Thursday, May 16, 2019

Book of Joshua Week 2: Willing to Cross the Jordan

For several years after I graduated from high school, my parents would go on vacation to Hawaii. Not having any kids at home opened up their finances and allowed them to do this. Every time they’d go, they would offer to pay for my families housing, and all we would have to do is pay for food and flight. Several years back, before we had our third child, we took my parents offer and went to the island of Kauai. It was supposed to be the whole family, including my sisters and their families, but it ended up being just my parents, me, my wife, and our two kids. We had a blast, and those two kids got spoiled to the brim, because they were the only grandkids there.
Now, my desire on the trip was to relax. I didn’t want to do a lot, I just wanted to be on the beach. Well, on one of those beaches, the kids decided they wanted the family to build a big sand castle. Everyone started out helping, but eventually my mom, my wife and myself were left to finished the task. Remember, all I wanted to do was just relax, so I felt more roped into this than anything. 
But it turned out pretty good. It had a castle, a wall, and a moat that diverted the ocean water away from the structure. And that’s when it happened, it was like Godzilla in Tokyo. One of my kid’s big ol’ feet came trouncing through and destroyed our hard work. After that, daddy was no longer interested in helping build sandcastles. I had come to Hawaii to relax, and that’s what I was going to do. No more sandcastles for me. 

And it’s this idea of reaching a place of relaxation, of rest, and then being asked to do more that could cost you that relaxation, that brings us to where we left off last week in Joshua chapter 1 verse 10. So if you have your Bibles, you can open up to Joshua 1:10, and as you do, let’s bring ourselves back to where we started last week.

Last week we began our summer study with the book of Joshua in the first half of the Bible, and we did this by diving into some of the characteristics of Joshua the man. We saw how Joshua trusted godly leadership. He trusted that Moses was following God, and even when some of the stuff Joshua was asked to do sounded a little on the crazy side, Joshua followed. The second characteristic was that Joshua himself sought a relationship with God. He was a witness of God on Mt. Sinai, he stayed at the tent of meeting where God met Moses. It was for reasons like these, that Joshua was picked by God to lead the nation of Israel into the land that God had promised Abraham 700 years earlier. 
But it was the three times of God’s encouragement to Joshua, that we focused on; and it’s because of this repeated encouragement we asked the question, “How come Joshua needs so much encouragement?” And we came to the understanding that it’s because everyone needs encouragement. It doesn’t matter if you’re the kid shining shoes for a little extra money, or if you’re the leader of a nation, every one of us needs encouragement. And then we talked about how there are two ways in which we are to find encouragement. One being each other and the other the Scriptures. Both are resources of encouragement that are there for us.

This brings us to where we’re at in the book of Joshua chapter 1 verse 10; Joshua has been encouraged by God, and so he steps out to take command of the nation of Israel. Let’s read together.

10 So Joshua ordered the officers of the people: 11 “Go through the camp and tell the people, ‘Get your provisions ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you for your own.’”
12 But to the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, Joshua said, 13 “Remember the command that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you after he said, ‘The Lord your God will give you rest by giving you this land.’ 14 Your wives, your children and your livestock may stay in the land that Moses gave you east of the Jordan, but all your fighting men, ready for battle, must cross over ahead of your fellow Israelites. You are to help them 15 until the Lord gives them rest, as he has done for you, and until they too have taken possession of the land the Lord your God is giving them. After that, you may go back and occupy your own land, which Moses the servant of the Lord gave you east of the Jordan toward the sunrise.”
16 Then they answered Joshua, “Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. 17 Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you as he was with Moses. 18 Whoever rebels against your word and does not obey it, whatever you may command them, will be put to death. Only be strong and courageous!

Now the further and further we get into the book of Joshua, the harder the names get, and the more history of how we got to where we’re at will come into play. One history fact we need to know is that God was planning to divide the promise land up among the twelve sons of Jacob’s descendants, who God called Israel. So let’s talk a little about who these first three groupsare..

