Joshua 10

This is our last outing into the book of Joshua. And i’m going to speak on this chapter for 15-20 mins and then give some time at the end for any of your questions or observations about the book as a whole - what has most struck you. So have a think as i’m speaking.  

My real hope is that we’ll each return to these great stories to meditate on them from time to time because this is a vital and essential biblical book modelling for us as christians our discipleship; our taking hold of the eternal life and relationship with God that we both already have and await the full realisation of. 

As we watch Israel struggle to overcome, by faith in God, their obstacles and opposition and enemies … as they step out in faith to take possession of their promised land … so we have a model for how we are to fight in our christian lives. the christian life is not a walk in the park, a holiday on the beach or mountaintop bliss…it’s a battle, a journey, a marathon, a war. Trusting in Jesus’ all sufficiency we grow up to be like him, we move forward to take hold of that which is ours. 

 

In our passage this week, we encounter again the Gibeonites. We saw these guys last week - they were Canaanites, they were the enemy, and by deception BUT also because they had come to believe in and revere the God of Israel - they managed to broker a covenant with Israel - whereby Israel would protect them. This whole people group - the gibeonites- have been grafted by a covenant pledge and promise into the people of God. The King of Jerusalams that the Gibeonites have made peace with Israel - that’s actually a really good description actually of what it means to become a christian. It is to make peace with God and his people. Make peace by Repentance and Faith. Faith means you come to believe that you’re loved by God - that you were his enemy and destined to be crushed but Jesus came and was crushed for you. Faith in God’s love. But also repentance: turning around - you lay down your arms and permanently change your allegiance, you live your life now in obedience and worship of God. You make peace! 

 

That’s what the Gibeonites had done. They are new christians brought in by God’s grace under the shadow of his wings but now here’s the thing … immediately they face persecution

immediately they must cry out to God 

inorder to receive his help 

 

Let’s look at those 3 things 

  1. you will face persecution

 

The Gibeonites have been Christians a matter of days and immediately they learn the reality of Jesus’ promise to his disciples in John 15v18 "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.

 

you will face persecution. 

 

Let’s look at what happened. 

v1 Adoni Zedek, Canaanite King of Jerusalem is rattled. The conquests of Jericho and Ai and now the treaty with Gibeon which more than a great city was in fact - 9v17 - a confederation of cities - 4 cities - all of this means that a whole swathe of Canaan - a band through the middle separating North from South - has now come under the control of Israel. And so the Canaaan King of Jerusalem feared greatly v2

But this is not a godly fear that leads to repentance and peace. This is a rebellious fear that leads to persecution. v3 he seeks to build a coalition. 4 other Kings to strike not Israel but Gibeon because they’ve made peace with Israel and Israel’s God. Then v5 the five kings of the Amorites—the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish and Eglon—joined forces. They moved up with all their troops and took up positions against Gibeon and attacked it.

 

[Manchester Univ CU – week of events – present the gospel. One of the halls – tiny group of Christians – we decided we put up some posters to publicise the events – torn down. We did a rather naff piece of theatre in the canteen to advertise the events. Most people looked quite disinterested. But after we’d done it one young man came storming after us – his face was bright red, absolutely furious. ‘Who was responsible for that?” Me? I asked him what had offended him. He found it difficult to articulate. He ranted at me. He hated what we were doing. All I remember was his anger.. Turned out to be from the Church of England Chaplaincy.] 

 

I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced that. Perhaps in the past you’ve experienced it in yourself? It’s not nice to be disliked, sidelined, looked upon with disdain, dealt with unjustly. I reckon we’d do anything to avoid it.  maybe it might make us think we’ve done something wrong - and certainly there’s no merit in being persecuted for being judgemental or rude. more likely we are tempted to keep quiet about our faith because we don’t want to suffer the heat. But anyone who lives a godly life will be persecuted. 

 

opposition towards Christians is often – inordinate – i mean they weren’t tearing down the posters of the chess club or the Islamic society. 

Opposition towards Christians is often irrational – modern people often say Christianity it’s disproved and outdated. We now know such and such. And so we can ignore Christianity. But in practice opposition to Christians is far more heated and aggressive, scornful and in many many places around the globe it is violent. Being a christian can cost you your livelihood and in some circumstances your life. 

 

If Christianity is so irrelevant – why oppose it so violently? Why bother? 

 

And what is at the root of persecution and opposition to faith in our God?The answer I think that our text hints at is that faith in God is a threat that needs to be crushed because it itself is an assault on human pride. Pride is the reason that we hate Christ and his gospel. 

 

Look again at the enemies of the Gibeonites. 

They are their near neighbours, fellow canaanites, wider family. ready to kill them now they’ve become believers in God.

They were, v6 tells us the King’s of the hills, the mountains - a subtle reference not just to geography but also to character. Their elevated position. Kings of the high ground. Their made up names speak volumes about their self perception: Adoni zedek means Lord of Righteousness. Hoham - the God who protects; Piram - wild, fierce; Japhia - high and elevated; Debir - Speech, The speaker. 

Near neighbours, Puffed up pride 

It’s very sad to say that it is often those who have come to hold elevated positions in religious realms - our near neighbours - who are least friendly to God’s little ones. (My friend in the Manchester Univ chaplaincy) Desiring to have the pre-eminence religious people within our own christian wider community can be merciless towards any who refuse to be subject to them. Remember how Jesus’ greatest opponents were the religious authorities. They hounded him to death and they sought to silence his ambassdors, the apostles because he and they threatened their authority - their pride 

Puffed up pride hates the gospel of God because the gospel is all about GRACE and grace completely undermines all human pride and human power. 

 

Every religion and philosophy, apart from Christianity, says that getting  to God is something You can do. You have problems but there are things you can do to sort it out. 

Christianity says. You can never make it. Without help You are lost. Christianity says All you deserve, all you can achieve is God’s eternal rejection. Because of your sin. And there’s nothing you can do to save yourself. 

So it is has to be done for you. Jesus Christ came down. He stood in your shoes and suffered for you the rejection of God which you deserve. So that you could step into his shoes and enjoy the welcome with God that he deserves. He does it all. It’s all about Jesus. It’s all done by him. Grace. There’s nothing you or I can do except receive it, trust him. 

 

And of course that is an offence to our pride. 

If you’re proud of your performance - the idea that grace is the only way is utterly offensive. Our whole way of life, based around ourselves, is threatened by Grace. That’s the reason for hostility. We either fight against God or we are given the humility to lay down our pride and receive the grace of his love. 

 

You will face persecution. 

 

2. You must cry for help 

We’ve learnt much about prayer from the book of Joshua. God wants us to know the joy, peace, security of knowing him. he wants to draw us into a life of relationship, a life of prayer. 

We’ve said from this book, that when the sun is shining in our lives we don’t tend to pray. We are proud people. We like to cope on our own. Do it ourselves. We miss out on the grace and joy that could be ours.  And so God allows the rain. God allows hardships. God uses the opposition of the world and our struggles to cause us to have to turn to him.Often he has to bring us to the end of ourselves inorder that we might finally look to him and cry out to him. 

God shapes the difficulties of life to fall upon our lives inorder that we might prove our faith, find our faith to be genuine. How do i know that i am really God’s child? i know because when the trouble really hits i don’t turn from him i do turn to him and  he shows himself to be present and real. 

See the Gibeonites - we might have thought that they were just chancers. They’d seen the threat of Israel and so they’d sought a treaty with them. Now the big threat was the combined forces of the 5 hill top Kings. Might  you not expect Gibeon to just bow the knee apologise to Adoni - Zedek and turn coat again, throw in their lot with the strongest team still in thr tournament? Perhaps that’s what Adoni - Zedek assumed Gibeon would do. 

 

But Gibeon does not change allegiance. Gibeon does not crumble in the face of violent pressure. Gibeon remains faithful to her new God. 

Gibeon cries out for help v6 “Do not abandon your servants. Come up to us quickly and save us! Help us, because all the Amorite kings from the hill country have joined forces against us.”

One of the greatest evidences for myself that i really do love God, that he has me. Is that when under serious pressure to buckle and walk away from God to another place that is very attractive - i choose God, i choose God. Don’t you. Because deep down you believe. Your faith is proved. You cry for help. 

 

Notice also that Gibeon which was a strong coalition in itself, with mighty warriors does not trust in her own strength. Gibeon does not get proud and think that they can do this alone. We can be so like that. Do everything but pray. Try everything else first. Our pride. 

But this battle is not one that we can fight. We must cry out for help always. Quickly.  

Cry for help. honestly, openly. God hears. And he knows exactly the timing of the response that is needed. 

In this case with his Gibeonite children the response is immediate and dramatic. 

 

Joshua takes the entire army v7 

Joshua is reassured by God v8 

Joshua marches through the entire night and immediately enters the battle v9 

There’s no reservations. There’s no, oh this is just the Gibeonites, the new boys, why bother with them, they’re not the real deal, they deceived us into helping them, and here they are are again asking for help. 

Ever feel you’re a Gibeonite? Just a slightly annoying Christian, not a very good Christian, not very deserving of help, not the real deal, perhaps i’m not a christian. Perhaps i can’t ask for help. God’s not interested in me. 

Look at this. Look at this. Look at what Gibeonites get 

Immediately. Joshua takes the whole army, commissioned by God, marches through the night, straight into your battle. This is Jesus towards you. 

You must cry out for help

 

3. Surely the Lord himself fights for us! 

God is our refuge and our strength. A very present help in times of trouble. Therefore we shall not fear. Psalm 46.   

Look at how it is God who miraculously fights for us. fights our battles. The Lord our warrior. 

 10 The Lord threw [his enemies]  into confusion before Israel, so Joshua and the Israelites defeated them completely at Gibeon. Israel pursued them along the road going up to Beth Horon and cut them down all the way to Azekah and Makkedah. 11 As they fled before Israel on the road down from Beth Horon to Azekah, the Lord hurled large hailstones down on them, and more of them died from the hail than were killed by the swords of the Israelites.

