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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Sunday, February 22, 2009

My New Saturday Evening Prayer

"Lord, allow me to preach to sinners the news so good that we must struggle against the joy of it."

I get this from RCO: Joyful Tidings.

Thankfully, I had that experience this morning!

Matt's Messages "Sin Is Serious"

“Sin Is Serious”

Possessing the Promises: The Book of Joshua
February 22, 2009
Joshua 7:1-8:35

Last week was a major decisive victory for the people of Israel and for their leader, Joshua! The walls came tumblin’ down. And they rushed in and captured the city of Jericho.

It was exciting, wasn’t it?! Yes!

And, in their victory, they basically had only one command from God–to NOT take any of the things in the city devoted to destruction. The LORD Himself had fought the battle of Jericho for them. And He wanted all of the spoils of the battle for Himself–either in the treasury or in the giant heap of a burnt sacrifice that the city of Jericho had become.

But...we find out in chapter 7 that they had NOT been obedient to this one command.

And they were about to experience terrible defeat because of it.

From amazing victory to overwhelming defeat in a heartbeat.

All because of sin.

“Sin Is Serious.”

That’s what we are going to see today.

Sin is not slight.
Sin is not silly.
Sin is not small or slim.

Sin [thinking, wanting, or doing that which displeases God] is deadly serious.

Joshua chapter 7, verse 1.

“But the Israelites acted unfaithfully in regard to the devoted things; Achan son of Carmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of them. So the LORD's anger burned against Israel.”

Notice that this chapter begins with “but.”

Chapter 6 ended with “The LORD was with Joshua and his fame spread throughout the land!”

“But...” there was sin in the camp.

“But the Israelites acted unfaithfully [sinfully] in regard to the devoted things; Achan...took some of them. So the LORD's anger burned against Israel.”

Sin is serious.

#1. SIN MAKES GOD ANGRY.

Do you see that in verse 1? “So the LORD’s anger burned against Israel.”

Sin makes God angry.

Sometimes, we get to thinking that God doesn’t care about our sin. We know that God is love, and God is loving, and we tend to dismiss the seriousness of sin.

But sin is not a laughing matter.

Many in our culture today dismiss sin as a relic from a time past. And the mention of the word causes people to titter. “Ha ha. Sin. Ha ha.”

Perhaps you’ve engaged in something you know to be sinful and you’ve just laughed it off recently.

But sin–violating God’s holy standard, falling short of the glory of God, failing to obey His commands and missing the mark that He has set out for us–is not light thing.

It is serious.

It makes God mad.

Now, some people think of God as mad for no reason. God is capricious and mad in general. But the Bible presents God as mad for only one reason–because He is holy.

And sin is a rebellion against His holiness. And wrath, anger, is the right response to unholiness.

Sin is serious because sin makes God mad.

#2. SIN AFFECTS OTHERS AROUND US.

How many people sinned in verse 1? Warning. It’s a trick question.

Well, the verse says that Achan sinned. He took some of the “devoted things” that were supposed to be accursed and burnt and “under the ban.”

But what else does the verse say? Who else sinned? “But the Israelites acted unfaithfully...”

There was a connection between Achan’s sin and the whole covenant community.

Sin affected more than just the sinner.

We’ll see that really clearly in the next battle. V.2

“Now Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth Aven to the east of Bethel, and told them, ‘Go up and spy out the region.’ So the men went up and spied out Ai. [Now, notice that it doesn’t mention anything about the LORD in this. Where is He? V.3] When they returned to Joshua, they said, ‘Not all the people will have to go up against Ai. Send two or three thousand men to take it and do not weary all the people, for only a few men are there.’”

“Hey, don’t worry about it! We took Jericho, no problem. There isn’t even a big wall here. Send up a little commando force and we’ll show you another victory!” v.4

“So about three thousand men went up; but they were routed by the men of Ai, 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 and became like water.”

Whoa! What happened? If we didn’t have verse 1, we sure would have been surprised to read about this! This is the first bad thing to happen to Israel in the whole book of Joshua.

The little army went up and got whipped. 36 died. Doesn’t sound like too much until you realize that it was a littler town and nobody had died so far. Not at the River and not a Jericho. They had to get chased home! Humiliating and devastating and demoralizing.

And Joshua hits a low point here. V.6

“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. [Mourning. Sadness. Grief.] And Joshua said, ‘Ah, 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! [There’s some unreasonable, unbelieving self-pity there.] O Lord, what can I say, now that Israel has been routed by its enemies? 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?’”

Now, he’s talking to the right person. But he’s saying the wrong things. He should be asking what they’ve done wrong. But he’s acting almost like God has done something wrong.

That’s why the LORD responds to strongly. V.10.

“The LORD said to Joshua, ‘Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? [You’ve got work to do.] 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. 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. Go, consecrate the people. Tell them, 'Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow; for this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: That which is devoted is among you, O Israel. You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove it. In the morning, present yourselves tribe by tribe. The tribe that the LORD takes shall come forward clan by clan; the clan that the LORD takes shall come forward family by family; and the family that the LORD takes shall come forward man by man. He who is caught with the devoted things shall be destroyed by fire, along with all that belongs to him. He has violated the covenant of the LORD and has done a disgraceful thing in Israel!’’”

Do you see how the people were connected?

The one man’s sin affected all of the others.

No man is an island.

No one stands completely alone.

Sin is serious because it affects the people around us.

In this case, so much that the LORD says, “Israel has sinned. They have violated my covenant. They have taken. They have stolen. They have lied.”

And they are all reaping the consequences of it.

Sin is serious because it affects the people around us.

Now, just because one person in our church sins or our family sins, doesn’t mean that we are all guilty of that sin in the same way.

But, don’t think that you can sin and it NOT affect the people around you.

A couple of weeks ago, I gave in, in a major way to gluttony. Which, as many of you know, is one of my besetting temptations.

I had had a long day, and decided that I was entitled to a huge supper at the Jumbo Chinese Restaurant–by myself–no accountability whatsoever.

And I went back and I went back and I went back.

And I began to feel sick.

Did it stop with me?

Well, no one else got sick. But I had a meeting that night.

And everyone at the meeting had to put up with a pastor who was not able to pay as much attention, much more prone to anger or impatience with other, and uncomfortable–not as sharp for providing good leadership in the meeting.

I had to apologize.

