Fails Of Our Fathers (Joshua 5:1-9)

The Battle of Iwo Jima was a monumental endeavor. Over 100,000 soldiers, sailors, and marines were part of the fight. Though ultimate victory was assumed, it wasn’t going to be easy. The US forces would have no element of surprise[1](https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/pacific-harry-george/) – the enemy knew they were coming. In fact, the Japanese garrison on the island was surprised that no attack came in the summer of 1944. Instead, the onslaught began in February of 1945. That gave the Japanese ample time to dig in and fortify their position, creating miles of underground tunnels, bunkers 75 feet deep,[2](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Iwo_Jima) and beach pillboxes whose walls were made of four foot thick, reinforced concrete.[3](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planning_for_the_Battle_of_Iwo_Jima) Having that extra time to prepare led to one of the bloodiest battles in American history.

There were other troubles. Coming out of the water, Marines found that the beaches were not as they had been described by the battle planners. There were tall slopes of volcanic ash blocking their advance. And then there was also an issue of personal cargo. One historian writes:

“Marines were trained to move rapidly forward; here they could only plod. The weight and amount of equipment was a terrific hindrance and various items were rapidly discarded. First to go was the gas mask…regarded as an unnecessary trapping.”[4](Derrick Wright Iwo Jima 1945: The Marines Raise the Flag On Mount Suribachi)

The Book of Joshua gives us the history of the nation of Israel finally entering into their Promised Land and the battles fought there. Israel’s fighting force was huge, but that doesn’t mean the conquest would be easy. In chapter 5 we see God’s people just after they have crossed the Jordan river. They’ve established a sort of beachhead camp and now all that is left to do is start the invasion. Except, the Lord holds them back and shows them that there is an obstacle they need to deal with. There’s unnecessary weight hindering them that must be shed before they can proceed. It will mean a significant delay, they’ll lose the element of surprise, but in this passage we learn that God cares much more about our closeness with Him than any conquest we’re attempting. Our connection with Him is the most important consideration in any advance, any endeavor, any phase or arena we find ourselves in.

Joshua 5:1 – When all the Amorite kings across the Jordan to the west and all the Canaanite kings near the sea heard how the Lord had dried up the water of the Jordan before the Israelites until they had crossed over, they lost heart and their courage failed because of the Israelites.

Terror had gripped the hearts of the entire land from the mountains to the sea.[5](Marten Woudstra The Book Of Joshua) Joshua had sent spies to Jericho to bring back a report and they verified this fearfulness. Through Rehab the Israelites learned that the people of Canaan were in a panic. They knew God had dried up the Red Sea to allow them to cross. They knew that Kings Sihon and Og had already been destroyed with their armies.[6](Joshua 2:9-11) Their courage had failed. But, at least (they thought) they’d have the natural barrier of the Jordan river. It was the time of year when the Jordan flooded, overflowing its banks. But that was no more a barrier than the Red Sea had been. Imagine the fear the scouts of Jericho and the other cities of the land would’ve felt as they watched the hosts of Israel stepping into Canaan, unhindered and months sooner than expected.

These incredible feats caused Rahab to conclude, “Your God is God in heaven above and earth below.” And she pled for mercy. She asked for her life and the lives of her family to be spared.

This opening verse is a good place to pause and address any person listening today who is not a Christian. The God of the Bible is real and He is God of heaven and earth. You may not worship Him, but that doesn’t change the fact that He is true and that He is coming. When He comes, He comes with wrath in His hand to judge the earth. The fate of those who will not believe is just like those in Canaan. You face a battle you cannot win with an unstoppable God – One who is not hindered by rivers or oceans. Human power or fortifications cannot stop the Lord’s coming. And He has promised, very clearly, that He is coming again to save His people and judge His enemies.

Zephaniah 1:18 – 18 Their silver and their gold will be unable to rescue them on the day of the Lord’s wrath. The whole earth will be consumed by the fire of his jealousy, for he will make a complete, yes, a horrifying end of all the inhabitants of the earth.

Romans 2:5-8 – 5 Because of your hardened and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment is revealed. 6 He will repay each one according to his works:, 7 eternal life to those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality; 8 but wrath and anger to those who are self-seeking and disobey the truth while obeying unrighteousness.

If you aren’t a Christian, we would plead with you today to be like Rahab. Maybe you know the story. She and her family were the only people in all Jericho who raised a white flag. She talked with the spies from Israel and said, “We see what’s coming. We believe your God is true. Please save us.” And God did. Anyone else in the city could’ve made that choice, but they wouldn’t, and so they perished. Don’t make the same mistake. Today, if you hear His voice, don’t harden your heart.

Joshua 5:2 – 2 At that time the Lord said to Joshua, “Make flint knives and circumcise the Israelite men again.”

Back at the camp there is a delay. Human strategists would’ve said, “We can’t wait. We need to take advantage of this momentum we have.” They had reliable intelligence that enemy morale was completely destroyed. Now was not the time to hesitate, but to rush forward to victory.

But God doesn’t care about any of that. He tells Joshua, “We’re going to be here awhile, because there is a nationwide issue we need to deal with.” All the men needed to be circumcised.

The text says “again,” but that doesn’t mean these fellows had been circumcised before. In fact, it’s explained for us in verses 4 and 5.

Joshua 5:4-5 – 4 This is the reason Joshua circumcised them: All the people who came out of Egypt who were males—all the men of war—had died in the wilderness along the way after they had come out of Egypt. 5 Though all the people who came out were circumcised, none of the people born in the wilderness along the way were circumcised after they had come out of Egypt.

The big question is: Why was this whole generation of men uncircumcised? Some think that, after their fathers had refused to enter the promised land 40 years earlier, God had forbidden it as a symbol that they were breakers of the covenant.[7](Irving Jensen Joshua: Rest-land Won) Some suggest that since they had to follow the pillar of cloud around and they never knew when it was going to move, it was impractical to carry out the procedure there in the wilderness.[8](Kenneth Gangel Holman Old Testament Commentary: Joshua) Others point to the spiritual indifference of their parents’ generation,[9](Bible Knowledge Commentary) which was demonstrated so many times in Exodus. We’re not explicitly told the reason, though disobedience is highlighted in verses 6.

But here is the important thing: After decades of wandering, after crossing the Jordan, after finally stepping foot into that land that had been the focus of God’s promise to Abraham’s descendants for hundreds and hundreds of years, God says, “Wait: We have a spiritual issue we need to address. There’s a gap in your faith that needs to be made right and nothing is more important.”

Using flint knives wasn’t something that God had required of Abraham back when circumcision was first instituted for the Hebrews. It draws our thoughts back to that moment when Moses had set off toward Egypt to be the deliverer, yet he had failed to circumcise his own son. That failure led to a strong reaction from God – God was going to kill Moses, until his wife, Zipporah, took a flint knife and circumcised their boy on the spot. In both cases, the urgency and the opportunity and the significance of what God wanted to do was all secondary to faithful obedience.

The Bible Knowledge Commentary puts it this way: “Consecration must precede conquest. There was some unfinished business and it was spiritual in character. It was time for renewal.”

Spiritual renewal – faithful, obedient devotion to God – is more important than any effort we’re undertaking, even if we’re doing it for the Lord. Put together here, we have this wonderful example of how a living faith in the God of the Bible operates. God sat them down and said, “I see you believe, but your belief in My promises has to work itself out in real life obedience to Me.” They did believe. They crossed the Jordan, they were ready to receive what had been offered to them, but first, they would have to personally obey. Faithfulness is demonstrated in obedient activity. In the New Testament, James puts it this way: Faith without works is dead. Faith without works is useless.[10](James 2:20-26)

At the same time, it wasn’t just that God wanted each of these men to do this physical thing and check a box. This was about personal devotion – personal fidelity. God wanted their hearts. This generation of Israelites had been given Deuteronomy, a re-telling of God’s Law and His intentions for them. And again and again the Lord spoke to them about their hearts and filling the heart with the Word of God and following the Lord from the heart. In Deuteronomy 30 we read:

Deuteronomy 30:6 – 6 The Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the hearts of your descendants, and you will love him with all your heart and all your soul so that you will live.