12 On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel:

“Sun, stand still over Gibeon,

    and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.”

13 So the sun stood still,

    and the moon stopped,

    till the nation avenged itself on[b] its enemies,

as it is written in the Book of Jashar.

The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. 14 There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a human being. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel!

 

I think this is hugely reassuring. God doesn’t hear our prayers and then out source his response to other agencies. He doesn’t commission G4S to organise his people’s security. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel. Surely the Lord is fighting for Gabriel. Surely The Lord himself fights for us. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you ever been persecuted for being a Christian? What form did it take? How did it feel? What did it make you think? 

 

Would it be a good thing if you had never been persecuted for your fath? 

 

Why according to Joshua 10 might it be that God’s people are persecuted?

 

What might stop you crying out for help to God? 

 

Why must you cry for help immediately?

 

Where do you need the Lord to fight your battles for you at the moment?

 

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Joshua 9

Joshua 9

 

Intro

I read a link on social media recently which asked the question....

 

Which scenes do you always fast forward through when rewatching a movie?

  • First 10 minutes and the last 5 of taken. Tight gritty dramas sandwiched between family schmudtz 
  • Knife fight scene from Saving Private Ryan.
  • The Scene in Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug where they're tripping balls in the woods until the spiders show up
  • Return of the Jedi where Luke Skywalker talks to Leah about the Force...
  • More recently for me it would be the tube scene in the darkest hour when winston churchil goes rogue and chats to everyone on the underground – nice and all but a bit eye rolling.

 

And let me be honest, if a film were made of Joshua,, chapter 9 may be those same scenes you would fast forward through when rewatching.

 

Context of Joshua – God had promised to give them the land, they needed to clear the land of their enemies and start again. They were given God's promises, the assurance of His presence and 'I will not leave you, I will not give up on you.  I have given you this land, you will inherit all the promises I swore to your forefathers. Don't be frightened, don't be dismayed, don't let the word of God depart from your mouth, meditate on it night and day.  The Lord your God is with you wherever you go. 

 

Up until now, great battles, great victories, some dramatic tension of purging a thief from their number – some with war waged, others with marches, but it's been an action packed warring narrative. It's super adventure filled, God with them, action action.

 

And then we get to this chapter.  Does it not feel to you like 'really? We've got a whole chapter on a weird deception? Like, old school copies of this book were made, scribes have painstakingly hand carve this chapter, word for word, handed down all to tell us, what?' Did it not seem weird or random or a bit of a non-event?

 

Do you not think, I'd fast forward through that another time round? I do

 

The story in a nutshell is that after Israel's victory, surrounding nations get twitchy and plan to counter attack. One nation, the Gibeonites, decide that they'll trick the Israelites into making peace with them by pretending to come from a far off land and therefore not pose a threat.

It works. But then the Gibeonites get found out, the people are annoyed with the leaders but a covenant was a serious thing in those days, which couldn't be broken. So the Gibeonites come before Joshua, hold their hands up saying 'yup, our bad' and they get to stay but have jobs as household servants in the temple.

 

I know, right, you'd definitely fast forward it when you read it again. Since this is God's word and since he has the remote and I don't, let have a look.

 

As we look at this chapter I think it tells us a couple of things – firstly about the lack of Faith in God's people, the presence of faith of the outsider and the Joshua who protects the faithful.

 

  1. The Faithlessness of God's people – don't be complacent 

 

The chapter opens with a whole group of nations conspiring to come together to wage war on the people of God.  

But in their number were the Gibeonites – they saw the situation, heard what God had done through Joshua in Jericho and Ai and didn't want to fight, as we'll see.  So, a very simple deception was planned.  Nothing hugely complicated, just a simple sleight of hand, an ego massage and a plea for peace. They come to Israel pretending to be from a far off, insignificant land wanting to make peace because they've heard great things. And initially, Israel was suspicious v7, guessed it by accident saying “ But perhaps you live near us, so how can we make a treaty with you?’”

 

And the people replied not with a denial, not with a surrender, but with flattering plea

    'We are your servants'

 

The reply of the Gibeonites was classic distraction through answering a different question.  Verbal games.  They were crafty – a sleight of hand followed by an ego massage.

 

Have you've ever noticed how much a compliment can throw you off guard?  How flattery can be pretty intoxicating and bewitching? Don't know if you've waited to see friend or family member to have it out with them and they start the conversation with a 'you look great' or 'look it's my favourite person' – compliments have a way of ultimately distracting us – even and perhaps especially when the compliment is spiritual. 

Listen to what the Gibeonites said

'We've heard of the fame of your God, we know of all he's done for you in all of your many incredible victories and we've made huge efforts to come to you, to make a covenant with you

They quoted what every Israelite would have wanted to here....

We love your church, we've heard about your community, we see that God is with you, it's obvious to us.  We have come to make peace.

 

We'll come to whether this was genuine or not in a moment, but the point being that it seemed to distract them.  It seemed to put them off pursuing their original enquiry, seemed to embolden them somehow.

Until finally they made peace.

 

Yet the narrator gives us the real reason.  You see, in hindsight they may have concluded that it was a simple ruse and they should set up systems in place so this would never happen again.  You could imagine all sorts of new policies of covenant making, a think tank group set aside to develop better ways of avoiding deceit, better ways to spot old sandals/bread/wineskins, lie detecting machinery....all of it. In retrospect that could've been the resolution – the moral of the story.

 

Yet the narrator wants it to be very clear what the real mistake was.  

Do you see it, v 14 – 'they did not enquire of the Lord' 

That was it – they did not enquire of the Lord.

They didn't seek him, they didn't talk to Him, they didn't ask Him, nothing. 

 

When I was little I remember playing in my Nana's house in Birmingham. I learned later that it was on the market and she was in the process of selling it, so you can imagine the pristine nature of a house with frequent viewings.  Anyway, me and my older bother were in the front room doing a jigsaw before children's tv was scheduled to come on at 3.30pm.  And it got a bit cold, so we went over to the old gas fire and saw there was only one panel in the middle lit, so we tried to the get the other two panels to fire.  In our 4 & 6 year old way, we reasoned, we had ideas and the best we came up with was that we roll up a piece of paper and light it through the grate and then put it against the panels that weren't lit in the hope they'd ignite.  And to add extra protection to our hands, since we were getting near the fire, we wrapped them in paper towels.  The inevitable happened and both pieces of paper and the towels set alight and me and my brother ran with a flaming torch on our hands through the living room to get help.  You can imagine we were in big trouble.  But once the burns were treated and we were sat down for the telling off, my Nana just said 'if you were cold,  why didn't you ask me to turn the fire up?'  – I remember sitting there, utterly floored by the question.  We literally had no answer.  The common sense of a small child prevailed. But Why didn't we just ask?

 

And Joshua in his narration is saying the same thing, almost as if the LORD is asking the same question – why didn't you just ask me? Now we don't know the answer but it could be  they  just thought they had this, it seemed reasonable thing, just common sense.  We showed due diligence, we checked the food & it was mouldy, we examined the wine skins and they were battered, their shoes and saw the holes.  Maybe it just wasn't a big thing – maybe they just thought 'we've got this'.

 

It wasn't a big, weighty, spiritual question, right? – it wasn't 'who shall I marry, what job shall I do, where shall I live, should I take this promotion, where shall we send our kids to school' –  these are the biggies  that we know we should enquire of the Lord– but the Gibeonites, well - it just didn't seem to need prayer. It didn't seem to need asking the LORD.  

 

Now I don't think the point here is that we have to enquire of the LORD which flavour crips we buy when we're in the shops and can't choose.  But somewhere between 'what flavour crisps' and 'what shall I do with my life' lies a vast array of decisions. And God's people must enquire of Him.  He longs for us to.  Like my Nana, she was confused that we didn't just ask, she felt hurt that we didn't, she was annoyed that it led to burn marks on the carpet, she was deeply upset that it led to burns on our hands.  

 

And so we see the faithlessness of God's people exposed, making peace with the very people God had told them to drive out.  Why? They were deceived, they had their ego's massaged, but

They did not enquire of the Lord

 

Secondly we see the 'faith of the unbeliever which gives us reason for humility'

  1. The Faith of the Outsider – be humbled

 

Now hear me out on this one, because I admit I'm drawing conclusions on things that we don't know for sure.  

The chapter opens with all the kings of West of the Jordan hearing of the victories of God's people in battle.  Naturally they decide on a counter attack, on vengeance, on war.

 

But not the Gibeonites. The last thing they wanted to do was go to war.  Why? Well, maybe because the things they spoke about were true - 

‘Your servants have come from a very distant country because of the fame of the Lord your God v9

v24:

‘Your servants were clearly told how the Lord your God had commanded his servant Moses to give you the whole land and to wipe out all its inhabitants from before you. So we feared for our lives because of you, and that is why we did this. 25 We are now in your hands. Do to us whatever seems good and right to you.’

 

It sounds a bit like Rahab – do you remember her? She was the one who hid the spies in Jericho at the risk to her own life. She said this to the spies in chapter 2

 ‘I know that the Lord has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. 10 We have heard how the Lord ….

 

I've heard about Him and I want in. 

The Gibeonites had heard what God had done, they believed His word.  They sought peace rather than war, they appealed to the Word of the Lord – and even though they were deceitful, they sought covenant. They even went adrift from all their other kings and sought peace rather than war.  Had they been found out, this could have been seen as treacherous. And we read in chapter 10 that Gibeon was a great city, of men who were amazing fighters, so it wasn't like they couldn't have really wounded Israel or put up a decent fight. 

 

And did you notice that when Joshua confronted them and they were 'cursed' and assigned to be woodcutters and servants – basically manual labourers for the temple – they didn't object, they accepted what was deemed to be a right punishment – simply repeating 'we are your servants v.25 – 'now we are in your hands, do whatever is good and right to you'

 

You see, who can say what the genuine response of their hearts was, but I think they're supposed to really contrast with the faithlessness of Israel by showing a faithfulness of the Gibeonites.  

