Tuesday, November 15th. Joshua 24:1,14-15

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…”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. Now if you are unwilling to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River 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 24:1, 14-15

Edwin Friedman, in his book A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix, calls it “self differentiation.” By that he refers to the capacity of a leader to define his or her own position within the larger system they seek to lead. He writes:

“After Generation to Generation [his first book] was first published, I began to receive calls from leaders in various parts of the country. At first I listened to the details of their experience, trying to learn more about my own theories. Then one day I realized that almost everyone who called was functioning in a reactive, defensive way and failing to define his or her own position clearly. They had become so focused on the aches and pains (the pathology) in the system that they had been thrown off course by the complaints. They had stopped supplying vision, or had burned out fighting the resistance; they had ceased to be the strength in the system. In short, they had forgotten to lead. I therefore stopped listening to the content of everyone’s complaints and, irrespective of the location of their problem or the nature of their institution, began saying the same thing to everyone: ‘You have to get up before your people and give an ‘I Have A Dream’ speech.’”

This is precisely what Joshua does.

Joshua finished what had begun under Moses. He had led the people of Israel into the promised land. He consolidated their newly won territory, divided it among the tribes, and now, in the 24th chapter, he gathered the people together to remind them that every blessing they and their families had received were gifts from God. Gifts that came with a tag, “Use as Intended.”

Joshua was aware that the people had been hedging their bets. Along the way they had been gathering up local deities, false gods, gods who are no gods…just in case. This is all so human – always looking for a loophole, always seeking an edge, acting without thinking clearly – but it will not do for the people of God. God doesn’t want us wasting our time chasing gods who are not gods!

So Joshua self defines. He can’t personally dig through everyone’s tents, looking for evidence of their wayward faith. He can’t personally insure, let alone effect, the devotion of his people to the God who has blessed them with life. But he can lead. He can share what he is about; he can take a stand.

Someone witty once said that if we don’t stand for something, we will fall for anything. So Joshua tells the people, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, at first it seems ludicrous to us that your people, having seen all they had seen, were still attracted by gods who are not gods. But then we think about all in our lives that we attach importance to, even more importance than we attach to our faith in you. We think of all that drives us, tempts us, distracts us, and takes us off course. Thank you for the willingness of Joshua to offer us a path to understanding our lives and our purpose. For we too seek to serve you and your will for life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


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