Story, Wk. 7 (Pulpit Swap) 10/23/16–Fallston—Meute
The Story: “The Battle Begins”
The Story, Ch. 7
Joshua 1: 1-9; Ephesians 6: 10-17; Luke 12: 27-34
Pearl: God’s overwhelming dedication to regain his world to himself from all who oppose his good ways of justice and wholeness.
Function: To motivate worshippers to choose to serve the Lord and align with him in the battle against all forces which oppose his good and just ways.
Previously in The Story we found out that the people of God were delivered out of bondage in Egypt only to soon forget all of God’s goodness to them, longing for their previous slavery over the promised blessings that God told them they would have as a result of his generosity. They disrespected God, their Savior, and so he made them to wander for 40 years in the wilderness until a generation died off and did not get to enter the land of promise.
This past week you read of God’s chosen nation of Israel finally entering the Promised Land under their leader Joshua. The baton of leadership was passed from Moses to Joshua and he was directed by God to lead the people into the land of promise. At this momentous time in the history of God’s people they were told what it will take to be successful as they entered into this new world.
1. They were known as the people of the book. That is, they were dedicated to the law of God. They were to know it and do it. As it says in Joshua 1:8 they were to “…meditate on it day and night.” It was not to depart from their mouths. That meant that they were not only to do it but to speak it forth so that others would hear about it and obey it also. The law of God was to become a part of them.
a. There is the notion of “devouring” a book. Maybe this is where that expression comes from. God’s people are still today commended to devour his word…meditating on it and studying it, devouring it.
2. They were also to be known as a people of prayer. Does Fallston know the importance of prayer? Do you wish to be a “house of prayer?” Jesus said, “My house shall be a house of prayer.” The church, God’s people, is still meant to be a “house of prayer.”
a. Prior to entering the land and prior to each invasion God’s people were to go to the Lord. They were to talk to him first. The image of the Ark of the Covenant leading the people of God was an image of how the Lord goes first and ahead of his people. He wanted his people to go to him first. He was not to be an afterthought. Being people of prayer is a matter of going to God first and always. Prayer is relating to God. The essence of being a godly person is to be in relationship with God.
3. God’s people were to be identified with God. They were to bear the mark of God. Circumcision was this mark. After entering the Promised Land and prior to any invasions, the men were circumcised. God wanted his people to bear an identifying mark. Interestingly, even though circumcision was physical, it was not seen.
a. Today, God’s people are “marked” by baptism. It is not something visible to anyone else just as circumcision was not visible. But the hope is that others will recognize us to be godly persons, Christ-like persons. By this our baptism is visible! God wants us to bear the mark of his identity…so that the “nations” will be attracted to The LORD.
After wandering for 40 years God’s people received another miraculous provision from God as he parted the waters of the Jordan River so that they could cross into the land of promise. Scripture reads that the people who already lived in the land feared the Israelites because they could see that an “invisible hand” was helping them. They could see that their “God” was real and very powerful.
1. The first battle was Jericho. Most are familiar with this battle in how the people marched around the walls for seven days and then they all shouted and the walls tumbled down. We sang a song as children “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho.” We have romantic associations with this first battle. Strangely, though, these are some of the most difficult portions of scripture for us as we know the God of all, revealed in Jesus Christ, is the God of grace and mercy who loves all peoples unconditionally.
2. We have a difficult time understanding how God gave these people the direct orders to annihilate everything that breathed among the people groups in the land: Hittites, Hivites, Jebusites, Gergashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, and so on.
