Lessons from Joshua
- 2Corinthians 6:14-7:1
- Joshua 23:1-16
There was a man who sold his house. The buyer was somewhat surprised when the owner had one last request: he wanted to have the hook behind the bathroom door. “No problem”, the buyer said, “let’s go and get it for you.” “No,” the owner said, “could you just leave it there. I just want it there.”
It all sounded a bit strange, but the buyer was happy with the arrangement. They signed the paper work and the previous owner got into his car, drove off, and for the next few years they did not hear from o him.
Then one day, he knocked, having a paper bag in his hand. “I just thought I’d use my hook for a while.” He was allowed into the bathroom where he pulled a piece of meat out of the bag and hung it over the hook. He then left.
He was not back for days. The meat started to smell. They rang him up and asked that he would remove the meat. “It is my hook by arrangement. I checked very carefully that the meat does not touch the paintwork on the door. Thanks very much!”
Now, this is only an illustration – such thing will not stand up in court. But it teaches us something we will learn from the Scriptures today.
In chapter 23 Joshua called all the leaders of Israel, God’s covenant people, together. He was an old man at the time. Joshua pointed three things out to the leaders:
The battle belongs to the Lord
You yourselves have seen everything the Lord your God has done to all these nations for your sake; it was the Lord your God who fought for you. (Joshua 23:3, NIV)
The Lord your God himself will push them out for your sake. He will drive them out before you, and you will take possession of their land, as the Lord your God promised you. (Joshua 23:5, NIV)
Yes, they were involved in it, they had to take up the armour and the arms and be there on the ground where the battles took place; they had to face the enemy and see the blood; they had to advance into the new territory, and they had to physically take possession of it. But, before them the Lord went, behind them He followed, and when they rested of their campaigns He was above them, blessing them all the way. He did so, because He promised the land to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He did so for his glory.
The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors… (Deuteronomy 7:7–8, NIV)
Ultimately those who believe in Jesus Christ and follow Him as his disciples will inherit a new heaven and a new earth. The Israelites who believed in God and loved Him with all their hearts were saved by grace and they will also be in heaven. But between heaven and being saved, God has a plan for us: we need to conquer this world in the Name of Jesus. We have his promise that He will be with us till the very end of this age. He gave us his Sprit to empower us for our task. Not all of us will have to do all things, but all of us need to do some things in this world-wide task of evangelism and mission. We are not saved for the sake of being saved; we are saved for the glory of God. In this task God says, “I am with you; I will give them in your hands.”
Be courageous and faithful
Joshua had something else to say to the elders and leaders:
“Be very strong; be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left. (Joshua 23:6, NIV)
This is an echo of the words God spoke to Moses earlier while they were still in the wilderness:
You may say to yourselves, “These nations are stronger than we are. How can we drive them out?” But do not be afraid of them; remember well what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt… The Lord your God will do the same to all the peoples you now fear… Do not be terrified by them, for the Lord your God, who is among you, is a great and awesome God. (Deuteronomy 7:17–21, NIV)
When Caleb saw the giants of the Anakites, he first of all saw this awesome God. When Anakites saw Goliath, he first saw this awesome God. When Jonathan and his armour-bearer faced the Philistines, he said, “Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, wether by many of by few.” (1Samuel 14:6) It is because the disciples believed in this awesome God, revealed in Jesus Christ, that they could face the Jewish Council, kings and caesars. And God helped them out and protected them miraculously. If He didn’t, his Name was always glorified – and that is the point.
To be faithful and to be courageous is what the Lord still demand of his church today. There is one verse in the Scriptures that really scares me. In Revelation 21 John saw the new heaven and the new earth. And then this verse:
Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” (Revelation 21:7–8, NIV)
There is another:
Whoever is ashamed of Me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when He comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:26, NIV)
“… be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left. (Joshua 23:6, NIV)
These were the same words the Lord gave to Joshua at the beginning of his leadership. Now, in the evening of his life, most probably about 100 years of age, he could say as the apostle said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2Timothy 4:7)
King Saul was disobedient to the command of the Lord and spared the life of the king of the Amelikites. Samuel said to him:
For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.” (1 Samuel 15:22–23, NIV)
Valiant acts of courage are not as useful in the eyes of God as obedience in the first place. To “be careful to obey all that is written in the Book” equals holiness. God delights in obedience and accomplishes his purposes through obedient holiness.
There is something else the Lord commanded his people. Add to this the command to not intermarry and associate with the nations. Why?