That’s what God wanted. The physical circumcision was the act of a faith that was rooted in the heart. It was an acknowledgement that the spiritual relationship between God and man was the most important part of everything they were doing. Everything else was secondary. Everything else could wait. And this is not just an Old Testament, tribes of Israel principle. This is still the truth for us today. Not that we are to follow the Mosaic Law – Christ fulfilled the Law. We “no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, [we] live under the freedom of God’s grace.”[11](Romans 6:14 NLT) But in this Joshua story we learn that the most important objective we have in life is to be in step with the Lord – to be devoted and set apart to Him, obeying what He says not just in thought but in real action.

For the New Testament believer, “circumcision is of the heart—by the Spirit.”[12](Romans 2:29) It means to be a person submitted to the Word of God and in a personal relationship with Him. A relationship where we “worship by the Spirit of God, boast in Christ Jesus, and do not put confidence in the flesh.”[13](Philippians 3:3)

That must come before any effort we hope to succeed in. If you want to have meaningful life success in your place in history, in your marriage, in your parenting, in your field of study, in whatever campaign you find yourself, the first consideration is heart circumcision. Because from the heart comes obedience and when we obey, God’s grace works out through our lives in powerful ways that we can not accomplish on our own.

And we can see God’s astounding grace on display in this passage. None of these men were circumcised, the one thing that had designated Hebrews as being members of a covenant with God since the time of Abraham. And yet, even though they were all outside the agreement, even though none of them were even qualified to observe the Passover, still God walked with them. For forty years! He led them and He made the way for them and He did the impossible for them because He loved them so much. When they were faithless, He remained faithful. That is the grace of God. But now they were at a turning point and they were brought to a decision: Would they submit and do what God asked even though it would be difficult and contrary to human wisdom?

Joshua 5:3 – 3 So Joshua made flint knives and circumcised the Israelite men at Gibeath-haaraloth.

There’s no montage here of training the troops or making weapons of war. You always have that in battle movies like Shang-Chi or The Last Samurai or The Two Towers. The only thing that Joshua makes are ceremonial knives. There would be no combat practice, just long days of recovery.

Most of us can think of that image of the flag being raised at Iwo Jima. It’s an incredible image that makes us consider what it cost and what it was for and why it mattered. There’s a symbol like that here in verse 3. The name Gibeath-haaraloth means “Hill of the Foreskins.” According to the census given in Numbers, more than 600,000 men would’ve been circumcised that day.[14](Number 26:51) Though somewhat grotesque, what an incredible testimony this was of their obedience and their faith – a monument to their willingness to cut away that which would put distance between them and the Lord and slow down that which He wanted to accomplish in their lives. A symbol of trust in God.

Joshua 5:6-7 – 6 For the Israelites wandered in the wilderness forty years until all the nation’s men of war who came out of Egypt had died off because they did not obey the Lord. So the Lord vowed never to let them see the land he had sworn to their ancestors to give us, a land flowing with milk and honey. 7 He raised up their sons in their place; it was these Joshua circumcised. They were still uncircumcised, since they had not been circumcised along the way.

It’s striking to see that earlier generation described as “men of war.” The Lord had wanted so much to give them the land and the victories in it. Instead of becoming the men of war God wanted them to be, they became men of complaining, men of grumbling, men of resentment and disbelief. They chose a fleshly way of living with a human mindset instead of trusting the Lord. And so, others were raised up in their place. They fought in a few battles, but they gave away the chance to become the conquest generation.

Their unwillingness to obey the Lord and trust Him resulted in a life of wandering. They ultimately made no progress. They just moved from place to place, wasting year after year of life.

God does not bless those who won’t submit to His leading. In the Proverbs we’re told that to reject God’s wisdom and His commands makes you a fool and a fool wastes any treasure he finds. God isn’t going to help us waste our lives. He wants incredible things for us, but if we refuse Him, then He will raise up others to be used in our place. This was Mordecai’s message to Esther.

Joshua 5:8-9 – 8 After the entire nation had been circumcised, they stayed where they were in the camp until they recovered. 9 The Lord then said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the disgrace of Egypt from you.” Therefore, that place is still called Gilgal today.

This was a time before ice and Tylenol. A few medical sources I consulted put the recovery time between 10 days and 6 weeks. Not only would they lose the element of surprise and give their enemies time to fortify (which they did),[15](Joshua 6:1) they actually became weak and vulnerable, with only God to protect them. From a military planning perspective, this was folly.

Sometimes God’s commands put us in a position like this. But we don’t have to fear being vulnerable in God’s hands. Remember: “God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.”[16](1 Corinthians 1:25) Life isn’t about strategy, it’s about trust.


Any battle strategist would’ve said, “We’ve lost our advantage. It’s going to be much harder now to win a victory because we spent all this time doing something that seems so unimportant.” But, in reality, this was the most important thing they could’ve done. One of the lessons the book of Joshua teaches us is that the only thing that could defeat Israel was Israel. If they sinned, if they forgot God, if they embraced their own wisdom instead of the Lord’s, that was the only thing that could stop what God wanted to do in and through their lives.

The same principle is spiritually for us. No weapon formed against us can succeed. Nothing in the world can overcome us. No temptation is too great for us to withstand. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. But we can fall into traps by failing to believe and obey what He has told us and where He is leading us. When we leave the camp of His grace and go far afield after our own desires and our own strategies and our own destinations, that is when we fall into defeat. When we trust God and stand in His truth, there’s nothing to fear. Because the Lord’s strength is vast and with it He prepares us for every circumstance and adversary of life.

What was the disgrace of Egypt? Bible scholars don’t agree. What’s important is that it was God who rolled it away. They weren’t earning God’s grace through circumcision. They were agreeing to receive it and demonstrating that they believed the Lord and trusted Him and wanted closeness to Him more than they wanted plunder or glory in battle or anything else. And they trusted Him enough to obey. They had seen first hand how the Lord had been faithful to their parents’ generation, yet their parents had been unfaithful. This group didn’t want to make the same mistake.

Of course, in the end, Joshua will say to them, “Hey, you’ve all seen what the Lord has done for us. But you are drifting away. Choose this day who you will serve. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Again, Joshua renewed his faithful obedience to this loving and faithful God. Will we be faithful? Will we follow the Lord, setting aside anything He asks us to, trusting that He knows the best way forward? Settling that issue is the most important thing any of us could do today.

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word

What a glory He sheds on our way!
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 (https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/pacific-harry-george/
2 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Iwo_Jima
3 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planning_for_the_Battle_of_Iwo_Jima
4 (Derrick Wright Iwo Jima 1945: The Marines Raise the Flag On Mount Suribachi
5 (Marten Woudstra The Book Of Joshua
6 (Joshua 2:9-11
7 (Irving Jensen Joshua: Rest-land Won
8 (Kenneth Gangel Holman Old Testament Commentary: Joshua
9 (Bible Knowledge Commentary
10 (James 2:20-26
11 (Romans 6:14 NLT
12 (Romans 2:29
13 (Philippians 3:3
14 (Number 26:51
15 (Joshua 6:1
16 (1 Corinthians 1:25

Home Sweet Hope (Joshua 14:6-9)

Everywhere I go people are constantly walking ahead of me in line to join with their family or friends up ahead.  They see nothing wrong with it.

Maybe you see nothing wrong with it.

I’m old school when it comes to taking cuts in a line.  It’s just wrong.

I think I might suffer from line rage.

I thought I made up the term, line rage, but it’s a real thing, being studied at MIT.

The professor overseeing the study describes a line as “a momentary involuntary imprisonment.”

He jokes, “if Moses had an eleventh commandment, it would have been, ‘Thou shalt not cut in line.'”

In some cities, you can hire people to wait in line for you.  In New York City, the going rate is $60.00 an hour – and people ‘line-up,’ as it were, to pay it.

There are exceptions to taking cuts.  In our text, Caleb takes cuts in line.