And then I went home. And my sin affected my family, too.

In fact, I was up for hour in the middle of night, thought I was going to upchuck. And I lost sleep.

And then, do you think I was a lot of good for my family the next day?

I had to apologize, especially to my wife–for my sin.

You say, well, that’s a small thing. But it could easily add up to something bigger.

Sin is not isolated. It affects the people around us.

Are you lying to yourself right now about a sinful habit that you have picked up?

I know that many men, including many many Christian men struggle with pornography.

I’m going to be writing an article for EFCA Today on Christian leaders who struggle with pornography.

One of the lies men believe is that their secret lusts don’t affect anyone else.

Don’t believe it. Not for a second.

You’re not just letting yourself be defeated, you are hurting others–especially the women and children around you–and all of your relationships.

It might be subtle for a while, but it is inevitable.

Sin is serious because it affects others around us.

#3. SIN CAN’T STAY HIDDEN FOR LONG.

Did you get the LORD’s plan for rooting out the sin in the camp? Everyone is supposed to go home and consecrate themselves. Tomorrow, God is going to reveal who is the problem that his plaguing Israel. V.16

“Early the next morning Joshua had Israel come forward by tribes, and Judah was taken.”

Stop for a second. Imagine what that night must have been like in the Israelite camp.

And now, the entire nation gets out on parade.

All 12 tribes come marching past. And God (somehow) indicates: Judah. A leader trible.

Judah.

And everyone else can sit down. V.17

“The clans of Judah came forward, and he took the Zerahites.”

Everyone else can sit down. It’s this tribe.

“He had the clan of the Zerahites come forward by families, and Zimri was taken.”

Everyone else can sit down. It’s this family. Do you see the picture? V.18

“Joshua had his family come forward man by man, and Achan son of Carmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken.”

The Lord knows.

And it’s just a matter of time before everyone does.

Sin is serious. And it can’t stay hidden for long.

I’m sure when he did what he did, Achan didn’t think that anyone was watching.

Now, the entire nation is staring at him.

How would you like your sin to be broadcast on CNN.com?

Jesus said “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.”

Moses said, “Be sure your sin will find you out.”

Sin can’t stay hidden for long.

Achan stands revealed and Joshua calls upon him to confess. V.19

“Then Joshua said to Achan, ‘My son, give glory to the LORD, the God of Israel, and give him the praise. Tell me what you have done; do not hide it from me.’ [Confess. Agree with God. Give Him the glory by confessing your sin. V.20] Achan replied, ‘It is true! I have sinned against the LORD, the God of Israel. This is what I have done: When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath.’ So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent, and there it was, hidden in his tent, with the silver underneath.”

We look at it that nobody was going to use these things, anyway, so what harm was it?

But Achan had broken at least 4 of the 10 commandments.

1. You shall have no other gods before me. He was worshiping this because he wanted it more than God.
2. You shall not steal.
3. You shall not bear false witness. He lied. He hid.
4. You shall not covet. “I coveted” he said.

You know, coveting is one of our cultures most accepted sins. It’s not just accepted, it’s the basis of our troubled economy!

Sin is serious.

#4. SIN ALWAYS BRINGS TROUBLE. V.23

“They took the things from the tent, brought them to Joshua and all the Israelites and spread them out before the LORD. Then Joshua, together with all Israel, took Achan son of Zerah, the silver, the robe, the gold wedge, his sons and daughters [who probably aided and abetted his theft–at least by keeping things hidden], his cattle, donkeys and sheep, his tent and all that he had, to the Valley of Achor. Joshua said, ‘Why have you brought this trouble on us? The LORD will bring trouble on you today.’ Then all Israel stoned him, and after they had stoned the rest, they burned them. Over Achan they heaped up a large pile of rocks, which remains to this day. Then the LORD turned from his fierce anger. Therefore that place has been called the Valley of Achor [The Valley of Trouble] ever since.”

Sin always brings trouble.

There are always consequences.

“The way of the unfaithful is hard” (Proverbs 13:15).

Sin always brings trouble.

Achan’s sin made him like the Canaanites.

He’s getting the same treatment as Jericho did.

Remember how Rahab got the same treatment as Israel? She was basically counted as an Israelite?

Achan is counted as a Canaanite.

And his whole family suffers.

The whole nation suffered! “Why have you brought this trouble on us?” Joshua asked.

He was stoned, and burnt, and they piled up a pile of rocks on him.

And they called that place the Valley of Trouble.

Friends, if you are flirting with sin, don’t allow yourself to be fooled.

There will be consequences.

There will be trouble.

You are not bullet-proof.

We tell our children, “With disobedience comes danger.”

That’s the way it is in God’s world.

It doesn’t always seem that way. The Book of Job and Psalm 73 explain that it doesn’t always seem that way while this short life goes on.

That’s why the media portrays a very different story.

“You can life like you want and there are no consequences!” Nu’uh.

You can’t have sex outside of marriage without trouble.
You can’t gossip about your friend or your enemy without trouble.
You can’t cheat on a test without trouble.
You can’t cut corners at work without trouble.
You can’t click to those websites without trouble.
You can’t read those smutty stories or lustfully watch those vulgar movies without trouble.
You can’t take those drugs or get drunk with that beer without reaping trouble.
You can’t dishonor your parents without reaping trouble.

Sin is serious. It always leads to trouble.

#5. SIN MUST BE DECISIVELY JUDGED. V.25

“Joshua said, ‘Why have you brought this trouble on us? The LORD will bring trouble on you today.’” And they stoned and burned him.

There is a necessary punishment for sin.

Sin is so serious, so other-affecting, so unable to stay hidden, so trouble-inducing, so wrath incurring–that it must be dealt with decisively.

It must be judged.

God is holy, and He must judge sin.

In His wisdom, He decided that NOW was the time for Achan.

In His wisdom, He has set a time for you and me to stand before judgment.

To give an account of our deeds done in the body.

And justice will be done and be seen to be done.

Sin must be decisively dealt with. Decisively judged.

But here is the good news for us. Here it is!

There is One who has taken on the judgment for our sins FOR US.

There is One who, in His love for us, bore the punishment we deserved–not just for one act of covetousness and hidden theft–but for all of our sinful failings, all of our direct and indirect sins, all of our passive and aggressive sins, all of our sins of omission and commission–all of our sins, past, present and future.

