I stood with a older gentleman in a large open room as he pointed out a table in the middle of the room. He was in the middle of describing to me what it is like to have your brain gradually shut down and the ability to make even the most simple decisions begin to dissipate. He pointed to the table a distance away and said, “I can walk over to that table and when I get there my brain often fails to tell me what to do. I am often unable to remember how to get around the table.” This man had been an engineer and then a philosophy professor, it wasn’t not surprising to have him explain his experience of his journey in such basic details in such an objective manner.
It is estimated that humans make, on average, 35,000 decisions a day, if we break that number down removing, seven hours out of the day for sleep, that calculates to be around 2,000 decisions processed and made by the human brain every hour. Researchers estimate that of that 35,000, around 230 of those choices are just about food – I think I may be above average on that one. That is a huge number, on average your brain, 35,000 times every day, process what you will eat, or not eat, or quit eating, how you will navigate walking from point A to point B, how you will respond to people and then, how you will relate, to those people, how you will do your work, your play, your life, how you will love, how you will hate, how you will live.
Joshua, the leader of the Israelites into the promised land, watched as God led his people into and through the promise land. He had watched as God led them to victories against the people of the land, he had also seen that God had corrected them through defeat, he had witnessed God’s settling of the people into this new land, the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham, a promise of a people and a land. Joshua had also watched as the Israelites came to the precipice of civil war only to step back and make the choice to turn back to God. He had seen a lot, he had made a lot of choices, I would imagine that on some weeks he had made his weekly allotment of decisions on day one.
In Joshua, chapter 23, we see Joshua, a long time after the people had gone to their respective lands and settled in, ‘after God had given the people rest from all their surrounding enemies, and when Joshua was a venerable old man, Joshua called all Israel together—elders, chiefs, judges, and officers and spoke to them:
“I’m an old man. I’ve lived a long time. You have seen everything that God has done to these nations because of you. He did it because he’s God, your God. He fought for you. Now stay alert. Now, stay strong and steady. Obediently do everything written in the Law—don’t miss a detail. Don’t get mixed up with the nations that are still around. Don’t so much as speak the names of their gods or swear by them. And by all means don’t worship or pray to them. Hold tight to God, your God, just as you’ve done up to now. Now, vigilantly guard your souls: Love God, your God. Because if you wander off and start taking up with these remaining nations still among you (intermarry or have other dealings with them), know for certain that God, your God, will not get rid of these nations for you. They’ll be nothing but trouble to you until you’re the ones who will be driven out of this good land that God, your God, has given you. As you can see, I’m about to go the way we all end up going. Know this with all your heart, with everything in you, that not one detail has failed of all the good things God, your God, promised you. It has all happened. Nothing’s left undone.”
Joshua was nearing the end to his journey, his brain, filled with the wisdom that had come from seeking and searching, from differentiating darkness from light, truth from lies, how to walk around a table, was shutting down. It was time to get the people, who, as promised, were now A people, to get them ready to continue their journeys. There was an urgency in his voice in his cracking voice, a signal that his words were intentional, his message was vital.
Then, in chapter 24, we see Joshua’s final address to the people. He began his speech not with a shining version of their past and their ancestors, he did not make Abraham a super hero, or their journey a simple one. He began with their beginning, the starting point for them as a people which began with a young man named Abram who was part of a family who worshipped false gods, carried the idols of those gods, and even propagated their false faith to others through the making of idols. This flawed and imperfect man, Abraham, a false god worshipper and an idol carrier, was their ancestral patriarch and his wife, Sarai was their ancestral matriarch. It was Abraham, to whom God gave the promise, a promise that had then carried this people through an impossible and brutal journey that had ended here, at the promise, a journey which was successful only because of all the works that the Lord God, the one true God, had done before their eyes.
Then Joshua’s speech went in a very uncomfortable direction, “Get rid of the false gods of your ancestors past in Egypt, the false gods you have adopted from the peoples who inhabited this land before us, get rid of these false gods that distract you from me, the Lord, Your God. And, if you cannot make that decision, if you are unwilling to make that choice, it is time to make A choice! If not the true God, our God, then worship these other gods, but, now, make a choice!”
The people were horrified, they became defensive, they were offended, they were wounded by Joshua’s suggestion that they worshipped any other gods. “We already have made the choice to follow only the Lord God,” they cried out.
Then they are devastated when Joshua replied, “It is impossible for you to worship only the Lord our God. It is impossible to worship the true God and your false gods. It cannot be done. And, I must remind you that God is a Holy God, God is a Jealous God. God will not put up with your unfaithfulness, God will not tolerate your foolishness or your sinfulness, your worship of other gods, God will come down hard on you, you will suffer as you live separated from God.
Again, the people protested Joshua’s accusations and the insinuations of their disloyalty. Again, they swore they had already made the decision, the choice, to worship only the Lord their God.
