Whom Will You Serve?May 1, 2012 - 5:00 am
“Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” —Joshua 24:14–15
Next to Jerusalem, the ruins of Masada are one of the most popular destinations of Jewish tourists visiting Israel. Why? Because the events that took place atop this high rocky mountain have become a modern-day symbol of Jewish resistance and faith, and their desire to serve the one true God.
The courageous and tragic story of the 960 Jews who killed themselves rather than submit to Roman capture and enslavement in the first century has inspired Jews for hundreds of years. Historians have credited this story as retold in a poem by Isaac Lamdan in the 1920s with inspiring the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II. Masada is also where Israeli soldiers even today pledge their loyalty to the defense of Israel, reciting this oath: “Masada shall not fall again.”
They are the final words of the Masada leader, Elazar ben Yair, that resonates the most with people of faith: “Since we long ago resolved never to be servants to the Romans, nor to any other than to God Himself, Who alone is the true and just Lord of mankind, the time is now come that obliges us to make that resolution true in practice.”
Throughout the Bible, men and women of faith have given voice to their determination to choose God over idols, over foreign rule, over the culture. We hear it echoed in the words of Joshua: “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve . . . But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:14–15).
We hear it in Ruth’s beautiful declaration of loyalty, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16). Having met the God of Israel through her mother-in-law, Naomi, Ruth chose to leave her homeland, Moab, and her family to go where she could worship the Lord.
We hear it in Elijah’s challenge to the people of Israel on Mount Carmel as he prepared to battle the prophets of Baal: “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him” (1 Kings 18:21).
We may never face the same circumstances as the Jews living atop Masada, or as Joshua, Ruth or Elijah, but we each must make a choice daily who we will serve. And that choice will become evident in so many ways in our lives — how we manage our money, how we handle the pressures of our culture, whom we choose to marry, what we do with our free time, whom we spend time with, and so much more.