There is One who bore our sins in His body on the tree, the just for the unjust to bring us to God!

There is a Redeemer! Jesus, God’s own Son!

And He has taken our judgment for us at the Cross!

That’s how serious sin is, friends!

It’s serious enough for us to need a Savior!

Do you know Jesus as your Savior?

It’s the greatest thing in the world.

If you don’t I invite you, I implore you, I challenge you to turn from your sins and trust in Him alone.

He is mighty to save.

Do you know Jesus as your Savior?

If you do, why would you stay in your sins?

Why would you hold on to secret sin? Hidden sin? Offensive habits?

Say, “No!” to your besetting temptations.
Say, “No!” to the world’s enticements.
Say, “No!” to what your flesh has been trying to talk you into.
Say, “No!” to the devil’s plan for your life.

Because as serious as sin is, it’s no longer that powerful in the life of a real Christian.

Victory is possible for Christ-followers.

#6. SIN SPELLS DEFEAT BUT OBEDIENCE RESULTS IN BLESSING.

Achan’s death was not the end of the story. We have to look at chapter 8.

When sin was dealt with, victory returned. V.1

“Then the LORD said to Joshua, ‘Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

Does that sound familiar? That’s more like it! That’s how He sounded in chapter 1. “Be strong and courageous!”

“Take the whole army with you, and go up and attack Ai. For I have delivered into your hands the king of Ai, his people, his city and his land. 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. Set an ambush behind the city.’ [Achan didn’t wait for the generosity of God. V.3] So Joshua and the whole army moved out to attack Ai. He chose thirty thousand of his best fighting men and sent them out at night with these orders: ‘Listen carefully. You are to set an ambush behind the city. Don't go very far from it. All of you be on the alert. I and all those with me will advance on the city, and when the men come out against us, as they did before, we will flee from them. They will pursue us until we have lured them away from the city, for they will say, 'They are running away from us as they did before.' So when we flee from them, you are to rise up from ambush and take the city. The LORD your God will give it into your hand. When you have taken the city, set it on fire. Do what the LORD has commanded. See to it; you have my orders.’

“Then Joshua sent them off, and they went to the place of ambush and lay in wait between Bethel and Ai, to the west of Ai–but Joshua spent that night with the people. Early the next morning Joshua mustered his men, and he and the leaders of Israel marched before them to Ai. The entire force that was with him marched up and approached the city and arrived in front of it. They set up camp north of Ai, with the valley between them and the city. Joshua had taken about five thousand men and set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai, to the west of the city. They had the soldiers take up their positions–all those in the camp to the north of the city and the ambush to the west of it. That night Joshua went into the valley. When the king of Ai saw this, he and all the men of the city hurried out early in the morning to meet Israel in battle at a certain place overlooking the Arabah. But he did not know that an ambush had been set against him behind the city. Joshua and all Israel let themselves be driven back before them, and they fled toward the desert. All the men of Ai were called to pursue them, and they pursued Joshua and were lured away from the city. Not a man remained in Ai or Bethel who did not go after Israel. They left the city open and went in pursuit of Israel.”

Do you get the picture? They ran towards the city, and then said, “Oh No! Ai is attacking us again” and ran away. V.18

“Then the LORD said to Joshua, ‘Hold out toward Ai the javelin that is in your hand [kind of like the staff of Moses], for into your hand I will deliver the city.’ So Joshua held out his javelin toward Ai. As soon as he did this, the men in the ambush rose quickly from their position and rushed forward. They entered the city and captured it and quickly set it on fire. The men of Ai looked back and saw the smoke of the city rising against the sky, but they had no chance to escape in any direction, for the Israelites who had been fleeing toward the desert had turned back against their pursuers.”
“For when Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had taken the city and that smoke was going up from the city, they turned around and attacked the men of Ai. The men of the ambush also came out of the city against them, so that they were caught in the middle, with Israelites on both sides. Israel cut them down, leaving them neither survivors nor fugitives. But they took the king of Ai alive and brought him to Joshua. When Israel had finished killing all the men of Ai in the fields and in the desert where they had chased them, and when every one of them had been put to the sword, all the Israelites returned to Ai and killed those who were in it. Twelve thousand men and women fell that day–all the people of Ai. For Joshua did not draw back the hand that held out his javelin until he had destroyed all who lived in Ai.”

“But Israel did carry off for themselves the livestock and plunder of this city, as the LORD had instructed Joshua. So Joshua burned Ai and made it a permanent heap of ruins, a desolate place to this day. He hung the king of Ai on a tree and left him there until evening. At sunset, Joshua ordered them to take his body from the tree and throw it down at the entrance of the city gate. And they raised a large pile of rocks over it, which remains to this day.”

When Achan’s sin had been decisively dealt with, victory returned to Israel.

Sin spells defeat but obedience results in victory and blessing.

What a difference between the battle of Ai in chapter 7 and the battle of Ai in chapter 8!

And the difference was whether or not there was sin or obedience.

Which one are you pursuing?

Joshua wanted to cement this lesson into their heads, so he used this moment in their history to obey the commands that Moses had given them in Deuteronomy chapter 27.

The entire nation took part in a dramatic ceremony of reminding themselves of the warnings and promises of God. Look at verse 30.

“Then Joshua built on Mount Ebal an altar to the LORD, the God of Israel, as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded the Israelites [You can look it up in Deuteronomy 27]. He built it according to what is written in the Book of the Law of Moses–an altar of uncut stones, on which no iron tool had been used. On it they offered to the LORD burnt offerings and sacrificed fellowship offerings.”

Worship! And reminders of how God deals with sin.

“There, in the presence of the Israelites, Joshua copied on stones the law of Moses, which he had written [the Word of God!]. All Israel, aliens and citizens alike, with their elders, officials and judges, were standing on both sides of the ark of the covenant of the LORD, facing those who carried it–the priests, who were Levites.”

Now, catch this:

“Half of the people stood in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal [six tribes on one side, six tribes on the other], as Moses the servant of the LORD had formerly commanded when he gave instructions to bless the people of Israel. Afterward, Joshua read all the words of the law–the blessings and the curses–just as it is written in the Book of the Law. There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded that Joshua did not read to the whole assembly of Israel, including the women and children, and the aliens who lived among them.”

Do you get the picture?

