Recently my family and I watched the movie Hook. If you don’t know it, it was a ‘90s Robin Williams film about Peter Pan growing up, having a family, his kids getting kidnapped by Captain Hook, and Pan going back to Neverland to get them back. As a father, Peter isn’t the greatest, he goes to his daughter’s school play, just to take a phone call in the middle of it. The next day he’s suppose to go to his son’s baseball game, but instead goest to an important meeting, so he skips the game, and sends someone to video tape it.
The clash between Peter and his son comes once on the plane, and again right before the children get kidnapped. Peter tries to make amends for the conflict by giving his son his pocket watch. Later after Hook kidnaps the kids, he tries to make Peter’s son his own. Hook finally gets through to the son, by taking him to a place where they break clocks. If you didn’t know, Hook doesn’t like clocks, because of the crocodile that took his hand. When they arrive at the clock smashing building, Hook lays Peter’s pocket watch on a table and gives the son a hammer. The son begins to smash not only the pocket watch but a bunch of other clocks as well. All the while saying things like, you never keep any promises.
To Peter’s son, the promise his father made and broke, was the basis for why their relationship was in shambles. Again and again Peter made promises, saying earlier in the movie, “My word is my bond,” which his son immediately responds with, “Yeah, junk bond.”
And it’s this understanding that the fulfillment of a promise is something that each of us desires to have from people, and from God, that helps us to keep our faith strong, or lose it completely.
And it’s that focus on promise that brings us back to the book of Joshua today. So if you have your Bible, we’re going to be starting in the book of Joshua chapter 13 verse 1.
But as we get into Joshua 13:1, let’s catch up with where we’re at.
Last week we talked about how the overarching point of the book of Joshua is very simple, it’s to help us realize our need to follow God where leads. For Joshua, even though he was an older man, he still had to learn this one simple aspect of what it meant to trust God. In fact, we saw that once he internalized the words of encouragement that God had for him, and spoke them to the people of Israel, the whole book of Joshua changed in pace. In the first 10 chapters we get through three conquered cities, two by force and one by treaty. But once we get Joshua’s turning point in verse 25 of chapter 10, it only takes the book two and a half chapters to tell us that the Israelites conquered 29 kings.
This turn in pacing for the book, matches, Joshua’s own turn in how he perceived to follow God. Once Joshua learns this leasson, the victories come faster, and we’re left with the understanding that Joshua has learned his lesson, so we must as well. We too must learn the lesson of our need to follow God wherever he leads. A simple lesson, that can take any of us years to master.
And it’s with that quick recap that we can now jump into chapter 13, where we’re coming to an end to what God is doing through Joshua. Let’s pick it up in Joshua chapter 13 verse 1.
1When Joshua had grown old, the Lord said to him, “You are now very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over.
2 “This is the land that remains: all the regions of the Philistines and Geshurites, 3 from the Shihor River on the east of Egypt to the territory of Ekron on the north, all of it counted as Canaanite though held by the five Philistine rulers in Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath and Ekron; the territory of the Avvites 4 on the south; all the land of the Canaanites, from Arah of the Sidonians as far as Aphek and the border of the Amorites; 5 the area of Byblos; and all Lebanon to the east, from Baal Gad below Mount Hermon to Lebo Hamath.
6 “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, 7 and divide it as an inheritance among the nine tribes and half of the tribe of Manasseh.”
Now I love the directness of God in this passage. “Well Joshua you’re old, and you didn’t get the job done.” That’s probably not exactly the emphasis, but just the idea that God doesn’t play games and is straight forward with the reality of the situation is great. Joshua is roughly about 95 years old at this point. He has spent the latter part of his life embroiled in securing the land that God had promised him. He has seen two miracles of crossing water on dry land. He has seen the presence of God as a cloud and a fire. He has seen his mentor communicate with God, and learned to do the same. He has seen both victory under God’s command, and loss, when he himself tried to take charge.
Joshua has seen and done a lot in his lifetime, and yet the job isn’t done. God doesn’t hold back and sugarcoat the situation. He doesn’t tell Joshua, good job, you have accomplished everything. You are the greatest leader that has ever or will ever lead the nation of Israel. No, instead God is direct, there is still a lot to do to secure the land. And by telling Joshua this, God is telling him two things:
First, when Joshua dies, God isn’t going to leave the people. In verse 6 God tells Joshua, "I myself will drive them out before the Israelites.” This statement is to assure Joshua that when he’s gone the nation will not be without a leader, because just like we saw back in chapter 5, and we’re reminded again and again, it is God who is fighting and winning these battles for Israel, and when Joshua is gone, God will continue to fulfill his role. So it’s God’s assurance that Joshua doesn’t need to worry about what will happen after he dies.
