Tag Archive: Joshua

“Choose this day whom you will serve…”

After outlining the three-scene drama of evangelism in chapter 1, Brueggemann bridges the drama from scripture to contemporary times. He asks the question: Who is the constituency for evangelism? The most obvious answer: the outsider who stands apart from the community of “news,” or those who live by other (non-Israel, Christian) narrative identities. The great meeting at Shechem (Joshua 24) depicts Brueggemann’s tale of outsiders and insiders.

In Joshua 24 the “insiders” are Israel while the “outsiders” are represented by the “Canaanites.” Appreciatively, Brueggemann owns the fact that some interpretive readings of the conquest (“destroy the Canaanites”) may be problematic for any discussion of evangelism! However, Brueggemann holds to the view that the “conquest” of the Promised Land was likely a peaceful movement of coexistent communities. Thus, “Canaanites” represents a polemical, ideological term. Canaanites are those who are committed to social practices that are viewed as hostile to the covenantal vision of Israel (49). Canaanites, or outsiders, are those committed to practices (or theology) that are greedy, self-serving, arrogant, or wasteful.

So, the evangelistic question remains: How can such a person who lives in a different way legitimated by a different ideology be made a full participant in the story and the life of Israel? For an answer we look at Joshua’s speech in Joshua 24.

Anachronistically, Brueggemann imagines three yearning characters gathered around to hear Joshua’s words. First, he envisions a young girl from a troubled and dysfunctional family. The girl lives in the midst of familial wars and disputes. Her situation seems hopeless and impossible. Yet, she hears of God “giving” [to ancestors] Isaac…Jacob and Esau…the hill country” (Josh. 24.2b-4). She learns of a gracious God, one who gives gifts and hope. She hears the tale of God breaking the hopelessness, reconciling siblings, and guaranteeing futures (54).

Another listener is a tired business executive. He is worn-down by his heavy workload, but cannot escape it because he is fully dependant on it for his livelihood. The more he works the more he earns; and the more he earns the more he “lives.” Until…he hears Joshua relay the message of God in the Exodus, ““I brought you out” (Josh. 24.5-7). The executive realizes that life is about more than the docility of work and pleasing the boss. The Empire is not great provider (56). Rather, God offers a role in an alternative story of life. Like during the Exodus, God brings a departure for those trapped in despairing cycles.

Thirdly, Brueggemann tells of the hearer who is a member of the permanent underclass of society. The listener does not know how she fell into the lower socio-economic levels, but she knows it was her fault. But then Joshua tells of a great promise: “I gave you a land on which you had not labored, and towns that you had not built, and you live in them; you eat the fruit of vineyards and oliveyards that you did not plant” (Josh. 24.13). The lower class person’s spirits rise at the thought of a gift, of a promise, of an uninherited offer. In each situation, Joshua offers the hearers a reconstructed view of life. They are invited to imagine themselves differently. Through the retelling of God’s mighty acts they are invited to begin life anew (66). They are invited to move from despair to hope. They are allowed to depart from docility. They are offered a gift for the disadvantaged.

In this chapter Brueggemann offers a compelling picture of what evangelism might look like in today’s world. He beautifully translates Shechem for today. We can safely assume the hearers he paints into Joshua 24 are present in our pews in 2010. How will we tell them the story? How will we invite them to find themselves in the whole of God’s redemptive story?

Also, I love how Brueggemann does not spare the difficult side of the story. For as Joshua puts it, “Choose this day whom you will serve?” We are reminded that the story into which we are invited demands a response from us. Even more, the demands are tough. We must choose to leave behind the gods of Egypt, abandoning other loyalties, fear, and hopes in an effort to serve Yahweh only. There is, as Bonhoeffer put it, no cheap grace.

This is the second review in a five-part series looking at Walter Brueggemann’s Biblical Perspectives on Evangelism.


Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18 – A Time for Choosing

“Choose this day whom you will serve…as for me an my household we will serve the Lord.”  Joshua’s bold proclamation is the kind of refrain that gives us goosebumps.  His words cause something to well up inside of us.  He says what we all desire to say.  Joshua’s words are uplifting and inspiring.  They bring to mind paintings, stained glass windows, and needlepoint designs that bear his message.

Yet, Joshua’s words reverberate in other ways too.  His proclamation is demanding.  It requires something of us.  Joshua calls us to make a decision that is too important to delay.  “Choose this day…,” he commands.  Joshua’s words embody God’s claim on our lives.  Whom will we serve?  The gods of this world?  The idols among us?  Will we choose money and success over our Lord?  Intelligence and education over the God of Abraham?  Our own desires over God’s desires for our lives?  “Choose this day…” Joshua’s words echo in our ears and hearts.  Joshua presents to us a choice. However, it’s a choice we can make in grace knowing that God has already chosen us (John 15:16).

Finally, notice how the people respond after Joshua casts his family’s lot with the Lord.  The people cry out, “We too will serve the Lord, because he is our God!” (v. 18, 21).  Discipleship can begin with only one person.  If one person, or one family, commits to serve God, to stand boldly in the midst of others, perhaps others will follow.  What if one person, what if you and your family, chose this day to serve the Lord, would would that look like?  Would others follow?  What would happen if we all truly chose God’s way over the ways of the world?  Choose this day whom you will serve…as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

The Revised Common Lectionary texts for this week:

Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25

Psalm 78:1-7

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Matthew 25:1-13

The Revised Common Lectionary texts for this week:

Joshua 3:7-17

Psalm 107:1-7, 33-37

1 Thessalonians 2:9-13

Matthew 23:1-12

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