Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel; and they presented themselves before God. 2And Joshua said to all the people, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel,”
What’s the first thing he says?
(“Now therefore revere the Lord, and serve him?”)
No, that’s not the first thing he says.
Sure, that’s what’s printed in the leaflet, that’s what assigned by the lectionary, but “revere and serve the Lord” is NOT the first and primary thing Joshua said.
What’s omitted from our assigned reading, what’s between verses 2a and 14:
(And THEN…and only then, do we get)
14 ‘Now therefore revere the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.
Obedience, service, faithfulness, repentance, a call to put away the false gods that don’t love us back – they all follow a long list of things that God has done, out of gift, out of goodness, because God loves us.
And that recollection: the recollection that God is good…filled with kindness and benevolence…fills the people with gratitude, and out of that sense of gratitude everything else follows.
Now…why is this so important?
Is God mean? Or good?
Is God holding out on you? Or generous beyond comprehension?
Is God distant and formal? Or close, and intimate?
Choose this day whom you will serve; receive whom you perceive.