 

Whilst Israel was enjoying the spoils of the victory, basking in the special privilege of knowing God, here comes a group of people devoted to, yes, trickery and deception, but with the desire to be under God's shelter too.  And In the LORD's peculiar sovereignty, their deception worked, the oath was sworn and upheld.  

 

It is humbling to see faith in the God we think we know by those we don't know about.

It is humbling when others take our faith more seriously than we do.

It is humbling when people hear the word of God and act on it – when we live in the spoils of His blessing and go it alone in our walk with Him.

 

So the faithlessness of God's People,  The faithfulness of the Gibeonites

And 

  1. The Joshua who protects the faithful

So as we've seen in reading through the book of Joshua, Joshua – who's name, like Jesus, means 'One who Saves' lays down the pattern of what the champion of God's people looks like. Now, Joshua being human, also shows us what being human is like but we pay careful attention to the role Joshua plays that's distinct from the people. Let's have a look at v.26 - 

But do you see what happens when the Gibeonites are found out?

v.26 So Joshua saved them from the Israelites, and they did not kill them. 27 That day he made the Gibeonites woodcutters and water-carriers for the assembly, to provide for the needs of the altar of the Lord at the place the Lord would choose. And that is what they are to this day.

 

The oath was made, the people grumbled wishing for it to be reversed, but it was upheld. For despite their not enquiring of the Lord, they knew the binding nature of an oath before him. And so strongly did they feel about this that when Joshua affirms the oath of protection to the Gibeonites, he's  described as v. 26 – as saving them from being killed by Israel.... - killed in battle, or killed from anger at their deception....either or both!

He saved their lives, he spared them. Ironically here, he spares the lives of the outsider from death & hatred of the insider! 

 

I mean, can you imagine what church was like the following week?  There's the people of Israel, widows perhaps who've lost their husbands in battle, then the  warriors who fought against Ai, leaders of the people, maybe looking bashful for having been tricked so easily. And then there's the Gibeonites, the ones ministering in the house of God!  The 'curse' is an interesting one – your punishment is to be close to God, to serve him, to be employed in the altar of the Lord at the place the lord would choose.   Joshua has saved your life and now you're completely in.

 

It's like playing for one country in the world cup one week, then bribing your way with false passports to convince another country to sign you and find yourself in the dressing room of the new country by the weekend!

 

It's outrageous grace.  It's ridiculous grace, It's risky grace. But It's the only kind of grace there is.  Well might the people of Israel grumble – sitting there saying 'but my family are descendants of Abraham, I've grown up in the church, I've given a lot of money to the work of the gospel, and there they are – they just lied and here's how they get rewarded. 

 

There's no reward for good behaviour as a christian – grace gets us in and grace leads us home.  We're no more worthy now that when God first saved us.  I love the line in the hymn – grace has brought us safe thus far and GRACE will lead us home.  THE WAY IN IS THE WAY HOME.

 

So as we conclude on what may have felt like the chapter you'd fast forward, we have two groups of people that we may identify with

 

There's the group of God's people who, being flattered and independent, did not enquire of the LORD.  Perhaps we identify with them, perhaps we feel the independence from Him that has been a struggle and decisions we've made proven to be the wrong ones.  Don't lose heart, do not fear, Jesus has got you – Jesus, the One who Saves – is able to make good on them, able to rescue in the big and the small.

 

But perhaps we feel more like the Gibeonites – feeling like as we sit here, we're only just in by the skin of our teeth, our moral reputation nothing to be proud of, our track record feels a bit dog-eared, our emotions frayed and we sit looking around us wondering how we manage to be here.

It's the same Jesus who meets you, who saves your life and welcomes you in.  You're all good.

 

Let's take time before we sing to praise our Jesus

    The one who longs for us to talk to him

    The one who is able to redeem our past mistakes

    The one who saves our lives and brings us to himself

 

  

 

 

 

 

Joshua 8

Joshua 8 

 

We’re over half way through our series of sermons in the OT book of Joshua and it’s a chance for us to recap again the way that this ancient book, this ancient story operates for us here in 21st C London. 

 

Does this seemingly distant primitive story have anything to say to me about my life and my God? 

Well we’ve said that the OT is not as distant as we might think. 

 

Jesus tells us in the gospel of Luke 24:27 what the OT Scriptures are really all about.. The are are about Him, Every story; Institutions in the OT - like the temple and sacrifices - they teach us about Jesus. People in the OT particularly prophets, priests, leaders and Kings in so far as they are good, they point us to Jesus, in so far as they are bad- they point us to our need for Jesus the perfect prophet, priest and king. So Joshua the man foreshadows Jesus  we really see that in Today’s passage. Remeber Joshua and Jeshua Jesus are the same name. So this ancient book is all about Jesus. 

 

And this ancient story is also all about us. The apostle Paul says in a  couple of places in the NT - Romans 15, 1 Corinthians 10 - that the history of Israel occured and was written down to teach, warn and encourage us, Christians. I remember a few years ago when we were making plans to renovate our church hall - leaky roof, rotten windows, no heating, poxy kitchen and the worst toilets in England - and Pete and Dave drew up architects plans for developing the kitchen with a mezzanine and new toilets and they built this little scale model of the hall as it would be in the future complete with little people inside. It wasn’t the reality, it was a model. But it helped us to understand for the future, the ultimate fulfiment of the plans for the hall. That’s the OT.  The OT story of a nation, Israel rescued through sacrifice (the exodus) from slavery for a promised land. That story is the prototype, the model in miniature, in anticipation of the fulfilment of the ultimate plan of God which is A world rescued through sacrifice from sin and death for a promised eternal rest.

 

So the ancient book of Joshua is about Jesus - he is there foreshadowed Our Jeshua. And it’s about us. Israel’s entry into and claiming of, conquering, the promised land pictures for us OUR entering into eternal life with God which has both now and not yet aspects to it. We both have eternal life with God now AND we await the full consumation of that life beyond our death or when Jesus returns to establish a new creation. In the meantime, in the now and the not yet, just as Israel, entering their promised land needed to claim it, conquer their enemies. So we, having entered life with God need to take hold of that which is already ours. We need to fight our enemies to enjoy the life and rest God has for us. And our struggle to quote Ephesians 5:12  is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Spiritual war. against sin, temptation, godlessness. Are you aware that you’re in a warzone? If you’re oblivious you’re very vulnerable. you’re a sitting duck. Perhaps you’re weary, afraid and hiding from the conflict. Or perhaps you’re surrendering, throwing in the towel? you’ve given up and there’s not getting back in as far as you can see.. 

 

I hope this passage will give you encouragement and hope to not be naive, to not give up, to not be afraid but to keep fighting with the help that God provides. 

 

Israel in Joshua 8 were not in a good place. They’d just lost a battle, chapter 7, taken by surprise by a seemingky weak enemy - the tiny stronghold of Ai - means ruin! 3000 soldiers would be more than enough they’d thought. Wrong they got their buts whipped, there are casualties, 36 dead, presumably many wounded and worst of all morale is completely lost. If we can’t defeat little Ai we’re doomed - what hope do we have surrounded by enemies?

It’s often happens in life that it’s the small things that trip us up and ruin us. We make great strides and then fall to the most innocuous temptation. One small problem that breaks us having withstood so much difficulty and that failure can lead to great discouragement and despair. How am i ever gonna do this?

 

But don’t lose heart. Don’t give up. Hope is coming…

 

I said last week that Israel’s defeat at Ai wasn’t because of their prayelessness - they hadn’t prayed beforehand. And it wasn’t becuase of their pride. They only thiught they needed a small force to win this battle and so they left the majority of the army behind. I said that because the passge Joshua 7 makes plain that God withheld victory from Israel because there is sin in the camp. Achan’s disobedience. 

 

But reading chapter 8, it does seem that Achan’s sin - his self centredness in taking for himself things that God had said should not be taken. His self inflated view that he could get away with it. Achan’s sin is perhaps characteristic of all Israelits hearts after the crossing of the Jordan and the victory at Jericho. They had it seems  become complacent, self dependent and proud because God, in chapter 7 and her in chapter 8 gets Joshua back on his knees, back to prayerful dependence. AND. They had it seems become over confident and proud because God, here in chapter sends the whole army with a detailed stragegy to attack little Ai. 

 

so 3 things we’re going to consider

  1. Our prayerfulness 
  2. Our obedience 
  3. Our Jeshua - Our joshua, Our Jesus 

 

 

  1. Our prayerfulness 

At the beginning of chapter 8 Joshua has been on his face again in prayer. When things are going well - as they had been so far from Israel crossing the Jordan, defeating Jericho - when things are going swimmingly we pray less. Ai looked easy - well within their grasp, so you don’t pray, you just act…

 

If Joshua had prayed, had sought the Lord would be not have received God’s revelation about Achan’s sin BEFORE having to learn of it the hard way - the failure of Ai, the loss of 36 lives. The discouragement and despair. Wasn’t prayerlessness in part to blame? 

When things are going well we begin not to pray. We revert to independence, self confidence and a fall and failure is inevitable. 

One of my favourite songs at the moment, I have made mistakes by Texan brother sister, rock folk duo The Oh Hellos - has these words. 

The sun it does not cause us.. The sun is does not cause us to grow

It is the rain that will strengthen… The rain that will strengthen your soul. It will make your whole. 

 

After the failure of Ai, Joshua is on his face. And he waits for God. On his face til evening. Having poured out his heart to God - his pain, his confession, his complaint, his cries for help. He waits for God. He waits for God’s response. 

Because prayer is not a one way thing. It’s not submitting a complaint form or shopping list to some impersonal faceless beauracracy. Prayer is a child coming to her heavenly Father. Prayer is expectation. Prayer is the beginning of a conversation.  

Prayer cannot be just us speaking. It must involve listening because God is a speaking God. he has things to say! AND His words, unlike ours are Wisdom and Truth and Life. 

