Hervey Bay Presbyterian Church

The day the Lord listened to a man (2)

Lessons from Joshua

Scripture Readings

  • Luke 24:36-29
  • Joshua 10:1-15

Introduction

The Bible is not meant to be understood as a book with two separate major sections, the Old Testament dealing with Israel, and the New Testament dealing with the church, as if these sections have not much in common.  If read this way, what happened to Israel then remains in the past and becomes outdated.  Some people actually don’t read the Old Testament anymore for this reason.  The Bible is the book in which God reveals Himself right through history and is therefore one book with one central message.  We see Christ in the first book of the Bible, and what follows is a progressive revelation of God’s unfolding plan of redemption in Christ.  Israel is God’s church in the Old Testament; how God dealt with them has lessons for us.  The difference lies in the yet-to-be-revealed complete obedience of Christ, seen in glory when He was born, lived on earth and was taken to reign with God in heaven until He comes back again.  This is what we read about this morning:

Then He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, (Luke 24:45–46, NIV)

Our study of the book of Joshua helps us to understand the purpose of God for his church.  We read from Luke 24 this morning:

… and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. (Luke 24:47–48, NIV)

God gave Israel the Promised Land from which they would then proclaim the great deeds of God and make known his great Name to all nations.  Joshua was the man God ordained to lead them in this conquest.  In the same way, but inexhaustibly more glorious and powerful, Jesus Christ led us into his Promised Land to provide for us the base for our operation as church.  He did so, because the Bible declares,

“This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, (Luke 24:46, NIV)

He also fulfilled the promise to give to his church the Holy Spirit to give affect to their ministry of the message of Jesus Christ to all nations.

The conquest of Canaan under Joshua serves as an essential, yet limited, example for the church of Christ of how God leads his church to claim this world for Christ.  It contains so many lessons the church must learn from so it will not repeat the mistakes of Israel, and will benefit from the good things Israel did, and constantly look forward to the fulfilment of all the promises in Christ.

Leading up to the great day

I just want to briefly take you back to some of the first chapters of Joshua:

A gift from God

Canaan, the Promised Land, was a gift from God.  He had promised it to Abraham hundreds of years before they crossed the Jordan.  In the same way salvation, and the benefits of it, is a gift from God through Jesus Christ to all who believe.

An act of obedient faith

The crossing of the Jordan was a miracle which only God could perform; the only act on the side of Israel was to trust God, believe that He would keep his Word powerfully and save them.  In the same way, Jesus Christ is the only door through which we can go to enter eternal life.  It is an act of obedient faith to follow Him.

The battle belongs to God

Jericho stood as a sign to them that the battle is actually God’s: the powerful hand of God to crumbled the city walls, overshadowed the seeming foolishness of marching around the city for seven days, doing nothing apart from shouting and blowing their trumpets. Never are the attempts of the church to conquer this world with the Gospel something of its own business.  It remains the business of God t through Jesus Christ.

Unlimited grace of God

God’s grace is extended to sinners, even from other nations, who bows under his Kingship to worship Him.  This is exemplified in Rahab. The commander of the army of the Lord met Joshua in chapter 5:13-15 and Joshua asked him if he came for the Israelites or for the people of Jericho, he answered, “Neither”. God is on the side of those He wants to save; Israel happened to be in covenant with God and as such God would show his mercy to them to show mercy to others He would save.

It’s about the holiness of God

God’s holiness shines in the the episode with Ai.  Achan might have thought that the robe, silver and gold under his tent would have gone unnoticed – and who would have noticed, except that God knew! They lost the battle.  Why?  It had to do with God’s glory.  Joshua in his prayer in chapter 7:9 was only thinking about the “great name” of the Lord.  When he met with Achan the next day he said:

My son, give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel, and honour Him. (Joshua 7:19, NIV)

What follows in chapter 8 is to further stress the holiness of God, demanding full obedience.  The phrase “the Law of God” and other phrases referring to it occurs over and over again.  Also, twice there is reference to Israel, aliens and citizens:  God clearly includes into his plan of salvation those He wants.  That is the impetus for the conquest.  It is the driving force of missionary work.

The nations hear about God and He causes them to tremble

Like a refrain through the first chapters we hear how the enemy of God heard about his greatness and trembled before Him.  Today this message is still true.  We have to quote this verse to them:

Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling. Kiss his son, or he will be angry and your way will lead to your  destruction, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in Him. (Psalm 2:10–12, NIV)

Some errors of judgment might have immediate negative ramifications, but God can turn it into eternal blessing

The Gibeonites were saved by hook or by crook:  They got in be deception, the Israelites were deceived and they had to pay the price for it, but God used the whole episode to disclose his glory in the day of which it is written,

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! (Joshua 10:14, NIV)

Outright offensive attack

At Jericho and Ai it seemed the leaders of the enemy were somewhat defensive:  they did not start the battle.  At Gibeon the situation is reversed.  Not always will the church find itself out there, leading the offence; no, more often than not it will be our enemy out attacking.

It was the five kings who heard about God, his commander, and his army marching forward, seemingly unstoppable.  They thought to draw al one in the sand.  The Gibeonites decided to break ranks and join the Israelites, which made them enemy number one of the rest of the coalition.  When in strife, they called upon Joshua for help, who marched all night up against the mountain range from the Jordan valley to attack the enemy at day break the next morning.

Victory was on Joshua’s side, but it did not come about because of Joshua.  God intervened for his people.