Joshua is about to begin casting lots to determine the inheritances of the tribes when Caleb breaks ranks and steps forward and asks for the portion already promised to him forty-five years earlier by Moses.

It’s one of those times I have no problem with someone taking cuts.  Caleb had already waited long enough.

One of the things that strikes you about his zeal is that even though he’s waited forty-five years, he acts like Hebron was promised to him only yesterday.  Through many discouragements, dangers, and difficulties, Caleb never lost site of God’s promise.

It’s an example, a powerful one, of biblical hope.

We use the word hope to describe things that may or may not come to pass.  The Bible presents hope as a certainty.

Let’s make a connection between Caleb’s forty-year hope and a hope of our own as believers.

The rapture is called our blessed hope:

Tit 2:13  looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,

The verse is talking about the rapture, which is imminent; it could happen any moment.

I got saved in February of 1979.  That was nearly forty-years ago. No rapture… But I still have it as my blessed hope; and so do you; because God’s Word is true.

Caleb was certain he would inherit Hebron.  We want to focus on the source of his hope.

Joshua 14:6  Then the children of Judah came to Joshua in Gilgal. And Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him: “You know the word which the Lord said to Moses the man of God concerning you and me in Kadesh Barnea.

Forty-five years earlier the Israelites had stood on the verge of entering the Promised Land at Kadesh Barnea.  Moses sent twelve men in to spy-out the land.

Ten of the spies exaggerated the dangers and difficulties.

They claimed, for example, that the land was filled with giants when only a small percentage of the population were descended from the Anakim.

Joshua and Caleb gave a good report and urged the people to press forward and by faith conquer the land.  They were outnumbered and overruled.

Because of their unbelief, the Lord told the Israelites that the entire generation over the age of twenty would never enter the Promised Land.  The Israelites were made to wander in the wilderness for nearly forty years while that generation died.

Joshua and Caleb were the exceptions.  After the forty years they would enter the land and receive their inheritance.
It was time.

Joshua 14:7  I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to spy out the land, and I brought back word to him as it was in my heart.
Joshua 14:8  Nevertheless my brethren who went up with me made the heart of the people melt, but I wholly followed the Lord my God.

He (and Joshua) stood against the fears of the other spies.  It was Caleb’s very bad, no good, terrible day.

He described the result of the bad report by saying it “made the heart of the people melt.”

Don’t be a heart-melter.  In your encounters with others, concentrate on being an encouragement to their walk.  Or, if they are not saved, an example of Jesus.

Think about others.  In fact, think more about them than yourself.  Your needs, or perceived needs, are best met by serving others.

Several times in Scripture Caleb is described, either by himself or others, as “wholly,” or as “fully” following the Lord.  Let’s talk about that for a while.

If Caleb followed, it means he never got ahead of the Lord.  Charles Spurgeon, commenting on this, said, “They who travel before the cloud will soon find other clouds lowering upon them. Those who leave the fiery pillar, and will be their own guides, shall soon be in the fire, without a guide to bring them out again.”

The emphasis on the words “fully,” and “wholly” implies you can follow haltingly; or distantly.

Israel’s first king, Saul, followed haltingly.  He was on-again, off-again, in his walking with the Lord.

The apostle Peter followed distantly – at least, he did the night he denied Jesus three times.

Are there areas in which you are hesitating?

Or where you are still afar off?

On that very bad day God gave Caleb His word:

Joshua 14:9  So Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land where your foot has trodden shall be your inheritance and your children’s forever, because you have wholly followed the Lord my God.’

Caleb had gone from forty-year old warrior to forty-year wanderer in a moment’s time.

It wasn’t something that he brought on himself but it was something that resulted from the disbelief of others.

He had been despised, hated, and threatened by his peers for doing and saying what was right.

For the next four decades he would live in a culture of death watching as everyone over twenty died in the wilderness.  He knew that once the next generation entered the land he’d still need to fight – even though he’d be in his eighties by then.
Was he discouraged?  Did he get depressed?

Not at all.  He had the word that the Lord had spoken to him and it was his hope.

Discouragement is a powerful enemy to your Christian walk.  Depression is a reality even among Christians.  Both are reasons why it is important to remember that you, too, have the word which the Lord has spoken to you.

The Lord has spoken to you on at least three levels.  First, He has spoken to every believer in the precepts and principles of the Word of God, the Bible.

Your ‘land’ is wherever you find yourself.  It’s your home, your office, your school.  It’s your marriage and family, your job or career, your classes, classmates, and teachers.

God has spoken His word to you in each of those areas to tell you how to act and react.  His word should give you hope, and it will when you follow it with your whole heart.

Second, God speaks to us on what we might call a ‘personal’ level.  It is when you are reading His word and get that wonderful sense that the verse or verses are speaking directly to you.  Or someone shares a verse or verses with you that go directly to your situation and put it into its spiritual perspective.

It is possible for this to occur because God’s Word is alive and powerful.

Often when a person is seeking biblical counsel I will ask them what they’ve been reading in God’s Word or hearing taught from God’s Word.  More times than not the hope they need for what they are going through has already been spoken to them.

Third, God continues to speak to us on a ‘prophetic’ level.  The Bible is prophetic, and certainly when a verse or verses come alive in my heart it is prophetic.

You’ve probably had experiences like that at church.  Moments when you know God has brought something home to you.

In addition there are times God ‘speaks’ to you more directly.  It may be through a waking vision or a spiritual dream.  It may be through the exercise of the gift of prophecy in a meeting of saints as someone shares a word or a Scripture.

Whatever is shared must be judged against Scripture and must align with what God has already said in the Bible.  But a word of prophecy or a word of wisdom has its place in the overall scheme of the word the Lord has spoken to you.  It can be very precious and powerful.

Caleb bursts onto the scene at age eighty-five, taking cuts in line, to demand his inheritance.  You can tell that everyday for forty-five long years he lived with the hope of the word he had been given by God.  Four decades of wandering had not dampened his spiritual zeal.

If and when you find yourself discouraged or even depressed you probably need to return to the word the Lord has spoken to you.  Nothing else will give you hope.

Discover or re-discover that word from God.  It’s usually a verse or verses you will read today or tomorrow.  It might be a verse or verses you’ve noted in the margin of your Bible that were God’s encouragement to give you hope.  It might be a word of prophecy once given or still to come.

Maybe you have a life-verse to encourage you.  I don’t… Some do.

It won’t change your situation.  Things may not get better outwardly.  They may even get worse.

But the word the Lord has spoken to you will radically alter your perspective.  Inwardly you will rejoice in the Lord as you enjoy His presence in the midst of either your problems or your prosperity.

You will have the certain hope of a pilgrim wanderer on this earth headed home to your heavenly inheritance.  One day you will step forward and claim it from your Joshua, the Lord Jesus Christ.

New Country For Old Men (Joshua 13v1)

The article in the NY Post was titled, Hollywood Loves its Aging Action Heroes.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Age is just a number, at least when it comes to action heroes. Grab a juice box and take a hike, Taylor Lautner.  The biggest names in action movies today are virtually identical to the 1980s and early 1990s.  Sylvester Stallone is 68.  Arnold Schwarzenegger is 67.  Liam Neeson is 62.  Wee pup Bruce Willis is 60.

The writer also made this comment: “these guys don’t mind working around all those loud gunshots; their hearing probably went years ago.”

Joshua and Caleb were the aging action heroes of the Israelites at the time of the conquest of the Promised Land.
About 45 years earlier, Joshua and Caleb had been two of the twelve spies sent in by Moses to give a report on the Promised Land.

You remember the story: Ten spies emphasized the strength of the walled cities, and the terrifying presence of giants, while Joshua and Caleb emphasized walking by faith, and believing that God had already given them the victory.

The Israelites defied God and refused to enter the Promised Land.  As a discipline, God decreed that all those above twenty years of age would die-off wandering in the wilderness over the next almost forty years.

All, that is, except for Joshua and Caleb.  God preserved them, and they entered the Promised Land along with the younger generation.