Half of Israel here. Half of Israel here.

And as Joshua reads, they listen.

And [Deuteronomy says] they get to the promises. And this group over here says, “Amen!”

With obedience comes blessing!

And then they read some warnings. And this group over hear echos back like a great big stadium, “Amen!”

With disobedience comes danger!
With sin comes defeat!

And they go back and forth through the whole law.

And they are saying, “Let’s follow the LORD!”

Let’s not give in to sin.

Let’s not go there.

Sin is serious business.

Let’s not go there. Let’s follow the Lord!

And how much more, you and I having the Spirit, having the completed Word, and (espeicially) living on this side of the Cross and the Empty Tomb–should we say, “Yes, Lord! Amen! We will obey.”

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Drew's Joke Book #4

Q. What is a bulldog's favorite sport?

A. Bull-ing (Bowling)

Drew's Joke Book #3

Q. What might be a cat's favorite word?

A. PURRR-haps.

Drew's Joke Book #2

Q. What kind of medicine do bugs take?

A. ANT-ibiotics.

Drew's Joke Book #1

Q. What is a frog's favorite game?

A. CROAK-et (Croquet)


Drew's Joke Book

My son, Andrew, is writing his own joke book.

All of these jokes are his (or someone in our family's) original creations (copyright 2009).

Enjoy!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Stay Sharp 09 Audio

Lots of info and audio up on the official Stay Sharp 09 page hosted at Waterdam Church.

Staying Sharp in the Allegheny District 2009 (Day 2)

Resources Greg Strand Pointed Towards Today

Paul Grimmond We Need More Shack Time

The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy

In My Place Condemned He Stood (Foreward, Preface, Introduction)

D.A. Carson Themelios 33.2 Editorial (On the Gospel & Deeds of Mercy)

Tim Keller Themelios 33.3 The Gospel and the Poor

Ed Stetzer First Person: Understanding the Emerging Church

Michael Patton Would the Real Emerging Please Stand Up?

Lausanne Covenant

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Staying Sharp in the Allegheny District

I'm attending our district's Stay Sharp conference this week at Waterdam Church in Canonsburg, PA.

Greg Strand, director of Biblical Theology and Credentialing for the EFCA, is leading us through a list of theological trends in evangelicalism that we need to "stay sharp" on and help our churches to develop discernment about.

Jim Culbertson has a run-down on the first session.

It's been really good.

Here are some of the resources Greg recommended:

DA Carson "What is the Gospel?" [manuscript pdf, audio]
Stan Guthrie All Monotheisms Are Not the Same (Responding to A Common Word)
Mike Andrus Outline "Drawing Doctrinal Lines: Where and How?"
Albert Mohler Theological Triage
Alfred Poirer The Cross and Criticism
Roger Nicole Polemic Theology: How to Deal with Those Who Differ From Us

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Matt's Messages "By Faith the Walls of Jericho Fell"

“By Faith the Walls of Jericho Fell”

Possessing the Promises: The Book of Joshua
February 15, 2009
Joshua 6:1-27

This is our fifth message in the book of Joshua. And I was gone last week, so let’s review and catch up:

In chapter 1, the LORD told Joshua to be strong and courageous. The 40 years of discipline for the nation of Israel were over, and it is now time to take possession of the Promised Land. And while that might sound daunting, Joshua was not be daunted. He was to be strong and courageous.

In chapter 2, General Joshua sent out two spies to reconnoiter the land and to get a read on their enemies. In the process, they were rescued by Rahab and promised to rescue her and her family when the time came. They brought word back to Joshua that Canaan is scared to death of Israel and Israel’s God.

In chapters 3 and 4, Israel crossed the Jordan River–on dry ground! They followed the Ark of the Covenant, symbolizing the holy presence of the LORD Himself going ahead of them–they followed the Ark into the Jordan River. The River runs away from the presence of the LORD! It runs 18 miles back upstream and stops there in a heap–waiting for the people to cross.

All the people cross, and they pull up 12 big stones from the middle of river to stack up in their camp at Gilgal as a reminder, a symbol, a covenant sign of God’s holiness, faithfulness, and power.

And then in chapter 5, on the Canaan-side of the Jordan river, the people of promise inside the Promised Land, they don’t go on the attack–instead they perform covenant rituals, renewal rituals: the first circumcision in 40 years, [I think] the first Passover in 40 years, the divine provision of manna ends, and they eat their first meals from the produce of the Promised Land.

And Joshua met the Commander of the Lord’s Army, and the place where they met, just before Jericho, was holy ground.

That’s what we’ve seen so far. Pretty exciting, really.

But this is the chapter the whole book is famous for!

This is the story that every Sunday School Student has ever heard.

And we’ve just heard a great rendition of “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho,” this chapter immortalized in that song.

“And the walls came a’tumblin’ down.”

Let me ask you a question:

How did Joshua fight the battle of Jericho?

It was a battle like no other. But how did Joshua fight it?

The New Testament tells us in two words: “By faith.”

Joshua (and all of the Israelites) fought the battle of Jericho by faith.

Hebrews chapter 11, verse 30 is the only New Testament reference to this battle, and it says this very simply: “By Faith the Walls of Jericho Fell.”

So, if we’re going to see anything this morning, as we read this story, we’re going to see faith. And I want to note at least five things about faith that we can apply to our own lives even today.

Now, like I’ve said many times: You and I know how this story ends. We’ve already heard about it in the song, we’ve heard this story many times, it’s even in the name of the message today. But, as much as it is possible, try to pretend that you are living in verse 1 right now, not verse 20. Try to pretend that you are right there, right then, and you don’t how it’s all going to turn out. Okay?

Joshua chapter 6, verse 1.

“Now Jericho was tightly shut up because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in.”

That’s a great first line to an adventure story, isn’t it?

There’s so much detail packed into that sentence.

Jericho, was a great walled city, one of the most ancient of the ancient world. And it was lay in the middle of Canaan. So for Israel to conquer Canaan and take possession as God had told them to, they had to go through Jericho first. And then it would be: divide and conquer.

But they have to conquer Jericho first.

And that would be a problem, wouldn’t it?

Big city. Tightly shut up.

They’re afraid of the Israelites, for sure, but they are secure within the walls of their city. “No one went out and no one came in.”

What is going to be the battle plan?