Second, God is telling Joshua, there’s still something that he needs to do. God is letting Joshua know even though he’s old he still has a calling on his life, and it is Joshua that needs to be the one that divides the land up between the people. Why is that? Because Joshua is a beloved leader and it would be easier for him, rather than passing that responsibility off to the next leader. We saw at the beginning of Joshua’s career that he had a situation where the tribes that had already received land, and the tribes that were waiting for land, could have come into a situation where the two groups could have split up. God was with Joshua and, instead of splitting, the two groups joined forces and conquered a lot of Canaan. Therefore it would make sense that Joshua would be the one that would divide the land for the people, because he had a deep connection with them.
So even at the end of his life, there was still a lot to do, both in the long term and the short term. But God wanted Joshua to understand that he was going to be with him until the day he died, and that God would be with the Israelites long after Joshua’s death.
And so what happens? For the next eight and a half chapters, we get a very detailed look at all of the areas each tribe of Israel received for their inheritance. And I would encourage you to read these chapters to get a sense of the intentionality that goes into the dividing of the land.
But for now, let’s fast forward to chapter 21 verse 43, where it reads,
43 So the Lord gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their ancestors, and they took possession of it and settled there. 44 The Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their ancestors. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the Lord gave all their enemies into their hands. 45 Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.
And here’s the key today. In summarizing all of the detailed information that the last eight and a half chapters gave us, we’re simply told that all of this detailed information was to let us know that God fulfilled his promise to Israel.
This promised was originally given back in Genesis chapter 12 verse 1 where God says this to Abraham, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. 2 “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
Roughly 500 years later, after Abraham is called by God to leave his family home, God fulfills his promise. About 10 generations of Israel have come and gone, and now the promise of God is fulfilled. How many of us could stand to have a promise of God take this long to be fulfilled?
I don’t know about you, but if I don’t get an answer in a couple of minutes from when I pray, I start to get a little antsy. And when I don’t get a quick answer, I tend to either start to think of ways I can do it in my own strength, or I can get this pessimistic attitude that God doesn’t care.
Have you ever said something like this, “God I have this situation and I need you to move quick.” Then you wait a few minutes, maybe a day, and then say, “Well I guess God isn’t listening, so I’ll just take this action.”
I’ve don’t it more times that I can count. I ask God to do something, with my position, with finances, with my kids, and nothing immediately happens, so I get this idea in my head that I’ll have to do it on my own, because God doesn't care, isn’t interested, or whatever other fill-in the blank reason I don’t think God is moving quick enough.
But what if we had to wait 500 years for God’s answer? What if we had to wait until we were really old for God to move? What if we never got to see God’s plan fulfilled in our lifetime? What would we do?
Well I don't’ know about you, but I tend to let it affect my trust in God. Instead of trusting that he is working, I allow my insecurity about him to take over, and that’s when distrust arises, and my faith falters. And it’s there that I begin to struggle in knowing if God is even real.
But what does God want us to do? What does he say to Joshua, “You’re old, and there’s a lot left, but you have your own responsibilities to fulfill."
And I think this is the key to building trust in God, while we’re waiting for his answer to prayer, we must keep doing the things God has already called us to.
Abraham lived his life and saw one of God’s promises, that was his son Issac. Moses was leading his people to the promise land, but never got there. Joshua conquered a lot of Canaan, but there was still more left. Yet all of them kept doing what God called them to do in their lives, with the complete fulfillment of God’s promise still on the horizon.
God has given us a job already, are we fulfilling it? Are we doing what we have been called to first, and allowing that to be our focus and place of trust, or are we allowing our “give it to me now” attitudes to get in the way of that work?
We must do as God called Joshua to do, keep at it. Because even though God fulfilled his promise to the nation of Israel, at the same time there were still things to be done.
God was upfront with it, but in it, God also reminded Joshua, “"I myself will drive them out before the Israelites.”
So as we are waiting for God to answer our prayers, let us continue to do the work that he has laid out for us.
And what is that work? Simply to share the Gospel with people making disciples as we go about our lives. That means to simply invest in the people God has given us. This is why were talk about the “L” project here at the Alliance Church. Love, Lift, Locate, Life.
We’re called to Love God and share that love, by lifting God up in our daily worship, locating and meeting the needs God brings into our lives, all the while pointing people back to the life God has for them in Jesus.
This week I want to challenge you to make a list of all the prayer requests that you have been asking of God. Then make a second list of all the people God has brought into your life right now. Then for every prayer request you have, make it a point to share or invest into someone’s life this week with the Gospel.
That’s hard, but a kind word, a redirection of a conversation, a helping hand is all that it takes to share the Gospel and build people up in the Lord.
Let us not become pessimistic in our trust in God, but rather let us allow God to move when he wants, and while we’re waiting, fulfill the calling he has brought us into. Amen.