Sunday, August 21, 2011

Joshua 23 - "The LORD Fights For You"



Theme: THE LORD FIGHTS FOR YOU
- The war is won
- Our battles continue

Joshua 23 - Now it came to pass, a long time after the LORD had given rest to Israel from all their enemies round about, that Joshua was old, advanced in age. 2 And Joshua called for all Israel, for their elders, for their heads, for their judges, and for their officers, and said to them: "I am old, advanced in age. 3 "You have seen all that the LORD your God has done to all these nations because of you, for the LORD your God is He who has fought for you. 4 "See, I have divided to you by lot these nations that remain, to be an inheritance for your tribes, from the Jordan, with all the nations that I have cut off, as far as the Great Sea westward. 5 "And the LORD your God will expel them from before you and drive them out of your sight. So you shall possess their land, as the LORD your God promised you. 6 "Therefore be very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, lest you turn aside from it to the right hand or to the left, 7 "and lest you go among these nations, these who remain among you. You shall not make mention of the name of their gods, nor cause anyone to swear by them; you shall not serve them nor bow down to them, 8 "but you shall hold fast to the LORD your God, as you have done to this day. 9 "For the LORD has driven out from before you great and strong nations; but as for you, no one has been able to stand against you to this day. 10 "One man of you shall chase a thousand, for the LORD your God is He who fights for you, as He promised you. 11 "Therefore take careful heed to yourselves, that you love the LORD your God. 12 "Or else, if indeed you do go back, and cling to the remnant of these nations -- these that remain among you -- and make marriages with them, and go in to them and they to you, 13 "know for certain that the LORD your God will no longer drive out these nations from before you. But they shall be snares and traps to you, and scourges on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land which the LORD your God has given you. 14 " Behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth. And you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one thing has failed of all the good things which the LORD your God spoke concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one word of them has failed. 15 "Therefore it shall come to pass, that as all the good things have come upon you which the LORD your God promised you, so the LORD will bring upon you all harmful things, until He has destroyed you from this good land which the LORD your God has given you. 16 "When you have transgressed the covenant of the LORD your God, which He commanded you, and have gone and served other gods, and bowed down to them, then the anger of the LORD will burn against you, and you shall perish quickly from the good land which He has given you."



Dear fellow soldiers of the cross, fellow redeemed in Christ Jesus,
The current War on Terror has changed how we view war, hasn’t it. In most wars of the past, our nation had clear cut enemies. They wore a particular uniform, fought as a unit, and were usually backed by a nation or government. We knew when the war came to an end because a treaty of some sort was usually signed, the fighting ended, and our soldiers came home. But our current War on Terror knows no such boundaries. The War on Terror is more a war against an ideology than a war against a nation. Those who hold the ideology of so-called Muslim extremists want to kill or convert anyone who is an infidel, or a non-Muslim. They don’t wear a uniform or pledge allegiance to a certain country, but the abide by a certain way of thinking and religious view.

Because of the nature of the War on Terror, there may never be a clear-cut end. We may be winning the war, but that doesn’t mean our battles against terrorists are over. Take Iraq and Afghanistan, for instance. We have defeated both former governments in those nations and new governments are now in place. I think we could say we won those wars. Yet there are battles that continue on against insurgents. Just over two weeks ago, 30 U.S. soldiers were killed when their helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan. While the war may be won, the battles wage on.

As we come to the closing chapters of our series on Joshua, we hear this morning General Joshua’s farewell address to the people of Israel. As Joshua speaks to the leaders of Israel, they face a similar situation. The war was won. Israel now occupied Canaan. Joshua reminds them that this was because the LORD fought for them. Though the war was won, there were still battles that remained ahead of them. Battles in which they would be victorious only if the LORD fought for them. We find ourselves in the same position. Jesus fought for us and won the war, yet there are battles that remain. Battles in which we will be victorious only if the LORD fights for us. With that let us hear the Word of God recorded in Joshua chapter 23 -

So far the Word of God. And this is God’s Word. Each word of it was breathed into the holy writer by God the Holy Spirit Himself. Because it is from God Himself, it is truth. And because it is truth we can base your life and eternal salvation on it. Therefore we pray, “Lord, sanctify us by Your truth, Your word is truth.” Amen.

