Sermon preached at Poole High School for Poole Christian Fellowship on 27 September 2015
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We conclude our short series on Joshua today, on this, our first Sunday in our first Sunday home of Poole High School. To help us get the context, here is a summary of the opening books of the Bible, and the series so far.
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 the 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 emerged:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
So now we come to Joshua Chapter four. There are plenty of things that could b said about the chapter, but only two will occupy us today:
- The Pile of Stones.
There are problems associated with having a monument, but we need little monuments on our lives to remind us of the fact that God has worked and will continue to work. When things became tough in the battle to take the land they would be able to go back to the monument and say: God delivered us…and he will deliver us!
- The Passover
Nothing was more important to Joshua and his generation to remember that they were a people who had been set free from their sins by sacrifice. W e too need to remember more than any thing else that God has set us free from our sins forever because of the sacrifice of his Son. SArmed with that knowledge…we are ready to take the land.
So now we come to the fifth chapter and an extraordinary incident.
Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”
“Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”
The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.
So, we are in the land of promise and the Jordan has closed behind us. There is no way back and in front of us, insurmountable problems, and limitless opportunities. Joshua is now on his own: leadership is a lonely place!
The Mysterious Visitor
Joshua in fact is not quite on his own, because while looking around at Jericho and wondering how on earth he was going to take it, he finds himself with a mysterious visitor. Who is this person? We know, from the way in which the man identifies himself that this was god’s representative, possibly even the lord himself, and some think a pre-incarnational appearance of Jesus. So Joshua, an experienced soldier and military commander does the obvious thing.
- The Reasonable Question
- “Who goes there? Friend or Foe?” An obvious and reasonable question to be asking. When faced with the Jerichos in our life and an encounter with the Lord we too ask questions. And the question we ask of God is often something like this: “Are you on my side God?”. And we come to god with our agenda, our needs, our hopes our fears and our dreams. We talk to talk as if the big question in the universe is “Are you on my side God?”
- The Unexpected Answer
- The question is typically human and typically self-centred. We see the world through the lens of our own agenda and our own needs. We see the church through the prism of what we want and what we think the church should be like. The Lord’s answer means that we have to rethink the question. “Wrong question” says the Lord. Notice that Lord doesn’t tell Joshua what the right question is…he simply gives Joshua the information that he needs in order to ask the right question. The information he give him is simply this: you are in the presence of God himself
- The Only Possible Response
- Now that Joshua is in full possession of the facts, there is only one possible response; worship. Consecration comes before service, before fruitfulness. We can not possibly expect to be effective in god’s service if we are not worshippers, whose hearts are fully surrendered to Him. So this is a key moment in Joshua’s experience of God. Is he prepared to drop his own agenda in favour of Gods?
- The Real Question
- Joshua now shows that he is the right man for the job…he now asks the right question. “What would you have me do God?”. Now we’re talking….…….So our question to ourselves and to one another is: what Would you haveus do Lord? It’s your work, your Kingdom, your
- church. Just tell us Lord. And’ we’ll do whatever you tell us.
- John MacDiarmid
- September 2015