The initial conquest of the Promised Land took about seven years.  The Israeli military broke the backbone of Canaanite power in three decisive battles:

In the central region they had taken the strategic fortified city of Jericho.

In the south they had defeated a combined force at Gibeon.

In the north they had defeated a huge enemy contingent by the waters of Merom.

It was time for each tribe to receive it’s inheritance of land and to take the individual responsibility of driving out any remaining resistance.

Thus we read in verse one of Joshua thirteen,

Jos 13:1  Now Joshua was old, advanced in years. And the LORD said to him: “You are old, advanced in years, and there remains very much land yet to be possessed.

We know from the last chapter that Joshua died at the age of 110 (24:29), so he probably was at least 100 in chapter thirteen.

You might not think that 100 is very old, for a Bible character in the Old Testament.  Some of those guys had extremely long life spans.

But the phrasing God used indicates that his years of serving had left Joshua battle worn.

Another translation, the Complete Jewish Bible, translates the opening phrase “Now Joshua was old; the years had taken their toll.”

The Lord was saying, “Man, you’re tore up, Joshua!”

I’ve never been big on reunions, but I’ve been to a couple.  There are always a few guys and gals to whom the years have not been kind.  You don’t normally go up to them and say, “Man, the years have taken their toll on you.”

God was simply stating a fact.  If you’re in the battle, familiar with spiritual warfare, you’re gonna look like you were.

It’s my favorite scene from the movie, Jaws.  Chief Brody, Hooper and Quint, in the galley of their boat, the Orca, get to comparing scars.

It starts with Brody touching a recently acquired abrasion on his forehead.  Quint pulls his hair aside to show a permanent lump from being hit with a spittoon in a bar on “Saint Paddy’s Day.”

Hooper shows a scar, on his forearm, where a classmate bit him during recess.  Quint responds by showing a scar on his forearm, attributed to a wire burn.

Next, Hooper rolls up his sleeve to show the bite of a Moray eel.

Quint counters with a knife wound he received in a fight.

Hooper shows a bull shark bite on his leg; Quint, the scar from a thresher shark.

About that time, Chief Brody sheepishly checks the scar from his appendectomy.

Finally Hooper points to his heart, telling them it was broken by Mary Ellen Moffat.

Wounded and scarred isn’t how we normally think of Christians – but we should.

After His resurrection, Jesus invited Thomas to examine the scars on His glorified body.  Charles Spurgeon said,

For did he not say to Thomas, “Reach hither thy finger and behold my hands, and reach hither thy hand and thrust it into my side, and be not faithless, but believing.”  I wish to draw your attention to the ample fact, that our Lord Jesus Christ, when He rose again from the dead had in His body the marks of His passion.

If He had pleased He could readily have removed them.  He rose again from the dead, and He might have erased from His body everything which could be an indication of what He had suffered and endured before He descended into the tomb.  But, no!  Instead thereof, there were the pierced hands and feet, and there was the open side.

When He steps forward, in Heaven, to take the scroll and open the seals of the Tribulation, Jesus does so as the Lamb Who was slain, bearing His scars.

Serving the Lord can take its toll on you.  I can’t help but think of the apostle Paul and the weight of the physical and emotional toll serving the Lord took on him.

He described it in his own inspired words, in his most auto-biographical letter, Second Corinthians.

2Co 11:23  … in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often.

2Co 11:24  From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one.

2Co 11:25  Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep;

2Co 11:26  in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;

2Co 11:27  in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness –

2Co 11:28  besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.

Amy Carmichael powerfully expressed this aspect of walking with Jesus in her classic poem, No Scar?

Hast thou no scar?
No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand?
I hear thee sung as mighty in the land;
I hear them hail thy bright, ascendant star.
Hast thou no scar?

Hast thou no wound?
Yet I was wounded by the archers; spent,
Leaned Me against a tree to die; and rent
By ravening beasts that compassed Me, I swooned.
Hast thou no wound?
No wound? No scar?

Yet, as the Master shall the servant be,
And piercèd are the feet that follow Me.
But thine are whole; can he have followed far
Who hast no wound or scar?

While we all, as Christians, would consent to the truth that we are soldiers, we need to come to the awareness we are wounded warriors – not weekend warriors.

We are not reservists who may or may not be called into active duty.  And there is no term to our tour of duty; we are lifers in the Lord’s army.

Ideally, in our culture, we now retire around age 55.  We see retirement as a time of leisure and pleasure; a time to do what we want with our time.

Joshua was almost twice that old when God gave him maybe the most difficult task he had yet faced – the dividing of the land.  It would be followed by his needing to fight to drive-out enemies who remained in his inheritance.

As long as you are alive, there will be more work to do for the Lord, never less.  If it’s true that when we are weak, He is strong, you’d expect much more difficult spiritual tasks as you age.

It’s not by might, nor by power, but by God’s Spirit that we claim our inheritance.

Jeremiah understood this when God said to him,

Jer 12:5  “If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, Then how can you contend with horses? And if in the land of peace, In which you trusted, they wearied you, Then how will you do in the floodplain of the Jordan?

Remember the movie, Top Gun?  At the end, after Maverick and Ice Man defeat the Russian MIGS, they’re told they can have any assignment they want.

In one successful dogfight, they had arrived.

Tom Cruise chose to go back to get the girl and be an instructor at Top Gun school.

He peaked in his very first combat mission, and lived off its glory for the rest of his career.

That kind of thinking has no place in our walk with the Lord.  If Joshua and Caleb were Maverick and Ice Man, they’d have gone on to Russia and wiped-out their entire air force.

Joshua’s advanced age did not excuse him from making continued spiritual progress.  He had unfinished business.

Until you die, or the church is raptured, you and I will have unfinished business with the Lord.

Ask Him, today, to show you some.  What has been left undone?  What is He leading you to do?

It was time for the Israelites to divide the land and turn loose each tribe in their inheritance to continue the conquest.

How’d they do?  There’s a report card in the sequel to Joshua, the Book of Judges.

Jdg 3:5  Thus the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.

Jdg 3:6  And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons; and they served their gods.

Tribe after tribe failed to drive out their enemies, and instead they quite literally got into bed with them.

I’m not sure when it became popular to name each generation.

According to a professor at Texas A&M, “in America, there are six living generations, which are six fairly distinct groups of people. As a generalization each generation has different likes, dislikes, and attributes.”

Her list reads like this:

Born before 1927 – The Greatest Generation.

Born between 1927 and 1945 – The Silent Generation.

Born between 1946 and 1964 – The Baby Boomers.

Born between 1965 and 1980 – Generation X.

Born between 1981 and 2000 – Generation Y (or Millennials).

Born after 2001 – Generation Z (not for zombie, btw; it’s because they are too young to have characteristics, so ‘Z’ is a place-holder until they can be identified).

Some are calling the current generation, Generation Like, because of Facebook and Instagram ‘likes,’ and the trauma of not receiving ‘likes’ for your postings.

I’d call the generation that Joshua led in to the Promised Land Generation Epic Fail.

Joshua had won a decisive victory; but their enemies remained – fierce enemies, needing to be battled.

Sounds just like us, does it not?  Our Joshua, the Lord, Jesus Christ, defeated our enemies.  Speaking of the Cross at Calvary, in Colossians 2:15 we read,

Col 2:15  Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.

The devil and his minions were soundly defeated.  Yet until Jesus returns to earth, the devil goes on warring against us.

Israel’s tribes were to fight from a position of assured victory in order to secure their inheritance.

The Promised Land is a type, for us, of the Christian life.  With no disrespect intended toward many popular hymns, the Promised Land is not typical of Heaven, because there are enemies in it, and battles to be fought, and wounds to be earned doing so.

The question for us, today, whether we’ve been here thirty-years or thirty-minutes, is, Where am I living?

What is your spiritual address?  You have five choices.

Here is what I mean.  Warren Wiersbe, in his Joshua commentary, Be Strong, compares  four geographic locations associated with Israel to four possible spiritual ‘states’ we may occupy.  I add a fifth.