THE WAR IS WON
It is hard to imagine all the things that Joshua had seen the LORD do in his lifetime. He started out as a slave in Egypt, he witnessed the plagues and the Passover, he crossed the Red Sea on dry land, he ate the manna and drank water from a rock, he saw the rebellion in the wilderness, when Moses died he took over leading Israel, he led Israel across the Jordan River on dry ground, he saw the miraculous defeat of Jericho, he saw the sun stand still, and he had seen Israel take possession of the Promised Land of Canaan. Now in Joshua 23, the aged General is 110 years old and about to die. He could now say with Israel, “You know in your hearts and in your souls that not one thing has failed of all the good things which the LORD your God spoke concerning you. All have come to pass for you, and not one word of them has failed.” Joshua and his audience knew that everything the LORD had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had come to pass in their generation, just as the LORD had promised.

As Joshua gives his farewell speech he reminds the Children of Israel that they were able to take possession of the Promised Land only because the LORD fought for them. Verse 3, “You have seen all that the LORD your God has done to all these nations because of you, for the LORD your God is He who has fought for you.” Israel was not victorious in this war because they were a military super power. In many of their battles they were out numbered and out gunned. Yet they had the Super Power of Almighty God fighting for them. “For the LORD has driven out from before you great and strong nations; but as for you, no one has been able to stand against you to this day.” The Israelites were victorious in their war against the Canaanites only because it was the LORD who fought for them.

What the LORD did for the Children of Israel is a picture of what the LORD has done for us. Our war was not against “great and strong nations” like the Children of Israel faced. No, the enemies trying to keep us from entering the Promised Land of heaven were much more sinister and eternally destructive than the Hittites and Amorites.

One of the mighty enemies that was barring us from the Promised Land of heaven was our own sin. The sin we inherited from our parents. We were naturally sinful and enemies of God. Furthermore, when tempted to disobey, we have rebelled against the will of God time and time again.

Since we lost the war against sin ourselves, God sent His Champion, His own beloved Son Jesus to win the war against sin for us. The writer to the Hebrews says that Jesus “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb 4:15b) Jesus fought every sin that we are faced with. In the wilderness He was tempted with the sins of pride, greed, and idolatry. Yet in each case He defeated those temptations. He slew those temptations with the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. His death on the cross was sacrifice to remove the debt of our sin. Jesus fought for us and won the war against sin.

Another one of our great enemies is death. We are powerless against death. We can do nothing to stop it or overcome it. Jesus also fought death for us. This enemy He charged head on when laid down His life on the cross. There Jesus died - just as Joshua died. Just like Joshua, He breathed His last and gave up the ghost. Like Joshua, the body of Jesus was laid in a tomb. But unlike Joshua, Jesus defeated death by rising from the dead three days later. And this victory God gives to us as well. “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor 15:57)

And yet there still remained one enemy who is so crafty and so cunning, that he even led Adam and Eve in their state of perfection and holiness to sin against God and disobey His commandment. The crafty serpent who leads the whole world astray, wanted to lead us to spend an eternity in hell with him. So he fought against us to keep us out of the Promised Land of heaven with his temptations.

Because we were unable to win against the temptations of the devil, Jesus fought Him for us. Jesus is the One the LORD promised to Adam and Eve who would give a fatal head-blow to the devil while suffering only a bruised heel. Again we read in Hebrews that by His death on the cross Jesus “might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” (Heb 2:14b-15) Jesus fought the devil for us and won. We know He won because Jesus was not confined to the tomb, but Jesus rose from the dead on the third day. Jesus fights for us and has won the war against sin, death, and the devil.

OUR BATTLES CONTINUE
You can imagine the temptation for the Israelites, can’t you. They got what they wanted, they inherited the promised land, now it was time to kick back, relax, and enjoy the spoils of victory. Yet in his farewell address, General Joshua reminds them that while the war is won, the battles must continue. There were still heathen nations living among them, most notably the Philistines. The battles must continue to be faithful to the LORD their God, His commandments, drive out those heathen nations, and have nothing to do with their false gods.

Joshua reminds them of the same. “Therefore be very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, lest you turn aside from it to the right hand or to the left, and lest you go (or associate) among these nations, these who remain among you.” Joshua then commands them not to have anything to do with their false gods, but remain loyal and faithful to the LORD their God - to love Him above everything else.