Siege?
Ramps?
Ladders?
Battering Rams?

Those would be the things that you and I would think of.

But the Lord has His own plan. And it’s nothing like what you and I would ever think of! V.2

“Then the LORD said to Joshua, ‘See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams' horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in.’”

Now, that’s a plan that you and I would have never thought of!

This is not “battle as usual,” is it?!

This is different. This is uncommon, extraordinary.

And it requires...faith.

#1. FAITH MEANS BELIEVING GOD’S PROMISES.

Notice how God sees this battle. It’s already...what?

It’s already done, in God’s eyes.

Look at promise of verse 2.

“Then the LORD said to Joshua, ‘See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.’”

It’s a done deal as far as the LORD is concerned. I’ve have done it! Jericho is yours. The king and his army are already defeated.

Is that what Joshua sees?

Not with his physical eyes.

But faith sees with spiritual eyes.

Faith takes God at His word and believes His promises.

Do you believe God’s promises?

Do you even know what they are?

This book is full of precious promises for you and me.

The Bible calls them “great and precious promises” that give us “everything we need for life and godliness.”

Our job is to learn these promises and put our faith in them.

Whatever trial or temptation that you are going through right now has a corresponding set of Bible promises that will see you through it if you believe them.

But it takes faith.

Faith means believing God’s promises.

And then...acting on them.

#2. FAITH MEANS OBEYING GOD’S COMMANDS.


If you truly believe, then you’ll do what He says to do.

Let’s look more closely at what Joshua was told to do. V.3

“March around the city once with all the armed men. [Got that? One time.] Do this for six days [Six Days]. Have seven priests [Seven Priests] carry trumpets of rams' horns in front of the ark [What Ark is that? Noah’s Ark? No, the Ark of the Covenant. What does that symbolize? The very presence of God!]. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times [Seven and Seven], with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in.’”

Okay? Got a picture in your head of the instructions?

If you were Joshua, would you do it?

These are pretty strange instructions.

Of course, they come from the God who just dried up the Jordan River at flood-time!

Joshua does obey. V.6

“So Joshua son of Nun called the priests and said to them, ‘Take up the ark of the covenant of the LORD and have seven priests carry trumpets in front of it.’ And he ordered the people, ‘Advance! March around the city, with the armed guard going ahead of the ark of the LORD.’ When Joshua had spoken to the people, the seven priests carrying the seven trumpets before the LORD went forward, blowing their trumpets, and the ark of the LORD's covenant followed them. The armed guard marched ahead of the priests who blew the trumpets, and the rear guard followed the ark. All this time the trumpets were sounding. But Joshua had commanded the people, ‘Do not give a war cry, do not raise your voices, do not say a word until the day I tell you to shout. Then shout!’ So he had the ark of the LORD carried around the city, circling it once. Then the people returned to camp and spent the night there.”

What a sight this must have been!

The nation of Israel marching, marching, marching–one time around the whole city.

Trumpets blowing.

But no voices.

Joshua said, “not even a word.”

Marching, marching, marching. Trumpets. No voices.

How many times around? Just once and then back to camp.

The people obeyed.

Why were they doing this?

Well, there’s a lot we could say–maybe it was a form of psychological warfare–but at least one thing we have to say is that they were doing it because God said so.

Faith means obeying God’s commands.

It means trusting God’s promises–and if you really trust God’s promises, you’ll obey His commands.

Obedience is the true fruit of faith.

Is obedience always easy?

No. It isn’t. In fact, it’s often the hardest thing about life.

Especially because other people don’t often appreciate our obedience to God’s commands.

#3. FAITH MEANS LOOKING FOOLISH SOMETIMES.

Think about what the people of Jericho must have thought about the Israelites.

The first day, they were scared. Here comes Israel. Trumpets. Marching. Silence.

But the second day? V.12

“Joshua got up early the next morning and the priests took up the ark of the LORD. The seven priests carrying the seven trumpets went forward, marching before the ark of the LORD and blowing the trumpets. The armed men went ahead of them and the rear guard followed the ark of the LORD, while the trumpets kept sounding. So on the second day they marched around the city once and returned to the camp. They did this for six days.”

Now, I don’t know. The Bible doesn’t say. Maybe the citizens of Jericho got progressively more scared.

But in my mind’s eye, I see them begin to taunt the Israelites. I see them start to laugh at them and laugh at their seemingly strange behavior.

“There is no warfare here! It’s just a parade! If that’s all they’re going to do, we can outlast them! We can start throwing things at them from in here. Is this their worst? Bring it on!”

Faith means looking foolish sometimes in the eyes of others. Even, sometimes, in our eyes.

God’s ways are not our ways. And so when we do things God’s way, we often look out of touch.

Are you struggling with obedience to God right now because of what someone else might think of you?

At school? Are the Christ-followers the cool kids who everybody wants to be like?

Is it cool to share your faith with other people?

Is it cool to try live out your faith at school?

How about at work? What will people think if you start to [fill in the blank]?

How about in your extended family?

What if people start to think you’re a “Jesus Freak?”

“It’s okay to go to church, just don’t get all radical on me, okay?”

Sometimes, faith means looking foolish.

Are you trusting God?

Are you obeying Him? Even when the world says, even when you friends say, even when there is a little voice in you that says, “That’s dumb. That’s not the way to do it!” V.14 “They did this for six days.”

And then came the seventh day. I’m not sure, but this might be the Sabbath day, in fact. V.15

“On the seventh day, they got up at daybreak and marched around the city seven times in the same manner, except that on that day they circled the city seven times.”

Marching, marching, marching. Trumpets, trumpets, trumpets. Silence. Silence. Silence.

1-2-3-4-5-6-7 times around. Something’s different. Something’s going to happen! V.16

“The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the people, ‘Shout! For the LORD has given you the city! The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the LORD. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent. But 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. All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the LORD and must go into his treasury.’” [We’ll see more about this next week.] v.20

“When the trumpets sounded, the people shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the people gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so every man charged straight in, and they took the city.”

Wow!

The walls came a’tumblin’ down!

The army marched right in and took the city. There is no record of any resistance or any casualties on Israel’s side.

“When the trumpets sounded, the people shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the people gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so every man charged straight in, and they took the city.”

Let me ask you another question:

Who really fought the battle of Jericho?

Did Joshua do something really amazing here?

