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Sunday, March 29, 2009

[Matt's Messages] "Serve the Lord"

“Serve the Lord”

Possessing the Promises: The Book of Joshua
March 29, 2009
Joshua 23:1-24:33

In only 3 months, 11 messages, we’ve marched our way through the entire book of Joshua, and here we are at the end.

We’ve reached what we called last week, “The Farewell Section” of the book of Joshua. Last week, it was farewell to the Transjordan Tribes and a call to hold fast to the Lord together.

This week, it is farewell to Joshua himself. And actually two farewell messages from Joshua to the people.

On two different occasions, probably fairly close together at the end of his lifetime, Joshua called the leaders and the people together and gave them his last messages.

And in those messages, Joshua has one major overriding call for them–for the people of Israel to keep their side of the covenant with the LORD. To “Serve the Lord.” That’s what Joshua calls Israel to do: “Serve the Lord.”

Just like Joshua was concerned last week that the Transjordan Tribes would forsake the LORD, he is concerned that all of the tribes of Israel will turn away from the Lord and no longer serve Him.

And so, Joshua preaches these two messages, which I think, we’ll find apply to us today.

Joshua is now old. But he still has some spunk in him.

And he’s got a message for the leaders of Israel. Chapter 23, verse 1.

“After a long time had passed and the LORD had given Israel rest from all their enemies around them, Joshua, by then old and well advanced in years, summoned all Israel–their elders, leaders, judges and officials–and said to them: ‘I am old and well advanced in years. 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. Remember how I have allotted as an inheritance for your tribes all the land of the nations that remain–the nations I conquered–between the Jordan and the Great Sea in the west. The LORD your God himself will drive them out of your way. He will push them out before you, and you will take possession of their land, as the LORD your God promised you.”

Chapter 24 will tell us that Joshua dies at the ripe old age of 110. So, it probably been about 25 years since chapter 22. There has probably been about 25 years between chapters 22 and 23.

Israel is at rest. The land has been divided up and possessed. Joshua is old and about to die.

However, there is still work to be done. Israel has not yet driven out all of the Canaanites.

But Joshua is confident that God will do it if they trust him.

And so he tells the leaders that they need to hold fast to the LORD their God.

#1. HOLD FAST TO THE LORD YOUR GOD.

Look at verse 6.

“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. Do not associate with these nations that remain among you; do not invoke the names of their gods or swear by them. You must not serve them or bow down to them. But you are to hold fast to the LORD your God, as you have until now.”
Hold Fast to the LORD Your God.

Yes, this is what Joshua said last week (25 years ago) to the Transjordan Tribes.

Hold Fast!

“Be very strong; be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses...”

Sounds like chapter 1 again, doesn’t it?

“...without turning aside to the right or to the left.”

Hold Fast.

Don’t go left, don’t go right. Go straight ahead.

Isn’t hard to do? Aren’t we prone to wander?

Don’t we want to veer this way or that way?

That’s why we need these kinds of reminders.

Hold fast! Don’t ride on the rumble strips. Go straight ahead. Verse 7.

“Do not associate with these nations that remain among you; do not invoke the names of their gods or swear by them. You must not serve them or bow down to them. But you are to hold fast to the LORD your God, as you have until now.”

Aha. Now we see what Joshua is most concerned about.

He’s most concerned about false worship. The worship of other gods, false gods.

There are still false worshipers in Israel, and as long as they are there, there is always the temptation to follow after their false gods.

Why? Lots of reasons. One big one is that false gods often promise big things and are visible, tangible, and seem powerful.

But they are false.

And the LORD is true.

And so, Joshua calls Israel to hold fast. V.9

“The LORD has driven out before you great and powerful nations; to this day no one has been able to withstand you. One of you routs a thousand, because the LORD your God fights for you, just as he promised. [We’ve seen that again and again and again in the book of Joshua, haven’t we? So? V.11] So be very careful to love the LORD your God.”

Hold fast and love the Lord your God.

Do you need to hear that this morning?

Maybe you are tempted to swerve to the left or to the right.

Maybe there is something that’s caught your attention–something that promises you big things and is visible, tangible, and seems powerful–what amounts to a false god.

You wouldn’t call it that, but that’s what it is.

Is it an illicit relationship? A juicy bit of gossip? A bad habit? A possession that’s got you possessed?

An extra plate at the dinner table?

Maybe you’re thinking about chucking the whole thing.

Don’t.

Don’t turn aside to the left or to the right. Hold Fast [Glue Yourself!] to the Lord Your God. Be very careful to love the Lord your God!

Why? One reason is because of how dangerous it is to turn away. Look at verse 12.

“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 [ouch!], until you perish from this good land, which the LORD your God has given you. [God gave it to you and He can take it away!]”

“Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. [He’s dying.] 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.”

“But just as every good promise of the LORD your God has come true, so the LORD will bring on you all the evil he has threatened, until he has destroyed you from this good land he has given you. If you violate the covenant of the LORD your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them, the LORD's anger will burn against you, and you will quickly perish from the good land he has given you.”

Wow. That’s a strong warning, isn’t it?

Israel needed to hear that.

If they turned away from the Lord–apostasized–and took up with the false gods of the land, it was going to hurt.

With disobedience comes danger. This is as sure as the facts that with obedience comes blessings and God always keeps His promises.

What seems to visible, tangible and powerful becomes “whips on your backs and thorns in your eyes.”

I love the way that the Bible talks to us. It’s so real.

Don’t turn aside to the right or to the left.
If you do, you’ll get “whips on your backs and thorns in your eyes.”

So, instead, Hold Fast to the Lord Your God.

Here’s the bigger reason. And it’s one to not forget.

#2. REMEMBER WHO GOT YOU HERE.

In chapter 24, Joshua calls the entire nation, not just the leaders to Shechem where he’s going to give his last message before he dies.

Why Shechem? Does anybody know?

Shechem is where Abraham was first told that his descendents would inherit this whole land!

This is where it all started.

This is where the Promised Land was promised! And now it is their possession.

And Shechem is where Joshua gives his last and most prophetic speech. Chapter 24, verses 1 through 13.

I want you to listen for the most important and repeated word this passage.

“Then Joshua assembled all the tribes of Israel at Shechem. He summoned the elders, leaders, judges and officials of Israel, and they presented themselves before God. Joshua said to all the people [imagine the crowd!], ‘This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'Long ago your forefathers, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the River and worshiped other gods. But I took your father Abraham from the land beyond the River and led him throughout Canaan and gave him many descendants. I gave him Isaac, and to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. I assigned the hill country of Seir to Esau, but Jacob and his sons went down to Egypt. Then I sent Moses and Aaron, and I afflicted the Egyptians by what I did there, and I brought you out. When I brought your fathers out of Egypt, you came to the sea, and the Egyptians pursued them with chariots and horsemen as far as the Red Sea. But they cried to the LORD for help, and he put darkness between you and the Egyptians; he brought the sea over them and covered them. You saw with your own eyes what I did to the Egyptians. Then you lived in the desert for a long time. I brought you to the land of the Amorites who lived east of the Jordan. They fought against you, but I gave them into your hands. I destroyed them from before you, and you took possession of their land. When Balak son of Zippor, the king of Moab, prepared to fight against Israel, he sent for Balaam son of Beor to put a curse on you. But I would not listen to Balaam, so he blessed you again and again, and I delivered you out of his hand. Then you crossed the Jordan and came to Jericho. The citizens of Jericho fought against you, as did also the Amorites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites and Jebusites, but I gave them into your hands. I sent the hornet ahead of you, which drove them out before you–also the two Amorite kings. You did not do it with your own sword and bow. So I gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant.’”

What is the key word in those 13 verses?

It is “I.”

Joshua prophetically recounts the entire history of Israel. It’s like a 13 verse summary of the Pentateuch!

From the Abraham, a former moon worshiper from Ur, to Isaac, to Jacob, to Moses, to the plagues, to the Red Sea Rescue, to the Transjordan victories, to Balaam, to the book of Joshua–crossing the Jordan, down came Jericho, conquering Canaan.

Who did all of that?

Who is the Main Character of the Pentateuch?

The Lord is.

Over and over again He says, “I did that. I delivered you. I blessed you. I gave you.”

And He ends with verse 13 where they now sit: “So I gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant.”

Remember Who Got You Here! God did!

If you have any blessing, it’s because God gave it to you.

God is incredibly gracious!

He gives good gifts.

And He deserves all of the glory.

I can’t read these verses without thinking about our salvation.

Our salvation is a gracious work of God.

We were dead [dead!] in our trespasses and sins.
We couldn’t have saved ourselves if we’d tried.

But God saved us by His own power. The power of the Cross! And the power ofthe resurrection.

The same power that raised Jesus from the dead worked in us to bring us to faith.

And to give us new life.

If you are saved, remember how you got there! God did it.

And give God the glory.

Hold Fast to Him.
Love Him.

And #3. FEAR THE LORD AND SERVE HIM WITH ALL FAITHFULNESS.

That’s what Joshua says to Israel. V.14

“Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

Wow. Joshua is, I think, almost taunting them. He’s just told them how God got them to this place by His grace.

And now he calls them to fear the Lord and serve Him with all faithfulness. The King James says, “in sincerity and truth.” The New Living Translation says, “serve Him wholeheartedly.”

And then he gives them a choice. Choose today. But choose. Are you going to go with the God Who got you here? Or go back to the old gods or find some new ones?

As for me and my household, for those whom I speak for–we will serve Yahweh. We will serve the LORD.

What an example!

What a declaration.

We are on the Lord’s side.

He has gotten us here and we’ll go with him.

But Joshua is saying, “Love Him or Leave Him!”

We will love Him.

And that’s Israel says, too. V.16

“Then the people answered, ‘Far be it from us to forsake the LORD to serve other gods! It was the LORD our God himself who brought us and our fathers up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we traveled. [He got us here.] And the LORD drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land. We too will serve the LORD, because he is our God.’”

Yes!

And Joshua says, “No.”