Joshua warns them of what will happen if they were to intermarry with the heathen and join in the worship of their false gods, verse 13, “know for certain that the LORD your God will no longer drive out these nations from before you. But they shall be snares and traps to you...” Joshua goes on in verse 15, “Therefore it shall come to pass, that as all the good things have come upon you which the LORD your God promised you, so the LORD will bring upon you all the harmful things, until He has destroyed you from this good land which the LORD your God has given you.” Indeed, these battles would prove to be much more difficult for the Children of Israel to win than the battle against Jericho. Their only hope for victory in these on going spiritual battles is if the LORD continued to fight for them and give them the victory.

We face some of the same battles that Israel faced, don’t we. We know all that Jesus has done to win the victory for us. We know our sins are forgiven through His death and resurrection. We know His resurrection from the dead means that we will rise too. And we know that in Christ the gates of hell cannot prevail against us. And sometimes knowing we have all these spiritual blessings in Christ we think the battle is over. We think that it no longer matters what we do or say, we are forgiven and that we are going to heaven no matter what.

Well, to the sin-troubled conscience the cross of Christ is great comfort and assurance. Yet when we feel comfortable in our sins and comfortable with our relationship with the unbelieving world around us, we must remember these words of Joshua. The LORD who is faithful in delivering the good things He has promised us, is also faithful in delivering the harmful threats to those who despise Him and His Word.

Though the war is won, we must battle on against the temptations of our sinful flesh and the temptations of the world around us. The world has a way of making its sinful behavior look appealing. As though it is fun and if we don’t join in, we are missing out. Our sinful flesh wants to go right along with it. If left to ourselves, we will lose that battle every time. But thanks be to God that He continues to fight for us. He has given us His Holy Spirit which wars against our old Adam. And through Jesus Christ our Lord, God delivers us from our this body of death. Therefore be very courageous to keep and to do all that has spoken to us in His Word. Take diligent heed, as Joshua says, to yourselves, that you love the LORD your God who fights for you.

It is a rather confusing situation we have in Iraq and Afghanistan. The war is largely won, but the battles continue. But in that, we are reminded of our own spiritual condition. Jesus fights for us and has won the war. He has given us the victory over sin, death, and the devil. He gives us the Promised Land of heaven as His free gift of grace. Yet our daily battles against sin still continue. Daily battles which can only be won if Jesus continues to fight for us. Therefore let us continue hold fast to the LORD our God who fights for us, as we have done to this day. Amen.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Joshua 6 - "Jericho: A Preview of the End"



Theme: JERICHO: A PREVIEW OF THE END
- God’s “foolish” plan of victory
- Utter destruction
- Salvation for God’s precious possessions

Joshua 6
- Now Jericho was securely shut up because of the children of Israel; none went out, and none came in. 2 And the LORD said to Joshua: "See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor. 3 "You shall march around the city, all you men of war; you shall go all around the city once. This you shall do six days. 4 "And seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark. But the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. 5 "It shall come to pass, when they make a long blast with the ram's horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, that all the people shall shout with a great shout; then the wall of the city will fall down flat. And the people shall go up every man straight before him."
12 And Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the LORD. 13 Then seven priests bearing seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark of the LORD went on continually and blew with the trumpets. And the armed men went before them. But the rear guard came after the ark of the LORD, while the priests continued blowing the trumpets. 14 And the second day they marched around the city once and returned to the camp. So they did six days. 15 But it came to pass on the seventh day that they rose early, about the dawning of the day, and marched around the city seven times in the same manner. On that day only they marched around the city seven times. 16 And the seventh time it happened, when the priests blew the trumpets, that Joshua said to the people: "Shout, for the LORD has given you the city! 17 "Now the city shall be doomed by the LORD to destruction, it and all who are in it. Only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all who are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent. 18 "And you, by all means abstain from the accursed things, lest you become accursed when you take of the accursed things, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it. 19 "But all the silver and gold, and vessels of bronze and iron, are consecrated to the LORD; they shall come into the treasury of the LORD." 20 So the people shouted when the priests blew the trumpets. And it happened when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat. Then the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. 21 And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, ox and sheep and donkey, with the edge of the sword. 22 But Joshua had said to the two men who had spied out the country, "Go into the harlot's house, and from there bring out the woman and all that she has, as you swore to her." 23 And the young men who had been spies went in and brought out Rahab, her father, her mother, her brothers, and all that she had. So they brought out all her relatives and left them outside the camp of Israel. 24 But they burned the city and all that was in it with fire. Only the silver and gold, and the vessels of bronze and iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD. 25 And Joshua spared Rahab the harlot, her father's household, and all that she had. So she dwells in Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.


