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“Then Joshua said to the people, ‘You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him.’ And they said, ‘We are witnesses.’ He said, ‘Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your heart to the Lord, the God of Israel’ ” (Joshua 24:22,23).

HAVING CHALLENGED ISRAEL TO CHOOSE WHETHER THEY WOULD SERVE GOD, JOSHUA THEN CALLED ON THEM TO PUT THEIR CHOICE INTO ACTION. If it is your decision to serve God, Joshua said, then “incline your heart to the Lord, the God of Israel.”

That is a powerful way of putting it, is it not? Incline your heart to the Lord. The NIrV renders it “Give yourselves completely to the Lord,” and the CEV, “You must decide once and for all that you really want to obey the Lord God of Israel.” In a related text, we read of David’s charge to Israel at the end of his life: “Now set your mind and heart to seek the Lord your God” (1 Chronicles 22:19). In all such passages, we hear God commanding His people to think of Him as more than a “maybe.” Their hearts must be inclined to Him. They must fix their minds on Him. They must — and here is the main idea — be devoted to Him. This devotion must be the result of a conscious, deliberate choice they have made.

Of course, there is language in the Scriptures where God is the one who is asked to incline the hearts of His people. For example, “May [the Lord] . . . incline our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his rules” (1 Kings 8:57,58). And, “O Lord, . . . keep forever such purposes and thoughts in the hearts of your people, and direct their hearts toward you” (1 Chronicles 29:18). There is no contradiction here. God will help us and surround us with good influences, but it is we who must make the decision. In the end, only we have the power to decide what (or Whom) we will incline our hearts to.

If we are deciding whether to obey the gospel of Christ, this is what it all comes down to: having alienated ourselves from God, will we or won’t we give Him back our ultimate loyalty? Had we never sinned, He would have always had our loyalty. But now, in Christ, He is making it possible for us to “incline our hearts” to Him once again. This is good news, much too good not to embrace enthusiastically.

“It is but right that our hearts should be on God, when the heart of God is so much on us” (Richard Baxter).

Gary Henry — +

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