Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25
Last week we talked about the end of Moses’ life. We talked about how God’s story didn’t end with Moses, but that it continued. The next generation was led by Joshua. Joshua was the one who led the Hebrews into the Promised Land. They conquered Jericho and began to inhabit the various regions in that land.
But there was an issue: there were already people living in the land, with their own ways of living and their own religions. As the Hebrews settled in, there was a great temptation to adapt to the ways of those already living there. It was much more comfortable to do that: there were already established towns, systems and ways of doing things. Think about it: when you go to a new school, there are already established ways of doing things – the timetables and schedules are set, there are existing clubs and a school culture. It’s much easier to just go in and blend into what’s already there, instead of thinking things on your own.
So the issue for the Hebrews was: would they just blend into the existing ways of life, or would they be carve out a life based on their faith in God? Remember, the Hebrews had experienced great things in the previous generation: their parents and grandparents had been slaves in Egypt, but God called Moses to lead them out of that slavery. They then spent a lifetime in the desert wilderness. But God had shown power and wonders there too, and their parents made a vow to follow God.
But as this new generation entered the land, the temptation to just settle and become comfortable with what was already there was great. It was easy to enjoy the blessings of a new land, but forget about the source of this blessing.
That, in a nutshell, is what Joshua’s generation struggled with. And just like Moses last week, today we come to the end of Joshua’s life, representing another generation. This is the final speech that Joshua gives to his people. Here’s the basic message that Joshua is saying:
- God made his presence known to us in powerful ways
- Now therefore let us be faithful to God
- Let us put away what we were before encountering God – that is, reliance on ourselves and trying to control our own outcomes
This passage made me think a lot about our Hi-C. God has indeed blessed our Hi-C. As the execs were debriefing about the lock-in we had last week, they realized that the Hi-C has come a long way. You are all so much closer than you were before, and many of you have found a safe and nurturing community. I also met with Jonathan Chung this past week in Waterloo. He didn’t have the chance to really process everything from Hi-C and the retreat, so we spent a lot of time doing that. We realized what a blessing this community is.
Now here’s the temptation: it’s easy to become comfortable with this blessing, get settled with it, and forget about the source of this blessing. Remember the slogan from the retreat? You settle, you die!
Here’s what I mean: it’s very easy to just enjoy each other’s company and keep the focus at that. I mean, it’s something truly to be thankful for, but here’s something about human nature: we often forget what brought about the blessings in the first place. Ultimately, the source of this blessing is God. Without God and God’s presence at times like retreats, I know that we would not be this tight-knit community. Really, what would distinguish us from any other close-knit social group? It is God who has knit us together.
Like the Hebrews experienced God’s wonderful power during their escape from Egypt and in the wilderness, we too experienced something wonderful during our retreats. But just like the Hebrews soon forgot about God’s wonder, we too can easily forget about what brought us close in the first place. We can start just focusing on each other. And you guys are smart – a number of you have already mentioned your worries about what will happen when the grade 12’s leave. Yes, they are such an important part of our Hi-C, and they have blessed us so much with their love and leadership. And yes, when the time comes, we will mourn, we will cry, we will feel sadness that they are leaving us.
But if our eyes are on the source of our blessings – God – then we will still have faith and hope that God will lead us and provide for us. Just as God provided for the Hebrews throughout their entire journey, our God will provide us and lead us in ways we can’t imagine right now. And as I talked about God’s story the past 2 weeks, God’s story will indeed continue in our church. Just like God’s story continued after great leaders like Moses and Joshua left, our story won’t end with the departure of our close friends.
Joshua’s speech is important for us: he is asking his people – will you forget about the source of your blessings? He said, “but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” We will not forget the God who blessed us in the first place and has provided for us. We will serve the Lord. Those words occur most frequently in this passage: serve the Lord.
One of the execs asked: we’re so close now, can things get any better? What’s next? Well, here’s what I think we’re called to do: look to God and seek to serve God. How can we as God’s people, God’s children, serve our Lord? How might God want to use us and work through us? How might God want to use us to be a source of love and healing for the world that needs love and healing?
You see, our faith has always been an outward-looking faith. Remember from the retreat what God said to Abraham? “I will bless you so that you can be a blessing to others”. God has blessed our Hi-C so tremendously, but not just so we can settle and be comfortable with it, but so that we can be a blessing to others. So what’s next? It’s turning to God and asking how we can serve God.
My beloved friends, let us turn our eyes to God. Let us indeed thank God for blessing our Hi-C so much, but let us turn to the one who provided this blessing, and ask God how we can serve God. “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
But as for our beloved community here, we will serve the Lord. We don’t know what is to come, but that is the wonder of trusting God to lead us. Just like at our retreats, God will lead us in ways we could never expect. And that is the beauty of life.
Thank you, God, for this amazing community here. We turn our eyes to you and dedicate ourselves to serve You.