Look at his shocking reply. V.19

“Joshua said to the people, ‘You are not able to serve the LORD. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.’”

Wow. That’s almost totally unexpected isn’t it?

First he says, “Serve the Lord!”

And then they say they will.

And he says, “No you won’t. You can’t!”

He’s not saying that they shouldn’t try. They should.

But they don’t seem to know how fickle they really are.

They answered too quickly. Too glibly. Too facile.

They didn’t seem to have counted the cost of discipleship.

Or think about what they are promising.

Joshua knows them.

He knows that they are fickle. He saw how they followed (or didn’t follow) Moses.

He led them for many years.

He looks out and see how they have not yet possessed the land as fully as they should have.

And he suspects that they have brought foreign gods with them even to this great assembly.

And he knows (v.19) that God is holy and God is jealous.

If they rebel and they fall away and they serve foreign gods, God will bring judgment on Israel. V.21

“But the people said to Joshua, ‘No! We will serve the LORD.’ Then Joshua said, ‘You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the LORD.’ ‘Yes, we are witnesses,’ they replied. ‘Now then,’ said Joshua, ‘throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.’ And the people said to Joshua, ‘We will serve the LORD our God and obey him.’”

This was a flashback in many ways.

Not only was Shechem the place where Abraham was told that he would inherit the Promised Land. It was also the place where Jacob buried his family’s false gods from across the Euphrates River.

It is time to do it again. V.23.

“Throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.’ And the people said to Joshua, ‘We will serve the LORD our God and obey him.’”

Serve the Lord. It’s a call to complete commitment. To give the Lord our whole hearts.

To bow before Him alone and own Him as our god.

I love that phrase in verse 23, “Yield your hearts to the LORD.”

That’s what God is asking from us. He wants our hearts.

He doesn’t want us to worship other things that will never satisfy.

He wants our hearts.

That’s what it means to serve Him–to give Him our whole hearts.

Have you yielded your heart to the LORD?

He’s done so much for you. He’s brought you to this place. He’s give you the gifts that you have.

Have you yielded your heart to Him?

Israel says that they do. And Joshua holds them to it. V.25

“On that day Joshua made a covenant for the people, and there at Shechem he drew up for them decrees and laws. And Joshua recorded these things in the Book of the Law of God. Then he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak near the holy place of the LORD. ‘See!’ he said to all the people. ‘This stone will be a witness against us. It has heard all the words the LORD has said to us. It will be a witness against you if you are untrue to your God.’ Then Joshua sent the people away, each to his own inheritance.”
Fear the Lord and Serve Him with All Faithfulness.

What does that mean to you today?

Does that describe you?

Are you a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ?

Fear the Lord and Serve Him with All Faithfulness.

That’s what Joshua did. And then he went to his reward. V.29

“After these things, Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the LORD [same title as Moses had!], died at the age of a hundred and ten. And they buried him in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Serah in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash. Israel served the LORD throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had experienced everything the LORD had done for Israel.”

They DID serve the LORD! At least for a time. Unfortunately, Joshua was right and after he died the book of Judges begins! And we’ll see there that what he predicted came horribly true.

But for a time, at least, Israel did serve the Lord. And they had so much to be thankful for.

Point number four (and last this morning).

#4. BE THANKFUL FOR GOD’S UNSWERVING FAITHFULNESS.

The people were called to be faithful, and they were only so-so at it.

But God is always faithful. God always keeps His promises.

I love this last part (v.32). Remember Joseph’s bones?

Joseph believed the promises of God so much that he refused to be buried in Egypt.

And he made them promise to take his bones back to the Promised Land and bury him there. He knew it was going to happen.

So, they’d carried his bones for over a hundred years.

And now, verse 32, “And Joseph's bones, which the Israelites had brought up from Egypt, were buried at Shechem in the tract of land that Jacob bought for a hundred pieces of silver from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem (Genesis 33). This became the inheritance of Joseph's descendants. And Eleazar son of Aaron died and was buried at Gibeah, which had been allotted to his son Phinehas in the hill country of Ephraim.”

God always keeps His promises.

We can be thankful for God’s unswerving faithfulness!

And because He’s been faithful, we can be faithful to Him.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Happy Birthday TNKZ!

Byron Harvey's The No Kool-Aid Zone turns 5 this week! (I remember when it was "a ticking time blog.")


Watching Byron do it was one of the inspirations for this blog, so it's kind of like a father (or at least a crazy uncle) for Hot Orthodoxy.

Happy birthday, TNKZ!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Isaac Surgery Update


Isaac's surgery went well. He was a real trooper. He's home and resting.

He is restricted from driving or operating heavy machinery for the next 12 years, but other than that, he's allowed to do just about everything.

Thanks for praying!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Matt's Messages "Together"

“Together”
Possessing the Promises: The Book of Joshua
March 22, 2009
Joshua 22:1-34

Surprise, surprise! We’ve almost reached the end of the book.

Last week, we studied 9 chapters in one message and that moved us quite quickly to the end of the book.

Last week, we saw that the LORD had given Israel the Promised Land. Chapter 21 put this way (vv.43-45): “So the LORD gave Israel all the land he had sworn to their forefathers, and they took possession of it and settled there. The LORD gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their forefathers. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the LORD handed all of their enemies over to them. Not one of all the LORD’s good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.”

That could be the ending right there!

It is the high point and the heart and soul of this book.

But it is not the end. There are three more chapters that we want to consider this week and next.

Three chapters about what is next for Israel now that they have the promised land.

Three chapters about continuing to follow the Lord now that they have the promised land.

Three chapters about holding fast to the Lord and continuing to serve Him now that they have the promised land.

In many ways, these last three chapters are “farewell” stories.

Next week, it will be farewell to Joshua. This week it is farewell to the Transjordan Tribes.

And the central idea of this chapter is unity among God’s people–holding fast to the Lord “Together.”

So, Israel has peace and rest. It is not time to dismiss the Transjordan Tribes to go back home–East to their families. Chapter 22, verse 1.

“Then Joshua summoned the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh and said to them, ‘You have done all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded, and you have obeyed me in everything I commanded. For a long time now–to this very day– you have not deserted your brothers but have carried out the mission the LORD your God gave you. Now that the LORD your God has given your brothers rest as he promised, return to your homes in the land that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you on the other side of the Jordan.’” Stop there for a second.

That’s a glowing commendation, isn’t it?

This is an honorable discharge from military service.

These are the 2½ tribes that we’ve talked about all along. These are the ones whom Moses gave permission to settle on the East side of the Jordan–what we call the Transjordan Area. Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh (though Manasseh actually has land on either side of the Jordan, as we saw last week).

These warriors had left their homes, their wives, children, flocks and herds on the other side of the river for who knows how long–at least 7 years, it seems to me, if my calculations about the conquest are correct. At least 7 years had gone by since these warriors (at least 40,000 set out) had seen their families.

Now it was time to go home.

Can you imagine what that must have felt like?
Maybe some of you can. You’ve lived a military separation.

Well, now the successful tour of duty is over and these boys are headed home.

But Joshua is concerned.

He’s concerned about togetherness. And he’s concerned that now that peace has come and the fighting is over that they will lose their focus on the Lord. Look at verse 5.

“But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you: to love the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to obey his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and all your soul.”

First point this morning.

#1. HOLD FAST TO THE LORD. (VV.1-5)

That’s where true togetherness comes from.

Hold Fast to the Lord.

Joshua was concerned that now that all of Israel’s trouble had died down, that Israel’s faith would die down, too, especially the faith and the focus of the Transjordan Tribes. They were going to be outside of Canaan, outside, far away from the rest of the people of Israel.

What was going to keep them together, on track with the Lord?

You can just about hear the passion in his voice in verse 5.

“But be very careful [very careful!] to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you: to love the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to obey his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and all your soul.”

He’s going to say very similar things next week to the leaders in chapter 23 and the whole nation in chapter 24.

But now he says it to the Eastern Tribes:

Keep the commandment and the law that you received from Moses.

That sounds like what the Lord told him back in chapter 1, right?

“Do not let this book of the law depart from your mouth but meditate on it day and night so that you will be careful to obey everything in it.”

Love the Lord your God. Make Him the center and focus of your life. We use the language here of a “love relationship” with God through Jesus Christ. Love Him!

Walk in His ways. He has His ways of doing things. They are not always our ways. He wants us to adopt His ways. He wants us to walk in his ways.

Obey His commands. Do what He says. Not half-heartedly but wholeheartedly.

Fold fast to Him and serve him with all your heart and all your soul.

That’s all of you.

And, I think, the Lord is saying something similar to us today.

Hold Fast to the LORD. 100%. All of your heart. All of your soul.

The King James has “cleave to the LORD.” “Super glue” yourself to the Lord.

Do you feel this verse? Verse 5? Is it speaking to you?

Or are you holding something back?

“But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you: to love the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to obey his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and all your soul.”

You and I can be so fickle. On today and gone tomorrow.

But this is what God wants for us–He wants all of us. Wholehearted devotion. Holding fast to the Lord.

That’s what Joshua told the Transjordan Tribes, and then he sent them off with a blessing. V.6

“Then Joshua blessed them and sent them away, and they went to their homes. (To the half-tribe of Manasseh Moses had given land in Bashan, and to the other half of the tribe Joshua gave land on the west side of the Jordan with their brothers.) When Joshua sent them home, he blessed them, saying, ‘Return to your homes with your great wealth–with large herds of livestock, with silver, gold, bronze and iron, and a great quantity of clothing– and divide with your brothers [the rest of Israel] the plunder from your enemies.’ So the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh left the Israelites at Shiloh in Canaan to return to Gilead, their own land, which they had acquired in accordance with the command of the LORD through Moses.”

Everything seems hunky-dory. But...then this happens. V.10

“When they came to Geliloth near the Jordan in the land of Canaan [west side!], the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh built an imposing altar there by the Jordan.”

It doesn’t say why. It leaves it a mystery for now to heighten our suspense.