And then Joshua, in blunt terms, ‘shut them up.’ In today’s time his reply to the people may have been “God has seen your twitter feed, God has taken notice of your likes and shares on Facebook, even worse, God has seen inside your home, inside your heart, God knows what is hidden under your sleeping mats and in the corners of your tents. If you are to truly worship the Lord your God, you must first turn away from your false god, you have to get rid of the idols you hold onto in the secret places where you think God cannot see. It is impossible to say your are making a choice for God when you are, instead, also worshipping the false gods you have not made the choice to let go of.”
The stunned and shocked, now humbled, people stood silent for a moment, the gravity of this revelation that their secrets were not secrets to God had shook them to the core. The choice to follow God had taken on a new gravity, a new level of commitment, it was full surrender, it was letting go of all the other things that they had trusted in along the journey. It was a huge decision. Finally, in mass, they timidly answered, “We will worship the Lord our God. What God says, we’ll do.”
It was their choice, a choice with no secrets, a choice with a lot of risks, it was a choice to let go of the things they had held onto out of comfort and fear, it was a choice that was going to limit their other choices, it was a decision that would remove the options of many other choices. It was final, and, final can be scary.
35,000 times a day we make decisions, we make choices, and this one decision, the decision to follow only God, becomes the guiding light to most all of those decisions. So, how does this work?
Let go back to what we saw last week as we looked at God’s call for us to be a people who look for light in the midst of darkness, a people who seek to differentiate between truth and lies in the midst of all our life journey.
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.”
We Saw Four Questions to Ask Ourself in Our Search for Light and Truth, our journey seeking wisdom to make the best of our 35,000 choices.
Is it in harmony with God’s baseline to Love God and Love Others? Or, does it conflict with that baseline? Does it lead me to ‘Love my Neighbor” does it lead me to “Love all my neighbors?’
Does it hold back the darkness, or does it seem to have dark shadows itself” Sen.
Is it consistent with God’s word? – Is it consistent with the life lived by Jesus?
Will it lead me to have attitudes and actions that will guide me to a life that positively impacts others?
It is the light, it is the truth, that guides us to the wisdom necessary to make right choices. It is that wisdom that gives us the recognition of a choice beyond our raw human instincts, impulses, and self oriented agendas. The choice is ours.
So, what does that look like. God does not gives us a manual with cross references that lead us to the exact choices we make in every situation and in every environment. Instead God gives us truth, God shines light that leads us to wisdom. God brings our search to the elements considered as we seek to make the most of our 35,000 choices.
The prophet Amos, a harsh orator who had a brutal confrontational style, told the people, much like Joshua had said before him, “God has seen your heart, God knows you insincerity and your dishonesty, God is disgusted by your selfish worship and self centered sacrifices, God is calling you to make right choices, God is calling you to put him at the center of your 35,000 choices!” Then, he left it with the people to seek and search what those choice would and should be. Amos gave the people one parameter, “Instead of your noisy songs of insincere worship, instead of your melodious harps, instead of your meaningless religious celebrations and assemblies, instead of your empty sacrifices, instead – “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream.” Amos points out the goal line, a visual description of what he wants to see when he looks at the twitter feed of their heart, he says “I want to see a mighty flood of justice—a torrent of doing good.” Amos does not say the how of this goal, he does not give them the play by play, he leaves it to them to seek and search for the avenue. Just as he leaves the playbook to us, to search and seek truth and light, to grab hold of wisdom and let that lead us to the manner in which we will get down the field.
What does that mean? Justice and Righteousness? That is our journey.
One more thing, we have the what and we even have the how, we also have the when. As Jesus was just a few short days from his arrest and crucifixion, he began to speak with an urgency to his followers. Once again, he used a parable, a parable that would have made a bit more sense to his listeners than to us today.
Jesus used their customs in regard to a wedding. See, their tradition was that as the bride and groom become engaged, they would sign a legal document of their promise of forever to each other, and then, they would separate for a year as the bridegroom would go to prepare their home. When the bridegroom’s father said that it was time for his son to go and get his bride, he would go. During this time, the bridesmaid would be waiting, watching, and also preparing, in order to be ready for the day her groom would come for her. His parable detailed how a groom, who actually had ten bridesmaids waiting for him (another element of this parable that is strange to us). Five of those bridesmaids were fully ready for the bridegoom but five were not. Only the wise and ready brides went with the bridegroom when he arrived, the foolish and unprepared were not able to enter into the home with the bridegroom.
Jesus message is to us, make our choice now, do not wait. Our readiness is seen in our 35,000 choices each day, it is in the how we live now that enables us to be ready for Jesus when he returns. Making the choice now prepares us for Jesus tomorrow.
Eleanor Roosevelt said,
‘I am who I am today because of the choices I made yesterday.’
‘Make your choice today, who are you going to serve, so you will be ready to follow and obey tomorrow.’
What is your choice?