He exercised faith.
That’s what he was supposed to do.

And he went in with his sword and helped capture the city.

But is this battle Joshua’s?

V.16. Why were they supposed to shout?

“Shout! For the LORD has given you the city!”

The LORD fought the battle of Jericho! And the walls came tumblin’ down.

#4. FAITH MEANS EXPECTING GOD TO FIGHT FOR YOU.

Now, that doesn’t mean that you won’t have to do some fighting yourself.

Faith, as we’ve seen, is a very active thing.

But, the decisive battles of our lives are won by the Lord Jesus, not fought by ourselves.

Faith means expecting (depending upon!) God to fight for you.

Isn’t it awesome that our God is a warrior?

He fights for His people?

Whatever situation that I find myself in–life is a battle!

But I’m not fighting alone. In fact, my fight isn’t the most important fight. It’s not the decisive fight.

God does that. And my job is simply to trust Him.

I want to say this to you right now–straight.

God is fighting for you.
God is fighting for you.

He has already, at the Cross, struck the decisive blow.

But even now, He is fighting for you.

In Ephesians 6, where it tells us to put on the full armor of God?

It means God’s own armor. Not just the armor that God supplies, but God’s own armor. The armor He wears: Salvation, Truth, Peace, Gospel. Righteousness. The Sword of the Spirit.

The LORD is a warrior. And He fights for you.

“Shout! For the LORD has given you the city.”

Trust Him.

Did you put together the picture of what Israel was supposed to do?

I think it’s one great big worship service.

Marching in parade, the worship band with the trumpets up front, everyone else listening and being silent before the Lord, following the Lord, priests everywhere, priests leading.

And then a triumphant shout!

I think worship was their warfare. They were worshiping in thanksgiving in advance for what the LORD was going to do for them.

Faith means worshipfully expecting God to fight for you.

And here’s the thing to be the most thankful for:

#5. FAITH MEANS BEING SAVED FROM GOD’S RIGHTEOUS WRATH.

Because that’s what we see here in verses 21-27. God’s righteous wrath against sin. V.21.

“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. [This is according to the LORD’s commands–read about them in Deuteronomy chapter 20.] Joshua said to the two men who had spied out the land, ‘Go into the prostitute's house and bring her out and all who belong to her, in accordance with your oath to her.’ So the young men who had done the spying went in and brought out Rahab, her father and mother and brothers and all who belonged to her. They brought out her entire family and put them in a place outside the camp of Israel. Then they burned the whole city and everything in it, but they put the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron into the treasury of the LORD's house.”

“But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho–and she lives among the Israelites to this day. At that time Joshua pronounced this solemn oath: ‘Cursed before the LORD is the man who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho: ‘At the cost of his firstborn son will he lay its foundations; at the cost of his youngest will he set up its gates.’ So the LORD was with Joshua, and his fame spread throughout the land.”

The first battle was a complete success because (v.27) the LORD was with Joshua–just as He had promised. In fact, the LORD did the hard work.

But they had work, too. They had to kill everyone and everything in the city.

And then burn it. It became like a burnt offering.

God had said that this condemnation, this justice, this wrath of His was coming. He’d been saying it for over 400 years.

And now, for this generation, the Canaanites were to receive the punishment that they deserved.

It’s a punishment that we all deserve, but God, in his patience and mercy, often withholds for a long time.

Here, in His wisdom, He decided that their time was up. It was time for judgment and righteous wrath.

This is a picture for us, right now, of Hell. The coming horrors of Hell.

God’s righteous wrath meted out on deserving sinners.

But someone was rescued, wasn’t she? And her family, too.

Who was it?

Rahab. And what did she have that the other people of Jericho didn’t?

Faith.

She believed in the one true living God–the God of Israel!
And her faith saved her.

And it’s the same today.

Faith means being spared from God’s righteous wrath.

Today, we are spared through trusting in God’s One and Only Son.

We are rescued by putting our faith in Jesus Christ and His sacrificial death on the Cross for us.

Amazing, ironically, paradoxically, He took on the punishment that we deserve.

He was destroyed like an inhabitant of Jericho–so that we wouldn’t have to be.

And He invites you and me to turn from our sins and trust in Him.

Faith means being spared from God’s righteous wrath–because His righteous wrath has been absorbed by the sinless Son of God in our place.

Do you have faith in Jesus?

Are you trusting in what He did on the Cross to save you?

If so, rejoice! Because He fought for you and won the victory at the Cross!

He died to win. And we know He won because He came back to life!

Rejoice!

Are you trusting in what He did on the Cross to save you?

If not, you are invited to turn and trust Him now.

Faith is the victory. It’s the way to escape the wrath to come.

What happened to the citizens of Jericho was just a foretaste of what God has prepared for those who have rebelled against Him.

But what happened to Rahab was just a foretaste, as well, of what God has prepared for those who will trust in Him.

Trust Jesus. Trust Him.

That’s faith.

“By faith the walls of Jericho fell.”

And faith is the victory that overcomes the world.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Real Church 101

Last weekend, a team from our church traveled down to Altoona to serve Crossroads Community Church, an EFCA church re-plant led by Pastor Mark Petras.

I taught 4 sessions on God's design for the local church, based upon The Local Church series I did a few years back at Lanse. My daughter Robin helped one of our ladies to do child care for the Petras kids, and Joe Quick led some worship in singing.

Mark has a re-cap of the highlights on his Life Together blog.

Thanks to all who prayed for this event!

Monday, February 09, 2009

HT: JT

If you see the initials HT: JT on a blog, including this one, it normally means: Hat Tip: Justin Taylor (in other words, this bit comes from something noted on Justin Taylor's blog: Between Two World).

Who is this Justin Taylor?

Exiled Preacher has an interview with JT.

I have often said that JT's blog is what blogging should be like: careful, newsful, joyful, loving, truthful, friendly, and aimed at hot orthodoxy!

[HT: JT]

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Kidz Pix


I don't know where Drew was during this photo shoot.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Pix Fix

Boys at Swimming Lessons







Thank you, Nana and Papa for our birthday present!

Matt's Messages "Just Before Jericho"

“Just Before Jericho”

Possessing the Promises: The Book of Joshua
February 1, 2009
Joshua 5:1-15

This is our fourth message in this study of the book of Joshua.

