And if it seem evil to you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom you will serve…
The valedictory charge of Joshua clearly shows that the Jewish religion was built upon a definite historical experience; was founded on the rocks of impregnable fact. Never in the whole course of their history had the Israelites found God unfaithful to His promises or forgetful of His threatenings; and as God had been from the beginning, so (said Joshua) will He continue to the end. What God has been He will ever be, what tie has done He ever will do — therefore "choose ye," said Joshua, "this day whom you will serve." If history proves that the Lord Jehovah is God, then follow Him and faithfully obey His voice. This, then, is what we mean by an historical religion. An historical religion is an appeal to the witness of the past as a groundwork and reason for present allegiance to God. And as the Jewish religion was an historical religion, so also is the Christian religion. The Christian religion is not a doctrine of ideas, an untested philosophical theory: it is founded on the life of an historical Person, for Christ is no less historic than Divine. And as Jewish leaders and prophets appealed to the witness of history, so likewise have Christian guides and teachers, from the earliest times, made history a principal reason for faith. All true religion, however, and most notably the religion of the Bible, is much more than an historic faith. Its foundations lie deep and strong in history; but its superstructure is continuously and essentially practical. Historic religion, like historic knowledge, is useless unless it serves as the guide and inspiration of daily conduct. The use of history chiefly consists in its application of .the experiences of the past to the circumstances and resolutions of the present. It was this use to which Joshua applied the striking historical survey of his great valedictory charge. Upon the ground of their historical experiences he based his fervid appeal to the Jewish people to make choice of Jehovah as their national Deity, and to remain consistently faithful in their allegiance to Him. Whatever became of the national religion, his own family religion at least should be settled and unwavering in its loyalty to Jehovah. Family religion is the best beginning for all religious life. The Church in the house is the best temple for the education of righteousness and true holiness. As the sun is the centre of the earth's light and heat, so from the family radiates throughout the world the heat and light of religion. When families are religious, nations are religious; when families are religious, individuals also are religious. Even the very structure of the Bible seems to lend authority to the conviction of the primary importance of family religion. The three great divisions of the Old Testament — the law, the prophets, the psalms or hagiographa — broadly represent the three great spheres in which religion ought to work. The book of the law, the foundation of all revelation, was written during the patriarchal period. It describes the origin, the management, the sacred functions, of the family. In the New Testament, also, great stress is laid upon family religion. As nature makes families into little kingdoms, so Christianity makes families into little Churches. It was in the devotion of family life that Jesus nursed His faculty for worship and His character for holiness. It is impossible to conceive any institution hedged round with more firm and higher walls than the institution of the family. The New Testament regards the family as a Divine institution, and its relationships as sacred, heavenly, relationships. It cannot but be that an institution with an origin and sanctions so Divine, should be intended to work out great blessings for humanity. And all experience proves that family love and family religion are more fruitful of happiness and holiness than any other single source; and that family discords and family irreligion are the cause of endless miseries and countless iniquities.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.
WEB: If it seems evil to you to serve Yahweh, choose this day whom you will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve Yahweh."