Egypt was the place of death and bondage, from which Israel was delivered.  This illustrates the salvation we have by faith in Jesus Christ, our Passover Lamb.  Are you saved?  If you are not, you are living in Egypt, living according to your natural appetites, not realizing your purpose for living.  Worse, you’re final destination is Hell, separated from God, in a place of eternal conscious torment for eternity.

The Promised Land represents the Christian life as it ought to be: conflict and victory, faith and obedience, spiritual riches and rest, where we are constantly claiming more of our inheritance in Jesus.  It is cooperating with Jesus, Who promised to complete the work He has begun in you.

The Wilderness Wandering of Israel depicts believers who live in unbelief and disobedience to God.  They come to a place of decision, or crisis, and they refuse to obey the Lord.  They are delivered from Egypt, but Egypt is still in their hearts.  They meander through life as wanderers.  You’re in the wilderness if your life is mostly characterized by carnal, worldly pursuits; and if you choose to disobey the clear teachings of the Bible.

Two of the Jewish tribes, Reuben and Gad, settled on the border of the Promised Land rather than going in as God had decreed.  The land east of the Jordan River was great for their livestock – for their livelihood.  This tells me it’s possible to be a Borderland believer.  You’re content to be saved, but you want to be left alone to pursue your own best interests.  You’re not living in sin, but you are falling short in total commitment to Jesus.  You’re a Christian, but you’re not a disciple.

The fifth location is Babylon.  It was to Babylon the Jews were exiled for a time of discipline for willful rebellion.  You might be enduring a time like that, now.  If so, rejoice, knowing whom the Lord loves, He disciplines, in order to restore you.

Where am I living?  What’s my address?

It ought to be in the Promised Land, in a walk with Jesus in which I am growing more like Him everyday.

As for our thirty years… We are aging action heroes and heroines.  Thirty-years is a warm-up.

“There remains very much land yet to be possessed.”

Let’s get folks out of Egypt; and let’s stay out of the wilderness, and the borderland, and Babylon, and conquer our enemies, claiming more-and-more of our inheritance on our way home.

Spies Like Us (Joshua 2)

Last Sunday it was reported that a spy device designed to look like a rock may have self-destructed when Iranian soldiers came across it near an important nuclear facility.

Here’s part of the article:

A spy device camouflaged as a rock exploded when it came into contact with Iranian troops near an underground nuclear enrichment plant.
Last month, Revolutionary Guards at the Fordo nuclear facility, near the northern city of Qom, came across the rock and attempted to move it.
The guards, who had been on patrol to check terminals connecting data and telephone links to the site, reportedly witnessed the disguised spy device exploding when they came into contact with it.

You may not realize it, but a different kind of spy may have interacted with you recently. Research indicates that as many as 750,000 jobs are lost each year in the US due to corporate espionage. In 2010 the activities of these white-collar spies led to the loss of over 100 billion dollars among Fortune 1000 companies.

We’re going to be looking at a passage where Joshua sends out 2 spies to explore Jericho. While they’re on assignment they have an important encounter with a woman named Rahab who is in urgent need of salvation.

Not only is this a great story, but it’s applicable to us today. Because, if you’re a Christian here this morning, the Lord says that you’re an active field agent, sent behind enemy lines in a war between 2 kingdoms. He specifically says that He is sending you and I out on mission into a dark and dangerous place. Why? To prepare the way of our King, to stand against the Devil and to rescue the prisoners he’s taken captive.

Toward that end, God sends us out on specific missions to explore regions of this world and along the way we’re going to encounter people that need salvation, just the way these 2 Israelites did in Joshua chapter 2.

So, let’s look at our text and see what we see.

Joshua 2.1-24 – Now Joshua the son of Nun sent out two men from Acacia Grove to spy secretly, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.”
So they went, and came to the house of a harlot named Rahab, and lodged there. And it was told the king of Jericho, saying, “Behold, men have come here tonight from the children of Israel to search out the country.”
So the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, saying, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who have entered your house, for they have come to search out all the country.”
Then the woman took the two men and hid them. So she said, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. And it happened as the gate was being shut, when it was dark, that the men went out. Where the men went I do not know; pursue them quickly, for you may overtake them.” (But she had brought them up to the roof and hidden them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order on the roof.) Then the men pursued them by the road to the Jordan, to the fords. And as soon as those who pursued them had gone out, they shut the gate.
Now before they lay down, she came up to them on the roof, and said to the men: “I know that the Lord has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath. Now therefore, I beg you, swear to me by the Lord, since I have shown you kindness, that you also will show kindness to my father’s house, and give me a true token, and spare my father, my mother, my brothers, my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death.”
So the men answered her, “Our lives for yours, if none of you tell this business of ours. And it shall be, when the Lord has given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with you.”
Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was on the city wall; she dwelt on the wall. And she said to them, “Get to the mountain, lest the pursuers meet you. Hide there three days, until the pursuers have returned. Afterward you may go your way.”
So the men said to her: “We will be blameless of this oath of yours which you have made us swear, unless, when we come into the land, you bind this line of scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you bring your father, your mother, your brothers, and all your father’s household to your own home. So it shall be that whoever goes outside the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we will be guiltless. And whoever is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head if a hand is laid on him. And if you tell this business of ours, then we will be free from your oath which you made us swear.”
Then she said, “According to your words, so be it.” And she sent them away, and they departed. And she bound the scarlet cord in the window.
They departed and went to the mountain, and stayed there three days until the pursuers returned. The pursuers sought them all along the way, but did not find them. So the two men returned, descended from the mountain, and crossed over; and they came to Joshua the son of Nun, and told him all that had befallen them. And they said to Joshua, “Truly the Lord has delivered all the land into our hands, for indeed all the inhabitants of the country are fainthearted because of us.”

This is a great story. You could spend many, many hours in this text because there are a lot of really interesting perspectives here. If you focused on just what God was doing, you see a powerful demonstration of God’s grace and His providence and His keeping a promise to the children of Israel.

Then of course there’s the Rahab angle. Back in 2008 we went verse by verse through Joshua and our pastor had a great look at her and how she can represent us.

This morning we’re going to focus on the spies and their mission.

First, they were sent out to explore the land.

Joshua 2.1a – Now Joshua the son of Nun sent out two men from Acacia Grove to spy secretly, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.”

Joshua was a great military leader, a great spiritual leader and a good type for us this morning of Jesus Christ. Here he hand selected these 2 guys to be some of the first ever Mossad agents for the nation of Israel. Their mission was to scout the land, explore the country, get a feel for what was happening in Canaan and especially the city of Jericho.

It’s a similar pattern to what we see in the New Testament and what we’re commissioned to as disciples of Jesus Christ.

When Jesus sent out His disciples in the Gospels, He sent them to go through the country 2 by 2, doing ministry and supporting each other.

To us the Bible says that God is going to send us out throughout the world. There are specific fields that the Lord puts us in, but we’re also to spread the Gospel and make disciples as we are going.

Now, here’s something that’s important: These 2 spies in Joshua 2 probably felt inadequate for the job. They had grown up in the wilderness. They’d never been sent on a mission like this. And though they knew the Lord was for them, this was still as serious an assignment as you could have. But Joshua knew they could do it. He knew they could accomplish what he asked them to do and he knew that these 2 guys were the right men for the job.

The task of making disciples and living out the call of Christ may seem overwhelming, but the things God asks us to do, we can do. And when God speaks to you and says, “I’d like you to serve in this ministry,” or, “I want you to share with this person over here,” He does so because He knows you can do it, because He does it through us. Our Commander has confidence in us and He has the strength to accomplish what He asks us to do.

Joshua 2.1b – So they went, and came to the house of a harlot named Rahab, and lodged there.

We’re going to take a look at their encounter with Rahab in a moment, but first let’s deal with the harlotry issue.

First of all, on Rahab’s behalf, yes she had been a harlot. But what’s clearly seen now is that she was ready to follow the God of Israel. You can read the study from 2008 which explains a little more about who she was. Her house was probably not just a brothel, but an inn that travelers would stay at.

But, yes, she had been a harlot. The New Testament verifies that. So the bigger issue for us this morning as we look at the spies is: What were they doing at a harlot’s house?