In chapter 1, the LORD told Joshua to be strong and courageous. The 40 years of discipline for the nation of Israel were over and it is now time to take possession of the Promised Land. And while that might sound daunting, Joshua was not be daunted. He was to be strong and courageous.

In chapter 2, General Joshua sent out two spies to reconnoiter the land and get a read on their enemies. In the process, they were rescued by Rahab and promised to rescue her and her family. They bring word back that Canaan is scared to death of Israel and Israel’s God.

In chapter 3 and 4, Israel crosses the Jordan River–on dry ground! They follow the Ark of the Covenant, symbolizing the holy presence of the LORD Himself going ahead of them–they follow the Ark into the Jordan River. The River runs away from the presence of the LORD! It runs 18 miles back upstream and stops there in a heap–waiting for the people to cross.

They all cross and they pull up 12 stones from the middle of river to stack up in their camp at Gilgal as a reminder, a symbol, a sign of God’s holiness, faithfulness, and power.

The people of Israel are now on the Canaan side of the Jordan River!
The people of Israel are now in the Promised Land!
The people of Israel are now taking possession of the promises.

What would you do next?

You’re the commander of the army. What would you do next? Look at verse 1.

“Now when all the Amorite kings west of the Jordan and all the Canaanite kings along the coast heard how the LORD had dried up the Jordan before the Israelites until we had crossed over, their hearts melted and they no longer had the courage to face the Israelites.”

God’s battle-plan is working. Step number one: psychological warfare! The enemy is very afraid. They have heard about the Jordan River, and “their hearts melted and they no longer had the courage to face the Israelites.”

So, what’s next? What would you do? We’re not far from Jericho, probably the strongest city in all of Canaan right now. We’re “Just Before Jericho.”

What would you do?

Attack, right?!

Nope. Disable the troops!

Not set up fortifications. Not send out a raiding party. Not attack them while they’re scared–but, instead, do some painful surgery on your army. V.2

“At that time the LORD said to Joshua, ‘Make flint knives and circumcise the Israelites again.’ [What? On this side of the Jordan? Couldn’t that have been done on the safe side of the Jordan? No. V.3] So Joshua made flint knives and circumcised the Israelites at Gibeath Haaraloth [Literally: The Hill of Foreskins]. Now this is why he did so: All those who came out of Egypt–all the men of military age–died in the desert on the way after leaving Egypt. All the people that came out had been circumcised, but all the people born in the desert during the journey from Egypt had not. The Israelites had moved about in the desert forty years until all the men who were of military age when they left Egypt had died, since they had not obeyed the LORD. For the LORD had sworn to them that they would not see the land that he had solemnly promised their fathers to give us, a land flowing with milk and honey. So he raised up their sons in their place, and these were the ones Joshua circumcised. They were still uncircumcised because they had not been circumcised on the way.”

Does that make sense?

How long had it been since the people of Israel had obediently circumcised their males?

40 years!

The original generation was circumcised–they had the mark of the covenant in their flesh–but they were disobedient–and for 40 years they wandered and died.

And the LORD didn’t let them circumcise their children until today!

Do you see why it had to be on this side of the Jordan River?

It’s a renewal of the covenant with the people of Israel!

I don’t know about you, but I almost always fly over these verses on my way to Jericho. I’m mean, we’re just before Jericho! Why do we have all this circumcision stuff? I mean, it’s not even something that you want to talk about–much less think about. It seems gross, right?

But to the original readers, this is one of the most important things in the whole book of Joshua.

These men are now in the Land and they are now bearing the mark of the LORD in their bodies.

It’s kind of like a brand. Have any of you ever branded livestock? Cattle or whatever?

A mark, in the flesh, to denote possession. That’s what a brand is.

And it’s what circumcision was. It said, “You belong to me. I have made a covenant with you–and you belong to me. This says it in your body. In your flesh.”

You are now “marked men.”

“You are mine. And by taking this mark on your body, you are saying that you belong to me.”

It’s a very meaningful sign. “You are mine.”

And even if it meant putting them at jeopardy by disabling the entire army on the plains of Jericho, it had to happen. V.8

“And after the whole nation had been circumcised, they remained where they were in camp until they were healed. Then the LORD said to Joshua, ‘Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.’ So the place has been called Gilgal to this day.”

Do you see how significant this was?

They had lived in reproach. They had lived in shame.

Their parents had not believed, not trusted, not obeyed, not entered the Land.

And Egypt, from which they had been rescued, could have taunted them that they left Egypt, but they never got where they were going!

Israel could have been ashamed that they belonged to the LORD and had to live under His discipline.

But that shame is now gone. It’s forgiven, forgotten, left on the other side of the river.

Now, the LORD has given them all His mark and said in a forceful way: “These people are MINE! And I will give them what I promised.”

And the word “Gilgal” means a circle. They named the place after the circling, rolling away of the reproach that had been on their heads.

Ashamed no more.

Here’s an application for us to consider today (#1 of 4):

#1. DON’T BE ASHAMED TO BELONG TO THE LORD.

Don’t be ashamed to be KNOWN for belonging to the LORD.

Do people know that you are the LORD’s?

That you belong to Him?

I think we, as Americans, value our independence. We aren’t owned by anyone. We are our own people. We aren’t colonies any more!

I’m nobody’s slave!

But that’s not what we, as Christians, should value. We should value our dependence. We should value our being possessions. We are treasured possession.

In Jesus, God says, “You belong to me.” “You are marked men and women.”

That’s what water baptism signifies today.

Tonya and Alea took that step of water baptism last Sunday.

And one of the things that they were saying as they went under and came up was that they belong to the LORD–and they are not ashamed to say it!

Did you notice that theme in both of their testimonies? Both of them talked about, “I don’t care what others think of me for getting baptized. I’m doing it out of obedience. I belong to Jesus Christ!”

Maybe you belong to Jesus Christ, but you haven’t told the world yet. Maybe you haven’t told the world yet in the way that the Lord commands–water baptism.

I encourage every believer to follow the Lord is obedience to His command to be baptized.

But more than that, we need to live our whole lives in such a way that we aren’t embarrassed or ashamed to be known as belonging to the Lord.

The way we work, the way we do our school work, the way we interact with neighbors and friends and family.

What we do with our lives needs to show that we are not ashamed of the Lord. Amen?