The first group is the tribe of Reuben. They descend from Reuben who was the first born son of Jacob, who’s name eventually got changed to Israel, hence why the people are called the nation of Israel. But Rueben lost his position as first born son to his brother Judah, because Rueben slept with his father’s concubine Bilhah, who was the mother of some of Reuben’s brothers (Genesis 35:22). Some real weird stuff, that proves, God doesn’t whitewash history for us. But don’t be to hard on Reuben, because he was the one that kept his brothers from killing their youngest brother, at the time, Joseph. And that was a good thing, because God used Joseph to make sure that the nation of Israel would survive a horrible famine. So even though Reuben was a screw up, God still used him. Another person in Scripture that gives hope to us all.

The second group is the tribe of Gad. They descend from, you guessed it, Gad who was the seventh son of Israel. Now there’s not much interesting about Gad, who was one of the brothers that wanted to kill Jospeh. But what is interesting is the implied role that they played in defeating the king Sihon. We’re never directing told what they did, but Moses said this of them in Deuteronomy 33:20-21, “20 About Gad he said: “Blessed is he who enlarges Gad’s domain! Gad lives there like a lion, tearing at arm or head. 21 He chose the best land for himself; the leader’s portion was kept for him. When the heads of the people assembled, he carried out the Lord’s righteous will, and his judgments concerning Israel.”

So even though Gad himself didn’t play much of a role in biblical history, his descendants were strong warriors, and help defeat Sihon who was a warlord (

The final group is the half-tribe of Manasseh. Now, yes they descended from a man named Manasseh, but Manasseh wasn’t one of Israel’s twelve sons. He was actually the oldest son of Joseph, who was himself the eleventh of Israel. So the question obviously should come up, “why then is his descendants getting a portion of land, if he wasn’t one of the twelve sons of Israel?
And that answer is two-fold, first the tribe of Levi had been designated to become priests to God, and because of that status, they were not going to get a chunk of land, because as God put it, God was their allotment. But God had promised twelve sections of land, and he did this through the man Israel’s blessing in Genesis 48:15-16. It was in this blessing that the man Israel, blessed both of Jospeh’s sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. This is why Manasseh is called a half tribe, because the other half of the tribe are their cousins Ephraim. 

Now all three of these tribes where cattlemen, and they chose as their portion of land, the land east of the Jordan because it was perfect for their cattle.

And it’s that very point of history that causes this interaction between Joshua and the leaders of these three tribes. 
At this moment in the nation of Israel’s history there is an opportunity for a division to occur. Joshua just took command of the whole nation, and already he has the makings of a break between the tribes. Think about it. On one hand, there are nine and a half tribes that that are ready to move into the land that God had promised them. Those nine and a half tribes are looking toward the west, over the Jordan River, seeing that within a few days journey, they will finally be in the place that they have been told about. They have wandered the desert, they have fought battles, and now their prize was within reach. Sure they still have some more work to do, but they will soon be in the land.
On the other hand, you have two and a half tribes that have already received their allotment. They have fought battles, and have done so gallantly. They have a place where they can now begin to start lives and put down roots in areas that are wide open with possibility.
Do you see where the problem now lies? One side has their relaxation, and the other still has work to do.

So what does Joshua do? He sends out word that the nine and a half tribes must be ready to move in three days time, and then he specifically goes to the two and a half tribes and reminds them of what Moses had spoke to them. “‘The Lord your God will give you rest by giving you this land.’ 14 Your wives, your children and your livestock may stay in the land that Moses gave you east of the Jordan, but all your fighting men, ready for battle, must cross over ahead of your fellow Israelites. You are to help them 15 until the Lord gives them rest, as he has done for you, and until they too have taken possession of the land the Lord your God is giving them. After that, you may go back and occupy your own land, which Moses the servant of the Lord gave you east of the Jordan toward the sunrise.

This is a bold move by Joshua; a move that God knew he had to make, and so it makes even more sense as to why we see the three-fold call of God to Joshua to be courageous. And Joshua did. Joshua prepared the people to leave, and called those who had already gained their inheritance to remember that not everyone had received theirs.