God causes confusion

And we now hear the word “confuse” used in reference to God’s way to secure delivery for his people and destruction for their enemy. God confused the enemy.  This is a typical word to describe God’s favour for his people and punishment on his enemy.  It is used for the Egyptian army trying to overcome the Israelites after they had left Egypt:

During the last watch of the night the LORD looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion. (Exodus 14:24)

We also read in Exodus 23:27 about the promise of God as He sent his people into the Promised Land.

I will send my terror ahead of you and throw into confusion every nation you encounter. I will make all your enemies turn their backs and run.

We also come across this word in Deuteronomy 28:20.  Here the Lord promises his blessings upon the obedience of his people if they keep the covenant with their God.

But the LORD your God will deliver them over to you, throwing them into great confusion until they are destroyed. (Deuteronomy 7:23)

This is what happened further down the history of Israel.

Then Saul and all his men assembled and went to the battle. They found the Philistines in total confusion, striking each other with their swords. 1 Samuel 14:20 (NIV)

However, if God’s people would turn away from Him and forget their covenant with Him, listen to what would happen:  God would become their enemy.

The LORD will send on you curses, confusion and rebuke in everything you put your hand to, until you are destroyed and come to sudden ruin because of the evil you have done in forsaking him. (Deut 28)

The term “destruction” is nothing less than an action of God based on his covenant promises:  positively it meant that God would intervene for the salvation of his people; negatively, it describes God wrath on his enemies – all based on the faithfulness of God to his word and promises.

Well, it happened that day under the leadership of Joshua.  God intervened for his people in a fantastic way. God hurled stones upon the enemy and more were killed because of that than were killed by Joshua’s men. Stones?  Were they hailstones?  Some translations put it that way, but there is nothing in the Hebrew text to say it was hailstones. All the other places in the Scriptures were this word is used it does not describe hailstones, but just stones.  It is not unrealistic to think of a massive hailstorm because that is what usually falls out of the air in the form of stones.

But within the context of this chapter where God steered all the elements, including the sun on a course for his glory, would it be impossible to think that God opened the heavens and hurled down upon them meteorites or some other form of celestial debris, from heaven.  I think so.  Just further down the chapter we read about another “impossibility”:  the sun stopped for about 12 hours.  Were God’s people not witness to a fantastic and extraordinary display of God’s confusing power over his enemy while He kept his people safe from harm under his protection?  The blocking of the waters of the Dead Sea, and also the blocking off of the waters of the Jordan were similar “impossibilities” designed for the display of God’s almighty power for the salvation of his people.

Even more spectacular about this event is this:  All of this came about because Joshua dared to bow down to the living God and humbly asked for the Lord to hold back the sun and moon in their ways.

Is it possible?

Is all of this possible?  Can we believe it?  It is scientifically possible to prove it?  What does it tell us about our march upon our Promised Land, to have victory upon victory because we have another Joshua, now another Saviour, Jesus.  He who declared that all power on heaven and on earth belongs to Him!

There are as possible “solutions” for the stopping of the sun and moon as there are commentaries about this paragraph.  Some say God answered Joshua’s prayer by sending thick cloud to cover the sun from heat so that the Israelites could continue in battle.  But why is the moon included in this event if it only means covering up?  Others think that the mention of both the moon and the sun might have had an impact on the enemy who for some reason were superstitious about seeing both the moon and the sun in the same skies.  Others, and maybe there could be value in the argument, argues that the reference to the sun and moon in verse 12-13 actually comes from a poem, and therefore the reference might by poetic.  Sometimes the Bible uses these expression to personify trees and mountains:  the trees clap their hands, and the mountains walks into the seas.  It might be true, but what was the prayer of Joshua then, what did he ask for if he had some poetic phrase in mind?  Besides, the last half of verse 14 does not come from the book of Jashar in poetic form.  It just states, “The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day.” What a remarkable day!

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! (Joshua 10:14, NIV)

If you had the forces of nature in your hand, and you could do anything to answer the prayer of your people whom you love, would you not just command the sun to stop?  God did.  And I believe this with all my heart. Science does not need to be able to proof the impossibilities for me.

Jesus Christ, our Saviour

Does it need to be scientifically proven before it can be believed?

His miraculous birth

What about his conception?  A man born from a woman without another man’s intervention?  Where does faith come in?  And if we don’t believe one part of the Scriptures (like the part in Joshua) what then about the rest.  If we don’t believe this part about our salvation and Saviour, what then does the future hold for us?

His crucifixion 

From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. …  And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people. (Mat 27:45-53)

Has this ever happened before?  Can it be scientifically proven? His cry on the cross to forgive, his life which made the temple sacrifice obsolete, his death and his resurrection from the dead, are all “impossibilities” to those who do not believe; for those who believe in Him it unlocks eternity as it unlocks the padlocks which hold the chains of sin – they know what is impossible for man is possible for God.

His coming again

“Immediately after the distress of those days ”‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’  “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. (Matthew 24:29-30)

I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (Rev 6:12-17)

Conclusion

We are soldiers in God’s army.  We have a mighty Saviour.  We can take Him on his Word.  His Word is infallible; He is omnipotent.  He saved us.  To Him belong all power and might.  He commands you to become involved in the spiritual warfare.  Trust Him, the new Joshua, to save and to help. Follow Him in the train of his victory.  Take up the full armour of Christ.

Next time we will look at the life of a man who took God on his word, faced the enemy, conquered them, and died in peace.

AMEN.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 2 February 2014

 

 

 

 

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