We continue our journey through the “Great Invitation” from Isaiah 55:1-3.
God has decisively and directly intervened into the affairs of mankind. It is God Himself who is speaking above His Prophet Isaiah and is directing His Voice to the Israelites who have been exiled in Babylon for about seventy years. It is the only place two plus generations of Israelites have known as their home. To what degree do they yet know their God who had brought forth their ancestors from hundreds of years of bondage Egypt? We do not know. Now, we might find out.
They have been exposed to Babylonian deities and local religious practices. It is everywhere around them. Generations of men women and children going about their day to day living surrounded by Babylonian festivals to their pantheon of the gods they worshipped. To what degree were the Israelites allowed their own decisions to practice their own traditional worship practices unencumbered by their Babylonian hosts? Did they still “know” the One true God of Deuteronomy 6:4-9? Did they still centrally worship “The Lord is thy God, the Lord Alone!?”
What about making the decision to choose which god or God they will “serve” and love with all of their hearts, all of their souls, with all all of their strength?
We will turn to a familiar passage of text from Joshua chapter 24 verses 14 – 24.
Joshua 24:14-24 NASB
“We Will Serve the Lord”
14 “Now, therefore, [a]fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and [b]truth; and do away with the gods which your fathers served beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 But if it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served, which were beyond the Euphrates River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
16 The people answered and said, “Far be it from us that we would abandon the Lord to serve other gods; 17 for the Lord our God is He who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of slaves, and did these great signs in our sight and watched over us through all the way in which we went and among all the peoples through whose midst we passed. 18 The Lord drove out from before us all the peoples, even the Amorites who lived in the land. We also will serve the Lord, for He is our God.”
19 Then Joshua said to the people, “You will not be able to serve the Lord, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your wrongdoing or your sins. 20 If you abandon the Lord and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and destroy you after He has done good to you.” 21 And the people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve the Lord.” 22 So Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen for yourselves the Lord, to serve Him.” And they said, “We are witnesses.” 23 “Now then, do away with the foreign gods which are in your midst, and incline your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.” 24 And the people said to Joshua, “We will serve the Lord our God and [c]obey His voice.”
The Word of God for the Children of God. In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.
To Make Wise Decisions, Connect The Dots
How many of us have ever made a decision that we later regretted? How many of us have said, “If I had known then, what I know now, I would have chosen a different path?” When you or I make a poor choice, are we more likely to blame ourselves or lash out so to put the blame on others or on our circumstances? Do we claim ignorance, claiming we are victims of circumstances not of our own making? The ages old: “this is what was handed to me by people in authority over me” defense? Ergo, “I did not know any better to challenge their choices?” “My parents did the best they could to raise me believing in a God I never met!”
Nowadays we wonder where are the road signs which direct us to that one place we are trying to get to in total safety. What do all these words have in common? Yield, bump, curve ahead, stop, one way, bridge freezes before road, detour, and left turn only. These are all words that you, I will find on roadway signs through any given community we are living in. What’s the purpose of the information?
They get us from point A to all subsequent points which might come afterwards. They get us from a point of origination, eventually to our points of destinations. These word signs all want you to think safety and to make adjustments before we make a decision to keep moving forward or detour if we flaunt them. They do not have the power to make you do anything. They do provide you with a decision to change your behavior to keep you from regretting that bad decision.
Sometimes we decide to ignore the signs, and there might not be any apparent consequences for doing so. Sometimes you can ignore the signs and experience an inconvenience, minor damage to your car, or a traffic ticket or worse, jail. Sometimes you can ignore the signs, and it may cost you or others their lives.
It’s not a simple matter of whether or not you like the particular message of a particular sign that should impact our behavior. It’s a matter of connecting the dots into the future of what might happen if this sign is ignored. The very sign we are so tempted to ignore, might be something that’s there to save our lives.
There is a passage in the book of Proverbs that provides us with direction and insight on how to make wise decisions by connecting the dots. By connecting the dots I’m talking about drawing a picture.
Do you remember as kids, we use to be given a piece of paper with numbers all over it? If you drew a line from one number to the next in the right sequence a picture will begin to emerge on the page.
Choosing to go from #5 to #6 would further create the picture. Our decisions do not happen in a vacuum. We are drawing a biblically based picture whether we like it or not of our lives of living God, loving God with each decision we make.
Jesus understood this decision very well. He knew he had a certain purpose to accomplish with his life. He was to be in Jerusalem on a particular day in order to be crucified and to die for our sins. He could live God or He could walk away.
When others tried to get him to make choices to show who he was, “Jesus would say, my time has not yet come.” Jesus connected the dots between his current behavior, and how the choices he made now would impact the final mission that his Father had sent Him to do. These are the self same decisions we must make.
Proverbs 27:12The Message
12 A prudent person sees trouble coming and ducks;
a simpleton walks in blindly and is clobbered.
We don’t use the word prudent very much anymore but it means shrewd in a good sense. It’s the person who sees a situation and thinks before acting upon it. Google defines it as acting with or showing care and thought for the future.