 

We’re always told that the way God speaks to us is through the words of Scripture and that is entirely true. But we moderns we have a problem with reading and listening. In the ancient world you read for wisdom, you read slowly. With the founding of universities in the 13th C and the consequent age of enlightenment the purpose of reading changed from the learning of wisdom to the speedy acquisition of information. Reading became the very functional activity that it is today. 

 

We’re in danger of not hearing God in prayer. 

We need to rediscover a prayerful waiting before God that holds before him and ourselves the truths of Scripture in such a way that we can receive his particular word to us and wisdom for us deep into our hearts and minds. God speaks in our prayers but are we really listening? 

i love and am challenged by this quote from James Ussher - the Puritan Archbishop of Armagh who said that: “Every sermon is but a preparation for meditation,” and, one hour spent in meditation is “worth more than a thousand sermons.” 

 

God’s direct words to you, to you - that is your food, that is a the feast for your soul - says Isaiah 55 where God invites us to come and listen to him to come feast. Here is joshua hungry and waiting on God. And he receives food 

After the earthquake of Achan’s sin. God restores a troubled and shaken heart with strengthening word and renewed promise, a generous gift, and a wise strategy.

v1 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. an unmistakeable, strengthening word from God.. God proving his presence and involvement. We need that when we’re in trouble, we need to know God is with us and he is for us. Wait upon the Lord Take the whole army with you, and go up and attack Ai. For listen to the promise renewed I have delivered into your hands the king of Ai, his people, his city and his land. God is going to do this. In fact it’s already as good as done. It doesn’t depend on you. Listen to the generous gift 2 You shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king, except that this time you may carry off their plunder and livestock for yourselves. Wow, if only Achan had waited. God is not a spoilsport he doesn’t withold gifts from us. Then finally there’s wise strategy for the way forward Set an ambush behind the city.”

 

How different Joshua must have been when he finally arose from waiting on God’s living word in prayer. The work of prayer is totally where it’s at. Wait on God. Allow him to truly speak to you. You will be transformed. Our prayerfulness 

 

2. Our obedience 

God’s strategy for Ai is almost the polar opposite to Israel’s original failed strategy.

 

Israel had thought that Ai could be handled with just a small force of men, give the rest of the army the day off. 

But God sends the whole army into battle v3. All God’s people are required. That’s instructive for us - whether it’s the global church or the local church - the battles of God are not won by just one subsection or group. Everyone is needed. 

 

Israel had thought that they could just march up to the gates of Ai and walk straight in - how wrong they were as the nutters of Ai came running out straight at them causing them to leg it in the opposite direction. 

God’s strategy is not boastful and proud - marching up to the city. 

God’s strategy is humble and seemingly weak. Part of the army hides behind the city! The rest of the army with Joshua march towards the city gates and the thugs of Ai can’t believe Israel’s stupidity. They’re back for another kick in. They rush out from the city and true to form Israel turn and run away! At which point the Israelite forces hidden behind the city slip into an empty stronghold set everything on fire and then march out to surround the men of Ai and defeat them. 

 

God has a strategy that Israel are required to follow to the letter> God is the commander of the army. He wins the victory. 

Obedience can seem like a dirty word in our self obsessed culture. Obedience to another is considered weak and weird. Be your own person, actualise your freedom, don’t be constrained. But freedom to live as you please is not freedom if you don’t have the wisdom to know how to live well! 

True freedom, True life is found in focussed obedience to God  who is the source of all life. 

When it comes to the battles we face. God instructs us in Ephesians chapter 6v10 

be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes…. 14 with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 …take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.

 

God’s instructions for our obedience 

be strong IN the Lord 

 

brings us to our final point because left to oursleves we won’t pray, left to ourselves we won’t obey but we are no left to ourselves. We have one who prays for us and with us, we have one who who obeyed for us - 

 

3. Our Jeshua

All of the Scriptures are about Jesus 

and i was looking at this passage and thinking where’s Jesus here and of course he’s staring you in the face because Joshua in this passage is foreshadowing Jesus - our perfect leader, our captain, our Lord, our substitute - where we had not prayed, he prays on our behalf, where we had not obeyed he obeys, where we deserved death he died, where we needed life he rose to victory 

 

Look at Joshua’s journey in the story

Following his prayers - he enters into obedience to this humble, seemingly weak plan of God. 

he sets the ambush and end of v9  he spent that night with the people. Literally he dwelt with the people. 

There are only 2 places in the gospels where Jesus is said to have dwelt with his people. One is speaking the incarnation. God becoming a human being. He came down, became what we are inorder that we might become what he is. He comes to our humaity to the heights of his throne. The second place that it talks about Jesus lodging with his people as opposed to sleeping rough which seems to have been his usual practice - was on the night before the night before he died. when he lodged with his friends in bethany. The night before the night before his great battle. 

 

The next day Joshua takes his troops to camp as a lure in front of the city of Ai. but that night v13 Joshua went [alone] into the valley. 

Jesus too entered the city. And on the night before he died he went into the valley - the darkness of gethsemane, the trials before his opponents, the abandonment of his friends. 

 

Joshua’s battle is one of seeming weakness. The Israelites flee in the face of the hooligans of Ai. But the tables will be turned when the ambush is sprung. Jesus’s battle on the cross is one of seeming weakness. All seems to be lost as Jesus hangs on a wooden cross. But the ambush on evil is sprung. By killing him they are killing sin and Jesus rises from the dead victorious. 

 

Joshua stands with his spear aloft until the victory is finally won. 

Jesus, raised and exalted stands at his Father’s right hand praying for us. Victory is won and shall be won.   

 

Our Jeshua. 

How incredible he is. He has done it all. All of our prayers and all of our obedience are a privileged entering into his prayers and his obedience. We don’t pray and obey because we have to. becaus we have to ingratiate ourselves to God, earn our way. No it’s all been done for us. Jesus has already walked that road on our behalf and secured our eternal life - so that we can now pray and obey ..

 

Let’s pray together..

 

 

Joshua 7 Wrapped up in one another

We’re back in the OT book of Joshua after a few weeks away from it. And here we come to this passage in chapter 7. Where there is war, the anger of God, judgement and the stoning or a family. It’s a hugely difficult passage for our modern sensibilities. It seems primitive and barbaric. Is God going to be like this towards us?

It’s enough to makes us give up on the OT altogether. Some Christians do that, Except that there is a remarkably similar, parallel story in the NT to this one. Acts 5. Just following the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, as the early church begins its work of taking the message of Jesus out, One family in the church, a couple called Ananias and Sapphira drop dead infront of the Apostles because they lied about a gift of money they were making to the church! They’d sold a property and said they were giving all the proceeds to the church when actually they’d kept a proportion for themselves. And they dropped down dead for it!  I remember preaching that passage on our penultimate Sunday at GCH before we started SBD. We were preaching through the book of Acts and that passage was where we’d got up to and it just so happened that on that very sunday we were having a gift day for people to give money for our new church plant! What a passage to preach on on a gift day. Is God going to be like this towards us??

 

To which the answer, I think is, no…. and yes 

No.. because these 2 incidences were both crucial moments in salvation history. The tiny, fledging church which carried the first single flickering torch of the truth about Jesus couldn’t afford for that precious flame to be compromised by dishonesty. Ananias and Sapphira needed to be taken to heaven early. 

Israel under Joshua have been taken into enemy territory. The nations of Canaan were brutal and pagan, engaging in practices like child sacrifice. The time had come for God to judge those nations he tells us very clearly in the Scripture. On a physical level if Israel do not destroy the Canaanites, they will be destroyed. This is what their world looks like. It’s kill or be killed. But also on a Spiritual level it’s even more crucial. This repetition of this phrase ‘the devoted things’is really important. Look back if you would at chapter 6 v17, God’s instructios to Israel about the conquest of the city of Jericho  17 The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the Lord. …. v18  keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it. 19 All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the Lord and must go into his treasury…..So v21 They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.

Everything in enemy Jericho is either destroyed or if it’s precious metals put into the treasury of the Lord. And there’s a spiritual reason for it. This language of devotion/devoted things is the language of worship. If Israel preserve Canaanite people or property for themselves, God had warned them, they will be corrupted by Canaanite idolatry. This must not be toyed with. The contagion must be removed. They must kill it or it will kill them - and at a deeper more serious level than the physical. Their spiritual, eternal well being is at stake. 

 

Remember we’ve said that these OT accounts of the Exodus - rescue from slavery in Egypt and the entering and conquest of the promised land. These happened and are recorded in the Scriptures as prototypes, models of the real story of God’s global salvation - Jesus rescuing the world from slavery to sin and death. Our entry into life with God. And our need to fight in the here and now - not against flesh and blood but our spiritual enemies of sin and fear inorder to take hold of the eternal life that God has for us ..while we wait for the day when God will act in final judgement to completely remove all sin and all evil from this world. 

So Joshua’s time is a foretaste of that. An intrusion of the future into history for our instruction. 

 

Achan and Ananias and Sapphira - they are people just like us. Covetous. A bit dishonest. They were unfortunate to mess up at crucial points in salvation history. Where crucial action had to be taken! 

But even though, NO God may not be like this towards us in our day

Nevertheless, Reality does not change and God does not change and we need to understand 1. how serious sin is - our selfish independence, our actions that disregard God and others. Affect others! And we need to understand how seriously God takes sin and is committed to exposing it and removing it. This passage challenges us and comforts us. 

 

So let’s look at it 

First thing to see is that. You are connected to others. We are not islands. We are not isolated individuals. We are wrapped up in each other. When it comes to sin, and when it comes to life our actions and their consequences are not limited to ourselves.  You are connected to others. 

 

Look at the passage. 

It was all going so well for Israel. God had said step into the raging Jordan river. Obey me and I wil be with and you’ll see my greatness. I will fight for you. And Israel does obey God and they find it to be true! They dare to step into the raging torrents of the Jordan and the river stops flowing. It piles up in a great heap a mile away and they cross on dry ground. They obey God’s bizarre instructions and startegy for the “battle” of jericho. Marching around, blowing trumpets, giving a big shout and the walls come tumbling down! They discover God is faithful to his promises. If they obey him he will be with them, he will fight for them, they will know life and rest. The principle is absolutely true today. 

