Greetings to you! After a three week break, I'm back into getting some blogs written. My first one for the year is actually my last sermon for 2018. Happy reading.
Joshua 1:1-9 New International Version (NIV)
Joshua Installed as Leader
1 After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: 2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. 3 I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. 4 Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. 5 No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.
7 “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
It’s not long to go now. In a couple of days, we get to say goodbye to 2018. The week between Christmas and New Years day is a great time to reflect on what has happened. The good times, the sad times, the embarrassing ones and also the times when we get to shout hallelujah! The end of the year is a time to sit quietly (especially when it’s so hot!) and consider the year. It’s also a time that we get to consider the year ahead. I’ve not often had the opportunity to preach between Christmas and New Year. We are usually sitting by a river enjoying our glamping experience. When I do this at the end of the year, I often think of Joshua. The Joshua that we have just read about from the Old Testament. Not the Joshua’s that we may know in the here and now (no matter how great they may be). The Joshua we find in our reading today could easily do with a week as we have now. A week to sit and reflect on what has happened and also to prepare his mind, his heart and his spirit for the coming year. So, as we sit on the cusp of 2019, let’s take a look at Joshua’s interaction with God, his interaction with himself, his past and the future.
Before we get into what Joshua is getting up to, we need to take one step back and look at what happened to Moses. Verse one tells us that after Moses died, the Lord said to Joshua.
If we turned back a few pages to Deuteronomy 32:48-52 we find a pretty good summary of what happened to Moses. Because Moses broke faith with God, Moses would not be allowed to enter into the land promised by God. He would get to see it but would not be allowed to enter into it. And yet, God’s promise for the nation of Israel would stand.
What Moses does next is quite astounding! He pronounces a blessing for the Israelites. I’m not sure if that’s what I would be up for after I got told that I am about to die because of my misdeeds. Not only die but to actually see the land that was promised before that happened! That’s hard. But Moses shows his inner strength and blesses the people he loves. Then willingly goes up the mountain to be assured of their deliverance before he dies.
That’s how it ends with Moses. Moses is blessing the people, seeing the land they will inherit and dying. If you read a little more about that, you also find that God buries Moses. I can’t help but imagine The Father and Jesus both with shovels digging a grave for him. Kind of makes me laugh.
Anyway, Joshua has been Moses apprentice, and after he dies, The Lord speaks to Joshua. From verse 2 until verse 10 is the Lord telling Joshua what just happened with Moses and what’s going to happen with Joshua and the Israelites. Moses is dead. Get ready to cross the Jordan and enter into the land that will be given to them. I will give you every place where you set your foot. The Lord even goes so far as to tell Joshua specifically what the boundaries of the land will be. That’s pretty neat, isn’t it? No wondering about it at all. It’s as clear as a bell. Then one of the most striking verses is verse 5. No-one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. Take a moment to think about that. Is that a promise to us for today? No-one will be able to stand against you. Would you believe it? Do you believe it?
Verses 2-5 are about the Lord telling Joshua what the Lord will do. Verse 6-9 are about what the Lord asks of Joshua.
Be strong and courageous, be strong and very courageous, obey the law, do not turn from it, do not let the law depart from your mouth, meditate on it day and night, be careful to do everything in it.
Then God tells Joshua, that if he does that, he will be prosperous and successful. God then reinforces what he has asked. Be strong and courageous, do not be terrified, do not be discouraged because the Lord is with him wherever he goes.
Like a good Baptist pastor, there are three points that become obvious when you look at it that are worth noting.
The first point is the Lord telling Joshua to be strong and courageous. Not just once but three times in a positive way and once in a negative way (do not be terrified or discouraged). Four times God tells Joshua to be strong and courageous. I don’t know about you, but if someone tells me something four times, I usually get the idea that they want me to know it. God wanted Joshua to be very clear that he was to be strong. Not discouraged, not timid, not weak but strong. He also wanted Joshua to be courageous. Not terrified, not afraid. Joshua was about to enter into something very new. Uncharted territory and without Moses. It was all up to him to lead the people. To fight against the people that already inhabited that land. To take what God had promised.
Do we behave like that? Are we strong and courageous? Do we take God at His word? His promises? Or do we spend our time being scared and discouraged? What has 2018 been like for you? Were you strong? Did you show courage in the face of the enemy? Perhaps and perhaps not.
The second point is that the Lord commanded Joshua to obey the law that Moses gave him. The Law or the Torah or Pentateuch, are the first five books of the Old Testament. The five books before our reading this morning. Joshua is being told by God to be careful to obey what the Lord has told Moses. To not turn from it to the right or the left. The promise here is one of success.