And why is this so important, because it’s so easy for us, when we have gained our comfort, to forget that others have not. That when we have gained our place of relaxation, of rest, others have not. And I think this is most noticeable in how we live out our Christian lives. If you have put your trust in Jesus as your personal Savior; that means that you have decided to follow him, forsaking everything else, then you have your place in God’s family. But if we took the numbers of Christians in the world at face value, not questioning if those who profess to be Christians are born again, but just taking the largest number of professing Christians in this world, there are about 2.18 billion professing Christians around the world. 
Right now there are about 7.7 billion people in the world, that means there are 5.52 billion people who are not professing Christians. There are people out there that do not have a resting relationship with Jesus. I once heard from a linguist, that there are approximately 18,000 language dialects in the world. Of which, only 8,000 have been reached with the Gospel. There are places in the world where missionaries are not able, or not allowed to go.
We who profess to be Christians, have our allotment, we have our rest, yet there is still work to be done. We are the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh siting on our our allotted land on the east side of the Jordan, but there are those who still are awaiting their allotment. There are still those who have not accepted Jesus as their Savior, and the question is, what are we doing about it?

I don’t if the next sentence out of my mouth is going to hit a nerve with anyone this morning or not. Many of us in this room are retired, you’ve worked hard in your life to get to this place and I thank God that you are here, but your kingdom retirement has not begun. As long as you’re living, God is calling you to help in his work. There might not be things you can do, but there are things that you can do. The question isn’t are you called, the question is, are you willing?

Joshua went to these two and half tribes and reminded them of their calling, we need that too. We need to be reminded of the calling on our lives. Listen to the words of Jesus in Matthew chapter 9, “36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field (v.36-38).”

Now who were those workers that were eventually sent out? Wasn’t it the very disciples that Jesus told to ask for workers? When we’re asking God to raise up people for his work, we need to be the first ones on the line, working until God calls us to rest with him.

I love how the two and a half tribes answer Joshua. They could have easily said, “no, we’re retired from battle,” or “no we have what we set out to get, we’re going to take it easy from now on.”  They could have said this, and a split would have happened right at the beginning of Joshua’s tenure as leader, but they responded in a godly way, “16 Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. 17 Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you as he was with Moses. 18 Whoever rebels against your word and does not obey it, whatever you may command them, will be put to death. Only be strong and courageous!”

They recognized what they had to do. They recognized what was needed of them, and they recognized that there was still more to their calling. And they ended their pledge to Joshua with a fourth encouragement towards him to be courageous. And I believe this was God’s words through them, reminding Joshua that he was with him.

We can easily become comfortable in the place that God has brought us, because we can feel like we’ve done everything required of us. But God is calling us to greater work even today in his kingdom. The question is, are we going to stay on our side of the Jordan River, and allow our brothers and sisters to do all the work on their own, or are we going to rise up and fulfill the calling on our lives? 

This week I want to challenge you to make three lists: First is a list of all that you have done in God’s work up until now. The Second is all the things that could be done. And if you need some help with this, just ask me, Jeff, or Marika for some ideas, we’ve got plenty. And then in the final list, write down all the things from the first one that you can still do, and all the things from the second one that you can do, and combine them. That combined third list is what God is calling you to do. That is your crossing of the Jordan River.

I want to encourage you that the calling on your life is not done, until your six feet under. We have work in God’s Kingdom to do. And if we respond as these two and a half tribes did, then, the rest that awaits us will be all the sweeter. Amen.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Book of Joshua Week 1: Everyone Needs Encouragement

Anyone ever applied for a job somewhere? It can be such a discouraging endeavor. If you’re young, you don’t have experience, and so you need to find a job, so you can get experience, but no one wants to hire you, because you don’t have the experience they want. Then, when you get the experience, it’s not quite what the next person is looking for. To top it all off, even if you have years of experience, there are jobs out there, that will look at you and say, “We want someone younger who has new ideas.”  Every step of the way, it seems like you just can’t win. I’ve been there, maybe you’ve been there, I know a couple of our graduated teens that are there right now. And it’s the discouragement that we can face in this life, that brings us to our text today. 
We’ll be starting in the book of Joshua chapter 1, verse 1. And as you find your way to Joshua chapter 1, verse 1, I want to bring us out of our winter mode of teaching to our summer mode.