But just when it’s all going so so well. A violent shock to the system. 

Spies have brought report that the stronghold of Ai is small and will need a force much smaller than Jericho. 3000 is plenty and the other men given a day off ….but  v4 the 3000  were routed by the men of Ai, 5 who killed about thirty-six of them. They chased the Israelites from the city gate as far as the stone quarries and struck them down on the slopes. At this the hearts of the people melted in fear and became like water.

What is this? This isn’t meant to happen. This isn’t meant to happen. Where is God? Suddenly Israel feel very very vulnerable. 

v6 Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell facedown to the ground before the ark of the Lord, remaining there till evening. The elders of Israel did the same, and sprinkled dust on their heads. 

And Joshua pours out his heart to God in fear and despair and self pity  “Alas, Sovereign Lord, why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us? If only we had been content to stay on the other side of the Jordan! 8 Pardon your servant, Lord. What can I say, now that Israel has been routed by its enemies? 9 The Canaanites and the other people of the country will hear about this and they will surround us and wipe out our name from the earth. What then will you do for your own great name?”

Why has this happened? 

Was it overconfidence? - we only need a small force to overcome Ai 

Was it prayerlessness? they didn’t commit their way to God

Was God faithless? God doesn’t keep his promises. Earlier was just a coincidence when things were going well. God doesn’t care.. If he’s even there.. Ever feel like that a bit when things aren’t going your way? Well listen to what God says: 

10 The Lord said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? 11 Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. 12 That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.

It wasn’t over confidence. It wasn’t prayerlessness. It wasn’t God’s faithlessness. It’s sin, trangression. Let me just say - not all seeming failures in our lives with God are the result of sin could be something else but where there is sin there is failure. 

 

But now here’s the thing that we are learning. You are connected to others. When it comes to sin (as well as life) We are wrapped up in each other. 

v1 told us the reason for the failure right at the start of the passage 

the Israelites were unfaithful in regard to the devoted things

it’s repeated here in God’s explanation to Joshua: Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions.

But the slightly weird thing is. It’s only one guy who’s done wrong. Achan son of Karmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. One man does wrong but the Lord’s anger burned against Israel.

 

What we have here is the reality of corporate solidarity. The Bible is big on this. We are blind to it in our individualistic self obessed culture but it’s always been the case. We are wrapped up in each other. 

We do have some ways that we express it that can serve as an illustration. So for example - nationality. When Germany win the world cup in 4 weeks time. Any German you meet will be able to say ‘We won the world cup or even I’ve won. And of course it’s highly unlikely that the particular German you’re talking to actually won it - unless you’re interviewing Thomas Muller who’s injury time tap in sealed the victory. But the German who sat in a pub in Friebourg with one of those huge beers watching the final, she can still say we won the cup simply by virtue of the corporate solidarity of being German. 

It’s the same with being in a family. Did you notice Achan’s family references in v1? Your parents, grandparents, great grandparents.. their lives have a bearing on your life. You are wrapped up in each other

And it’s the same actuall with being human. The bible says that we are all impliated in our human parents Adam and Eve and when they chose to sin. All humanity fell. We unavoidably sin because we are in Adam. We bear te family likeness. Which seems unfair but that is they way corporate solidarity works. It was the case with Israel. In the case of Achan it led to the deaths of 36 people and risk to the whole nation. 

And while our place in salvation history is not the same as Achan’s, it is still true in the people of God the church that we are wrapped up in each other. We are one body, says the NT of the local church. Different parts of a single body joined together by joints and ligaments. The same blood flows in our veins. And so, again to quote the NT, when one part suffers, every part suffers. Whenone part rejoices every part rejoices. And when one part is sinning - the whole body is affected. What a sobering reproach towards our easy sinful independence and selfish gratification. We are not private individuals who can do as we damn well please. We are in community. Our private hidden decisions affect one another. 

 

Now, we might want to take God to task on his creation of corporate solidarity in church and humanity. Why should i bear the consequences of another person’s sin? whether it’s my yours or Adam’s sin. It’s just not fair. It’s not just. But here’s the thing…. There has to be corporate solidarity if there is to be salvation. If i truly was an isolated individual. If there was no way that i could be joined, hooked up to something better, some better humanity some better human. then i would be lost. I couldn’t be saved. But thanks be to God that he has sent a second Adam a new Adam. A perfectly obedient man. Who has created a new humanity. Jesus Christ. And i jpined to Adam by birth in sin, I can leave Adam’s doomed humanity and be connected by faith to Jesus’ death to sin and resurrection to life! 

While it was Jesus who conquered sin and death and rose to life I can say, along with all those connected to him. We’ve won. I’ve won. We died, We rose. We are alive forever. We’ve won simply by virtue of the corporate solidarity of being a Christian. In Christ. 

We are wrapped up in each other. Be challenged. Be comforted.. But get rid of your sin. You’ve died to sin, you’re alive in Christ. Obey him and know life 

 

2. Your sin will find you out. Your sin will find you out 

God takes sin seriously because he is holy and because sin is deathly. he will not be soft on it. he will not let it fester in our lives and in our community. because he cannot live with it. Look at v12 which comes right at the centre of the story. 

I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.

God will not abide sin 

And he roots it out. He exposes it 

Your sins will find you out. Achan thought his sin was well hidden under the ground in his tent. he’d smuggled the belongings out and no one had seen. He’d done it. But there is no such thing as hidden and secret and safe sin. Everyone is affected. Your wrapped up in one another. And God knows and he will root it out for everyone’s good. 

A whole night of preparation is given for the Israelites to come clean before the sin is exposed v13-15. But Achan does not come forward.  

The following morning Achan’s tribe are chosen from the 12 who present themselves. But Achan does not come forward. Achans clan is chosen among all Judah, and then his own family v17. But still Achan does not hold up his hand. When Achan is finally outed he freely admits his sin. I wonder if all along he was thinking - is this about me? i know i took a little bit of loot, just a bit of silver, a bar of gold.. just a nest egg a portion .. and that beautiful robe from babylonia. who could resist that. I wonder if all along he felt that his sin wasn’t such a big deal? He deserved something from the battle. I wonder if we rationalise things in the same kind of way? 

Achan lived at a crucial time. He really had no excuses. Israel needed God, holy and almighty close to them as they made this momentous step into enemy territory. The instructions about devotion and holiness had been very clear and Achan had violated them and he needed to be taken out. And he was. 

And for us. God won’t allow the death of sin to ruin our lives and our communities. For God to contemplate sin in a Christian is like a father seeing sickness in his beloved child - his hatred goes out towards the sickness his love and compassion towards his child. He’ll do anything to take us past those enemies to help us take hold of the life that is ours. Sometimes it’s only the exposure of sin that brings us to our senses and helps us overcome our addiction to sin. We need one another in that fight. 

 

 

Joshua 3-4 Step into the Jordan

 

The book of Joshua is all about how WE, the people God has made, are to TAKE HOLD of the promises of God our creator to us. 

 

Take Hold. 

I could give you this £10 note. I promise on my word that it’s yours. It’s yours now. Freely given. But in order to begin to benefit from the inheritance that is fully yours you need to take some steps, not inorder to deserve it or earn it (it’s already yours) just to take hold of it. Perhaps it begins with feelings of happiness and well being as you first register in your mind that the promised £10 is really yours, you are now £10 better off, you can begin to think what you might do with your £10, then the reality becomes more concrete as you get out of your seat and begin to cross the room to take your money.  

The promise is fully yours but to own and enjoy and take hold of the promise you need to take steps. 

 

The people of Israel here in the OT are God’s model, blue print, prototype to teach humanity what all this means. The promise they had received and now must take steps to take hold of is the promise of a homeland of fruitfulness rest and security. They must enter and take possession of the land of Canaan. 

 

The promise for all of US to which this model points is the promise from God of eternal life! Eternal life - A life that begins now and continues through death to a FULNESS of life on the other side. It’s difficult to get your head round what eternal life even means. It means to be truly home, truly at rest, deeply fulfilled in a renewed and creative world. But supremely eternal life is about knowing God, Father, Son and Holy spririt now and increasingly fully and completely. 

That promise and inheritance is offered to all and it’s yours completely as soon as you say Yes please to God (and we’ll talk about that) but then the promise - thoughout our Christian life -  must be taken hold of, progressively received.. We don’t stand still - we step forward through the Jordan into the land of promise..

 

 

 

So let’s learn about this from Israel our prototype. 

 

 

  1. God brings us to the end of ourselves so we would depend on Jesus  

 

At the end of Joshua chapter 2 Israelite spies have returned from Jericho in the land of Canaan with reports that the people are melting with fear.  So you can perhaps imagine the enthusiasm as 3v1 Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over. 

 

But i think that that initially self confidence very quickly would have ebbed away. It was probably easy to feel quite good about your prospects in Shittim which sounds like an awful place but actually it was a beautiful campsite the name means Oasis of Acacia trees. But now God brings them to camp for 3 days looking at the Jordan. The Jordan was a steep river valley with tangled trees and a mile wide fast moving river which was at its worst around the time of harvest when the river was in flood. Oh look v15 - the river was in flood! Nice one God. 

 

How on earth are we gonna cross that? 

 

The God who made us, wants us to know him. He is the fulfilment of all promises. He is who we were made for. Without him we cannot know rest. We cannot know fulness of joy. We will not know life. 

For it to be possible for us to come into relationship with God we need to trust him. Trust him with our lives, trust that his ways are best. That he is God and not us. 

The problem is that we all have a deep independent streak within us. We can handle our lives we say. We hold on stubbornly. Keeping God and life out. 

 

Friends of mine who work with people with serious addictions and even those of us who are parents are familiar with the idea of tough love. Sometimes the most loving and kind thing is not to give another person what they want but to deny them , get hard on them, be tough with them. It hurts to do it but you’re doing it because you really care about what they’re missing out on in their own self destructiveness. 