Another brief aside here. We see God promises Joshua with success in verse 7 and prosperity and success in verse 8. I’d like to make it clear about what God is and isn’t talking about here. The context of these verses is about taking the promised land. About victory over the enemy. It’s not about being wealthy or famous. The Lord has promised a nation that they will have land that they can call their own. A place to call home. That’s what the Lord promises the people of Israel. A homeless nation. Success can reclaim their land. Prosperous is being able to live and flourish in that land.
Please don’t misinterpret this passage to mean that God will bless you with an abundance of financial blessings. That you will be prosperous financially and successful in business. I guess if you are prepared to be homeless for a generation after being slaves…
Now back to the point. Obey the law. Do not turn from it to the right and the left. Keep the Book of the Law on your lips. Meditate on it day and night. I wonder how many reading plans get started on January 1st and never get finished. Probably about as many gym memberships that get taken up but barely used. It’s clear here that we are to know and understand scripture. The book of the Law was effectively the bible of the Israelites. It was all they had. It was their version of God’s Word and the Lord was telling them to know it. To understand it and to talk about it. There is no squirming your way around that one. How has your efforts at reading your bible been for 2018? Less than you had hoped? Were you successful? We are also commanded to keep the law on our lips. Did you talk about the bible much? Did you mention passages that are relevant in conversations? Did you meditate on it? Not a mindless chanting but a quiet reflection of what the word of God said. Day and night. Was it not only coming from your mouth but were you thinking about what the bible says as part of your normal life?
This is what Joshua is being commanded to do. To have the law in the forefront of his mind at all times. To remember it, to talk about it and to think about it. Then he will be prosperous and courageous in the task God had set before them.
The third point is that there is something that the Lord expected of Joshua and the Israelites. He expected them to obey and to do what was written in the Book of the Law. Joshua was commanded to do as much as to reflect. We are told to the same in James chapter 2. Faith without action is pointless. Be careful to obey the law and be careful to do everything written in it — both telling Joshua the importance of acting on what he knows of the Book of the Law. We cannot afford just to know what God says without doing it. This church cannot afford for you to do that either. Nor can the community this church exists within. Knowing, talking and meditating are just part of the commands of the Lord. Without action, we are not obeying the word of the Lord.
How was your 2018? I’m sure that if we went around the room and got everyone to speak there would be a myriad of answers. Some good, some not so good. Stories of success and failures. Health and sickness. Highlights and lowlights. The week between Christmas and New year affords us the opportunity to reflect on the year. To decide what we would do again and what we wouldn’t. If you haven’t found time to do that yet, I encourage you to find some time today or tomorrow to do just that. Think about the year from January to now. Grab a diary. Go through the year month by month to see where God was active in your life. You might be surprised how often He turned up! Celebrate the year. Celebrate that Jesus was with us all the time throughout the year. If you use social media, even post a couple of highlights on it. If you don’t use social media, tell a couple of friends. Make sure you take time out to reflect.
The next challenge is to think about what you would like to do differently next year and what you would like to do the same. Write it down. Make yourself some goals even if it is simply one thing. Go and put it in writing.
I sat down yesterday at Oliver's and drank coffee and wrote down a heap of things I would like to achieve next year. Some simple, some more complicated. The purpose isn’t to give myself a list that I will get to feel guilty about at some point in 2019; it’s more about giving me focus. I can review this list at any time during the year and see where it is all up to. One of the things I plan to do is get back to journaling my prayers. I read through some of my last prayer journals, and it was really encouraging!
Today and tomorrow are the last days of the year. Find some time to reflect and to plan. You’ll be glad you did. But this passage isn’t about that. We don’t see Joshua sitting down doing that do we? No. This passage is about one simple command and how to do it.
It’s simply “Be strong and courageous”. That’s the goal for 2019. Be strong and courageous. We do that in the strength of Jesus. We do that because we know what is written in the bible. We do that because we know that the Lord our God is with us wherever we go.
The challenge for us this week, as week as we turn over the calendar to 2019 is to remember. Everyday. Remember. In the face of whatever it is that 2019 will throw at us, to be strong and courageous. Write it down somewhere. Write it on a window. Be strong and courageous. Write it on your fridge! Be Strong and courageous. Write it on your hearts. Be Strong and courageous.
Last night I was at the anointed band CD launch. They had a preacher there, and he asked us to look at the person next to us (who was thankfully Catherine) and say “we are getting there”. This morning I want you to look at the person next to you and say “Be strong and courageous in 2019”.
Whatever your plans, whatever will come, remember “Be Strong and courageous for the Lord is with you”.
Will you do that? Write it down somewhere and let’s not forget the most important thing in the world…Jesus is with us wherever we go.