But Joshua said to the people, “You cannot serve the LORD, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. Joshua 24:19
There it is, no forgiveness for you! Joshua said it to the people, and he meant it. What was the sin that caused these people to be forsaken, even though we sometimes think God does not forsake or abandon anyone? Ah, but wait just a minute... I have torn this statement from its story and tried to proclaim a doctrine. Not good.
The rest of the story, as Paul Harvey used to say, is that Joshua gathered the people together at Shechem and brought them to the point of decision: God or idols. The people at once proclaimed their allegiance to God, but Joshua wanted to see if they were serious. And thus, he said that verse we read for today. A warning that the people cannot have it both ways. The Lord, our Lord, is holy and we don't get to serve both Him and this world. The people responded that they would have the Lord as Lord, and would remain faithful to Him. Then Joshua warned them about the consequences of declaring for the Lord and then wandering away. We know from the histories in the Old Testament that this was prophetic, for that is exactly what came to pass as both Israel and Judea later followed idols and foreign gods of no value. As a jealous God, the Lord did as promised and stirred up foreign armies to demolish Israel, several times.
While it is not quite in my lifetime, there are many alive today who can remember the re-establishment of Israel as a nation. It took centuries for the consequences of Israel's idolatry to subside enough for God to relent and allow an Israel once more. This is the beginning of the fear of the Lord for us: to realize that God does not threaten, He promises, and should we fulfill the conditions required for His promise, as Israel did, we will feel the effects of His judgment. If only there were an advocate for us to take the judgment that we cannot bear! Oh, by the way, God in His mercy did send His Son to save us from the fires of judgment. Thank You, dear Lord my Father!Amen,