************ Sermon on Joshua 24:15 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This wedding sermon was preached on January 10, 2009
(Joshua 24:15) But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served 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."
Your wedding text, Jonathon and Kandice, comes from a man named Joshua. He has led the children of Israel as they conquered the Promised Land. Now, before he retires and dies, Joshua wants to challenge the people: "choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve." Joshua told the people of Israel that they had a choice: they could serve the Lord, they could serve the gods of Egypt, or they could serve the gods they met in the wilderness.
Jonathon and Kandice, you also have a choice. You have a choice of whom or what to serve in your marriage. Take your pick:
-You can serve pleasure. You can live for laughter and wine and beer. You can live for sex and vacations and weekends.
-You can serve wisdom and science. You can devote yourself to study and to explore the Creation and all that is in it.
-You can live for your work. You can accumulate overtime and sick leave and vacation days by never missing a day of work or ever taking a day off. Your goal is to impress the boss and get promotions.
-You can live for riches. Your goal in life is to get rich and to get rich quick so you can retire at 50. You want the latest gadget, the newest toy, the biggest TV, the most expensive car.
Pleasure, wisdom, work, riches – do you know what these all represent? They represent the gods of this earth. Yes, Jonathon and Kandice, you can decide to live for these in your marriage.
But I don't think you will. You know why? Because both of you have stood up here, at the front of this building, and – like Joshua – you have said "we will serve the Lord."
Who is the Lord? He is the God Who has always existed – the God Who is and Who was and Who is to come. He is the God Who made and rules heaven and earth and everything in them. He is the God Who wants our praise and worship. He is the God Who loves us in Christ.
You have a choice, bride and groom, and I am convinced your choice is to serve the Lord.
"But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." What does it mean to serve the Lord? What is it that Jonathon and Kandice – and every other Godly couple – promise to do?
Let's start off by telling you what this does not mean. Did you happen to see the religion section of last week's Visalia Times Delta? It compares weddings to funerals. And, the chaplain who wrote the article admits that most pastors prefer funerals to weddings. Why?
-first, most pastors prefer pastoral care to pageantry
-second, wedding participants are very particular about details – there is a reason we hear about bridezillas (thank God, today's bride is not like this); by way of contrast, funeral participants have simple requirements – and they never talk back
-third, funerals start on time; weddings rarely do
The chaplain went on to give the details of some of his weddings:
-A groom stopped our march to the altar, exclaiming, "Wait?" He then waved a $100 bill in my face, saying, "Here ya go, Bud!"
-A bride summoned me to her dressing room, where she met me in the doorway in her slip and bra; she dug out her checkbook and insisted on paying me that instant.
-I have a rule, "No alcohol before the wedding." So, one couple brought their keg to the church parking lot – presumably to drink right after the wedding.
-One couple wanted to know if it would be a deal-breaker if they left out the "til death do us part" bit (it was); another couple wanted to change the phrase to "until love do us part" (no).
None of this is or sounds God-glorifying and God-honoring.
"But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." Those couples who live by this text worship the Lord. Over and over again in the Old Testament the word used for "serve" is found within the context of worship. For instance, Moses asked Pharaoh to let the people go so they can serve, i.e. worship, the Lord in the desert (Ex 3:12; 4:23; 7:16; 10:26). Corporate, family, and personal worship are all included in this concept of service. Those couples who serve the Lord, faithfully gather together with His people every Sunday for joyful worship, praise, and song. Those couples who serve the Lord, have a family altar, a time of daily Bible reading and prayer. Those couples who serve the Lord spend time with Him in personal devotions.
"But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." Those couples who live by this text are obedient to the Lord. The word used for "serve" is the same word used to describe the obedience of a slave to a master. There is one big difference, however. A slave is obedient because he or she has to be; a slave is in bondage and has no choice. Those who obey the Lord, however, do so joyfully, willingly, and eagerly. Like Israel, they have been set free, redeemed, ransomed. Now, they want to serve God and are eager to do His will. I think here of Mary, the mother of Jesus. She's been told about her role in God's plan of salvation and she responds by saying, "I am the Lord's servant" (Lk 1:38). Mary is obedient; she submits to the will and plan of God.
"But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." Those couples who live by this text are faithful to the Lord. Israel has finally entered the Promised Land. Joshua reminds them of seven great deeds done by the Lord to bring them into the land: the child of promise to an elderly Abraham, the plagues of Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, the destruction of the Amorites, the defeat of Balak, the tumbling down of the walls of Jericho, victories against many enemies (Josh 24:2-13). On the basis of all that He has done for them, the Lord claims the loyalty of Israel:
(Joshua 24:14) "Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD."Of course, the real choice is not between the LORD and the idols, but for or against the LORD. Speaking for his family, Joshua knew what he was going to do: "But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." And the people, they make the same declaration. "Are you sure?" asks Joshua. "What makes you think you can serve the LORD?" Four times Joshua challenges the people, and four times the people swear to serve the Lord and only the Lord (Josh 24:16,21,22,24).
"But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." Those couples who live by this text witness about the Lord. I can't help but think here of Paul. Over and over again, he identifies himself as a servant of Jesus Christ (Rom 1:1) and the Gospel. Paul's desire, as a servant, is to tell others about the Lord and the Gospel of grace and salvation. And, in more than one place, he calls us to follow his example. Like him we are to be servants of Christ and the Gospel. Like him we are to be witnesses.
"But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." One last thought: those couples who live by this text do love each other until death do them part – because that is the Lord's will for their marriage. God wants us to stay married to the wife of our youth.
"But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." I am convinced, bride and groom, that by God's grace this is your choice. I thank the Lord for that. And, I pray He will bless and sustain you in this choice.
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