They build a great big imposing altar.

So big that it could be seen on either side of the Jordan.

They build this huge altar–it looks like the altar that goes with the tabernacle–on the west side of the Jordan and then head home.

Why?

Well, the rest of the Israelites think they know why. It’s to mess up their togetherness in the Lord! V.11

“And when the Israelites heard that they had built the altar on the border of Canaan at Geliloth near the Jordan on the Israelite side, the whole assembly of Israel gathered at Shiloh to go to war against them.”

Whoa! From blessing to war in 5 verses!

Israel is fighting mad. Why?

Because it looks to them like the Transjordan Tribes are already abandoning pure worship of the LORD–already not holding fast to the Lord.

They are setting up their own altar.

So, the rest of Israel (interestingly, it just says “Israel” because the status of the Transjordan Tribes as Israel is all of a sudden under question, Israel) gathers at the Shiloh (where the tabernacle and the true altar are) to go to war against their own Israelite brothers.

Wow.

Now, is this good or bad? Ultimately, we’ll see if war is called for.

But the Bible presents this as coming from something good inside of them–a desire to hold fast to the LORD and that unity together in the LORD is something worth fighting for.

They are taking Joshua’s call seriously and confronting their brothers with their apparent sin.

#2. CONFRONT EACH OTHER IN LOVE. (VV.6-20)

You want true togetherness? It will require some confrontation.

Now, the Israelites realize that they might not have all of the story, so they organize a diplomatic mission to cross the Jordan and confront the Transjordan Tribes. V.13

“So the Israelites sent Phinehas son of Eleazar, the priest, to the land of Gilead–to Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh. [Remember Phinehas? He was zealous for the Lord in the book of Numbers.] With him they sent ten of the chief men, one for each of the tribes of Israel, each the head of a family division among the Israelite clans.

And they confront their brothers. V.15

“When they went to Gilead–to Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh–they said to them: ‘The whole assembly of the LORD says: 'How could you break faith with the God of Israel like this? How could you turn away from the LORD and build yourselves an altar in rebellion against him now? Was not the sin of Peor enough for us? Up to this very day we have not cleansed ourselves from that sin, even though a plague fell on the community of the LORD! And are you now turning away from the LORD? ‘'If you rebel against the LORD today, tomorrow he will be angry with the whole community of Israel. If the land you possess is defiled, come over to the LORD's land, where the LORD's tabernacle stands, and share the land with us. But do not rebel against the LORD or against us by building an altar for yourselves, other than the altar of the LORD our God. When Achan son of Zerah acted unfaithfully regarding the devoted things, did not wrath come upon the whole community of Israel? He was not the only one who died for his sin.'’”

They are passionate, aren’t they?

I think they are doing a good job of talking truthfully.

We Christians need to grow in this.

We need to speak the truth in love.

They Israelites are reaching out to their Transjordan brothers and they are saying hard and strong things but they are saying it in love.

It’s a very loving thing to do to confront someone in their sin.

To remind them of the seriousness of sin.

To remind them of the consequences of sin.

To call them to come out of their sin.

Most of us don’t like to do that, but it’s a truly loving thing to do.

One of the reasons why these guys are doing it, of course, is that it affects them, too.

They’ve got the point that we’ve seen a couple of times already, that God’s people are connected to each other and that one person’s sin (like Achan’s) affects the others.

We stand and fall together.

So, they risk the threat of war to contend for true togetherness in the Lord.

Are you willing to fight for true togetherness in the Lord?

We often think that ignoring someone’s sin is the loving thing to do.

And it is a glory to overlook a personal offense.

But it is loving to confront someone if they are heading down a disastrous path.

It’s right to call sin what it is–“sin.”

Is there someone in your life right now that needs to be confronted?

A child? A spouse? A friend?

True togetherness is worth fighting for.

Confront each other in love.

But also, #3. LISTEN TO EACH OTHER IN LOVE. (VV.21-29)

It’s not just about talking. It’s about listening, too.

And, it seems, that Israel does that right here, too. V.21

“Then Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh replied to the heads of the clans of Israel: ‘The Mighty One, God, the LORD! The Mighty One, God, the LORD! He knows! And let Israel know! If this has been in rebellion or disobedience to the LORD, do not spare us this day. If we have built our own altar to turn away from the LORD and to offer burnt offerings and grain offerings, or to sacrifice fellowship offerings on it, may the LORD himself call us to account. No! We did it for fear that some day your descendants might say to ours, 'What do you have to do with the LORD, the God of Israel? The LORD has made the Jordan a boundary between us and you–you Reubenites and Gadites! You have no share in the LORD.' So your descendants might cause ours to stop fearing the LORD. ‘That is why we said, 'Let us get ready and build an altar–but not for burnt offerings or sacrifices.' On the contrary, it is to be a witness between us and you and the generations that follow, that we will worship the LORD at his sanctuary with our burnt offerings, sacrifices and fellowship offerings. Then in the future your descendants will not be able to say to ours, 'You have no share in the LORD.' And we said, 'If they ever say this to us, or to our descendants, we will answer: Look at the replica of the LORD's altar, which our fathers built, not for burnt offerings and sacrifices, but as a witness between us and you.' Far be it from us to rebel against the LORD and turn away from him today by building an altar for burnt offerings, grain offerings and sacrifices, other than the altar of the LORD our God that stands before his tabernacle.’”

Ohhhh.

It’s been a misunderstanding.

Can’t you just hear the exasperation in the voices of the Transjordan Tribes? They are about out of their wits in verse 22!

“‘The Mighty One, God, the LORD! The Mighty One, God, the LORD! He knows! And let Israel know!”

They weren’t trying to disobey at all.

That’s why the altar is on the west side of the Jordan!

It’s to remind them when they look across the Jordan that the true altar is on THAT side of the river!

And it’s to remind both of them that they are TOGETHER in the Lord.

Ahh.

See how important it is to listen?

Often there is just a misunderstanding between two Christians.

There is something that hasn’t been communicated, and it takes listening to work it out.

Proverbs says, “He who answers before listening–that is his folly and his shame” (Proverbs 18:13).

It’s great that the Israelites confronted their brothers.

They were willing to sacrifice their own blood and their brothers’ blood.

And, did you notice back in verses 19 that they were willing to give up their own land to preserve true togetherness in the Lord.

But it’s even greater that they listened before they took rash action.

Christians need to listen to each other–especially when there is a conflict going on.

In the middle of conflicts, it’s the hardest to really hear someone.

When my wife is mad at me (and vice versa), I have the hardest time listening to what she is saying.

But that is exactly when I need to be listening the most!

Israel did listen. V.30

“When Phinehas the priest and the leaders of the community–the heads of the clans of the Israelites–heard what Reuben, Gad and Manasseh had to say, they were pleased. And Phinehas son of Eleazar, the priest, said to Reuben, Gad and Manasseh, ‘Today we know that the LORD is with us, because you have not acted unfaithfully toward the LORD in this matter. Now you have rescued the Israelites from the LORD's hand.’ Then Phinehas son of Eleazar, the priest, and the leaders returned to Canaan from their meeting with the Reubenites and Gadites in Gilead and reported to the Israelites. They were glad to hear the report and praised God. And they talked no more about going to war against them to devastate the country where the Reubenites and the Gadites lived. And the Reubenites and the Gadites gave the altar this name: A Witness Between Us that the LORD is God.”

Here’s number 4.

#4. WORSHIP AND WITNESS TOGETHER. (VV.30-34)

You want to maintain true togetherness? True unity between Christians?

Worship and witness together.

This altar stood as a witness, a testimony, between them that the LORD is God and they were going to hold fast to Him together.

The River wouldn’t divide them in any way but geographically.

They were together in the same worship of the same God.

There is nothing that brings God’s people together more than shared witness and shared worship.

Whenever the Tribes on either side of the River saw that imposing altar looming over the landscape, they were reminded that there was a place of sacrifice that brought them together and made them one people.

We have the same thing now in the Cross of Jesus Christ.

It was an altar, too. An imposing altar that looms above the plains of time.

Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself on that altar for the sins of His people.

And He made His people one.

He brought us together through His one sacrifice to make us ono people.

Together.

All who turn in repentance and trust in Him by faith become His very own.

And get united to each other to witness together that Jesus is Lord and share in worship of Him alone.

Together.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Prayer Request: Surgery for Isaac

Our youngest, Isaac (pictured here with big sister) has to have a small surgery on Tuesday to repair a congenital problem that isn't giving him trouble now but could later.

We'd appreciate prayer for our big little man (age 4 1/2), as he has to go under general anaesthesia.

He won't be kept overnight and should be up and playing by the next day, but it's intimidating to him (and to us!).

Thanks for praying.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Calvin 500

In addition to reading through my Bible this year, I'm also reading through John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion.

My buddy, Dan Ledford, says "You and I call ourselves pastors, but we haven't read Calvin's Institutes all the way through?!" So, now we are.

I've always felt bad about that, but not so much today.

Ray Ortlund says that he just finished reading Calvin's Institutes this year. But he got a head start:

"In 1981. So it's about time." Read the whole thing.

Dan, we're in better company than we think!

I see, also, that Desiring God's national conference is dedicated to Calvin's vision of God painted on the canvas of the world. Interesting.

Of course, the point isn't John Calvin (who, by the way, shares a birthday with my beautiful bride), but Calvin's Lord!

Soli Deo Gloria!

Drew's Joke Book #6

Q. What is a hare's favorite shop?

A. A barber shop!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Durocher Family Ministries Concert


We've invited Paul & Judy Durocher and their 12 children (yes, you read that right!) to give a concert at LEFC on Friday, October 2nd.

Check out their website for more information about this really neat musical Christian family.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Matt's Messages "Possessing the Promises"

“Possessing the Promises”
Possessing the Promises: The Book of Joshua
March 15, 2009
Joshua 13:1-21:45

We’ve reached the most exciting part of the book of Joshua!

Do you believe me?

Actually, to you and me this is often the most boring part of the book of Joshua and it goes and on and on for 9 chapters.

