Sermon preached at Poole Christian Fellowship on 6 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
Had a history with God: Joshua features from time to time during the wilderness years. He was one of the spies that Moses had sent out 40 years previously that had urged faith in God to possess the land, he had been Moses assistant, staying at the tent to experience the presence of God, and he had fought the enemies of God when Moses, Aaron and Hur had had their arms raised in prayer to God. Do we have a history of trusting God?
Heard the word of God: Joshua clearly heard from God – the first chapter is full of that. Joshua could only step out because he had heard from God. We dare not move unless we know that God is with us.
Took time to reflect, consider, test, evaluate: Joshua knew that the word of God had to be considered, thought through, evaluated. We need to learn to thoughtfully think through what we believe that God is saying to us.
Took action: none of this counts for anything unless we are prepared to act. In Joshua’s case, this is beyond dispute.
The Spies – two young men
An echo of the past: Joshua must have had a sense of déjà vu as he sent out the two spies, knowing that he had to do it, but also remembering only too well that it had been the moment the made it impossible for a whole generation to enter the land, 40 years’ previously.
The plan that went wrong: entering the prostitute’s house was a smart move – a place that generally people could go in and out without being seen. But somehow the king finds out and it looks like the game is up.
The big adventure: there then follows an adventure worthy of MI5 as the spies duck and dive, bob and weave, to avoid capture, aided by Rahab. Following Jesus will never be dull!
The triumphant report: like Caleb and Joshua forty years before, the verdict is clear: “we should do this!” This is the great lesson from the spies: they experienced the danger, they looked death in the face…yet they remained confident that God was with them. Are we like that?
The commission and the opportunity: so when Joshua gives the command, the people are ready to go.
Rahab – the prostitute
A life of depravity – we have to have compassion for whatever circumstances had brought this woman to prostitution, but she occupied the position in life where it was not possible to sink much lower. In a nation and a city renowned for its evil, such that God was going to judge it, she was regarded by even its inhabitants as the lowest of the low.
A woman like us – but are we any different? Every one of us has in our hearts the ability to fall to the same depths that Rahab occupied. It is only the mercy of God that stops us from doing so.
Saved by a Scarlet Cord – her faith led to a salvation that was possible only because of a scarlet cord. Surely this is a throwback to the day forty years previously when the nation of Israel were saved from God’s judgement by the sight of the blood of the Passover Lamb sprinkled on the doorposts. This in turn pointed to the blood of Jesus. Faith will save us, faith operating through works, but only faith in the completed work of Jesus. None of us deserves to be saved, and no one is beyond salvation. Amazing grace!
Found her home amongst God’s people – when Rahab was saved she was rescued from the carnage and found a home amongst God’s people. God saves us too, and gives us a family.
Was used by God to fulfil his purpose. Incredibly, the story doesn’t end there, Rahab settles in amongst God’s people and apparently then married, and, amazingly, becomes a part of the lineage of Jesus. A woman saved by grace against all the odds and then used to fulfil his purposes. The point is that if god can use Rahab he can use anyone.
The Land is possessed by people like Joshua, who hear , evaluate and take action on the basis of Gods 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.