Joshua 24:15 (ESV) … “And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Joshua defined service clearly so that no one could be mistaken about what it involved. It consisted of giving God his due while repudiating all false gods.
To give God his due is first to fear him and then to serve him with sincerity and truth (v. 14). To fear God is to hold him in reverence and awe and to tremble at his displeasure. To serve him in sincerity is to serve him wholeheartedly. To serve him in truth means to serve faithfully.
They could not serve God and other gods. So Joshua called them to put away the gods which their fathers had worshipped and the gods which were so plentiful there in the land of Canaan (v. 15).
Joshua assured the leaders that he was not calling them to do something that he himself was unwilling to do. He would serve the Lord, and he would lead his family to do the same (v. 15).
Joshua’s hearers were apparently shocked that he would address them on the matter of serving the Lord. They responded to his plea with these firm words: ‘Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods …’ (v. 16).
All seemed to be well. Joshua had called for service and the people seemed to agree. But Joshua sensed superficiality in their words and, therefore, bluntly challenged their profession by saying, ‘You cannot serve the Lord …’ (v. 19).
It would seem that Joshua should have nourished their affirmation, but he didn’t. Here was, as it were, a flickering flame of dedication, yet he threw water on it!
Why? The answer is because Joshua knew God. God is not to be toyed or trifled with. He is a holy God and a jealous God. If they were not utterly sincere in their commitment to serve, God would detect it and would judge them (v. 20).
When the people continued to insist that they would be faithful to God, Joshua made a covenant with them, recorded it all in ‘the Book of the Law’ and set up a stone of witness that they had promised to serve God (vv. 25–27).