 

With stubborn independent humanity God has to bring us to places in our lives that we just can’t handle. Obstacles to bring us to the end of ourselves that we might start relying on him and come to know him and know life. he brings us to camp on the banks of the Jordan. 

 

He sometimes does this when he wants to bring us to know him in the first place. I can get to God my own way we say but then he shows us the obstacle of our sin of our deathliness. Like a great Jordan. How are you going to overcome that? How are you?

 

As we go on in the Christian life such is his love that he will bring us to impossible Jordans to keep on breaking our destructive self reliance that keeps us miserably stuck. He wants us to take hold of our inheritance. For some of us that will mean getting to absolute rock bottom - never a nice place to be - before we will relinquish our grip on our own solutions and start looking for help..

 

2 After three days the officers went throughout the camp, 3 giving orders to the people: “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the Levitical priests carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. 4 Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about two thousand cubits between you and the ark; do not go near it.”

 

If all of your knowledge of the ark of the covenant comes from Indiana Jones - a radio for talking to God - I might need to put you straight. 

The ark was a Gold plated box with a seat on the top flanked by gold plated angel figures. It would be carried a bit like a sedan chair with long poles. This was God’s chair. God’s throne - symbolising his presence. He is with us. Inside the box were the stone tablets of the 10 commandments and some other items that represented the way that God had provided for Israel - like a jar of the manna bread he had given to them everyday. So the ark was the ark of THE COVENANT - the pledged relationship between God and his people. God’s loving presence. The ark was a picture of what Jesus is to us. Pledged relationship, God present …WITH US. 

 

The Israelites are being told to fix their eyes on the ark and follow it. The ark will be their Sat Nav v4 and they should keep their distance to about a kilometre - perhaps because the ark is holy but more so so that all of them can SEE the amazing things v5 that God is going to do among them. 

They must consecrate themselves v5 wash their clothes, abstain from sex the reason: to inculcate in yourself a spiritual posture towards God of openness, dependence, obedience. 

 

God brings us to the end of ourselves that we might put our eyes on Jesus and become open to, dependent on, submitted to him. He promises you life. Take hold of his promise. 

 

 

2. God calls us to Step into the water 

6 Joshua said to the priests, “Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on ahead of the people.” So they took it up and went ahead of them.

7 And the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses. 8 Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: ‘When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river.’”

 

Sorry … scramble down that slope toward that raging torrent and … start wading?

 

9 Joshua said to the Israelites, “Come here and listen to the words of the Lord your God. 10 This is how you will know that the living God is among you and that he will certainly drive out before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites. 11 See, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth will go into the Jordan ahead of you. 12 Now then, choose twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. 13 And …..AS SOON AS  the priests who carry the ark of the Lord—the Lord of all the earth—set foot in the Jordan, [then] its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.”

 

As soon as …

Im guessing the Priests must have been pretty nervous, maybe even terrified. But they needed to get their feet wet before God was going to work the miracle of faith.  

 

14 So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. 15 Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, 16 the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17 The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.

 

 

God holds out his promise of life to us. It’s there… but until we actually take a step to receive it we won’t know his life, his goodness, his trustworthiness his power. 

 

Often in our independent spiritual lives we want everything worked out ourselves before we’ll do anything. 

 

For those of us seeking God. Of course it’s not wrong to investigate faith. Weigh things up. seek evidence. But there comes a point where God says ‘Now, step into the Jordan’  

Step out beyond the known. Take the risk. Because then you will know me. I can’t show you my trustworthiness until you trust me. I can’t show you my power until you let me. If you want to walk on water you have to get out of the boat. 

Your sin and death How are you going to overcome that? You can’t But I can. I have. I will send my son ahead of you into that watery grave so you can walk across on dry land to life on the other side. 

Step into the jordan. 

 

It’s like any committed relationship isn’t it? A marriage or a deepening friendship. You can never understand everything there is to understand about another person. there’ll always be another question. Relationships demand a step of faith. To give/entrust yourself to another. So it is with God. 

 

  

What about those of us who have gotten stuck? But God is bringing us to the end of ourselves. The oasis of acacia trees is a distant memory we’ve been camped on the miserable jordan for years, wandering in the wilderness. Well there comes a point when God says, Now step into the Jordan. To grow - you have to seek help outside of yourself. You have to tell the truth. It’s a terrifying step. But until you do it you cannot know God’s transforming power and grace. The Lord longs to be gracious to you.  Instead of wandering in the wilderness he wants to take you through the Jordan. He wants you to take hold of your inheritance, to know resurrection LIFE. Step out. 

 

 

What about the thing perhaps that God is calling you to do? The work he has for you. It’s there in your heart. Has been for years. But it’s like a massive Jordan. It’s impossible. You don’t have what it takes. It can’t be a real thing. It terrifies you to even contemplate beginning. But you can’t shake it off. You know that life lies there. The time comes when God says “Now, step into the Jordan” 

You’re right in one sense, you don’t have what it takes, not on your own. But God says, i’ve given you this vision because I want to do it through you. I am with you. Now step in the Jordan and see what I can do through you. Take the risk. Get your feet wet! 

 

Look at the completeness of God’s salvation through the Jordan. 

v16 the water flowing down to the Sea …was completely cut off. 

v17 all Israel passed by

the whole nation completed the crossing

on dry ground. !

 

do you see - it’s utterly secure and safe - no one is left behind. they don’t even get their feet wet or their sandles muddy! 

so it is with Jesus’ salvation work for us. there are no doubts about whether it will hold. Like a bit more might be needed to be done. No it’s complete. Finished. Once for all time. We will never be disappointed. 

 

And notice that really and truly it IS ALL GOD’S WORK 

The people do not achieve this rescue do they? They’re obedient. They have to do something to recieve it. But there’s this emphasis in the passage that as long as the ark is in place the waters are held back and 4v18 as soon the ark leaves the river bed the waters return and run in flood again. There are no natural coincidences here. Neither was this a feat of human engineering. This was an amazing thing of God. He dried up the Jordan v23. That v24 all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.”

 

It’s all God’s work: salvation, sanctification, service. It doesn’t depend on us - our stength our consistency. Just take hold of your inheritance. Step out. He wants to do amazing things among us. 

 

 

3. Never forget what God has done. 

Every year in dunbar scotland European stone stacking competition. Different categories such as ‘most stones balanced one on top of the other’. The stacks are beautiful - look it up 

 

But stone stacking starts here at the beginning of Joshua 4 on the banks of the Jordan. 12 stones, 1 for each tribe taken from the river bed where the ark had been and stacked on the western bank. As a lasting sign v6 for them and for their childen. A memorial of what God did here. 

 

Notice the repetition 

v1-3 Where God tells Joshua  to find 12 strapping lads, one from each tribe, to heft a stone each from the bed of the Jordan to stack on the bank of the promised land. 

then v4-7 where joshua tells the 12 hunks exactly the same thing 

lug a stone each from the bed of the Jordan and stack them on the bank of the promised land.

And then v8-9 where we’re told that the Israelites did exactly that 

They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, to stack em on the banks of the promised land. 

 

Why do we need to be told 3 times? 

For precisely the same reason that God gets Israel into stone stacking - because we so easily forget. 

 

Don’t forget the amazing things God has done among you. 

 

Why did Jesus give us baptism and the Lord’s Supper? so that we’d  remember and not forget Jesus leading us into the watery death of Jordan (baptism) where he died for us (lord’s supper) so that we might walk through on dry ground to resurrection life where we shall never die. 

 

 

  1. God brings us to the end of ourselves so we would depend on Jesus 
  2. God calls us to step into the waters that he might prove his love and all sufficiency to us
  3. God calls us to remember his works as a spur for the future.  

 

 

Joshua 2 Your enemies are terrified

We’re in the book of Joshua 

and we’ve said that the Bible gives us lines of application that make this ancient book, the OT, potently relevant to us. 

 

For a start the Bible is of course about God who doesn’t change, He’s the same yesterday, today and forever. And more specifically, Jesus Christ, the author and perfector of our faith, says that the OT is about him. So we’re always asking where is Jesus in this text? where’s he being predicted and foreshadowed. He’s always there. The OT is about him. And in this passage we see that Jesus is mighty God and merciful refuge. 

 

The OT is also about us. written for us, the New Testament says. It’s story is Fulfilled in us! 

The OT is about God rescuing a people by sacrifice from slavery for a promised land. Israel were slaves in Egypt.. God rescued them and here in the book of Joshua we see God giving them their land/home/rest - it’s theirs but they have to fight and overcome enemies to take possesion of it. 

 

And that story is like a blue print, a prototype, a rehearsal in anticipation of THE GREAT overarching story of human history. God rescuing a people (his worldwide church) by the sacrifice of Jesus from slavery (to sin and death) for a promised land (eternal life). And so we learn things about Us and God from the OT prototype. Here in Joshua we learn that just like Israel God gives us our full promised inheritance - he gives us eternal life - the moment we turn to him, the moment we became Christians BUT in this life - our Christian life - we have to fight and overcome enemies - all that is godless in our world and in our hearts - to take possession of that promised inheritance. The promise of God is received by the activity of faith. 

 

We’re in a FIGHT 

We have to get this.. Are you fighting? 

Don’t think that you can just cruise. God’ll forgive me that’s his job. The promise of God is received by the activity of faith. 

You know I think many of us give up fighting because we feel weak, fearful and overwhelmed by the battles or we just get despondent. It’s too hard and we feel like God is hard on us. We feel like he’s let us down, like he doesn’t love me. 

 

Well I think Joshua 2 might help us if we feel like any of that. 

Cos it says 2 things 

  1. (to the weak and overwhelmed it says) Know that Your enemies are terrified because Jesus is mighty  
  2. (to the despondent and angry it says) Remember that Your God is SO merciful. because Jesus is our refuge.