Last week, we studied chapters 10, 11, and 12 which told the story, in a rather quick way, of the major battles of Israel’s conquest of the land of Canaan.

“Surely the LORD was fighting for Israel!” because Israel had victory over each and every major enemy they had in the land.

Now, in chapters 13 through 21, that conquered land is apportioned, divided, allocated, divvied-up–to the tribes of Israel.

And for 9 chapters, we read about geography, locations, cities, allotments, and distributions.

[Yawn.] Not that exciting for your ears and mine.

I don’t know about you, but I’m always tempted to skip over this part when I’m reading through Joshua. Boring!

But these 9 chapters are God’s Word.

They are in God’s Word, and they are God’s Word.

God thought that these chapters were important to put in His Holy Book.

I think that we can take time to read them and try to understand why they are important.

They sure were important to Israel!

These would have been, for Israel, the most exciting chapters of this book.

More exciting than Jericho!

Because God was going to call their name and give them the Promised Land.

Remember the title of this sermon series? “Joshua: Possessing the Promises.”

That’s what this whole book is all about. And here they are, actually doing it.

For hundreds of years, God had promised this land to be their land.

And now, finally, it actually is!

They are finally possessing the promises.

These chapters (no matter how boring it is for us to read today) are the heart and soul of this book.

Because God was going to call Israel’s name and give them the Promised Land.

Have you ever wanted to hear your name called to receive something?

How about at Christmastime, when it's your turn to open presents?

Maybe you’ve been at the reading of a will. And a lot of other people are mentioned, and you’re just waiting. And then, your name is called and the lawyer reads what you will you receive from your relative.

Israel was now going to receive their inheritance. The word “inheritance” appears over fifty times in theses 9 chapters.

God was giving His promised gift to Israel.

Because God was going to call Israel’s name and give them the Promised Land–finally possessing the promises.

The first thing to see is that while the whole land was conquered, it wasn’t all yet taken over, that is, there were still pockets of resistance and peoples who had not yet been completely overthrown. Look at chapter 13, verse 1.

“When Joshua was old and well advanced in years [it seems like he’s in his 80's now], the LORD said to him, ‘You are very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over. This is the land that remains: all the regions of the Philistines and Geshurites: from the Shihor River on the east of Egypt to the territory of Ekron on the north, all of it counted as Canaanite (the territory of the five Philistine rulers in Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath and Ekron–that of the Avvites); from the south, all the land of the Canaanites, from Arah of the Sidonians as far as Aphek, the region of the Amorites, the area of the Gebalites; and all Lebanon to the east, from Baal Gad below Mount Hermon to Lebo Hamath. As for all the inhabitants of the mountain regions from Lebanon to Misrephoth Maim, that is, all the Sidonians, I myself will drive them out before the Israelites. Be sure to allocate this land to Israel for an inheritance, as I have instructed you, and divide it as an inheritance among the nine tribes and half of the tribe of Manasseh.’”

The land had been conquered, but there was still work to be done.

And, unfortunately, this work was never fully done. That’s why the period of Judges is so difficult. That’s why the Philistines (did you see the Philistines in verse 2, that’s why the Philistines) become such a problem for Israel.

While most of the details in these 9 chapters are exciting and positive, there are still parts of the story that are negative–where there was only half-hearted obedience to God’s command that will come back to bite Israel later.

God tells them to finish taking the Land, He will help them (v.6), and then they are to (v.7) “divide it as an inheritance among the 9 and half tribes.”

Now, what happened to the other 2½ tribes? Where are they located?

On the East Side of the Jordan, right?

Verses 8 through 33 remind of us that and tell us what land Reuben, Manasseh, and Gad all received on the Transjordan side of the river. We won’t read that, but it’s important to note that they, too, got their promised land. There is no injustice here.

Now, in chapter 14, it starts to tell the story of the inheritance on the West Side of the Jordan. Look at verses 1 through 5.

“Now these are the areas the Israelites received as an inheritance in the land of Canaan, which Eleazar the priest, Joshua son of Nun and the heads of the tribal clans of Israel allotted to them. Their inheritances were assigned by lot [who controls the lot? The LORD does!] to the nine-and-a-half tribes, as the LORD had commanded through Moses. Moses had granted the two-and-a-half tribes their inheritance east of the Jordan but had not granted the Levites an inheritance among the rest, for the sons of Joseph had become two tribes–Manasseh and Ephraim. The Levites received no share of the land but only towns to live in, with pasturelands for their flocks and herds. [We’ll see that in chapter 21] So the Israelites divided the land, just as the LORD had commanded Moses.”

They are possessing the promises.

I almost titled this message: “Standing on the Promises” because now they really were! They were actually standing on the land given to them. How exciting!

Now, how should they and how should they not go about possessing these promies?

I’ve got 3 key words for you. Two positive ones with a negative one in between.

Here’s #1. WHOLEHEARTEDLY.

Possessing the promises wholeheartedly. This is represented by godly and gutsy old Caleb. Look at verse 6 of chapter 14.

“Now the men of Judah approached Joshua at Gilgal, and Caleb [remember him?] son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, ‘You know what the LORD said to Moses the man of God at Kadesh Barnea about you and me. [These guys have a history, don’t they?] I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, but my brothers who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt with fear. I, however, followed the LORD my God [here’s our word:] wholeheartedly.

So on that day Moses swore to me, 'The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly.'

‘Now then, just as the LORD promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the desert. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I'm just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then.

Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.’

Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance. So Hebron has belonged to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite ever since, because he followed the LORD, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly. (Hebron used to be called Kiriath Arba after Arba, who was the greatest man among the Anakites.) Then the land had rest from war.”

Isn’t that a great story?!

Caleb is 85 years YOUNG. I don’t know if he was a strong as he says he was, but he sure felt like it.

And he was ready to do the hard things–to be obedient–and to gain blessing and honor by obeying the Lord even in his old age.

The key is not how old Caleb was. It was how much of his heart he was willing to give to the LORD.

Wholeheartedly.

Did you catch which territory he wanted? He wanted Anakite territory! They were the “giants” that had terrified Israel 45 years ago.

But Caleb had found God to be trustworthy and knew that the LORD would help him to do it. V.12

“Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.’”

Possessing the promises wholeheartedly.

Are you doing that with what God has promised you?

We know when we are wholehearted when we are living obedient lives.

We know that we are trusting when we are obeying.

Are wholeheartedly possessing the promises that God has given you?

Godly, gutsy old Caleb did. And he’s a model for all of us.

Chapter 15 gives the details of his tribe, Judah, receiving their inheritance. It’s a virtual tour, from boundary to boundary. I’m not going to read it to you, but I want to point your attention to verse 14.

“From Hebron Caleb drove out the three Anakites–Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai– descendants of Anak.”

He did what he said. He was wholehearted.

Are you and I?

God is calling us to take the hills.

To obey Him and follow Him into the hard stuff.

So often, I find myself being half-hearted in my faith. Only trusting God so far.

This far and no farther.

That was the problem of this next tribe. #2. HALF-HEARTEDLY.

Look at chapters 16 and 17.

In chapter 16, we’re told about the details of the land given to the tribes that make up the tribe of Joseph: Ephraim and Manasseh.

They were given a fair allotment by Joshua and Eleazer and ultimately by God.

The fairness is evident, for example, in chapter 17 verses 3 through 6 as Zelophehad’s daughters received their share. Remember them from the book of Numbers?

They got the land that they believed in by faith. They possessed the promises!

But these tribes, on the whole, were half-hearted in their obedience.

And they decided, instead, to whine. Look at chapter 17, verse 14.

“The people of Joseph said to Joshua, ‘Why have you given us only one allotment and one portion for an inheritance? We are a numerous people and the LORD has blessed us abundantly.’”

They don’t sound like godly, gutsy old Caleb, do they? V.15

“‘If you are so numerous,’ Joshua answered, ‘and if the hill country of Ephraim is too small for you, go up into the forest and clear land for yourselves there in the land of the Perizzites and Rephaites.’ [This land is your land. All you have to do is take it.]

The people of Joseph replied, ‘The hill country is not enough for us, and all the Canaanites who live in the plain have iron chariots, both those in Beth Shan and its settlements and those in the Valley of Jezreel.’

But Joshua said to the house of Joseph–to Ephraim and Manasseh–‘You are numerous and very powerful. You will have not only one allotment but the forested hill country as well. Clear it, and its farthest limits will be yours; though the Canaanites have iron chariots and though they are strong, you can drive them out.’”

Don’t whine. Possess the promises–wholeheartedly!

Not this half-hearted stuff!

I don’t know about you, but unfortunately, I can identify more readily with Joseph’s tribes than with Caleb.

I see the “iron chariots.” And I (somehow) miss my Ally.

These are folks who have had the Jordan River parted, Jericho knocked down, Ai burnt to the ground, all of the South conquered with a miraculous day, and an army as big as the sand on the seashore in the North defeated so that no one survived.

And they are afraid of iron chariots?

But we can’t look down our noses at them, can we?

We are a people among whom God has worked in amazing ways, and yet, we see the “iron chariots” in our lives, don’t we?

Well, I can’t do that because...
Well, I know that God says to do such and such, but I can’t do that because...

Fill in the blank.

We are half-hearted so often. Whining instead of winning.

I have, from time to time (some of you think too often), talked publicly about my struggles with gluttony.

My gluttony comes from being half-hearted.

It’s not a function of my circumstances–it’s a function of my heart.

My laziness.
My desires to consume.
My unwillingness to reign myself in.
My gluttony comes from my heart.

But God has loved me with a gospel-love that is more powerful than my gluttony.

And He wants my whole heart to be towards Him.

I see the “iron chariots.” I see the temptations and provocations to give in.

But He’s calling me to believe with my whole heart.

To stand on the promise. To take ground.

To win, not to whine.

And that, by faith, is what I’m trying to do again. I’d appreciate your prayers.

