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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Matt's Messages "Be Strong and Courageous"

“Be Strong and Courageous”
Possessing the Promises: The Book of Joshua
January 11, 2009
Joshua 1:1-18

2009 is an odd-numbered year, and on odd-numbered years, we are embark on a long-term project to study the “Big Story” books of the Old Testament–those 10 or 11 books that carry along the Big Story of what God is up to.

In 2003, we studied Genesis. How many were here for that? Good, I’ve got some pop quiz questions for you this morning. See how much you remember.

In 2005, we studied Exodus. How many were here for that?

In 2007, we studied Numbers. How many were involved in that study?

Now, we didn’t do Leviticus or Deuteronomy, as excellent as those studies would be. And that’s because those two books don’t actually advance the story that much.

Leviticus is a law book that establishes a holiness code for the holy people of God.

And Deuteronomy is mainly a re-telling of the books of Exodus and Numbers by Moses to the second generation of Israelites–the ones that we are going to be reading about in the next few weeks.

So the next major “Big Story” book of the Bible is the Book of Joshua.

Joshua, whose name means “The LORD Saves,” was the son of a guy named Nun and the assistant to Moses. And in our chapter today (chapter 1), he becomes the leader of Israel and gets his marching orders.

But before we read that, let’s take a Pop Quiz.

Now, if you weren’t here for Genesis, you don’t have answer these questions unless you want to.

But if you’ve been here all along, I want you to try!

Question #1. Who was the main character of the book of Genesis?

It was God, wasn’t it? The LORD.

Genesis has Adam and Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Joseph.

But God was the star of the book.

Who do you think is the main character of the book of Joshua?

It’s the LORD again. In the very first verse, it is the LORD who speaks. He commands center stage. It’s all about Him.

Question #2. Who was the best supporting actor in the book of Genesis?

We said it was Abraham and then his family.

In Exodus and Numbers it was Moses for good or for bad. Two books where Moses was the best supporting actor. Four if you count Leviticus and Numbers.

But now, the Pentateuch (the first 5 books, the books of Moses) is over. In Joshua, Moses is dead. The greatest figure in Israel’s history up to this point has died.

And the question lingers, will his successor be successful?

Joshua is the best-supporting actor in the book that bears his name. There are some other great names that we will encounter: Caleb shows up again, a woman named Rahab, and a scoundrel named Achan. But Joshua is the best supporting actor.

And we’ll learn a lot from his story.

Third question. God made some promises to Abraham. What do we call them?

We call them the Abrahamic Covenant. What are the main promises of the Abrahamic Covenant?

Offspring
Land
Blessing

God has promised these things.

How are the promises going?

Let’s start with offspring.

At the end of Genesis, how many people were there?

About 70 in all went down into Egypt.

How many came out in the book of Exodus and were counted in the book of Numbers?

There were close to 2 million people! More than 600,000 fighting men.

Even though a whole generation died in the wilderness, a whole generation was born and grew in the wilderness. There is an overflow of offspring.

What about blessing?

We’ve seen it again and again. The blessing of Rescue at the Red Sea.

The blessing of God’s care for His people in the Law and in the provision He made for them as they traveled through the wilderness.

The blessing of protection that they experienced as they encountered enemies.

There will be more and more blessing as Joshua unfolds.

And so what about the Land?

Do they have the land yet?

Not quite yet.

How much Land did they have at the end of Genesis?

A burial plot, that’s all. And they were down in Egypt far away from Canaan.

But in Exodus they came out and started marching towards the Land.

How far did they get by the end of Exodus?

Mount Sinai. They weren’t far at all. And they got mustered up to go into the Land.

How far did they get?

They decided not to go.

Joshua and Caleb and ten other guys spied out the Land. And they liked the land, but they didn’t like the powerful people that lived there.

Joshua and Caleb encouraged everybody to take up their arms and march in, but the rest of the men led them in the Retreat of Unbelief.

And God judged them. For 40 years they wandered in the wilderness until the entire generation had died.

And at the end of the book of Numbers, they were parked across the Jordan River from the Promised Land. Two and a half of the tribes had already almost settled in the Transjordan Area.

But none of the people were yet IN the Land.

All of that is now about to change!

The Book of Joshua is all about taking possession of the Promised Land.

It’s all about God fulfilling His promises to His people.

Question #4. What was the theme of Genesis and the theme of the Pentateuch?

God Always Keeps His Promises.

Here’s the title of our series on Joshua: “Possessing the Promises.”

And I mean that in both ways, having the promises to trust and seeing the promises fulfilled–living off of the promises.

Possessing the Promises.

