Joshua 24:15 is a popular verse that is familiar to many Christians today. The verse is used as a modern-day declaration of a family’s commitment to serving God.
We will look at the scripture and surrounding verses for an accurate explanation of the true meaning of this scripture.
What is happening in Joshua 24?
The setting for Joshua 24 is found in Joshua 23.
In Joshua 23, the Israelites have taken possession of most of Canaan, the Promised Land. Joshua is the successor of Moses.
Joshua has led the Israelites into Israel and they settle themselves and are living comfortably. The inheritance of the 12 tribes has been given and most of the occupants of the land have been pushed out.
Joshua is an old man and is at the end of his life’s journey.
“And it came to pass a long time after that the LORD had given rest unto Israel from all their enemies round about, that Joshua waxed old and stricken in age.” Joshua 23:1
Joshua understands that he doesn’t have much time left in his life on earth.
“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.” Joshua 23:14
Joshua calls together the people in the presence of God to speak for the Lord one last time. God gives the people a quick “history lesson.”
God tells the people about how he called Abraham out from an idolatrous family. Abraham’s father worshipped false gods. God brought him out of that.
When Abraham obeyed the voice of God and left the false worshippers, God blessed him. God gave him a promise of offspring through Isaac and multiplied his family.
Abraham’s family moved to Egypt and they became enslaved by the Egyptians. Even so, God raised up Moses and Aaron, and plagued the Egyptians, bringing deliverance from the cruel taskmasters.
God parted the waters of the Red Sea and delivered the people, while also drowning the Egyptians in those same waters and same time. The price that was paid cost the enemy of God’s people greatly.
God’s people were witnesses of the miraculous that ended their days as servants to the Egyptians for good. The great exodus brought them through the wilderness and defeated all of the many armies that hindered them and stood in their way.
Telling the background history, God names several different nations that were conquered in order for the Israelites to enjoy the rest and peace that they currently had.
God reminds the people of the past and is then bringing them to a place of decision for the future. After He recounts all of the victories He had given them, He ends by reminding the people of all His gifts to them.
“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.” Joshua 23:13
Who is Joshua talking to in Chapter 24?
In Chapter 24, Joshua is talking to the elders, judges, and leaders of the nation.
“And Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and called for the elders of Israel, and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers; and they presented themselves before God.” Joshua 24:1
What choices does Joshua give the Israelites in Joshua 24?
Joshua gave three choices to the Israelites to either: Serve the lord, serve false gods their fathers served or serve false gods that were popular during their time. In summary, they were:
1. Serve the Lord.
2. Serve the false gods that their forefathers had served from the other side of the Euphrates River and in Egypt.
3. Serve the false gods that were popular in the land that they were now living in.
Joshua finishes speaking on the Lord’s behalf in verse 13, and begins to make his last earthly appeal to this people that he loved so deeply. Joshua knew that it was his last opportunity to influence them and calls them to a place of decision.
God is seeking full commitment from His people. Joshua’s appeal is the heartbeat of what God desires of them. It is the only viable option.
“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.” Joshua 24:14
Although there was no outward and public idol worship permitted from the Israelites, many of them had secretly held on to the worship of false gods that was practiced in Egypt and by previous generations. God was never pleased with this worship but permitted it in His longsuffering.
It is important to know that God desires genuine, wholly committed worship and service from His children. While He may tolerate disobedience for a season of time, He never accepts it. This includes when we are accustomed to our own ways and are unknowingly partaking in things that grieve God.
God desires our intentional and complete devotion. Serving two masters will never be allowed or accepted by Him.
Joshua’s plea to the people was that they would fear the Lord, or in other words, reverence and respect Him. It would be insulting and disrespectful to attempt living in God’s blessings while also serving another master.
The wishes of Joshua were answered after he died. The people served God faithfully for the remainder of that generation.
“And Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that overlived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the LORD, that he had done for Israel.” Joshua 24:31
What does Joshua 24:15 say?
Joshua 24:15 in the New Living Translation (NIV )says:
But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Joshua 24:15 in the King James Version (KJV) says:
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.
What is the meaning of Joshua 24:15?
The meaning of Joshua 24:15 is a specific choice that is being given to the Israelites: Choose who you will serve between the one true God or the false gods. After giving the people their options, Joshua immediately makes known his choice: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
How to apply Joshua 24:15 to our lives today?
The nature of humanity hasn’t changed much since the beginning of time. Additionally, the one true God and false deities are still in existence today.
Ecclesiastes 1:19 reminds us that nothing new is under the sun. However, each new generation progresses to more innovations and greater efficiencies. New ideas and easier ways of life are implemented continually over the ages.
Some people will long for the “old paths,” where they remember Christians depending more on the hand of God than depending on personal smarts, individual physical power and emotional strength. Because of trust, faith, and dependence on God, His hand was more visible and acknowledged in their lives.
As society develops and become more efficient and more intellectual, the faithfulness and goodness of God can fade from people’s minds. Some will never know what it was like to have a desperate need that only God could fill, and then watch Him do it.
Even as the world continues to change and develop, every person is still faced with the option of choosing the one true God or serving other gods. Aside from false deities, man has been known to choose power, wealth, popularity, and other things as his god.
Every person that knows the true God of the Bible needs to make an intentional decision as for who he is going to follow and serve. Even those who have at one point in life surrendered their lives to God can find themselves walking backward toward the false gods they previously served.
Choosing Jesus is more than claiming to be a certain religion, hearing a sermon, singing from a song book, and feeling good about heaven. It is choosing to no longer be bound by sin, allowing Him to change the heart and mind.
The starting point for every person to apply Joshua 24:15 to their lives begins with making an intentional, concentrated choice to choose God over any and every other option. True commitment will not happen by accident or coincidence.
Additionally, to truly choose the Lord, it is a daily commitment that a person does not allow to be optional for his life.
Growing in the knowledge of God by study and obedience to His Word is another application of Joshua 24:15 to the Christian’s life. Choosing the Lord over all other options includes trusting His leading and guidance through His Word and the actions we are instructed to take or no longer participate in.
Those who follow the Lord must learn to recognize the practices, thoughts, and ways of the false gods and their teachings. They can be seen in society, worldwide entertainment and in many websites that glorify selfish living and sinful lifestyles.
Social media attempts to glamourize and glorify lifestyles that are unpleasing to God, flaunting self and wealth, enticing others to lust. False ideas of happiness entice hearts to follow after beauty and fame instead of a heart that is right with God.
Choosing to live for Christ entails a home that is infiltrated and influenced by the Spirit of God. It is a home that dwells on the goodness and teachings of God. It is a home of gratitude toward the Lord.
A home that serves the Lord involves a family that worships the true God. Those in the home that are the head of the family lead the others to know God. It is blessing the family with declaring the highest and most worthy purpose in life.
In the face of important decisions, it is wise to remember God’s blessings on a personal level, and also remembering where He has brought us from. When choices are made through a committed heart that desires God’s influence, the outcome is one that is for the betterment of the Christian by the God who wants the best for them.
It is difficult to be grateful and aware of God’s great benefits while at the same time walking away from Him.
The context that surrounds Joshua 24:15 is one of commitment from the one true, worthy God, and the choice of the people to choose Him or false gods. The decision for Joshua was simple and without question, remembering all the blessings and benefits that God had bestowed upon the people over times.
A choice stands in front of Christians today as well. True peace and joy come from the God who wants to bless us with His goodness with things that money cannot buy.
The false gods of this world have enticements and offers for the Christian too, but not of the lasting or important kind. As for each and every house of a Christian, the choices set before him should be easy.