This last week, I was writing my article for EFCA Today about pornography among pastors and what our districts and national ministries are doing to help pastors.

It wasn’t going well. I was stressed out to the max and beginning to panic.

And when I panic, it’s not a pretty sight!

The phone rang, and it was a district pastor–Jack Wilson. He had a question about something else, but he knew that I was working on this article and he asked how it was going.

I was fairly truthful with him, and he prayed for me.

And I went downstairs after lunch and I told the Lord I didn’t want to panic. And I told Him that I needed His help to write this thing and that He had promised to help me.

And more like Caleb than Joseph, I took the hill and I wrote and wrote and wrote until it was ready to be sent off.

How about you?

Are you possessing the promises?

Not just knowing the promises of God, but trusting them and acting on them?

Or are you just whining?

It appears that the other 7 tribes were also being half-hearted. Look at chapter 18.

“The whole assembly of the Israelites gathered at Shiloh and set up the Tent of Meeting there. [The Tabernacle.] The country was brought under their control, but there were still seven Israelite tribes who had not yet received their inheritance. So Joshua said to the Israelites: ‘How long will you wait before you begin to take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given you?”

Is God asking you that question today? “How long will you wait until you begin possessing the promises I’ve given you in Jesus?”

Joshua said (v.4), “Appoint three men from each tribe. I will send them out to make a survey of the land and to write a description of it, according to the inheritance of each. Then they will return to me. You are to divide the land into seven parts. Judah is to remain in its territory on the south and the house of Joseph in its territory on the north. [We’ve seen that already.] After you have written descriptions of the seven parts of the land, bring them here to me and I will cast lots for you in the presence of the LORD our God. The Levites, however, do not get a portion among you, because the priestly service of the LORD is their inheritance. And Gad, Reuben and the half-tribe of Manasseh have already received their inheritance on the east side of the Jordan. Moses the servant of the LORD gave it to them.’ As the men started on their way to map out the land, Joshua instructed them, ‘Go and make a survey of the land and write a description of it. Then return to me, and I will cast lots for you here at Shiloh in the presence of the LORD.’

So the men left and went through the land. They wrote its description on a scroll, town by town, in seven parts, and returned to Joshua in the camp at Shiloh. Joshua then cast lots for them in Shiloh in the presence of the LORD, and there he distributed the land to the Israelites according to their tribal divisions.”

These guys needed a push. They needed to be prodded into action.

They also needed a plan.

How about you? Do you need a push in the right direction?

Do you have someone who is giving you that push?

Do you have a plan? Do you have a plan to take possession of what God has promised to you in the Bible?

The leaders came back with a detailed map, and God, through Joshua, gave them their inheritance–tribe by tribe.

Benjamin. Verses 11 through 28.
Simeon. Chapter 19 verses 1 through 9.
Zebulun. Verses 10 through 16.
Issachar. Verses 17 through 23.
Asher. Verses 24 through 31.
Naphtali. Verses 32 through 39.
And Dan. Verses 40 through 48.

God was keeping His promises. And they were taking possession of them–though some of them failed to do it wholeheartedly.

Last of all was godly Joshua. Verses 49 through 51 tells us that Joshua got a city just for him. Verse 51, “And so they finished dividing the land.”

Those are the tribal territories. Most Bibles have a map in them that shows how the land worked out. It may not have been divided up like you and I would, but the point is that God did give each tribe their own land, as promised.

Chapter 20 tells about the cities of refuge that Israel was supposed to set up.

These cities of refuge (we read about them back in the book of Numbers) were a place for justice to be done and mercy to be meted out, as well. They were for unintentional manslaughter–so that justice was done but mercy was given, too.

And chapter 21 tells about the Levitical cities. These were the cities for the Levites. They didn’t get a territory of their own but got cities sprinkled throughout the land.

No one was left out.

Look at the summary of all of this in chapter 21, verses 43 through 45.

“So the LORD gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their forefathers, and they took possession of it and settled there. The LORD gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their forefathers. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the LORD handed all their enemies over to them. Not one of all the LORD's good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.”

Here’s how to possess the promises: #3. GLAD-HEARTEDLY.

God had called their name and gave them their inheritance.

Just as He promised!

These are 9 chapters of proof [!] that God always keeps His promises.

“Not one of all the LORD's good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.”

And every one was a gift!

Did you notice the gift language? Inheritance is a gift word.

Notice also verse 43.

“So the LORD gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their forefathers, and they took possession of it and settled there. The LORD gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their forefathers. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the LORD handed all their enemies over to them. Not one of all the LORD's good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.”

As a gift.

God is so gracious!

And that should unleash gladness in our hearts.

God is so gracious.

Do you know how gracious He is?

He not only gave land.

He gave His one and only Son.

That whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.

That’s His promise!

And we can take hold of it.

Not half-heartedly.
But wholeheartedly.

Not whining, but winning.

And gladheartedly. So thankful for what God has promised for those who trust in Him.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Trinity Presidential Candidate

My denomination's flagship school of which I'm a M.Div graduate, Trinity, has settled upon a final candidate to be our newest president: Dr. Craig Williford.

It will be interesting to hear more about him and see how he leads Trinity into the future.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ledford Rides Again

Dan Ledford is back in the saddle (pulpit) again.

On Friday, Heather and I had the pleasure of traveling to Butler to see the Ledfords' new home and witness his installation as pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church (PCA). Dan and Jen seemed so happy, we were afraid they were going to burst!

Our mutual friend, Bill Kriner, gave the pastoral charge: Humility and Tears.

And Dan was preaching this Sunday for the first time: God in a Bod (1 John 1:1-4).

More good stuff to come.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Matt's Messages "Surely the LORD Was Fighting For Israel!"

“Surely the LORD Was Fighting for Israel!”

Possessing the Promises: The Book of Joshua
March 8, 2009
Joshua 10:1-12:24

We’ve reached the middle section of the book of Joshua–the part that gives the story (in briefer fashion) of most of the battles of the conquering of Canaan.

It’s a section of victory–the victory that God has promised all along in this book.

The subtitle for our series of sermons on Joshua is: “Possessing the Promises”–that is, taking God’s promises at His Word and seeing them become a reality.

In this case, the promise that God was going to give them this land.

However, the people currently in the land would not give up the land without a fight.

The battle is about to be joined. The real fighting will begin in earnest.

However, this fighting won’t be like any other fighting because of a certain warrior that enters into the fray.

A warrior unlike any other. The LORD is His name.

The key verse to understand chapters 10 through 12 is chapter 10, verse 14. And it ends like this: “Surely the Lord Was Fighting for Israel!”

We’re going to see this truth again and again and again. And today, we want to see, think deeply about it, and apply it directly to our lives.

Do you remember last week at the beginning of chapter 9 that several kings had heard about Joshua and the Israelites and were banding together to attack them?

There is more like that here in chapter 10. In fact, there are 5 major kings who join an alliance against Israel. And they are all from the South. Chapter 10, verse 1.

“Now Adoni-Zedek king of Jerusalem heard that Joshua had taken Ai and totally destroyed it, doing to Ai and its king as he had done to Jericho and its king, and that the people of Gibeon had made a treaty of peace with Israel and were living near them. [That’s what happened last week in chapter 9.] He [King Adoni-Zedek] and his people were very much alarmed at this, because Gibeon was an important city, like one of the royal cities; it was larger than Ai, and all its men were good fighters. [They’re nervous. Israel seems too strong now that Gibeon is on board. But maybe Gibeon is their weakness now...] So Adoni-Zedek king of Jerusalem appealed to Hoham king of Hebron, Piram king of Jarmuth, Japhia king of Lachish and Debir king of Eglon. ‘Come up and help me attack Gibeon,’ he said, ‘because it has made peace with Joshua and the Israelites.’ Then the five kings of the Amorites–the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish and Eglon–joined forces. They moved up with all their troops and took up positions against Gibeon and attacked it.”

Is this going to be a big battle?

This is the biggest battle so far in the book!

So far, they’ve just taken on one city or people-group at a time.

Now it’s five against one, or two, if you count Gibeon.

Gibeon is attacked, and they are afraid that their peace treaty won’t hold. V.6

“The Gibeonites then sent word to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal: ‘Do not abandon your servants. Come up to us quickly and save us! Help us, because all the Amorite kings from the hill country have joined forces against us.’ [What do you think Joshua will do? Here’s his chance to get rid of Gibeon who tricked him last week. No. V.7] So Joshua marched up from Gilgal with his entire army, including all the best fighting men.”

Israel versus Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, Eglon.

What do you think are their chances of winning?

100%.

V.8 “The LORD said to Joshua, ‘Do not be afraid of them; I have given them into your hand. Not one of them will be able to withstand you.’”

The LORD is involved. And that makes the victory certain.

It doesn’t mean that Joshua doesn’t have to fight. In fact, believing God’s promise, they march all night to bring a surprise attack. V.9

“After an all-night march from Gilgal, Joshua took them by surprise. [And the LORD was there, too!] The LORD threw them into confusion before Israel, who defeated them in a great victory at Gibeon. Israel pursued them along the road going up to Beth Horon and cut them down all the way to Azekah and Makkedah. As they fled before Israel on the road down from Beth Horon to Azekah, the LORD hurled large hailstones down on them from the sky, and more of them died from the hailstones than were killed by the swords of the Israelites.”

Wow! This bigger, greater sized army is defeated in a great victory and as they ran away, the LORD begins His assault on them–with killer hailstones coming down from the sky–targeting Canaanites and (apparently) missing Israelites–so that more were killed by the hailstones than by the swords of the Israelites.

But, more than that happened this day. God also did another major miracle. V.12

“On the day the LORD gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the LORD in the presence of Israel: ‘O sun, stand still over Gibeon, O moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.’ So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar. The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day [!]. There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the LORD listened to a man. Surely the LORD was fighting for Israel!”

Wow! Now, that almost seems like an understatement!

Joshua prays.

And his prayer takes almost the form of a command to the sun and the moon.

He’s praying, but he’s somehow directly his prayer towards the sun and the moon.