I’ve heard some suggest that they were there to solicit Rahab. This is not only inconsistent with what we’re seeing in the text, but it also would’ve made God inconsistent. In just a few chapters the whole nation of Israel is judged by God and set back because of the sin of one man, named Achan, who took a few pieces of clothes and treasure from Jericho. If these spies had been in sin we would’ve undoubtedly had another Achan situation. Because the Lord cares a great deal about the way we live our lives.

They found themselves there at her inn because that’s where God directed them. We’ll see that in just a little bit. But devotionally this morning I hope we’re reminded that if we’re living and loving like Jesus did, then we’re going to find ourselves ministering in some tough places sometimes. Places where the Gospel is needed. Places with spiritually sick people.
Joshua 2.2-3 – And it was told the king of Jericho, saying, “Behold, men have come here tonight from the children of Israel to search out the country.”
So the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, saying, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who have entered your house, for they have come to search out all the country.”

So much for being undercover. The people in Jericho were immediately tipped off about these 2 guys. An interesting thing about being a Christian who’s been sent behind enemy lines is that we’re not really supposed to be covert about it. We’re sent as darkness into light, which is the most noticeable thing in the world. Even when we try to keep people from knowing that we’re Christians, which we should never do, there’s really no way to be covert about it. Peter, there outside of the trial of Jesus on the night before His crucifixion, utterly failed at trying to fly under the radar.

Have you noticed that you stick out as a Christian? It’s like being the only live person in a room full of zombies. They can sniff you out. That’s a good thing. Jesus drew a lot of attention. So, if we’re being Christ-like, it’s going to draw attention both from people who are seeking help and from the enemy who wants to snuff out our light.

The encouragement for you is not to hide away. Don’t be ashamed of your Christianity. Shine as brightly as you can.

Matthew 10.32-33 –  “Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.

Joshua 2.4-7, 22 – Then the woman took the two men and hid them. So she said, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. And it happened as the gate was being shut, when it was dark, that the men went out. Where the men went I do not know; pursue them quickly, for you may overtake them.” (But she had brought them up to the roof and hidden them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order on the roof.) Then the men pursued them by the road to the Jordan, to the fords. And as soon as those who pursued them had gone out, they shut the gate. (drop down to 22)
They departed and went to the mountain, and stayed there three days until the pursuers returned. The pursuers sought them all along the way, but did not find them.

These guys had to be quick on their feet in every sense. Things weren’t really going according to plan. Being on assignment for God requires flexibility. We’re to be ready, we’re to be prepared, we’re supposed to train ourselves and plan when it comes to ministry and living out our faith, but above all we’re to be Spirit-led. Able to go with the flow of God’s will and the opportunities He brings us.

If we could see our lives from heaven’s perspective I think we would be amazed at how many Spiritual opportunities God has for us each day. In order to be ready for those opportunities we have to be living holy and preparing our lives for what God might do, but we also have to be personally connecting with the Holy Spirit so that we recognize a divine appointment when it comes. The Book of Acts gives us many great examples of how that happens.

Joshua 2.23-24 –  So the two men returned, descended from the mountain, and crossed over; and they came to Joshua the son of Nun, and told him all that had befallen them. And they said to Joshua, “Truly the Lord has delivered all the land into our hands, for indeed all the inhabitants of the country are fainthearted because of us.”

Joshua had asked these 2 guys to go and view the land. They brought back a great report and a ton of information that they had received from Rahab. No doubt they talked strategy and potential plans for conquest, while also prayerfully waiting for the Lord’s direction.

God has placed each of us into a specific place and time, a specific mission field to explore and work in. Do we have vision for that battlefield? Or, expanding these guy’s assignment as a whole, am I really willing to go behind enemy lines, or am I living out my Christian life in an aquarium?

Remember the aquarium in Finding Nemo? When little Nemo is taken from the ocean and dropped into the aquarium, at first all the other fish are afraid of him and afraid of the ocean except one fish named Gill. He’s the only one that wanted to get back out into the open waters where they belonged. The other fish thought the ocean was dirty. That it was too dangerous to go in themselves. They were content to stay in the aquarium until they caught the vision that Gill had to get out to the place they were meant to be. Out of their little 6-foot confinement and into the vast waters of the open sea.

That’s the kind of Christian we need to be. Not content to stay in a little segregated aquarium, but ready to go where the Lord wants to send us. Realizing we’re made to go out on assignment for Christ, not just sit around in a tent till He returns for us.

Now, as we read, their fact-finding mission ended up turning into a life-saving rescue operation when they encountered Rahab.

How did they end up there?

Well, it’s clear that God, in His providence, brought them there. It was no accident that they found their way to the only believer in the whole city. The only person who was interested in finding salvation.

This is what God does! He leads you to the right spot at the right time if you’re willing to go and be used.

God loves doing stuff like this. Remember, He directed each pair of animals to the ark Noah had built. He directed Philip out into the desert, right to a place where the Ethiopian eunuch would be driving by. He got Jonah to Nineveh. Because God loves to providentially and supernaturally connect His disciples with people who are searching for salvation.

Somehow the Lord directed these 2 spies to the house of the one woman in the whole city who was searching for Him. Which is an example of His amazing, abounding grace and His unfailing mercy.

Here’s what we learn from their encounter with Rahab:

First, they bridged the gap between Rahab and the Lord.

Joshua 2.8-13 – Now before they lay down, she came up to them on the roof, and said to the men: “I know that the Lord has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath. Now therefore, I beg you, swear to me by the Lord, since I have shown you kindness, that you also will show kindness to my father’s house, and give me a true token, and spare my father, my mother, my brothers, my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death.”

She had heard about the God of Israel, but until these guys showed up there was really nothing she could do to save herself or her family. But the Lord sent 2 of His people to her and she’s able to effectively ask them, “What must I do to be saved?!?”

Christians, you are the bridge in connecting sinners with the Gospel.

Romans 10.14 – How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?

Not only were these 2 spies the bridge between Rahab and this God she had heard about, but they clearly mapped out for her the way of salvation.

Joshua 2.17-21 – So the men said to her: “We will be blameless of this oath of yours which you have made us swear, unless, when we come into the land, you bind this line of scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you bring your father, your mother, your brothers, and all your father’s household to your own home. So it shall be that whoever goes outside the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we will be guiltless. And whoever is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head if a hand is laid on him. And if you tell this business of ours, then we will be free from your oath which you made us swear.”
Then she said, “According to your words, so be it.” And she sent them away, and they departed. And she bound the scarlet cord in the window.

You know what I like about this? Even though these 2 guys didn’t exactly know how God was going to conquer Jericho or exactly how it work out for Rahab and her family, they knew God enough to know that He would act mercifully. They knew He would pour out love and grace to her if she was willing to cling to Him. And they detailed that to her very clearly.

That’s something for us to take away this morning. She asked how to be saved and they said, “THIS is how you can be saved,” and laid it out simply and directly.

The people of the world need salvation. And they also want it. They want to be freed from their guilt. Forgiven. Given purpose. To know that they are loved by God. And we really don’t have time to get off message. Because those people are moments from judgment.

God’s intention is to scatter you and me out there in the world so that we can encounter people who are searching for Him and are at the moment of decision. And we’ve got to deliver the Gospel to them, not anything less.

Sometimes we get distracted trying to solve every problem a person has. When what we should be doing is getting them to Jesus. See, the spies didn’t find out she was an ally of theirs and then try to figure out how she could escape the city. They knew that what she and her family needed was for God to save them. And they trusted God to save. They trusted God to take care of her and her family.

Above all other things, the lost people around us need to know the truth about the Lord because Jesus Christ is the answer to every problem they are facing. And Jesus Christ can take care of their lives much better than we ever could. That’s not to say that we don’t help and don’t participate in compassionate works. Of course we do. But in the end we’re to deliver the method of salvation to people and then trust God to work out the other problems in His timing and with His methods.

How should we deliver the Lord to them?