And that gets us right where we need to be to jump into Joshua chapter 1.

As I read it to you, I want you to see what gets emphasized, especially what gets repeated.

And when I finish reading it, I want you to tell me what the title of our message is today and what the key application of it will be for our lives.

Okay? Listen closely as I read. This is the Word of God. Joshua chapter 1.

[scripture reading, prayer]

Okay. What is the title of today’s message?

What did God tell Joshua most of all?

“Be Strong and Courageous.”

He says it at least 3 times and the then the people repeat it themselves in the last verse!

Joshua, Be Strong and Courageous.

It was probably tempting for Joshua to not be strong and courageous.

He was following the greatest leader, perhaps the greatest leader there ever was beside the Lord Jesus!

He had an unruly people to lead.

I love that part in verse 17 when they promise to fully obey Joshua like they obeyed Moses.

Did they do a good job at following Moses?!

I think that Joshua should have hoped they promised to do better than they had with Moses!

He had a huge task in front of him. Verse 2 says that he was to get the people ready to cross the Jordan River which had swollen at its banks. And then to march in and conquer the land of Canaan.

This was no easy mission that commander Joshua was facing.

I don’t know about you, but my knees would be knocking if that was my assignment.

And God knows that. That’s why He comes alongside Joshua and actually talks to him. And He tells him, “Be Strong and Courageous.”

Stand firm.
Be brave.
Be gutsy.
Be dauntless.
Don’t be terrified (v.9).
Don’t be discouraged.

Be Strong and Courageous.

I believe that God is saying that same thing to you and me today.

Lanse Free Church, Be Strong and Courageous.

We aren’t facing a hostile nation of wicked Canaanites that we are called to dispossess.

But we each have assignments in front of us that we need to shoulder with courage.

Maybe it’s something daunting like a new job.
Or maybe it’s something complicated like navigating a difficult relationship.
Or maybe it’s something as simple as aging with grace. Not giving in to the temptations of old age. The temptations to complain, or despair, or become idle.

I don’t know what mission is set before each of you this morning, but I think we all hear the call of God to us in them: “Be Strong and Courageous.”

Stand firm.
Be brave.
Be gutsy.
Be dauntless.
Don’t be terrified (v.9).
Don’t be discouraged.

Maybe it’s a call to be faithful to share the gospel with someone at work, at school, in the neighborhood, in your family.

Whatever it is, and it’s probably a few different things, God is saying to us, “Be Strong and Courageous.”

You can sense how hearing this filled Joshua’s sails. When he heard that clearly, he got right up and ordered the officers of the people to break camp and prepare for crossing the Jordan.

The time had come, and Joshua called them all to it.

And they responded. They were ready to go.

And they told Joshua they would follow (v.18), “Only be strong and courageous!”

Now, that’s really easy to say here in this nice warm room with our friends.

But our fears are real and they attack us out there.

And we don’t always here the clarion call to “Be Strong and Courageous.”

What you and I need are reasons to be strong and courageous.

And God gave Joshua at least three. Three bedrock reasons that Joshua could take courage in, and so can we.

#1. BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS BECAUSE THE LORD IS KEEPING HIS PROMISES.

Look again at verses 1 through 6.

“After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses' aide: ‘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. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates–all the Hittite country–to the Great Sea on the west [the Mediterrean]. No one will be able to stand up 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...Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore [SWORE!] to their forefathers to give them.”

God has made promises. He has sworn Himself to promises.

And He will keep them.

Isn’t that a good reason to be strong and courageous?

Joshua reminded all of the people of this very thing in verses 10 through 15.

He believed that God was keeping His promises. Look at verse 11.

“Go through the camp and tell the people, 'Get your supplies 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.'”
He says the same thing to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh. And He emphasizes that word “possession.”

God is going to give the people “rest” and “possession.”

God has said it, Joshua believes it, and that’s where his courage comes from.

Do you need courage today? Think about, take hold of, cherish the promises of God.

Because He always keeps them!

Now, He hasn’t promised you and me that wherever we set our feet, He will give us.

Don’t go walking on that property that you’ve always wanted and believe that God has granted it to you until you get that name on the title.

But there is so much that He has promised us that we can take to bank.

The number one promise is that of salvation. Of rescue from our sins.

God has promised to save all those who trust in Him.

He does it through Jesus, His own Son, whom He gave a ransom for our sins.

And when we turn from our sins in repentance and trust in His perfect sacrifice on our behalf, we are saved!

Have you come to trust in that promise?

The Bible says, “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’ .... ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” [Romans 10:9-11,13]

I invite you to trust in that promise.

And if you are saved like that, what’s to stop you from being strong and courageous?