(Or perhaps, He’s praying and God is talking to the sun and the moon–the Hebrew could be understood to mean that.)

Regardless, Joshua is praying. And God answers.

He stops the in the middle of the sky and the moon in the middle of the sky.

I think we’re supposed to get the picture that the sun is in the East and the moon is hung in the West and neither goes anywhere for about a full day.

So that the Israel can keep fighting and fighting and fighting and their enemies not get away.

How did He do that?

I don’t know!

Did he stop the rotation of the Earth? Did He do a miracle with the light? Did He do a miracle with their perceptions of the day?

I don’t know. I do know that He is an all-powerful miracle-working God and if He says that He stopped the Sun and the Moon–that’s what happened.

Verse 14 says there has never been a day like it before or since...

But! Catch what he emphasizes! Not “there has never been a day like it when the sun stood still and the moon stopped.” No.

“There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the LORD listened to a man. Surely the LORD was fighting for Israel!”

See what the Bible emphasizes?

It emphasizes that the LORD was fighting for Israel.

And, here, His fighting came in the form of answered prayer.

Sit up and take notice, the author says, the LORD listened to a man.

King James: “The LORD hearkened unto the voice of a man.”

It’s almost like God “obeyed” here or “submitted” here.

Of course, He was under no obligation to do so. Not to Joshua. God is God and we are not.

But He did do what Joshua had asked–and that was ONE BIG ASK!

The LORD listened to a man.

You know what the application of that is, don’t you?!

#1. PRAY.

The LORD is fighting for YOU. So, pray.

You know that He is fighting for you, don’t you?

You are I are in a battle. The battle of our lives.

We have enemies: the World, the Flesh and the Devil.

And those are three bigger enemies than Joshua faced that day!

But we are not along in our battle.

Surely, the LORD is fighting for us.

And, in that battle, He calls us to pray.

In Ephesians chapter 6, the Apostle Paul tells us to put on the full armor of God so that we can take our stand against the devil’s schemes.

The Helmet of Salvation
The Breastplate of Righteousness
The Belt of Truth
The Shoes of Peace
The Shield of Faith
The Sword of the Spirit

And then what? Ephesians 6:18

Pray.

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”

Before, we’ve called it, “The Walkie-Talkie of Prayer.

It’s our greatest weapon in the battle of life.

Surely, the LORD is fighting for you, so pray.

Are you praying?

Do you have a time to pray every day? Do you an appointment with God? And are you keeping it?

Are you praying about your life’s battle?

Don’t limit your prayer life to praying for other people.

Pray for other people! But don’t stop there.

Pray for your own soul. Pray for your battle against the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Pray for your heart–pray for doing the right things–for living in righteous.

Confess your sins.
Adore God in worship.
Thank Him for what He’s done.

And ask Him to do big things for you and in you and through you.

Pray!

Because, believe it or, God listens to your voice.

God!

God listens to your voice. Pray.

Surely, the LORD was fighting for Israel! V.15

“Then Joshua returned with all Israel to the camp at Gilgal. Now the five kings (remember them from verses 1-5?) had fled and hidden in the cave at Makkedah. When Joshua was told that the five kings had been found hiding in the cave at Makkedah, he said, ‘Roll large rocks up to the mouth of the cave, and post some men there to guard it. [We’ll get back to them. ] But don't stop! Pursue your enemies, attack them from the rear and don't let them reach their cities, for the LORD your God has given them into your hand.’ So Joshua and the Israelites destroyed them completely–almost to a man–but the few who were left reached their fortified cities. The whole army then returned safely to Joshua in the camp at Makkedah, and no one uttered a word against the Israelites.”

They had won. No questions asked.

Now, it’s time to deal with the 5 Southern Kings. V.22

“Joshua said, ‘Open the mouth of the cave and bring those five kings out to me.’ So they brought the five kings out of the cave–the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish and Eglon. When they had brought these kings to Joshua, he summoned all the men of Israel and said to the army commanders who had come with him, ‘Come here and put your feet on the necks of these kings.’ [These wicked enemies of the LORD. These God-haters who attacked us. These evil men who wanted to destroy us. See what has happened to them.] So they came forward and placed their feet on their necks.”

What do you think Joshua is going to say now?

“We’re so great!

We are the champions!

Israel, Israel, Israel!”

No, in this moment of absolute victory–Joshua gives the glory to God and reminds the people that God will continue to fight for them. V.25

“Joshua said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Be strong and courageous. This is what the LORD will do to all the enemies you are going to fight.’”

That’s our second application right there:

#2. BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS.

Stand firm.
Be brave.
Be gutsy.
Be dauntless.
Don’t be terrified.
Don’t be discouraged.

Just like what the LORD said to Joshua in chapter 1.

Now, Joshua is saying it to the people.

Be strong and courageous.

Why?

Because the LORD is fighting for you!

“This is what the LORD will do to all the enemies you are going to fight.”

Lanse Free Church, be strong and courageous!

I don’t know what all of you are facing.

But each of us has a daunting task (or set of tasks) ahead of us.

We are all on a mission in the midst of a battle.

And it’s tempting to just throw in the towel and walk away.

But that’s not for us. That’s not for Christ-followers.

We are called to believe and obey and fight in faith!

And be strong and courageous.

When we were in chapter 1 together, many of you told me that “be strong and courageous” was the very thing that you needed to hear.

I’ll bet it is again today. And it’s what God is saying to us right here, right now.

And He backs this up with this promise–He will fight for us.

‘This is what the LORD will do to all the enemies you are going to fight.”

The world? He’s overcome it. He’s going to bring a new world.
The flesh? He’s defeated it at the Cross.And He’ll give you the power to defeat sin your life.
The devil? He is condemned, and one day will end up in the lake of fire forever.

Death? The last enemy is death. And He has defeated it, too, at the Empty Tomb. And it will go with the Devil into the lake of fire and death will die itself.

1 Corinthians 15 says, “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he "has put everything under his feet."... When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.”

What do we have to fear? What?!

“Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Be strong and courageous!”

And that’s exactly what Israel did. V.26

“Then Joshua struck and killed the kings and hung them on five trees, and they were left hanging on the trees until evening. At sunset Joshua gave the order and they took them down from the trees and threw them into the cave where they had been hiding. At the mouth of the cave they placed large rocks, which are there to this day.”

Their hiding place became their tomb.

And then, in faith, Joshua started to systematically conquer the South part of the Promised Land. V.28

“That day Joshua took Makkedah. He put the city and its king to the sword and totally destroyed everyone in it. He left no survivors. And he did to the king of Makkedah as he had done to the king of Jericho. Then Joshua and all Israel with him moved on from Makkedah to Libnah and attacked it. The LORD also gave that city and its king into Israel's hand. The city and everyone in it Joshua put to the sword. He left no survivors there. And he did to its king as he had done to the king of Jericho. Then Joshua and all Israel with him moved on from Libnah to Lachish; he took up positions against it and attacked it. The LORD handed Lachish over to Israel, and Joshua took it on the second day. The city and everyone in it he put to the sword, just as he had done to Libnah. Meanwhile, Horam king of Gezer had come up to help Lachish, but Joshua defeated him and his army–until no survivors were left. Then Joshua and all Israel with him moved on from Lachish to Eglon; they took up positions against it and attacked it. They captured it that same day and put it to the sword and totally destroyed everyone in it, just as they had done to Lachish. Then Joshua and all Israel with him went up from Eglon to Hebron and attacked it. They took the city and put it to the sword, together with its king, its villages and everyone in it. They left no survivors. Just as at Eglon, they totally destroyed it and everyone in it. Then Joshua and all Israel with him turned around and attacked Debir. They took the city, its king and its villages, and put them to the sword. Everyone in it they totally destroyed. They left no survivors. They did to Debir and its king as they had done to Libnah and its king and to Hebron.”

One after another. Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom.

The South is conquered? Why? Surely the LORD was fighting for Israel. V.40

“So Joshua subdued the whole region, including the hill country, the Negev, the western foothills and the mountain slopes, together with all their kings. He left no survivors. He totally destroyed all who breathed, just as the LORD, the God of Israel, had commanded. Joshua subdued them from Kadesh Barnea to Gaza and from the whole region of Goshen to Gibeon. All these kings and their lands Joshua conquered in one campaign, because the LORD, the God of Israel, fought for Israel. Then Joshua returned with all Israel to the camp at Gilgal.”

Do you get the picture?

Now, the fuller picture is that some Canaanites still lived in the South.

There will be (and should be) mopping up to do in the South.

But the entire opposition of South Canaan has been wiped out, the Land is subdued and now belongs to Israel! Why? V.42 “Because the LORD, the God of Israel, fought for Israel.”

Be Strong and Courageous.

You know why we need that reminder? Because life can get hard and tougher.

Some of you are facing harder things now than you were back in January.

Be Strong and Courageous.

The same God who fought for Israel is fighting for you.

It got harder for Joshua.

You might think after chapter 10, that the kings in the North might have got a clue and took off beyond the borders of the Promised Land.

But, the LORD had hardened their hearts–it was time for them to be destroyed.

And they, in their wickedness banded together and even greater alliance in the North-an even greater army in the North to attack Israel. Look at chapter 11, verse 1.

“When Jabin king of Hazor heard of this, he sent word to Jobab king of Madon, to the kings of Shimron and Acshaph, and to the northern kings who were in the mountains, in the Arabah south of Kinnereth, in the western foothills and in Naphoth Dor on the west; to the Canaanites in the east and west; to the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites and Jebusites in the hill country; and to the Hivites below Hermon in the region of Mizpah. They came out with all their troops and a large number of horses and chariots–a huge army, as numerous as the sand on the seashore. All these kings joined forces and made camp together at the Waters of Merom, to fight against Israel.”

Uh oh.

The greatest foe, the greatest army that Israel has ever faced.

It just gets harder! Tougher. More threatening.

Doesn’t it ever let up?

