Choose you this day Whom you will serve
I have chosen as my subject of reflection, from Joshua: “… choose you this day whom ye will serve; … but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15) Shortly after saying this, Joshua, being 110 years old, died, leaving this as his parting message.
Most of us will remember how Moses led the children of Israel out of bondage, and how the Egyptians were destroyed by the Red Sea; how the Lord gave the Amorites and the people of Jericho into their hands so that they might possess their lands, and how Joshua reminded his people of the words of the Lord:
“And I have given you a land for which ye did not labour, and cities which ye built not, and ye dwell in them; of the vineyards and oliveyards which ye planted not do ye eat.”
Then Joshua said: “Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord.
“And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
And then he warned: “If ye forsake the Lord, and serve strange gods, then he will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after that he hath done you good.” And frightened, they responded: “The Lord our God will we serve, and his voice will we obey.” (Joshua 24:13-15, 20,24.)
As we read the scriptures and as we read the history of the world, we find numerous examples where individuals, communities, and even nations who chose to serve the Lord were saved and prospered, not through their human genius alone, but by the will of Godwhile others who refused to do so suffered his wrath, were defeated and destroyed.
In his book Civilization on Trial, published in 1948, Arnold J. Toynbee seems to catch this message, as he refers to the rise and fall of civilizations, and recognizes the reason for their declines. He defines history and its pattern of repeating itself, and then he says:
“Our present situation is formidable indeed. A survey of the historical landscape in the light of our existing knowledge shows that, up to date, history has repeated itself about twenty times in producing human societies of the species to which our Western society belongs, and it also shows that with the possible exception of our own, all these representatives of the species of society called civilizations are already dead or moribund. Moreover, when we study the histories of these dead and moribund civilizations in detail, and compare them with one another, we find indications of what looks like a recurring pattern in the process of their breakdowns, declines, and falls. We are naturally asking ourselves today whether this particular chapter of history is bound to repeat itself in our case. Is that pattern of decline and fall in store for us in our turn as a doom from which no civilization can hope to escape?”
He goes on to express his opinion that the pattern of earlier successes or failures does not necessarily have to be repeated. He says: “As human beings, we are endowed with this freedom of choice, and we cannot shuffle off our responsibility upon the shoulders of God or nature. We must shoulder it ourselves. It is up to us.” He suggests what we should do to be saved, politically, economically, and religiously, and states: “Of the three tasks, the religious one is, of course, in the long run by far the most important.” (New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 38–40.)
We are reminded of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Sodom being the chief town in its settlement in the center of the Garden of Jehovah; of Tyre and Sidon, with Tyre a flourishing city of great wealth and beauty, and perhaps the largest city which the Savior is known to have visited; and of Jerusalem, and other great cities and civilizations which have fallen because they turned away from God and became a wicked and adulterous people. And I fear that this is happening rapidly in our own time and more rapidly in other lands rippling on our shores.
Rudyard Kipling’s prophetic poem “God of Our Fathers, Known of Old,” was a warning to the great and powerful British Empire, when it was at the height of its glory, and should be a warning to all nations. He wrote:
“God of our fathers known of old,
Lord of our far-flung battle-line,
Beneath whose awful hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine,
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget, lest we forget!
“The tumult and the shouting dies,
The captains and the kings depart;
Still stands thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart,
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget, lest we forget!
“Far called, our navies melt away,
On dune and head-land sinks the fire;
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget, lest we forget!”
—LDS Hymns, No.80
These examples emphasize so clearly that there is strength in humility and weakness in pride. If we do not repent and change our ways, we will be repeating the history of Sodom and Gomorrah. Let us analyze our accomplishments and find out where our values are. Today as a people of this generation, we have made great strides of advancement in scientific fields. We have sent men to the moon and back, developed a nuclear bomb, and made great progress in the methods of war, but what have we done in the interest of peace? What have we done in the field of human relations? What progress have we made in spirituality?
Can anyone fail to see that we too are living in a wicked and adulterous world; that we are failing to serve God, that we are surely on our way to destruction when in nearly every news website and papersand magazine and on the radio and TV stations you read or hear of every law of God being broken: stealing, burning and plundering, killing, adultery, rape, death and calamity through drunkenness. Too many of us who claim to be Christian are guilty of some of these things.
As someone has said: “If we were to be arrested for being Christians, I wonder if there would be enough evidence to convict us?” We have been warned and forewarned. We cannot plead ignorance. The responsibility rests on us as individuals.
As we go through life we are continually making choices which will determine what we get out of life. Are we going to take advantage of our opportunities to improve, or waste our time? Are we going to do right, or wrong? Are we going to serve God, or mammon? We cannot have divided homage. Life must find its mastery.
I sincerely hope and pray that we will have the courage and strength to humble ourselves, accept our Savior, Jesus Christ, and serve him and thereby enjoy the blessings which he has promised.
By Samuel Enos Eghan