 

  1. Know that Your enemies are terrified. jesus is mighty!

 

 

v1 Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. “Go, look over the land,” he said, “especially Jericho.” 

 

Joshua is not being faithless, sending out spies instead of immediately crossing the Jordan. Having the promises of God doesn’t release us from acting wisely. There was precedent for sending spies into enemy lands. Moses, under God’s instruction, had sent 12 spies into Canaan 40 years earlier. Joshua had been one of those spies. One of only two who argued for entering the land - the other ten sowed fear among the Israelites with tales of giants and vast walled citadels and their hearts melted with fear, they refused to enter the land. 

 

So Joshua must have chosen well for this reconnaisance mission.  2 spies. 

Go look over the land - especially Jericho. Why Jericho? Jericho was the entry point to the rest of the land. The first obstacle. But as we will see, God had another reason why he wanted an advance party in Jericho.

So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there.

 

Why did they stay in a brothel - these were godly men? Anonymity? Lots of men coming and going - No questions asked? Some commentators try to protect the spies’ reputations by claiming that Rahab was in fact an inkeeper. But the text does call her ‘Rahab the Prostitute’. Others claim that she used to be a prostitute but the name had stuck. I think there’s evidence that we’ll see in the text that that could well be the case. Maybe she’d found them in the city and welcomed them in? Certainly God had brought them to her door. 

 

v2 The king of Jericho was told, “Look, some of the Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land.” The spies have been spotted! They’ve been seen entering Rahab’s house. And pretty soon armed police are knocking at her door. These guys are toast. Their cover blown. They’re on the wrong side of town. In the house of a woman of questionable morals. The police are at the door and spies don’t get treated well in Jericho. they’ll be tortured for information and executed. 

 

But then something remarkable happens. 

4 the woman had taken the two men and hidden them.

At great personal risk Rahab the prostitiute spins out a yarn about how ‘the spies were here, yes, but they’re long gone.. almost certainly no longer in the city. you better get a move on if you want to catch them.’ 

You can’t believe that the police didn’t search the house. If they’d found the spies she would have been doubly guilty - a traitor. 

 

It makes me think of the Opening scene of Quentin Tarantino’s movie Inglourious Basterds - which drawn out masterclass in tension and building suspense. It begins with Nazis approaching and entering an Idyllic farmhouse and - following Hitchcock’s decree that you tell the audience there’s a bomb under the table long before it goes off - Tarantino pans down to reveal that there are Jewish refugees hiding beneath the farmhouse’s floorboards. Centimetres from the Nazi jackboots. The scene builds and builds.. 

Was that what it was like for Rahab and the spies?

The spies are well hidden (v6) and the gestapo finally leave. 

 

Why does Rahab do this? Why does she take such a risk for people she doesn’t even know? 

Well she tells them. She gives the spies the priceless military intelligence that they have come for. 

8 Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof 9 and said to them, “I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. 

The morale and confidence of an army is as, if not more important than the resources at their disposal. When Moses’s 12 spies 40 years earlier returned with news of the strength of the Canaanite armies it was the Israelites who’s courage failed and who’s hearts melted with fear. But here - the tables are turned. It is the powerful Canaanites who are crumbling at the Israelite threat. But why? The Israelites are not numerous, they’re poorly armed and inexperienced at war. 

v10 Here’s why the Canaanites melt like icecreams on a hot day. 

10 We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. 11 When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.

 

You have a massively unfair advantage, says Rahab to the spies. The reason we are afraid of you is because you have a Mighty God on your side. It’s plain to see - WE are toast. 

Skip to the end of the passage v24 and when the 2 spies came back to Joshua They said to [Him], “The Lord has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us.

 

Be strong and courageous. Your enemies are terrified because the Lord is mighty 

 

So often we feel desperately weak and fearful in the face of our battles. Speaking up for what is right in our workplaces we feel isolated. Working for justice in our communities we feel overwhelmed. Sharing the gospel with our friends we feel foolish. Fighting our apathy and addictions in order to grow we feel powerless. The church feels fragile, we feel weak. We melt.

 

But look look- Your enemies are terrified….terrified .. that you might speak, that you might start that project that beats in your heart.. terrified that you might share the gospel with a friend, or read your bible, or start getting praying friends around you to kick start your spiritual growth. terrified because they have seen how Jesus opened up a way through the sea, by his death and resurrection for all who believe in him to be forgiven and have life, they have seen how HE has thoroughly defeated our greatest enemies sin and death who he has completely destroyed. Their hearts melt and courage fails because Jesus our God IS God in heaven above and on earth below. He is mighty. 

 

Be strong and very courageous says Jesus to you. Because I am with you and I will never leave you nor forsake you. Enter the land that the Lord your God is giving you. Fight the battles that you must fight to inherit your Rest. 

 

Know that Your enemies are terrified 

 

2. Remember that Your God is rich in mercy - Jesus our refuge .

‘Go look over the land, especially Jericho’

Joshua didn’t send the spies especially to Jericho just because this was the strategic entry point to the land, OR because it was the place where they would glean the crucial intelligence that their enemies were melting with fear. There was a deeper reason for the spies being sent to Jericho that even Joshua was not aware of. The spies didn’t get spotted just because of their sloppiness or because of canaanite vigilance - there was a deeper reason for the spies being spotted. The spies didn’t enter the house of Rahab the prostitute just because a brothel was the perfect cover for strangers or because it was the first place they found a welcome. There was a deeper reason for them coming to that house. God is at work here.. 

The reason for it all was Rahab. God sends the spies to Jericho; allows the spies to be hunted down; leads the spies to stay in that house for the sake of Rahab for the sake of her refuge. 

 

 

Let’s ask the question again: Why does Rahab, at great personal risk, hide the spies and deceive the police? Is it just because she’s weighed things up, knows that Jericho doesn’t stand a chance against the LORD and is tactically changing sides? Well, the rest of Jericho have heard of God’s might and are melting with fear. But they make no effort to make peace with this God. There’s no delegation sent out to surrender to the Israelites. Fear alone doesn’t break defiance. 

But Rahab, in contrast seems to have gone much further than her fellow Canaanites. She, like them has heard of his might, but she goes further and recognises his majesty and appeals to his mercy. 

She recognises God’s majesty. At the end of v11 in what sounds like a declaration of faith she says ‘It’s because the Lord your God IS God in heaven above and on the earth below’

There is no other god, she says. 

Is this true faith, true belief? - well faith shows itself in action - a changed life and changed allegiance. 

 

Remember I said earlier that there’s an indication in this passage that Rahab the prostitute is no longer a prostitute. v6 tells us that she had hidden the spies under the stalks of flax that she had laid out on the roof. Flax was a plant that was industriously harvested, dried in sunshine and used for spinning and weaving cloth. In the last chapter of the book of proverbs  - The woman of godly character - works with wool and flax. Has God’s grace been at work in Rahab’s life to make a prostititue a woman of character?

The passage makes no judgement on whether she was right or wrong to lie to the police at her door. Did necessity make it legitimate? Certainly the courage and conviction that she shows in defying her own government and nation for the greater good of protecting God’s spies is further evidence of a change of allegiance. 

And her appeal for her whole family to receive God’s mercy needn’t be seen as presumptious but as further evidence that she had perceived the infinite mercy and willing grace of God. And she wasn’t disappointed. 

 

Rahab miraculously had become a christian. In the NT in Hebrews 11 and James 2 Rahab is commended for her actions rooted in her faith.

It’s amazing that  with no church, no Bibles, no believers around her - out of a pagan cuture and an immoral life Jesus has sought this woman out - not because of anything in her, not because she is inherently good, but out of his sheer kindness. She hears of God’s might and by grace she bows to his majesty and appeals to his mercy. 

And having become his child she now receives God’s refuge. The spies are in Jericho for Rahab. To make the covenant with her in vv17-21 which will guarantee her family’s safety . 

 

She must tie a red cord in the window of her house - which is in the city walls. It’s the sign that this house is covered, protected, a refuge. She must bring her family into the refuge and they are only safe inside. They mustn’t venture out. 

It’s vivid language that unmistakably takes us back to Noah and his ark - the refuge through the flood. And more so takes us back to the passover - when the Israelites in Egypt had to paint a line of red blood from a sacrificed lamb on their door frame and shelter in the house so that they wouldn’t die when the angel of death passed over. The lamb died in their place. The lamb was their refuge. 

An incredible picture pointing forward to it’s fulfilment in Jesus. the lamb of God who sheds his blood to defeat our enemies who were against us - sin and death. He dies in our place and we take refuge in HIM! 

 

are you angry with him in the face of your battles. It’s too hard and he’s too hard on you. you feel like he doesn’t love you. 

 

Just Remember the kindness and mercy of Jesus your refuge. 

Jesus first came for me - when i was 12 years old - he called me to be his. He showed me that he’d died for me that i could be forgiven. And he has been my refuge ever since. In his kindness he has pursued me in all my wilful wanderings - to protect me and bring me back. And as Psalm 23 says: Surely his goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joshua 1 Taking hold of God's promises

 

 

Welcome to the OT book of Joshua. 

This is the narrative account of how the nation of Israel, having been miraculously sprung out of slavery in Egypt, having wandered in the desert for 40 years. Now under the leadership of Joshua, enter into, conquer and take possession of the land of Canaan that had been promised to them by God. 

 

It’s an ancient story, 3000 years old. another time and another place. It’s not without it’s difficulties. Not least the God ordained genocide of the Canaanite nations which i will cautiously try and make some sense of in these coming weeks ..  

 

Why would we study this ancient seemingly primitive book? 

Well because it is not as distant as we might think. 

 

Jesus says in Luke 24:27 that all the OT Scriptures are about Him, So, Institutions in the OT - like the temple and sacrifices - they teach us about Jesus. People in the OT particularly prophets, priests, leaders and Kings in so far as they are good, they point us to the character of Jesus, in so far as they are bad- they point us to our need for Jesus who is the perfect prophet, priest and king. So Joshua the man foreshadows Jesus (actually Joshua and Jeshua are the same name). Joshua the leader points us to the ultimate leader - Jesus. So the story is about him. 