Is that how you are feeling right now about life in general? V.6

“The LORD said to Joshua, ‘Do not be afraid of them, because by this time tomorrow I will hand all of them over to Israel, slain. You are to hamstring their horses and burn their chariots.’”

Be strong and courageous! Don’t look at the size of your enemy.

Look at the size of your ally!

And that’s what Joshua did. V.7

“So Joshua and his whole army came against them suddenly at the Waters of Merom and attacked them, and the LORD gave them into the hand of Israel. They defeated them and pursued them all the way to Greater Sidon, to Misrephoth Maim, and to the Valley of Mizpah on the east, until no survivors were left. [From the sand on the seashore–to no survivors left!] Joshua did to them as the LORD had directed: He hamstrung their horses and burned their chariots.

At that time Joshua turned back and captured Hazor and put its king to the sword. (Hazor had been the head of all these kingdoms.) Everyone in it they put to the sword. They totally destroyed them, not sparing anything that breathed, and he burned up Hazor itself. Joshua took all these royal cities and their kings and put them to the sword. He totally destroyed them, as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded. Yet Israel did not burn any of the cities built on their mounds–except Hazor, which Joshua burned. [No, they got to keep them.]

The Israelites carried off for themselves all the plunder and livestock of these cities, but all the people they put to the sword until they completely destroyed them, not sparing anyone that breathed. As the LORD commanded his servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua, and Joshua did it; he left nothing undone of all that the LORD commanded Moses.”

He was strong and courageous. And obedient. And undaunted.

And he kept on fighting and obey until it was all over. V.16

“So Joshua took this entire land: [the North, too, now] the hill country, all the Negev, the whole region of Goshen, the western foothills, the Arabah and the mountains of Israel with their foothills, from Mount Halak, which rises toward Seir, to Baal Gad in the Valley of Lebanon below Mount Hermon. He captured all their kings and struck them down, putting them to death. Joshua waged war against all these kings for a long time. [It took perseverance.] Except for the Hivites living in Gibeon, not one city made a treaty of peace with the Israelites, who took them all in battle. For it was the LORD himself who hardened their hearts to wage war against Israel, so that he might destroy them totally, exterminating them without mercy, as the LORD had commanded Moses.

At that time Joshua went and destroyed the Anakites from the hill country: from Hebron, Debir and Anab, from all the hill country of Judah, and from all the hill country of Israel. Joshua totally destroyed them and their towns.”

Remember the Anakites? They were the people that the unfaithful spies had been so afraid of back in Numbers 13 and 14 that led to the Retreat of Unbelief.

Joshua and Caleb had said that they thought they could be defeated, but the other 10 spies had said no.

Well, here they are–defeated, too. V.22

“No Anakites were left in Israelite territory; only in Gaza, Gath and Ashdod did any survive. So Joshua took the entire land, just as the LORD had directed Moses, and he gave it as an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal divisions. Then the land had rest from war.”

Here’s our third and last application this morning:

#3. TRUST AND REST IN GOD’S PROMISES.

That’s what Israel was doing.

They believed that God had promised them this land and that God would fight for them to give it to them.

And that’s exactly what He did. And for a time, at least, they had rest from war.

It wasn’t the final rest that God had for them. That rest is still to come, we find out in Hebrews chapter 4.

But they could trust and rest in the sure and certain promises of God.

Surely God was fighting for Israel!

That’s the point of chapter 12.

We’re not going to read it this morning. It’s a simple list of the kings that were defeated and the territory that Israel received.

From Sihon and Og on the West Side of the Jordan to 29 kings on the East side of the Jordan.

The LORD defeated them all. Verse 24 says, “Thirty one kings in all.”

We might be tempted to ignore this chapter. But it was very important.

It was proof that God always keeps His promises.

God fights for His people.

All of their enemies were defeated.

And so, will ours. He has promised it.

And we know that He will do it.

Because surely the LORD fought for us on the Cross.

When Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died on the Cross for us, He was defeating all of our enemies.

Decisively!

The World. The flesh. The devil. And even death were defeated that day.

He fought for us. And He still does.

We can trust and rest in Him.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Unanswered Prayer?

Jack Brooks lists 6 things to watch for when it seems our prayers are unanswered.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Engineers

The tinker-toys have been in play during this winter!

Peter, especially, has shown an aptitude for engineering--yesterday was the airplane--wings and all. And the cannon was his own idea, too. It even had tinker-toy cannon balls!

Drew's is a submarine with it's own inside steering wheel.

And the middle picture is a "cell phone tower." Would have never thought of that one!

Something Is Always Running

Matt Frey:
So my favorite time of year?

The season when “nothing is running.” It’s usually a 14-hour to two day window of time every spring and fall, when the stars are aligned and I need not call upon my furnace for heat or air-conditioning, and there’s enough daylight so that we don’t need to turn lights on until late in the evening…

And except for the occasional shower, load of laundry, and careless flush of a toilet…It seems like nothing is running…

I tell my kids of the rapturous joy I experience on these nights when I go to bed, and listen to…Nothing! No furnace, no air-conditioning, no fans, no lights are on…Nothing is running…

Bliss…The glorious sleep of a cheapskate …I dream of the utility companies paying me…

For a brief moment the other night I was reveling in the sound of nothing running and a serious thought struck.
Read the whole thing.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Drew's Joke Book #5

Q. What did the baseball player say after he ate a big meal?

A. That was a big hit!

Matt's Messages "Even When"

“Even When”

Possessing the Promises: The Book of Joshua
March 1, 2009
Joshua 9:1-27

Last week, we learned that sin is serious. In chapters 7 and 8, Israel twice went into battle with the little Canaanite town of Ai. We watched Israel be first defeated by Ai and then victorious over Ai after purging sin from within their camp. Sin is serious.

With disobedience comes danger. And, with obedience comes blessing. At the end of chapter 8, the whole nation of Israel lined up on two different mountains and shouted “Amen!” at the reading of the blessings and the curses of God’s law. With disobedience comes danger. And, with obedience comes blessing. Amen!

Now, in chapter 9, Joshua and the leaders of Israel are faced with a new test.

It’s a test that comes not from frontal attack but by lies and deception.

Israel comes into contact with a people called the Gibeonites. And the Gibeonites lie to them.

How will Joshua handle this problem?

As we read the story, we’re going to see at least two points of biblical wisdom to apply our own lives even when it doesn’t seem like the thing to do. Even when.

Because, you know, what often seems right to us at first is not at all really the right thing for us to do. So, these two points of wisdom are for us to practice even when it doesn’t seem like it.

Joshua chapter 9.

“Now when all the kings west of the Jordan heard about these things–those in the hill country, in the western foothills, and along the entire coast of the Great Sea as far as Lebanon (the kings of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites)–they came together to make war against Joshua and Israel.” Stop there for a second.

You can see where this is going. Joshua and the Israelites have had victory so far, but now Canaan is awakening to the threat they bring and the Canaanite peoples are teaming up to take them on.

Perhaps the short lived victory at Ai has emboldened them. Or perhaps they see all-out war as their only defense against the Israelite onslaught.

Either way, they are banding together to take on Israel.

But not Gibeon. Gibeon (though probably a small subset of the Hivite people) decides to not try an attack–but to try a ruse.

Gibeon was a town just a few days journey from Ai. It was, perhaps, the next stop on Israel’s conquest agenda. V.2

“However, when the people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, they resorted to a ruse [KJV: “they did work wilily”]: They went as a delegation whose donkeys were loaded with worn-out sacks and old wineskins, cracked and mended. The men put worn and patched sandals on their feet and wore old clothes. All the bread of their food supply was dry and moldy.”

Are you getting the picture? They are putting on their costumes for an elaborate performance. V.6

“Then they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and the men of Israel, ‘We have come from a distant country; make a treaty with us.’ The men of Israel said to the Hivites, ‘But perhaps you live near us. How then can we make a treaty with you?’ [You need to understand that God has spoken clearly in Deuteronomy about NOT making treaties and covenant with the people in the land. They would only ensnare Israel into false worship. People from far away they could make treaties with. People within the Promised Land had to get out or be killed. Obviously the Gibeonites know this. And that’s why they say v.8...] ‘We are your servants,’ they said to Joshua.”

“But Joshua asked, ‘Who are you and where do you come from?’ They answered: ‘Your servants have come from a very distant country because of the fame of the LORD your God. For we have heard reports of him: all that he did in Egypt, and all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan–Sihon king of Heshbon, and Og king of Bashan, who reigned in Ashtaroth. And our elders and all those living in our country said to us, 'Take provisions for your journey; go and meet them and say to them, ‘We are your servants; make a treaty with us.’' This bread of ours was warm when we packed it at home on the day we left to come to you. But now see how dry and moldy it is. And these wineskins that we filled were new, but see how cracked they are. And our clothes and sandals are worn out by the very long journey.’”

Wow. These guys are good, huh?

They could have won an Oscar with their performance. Maybe more than one Oscar: best screenplay, best makeup and costumes, best acting.

Everything seemed in order. At first, Joshua was skeptical. You can tell. “Who are you and where do you come from?”

But they sounded and looked the part.

And here’s the key sentence of the whole chapter. Verse 14.

“The men of Israel sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the LORD. Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath.”

You see the problem?

“The men of Israel sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the LORD.”

King James: “[they] asked not counsel at the mouth of the LORD.”

New Living Translation: “They did not consult the LORD.”

Here’s application point #1. They got it wrong.

#1. SEEK THE LORD’S DIRECTION EVEN WHEN IT ALL SEEMS OBVIOUS.

It’s easy for us to point fingers at Joshua and the Israelites.

We saw the Gibeonites put on their costumes; we know that this is a trick.

But good tricks don’t seem like tricks! Joshua and the Israelites were fooled.

But they didn’t have to be.

They forgot one key thing: they know the LORD! And so they should be going to Him for direction.

But they didn’t.

And, so often, we do the same thing. We try to go it on our own without seeking the LORD’s direction.

Why do you think they made this mistake? What were they thinking?

