Sermon for Sunday, July 23, 2017
From beginning to end the Bible teaches that humans have free choice.
According to the Bible, God expects people to exercise their abilities to choose in a way that is in harmony with his plan for the humans he created.
 Then Joshua assembled all the tribes of Israel at Shechem. He summoned the elders, leaders, judges and officials of Israel, and they presented themselves before God.  Joshua said to all the people, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says…
 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.”
 Then the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the LORD to serve other gods!  It was the Lord our God himself who brought us and our parents up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we traveled.  And the Lord drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land. We too will serve the Lord, because he is our God.”
 Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the LORD. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins.  If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.”
 But the people said to Joshua, “No! We will serve the Lord.”  Then Joshua said, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the Lord.” “Yes, we are witnesses,” they replied.
 “Now then,” said Joshua, “throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.”  And the people said to Joshua, “We will serve the Lord our God and obey him.”
 On that day Joshua made a covenant for the people, and there at Shechem he reaffirmed for them decrees and laws.
Important: Your belief in choice says a lot about your relationship with God and how you view the circumstances of your life.
Your choices are important:
1) My choices make little or no difference on the outcome of my life.
If you believe your choices in life make little or no impact on your life, you will not see the value of this lesson. In addition, you will take a more passive approach to changing the circumstances of your life.
Many Jews felt this way in Ezekiel’s day.
 The word of the LORD came to me:
 “What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel: ‘The parents eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’?
 As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel.  For everyone belongs to me, the parent as well as the child—both alike belong to me. The one who sins is the one who will die.
 The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.
2) My choices make a major difference on the outcome of my life.
Others believe their choices make a big difference in the outcome of their lives. They believe they have the ability in themselves to make choices that will positively affect their lives.
Important point: We can choose and we have choices!
From the beginning, in the Garden, God gave Adam and Eve a choice. This is seen in the fact that God says, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (vs 16-17). Notice that God says, “You are free to eat…but you must not eat.” The implication is that people have the ability to make choices.
As noted in our text, Joshua told the nation of Israel, “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15).
Later, Elijah said to the people, “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).
The idea presented in these texts is that the Israelites had the ability to determine their own destiny. At the time, however, the people were not motivated to act in their own behalf.
Here is the point: Israel was God’s choice but they had to chose him!
God’s Choice and Your Choice:
In the Bible, God Chooses Individuals and Groups. This does not mean, however, that you have no choice in the matter. God may choose you but you do not have to choose God.
Some do not understand that we must still choose God even if he chooses us. It is important that you understand how God chooses people in the Bible. To illustrate, consider God’s choosing of the Levitical priesthood. All priests were Levites but not all Levites were priests.
 The Levitical priests—indeed, the whole tribe of Levi—are to have no allotment or inheritance with Israel. They shall live on the food offerings presented to the Lord, for that is their inheritance.
 You are to give them the firstfruits of your grain, new wine and olive oil, and the first wool from the shearing of your sheep,  for the Lord your God has chosen them and their descendants out of all your tribes to stand and minister in the Lord’s name always.
From the tribe of Levi, God chose certain men and their descendents to serve as priests.
 Have Aaron your brother brought to you from among the Israelites, along with his sons Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, so they may serve me as priests.
But notice that Nadab and Abihu became unfaithful as priests and died (Leviticus 10).
Later, God rejected Eli and his sons to serve as priests and chose the descendents of Zadok instead.
According to 1 Samuel 2, God chose Eli’s family to serve as priests forever (verse 30), but their unfaithfulness nullified their election.
Instead, God chose to raise up another priest who would be faithful: “I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind” (v. 35).
1 Samuel 2:
 Now a man of God came to Eli and said to him, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Did I not clearly reveal myself to your ancestor’s family when they were in Egypt under Pharaoh?  I chose your ancestor out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to go up to my altar, to burn incense, and to wear an ephod in my presence. I also gave your ancestor’s family all the food offerings presented by the Israelites.  Why do you scorn my sacrifice and offering that I prescribed for my dwelling? Why do you honor your sons more than me by fattening yourselves on the choice parts of every offering made by my people Israel?’
 “Therefore the Lord, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that members of your family would minister before me forever.’ But now the Lord declares: ‘Far be it from me! Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained.  The time is coming when I will cut short your strength and the strength of your priestly house, so that no one in it will reach old age…
 I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind. I will firmly establish his priestly house, and they will minister before my anointed one always.
The point: The corporate priesthood was chosen by God but some individual priests were rejected because they proved unsuitable. For example, God struck down Korah the Levite when he instigated a rebellion against Moses and Aaron (Numbers 16:1-3).
In addition to choosing the tribe of Levi and the Levites who were to serve as priests, God chose individuals for special tasks.
For example, God chose Saul to be king (1 Samuel 10:24) but later rejected him because of his sin (1 Samuel 15). Samuel says to Saul:
1 Samuel 15:
 You have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you as king over Israel!
This shows that God can choose an individual for a task but if he fails to perform the task he can be rejected.
The point is, if God chooses us, we must still choose God. If we accept God’s call and faithfully perform what he tells us to do, then we will be accepted.
God chooses those who choose him:
 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:  Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love  he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.
 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,  in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.  And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation.
Note that God chooses Christians before the creation of the world.
Notice in verse 4 that God chose us to behave in a certain way. We are to be “holy and blameless in his sight.” Are we doing that? God chose us, did we choose him?
Just as God chose Israel to be a holy nation, he chooses the church.
1 Peter 2:
 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
Salvation is conditional. God chooses us and we must choose him by obeying what he has commanded us to do. Israel’s choice is an example for us:
 Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession.
Remember, “many are called but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14).
J B Myers