Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth…
I. THE CALL.
(1) It is a direct appeal. Religion is practical, and preaching must be practical. We must not be satisfied with the exposition of truth. We must aim at persuasion such as shall affect the conduct of men. For this purpose there is room for direct exhortation. Men are ready to admit the truth of propositions which lie outside the sphere of their own experience. The difficult matter is to translate these into principles of conduct and to apply them to individual lives. The Bible is sent for this ultimate purpose. As a message from God the Word of God is not merely a revelation of truth; it is supremely a call from the Father to His children. God is now calling directly to us by the undying voice of Scripture, by providence, by His Spirit in our consciences (Revelation 22:17).
(2) The call is based on a review of past experience. After this review Joshua says, "Now, therefore, fear the Lord," etc. God's goodness to us in the past is a great motive to incline us to serve Him
(a) because it lays us under a great obligation to Him (1 Corinthians 6:20), and
(b) because it reveals His character as that of a Master worthy of devotion and delightful to serve.
(3) The call is urged with the last words of dying man. Joshua is old and about to die. At such a time an address would naturally be characterised by supreme earnestness. What is then urged would be felt by the speaker to be of first importance. Mere conventionalism, objects of passing political expediency, trifles and crotchets sink out of view. The dying message of the old leader must concern the highest welfare of the people. With all the force of these circumstances Joshua selects the need to fear and serve God for His one urgent exhortation. Surely this fact should lead us all to put it before ourselves as a question of first importance, taking precedence of all considerations of worldly pleasure and interest.
II. THE OBJECT OF THE CALL.
(1) The end to be aimed at is to "fear and serve the Lord." The fear characterises the spirit of internal devotion, the service covers the obedience of active work. The fear precedes the service; because we cannot rightly serve God with our hands till we are devoted to Him in our hearts. The fear of God here required is not the abject terror which the slave feels for the tyrant, but reverence, awe, worship, the dread of displeasing, and the humble submission of our souls. This must be found in all true devotion. Yet it is most prominent in the stern Hebrew faith (Psalm 2:11). For the Christian, love is the leading motive, though this love must be an awed and reverent affection. After the fear, then, must follow the service; for God will not be satisfied with passive veneration, He requires active obedience.
(2) The essential characteristic of the fear and service here noted is sincerity. There is always danger of worship becoming unconsciously formal even when it is not knowingly hypocritical; because pure worship involves the highest effort of spirituality, great abstraction from sense, and a purity of thought which is very foreign to the habits of sinful beings (2 Timothy 3:5). Yet God abhors unreal devotion (Isaiah 29:13), and can only be worshipped at all when He is served spiritually (John 4:24).
(3) The necessary condition of this fear and service is a departure from all things inconsistent with it. The people must give up all lingering habits of idolatry. We must repent and forsake our old sins. We cannot retain devotion to the world and to sin whilst we devote ourselves to God. No man can serve two masters. Therefore choose. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.