Well, for one they were going on appearances. Everything seemed to be in order. And sometimes, we can make the mistake of not taking something to the Lord because it seems so obvious at the time.

And perhaps, they thought that this was a matter too small to “bother” the Lord with.

But the Lord had clearly spoken about these things in His Word, and it would have been right and good to take this case to Him to make sure that it fit His instructions.

Maybe they were emboldened by their recent successes at both Jericho and Ai. And they were “feeling their Wheaties.”

“Yeah, we can handle this one! Leave it to us.”

It probably boiled down to pride and a misplaced trust in their own understanding.

Remember what scripture passage we started the year with this year? Proverbs 3:5&6.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. [And does anybody know what verse 7 says?] Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil.”

They should have sought the Lord for direction.

And so should we.

Can you think of a time in your life, maybe recently, when you went on your on? When you didn’t seek the Lord’s counsel? When you did what seemed right at the time, but it wasn’t connected to the Lord’s way of doing things?

Heather and I made a big decision in the last month to formally pursue a doctoral degree in biblical counseling from CCEF and Westminster Theological Seminary.

I have taken a bunch of classes over the last 5 years but have never formally enrolled in a program. I’ve always been some sort of a visiting student up till now.

But the Lord orchestrated it that I connected with just the right professor at just the right moment to potentially be the last student ever to enter this program that I’m so impressed by.

And it’s a lot of work and lot of money and a lot of blood, sweat and tears.

And Heather and I needed to make this decision.

And do you know what she suggested we do to make that decision?

[You know, don’t you?]

She said that we should pray about it first before I apply.

And I said, “You’re right. We should.”

And I thought, “Why I didn’t I think of that?”

I’m a pastor, and I didn’t think of that first!

I might have come around to it, but it sure wasn’t the first thing I thought of.

We need to seek the Lord’s direction even when it all seems obvious.

There are two main ways to seek God’s direction.

The first is prayer. That’s our asking God for the wisdom and direction that we need.

Joshua missed it that time. The sampled the provisions, “but did not inquire of the LORD.”

Prayer is vital for decision-making.

And God has promised to answer it. James 1:5 says that if anyone lacks wisdom he should ask God, who give generously to all without find fault, and it will be given to him.

Are you struggling with a big decision right now? Most of us have something that we’re working on, something on the front-burner all the time.

Are you taking it to the Lord in prayer?

Sometimes, we get to thinking that prayer is chore, just a duty.

I know that I struggle with that.

A few weeks ago, Pastor John Piper preached on prayer and he dealt directly with that mistaken notion.
“Is it true that intentional, regular, disciplined, earnest, Christ-dependent, God-glorifying, joyful prayer is a duty? . . . You can call it that.

* It’s a duty the way it’s the duty of a scuba diver to put on his air tank before he goes underwater.
* It’s a duty the way pilots listen to air traffic controllers.
* It’s a duty the way soldiers in combat clean their rifles and load their guns.
* It’s a duty the way hungry people eat food.
* It’s a duty the way thirsty people drink water.
* It’s a duty the way a deaf man puts in his hearing aid.
* It’s a duty the way a diabetic takes his insulin.
* It’s a duty the way Pooh Bear looks for honey.
* It’s a duty the way pirates look for gold.”
That was really helpful to me. I printed it out and put it on my wall in my office.

Because prayer may be a duty, but it also should be my delight.

And it’s vital for decision-making–because the Lord wants to be Lord of my choices.

We need to seek the Lord’s direction even when it all seems obvious.

The first way is prayer. And the second way (also easily overlooked) is Bible.

In these pages, we have the Word of God! This is the main way and the clearest way that God speaks to us.

They did not inquire of the LORD. But we can by searching the Scriptures.

The more we are prayerfully filled up with the Bible, the wiser our choices will be. And that’s because in here that we learn the mind of the Lord.

Prayer is, primarily, our talking to God. Bible is primarily God talking to us.

And what the Bible says is often very different from what ‘seems obvious” at the moment. Because the message of the Bible is different from the message of the world.

And we grow in wisdom as we go deeper in the Scriptures.

How many are still reading towards pancakes in January 2010?

I want to get an idea of how sore my pancake-flipping arm will be in January!

That’s great!

Don’t just read to get pancakes. Read to get wisdom.

God said in Proverbs chapter 4: “Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Esteem her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you” [Proverbs 4:5-8].

And you get that from God’s Word!

We need to seek the Lord’s direction even when it all seems obvious.

I know too many “Christians” who never open their Bible or never open their Bible to help them make a decision, at least. As if God hadn’t said anything to them.

No, He’s given us everything we need for life and godliness–right here.

Inquire of the Lord.

Seek the Lord’s direction even when it all seems obvious.

But that’s not, of course, what Joshua and the other leaders did. They (v.15) made a treaty of peace with the Gibeonites and let them live. They made an oath. V.16

“Three days after they made the treaty with the Gibeonites, the Israelites heard that they were neighbors, living near them.”

Three days. These guys are our neighbors. The Lord wanted us to fight them not make a treaty. V.17

“So the Israelites set out and on the third day came to their cities: Gibeon, Kephirah, Beeroth and Kiriath Jearim.”

What do you think they’re going to do?

They’re going to keep their oath. V.18

“But the Israelites did not attack them, because the leaders of the assembly had sworn an oath to them by the LORD, the God of Israel. The whole assembly grumbled against the leaders, but all the leaders answered, ‘We have given them our oath by the LORD, the God of Israel, and we cannot touch them now. This is what we will do to them: We will let them live, so that wrath will not fall on us for breaking the oath we swore to them.’”

“They continued, ‘Let them live, but let them be woodcutters and water carriers for the entire community.’ So the leaders' promise to them was kept.”

And that was the right thing to do. Application #2.

#2. KEEP YOUR PROMISES EVEN WHEN IT HURTS TO DO SO.

Man, it must have hurt these leaders’ pride to keep their oath.

And it definitely hurt their popularity with the people.

Those were the consequences of their rash decision.

But the good news is that they took the responsibility for their bad decisions and lived with the consequences.

You know that there are often consequences for our bad choices, don’t you?

Sometimes, we like to think that there are no consequences.

But there normally are consequences–even for sins that are forgiven.

I used to drive my Dad’s copper-toned 1982 Chevy Citation with a sun-roof.

Woo! Was that sweet ride?! That little Citation had pick-up. I should have had more traffic citations in that Citation than I did.

Well, it had 99,999 miles on it and then it flipped over to...what?

It’s a 1982. What did it flip over to?

Zero! The odometer only went up to 99,999.

So, the odometer said that the car been forgiven. Nothing on the odometer!

A clean slate. Forgiven! Perfect. Miles free.

But, were there still the marks of 100,000 miles on that little car?

There sure were. And no-matter what the odometer said, there were still natural consequences that we had to accept.

It’s the same in our lives. We can be forgiven our sins where it’s most important–by the death of Jesus Christ on our behalf.

But we may still have to accept some of the consequences of those sins in our lives.

And one of those is the consequences that come with foolish promises. Promises that we, perhaps, should have never made.

Taking out a foolish loan that would saddle you with a burdensome debt.
Marrying an unbeliever.
Committing to a foolish business venture.
Agreeing to tie up your time in something you’ll later regret.

I’m sure that Joshua wished that they never made this treaty, never swore this oath.

It’s made things difficult.

But he doesn’t compound his error by breaking his word. V.19

“We have given them our oath by the LORD, the God of Israel, and we cannot touch them now.” V.20

“We will let them live, so that wrath will not fall on us for breaking the oath we swore to them.”

Two wrongs do not make a right.

Psalm 15 describes a holy man. And it uses this phrase verse 4.

A holy man “keeps his oath even when it hurts...”

A holy man keeps his promises even when it hurts to do so.

Maybe right now you are disappointed with a promise that you’ve made.

Maybe you’re in a marriage that you wish you’d never committed to.
Maybe you have a loan that you need to repay that you wish you’d never taken out.
Maybe you’ve agreed to do something that now you see how it will cost you.

Keep your promises even when it hurts to do so.

Now, that’s not absolute. I don’t think that God wants us to keep our promises, if we’ve promised to do something sinful.

I don’t think that Jephthah’s daughter should have been sacrificed.

If you’ve agreed to cheat on your homework with someone, you still shouldn’t do so.

But, aside from things that are wrong, the general rule for Christians is that we should what we said we would do even if it isn’t to our advantage now.

And God will bless that.

That’s what happened to Israel and the Gibeonites. V.22

“Then Joshua summoned the Gibeonites and said, ‘Why did you deceive us by saying, 'We live a long way from you,' while actually you live near us? You are now under a curse: You will never cease to serve as woodcutters and water carriers for the house of my God.’ They answered Joshua, ‘Your servants were clearly told how the LORD your God had commanded his servant Moses to give you the whole land and to wipe out all its inhabitants from before you. So we feared for our lives because of you, and that is why we did this. We are now in your hands. Do to us whatever seems good and right to you.’ So Joshua saved them from the Israelites, and they did not kill them. That day he made the Gibeonites woodcutters and water carriers for the community and for the altar of the LORD at the place the LORD would choose. And that is what they are to this day.”

Israel ended up with good laborers because of this deal.

And Gibeon got enfolded, over time, not as a perpetual thorn in the side, or those who would drag them off into idolatry, but as loyal participants in Israel.

It’s interesting after the exile, hundreds of years after this, Gibeonites are listed as a part of Israel that returned under Nehemiah and helped to build the wall in Jerusalem.

There was grace for them and for Israel.

And, I think, that some of that came through the channel of Israel’s faithfulness to their promises. Even when it hurt.

We need to keep our promises even when it hurts to do so.

Because, as we keep our promises, as we stay faithful, we reflect the faithfulness of our God.

He made promises–binding promises. He made an oath.

He wasn’t fooled when He made His oath.

But it hurt Him even more to keep His promises.

His promises cost Him the death of His One and Only Son.

So that whoever comes to believe His promises will not perish but have eternal life.