But if you turn away and ally yourselves with the survivors of these nations that remain among you and if you intermarry with them and associate with them, then you may be sure that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations before you. Instead, they will become snares and traps for you, whips on your backs and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land, which the Lord your God has given you. (Joshua 23:12–13, NIV)
The blessing of the Lord will disappear and the enemy will become more arrogant. The same thing happened in the time of Ezekiel. The people said:
You say, “We want to be like the nations, like the peoples of the world, who serve wood and stone.” But what you have in mind will never happen. (Ezekiel 20:32, NIV)
They thought if they would become like the nations they had a better chance on survival. There are Christians and even churches who think that way too. Becoming like this world is not a recipe for survival, but a sure formula for destruction.
John writes, “Do not love this world.” Paul writes, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2, NIV) Worldliness is the death nail to the life of the Christian and a cyanide capsule to the church. It makes us powerless, not becasue we follow the world in the first instance, but because God withdraws his presence and blessings. The Holy Spirit is not at work where the spirit of this world is at work.
God is faithful
Joshua concludes his instruction to the leaders reminding them of the faithfulness of God.
You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed. (Joshua 23:14, NIV)
This would strengthen them enormously. You look back to where God started his grace in your life, you know what He promised and how He fulfilled all his promises, how He is with you just now, and look into the future and you may know for sure He will be with you all the way until He reached his purposes. So, when the Israelites understood that they should complete the task of driving out the rest of the enemy, they could count on God for his faithful help.
The same applies to the church in its mission charge: our Lord promised to be with us, He promised that when we pray He will give us what we need and have joy in Him. Sometimes we ask wrongly, with the wrong motives, we do not wait, we follow our own heads, etc; the Lord then does not answer our prayers. But when it is really his will and we follow in obedience, He is always faithful provide what we need.
The question is, Do we even pray? and, Do we indeed find ourselves on the road to do his will in bringing the Good News to the world around us? Is what we keep ourselves busy with what God wants us to be busy with?
You have to turn to Judges the first chapter to read this recurring phrase, “they did not drive out”. Let’s take one verse:
When Israel became strong, they pressed the Canaanites into forced labor but never drove them out completely. (Judges 1:28, NIV)
What did they do with those they did not drive out? They made them into forced labourers. Just a little handy to have the foreigner in your midst as a labourer. Nothing wrong with a hook behind The bathroom door! But what did lead to? Turn to chapter 2:10:
After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what He had done for Israel. (Judges 2:10, NIV)
What was the next step?
They forsook the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the Lord’s anger (Judges 2:12, NIV)
What was the result?
In his anger against Israel the Lord gave them into the hands of raiders who plundered them. He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist. (Judges 2:14, NIV)
God sent his angel to the people with this message:
Yet you have disobeyed Me. Why have you done this? (Judges 2:2–3, NIV)
Is this not on average the state of affairs in the church of our Lord Jesus today? There are scores of churches in the big cities and bigger towns who struggle for survival. Yet worldliness has crept into the pulpits, the activities of the congregation and the personal lives of the members. Large church buildings go on the market to become coffee houses and even pubs, while the church has become bankrupt. Trace the ministry of such a church and one would most probably find a ministry which started out as an outward-looking church which gradually switched to an inward-looking church. Vision on the big picture of God’s Kingdom is lost, and on what spot and on what pew people sit in church has now become its mission. Such church has no place in God’s kingdom and it has lost its reason to exist in this world. The world has no respect for such a church. Such a church has shunned its inheritance.
We should learn from the letters to the churches in Revelation. Ephesus lost its first love, and they grew cold in their fervour for the work of God, became clinically inward-looking, and Christ warned them that their lampstand might be removed, that is that they run the risk of ceasing to be church in God’s eyes.
Smyrna on The other hand, was a small and poor church, but fervent for the Lord. “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer… Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.” (Revelation 2:10, NIV)
My dear friend, where do we stand with our task of conquering this world for Christ? And in Wee Waa? How do we stack up against the standard of holiness of Christ for his church?
Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14, NIV)
No, the true church of Christ is “the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.’” (2 Corinthians 6:16, NIV)
The disobedience leads to worldliness; worldliness leads to weak witness, weak witness leads to invoking God anger upon us, which leads to our destruction. Disobedience is like the hook behind the bathroom door: it provides the foothold for the devil. As disciples of Christ we need to leave everything behind and follow Him
May God help us. Amen.
Sermon preached by Rev D Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 16 February 2014