshua 24:14-24

Proposition: God wants us to choose to serve Him.

Joshua was a great leader chosen by God to lead the Israelites to the Promised Land. The Lord passed the burden of Moses along to Joshua. He to the tribe of Ephraim, the youngest son of Joseph. He was dedicated to serving the Lord and highly loyal to God and Moses. By God's grace and help, he led the young nation Israel to the Promised Land.

However, as every living human would, he was aged; as we learn from the last chapters of Joshua, he summoned the Israelites to give his farewell speech. However, this speech is more than a farewell speech; it is a strong reminder of how they should live in light of who God is and what He has done for them.

Joshua encourages the people to serve the Lord. He also reminds them that they will fail to serve the Lord, as many of us fail to serve the Lord today if we do not choose to serve him. He reminds them that they should change their attitude to continue serving the LORD even after his death by leaving all other gods and obeying the Lord.

Paul Lee Tan states, "God has no policeman to pass around and grab us by the neck and say you must read your Bible, go to Church, or give to Missions. When God created man, He made man superior to all other creatures. He gave man the power and privilege of CHOICE. Up to now the Lord respects that privilege. He will not force us. With that privilege of Choice, goes the terrible responsibility of abiding by the results or consequences of our choices." [1]

The passage for today also talks about making a choice. The choice is: to serve the LORD or to serve your gods. Which one would we choose? Joshua encourages his people to make a choice. And God is calling us today to make the right choice.

What is the point of Joshua 24:14-24? God wants us to choose to serve Him.

God encouraged Joshua that He would give him every place where his foot treads, just as God promised Moses. He also told Joshua to be strong and courageous in chapter 1, verse 6. Above all, God said, "be strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest" (Josh. 1:7). 

Joshua lived out these commandments the Lord had given him, and now he charges his people to obey and serve the Lord so that they will not face God's judgment if they forsake Him.

In light of this certainty of God's judgment upon those who forsake God and serve Him and in light of the unmistakable call of the Holy Spirit through the Scriptures, what are we to do? How are we to respond? How can we serve God?

We must serve God because of His Redeeming act in our lives

God's deliverance in the past. Vv. 1-13

Verses 1-13 talk about God's deliverance in the past.

  • These verses talk about Yahweh's historical review of what He has done for the people of Israel. 
  • Eighteen times He tells them that it was HE who helped them. 
  • In fact, in verse 13, the Scripture says, "And I have given you a land for which ye did not labour, and cities which ye built not, and ye dwell in them; of the vineyards and oliveyards which ye planted not do ye eat."
  • In other words, Israel, you did NOTHING to gain this land because I the LORD has given it to you.
  • They have no basis for claiming they have worked hard to gain the Promised Land. The LORD ultimately gives it.
  • For example, verse 6 says, "And I brought your fathers out of Egypt: and ye came unto the sea, and the Egyptians pursued after your fathers with chariots and horsemen unto the Red sea."
  • So it is God who brought them out, and it is God who gave them the land. 
  • In fact, the people of Israel recall what the LORD has done for them. Verses 16-18 say they were fully aware of God's gracious acts. 

God's deliverance in the present v.20

Look with me in verse 20 – "If ye forsake the Lord, and serve strange gods, then he will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after that he hath done you good." 

  • What is the opposite of this verse? If you do NOT forsake me, I will be with you even in the present because people need the Lord, both in the past and present!
  • In other words, if you do not forsake me – a willful act, then I will not hurt you, I will not consume you. 
  • People need God's care even to this day!
  • People need God's protection even to this day!
  • People need God's provision even to this day!

Therefore, what should people do? Joshua calls them to "fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity and truth" V. 14. 

[How does this apply to us?] As believers, we need to stop and think about God's past blessings. One of God's most essential blessings and gifts given to us is salvation, offered by and through His Son, Jesus Christ. 

Remember: we were all lost, dead in trespasses and sins - Eph. 2:1; we were all on our way to hell – Titus 3:5; however, for God so loved this world, that is you and me, and sent His only begotten Son to die for our sins so that we would be redeemed. Christ saved us from our sins and changed our destiny from hell to heaven – 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18.

1Pet. 2:24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.
1Pet. 3:18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

What should we do? Stop, think and praise God for what He has done in our lives. Then, praise God for sending Jesus Christ to save us from eternal damnation.

Not only should we serve God by acknowledging His redeeming act, but we must also acknowledge God's character.

We must serve God because of His Faithful character

In verse 19, the Scripture tells us the character of God in two ways.