Every summer we, as a congregation, dive into a book of the Bible. We started this tradition with the book of Colossians, a few years back. The last couple fo summers were spent in the Gospel of Mark, which we finished up last fall. 
We approach these summer studies, with the goal of seeing the overarching purposes of the writing, and how it connects to the rest of Scripture. We don’t approach these studies verse-by-verse, though we may do that from time to time. The goal isn’t to mine everything nugget from the passages, but rather get an understanding of God’s reason for speaking through a particular moment in history, and how it is to affect us in our lives today.
So this summer, and most likely, next summer, we will be exploring together the book of Joshua in the first half of the Bible. 
But why the book of Joshua, you might be asking. Well, to put it simply, this is a book that God has been working out in my own life. I don’t know if you know, but our church has been going through a bit of a transition. From October 2001 to June 2018 Pastor Jeff has led this ministry, as an under shepherd to Jesus. In 2015, Pastor Jeff and the Elders asked me to take over his position, and in June 2018 that transition was completed. So for the last, almost, year I have had the pleasure to begin a journey with you as Christ leads us together in the next step of God’s ministry in Quartzsite.
And Joshua is a man that I have felt more connected with in this season of my life than any other in Scripture. Because he too was a man that was a part of a transition in leadership. 

So let’s start our walk through the book of Joshua, by starting in chapter 1 verse 1. 

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.”

Here’s the transition of leadership from Moses to Joshua. And if you’ve ever been challenge to memorize several passages of Scripture, or have ever needed some encouragement in your life. Joshua 1:9 is a popular verse for people to learn. 
“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.”
In times of discouragement, or when we’re about to face something difficult, we can recite this verse to be reminded that God is there, so we do not need to be discouraged or afraid.

But let’s dive into the person that God is speaking these words to. Who is this Joshua that is taking over the mantel of Moses. Who is this Joshua who is going to lead the people of Israel into the promise land that wasn’t just promised to Moses, but has it’s roots in a promise God made to Abraham almost 700 years before (Genesis 12:1-3). This must be an amazing man to be entrusted with such an honor. And I would say, yes he was.

In fact, I want to point out two aspects of Joshua’s character to you. 

The first is, he trusted godly leadership. We see this in a couple of places. One time the Israelite people fought against this king named Amalek. In Exodus 17 verse 9 we get a conversation between Moses and Joshua. 

9 Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.”
10 So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. 11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. 12 When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. 13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.

Joshua trusted that, even though the plan sounded weird, God had placed Moses in a position of leadership, and so Joshua followed. 
Another time, and probably the most important trust in leadership that Joshua shows, is when Moses sends a group of men to spy out the land of Canaan in Numbers 13. Now I’m not going to read the chapter, which I would encourage you to do on your own. Instead, the story goes, that Moses had been telling the Israelite people that God was taking them to the land of Canaan, and he was going to give it to them. So Moses sends out 12 spies to bring back news about the defenses and people of the land. But when the twelve spies returned, 10 of them said the taking of the land was impossible. Whereas the last two, Joshua and Caleb, said they could do it.
Joshua was a man who trusted that God was leading through Moses. And it was because of his trust, that even when he saw the challenges ahead, Joshua was willing to face them.

The second aspect of Joshua’s character that I want us to look at, is his desire to know God.
There are three times Joshua displays this. The first comes from Exodus 24, starting in verse 12. 
12 The Lord said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone with the law and commandments I have written for their instruction.”
13 Then Moses set out with Joshua his aide, and Moses went up on the mountain of God.  

Whenever I’ve read through the times when Moses met with God, I never realize, that on at least one occasion he was accompanied by Joshua. Joshua was allowed the same access to God as Moses was, even early on.

Later on in Exodus, we see a time when God’s anger was against the Israelites because of their sin. And so, Moses put a tent up outside of the community, and there he would meet with God. It says this in Exodus 33, starting in verse 9…

9 As Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, while the Lord spoke with Moses. 10 Whenever the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance to the tent, they all stood and worshiped, each at the entrance to their tent. 11 The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.

