We were so happy to be back in our home church for a month this past January. Our Pastor, Tom, is an extraordinary teacher of God’s Word. You know you’ve heard a good sermon when you continue to talk about it for weeks; and, we are still keeping it at the forefront of our thoughts!
Tom started the new year with a series from the book of Joshua. This is one of my favorite Old Testament books. Call me crazy but I just love the life lessons I’ve learned from it (mainly how Moses was Joshua’s mentor and how obedient Joshua was to God. Some people think it proves our God is not all loving. Click here to read how the slaughter of the Canaanites was righteous by God). Our Pastor took this book to a new level for me in the four sermons we heard. All spoke to us in just the areas we needed, but one really has stuck with us: the fourth one in his series titled, “The Enemy of Faith: Joshua 4-5.” (Click here and look for it by this title if you would like to hear the original sermon in it’s entirety.)
Briefly, I am going to cheat a little and rather than repeat the context of these chapters and to not quote some of the harder scriptures, I found this resource where I am going to take a few excerpts (italicized in blue). “Joshua starts out where Deuteronomy ends: After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, ‘Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. (Joshua 1:1-2 ESV). Joshua was one of only two men from the older generation of Israelites still alive forty years after Israel’s departure from Egypt (Num 14:29-30; Deut 1:34-38). During those forty years he had gained much valuable experience as Moses’ assistant. I won’t belabor and go over all of Joshua’s accomplishments up to this time. But suffice it to say, hard as it was, he was obedient to God’s commands.
Let’s take the portion of scripture in which the focus of the sermon. This is what impacted us and then the three statements to etch the sermon further into our minds:
The people came up out of the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and they encamped at Gilgal on the east border of Jericho. And those twelve stones, which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” Joshua 4:19-24 ESV
The one thing that sticks out to me as I re-read the Bible yearly (made that commitment in 2004) is how forgetful the Israelites are! And every time I read how they grumbled and complained and accused God of hating them, I say to myself, how could they forget what’s He’s done for them? How don’t they know how much He loves them? And then I remember, “Oh, I do the same thing…..” So maybe that is why this sermon is so important for me.
1. The Remembrance of God’s Goodness (read Joshua 4:1-24): The Bible always takes us back to where we need to go to see the continuity of the message from the Lord. Deuteronomy 8:2 – “And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.” AND Deuteronomy 8:11 “Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today….”
Do you remember the day, week or even month when you finally realized the Lord our God was real? And that He loved you? And that He sent His Son as a living sacrifice for your sins? And that you are forgiven? And that you will spend ETERNITY with Him?
I’m so blessed as I have several such encounters with Him. First was when I was nine in church, during a sermon. I realized then I was a sinner, that Jesus died for me and I wanted HIM as my Lord and Savior. I told my parents and they took me to meet with the Pastor. When I look back at that visit in his office, I see myself like this:
Seriously! I felt like I had to convince the Pastor I knew who Jesus was and what He did for me. And the pastor? He tried to dissuade me from making this commitment at this young age. We were in a Military chapel outside of Tokyo, Japan when this happened. He accepted my decision and I was “sprinkled” in baptism. Then my dad was transferred to Langley Air Force Base when I was 12. And one of the first things my parents did was join a church and get me fully immersed. But I missed a message during both of these events to hear I should begin reading my Bible daily in order to get to know God and form a relationship with my Lord and Savior! Or to regularly attend Sunday School so I could learn more about Him and His ways. But God had His hand on me and I went forward when I was 21 and was really “born again” this time! And then I met my husband in the ministry where I went forward (Christ is the Answer) and I thought I finally got it. But no, eventually, my husband and I fell away from church, the Word and a close personal relationship with the Lord. Our marriage ended in divorce. BUT we have a happy ending! God is every so faithful and HE restored our marriage. We blogged about it here.
Because of this, I can fully identify with the Israelites. Each time the Lord spoke clearly to me, I accepted it and then went on with life as if it didn’t happen until we remarried. And I’m still growing but now you may see why I have committed to reading the Bible DAILY and being in church every Sunday (with a few exceptions). I can’t hear enough of God’s Word to keep me closer to Him.
2. The Assurance of God’s Promise (read Joshua 5:1-9): God urged Joshua to lead Israel forward to occupy the Promised Land. This land was a free gift from God. All the Israelites had to do was go forward in faith to claim the promise.
In verses 5-9, God gave Joshua further instructions in how to carry out his assigned mission. These instructions are arranged in a chiastic structure that emphasizes some main points and shows how those points are related:
(a) At the beginning and end of the passage, (Chapter 5) in verses 5 and 9, is the promise that God will always be with Joshua and the Israelites. It is God’s continued presence that provides the necessary setting for Joshua’s mission. Without God’s presence, Joshua would not be able to succeed.
(b) In the protective environment of God’s presence, Joshua could be “strong and courageous”, as is mentioned in the second and next-to-last parts of the chiasm (verses 6 and 9).
(c) Strength and courage would be needed for Joshua and the people to implement the Torah, the commandments God had given through Moses. By obeying the Torah, the Israelites could enjoy the full measure of blessing that God intended for them. This is brought out in the third and third-to-last parts of the chiasm, in verse 7 and the end of verse 8.
(d) The beginning of verse 8 is the admonition that occupies the central position in the passage: “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night ….” To carry out God’s commandments, the Israelites would need to study them, commit them to memory, and internalize them.
And then to take us to the New Testament where the Apostle Paul gives us this reminder:
1 Corinthians 10:1-5 “For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
3. The Continuance of God’s Provision, (read Joshua 5:10-12): This tells us the Israelites celebrated the Passover and the next day “they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain. The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate the produce of Canaan.” I loved how our Pastor said that our God is not a “razzle dazzle” God – or others have said, He is not a genie in a bottle. But that He does provide us with our regular provisions such as a paycheck for the work we do or even better, for the family we are given. And we are to delight in the ordinary where our needs are provided. But more importantly, we are to always remember His mighty acts (such as our own testimony) and the greatest of all, was His sacrifice on the cross. That is the promise we have for eternal life!
So how did this impact us? We had one of our best hikes, in my opinion, in part because of the great conversation we had for the nearly four hours in the woods. And that was to not only relive this sermon, but to remember all the great things the Lord has done in our lives. We see how easy it is to forget. We fall back into our grumbling and complaining lives….but hopefully, after this, we pray we don’t forget and that we keep our faith as fresh as it was when we first believed!