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Choose Whom You Will Serve
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      • Jeremiah 5:1–12NIV

  • CHOOSE WHOM YOU WILL SERVE
    THE BIG BLACK DOOR
    An Arab chief tells a story of a spy who was captured and then sentenced to death by a general in the Persian army. This general had the strange custom of giving condemned criminals a choice between the firing squad and the big, black door. As the moment for execution drew near, the spy was brought to the Persian general, who asked the question, "What will it be: the firing squad or the big, black door?" The spy hesitated for a long time. It was a difficult decision. He chose the firing squad. Moments later shots rang out confirming his execution.
    The general turned to his aide and said, "They always prefer the known way to the unknown. It is characteristic of people to be afraid of the undefined. Yet, we gave him a choice."
    The aide said, "What lies beyond the big door?"
    "Freedom," replied the general. "I’ve known only a few brave enough to take it."
    (Joshua 24:15)
    Joshua 24:15
    Joshua 24:15 NLT
    But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.”
    New International Version
    15 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.”
    Introduction:
    1. The right or ability to choose is an attribute that God has given to mankind that we cherish.
    2. This has its advantages as well as its disadvantages.
    a. My eternal destiny rests in my own hands and the choice is mine.
    b. However, I sometimes wish I could make that choice for others.
    3. In this lesson we will examine three choices that were presented and three different responses.
    4. As we examine these choices, attempt to identify who you are most like.
    I. A Choice Offered By Jeremiah
    A. (Jeremiah 6:14-16).
    Jeremiah 6:14-16
    Jeremiah 6:14–16 NLT
    They offer superficial treatments for my people’s mortal wound. They give assurances of peace when there is no peace. Are they ashamed of their disgusting actions? Not at all—they don’t even know how to blush! Therefore, they will lie among the slaughtered. They will be brought down when I punish them,” says the Lord. This is what the Lord says: “Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls. But you reply, ‘No, that’s not the road we want!’
    New International Version
    14 They dress the wound of my people
    as though it were not serious.
    ‘Peace, peace,’ they say,
    when there is no peace.
    15 Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct?
    No, they have no shame at all;
    they do not even know how to blush.
    So they will fall among the fallen;
    they will be brought down when I punish them,”
    says the Lord.
    16 This is what the Lord says:
    “Stand at the crossroads and look;
    ask for the ancient paths,
    ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
    and you will find rest for your souls.
    But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’
    B. The people were guilty of many sins (Jeremiah 5).
    1. They swore falsely (v. 2).
    2 Although they say, ‘As surely as the Lord lives,’ still they are swearing falsely.”
    2. Idolatry (v. 7).
    7 “Why should I forgive you?
    Your children have forsaken me
    and sworn by gods that are not gods.
    I supplied all their needs,
    yet they committed adultery
    and thronged to the houses of prostitutes.
    3. Adultery (vs. 7-8).
    7 “Why should I forgive you?
    Your children have forsaken me
    and sworn by gods that are not gods.
    I supplied all their needs,
    yet they committed adultery
    and thronged to the houses of prostitutes.
    8 They are well-fed, lusty stallions,
    each neighing for another man’s wife.
    4. They lied about God (v. 12).
    12 They have lied about the Lord;
    they said, “He will do nothing!
    No harm will come to us;
    we will never see sword or famine.
    5. They prophesied falsely (v. 31).
    31 The prophets prophesy lies,
    the priests rule by their own authority,
    and my people love it this way.
    But what will you do in the end?
    C. They were given the choice to walk in the ways of God and find rest for their souls.
    D. However, they said, “We will not walk therein.”
    II. A Choice Offered By Elijah
    A. (1 Kings 18:21-40).
    1 Kings 18:21-40
    1 Kings 18:21–40 NLT
    Then Elijah stood in front of them and said, “How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!” But the people were completely silent. Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only prophet of the Lord who is left, but Baal has 450 prophets. Now bring two bulls. The prophets of Baal may choose whichever one they wish and cut it into pieces and lay it on the wood of their altar, but without setting fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood on the altar, but not set fire to it. Then call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by setting fire to the wood is the true God!” And all the people agreed. Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “You go first, for there are many of you. Choose one of the bulls, and prepare it and call on the name of your god. But do not set fire to the wood.” So they prepared one of the bulls and placed it on the altar. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning until noontime, shouting, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no reply of any kind. Then they danced, hobbling around the altar they had made. About noontime Elijah began mocking them. “You’ll have to shout louder,” he scoffed, “for surely he is a god! Perhaps he is daydreaming, or is relieving himself. Or maybe he is away on a trip, or is asleep and needs to be wakened!” So they shouted louder, and following their normal custom, they cut themselves with knives and swords until the blood gushed out. They raved all afternoon until the time of the evening sacrifice, but still there was no sound, no reply, no response. Then Elijah called to the people, “Come over here!” They all crowded around him as he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been torn down. He took twelve stones, one to represent each of the tribes of Israel, and he used the stones to rebuild the altar in the name of the Lord. Then he dug a trench around the altar large enough to hold about three gallons. He piled wood on the altar, cut the bull into pieces, and laid the pieces on the wood. Then he said, “Fill four large jars with water, and pour the water over the offering and the wood.” After they had done this, he said, “Do the same thing again!” And when they were finished, he said, “Now do it a third time!” So they did as he said, and the water ran around the altar and even filled the trench. At the usual time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this at your command. O Lord, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have brought them back to yourself.” Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench! And when all the people saw it, they fell face down on the ground and cried out, “The Lord—he is God! Yes, the Lord is God!” Then Elijah commanded, “Seize all the prophets of Baal. Don’t let a single one escape!” So the people seized them all, and Elijah took them down to the Kishon Valley and killed them there.