You have every reason to be strong and courageous.

Because God is keeping His promises.

And there’s a big promise right here in this passage. It’s encouragement number two.

#2. BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS BECAUSE THE LORD WILL BE WITH YOU.

Did you catch how many times the LORD promised to be with Joshua?

Look at verse 5.

“As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

That had to encourage Joshua!

Down at verse 9.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

It’s not so hard to be courageous when you know that God is right there with you.

My kids are learning to swim. They have swimming lessons at the YMCA in Clearfield on Saturday mornings.

And it’s a pretty fearful thing to learn to swim for the first time, at least for most folks.

I’ve never really gotten used to the water.

But I’ve noticed that when their teacher is right there next to them. She doesn’t even necessarily have to touch them–but just knowing that she’s there–they can try all kinds of things in the water.

Listen.

God is saying to you today: “I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you....Be strong and courageous.”

He didn’t just say that to Joshua.

He says that to you today. This week. No matter what you are facing.

If you belong to Him, if you are a Christian by faith in Christ alone, He says this to you.

It’s repeated in the Psalms. And in Hebrews chapter 13.

Hebrews 13:5 “God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’”

He’s right there. He’s right here.

Be strong and courageous!

You don’t have to do it on your own.

You have to do it.

But you don’t have to go it alone.

Joshua wasn’t on his own.

It might have felt like it.

It might feel like it for you right now.

But you are not alone. He never leaves. He never forsakes His children.

Be strong and courageous.

Third reason.

Be Strong and Courageous Because God Is Keeping His Promises.

Be Strong and Courageous Because God Will Be With You.

And #3. BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS BECAUSE THE LORD HAS COMMANDED YOU TO BE.

Now, He doesn’t command you to do something He won’t do with you, that’s point #2.

But He does command it.

V.9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.”

Those are strong words.

God truly wants this from us. He wants us to stand up and stand firm.

To be strong in Him and for Him.

To be brave and do the hard things.

It’s His will, and we are called to obey.

Did you notice the emphasis on obedience in verses 7 through 9?

“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left [not even a little bit], that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law [the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, the whole Bible that they had at the time] depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.”

It’s a matter of obedience.

Last week, we talked about Trusting and Obeying and there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus than to trust and obey. That’s exactly it.

How much obedience is God calling for? V.7 “all the law.” V.8, “careful to do everything written in it.”

How do we know what to do? We read it. We meditate on it. We talk about it.

When it says (v.8) not to let it depart from our mouths, it doesn’t mean to not talk about it–it means to talk about it all the time! For it to be always on our tongue, always on our lips.

God tell us what pleases Him in His Word, the Bible.

I love it that more than 75 of you have taken purple Bible reading plans this year to attempt the Pastor’s Pancake Challenge!

But the point isn’t getting the pancakes.

But the point isn’t really reading the Bible in a year.

The point is getting the Bible inside of us so that we live it out. V.8 again.

“Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.”

James says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (1:22). That’s what God was saying to Joshua.

Be Strong and Courageous Because God Commanded It.

I would guess that a few of us today need to hear that.

That’s it’s not just a matter of whether or not we feel like it.

It’s a matter of obedience.

For some of you, it’s taking that public step of baptism–of identifying publically with the Lord Jesus Christ and confessing your faith in Him by the sign that He gave–water baptism.

It’s a matter of obedience.

Be Strong and Courageous Because God Commanded It.

For others of us, it might be screwing up our courage to talk with someone about the gospel.

Be Strong and Courageous Because God Commanded It.

For others of us, it might be making a hard decision to live Jesus’ way instead of our own.

Be Strong and Courageous Because God Commanded It.

And here’s the pay-off!

The Bible again and again demonstrates this: WITH OBEDIENCE COMES BLESSING!

V.8 one more time.

“Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then [THEN!] you will be prosperous and successful...Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.”

With obedience comes blessing!

Do you want to see the blessing of God in your life?

I don’t mean a flashy car and big bank account.

I mean the best blessings that God has to offer: holiness, joy, peace, righteousness and so much more.

They come as the supernatural effect of obedience.

Not because we earn them, not by works, but by grace. By God’s gift to unworthy sinners who trust in Him and obey Him by faith.

With that kind of faith-filled obedience comes blessing!

I want that kind of blessing for me, for my family, and for our church.

So, we need to be strong and be courageous.

What is the application of this passage for our lives?

Be Strong and Courageous!

Because the Lord is Keeping His Promises.
Because the Lord will be with you.
Beacause the Lord has commanded you to be.

And with obedience to His commands, comes blessing.

May it be so.

Only be strong and courageous!

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