 

And the story is also about us. The apostle Paul says in a  couple of places - Romans 15, 1 Corinthians 10 - that the history of Israel occured and was written down to teach, warn and encourage us. Christians.  This OT story of a nation rescued through sacrifice from slavery for a promised land is kind of like the prototype, the model, the mini-trailer in anticipation of the fulfilment of the ultimate plan of God:  A world rescued through sacrifice from sin and death for a promised eternal rest.

 

You can see this link made in the NT. Hebrews chapter 4 verse 8 says 

if Joshua had given [the people of God] rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. 9 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God.

 

The Israelites entry into their  promised land teaches us about OUR ultimate entering into God’s eternal land/rest to which all of this points.

 

So let’s begin there with the promise of rest. 

1. Our promise 

 

 

Do you long for a place called home? Your own bit of land that is your possession? Perhaps you own a home but that experience of settledness? .. It feels like something so fundamental doesn’t it? A human right. A heritage. Do you long for a home?

 

Do you long for rest? Rest from all your enemies. Security. Rest on every side. Rest from your restlessness. Peace for your mind and soul?

 

God had long promised a land, a rest, a home for his people. It had started with Abraham nearly 600 years before Joshua when the nation of Israel were then but a twinkle in Father Abraham’s eye. And now here the time has come for God it seems to make good on all his promises up to this point: 

 

1 After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: 2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. 3 I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. 4 Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. 5 No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.

 

 

Here was the promise - the land of Canaan, A land ‘flowing with milk and honey’ as God described it to them. (A land also full of enemy squatter nations that will need to be removed - but we’ll come to that). This was good land that God who is owner and ruler of all the earth has pledged to these people to be their inheritance at this time.

 

Notice that the inheritance of this land is a gift from beginning to end. It’s the land I am giving you, says God. 

It’s not a portion to which they were entitled. not some birthright. 

nor had they or their ancestors done anything to merit such a heritage 

and nor would their subsequent conquering of the canaanites suggest that they had earned it. It is a gift from beginning to end. 

 

And so it is with our entry into the eternal rest of God. It’s never something that we deserve or that we have warranted or that we have earned. It is from beginning to end a gift of grace and mercy to be received by simple faith. 

 

It’s a gift 

and it is also a certain gift. 

God has sworn (v6) to give it. 

And as we read the book we will see Israel enter and conquer and settle in the land just as God has promised. Joshua 21v43 towards the end of the book sums it ll up. So the Lord gave Israel all the Land he had sworn to their fore-fathers, and they took possession of it and settled there. The Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their forefathers. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the Lord handed all their enemies over to them. Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to the house of Israel failed, everyone was fulfilled. 

 

This week’s News - a soldier in the american reserves lost her job after attempting to make a viral youtube video to impress her kids. She had a colleague video her taking her oath of allegiance with her commanding office with a dinosaur head puppet on her raised right hand mouthing the words of the oath as she repeated them. The commanding officer was also forced to stand down for colluding with the stunt and failing to raise his right hand. 

The swearing of oaths is a serious business. 

 

God promises on oath - his right hand raised - an eternal rest for his people. Peace and justice. Land and home. He swears on his life that he will bring it about. He did so for the children of Israel. Not one of his promises failed. Neither will he let us down. he is faithful and he will do it. Our promise 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Our battle 

v10 (we’ll come back to verses 6-9 in a bit) 

10 So Joshua ordered the officers of the people: 11 “Go through the camp and tell the people, ‘Get your provisions ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the Lord your God IS giving you for your own.’”

 

notice that present tense there? It’s the land - not that God has given you - so that you just can wander in when you’re ready when  you fancy. No, it’s more dynamic. It’s the land that God is giving you that now you have to cross the precipitous Jordan gorge while the river is in flood and face formidable obstacles - armies and walled cities in order to take possession of what is yours. the promise is assured but must be claimed. The land is God’s free gift and yet there is a command to lay hold of that gift. It is as the Israelites go in and take possession of it that God will progressively give the land to them. THE PROMISE OF GOD IS RECEIVED BY THE ACTIVITY OF FAITH. 

 

it was actually part of God’s compassion that Israel should inherit their rest progressively - as they moved forward. Back in Exodus 23 God had said this about entering the promised land. “[I will] drive [your enemies] the Hivites, Canaanites and Hittites out of your way. 29 But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. 30 Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land.

 

Israel will enter into their land, their rest. But there’s a now and a not yet dimension to it. The land is theirs now but battles must be fought, obstacles overcome before they can enter into possession of and enjoy their inheritance. 

 

And it’s exactly the same for us in Christ in whom all these promises are being fulfilled. 

So, Hebrews 4v3 says ‘We who believe enter God’s promised rest.’ As soon as you believe in Jesus - the burden of your sins are rolled away, peace of conscience, rest of soul, assurance and acceptance by God are now yours…

BUT you are not there and then taken straight to heaven. No, you have to: fight a fight, run a race, keep the faith before you can fully enter your eternal rest. Become a Christian, cross the jordan, alive in Christ and suddenly you’re facing foes both within and without of which previously you knew nothing. Foes that God wants to rid you of that you might flourish. Now let’s be clear OUR foes are not fellow human beings; enemy nations that need to be defeated just as our inheritance isn’t a plot of land in the middle east. No Christians love their human enemies and pray for those who persecute them precisely because our real enemies are injustice and apathy and the evil desires that war against our souls - our anger, our hate our lust. God wants to lead us to overcome all that is godless in our world and in us to prepare us for our eternal rest. That’s the battle that you enter into inorder to take possession of your inheritance. It’s the battle for justice, the battle for our church, God’s kingdom, the battle for the restoration of our souls in the midst of the hardships of life. It’s the fight for the formation of christlike character within us. Our healing. That’s our battle. 

 

and so 6 verses after telling us that we who believe have entered God’s rest Hebrews 4v9 says ‘There remains, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; …11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest.’ Rest is now and rest is not yet. And the promise of God is received by the activity of faith. 

It is when we step out in faith - ceasing from fighting God, instead trusting and obeying Him that we find progressively the rest for our souls that we are promised. It is in losing our lives for Christ that we find life. 

 

I wonder where you are at in all of this?

 

I guess there would have been some Israelites back then who were very hesitant to enter the promised land at all. And perhaps you’re in that place with Jesus. I just want you to encourage you that his promise of rest and his love is real. Rest is found nowhere else. Step out in faith and you will find him unrelentingly faithful. 

 

perhaps other Israelites were deeply discouraged by the presence of so many enemies in the land. and we can become discouraged in the fight of our faith. cut off one temptation and three more appear in its place and nothing changes very fast. well, remember that it is a battle. If you’re struggling on that’s a good sign. And remember God doesn’t give victory over all our enemies all at once it wouldn’t be good for us if he did. God is patient and his timing is perfect. He waits to be gracious to you. He has many victories to give us that we are not yet quite fitted for. But we shall be. Gradually progresively he will do it. so don’t lose heart. Keep on. 

 

I bet there were some Israelites who were over confident. A bit like some Christians who use the promises of God like a couch to relax on rather than a spur to action. God has promised us eternal rest, they say, God has promised never to leave or forsake us and therefore it’s not then end of the world if i make peace with my weakness and sin. I’m not saved by what I do or don’t do but by God’s grace. But this of course is a cheap grace a non grace that releases us from the following of Jesus Christ! Don’t give up and rest on cheap grace. Don’t do it. There is no true rest there. 

 

I wonder finally if some of the Israelites felt weak, isolated and alone. I can’t do this. Is anyone watching my back? Do you ever feel that? Well, our passage answers this need for community wonderfully. See we’re to fight the good fight together. We’re to fight for one another. 

 

12 … to the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, Joshua said, 13 “Remember the command that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you after he said, ‘The Lord your God will give you rest by giving you this land.’ 14 Your wives, your children and your livestock may stay in the land that Moses gave you east of the Jordan, but all your fighting men, ready for battle, must cross over ahead of your fellow Israelites. You are to help them 15 until the Lord gives them rest, as he has done for you, and until they too have taken possession of the land the Lord your God is giving them. After that, you may go back and occupy your own land, which Moses the servant of the Lord gave you east of the Jordan toward the sunrise.”

16 Then they answered Joshua, “Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. 

 

These 2 and a half tribes - the reubenites, gaddites and half Manasseh had already been given their inheritance of land and rest on the east side of the jordan river. But they could not be at rest until all their brothers and sisters were at rest as well. And so they are called to the frontline to selflessness and sacrifice for the sake of their fellow Israelites’ rest. And they agree to it!

In the same way Hebrews 4v1 says to us. since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us (plural) be careful that none of you (singular) be found to have fallen short of it.

 

We fight for one another. 

 

But finally we never fight alone because of Our Joshua. 3rd point. Our promise, Our Battle, Our Joshua. 

 

Look at the way the leader is prepared. His high calling. 

Taking over from the greatest of all the prophets Moses and Joshua is called to strength and courage v6 and 7, commanded to it v9!

He’s called v7 to complete, unswerving obedience to God’s word 

that will spring v8 from constant careful meditation on God’s words 

and God end of v9 will be with him and will never forsake him.  

 

Courage, faithfulness, bearing the presence of God. It’s an extraordinarily high calling for the leader of God’s people. And while Joshua is a wonderful leader we know that we are being pointed forward here to the true Joshua, the author and perfecter of our faith - Jesus. 

He is the one who with extraordinary strength and courage, in perfect unswerving obedience to his Father’s word which he had internalised from his youth, he lays down his life that he might lead us into an eternal future. he enters the battle with us and he has promised to never leave us nor forsake us.

 

He is our strength in the battle. 

 

Our response to Jesus could be none better than those tribes to Joshua in v16 

‘Whatever you command us we will do and wherever you send us we will go’

 

In christ we are called to strength, courage, obedience, internalising his words, living on his presence.. that we might be fruitful in the battles of our faith.