Dear fellow sinners made righteous in the blood of the Lamb, God’s own Son, Jesus Christ, dear fellow redeemed,
If you’ve rented DVD movie releases recently you’ve probably noticed a clever scheme that the movie makers have come up with recently. It used to be that when you rented a DVD, if you didn’t want to watch all the previews at the beginning of the movie you could just press the “SKIP” button to skip through them. The producers of DVD’s must have realized that people weren’t watching their previews any more, so many have programed DVD’s such that you HAVE to watch the previews.

Why is that? Why do movie makers want you to watch previews of other movies before you watch the movie you paid to see? Well, they are hoping that their previews will get your interest and you will want to give them more of your money in the future so you can see their movie. Unfortunately, many of us have had the sad experience of the movie preview being better than the movie itself!

Throughout Scripture, God gives us previews of things that are to come. The book of Revelation is a preview of things that would happen to the church throughout the centuries. While there are some scary images in the book of Revelation, in the end the Lamb - Jesus - wins. In our on going series from the book of Joshua, we find another preview as we hear about the victory and destruction of Jericho. With Jericho we find a preview of the End of the World. As we examine this preview we will be reminded of God’s “foolish” plan of victory, the utter destruction that will come at the End, and the salvation of God’s precious possessions.

GOD’S “FOOLISH” PLAN OF VICTORY
The first preview of the end we see with Jericho is God’s “foolish” plan of victory. Is it odd to hear of anything God does as being “foolish,” isn’t it? When we speak of the plans of God, we usually speak of His infinite wisdom - and for good reason! He is the Creator of the heavens and the earth. He created all the laws of physics, the universe and the seasons. He created us! We are fearfully and wonderfully made! How could we, the creature, ever think of describing anything our Creator does as being “foolish”?!

Yet when you hear of the battle plans the LORD has drawn up for an attack on Jericho, it sounds foolish. Imagine being a soldier in the army, about to attack your first city and hearing these battle plans: have the army march around the city walls of Jericho once every day for six days, bring the ark of the covenant with you, say nothing - let the only sound be that of the seven ram’s horns blown by the seven priests. On the seventh day, march around the city walls seven times, again saying nothing - the only sound coming from their marching feet and the seven ram’s horns being blown by the seven priests. But on the seventh time around the city walls on the seventh day, when the people hear the rams horns sound, then shout with a great shout. Then, the LORD said, “the wall of the city will fall down flat. And the people shall go up every man straight before him.” (v.5)

This sounds like a foolish battle plan, doesn’t it? If our commander in chief sent our soldiers into battle with a ram’s horn and bible, giving them the same directions he would probably be impeached. Yet what do we find happening in our text? God says it, General Joshua relays the order to the army of Israel and the army follows these “foolish” plans. The result? Verse 20, “And it happened when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat. Then the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city.” God miraculously caused the walls of the city to fall flat and He gave the Children of Israel the victory over Jericho.

For those who have a child-like faith in the promise of God, such a battle plan does not sound foolish at all. We don’t hear of anyone questioning Joshua’s orders. In fact, for six days the people march silently around Jericho. They had faith in the so-called “foolish” plan of God and God gave them the victory. In Hebrews 11:30 we read, “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days.”

In this preview of the end we are reminded of God’s “foolish” plan of victory for us. Paul writes to the Corinthians that “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor 1:18) The Gospel, the good news about Jesus dying on a cursed cross to save sinners, is just as foolish to the unbeliever as trying to defeat a city by shouting at its walls. The unbeliever thinks it is foolish to put your trust in someone who died 2000 years ago to be saved. The unbeliever thinks it is foolish that you cannot do anything to save yourself, that only God can save you and give you the victory.

But to you who have been brought to faith, the message of the cross is not a foolish plan of victory, it is your only hope. The Gospel is the power of God to rescue you from your sins. By faith you know that you can do nothing to save yourself your sins, only God can do that. And you rejoice in this “foolish” plan, because it means God gives you the victory in Jesus Christ and in the End will grant you eternal life as His free gift through Jesus. Just as He gave the Children of Israel the victory over Jericho through His “foolish” plan.