Joshua 2.14 – So the men answered her, “Our lives for yours, if none of you tell this business of ours. And it shall be, when the Lord has given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with you.”

Kindly and truly. Dealing out love to those who, like us, do not deserve it. People who deserve judgement.

What a challenging example these 2 spies are for us! They are so gracious that they were willing to lay down their lives for a harlot who they just met and her family. They could’ve said, “Sorry, you guys had your chance,” or, “Sorry, it’s not our problem,” or, “Sorry, it’s not really in my job description to do this for you.” But instead they willingly laid down their lives so that she could be saved.

This really spoke to me. To pause for a minute and ask myself if I’m willing to even talk to a person like Rahab? Am I willing to interact with the kind of people Jesus did? And then, am I willing to lay down my life to show people the route to salvation?

Those are important questions for each of us to pose to ourselves, because we’re called to love others with agape love, which is by definition unconditional and self-sacrificing.

1 John 3.16 – We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.

This was an amazing encounter and should be a great inspiration for us today.

As Christians, you and I have been selected and sent out to explore some specific place. Some specific battlefield. Don’t stay in the aquarium. Don’t ask the Lord to send someone else. Choose to go out where you’re made to go. Those who seek to serve the Lord will find more opportunities than they could imagine. And as you encounter the lost, do justly, love mercy, walk humbly. Minister to people kindly and truly and remember that we’ve been commissioned to lay down our lives in service to God and for others.

If you’re not a Christian here this morning, well, you’re not Joshua, you’re not one of the spies, you’re certainly not God. No, you’re one of the people living in Jericho on the eve of destruction. God’s judgement is coming. But you can choose whether you’re going to be Rahab or if you’re going to be like all the other people living inside the walls that night. You can be saved. You can be forgiven, because God loves you and doesn’t want you to lose your life. In fact, God wants more for you than you could ask or imagine. Call out to Jesus, talk to someone who knows Him before it’s too late. If you seek God, you will find Him, because God’s grace is never-ending and His love for you is real.

No Quitting For Old Men (Joshua 24v15)

TITLE: NO QUITTING FOR OLD MEN
TEXT: JOSHUA 24.15
… choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…
But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Joshua 24:15

Some years ago we developed a vision statement for our church.  It’s Being changed to Bring Change.

A radically changed life is what Jesus offers to any and all who will believe on Him.  The change begins when you first realize you are a sinner and He is your Savior.  God forgives your sin and gives you a new nature, sending His Holy Spirit to live within you.  But the change doesn’t stop there.  God’s purpose is to change you day-by-day to be more like Jesus. One day He will take you home, to Heaven – either in the Rapture of the church or when you die physically.  Then, when you are face-to-face with Jesus, the change He has begun in you will be complete.
Your changed life can bring change to the people you encounter.  As you interact with other believers, your love for God encourages them in their own relationship with Jesus.  As you interact with nonbelievers they are challenged when you share about Jesus in the context of the amazing changes He has brought into your life.

Being changed is a progressive work.  God began a good work in you at the moment of your salvation and He will continue it throughout your life on earth until you are with Him in Heaven and fully, finally perfected.

Being changed, therefore, is something we have a hand in.  It’s something we are to cooperate with.

For example, if you get saved at an evangelistic event, the counselors will tell you that there are four basic things you’ll want to do to further your relationship with Jesus: pray, read the Bible, get into a church, and share your faith.
Those are good foundational things.  Then, as you read the Word of God, you encounter other things, other behaviors consistent with your new life in Jesus Christ that further His work in you.

Jesus presented three behaviors in His Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew.  We call them PG&F – Pray, Give, and Fast.

In each case He assumed we would be doing them:

Jesus said, “when you do a charitable deed…”
Jesus said, “when you pray…”
Jesus said “when you fast…”

Notice that the Lord said, “when,” not if, you pray and give and fast.  Yet it’s been my experience personally, and my observation corporately, that these may be the three least practiced behaviors among believers.

Regarding “giving,” the statistics are pretty dramatic.  The average Christian gives around 2% of their income to the work of the Lord.  When you figure in those who tithe, who give 10%, it means that most Christians give nothing or almost nothing to the work of the Lord.
It’s hard to give a statistical analysis of prayer, especially private prayer.  Still, almost any believer will readily admit they don’t pray as much as they ought to or would like to.  Generally the prayer meetings of a church are the least attended gatherings.
Fasting has fallen on hard times.  A number of contemporary Christian teachers even go so far as to say that fasting is no longer a discipline Christians ought to practice.

(We did a four-part series called PG&F this past year.  I’d encourage you to go to our website and either download the transcripts or watch the videos  http://www.calvaryhanford.com/bible-studies/pgf).

Today I want to call us to a place of commitment regarding these behaviors and to living for Christ in general.  I can think of no better call to commitment than the one Joshua issued to the Israelites in chapter twenty-four of the book bearing his name.  The gist of it is verse fifteen.

Joshua 24:15  … choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Common Bible texts can be difficult to unpack because we’re already so familiar with them.  This statement by Joshua is certainly one of those.  You probably have, or have had, this verse on a plaque or cross stitch or some other decorative item in your home.  We’ll have to try hard to not let our familiarity with it overshadow something new and fresh the Lord wants to share with us from it.

Joshua was already at least ninety years old back in chapter thirteen when we read, “Now Joshua was old, advanced in years.  And the Lord said to him: “You are old, advanced in years, and there remains very much land yet to be possessed” (verse 1).

When he issued his famous challenge Joshua was pretty close to dying.  In fact, right after he finished speaking we read in verse twenty-nine of chapter twenty-four, “Now it came to pass after these things that Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died, being one hundred and ten years old.”

Here he was an old man about to die.  My NKJV Bible even gives as the heading for this chapter, Joshua’s Farewell Address.

Taking into consideration Joshua was “old and advanced in years” and the fact this was a farewell and that he would shortly die, I was struck by his choice of verb tense.  I half expect him to say to the Israelites, “but as for me and my house, we HAVE SERVED the Lord.”  I can almost hear it in the past tense.

For sure, Joshua had served the Lord.  He had had a remarkable spiritual career.

He first appears on the pages of Scripture with almost no introduction although he was obviously well known among the Israelites.  As Moses was leading the Exodus from Egypt the Israelites came to Rephidim.  They were attacked by the Amalekites.  From the mountain top Moses prayed for the battle with uplifted arms.  When his arms tired, Aaron and Hur held them up and the Israelites had the ‘upper hand’ (pun intended) in the battle.

Down below Joshua was entrusted as the commander of the rag-tag Israeli forces in their very first military conflict out of Egypt.  Joshua led them to victory.

We next see Joshua accompanying Moses part way up Mount Sinai at the giving of the Law.  He seems to have shadowed Moses, especially at key moments.  There are four passages that describe him as Moses’ “assistant,” his servant.

He was chosen as one of the twelve spies sent forth to survey the Promised Land.  Joshua and Caleb brought back a favorable report and argued for immediate entrance into the land.  The other ten spies swayed the people’s opinion against entering the land.  Because of their unbelief the Israelites were made to wander in the desert for the next forty years.  Only Moses, Joshua, and Caleb survived from the generation over twenty years of age that had refused to enter the land.

Upon Moses’ death Joshua became the undisputed leader of Israel.  Then his story really takes off!  He led them in a miraculous crossing of the Jordan River.  They took Jericho with an unusual strategy as its walls came tumbling down.  With shock-and-awe military precision Joshua’s forces conquered the land.

Afterwards he diplomatically but authoritatively divided the land among the Israelites tribe by tribe.

If there is a single episode that captures Joshua’s faithfulness and zeal to serve the Lord it occurred during the conquest of the land when his forces were fighting the Amorites.  Joshua prayed for the sun and moon to stop so he would have extra daylight to finish the task.  Scripture records that this prayer was answered: The sun “delayed going down about a full day” (10:13).

Those are merely the highlights of an illustrious spiritual career.  So here was Joshua, “old and advanced in years,” on the verge of death, giving a farewell address.  Nevertheless he doesn’t say he and his house HAVE SERVED the Lord.  No, he says “we WILL SERVE the Lord.”