    New International Version
    21 Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”
    But the people said nothing.
    22 Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the Lord’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. 23 Get two bulls for us. Let Baal’s prophets choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. 24 Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire—he is God.”
    Then all the people said, “What you say is good.”
    25 Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.” 26 So they took the bull given them and prepared it.
    Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made.
    27 At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” 28 So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. 29 Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.
    30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come here to me.” They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the Lord, which had been torn down. 31 Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, “Your name shall be Israel.” 32 With the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs[a] of seed. 33 He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, “Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.”
    34 “Do it again,” he said, and they did it again.
    “Do it a third time,” he ordered, and they did it the third time. 35 The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench.
    36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”
    38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.
    39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!”
    40 Then Elijah commanded them, “Seize the prophets of Baal. Don’t let anyone get away!” They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered there.
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    B. God’s people were wicked under the leadership of Ahab and Jezebel.
    C. When Ahab and Elijah met, there was a showdown.
    D. Elijah called for the people to decide and quite straddling the fence.
    E. Their response was delayed.
    1. At first, they said nothing to him.
    2. Only after the miraculous display did, they rally around Elijah.
    III. A Choice Offered By Joshua
    A. (Joshua 24:14-25).
    (Joshua 24:15)
    Joshua 24:15
    Joshua 24:15 NLT
    But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.”
    New International Version
    15 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.”
    II. Joshua’s Appeal to the People (24:1–28)
    After exhorting the leaders, Joshua calls all the people together at Shechem, a place dear to the heart of Israel since it was at Shechem that God first promised the land to Abraham (Gen. 12:6–7). Here also, Jacob built an altar (Gen. 33:20), and he exhorted his family to put away their idols (Gen. 35:1–4). While there are no “holy places” on earth, there are places that arouse sacred memories to the believer.
    Joshua was concerned lest the people lapse into idolatry because of the influence of the heathen nations around them. Israel was prone to worship idols, and Joshua knew that idolatry would cause them to forfeit their inheritance. So, he uses several arguments to encourage them to devote themselves wholly to the Lord.
    A. God’s goodness in the past (vv. 2–13).
    Joshua goes all the way back to the birth of the nation in the call of Abraham. Abraham and his father were idolaters until God called them in His grace. (“On the other side of the flood” means “over the Euphrates River.” See also vv. 14–15.) God called Abraham, not because of his goodness, for he was a heathen man, but because of God’s grace and love. God gave the land to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God protected the Jews in Egypt and then delivered them by His mighty hand. He led them and provided for them in the wilderness. He defeated nations for their sake. He brought them over the Jordan River into the Promised Land and drove out the enemies before them. What more could God have done for His people! Now they had claimed their inheritances and were enjoying the blessings of the land. How they ought to love and serve the Lord!
    B. Joshua’s own example (vv. 14–15).
    Israel had to serve some god—either the gods of the heathen or the true God, Jehovah. “As for me and my house,” said Joshua, “we will serve the Lord!” It is not only encouraging but also essential that godly leaders set a good example in their own homes.
    C. The danger of discipline (vv. 16–21).
    The people assure Joshua three times that they will serve the Lord (vv. 16, 21, 24). He knows that what is said by the lips is not always true in the heart. “If you continue with your idols,” he warns, “then you cannot serve the Lord! He is a jealous God, a God who will not share His people with any other god.” He warns them that idolatry will lead to chastening and discipline, and the loss of their land.
    D. The covenant with God (vv. 22–28).
    God had made a covenant with Israel at Sinai (see Ex. 20), and this covenant had been renewed by the new generation under Moses in Deuteronomy. But each generation needs to reaffirm its faithfulness to God, so Joshua renews the covenant with the people. He writes the words in the Book of the Law, and then sets up a stone to remind the people of their vows. This recalls to mind the stones set up when Israel crossed Jordan (chap. 4). We are so prone to forget that God has to use reminders (such as the Lord’s Supper) to keep His people in the path of obedience. Even with the reminders, in the years that followed, the Jews failed to keep their covenant with God. Read Jud. 21:25 for the sad report.
    B. Joshua challenged the people to forsake idolatry and serve God.
    C. Their response was immediate acceptance.
    D. However, Joshua reminds them of commitment involved in their decision.
    Conclusion:
    1. The eternal destiny of your soul rests entirely in your hands—it’s your choice.
    2. All I can do is remind you of God’s love for you and encourage you to make the right choice.
      • Joshua 24:15NIV2011

      • Jeremiah 6:14–16NIV2011

      • 1 Kings 18:21–40NIV2011

      • Joshua 24:15NIV

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