“Choose this day whom you will serve”
There’s an important saying in Biblical hermeneutics and it’s, “Context, context, context!” I’m going to try and do this some justice because it’s based off a sermon I heard a few weeks back by my husband’s former pastor, Jim McClarty, who pastors a small church in Smyrna, TN, called Grace Christian Assembly (http://salvationbygrace.org). I can’t for the life of me remember what sermon it was that I was listening to but when he used this verse as an example of how people take verses out of context, my ears perked up a little more. Folks who oppose the teaching of predestination and election point to this verse and say, “SEE!!! It says right here that WE choose whom we will serve!” Not so fast, young grasshopper!
The problem with people using this is that they leave out what comes before it and after it. This comes from a “speech”, if you will, made by Joshua to the Israelites just before his death. We all know how fickle those Hebrew children were. We all know how easily they turned away from God and turned to idols. So, in Joshua 24 just before Joshua died, he summoned the people of Israel together one last time to encourage them, so to speak. In verses 14-15, he says this to the Israelites:
(14) “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. (15) And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Notice in verse 15 it says, “And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Based on past experiences, Joshua already knew that the Israelites would not be faithful and serve God, so he was basically telling them, “You’ve already proven you can’t serve the Lord, so choose right now whom you’d rather serve, the gods beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But, me and my household will serve the Lord.” Leaving out what came before and after that phrase is taking Scripture out of context.
We must be careful how we use Scripture. To just say “Choose this day whom you will serve” definitely gives it a different meaning than what it was originally intended in the passage it’s being used in. We have to be diligent to read Scripture passages as a whole and not pick out phrases here and there just to suit our purposes.
CONTEXT, CONTEXT, CONTEXT!