At the time in which he might have been looking forward to retiring, or simply some R&R, he was looking ahead, looking forward, planning a completely spiritual future of continuing his service to God.

If I were giving this message a title, it would have to be No Quitting for Old Men.

Something God said, something He told Joshua, provides important context for Joshua’s commitment.  I mentioned it but it bears repeating.

Joshua 13:1  Now Joshua was old, advanced in years. And the Lord said to him: “You are old, advanced in years, and there remains very much land yet to be possessed.

Had they accomplished much?  Yet bet!  But there was still “very much land yet to be possessed.”

The people were looking back too much on what they’d already accomplished.  The Lord and Joshua were looking ahead on what still needed to be accomplished.

Calvary Hanford has been around some twenty-five years.  We’ve accomplished much.  There is, however, still “very much land yet to be possessed.”

What about you and I?  Where are we looking?  Are we more like Joshua?  Or the Israelites?

#1    If You Are Looking Back
You’re Going To Be Falling Back

At a pivotal moment in the classic film, Gone with the Wind, Scarlett says to Ashley, “Don’t look back Ashley, don’t look back.  It’ll drag at your heart until you can’t do anything but look back.”

The Israelites were looking back and it dragged their hearts back – all the way back into the world and its idolatry.

Joshua challenged them to choose whom they would serve.  Their response sounded good.

Joshua 24:21  And the people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve the Lord!”

Joshua gave a second call to commitment.

Joshua 24:22  So Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord for yourselves, to serve Him.” And they said, “We are witnesses!”

The people sincerely wanted to serve the Lord.  So do we!  Who wouldn’t want to serve such an amazing, loving, gracious God?

There was a problem, however, among the Israelites.

Joshua 24:23  “Now therefore,” he said, “put away the foreign gods which are among you, and incline your heart to the Lord God of Israel.”

Amazing!  Until now you think this is a warning to them to not get involved with idols in the future.  They already were practicing idolatry.

Why?  How?  First of all, we all have a propensity to be drawn away by the things of the world, by the lusts of the flesh.  Second of all, in the context of Joshua’s speech, I’d say it was because the people were resting, relaxing, looking back on what they’d accomplished rather than forward to what yet needed to be done.

Joshua said, “incline your heart to the Lord.”  The New Testament version of that is in Colossians 3:2 where you are told to “set your affection on things above” and not on the things of the earth (KJV).

A. T. Robertson writes: “The Christian is seeking Heaven and is thinking Heaven.  His feet are upon the earth, but his head is with the stars.  He is living like a citizen of Heaven here on earth.”

Adam Clarke writes:

Love heavenly things; study them; let your hearts be entirely engrossed by them. Now, that [you] are converted to God, act in reference to heavenly things as [you] did formerly in reference to those of earth; and vice versa. This is a very good general rule: “Be as much in earnest for heavenly and eternal things, as [you] formerly were for those that are earthly and perishing.

John Wesley said, “They that are bound for Heaven must be willing to swim against the stream, and must do, not as most do, but as the best do.”

There is still much land to be possessed and there always will be until the coming of the Lord!

Don’t look back.  Not at the world and things God has delivered you from, or things desirable but evil, or even things that are lawful for you but distracting.

Don’t look back, either, upon spiritual accomplishments.  For sure, the Lord will reward you for them in the future, but they do not give you pause to rest or relax or retire from pressing forward.

If you want to base this upon a New Testament text, it would be Philippians 3:13.

Philippians 3:13  Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,

Paul the apostle had been saved about thirty years before he wrote to the Philippians.  He had grown much in those years, but he candidly confessed he had not arrived, nor was he yet made perfect (v12).  He still had more spiritual heights to climb. This testimony of the apostle reminded the saints at Philippi – and it serves to remind believers today – that there must never be a stalemate in their spiritual growth or a plateau beyond which they cannot climb.  We are not to be looking back.

Remember Lot’s wife?  As the angels were saving Lot and his wife and their daughters from Sodom and Gomorrah, she looked back and was rained on by the fire and brimstone, turning her into a solid pillar of salt.  She stood there a monument to the decision of the heart to long after the things of this world even while its citizens were perishing.  You see, she should have been spiritual salt to those people, but she had lost her flavor and her ability to act as a preservative.

Looking back makes you into a monument when God is calling you to remain in motion.

#2    If You’re Looking Ahead
You’re Going To Be Pulling Ahead

The Israelites responded favorably to Joshua’s challenge.

Joshua 24:24  And the people said to Joshua, “The Lord our God we will serve, and His voice we will obey!”
Joshua 24:25  So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made for them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem.
Joshua 24:26  Then Joshua wrote these words in the Book of the Law of God. And he took a large stone, and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of the Lord.
Joshua 24:27  And Joshua said to all the people, “Behold, this stone shall be a witness to us, for it has heard all the words of the Lord which He spoke to us. It shall therefore be a witness to you, lest you deny your God.”
Joshua 24:28  So Joshua let the people depart, each to his own inheritance.

In passing I’d like to say that archaeologists have discovered Shechem and  have even found a large limestone pillar they believe may have been the “stone” Joshua wrote upon.

The Israelites made a verbal commitment to turn from idols and return to God.  Then Joshua noted it and recorded it.

Did they go home, bring out their idols and destroy them?  I’d like to think that some did.  “Love believes all things.”

Before we “depart, each to our own inheritance” we ought to take a moment to make a commitment to the Lord.

Think of yourself in relation to the the three behaviors Jesus noted that were the lifestyle of His followers: praying, giving, and fasting.

With regard to praying, in addition to your personal prayer life we want to encourage you to join us in 2011 as we pray.  Next Wednesday we’ll begin Even One, a week dedicated to prayer.  Most Saturday nights we keep First Watch at 6pm.  Every Sunday morning the Prayer Room is open upstairs before the morning services.  In addition to praying we have the communion elements set-up there.  Scattered all around campus are Prayer Cards.  Fill them out; turn them in.  Most Wednesday’s at IGNITE! we have a time set aside for corporate prayer.  Send us requests and updates to prayer@calvaryhanford.com.

With regard to giving, I’d ask that you review how much you give to the work of the Lord.  There’s a lot of teaching, a lot of instruction and direction, in the Bible about giving.   Let me summarize a few principles you find in Scripture.

Every believer is called upon by Jesus to give to His work.  That should come as no surprise, really.
Giving means your money.  Serving is an act of love and obedience but no where in the Bible does it say we can substitute serving for giving.  They are two separate delights.
Giving is to be regular and systematic.  It can be weekly, in the offering or the offering box.  It can be monthly, or quarterly, if that’s how your finances work.  It can be mailed in or given online.  But do it regularly and systematically.
New Testament giving is described as being sacrificial.  It should cost you something.
Giving is to be done cheerfully, not grudgingly.  God loves a cheerful giver.
The portion you give is left up to you.  The New Testament sets no limit, like 10%, on your giving.  You’re free to give as God leads.  But His leading will not be less than what the Old Testament saints gave.  Here’s why.  We’re not under the law, but rather motivated by love.  We are to give because of love and not because of fear of breaking the law.  Having said that, it makes no sense that we would give less because of love than we would under the law.

With regard to fasting, I want to reemphasize that we want to fast as a congregation on the last day of each month.  Once a month.  You can do it more if you’d like, but let’s think about doing it once a month.  Be sure you’re healthy and take liquids during your fast if you participate.

(Again, I’d recommend you get the transcripts from our PG&F series or watch the videos).

Let’s take a few minutes as we close to reflect on what we’ve heard and to let the Lord speak to our hearts.  This is a quiet time, a personal time – not a time of open, corporate prayer.

If after you’ve prayed you feel a need to come forward and physically memorialize a decision, then there will be men up front you can pray with.

In the private of your heart, before the Lord, ask the Lord to show you if you’ve been looking back – either at the world or at your own spiritual resume.  If you have, repent of it.

Then let the Lord know that you WILL SERVE Him, in the present tense and looking ahead to 2011 and until He comes for you or for us.