Sermon preached at Poole Christian Fellowship on 13 September 2015
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We continue our short series on Joshua today. To help us get the context, here is a summary of the opening books of the Bible.
Genesis – the book of beginnings, which talks of the creation of the world, the creation and fall of man, the catastrophe of Noah’s flood, the confusion of Babel and the start of God’s plan to save the world starting with a man, Abraham, who founded a nation, Israel.
Exodus starts with Abraham’s nation, Israel, being oppressed in the land of Egypt, and God raising up a Saviour, Moses, who delivered them out of slavery to go into the promised land. Having saved them, God gave them a law to show them how to live.
Leviticus tells the story of the sacrificial system given to the Israelites because God knew that they would not be able to keep the law.
Numbers is a sad book. It tells the story of how a generation that God had saved failed to possess what He had for them. They didn’t obey Him they didn’t trust Him, in spite of all they had seen, and virtually the whole of that generation perished before they reached the promised land. What a disaster! And what a warning to all of us! Being saved is no guarantee that we will receive everything that God has for us.
And so we come to Deuteronomy. A new generation stands on the edge of the Promised Land exactly where their parents had stood almost 40 years previously. To give them every opportunity to possess the Promised Land Moses gives them the law a second time and urges them to obey God before handing over to his successor to Joshua. Will this generation go in? Or will they go the same way as their parents?
In passage we looked at last week, which was the final chapter of Deuteronomy and the first chapter of Joshua, we had three exhortations:
Honour the Past
Those on whose shoulders we sit, those who preached the word of God to us and those who have served us – we honour them and we honour the past.
God speaks of Moses as “my servant”. What a commendation!
Recognise that it’s over
“Moses, my servant is dead,” says God. In order to engage with the future we have to let go of the past.
Embrace the Future
So how does God tell Joshua and the new generation to embrace the future?
- Look towards the future (Josh 1 v 2) In front of the Israelites was a whole new promised to that land. They would have to take their eyes off the past if they would enter into the promises of God.
- And Believe the promises of God (Josh 1 v 3-5) When we step out into the future, we dare not do it without the promises of God. Fortunately God has a spate of promises for those who will believe Him.
- So, we come to Joshua chapter two and we gather our thoughts around the three characters that are part of the story, asking ourselves the question: “What is it that enables the Joshua generation to possess the land?”
- Joshua – the leader
- The Spies – two young men
- Rahab – the prostitute
The Land is possessed by people like Joshua, who hear, evaluate and take action on the basis of God’s word. The land is possessed people like the spies, who are prepared to put themselves in harm’s way for his kingdom and look at what God will do, instead of the obstacles and people like Rahab, hopeless sinners saved by grace who will trust him. The potential for us as a church is enormous if we will be like them.
So now comes the moment of truth – everything is in place…will they do it? We know the answer to the question. At the end of the book of Joshua the Joshua generation is safely installed in the land. So , back to our main question, what was it about the Joshua generation that meant that they possessed everything God had for them? :As we read through Joshua chapter three five things emerge:
Commitment to God’s purposes
God’s purposes: Jesus taught us to pray “Your Kingdom Come”. The Jordan did not open because Joshua and his friends wanted it to – it opened because God wanted it to! We can only possess what God has for us if we are prepared to lock into the things God wants. Holiness, sanctification, prayer and so on.
God’s training – it took Joshua and his generation a long time to be ready for what God had for them. Submitting to god’s purposes also means submitting to God’s training for it.
God’s timing…and also submitting to God’s timing, which is rarely the same as our own.
God’s rules (v.5) – God gave Joshua clear instruction as to how it was to be done. We don’t get to make up our own rules, much as we would like to.
Commitment to Following
God goes before (v 2-3) – note that God, in the form of the ark, is ahead of them. What comfort that is as we face our own personal Jordans.
We have to follow (v 3) – but we still have to follow. We don’t go through automatically.
…to places we have never been before (v4) . ..the life of faith is all about going to places that we have not been to before.
Commitment to the Word of God
Implicit in the crossing of the Jordan is a commitment by Joshua and the people to hear the word of God, and crucially, to respond to it.
Commitment to the Result
When we obey God, we are no longer in control of what will happen. So what happens here?
- A totally supernatural event (v 15-16) – . What follows is totally supernatural. We don’t know, and it doesn’t matter, how God did it. But we acknowledge that the result is beyond the ability of any human to produce.
- Only God gets the glory – and so only God gets the glory. We may honour men, but glory only goes to God.
- They went through (v 17) There was still a step of faith needed to cross over. What lay on the other side? St this stage there may still have been doubters who wanted to stay where they were. But they took action and went through.
- They went through together (v 17)…and no one was left behind. When God takes his people forward, he wants to take them ALL forward.
Commitment to the Future
When we move forward with God, we are expressing a commitment to the future. What lay on the other side of the Jordan? They knew God had had taken them there. They that it was the promised land and they had an idea of what was there because of what the spies had said. But it was basically a journey into the unknown. They were committed to whatever God had for them. The Jordan was only a stage on the journey. There was still a land to win.