UTTER DESTRUCTION
The next preview we have of the End we find is what happened to that wicked city of Jericho. Once the walls came tumbling down, we read in verse 21 that “the utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, ox and sheep and donkey, with the edge of the sword.” And verse 24, “They burned the city and all that was in it with fire.” To our politically correct ears, this is a little unsettling to hear. Everyone in the city of Jericho is utterly destroyed? Men and women, young and old? Everything but those precious possessions which we will talk about shortly, was destroyed?

Make no mistake about it, this was a judgment from God against the people of Jericho. Jericho, which means something like “moon god,” was a center of pagan worship for many false gods. It is believed that their pagan worship involved child sacrifices and ritual prostitution. In His infinite wisdom He had determined their time of grace had come to an end, just as He determines the end of the time of grace for all people - young and old alike.

The utter destruction of Jericho is a preview of the utter destruction of the world that will take place at the End of the World. We heard Peter remind us in our New Testament Lesson (2 Pt 3:10) that “the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.” When Jesus returns on the Last Day, He will separate the believers from the unbelievers. The believers will be welcomed to the inheritance of grace which Jesus has prepared for them in heaven, while the unbelievers will be condemned to an eternal death in the fires of hell.

Then, Peter tells us that this world and everything in it will be utterly destroyed. EVERYTHING will melt with a fervent heat. The tall sky-scrapers, the family farm, the mountains - everything will be burned up. Peter says that if such an utter destruction awaits this world and everything in it, “what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God?” (11-12) We work hard not to accumulate stuff for ourselves (stuff that will be utterly destroyed), but to glorify the God who saved us. So in the utter destruction of Jericho we see a preview of the End of the World and remind ourselves that all our possessions will be destroyed on the Last Day.

SALVATION FOR GOD’S PRECIOUS POSSESSIONS
Not everything was utterly destroyed in Jericho, though, was it? In verse 19 we read that the silver, gold, bronze, and iron were to be collected from the city and put in the LORD’s treasury - as a sort of offering to the LORD. Over 400 years later, these items would later be used by Solomon in the construction of the temple in Jerusalem. These precious possessions were to be rescued from the destruction of Jericho.

But that was not the only thing that was rescued from the destruction. Verse 17, “Now the city shall be doomed by the LORD to destruction, it and all who are in it. Only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all who are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent.” There was something in Jericho that was even more precious to the LORD than that silver and gold - there were believing souls. Believing souls that had earlier protected the Israelite spies, when they were spying out Jericho. Believing Rahab was saved from the destruction of Jericho, along with her family. After being rescued Rahab lived among the Israelites, even going on to marry an Israelite man. Rahab was the great-great grandmother of King David. And from the descendants of Rahab would eventually come our Savior, Jesus.

This too is a preview of the End of the World. This precious possession was saved from the utter destruction of Jericho. We read in Hebrews 11, “By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace.” (v.31) Rahab was a believer. We see her faith in her works, that she received those Israelite spies with peace and protected them from the soldiers of Jericho. God saved this precious possession, one of His believers, from the utter destruction.

Through faith in Jesus Christ, we too have been rescued from the utter destruction on the last day and the eternal destruction of hell. We are just as undeserving as Rahab. Remember, she was a prostitute, a woman of sin. Yet God called her to repentance and faith in Him. Her sins were forgiven for Jesus’ sake. It is the same with us! We are men and women of sin. God has called us to repentance - to turn away from those sins - and turn to Jesus in faith for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus suffered the wrath of God for the sins of Rahab and for the sins of each one of us. He did this to rescue us from the utter destruction at the End of the World. God has called us out from the destruction and made us His people, just as He did with Rahab the prostitute. This is salvation by grace - undeserved salvation - for Jesus’ sake!

So when we read Joshua chapter 6 and hear about the destruction of Jericho, we see a preview of the End of the World. We see what the world would call a “foolish” plan of victory through the message of the cross of Jesus Christ. We see the utter destruction of Jericho and we are reminded of the utter destruction that awaits this world. And we see how God saved His precious possessions from destruction, just as through faith in Jesus we are His own precious possessions for whom His Son died and are rescued from the destruction to come. May God ever keep us steadfast in this faith unto the end and by His eternal grace, give us that crown of life in the end. All praise be to our Savior God! Amen!