3. We have difficulty with the severity of these early histories of God’s people. Even the Passover plague of the death of the first-born of all the people of Egypt is hard to swallow.
a. A couple of things should be kept in mind.
i. We contemporary residents of the U.S.A. are a people of privilege, for the most part. We don’t know what it is like to live in a land of terrible violence and warfare. So this section of scripture offends us but this is because we are so privileged–Thank the Lord!
ii. We are, however, well familiar with the global threat today in the terrorist group known as ISIS/ISIL. This group practices barbaric methods of exercising their will and purpose…things which are an abomination to the Lord. So in actuality we can begin to identify with the need to eliminate a group of people in the name of all that is right and just and fair.
b. So here is the point: there was depravity among these people groups which were living in the land of Promise which were repugnant to God: various forms of immorality, widespread idolatry to gods who were not gods and the sacrificing of children to these false gods was behind God’s commands to his people to eliminate them.
i. For this reason God wanted them to be removed from the land by his people Israel.
c. Even still it is difficult to imagine the God of grace, revealed to us in Jesus Christ, commanding the wholesale elimination of an entire people!
d. Add to that the great flood where God destroyed all living people and animals sparing only Noah and his family? How do these stories synch with the God of grace we know revealed in Jesus Christ?
e. Many struggle with these notions today and they can be stumbling blocks for people to embrace the God of the Bible.
f. Yet today we are witnessing the destruction of the nation of Syria at the hands of terrorists and their own government and we see the need for someone to clean up the mess and remove the evil perpetrators in the name of what is good and righteous and whole!
g. So because of the depravity of the nations who inhabited the land, and the need to understand the righteous and good ways of the true God, which were radically different and opposite from the ways of the people of the land, he ordered his people to remove these nations who practiced such abominations.
4. Are we to assume that God discarded all of these people? Were they completely lost? In the popular book some years ago, The Shack the author suggests that people who have committed the most heinous crimes, are not forgotten by God. He is working with them and has not abandoned them. In the same way God is working among the most abominable and violent, the most profane and profligate today.
This doesn’t explain completely God’s commands and ways. I always go back to Isaiah 55 where it reads, “God’s thoughts are so far above our thoughts, and God’s ways are not our ways….”
Within scripture there is a progression of understanding the gracious and merciful ways of God.
God’s purposes of enlarging his reign today include our fighting many other kinds of battles. Today, God mostly directs us in battle “…not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against spiritual powers of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).
1. Such spiritual powers which we battle today are among the following:
a. Selfishness and self-centeredness
b. Apathy over the injustices abounding in our day
c. Lack of mercy toward others
d. Inhumanity toward others such that we would use people for selfish ends
e. Looking past the suffering, the lonely, the forgotten, the weak, the oppressed, the ridiculed, the unlovable, the prisoner… (You fill in the blank)
2. How much fight do you have in you? You are now in the fight to extend God’s reign of mercy, grace, and peace to the entire world.
3. You follow the Lord God made known to all the world in Jesus Christ! Jesus Christ and his people, the church, are fighting against the spiritual forces which work against God’s renewing of all things.
a. In the Dakota Mission Trip last summer to the Pine Ridge Reservation we noticed a palpable spirit of oppression upon the land. So we were asked this year to make a point to share the gospel with the children by conducting a Vacation Bible School. This Reservation is the poorest place in the U.S.A. It has a high rate of alcoholism; there is a sky-high rate of teen suicide; and there is a very high rate of unemployment. So with this being the case the elders and pastor of the church with which we partner asked us to change our format from a “learning camp” where we help with school subjects and to do a “Bible Camp” so that we can share the gospel with these children.
b. We were being asked to share the gospel so that a sense of hope would take hold. Who knew that we were going to South Dakota to do battle with spiritual forces of darkness! We could sense a palpable spiritual blanket of oppression that seemed to dwell on the land possibly going back and relating to the terrible massacre at Wounded Knee. The gospel is the only thing that can change things!
God never waivers from his desire for people to live within his realm. When God’s people entered the land he desired a land and a people who would live out his ways of justice and wholeness. God will not be thwarted from accomplishing the redemption of all creation! His realm will stand and will one day be the universal reality. Until then there will be strife and battle to make it so.
Your battle is against all of those realities which are in opposition to God’s reign. You are partners with Jesus Christ in the restoration of all creation. Just imagine what it will look like and be like when it is finally, once and for all, realized…the peaceable kingdom!