Israel didn’t need to be, just before Jericho. The reproach of Egypt had been rolled away because they took on the LORD’s mark.

Okay. So, now do we attack? No, now we eat. V.10

“On the evening of the fourteenth day of the month, while camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, the Israelites celebrated the Passover.”

They celebrate the Passover.

Still no military action. Instead, another ritual. Another covenant ritual.

If circumcision was the sign of entrance into the covenant, the Passover meal was the sign of continuing fellowship within the covenant.

And it directly reminded them of the Red Sea Rescue from Egypt.

Now, I never realized this until this week as I studied Joshua chapter 5, but when do you think was the last time they officially kept the Passover?

It had been 40 years! Numbers chapter 9 was the last time.

It appears that these men and women had grown up without eating the Passover Lamb and putting the blood on the doorposts for the last 40 years!

Anyone 40 years or younger had only heard about it, never seen it with their own eyes.

But now, they eat it with their own mouths!

Wow.

And what did that Passover Lamb symbolize?

The Death of the Firstborn of all Egypt–but not them. Death passed them over because of the blood of Lamb!

Can you imagine what this feast must have been like on the Canaan side of the Jordan, just before Jericho?

Can you imagine the thanksgiving? The remembering? The celebration of their rescue–of the salvation of their God?

That’s why Jesus used the Passover meal to institute His salvation meal–what we call “the Lord’s Supper.” Because He is the true Passover Lamb. He is the reason why eternal death (which we justly deserve) passes us over–because of His blood, because of His sacrifice.

In a minute, we’re going to eat that covenant meal. The sign of ongoing fellowship with Him in the New Covenant.

And as we do, let this be our application:

#2. REMEMBER HOW THE LORD RESCUED YOU.

Last week, we heard the story of how the LORD rescued Tonya and Alea.

What’s your story?

How did the LORD of Heaven and Earth reach down and rescue you from your sin?

How did you hear the gospel, the good news of grace in Jesus Christ and be saved?

Use this time today as we celebrate the Lord’s Supper to remember how the Lord rescued you.

Unless you are not yet rescued! If you are not rescued, or not sure that you are, I invite you to trust in Jesus Christ as your own King and your Rescuer, trusting in what He did on the Cross for you.

What we’re going to eat is a Salvation Meal. It doesn’t save, but it stands for salvation–and how that salvation comes to us–through a bloody cross.

I invite you turn from your sin and trust in the Savior and be reconciled to God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

And then, Remember Your Rescue. Give thanks for it. Revel in it. Rejoice!

Celebrate. Remember how the LORD rescued you.

Now, see what happens next just before Jericho. Their meal plan changes. V.11

“The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain. The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate of the produce of Canaan.”

No circumcision for 40 years.
No Passover for 40 years.
Manna for 40 years. Now, it stops. Why?

Because they are in the Land!

They are possessing the promises. It’s not that God is no longer providing. It’s now that they get to experience God’s provision inside of the Promised Land!

Everything is changing, isn’t it?

What must it have been like to be a part of that group of people that week–when they renewed their covenant, took on the mark in their bodies, ate the covenant meal again, and then got to eat Canaan food–milk and honey?

And no more manna.

How thankful they must have been–for both 40 years of manna and for fresh home-grown produce.

Here’s an application. Pretty simple:

#3. BE THANKFUL FOR THE LORD’S GRACIOUS PROVISION.

The manna was a miracle, but it was also a sign–a sign that God loves and feeds His people.

If you have food on your table today, you know the LORD’s gracious provision, too.

Be thankful.

I think it’s easy to be Thankful in November. I find it more difficult to be thankful in cold, dark, illness-infested February.

But God is good all the time. And we need to be thankful.

He cares for our needs, our need for daily bread.

The manna was a miracle, but it was also a sign–a sign that God loves and feeds His people.

And more than that, it was a sign of the Manna from Heaven. The Bread of Life. The Manna who became a Man–Jesus Christ.

He said that He is the bread of life–if we have faith in Him, our souls will be satisfied.

Be thankful for the Lord’s gracious provision.

And #4. ALIGN YOURSELF UNDER THE LORD’S AUTHORITY.

Here’s the strangest thing that happened just before Jericho: v.13.

“Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, ‘Are you for us or for our enemies?’”

Now, we aren’t given a lot of details here, but the ones we have are startling!

Joshua is out near Jericho. Is he spying it out himself?

What time of day is it? What else is going on? We don’t know.

But Joshua runs into a man who has a drawn sword.

That means that he means business. War is in the air. Judgment, danger, warfare.

Joshua doesn’t know him, perhaps he can see something different about this man–in how he dresses, or how he hold himself, or what kind of a sword he has.

Joshua walks up to him! “Be strong and courageous, Joshua!”

And he asks him his allegiance: “Are you for us or for our enemies?”

What’s the answer? V.14.

“‘Neither,’ he replied, ‘but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.’ Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, ‘What message does my Lord have for his servant?’ The commander of the LORD's army replied, ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.’ And Joshua did so.”

Are you on our side or their side?

Neither.

The question is: Are you on the LORD’s side?

Are you aligned with Him and under His authority and worshiping Him alone in His holiness?

Joshua gets it right away. He goes facedown.

This is the commander of the LORD’s army.

We’re not sure if He’s the angel of the Lord, or a pre-incarnate manifestation of the Lord Jesus, or both or what He is. But we know this, He is the commander of the LORD’s army.

I don’t think He’s talking about Israel here, though Israel was also the Lord’s army. And Joshua realizes that He’s really second in command!

But I think He’s talking about the angelic army. The LORD of HOSTS.

The commander of the army of the LORD.

Who is going to really do the battle?

The LORD is. Israel will have to fight, but the LORD will do all of the real fighting for them.

What an encouragement this is! It’s like another way of saying, “Be Strong and Courageous!” Just Before Jericho!

The LORD’s army is here!

But it’s also humbling, isn’t it?

It’s not about you, Joshua. It’s about the Lord.

Take off your sandals. Like Moses, the place where you are standing is holy ground.

God is here.

And the question is not is he for you or against you (He’s for you, of course, He’s with you, of course–but that’s not the question!).

The question is are YOU for Him?

Align Yourself Under the Authority of the Lord.

Follow Him. Humble Yourself Before Him.

Worship Him. Where He is is holy.

Sign up for His army. Follow the Lord.