Scripture Joshua 1
Joshua Chapter 1 NIV
Josh 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. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates--all the Hittite country--to the Great Sea on the west. No one will be able to stand up 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 forefathers to give them. 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. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; 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. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."
10 So Joshua ordered the officers of the people:
11 "Go through the camp and tell the people, 'Get your supplies 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, "Remember the command that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you: 'The LORD your God is giving you rest and has granted you this land.' 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, fully armed, must cross over ahead of your brothers. You are to help your brothers until the LORD gives them rest, as he has done for you, and until they too have taken possession of the land that 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. 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. Whoever rebels against your word and does not obey your words, whatever you may command them, will be put to death. Only be strong and courageous!"
People of God:
A few weeks ago, when I decided to preach on this passage on this first Sunday of the year 2000 - through it I wanted to encourage us all to be strong and courageous - a phrase repeated 4 times in this passage. And I wanted to do it, because as we look at our culture, we see that throughout North America, people are changing their view of reality - back toward a paradigm that includes a concept of god and spirituality - back toward something they hope will resolve their personal issue and give them meaning in life. Evolution has not provided that. A technological and scientific approach to human behavior has not provided that. And especially in these last few weeks, as we have looked forward to the future, and anticipated a bug that was much more bark than bite - people have been thinking of their own personal futures - something which the best of scientific forecasters have had very little to say about. Our culture is once again becoming hungry for what the gospel, for what Jesus can give us.
If we want to be people who influence this culture in the coming decade, if we are to be people who influence lives for Christ in the coming years, we have to be strong and of good courage. Hank, if you want to be an elder who influences people in a positive way in their faith - as a leader, you need to be strong and courageous. The truth is - if you look throughout history at those who have influenced history in a positive way - you will find repeatedly that behind their character and actions was strength and courage.
But what this passage makes clear is that our courage ought not come from the weakness of another, our strength ought not come from a position of superiority.
Our strength and courage to face the challenges of each day, each contest against the forces of evil, come from God in some very specific ways - and this morning, as we face this new millennium, I would like to focus on those sources of strength and courage as they are outlined in this passage as the Lord encouraged Joshua to be strong and courageous.
So where does strength and courage come from?
1. Know God's word/will/wisdom.
Listen to the Lord's instructions again.
Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.
Joshua was given this instruction to keep the word in his mind, in his mouth, understand it, comprehend it, grasp hold of it for a very basic reason. To be God's leader, we must know what God has to say on different issues. We must grasp how the word of God speaks to the dynamics of our culture. As we hold the truths of the word of God in our hearts, we can bring it to the world which we are serving. The word of God within is the power to serve others. Scripture describes this, the word of God as spirit and life, as a two edged sword designed to expose the motivations of humanity, as a seed planted capable to raising a kingdom, as something eternal in a world where everything seems to come and go so quickly, it is the message of the cross which is power unto salvation. The word of God within is the first source of strength and courage.
I suspect that sometimes we don't see the word of God as we ought. We see it as something that comforts us. We see reading it as a religious obligation. The scriptures however tell us that it is power - power from God to influence and shape this world.
As Joshua led these stiff necked people into the promises of God, as Joshua faced that challenges to overtaking the promised land which was filled with enemies that appeared far greater than the little Israelites, he was called to have a word permeated mind.
Hank - as you seek to influence as an elder - God's people in their faith - Keep the word in your mind, in your heart, meditate on it day and night - you will find strength there for the task.
As we march into this century - people of God - keep the word central in your minds and hearts. Without it, we become simply another confused member of a confused culture. With it, we have light not only for ourselves but also to lead others.
The second instruction for Joshua so that he might have strength and courage was that he was called to know the truth of the word of God by the pathway of obedience to God.
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. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; 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
Behind this instruction are two simple truths.
A. We only come to know the truth of the word of God by putting it into practice. To "know" the word of God in scripture is to "experience" it. And how do we know that something is true unless in our lives we have put it into practice and found that it words. How do we know that God will give us the words to speak at the right moment unless we try to speak and minister on God's behalf and discover in the process of doing so that he is true to his word? To come to know the truth of the word of God is to act upon it - as Romans 12:2 tells us - we are to test and approve what God's will is.
B. The second truth behind this instruction is the issue of credibility in leadership. If we want to influence people with what we know is the truth, we must ourselves practice the truth. If we claim we have the light and walk around in darkness, this world sniffs hypocrisy from miles away. People expect us to have integrity - just as Israel toward the end of our passage expected Joshua to have integrity.
So to, Hank, (elders, deacons) if you want to influence God's people in ways that are pleasing to the Lord, live the word of God with the honorable integrity that is visible to others.
People of God, we are called to influence this culture for our Lord - shape your lives by obedience so that you can know from experience the truth of the Word of God, and so that others can see the reality of the Word live in your lives.
Obedience reaps its rewards in strength and courage - the assurance that God's word is flawlessly true - and the strength and courage that comes from living with integrity.
The third source of Joshua's strength and courage was the very real call that he received from the Lord to do so. Moses, the leader of Israel had died - he had been perceived as the leader of Israel - "Now then, you" now the Lord came to Joshua and called him to serve as leader - the God given influence among God's people. He knew that God had appointed him to the task - out of that appointment, he received the strength and courage to face opposition and trials. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.
We live in a culture that fights against this call. In our individualistic times - we often adopt our cultures attitude that says, you do your thing, I'll do mine - no comments please. So the truth you live by is your truth and in the mosaic of Canadian culture - we are supposed to honor that.
But the truth is one truth, not many. It is not possible for two things to be true and logically contradictory. And if we are called by God to be people who live in Jesus, the way the truth and the life, then we will find the truth that we are living comes in direct opposition to the lies that surround us in our culture.
And God calls each one of us to be witnesses to the truth.]
That is not a choice - that is a call. It is an appointment from God to us - he says "you will be my witnesses...to the ends of the earth." We are lights that are not to be hidden under a bushel. This is God's appointment to us.
Hank - elders - as you have received God's call to minister, understand that through that call, you have the divine right and responsibility to speak out the truth in love. You may be tempted to keep the truth to yourselves - but God has appointed you to influence us with the truth so that we may grow in his grace.
People of God - you have been called by God to witness to the truth in this culture, to your friends. This is not your opinion against theirs. It is the truth often shining its light on the lies of the devil. It is not just you as an individual reacting to them. It is God who is calling you to speak the truth with a commission to be strong and courageous because God is speaking through you. And he will provide you what you need for the task to influence others with the truth. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.
The fourth source of Joshua's strength and courage - ours too is the simple promise that is repeated two times, and was a desire expressed by the people toward the end of this passage.
As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you
Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."
One of the fundamental themes of the book of Joshua is that the Lord gives salvation. The Lord gives victory. The Lord overcomes opposition. Infact, Joshua's very name means JWH saves. What Joshua understood and what the people understood is that without God, nothing happens, victory does not come, disaster and trials only remain. But if God, the God who saves is with us - then disaster can turn into victory, tears into joy, ashes into beauty. And the promise of God to Joshua and to us, is that he will be with us - fighting the battles before us.
Hank, leaders among God's people - the promise of God is that he will be with us in our leading - lead with strength and courage - he will never leave you nor forsake you.
People of God - commanded by God to be witnesses in this culture - Jesus said when he gave us the great commission - I will never leave you nor forsake you - behold I am with you to the end of the age. One believer and the Lord make an absolute majority. Be strong and of good courage.
(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.