A prudent person is diligent, taking the time to connect the dots between where “I am now, and where I will be in the future.” The prudent person knows that, I must make some decisions and changes to avoid a danger that is in front of me.
In our Old Testament Reading from Joshua, God had made a promise to the people of the nation of Israel. God told them that He would deliver them out of slavery in Egypt, take them unto a bountiful land, remove the people out, and would go “before them” and defeat their numerous enemies. Well God did it.
Moses was the leader God used to get them out of Egypt. Joshua was the leader God used to conquer the land and to distribute it to the people. Finally, Joshua was ready to retire from his job and the people had everything God had wanted to give to them.
Joshua said to the people, “You need to make a choice. This is it. Either throw away the gods you have been hiding and carrying around in your back pockets so that you can serve the Lord faithfully or choose to serve the gods you’ve been carrying around, either the old ones or the new ones you just found.
Joshua was a prudent person. He could see the danger of trying to hold on to certain things while having a goal of trying to walk with the Lord. He saw very clearly, saw through the people’s words knowing that if they were not willing to get rid of the gods now which they had been collecting, they were never going to follow God into their future, they would lose everything God had given to them.
The people agreed with Joshua, that God had done some incredible things for them. They agreed with Joshua that serving the Lord was a good thing. They agreed that God was holy and even though God could take away their blessings, they said we will serve the Lord our God and obey ONLY Him.
They claimed they wanted the same thing Joshua did, but nowhere in chapter 24 does it ever say, “the people went and got their foreign gods and idols and stacked them up in a pile and threw them away as Joshua told them to do.”
They honestly believed there was no danger in compromising what God had told them to do. They saw the same situation as Joshua did. Joshua was prudent.
He looked ahead and said “I don’t care how attractive these idols are, I do not want them in my house and in none of the houses of my family.” He connected the dots into the future and found his safety in God. He declared as for me and my house ,we will serve the Lord.
The people on the other hand kept going forward as they had been doing and like the second half of verse 27:12, says the simple keep going and pay the penalty.
Within a few years of the death of the elders who outlived Joshua, the people lost their land, their freedom and their relationship to God because they did not connect the dots between the decisions they were making in the present with the consequences of the future. The Israelites had been in Babylon for 70 years. They had been raised by succeeding generations of parents, grand parents who had first hand experience with the same God who had led them out of Egypt. Personal experience and generational education goes a long way to keeping “God alive and well” in the hearts of true believers. But, lose that education?
A prudent person asks questions before marching off into a decision. 1) Is the decision I’m making a wise choice. 2) What will I gain if I choose this option? 3) Who will be affected if things don’t go as I plan. 4) What will this do to my walk with Christ. 5) Will I be pleased if others find out what I have done? But if the Gospel truth gets watered down or “acculturated,” God gets “watered down!”
Do you know why Jesus said, “come follow me?” Because He knows we are all following something or someone and we are all headed to a destination of some sort. Many of us are tempted to make decisions today without attempting to get into their bibles, diligently study and apply them, to connect dots for the future.
Throughout the Book of Joshua, we can follow the dots,
We have watched as Joshua stood before a raging river in flood stage and placed his feet into the water. God honored his faith and the waters walled up Joshua led the Israelites to safety.
We watched as the Israelites marched around the walls of Jericho for six days; on the Sabbath day seven priests marched around the city seven times on the seventh time they blew the trumpets in the walls fell down and they captured the city.
We watched as Joshua prayed what may be the most powerful prayer ever prayed as he asked for the sun and the moon to standstill; to basically stopped time long enough for him to win and finish the battle.
Then God spoke to Joshua and he said Joshua, your very old-and when God tells you you’re old… Well, you’re old. And he told him there were still some very large areas of land to be taken over. So the land of Canaan was divided into the 12 tribes of Israel. That covers nearly 13 chapters of the book.
Today we come to the end of this great book. Now we finally connect the dots.
In chapter 23 Joshua was summons all the leaders together in says I am old and well advanced in years and he reminds them that God would lead them, that God would keep his promise to them and that they would live forever in the land he had promised to them. Then in chapter 24 Joshua gives them these final words of advice. Verses 14-15.
Let me ask you a question this morning… How do you go about making the major decisions of life? Life is full of so many choices. How do you go about making those decisions? What is the process for you?
George Jones was an icon in country music… Just before his death in 1999 he wrote a song called choices-the mainline the song says I’m living and dying with the choices I made. And we do. We live and die with the major choices we make in life. These are some of the major choices in my opinion that we make in life.
1. What kind of work will I do? How are you going to use the gifts and talents God has given to you to help make a
difference in this world? In this church? In this community?
2. Who am I going to marry? Too many times we give two little thought to this decision and it is made through our emotions-after all were in love. This is a major decision because that person you choose will impact your life forever. In both good ways and often in bad ways. Who we choose to marry is clearly a life-changing decision.
