He is a Jealous God who will not Forgive your Transgressions or your Sins

Today’s lectionary reading is again from the end of Joshua and contains one of those sayings that well-meaning people like to hang up on the walls of their homes.  They may have it crocheted or artistically represented in some other manner.  And, it reads something like “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”  I chuckle a little bit sometimes (inwardly) at the beautiful representations.  The setting for the saying is anything but beautiful.

Joshua is confronting the people and telling them to set aside their idols.  There is this back and forth:

Joshua: Set aside your idols.

The People: We will set aside our idols.

Joshua: No, you won’t.

The People: Yes, we will.

Joshua: No, you won’t.

The People: Yes, we will.

I am, of course, oversimplifying the conversation a lot, but in the midst of the disputation the people repeat the phrase “We will serve the Lord” three times.

I find it curious that people extract out “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,” when there is also another very memorable statement here.  It reads something to the effect of: “He is a jealous God who will not forgive your transgressions or your sins.”  As familiar as the other statement from Joshua is, I would guess that a lot of people probably are not familiar with this one.  And, I do not think this one will ever make its way into crochet.  It is not nearly as pleasant.

But we all read the Bible selectively from time to time, whether we are deciding what to hang up on our walls or whether we are putting together a lectionary. The fact of the matter is that this second statement actually comes one verse after the lectionary reading for today.  Left out. I am starting to get the feeling that the folks who put together the lectionary do not think that liturgy is the best place to deal with texts like this.  But, it makes me wonder when it is a good time.  The lectionary is sometimes the only exposure that people in my congregation get to scripture.  The same probably goes for the Sunday reading in many less liturgical denominations.  One day someone is going to pick up this text and read it and say “I thought God always forgives people.”