"And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve the Lord: for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins."

Why would Joshua use such harsh words in his response?

He bluntly says you cannot serve the Lord!

This is a prophetic utterance. Joshua knew these people and their ancestors' lives; Joshua observed when they murmured against the Lord and Moses; Joshua had seen it all. Therefore, Joshua was saying, no, your hearts are not right. God's character is different, and yours is different. 

Your ancestors are used to worshipping other gods, and you, Israel, might think it would be easy for you to worship and serve other gods as opposed to Yahweh! Or it is easy for you to serve Yahweh and others together! But that cannot happen.

Note: Genesis 31:34 talks about Rachel when she hid some gods – "Now Rachel had taken the images, and put them in the camel's furniture, and sat upon them. And Laban searched all the tent, but found them not."

So you see, it is not all that difficult to hide one!

But why did Joshua say they cannot serve God? Did he not encourage them a few minutes ago? Was he discouraging them that quickly? 

Joshua was calling for strong motivation to serve the LORD!

He says: 

God is holy (v. 19)

What does it mean that God is holy? He is pure!  

Trent Butler says, "The holiness of God impresses the worshiper to imitate the purity of God, acting in accordance with the demands of God (Exod 22:30 [=Eng. 22:31]; Lev 19:2)." [2]

When we understand God's character, we will undoubtedly serve Him. 

Not only is God Holy, but Joshua also says that God is jealous!

God is jealous (v.19)

What does it mean by God is jealous? God demands undivided love and dedication from us; He will not share that love and commitment with other gods. 

We should not understand God's jealousy in our human terms. God is jealous in the sense He is the protector of His people. Therefore, He demands His people's love and dedication to Himself. 

The God of the Bible is the God whom we can trust with all our hearts.

In Joshua 23:14, Joshua gives an amazing testimony about the Lord.

"And, behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth: and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof."

Application: God's expectations of His people are too high because His love for them and us is too high! How can a holy and jealous God have little expectation from His people? You and I are children of a HOLY God, so we must be distinct from the world.

Not only should we serve God because of His character, but we should serve Him because God calls us to serve Him.

We must serve God because He calls Us to Serve Him

In verse 14, Joshua demands his people to fear and serve the LORD in sincerity and Truth. 

Joshua 24:14, "Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord."

Why would Joshua give a call to serve the Lord in sincerity and truth?

He demands that his people enter into a proper relationship with Yahweh. But they can only enter a good relationship if they get rid of their idols. That right relationship also includes the appropriate attitude of reverence and awe for the redeeming acts of God.     

This text teaches us that God never abandoned his promises to their fathers; He was sincere and truthful. Joshua was demanding an attitude and actions from these Israelites that God had already shown them. In other words, God is demanding total loyalty and dedication. 

Application: To reach a destination, we cannot travel on two things simultaneously. The same applies here – to serve the Lord, we cannot serve materialism and the Lord. So Joshua was pointing out that they have an option – Israel may serve Yahweh or other gods of their ancestors, but not both.


To serve God, we need Dedication. People declare they will serve God – v. 16, 21, 24.

To serve God, we must deny our gods and materialism v. 14, 15, 23

Idolatry in our lives takes two forms:

  • Materialism – whatever hinders us from serving God is idolatry.
  • Playing Holy – An outward form – Matt. 15:7-9.

To serve God, we must make a decision v. 22, 25. People made that decision, and Joshua says they are the witnesses against themselves.

To serve God, we must obey the Word of God (Josh. 23:6; James 1:22)

As Christians, to follow Jesus, it needs dedication, denial of self, and the decision to continually serve Him for what He has done for us. 

What is Jesus for you? If he means something to you, would you decide today to serve Him from this day?

Jesus said in Luke 9:23, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me."

As we enter into the new year, we make resolutions. Some we keep, and some we do not. However, what would your resolution be?

Joshua made his decision thousands of years ago –As for him and his household, they will serve the LORD (Joshua 24:15). Would you decide to SERVE the Lord this year?

How can we serve God? When we make a choice to serve him.

 [1] Tan, Paul Lee. 1996. Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times. Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.

[2]Trent C. Butler, Joshua, vol. 7 of Word Biblical Commentary. Accordance/Thomas Nelson electronic ed. (Waco: Word Books, 1983), 275.

About the author 

Joel Madasu

Joel Madasu is a third generation Christian. His desire is to teach the Bible as it is given. He is passionate about people, discipleship and relevant communication of God’s truth – his Word, the Bible.

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