- Joshua 10:1-15
- Ephesians 1:15-23
Dear Brother and Sister, the theme for our sermon this morning is The Day God listened, with the subtitle A day like never before.
Whether we like the idea or not, we need to know that as a church, as people who are followers of Jesus Christ, we are engaged in a battle.
JC Ryle writes:
“ … there is another warfare of far greater importance than any war that was ever waged by man. It is a warfare which concerns not two of three nations only, but every Christian man and woman born into the world. The warfare I speak of is the spiritual warfare. It is a fight which everyone who would be saved must fight about his soul. … with a corrupt heart, a busy devil and an ensnaring world, [he – the Christian] must either ‘fight’ or be lost.”
Sadly, too many Christians are not aware of this battle. Their commitment into the army of the Lord under the banner of Christ is half-hearted and powerless. Some even think we should not be involved in this struggle. Involvement in any sort of struggle means extra time, extra prayers, extra effort. It means moving out of the comfort zone into the battle arena. Some might even argue it is politically incorrect to even think of a battle: this would only imply that we think other religions might have it right. So, many Christians are dragged into lazy and sleepy land. They are of no use to either side – and to the Kingdom of God, they are a lukewarm hindrance.
Another considerable misconception with many Christians today is the pietistic idea that the Promised Land, as we read about it in the Old Testament, only points to their heavenly destination. Too many don’t want to be a member of the army of Jesus Christ here on earth. The idea is then, to be saved, is to be plucked from this world with all its responsibilities, only to be waiting in the corner of holiness until the day of crossing the river into the Promised Land of heaven. An earthly battle is of little significance; what counts is to be part of the triumphant church, gathered around the throne of God, singing his praises.
However, for the Israelites, this was surely not the case. Yes, there was the ultimate home not built with hands, of which we read Abraham and other faithful children of God looked forward to – that is heaven. And all of us should be looking forward with fervour and dedication to the day of Christ’s return.
But before that day, there is no escape for the church of Christ: we are engaged in the battle. The Promised Land is not some sort of Dreamtime; the Promised Land is what we will inherit after we have completed the battle under the Headship of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said to his disciples just before He ascended into heaven:
… go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:17-20)
Joshua, a forerunner of Christ
Joshua and God’s people were on their way into the Promised Land. They had already destroyed Jericho and Ai. The Gibeonites lived somewhat north-west from where Joshua and the Israelites camped at Gilgal, and about due north to the present-day Jerusalem. They had heard about the victories of Joshua and the Israelites and decided it will be better to join them rather than beat them. So, they signed a treaty with Joshua to protect them, as they themselves pledged obedience and submission to Joshua.
Further down into the hill country south of the present-day Jerusalem, were five city-states. The kings of these states heard about what the Gibeonites did and decided it was time to punish them. They formed a coalition and marched to punish the Gibeonites, which in turn quickly informed Joshua about the pending invasion and destruction.
Their plea was: we are in need; we face destruction; we face defeat; we face death. Come, help us! They needed someone who could secure victory for them. Their answer was from God who sent them Joshua – his name even meant “The one who saves”.
Joshua gathered his army of Israelite soldiers after he had received the assurance of God as we read in verse 8:
“Do not be afraid of them; I have given them into your hand.” (Joshua 10:8)
Joshua marched all night and surprised the enemy with an early morning attack. God intervened for his people. He “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 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)
When God brings “destruction” on the enemy it describes his covenant to fight for his people in action: positively, it meant that God would intervene for the salvation of his people; negatively, it describes God wrath on his enemies.
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, but it might indeed have been the case. It is not unrealistic to think of a massive hailstorm.
Within the context of this chapter where God sovereignly 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 some form of celestial debris, from heaven?
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 the blocking off of the waters of the Jordan too 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: It 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 all 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 Christ? He who declared that all power on heaven and on earth belongs to Him!
Jesus Christ, our Saviour
Does it need to be scientifically proven before it can be believed? 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?
His miraculous birth
What about his immaculate conception? If we don’t believe this part about our salvation and Saviour, what then does the future hold for us?
Once again, here the impossible calls for a faith that cannot see now, by which we accept and believe against all odds. Our salvation depends on it. Believe it, or die!
From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” 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)
First, there was darkness. Was it just a dark cloud that assembled over Jerusalem, hiding the sun so it became dark? We know dust storms in this part of the world that can do it. Or was it once again the God of heaven who commanded the sun to not give light? One thing we know: God, the Creator of heaven and earth was in control. He did the impossible to show to us that life without his Son leaves us in darkness!
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.
There was an earthquake, order by God so that, as with his own hand, God rolled the stone away, but not before He raised his only Son to life. Talk about “impossible”! God is once again in control over the forces and laws of nature. He originally created these laws and is, therefore, no prisoner of what He created. To achieve his will and purpose He employs what belongs to Him.
His coming again
The impossible of all impossibilities will take place: God who created in the first place will make an end to what is now stained with sin. It will be consumed by fire and be purified from sin. This will be the cataclysmic event of the return of his victorious Son, Jesus Christ.
“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)
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. (Revelation 6:12-17)
We have a mighty Saviour. We can take Him on his Word. His Word is infallible; He is omnipotent. He saves us. To Him belong all power and might. He calls you to become involved in the conquest of our Promised Land. And He intercedes for us. The perfect Joshua stands at the throne of God listening to the prayers of those He saved by his blood. Surely, God listened to his Son.
The apostle Paul prays for the church to have the eyes opened to the glory and splendour of the power of God as displayed in the resurrection of Christ, placing Him above all powers and authorities – for his church! This is our power and ability to march on under the banner of Christ, be church militant till that day arrives when we will be with our Lord as the church victorious. 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.
May his Name be glorified!
Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 23 May 2019