Joshua was right there at the tent, what was he doing, I don’t know, but it seems to me he was seeking the presence of God in this time, just as Moses was.

Finally, and I think one of the most important spiritual experiences Joshua had, was actually being corrected by his mentor Moses. In Numbers 11, starting in verse 26, we see a situation where God has called Moses to bring the elders of Israel to the tent, but a couple of these elders stayed behind. The Scripture says,

26 However, two men, whose names were Eldad and Medad, had remained in the camp. They were listed among the elders, but did not go out to the tent. Yet the Spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp. 27 A young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”
28 Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ aide since youth, spoke up and said, “Moses, my lord, stop them!”
29 But Moses replied, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” 30 Then Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.

Joshua learned the lesson that God wasn’t just wanting to work through Moses, but through the whole of the community of Israel. Which would serve him later in his life.

And so, this Joshua was a man who trusted God’s leadership over him, and had desire to deep relationship with God.
He was chosen, and I think rightly so, to be the one who had the mantle of leadership passed to him. Because isn’t that the type of person you would want to lead? A person that trust’s God’s leading through people over them, and one who himself desires a deeper relationship with God?

Now, if Joshua was such a good pick for the transfer of leadership, I propose this question to you, why would God need to say the words of Joshua 1:9? “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.”
And he doesn’t just say it once, he says it three times in the passage. But not only that, God tells Moses to tell Joshua in Deuteronomy 3:28, “But commission Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead this people across and will cause them to inherit the land that you will see.”

Why does Joshua need so much encouragement? Isn’t he a man of great trust? Isn’t he a man of great godly desire? Why does he need to be encouraged by his mentor? Why does God himself have to reiterate that encouragement three times in the span of a few sentences?

The reality is, all of us can easily lose sight of what God has set before us, and become discouraged. Even a man like Joshua.
I know I’ve been discouraged. Ten years or so back we had a teenager who was a part of our youth ministry named Nick, which some of you might remember him. Nick went through a very hard time, and had a hard painful background. The church tired very hard to help; Pastor Jeff was trying to remodel his cabin, and offered Nick a place to stay. The church hired him on as an intern with the stipulation that he would finish high school. 
He didn’t and the church leadership, and I can’t stress this part enough, with a heavy heart had to let him go. It was one of the most discouraging times in my early ministry here. 

All of us need encouragement. One of our elders who passed away named Boyd Ellis once said me, “God has told me to be an encourager, so that’s what I’ll be.” He even told me one time, “I wish I had faith like yours.” To which I replied, “Like mine? I wish I had faith like yours.” 

Joshua needs encouraging, and so do we. But I might not be to presumptions when I say, I think we all know that right? I think we all know that there are times when we are discouraged and we need some encouragement. 
Yet, God wants to be encouraged. That’s why he does it for Joshua, and it’s why he used Paul to say in 1st Thessalonians 5:9, 
“9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
“12 Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.”

But how? How does God want us to be encouraged? Well in two ways. One is in what we just read above: you and I need to encourage each other. We need to be speaking words that build up and not tear down. We need to speak in love, and in truth. 
The second way is what God tells Joshua in the text we’ve read today. In verse 8 God tells Joshua, “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.”
The importance of reading, internalizing, and living out God’s word cannot be stressed enough. 

In a book called Jesus Freaks, which is a collection of stories of Christian persecution, a story was told of a man in Vietnam who was put into prison for his faith. The jailers would defecate and use the pages of the Bible as toilet paper. Then to add insult to injury, they would make the Christian man clean up after them. The man took the pages that had been marred, cleaned them, and kept them, so that he would have the Word of God for encouragement.

You and I need what Joshua needed, encouragement. So my challenge for you this week is to memorize Joshua 1:9, “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.”
And if you have already memorized this verse, I challenge you to memorize verses 7-8 as well.

Let us be people who speak encouragement into each other’s lives, and who seek it in the pages of Scripture, so, like Joshua, we may be blessed by a deeper relationship with God. Amen.