3. Where will I live? I counted this week and realized that in my life of 60 years now I have lived in five different states, eight different cities and 13 different apartments and homes. For over 22 years now I have been in the same spot but we have had more than our share of moving. During those 22 years I have served eight churches and each time I have changed there has been a major time of prayer for me. Because those changes affects not only me but my wife to. And as a couple it also affects those congregations, it also has had a large impact on.
The decisions? What kind of work will I do? Who am I going to marry? Where will I live? All of these decisions are huge but there is one more that is obvious that matters even more. And here it is. How will I make decisions? How we make decisions will determine the course and the direction of your life how you make decisions will determine whether you will live inside or outside of God’s will.
These are decisions the exiled Israelites in Babylon would have to make in deciding how to respond to God’s Great Invitation from Isaiah 55. That said I want to give you a four step process for how we must begin to make decisions as a church and of course as individuals, families and communities. Decisions that are solid, scripturally based decisions that are certain, decisions that are godly… With results that will hopefully, prayerfully one day come to benefit everyone.
1. Learn to pray. Pray as though your life depends on it. Because one day in the very near future it just might. Too many times we “rush in where even lions fear to tread” and make major decisions but only give them minor consideration.
2. Learn to wait. Isaiah says wait on the Lord and you will mount up with wings like eagles, you will run and not even get tired. Too many times we make what we commonly refer to as impulsive decisions which we cannot financially do. Too many of our worst decisions have been made by faulty impulse control and you and I can end up paying for them for a long time. Learning to wait ON GOD is one of the hardest lessons we must learn in life. The key word here is timing.
Remember Psalm 46 NASB!
46 God is our refuge and strength,
A [b]very ready help in [c]trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth shakes
And the mountains slip into the heart of the [d]sea;
3 Though its waters roar and foam,
Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah
4 There is a river whose streams make the city of God happy,
The holy dwelling places of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved;
God will help her [e]when morning dawns.
6 The [f]nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered;
He [g]raised His voice, the earth quaked.
7 The Lord of armies is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah
8 Come, behold the works of the Lord,
[h]Who has inflicted horrific events on the earth.
9 He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariots with fire.
10 “[i]Stop striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the [j]nations, I will be exalted on the earth.”
11 The Lord of armies is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah
3. Learn how to get a word from God.
Remember Psalm 19 NASB
The Works and the Word of God.
For the music director. A Psalm of David.
19 The heavens tell of the glory of God;
And their expanse declares the work of His hands.
2 Day to day pours forth speech,
And night to night reveals knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words;
Their voice is not heard.
4 Their [a]line has gone out into all the earth,
And their words to the end of the world.
In them He has placed a tent for the sun,
5 Which is like a groom coming out of his chamber;
It rejoices like a strong person to run his course.
6 Its rising is from [b]one end of the heavens,
And its circuit to the [c]other end of them;
And there is nothing hidden from its heat.
7 The Law of the Lord is [d]perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
9 The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether.
10 They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much pure gold;
Sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, Your servant is warned by them;
In keeping them there is great reward.
12 Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults.
13 Also keep Your servant back from presumptuous sins;
Let them not rule over me;
Then I will be innocent,
And I will be blameless of great wrongdoing.
14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.
Seek the advice of godly, successful people. People do not become successful in life by luck. He’s usually the result of making solid decisions. Solomon said the way of a fool seems right to him, a wise man listens to advice. Proverbs 12:15
Go to God’s word. This book gives us instructions on how to live. It is an owner’s manual. Basic instructions before leaving Earth. God’s word says I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go. Solomon said lean not unto your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5-8
Both Joshua and Isaiah said whether you turn to the right or the left you will hear a voice behind you saying, here is the way (scriptures); ergo walk in it.
4. Once you make a decision, never look back.
Stop 2nd guessing yourself. Why? Because it’s too late and accomplishes nothing. Look ahead. Living life by constantly looking in the rearview mirror is the wrong way to live. Make a decision and then look forward.
Decisions. We make them every day. Today we decided to get up and come to worship. We decided whether to listen or not. And now I want to ask you to consider another couple of critically important decisions relevant to your response to whether or not you accept or you refuse to live into Isaiah 55.
(1) To become a part of this body of Christ. (2) A decision to follow Christ as your Lord and Savior. I made mine 2o years ago and it is the one of the decisions I have made for which I have absolutely zero regrets about. None. Nada. Zip. Will you make an Isaiah 55 decision today? What will you, your household do?
Having the right guidance in life requires abiding by the Lord’s will and having his discernment in your life.
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Let us come to pray,
Loving Father, only you know my end from the beginning. Nothing I do or say catches you by surprise. You know what is in my heart, good or bad. Everyone around me is choosing to do things their way, and it is very tempting for me to do so too. But Father God, I want your will to be done in my life. If it is not your will for me to take this path, then Father, give me divine strength to accept and to follow your lead. May every decision I make be truly pleasing to you. In Jesus’ name, I believe and pray. Alleluia! Alleluia! Allelui1! Amen.