6/1/02 10.30 a.m. Joshua 1

In 1900 Octavio Guillen met the girl who would, one day, become his wife. In 1902 he announced his engagement to Adriana Martinez. After a 67 year engagement they impetuously got married in Mexico City in 1969. They were both 82.

In Joshua 1 we have the continuing story of God's long-term love for his people, the Israelites. Before we this there had been many ways in which God showed his love for his chosen people, a love which had often been spurned as they pursued other gods and rejected his ways.

God sent Moses to deliver his people from the slavery of Egypt using supernatural power. Yet God's people grumbled about Moses, complained about the conditions in the wilderness and wished they were back in slavery. When Moses was communing with God on the mountain they worshipped a false god.

Joshua witnessed these things. When God was ready to lead his people into the Promised Land Joshua was elected to represent his own tribe of Ephraim when 12 spies were sent into Canaan to view it. Only Joshua and his friend Caleb were ready to follow God's will and take immediate possession of the land (see Nu 14:26-34). Because of this they were the only ones who left the slavery of Egypt and entered the Promised Land forty years later. The rest were fearful of the people they saw occupying this land and were condemned to die in the desert. Even Moses forfeited entrance into the Promised Land when he struck the rock that he should have commanded to supply water for his people (Num 20).

Earlier in his life Joshua was called simply Hoshea, meaning "salvation" but later Moses changed his name to Joshua, meaning "The LORD saves" (Nu 13:8,16). Jesus is the Greek version of this name.

As newly appointed leader of the Israelites, Joshua took on two main tasks. First, he was to direct a military campaign to take control of the land God had promised. Then, he would distribute the conquered land among all the tribes.

There are two aspects of this love story that I would like us to look at this morning : God's love; and the people's response.

God's love;

Frederick Augustus was Elector of Saxony and, later, King of Poland. When he died in 1699 records reveal that he had given his wife one son called Maurice. However, he had also fathered 345 illegitimate children making him, probably, the least faithful husband, ever.

The most notorious bigamist on record is Giovanni Vigliotto, who married one hundred and four women. He was convicted for fraud and bigamy and sentenced to twenty-five years in prison, plus a fine of $336,000 / 225,000 pounds.

Despite the unfaithfulness of God's people he continued to be faithful to them. He was motivated by his grace, or undeserved favour. This was shown and rooted in his promise to Abraham, Genesis 13: 14 The LORD said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, "Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. 15 All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever.

This promise was repeated to Isaac ( Gen. 26:3 ), Jacob ( 35:12 ), Joseph ( 50:24 ) and Moses ( Exodus 6:8 ). Later in the book of Joshua it is recorded that God gave this land to his people and fulfilled his promise.
In Genesis 12:3 God said to Abram,
"all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." This was looking forward Jesus who was a descendant of Abraham. As we read the Bible we see God keeping his promises again and again and again. If we were to go around this church and ask every person here I am sure we all have a number of stories about how God has been faithful to us and kept his promises. There is only one, major promise that God has yet to fulfil, the return of Jesus. This is something that we anticipate in the Holy Communion service which we were told to continue until Jesus returns. On that day, we will no longer need bread and wine to symbolise Jesus body and blood because we will be with him.

A burst of thunder sent a three-year old flying into her parent's bedroom. "Mummy, I'm scared," she said. The mother, half-awake and half-unconscious, replied, "Go back to your room. God will be there with you."

The small figure stood in the unlit doorway for a moment and then said softly, "Mummy, I'll sleep here with Daddy and you go in there and sleep with God."

I guess we have all had times when we wish that God could be with us in a concrete way now. Just before Christmas Joshua said that one of his classmates had said that God does not exist because he cannot be seen of felt. I asked him if his classmate believed in the existence of air.

One of the ways that we know of God's love is by his presence. He promised this to Joshua,1:5b, "As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you."

This promise was, obviously made to Joshua at this particular time, but we can be assured of the presence of God. In John 6:37, Jesus said, "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away." Before he ascended Jesus said to his disciples ( Matthew 28:20 ) "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." He was referring to the Holy Spirit who would be poured out upon them.

As Christians we know the presence of God through his Holy Spirit who he gives to every believer. The Holy Spirit is a guarantee that we are God's, he gives us the gifts we need to serve and glorify Jesus, the fruit we need to become more like Jesus, and the power we need to live for Jesus.

God showed his love for Joshua and his people by displaying his power that enabled them to take the Promised Land. In verse 2 God said that he would 'give' the land to the Israelites. God said to Joshua 5 No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.

The situation was that Joshua did not have to rely on his own power and other qualities, he just had to follow what God told him to do. That is why God reassured him by saying that he would always be with him, just as he had always been with Moses. Joshua must have been fearful when he was chosen to replace Moses. Perhaps this is why God and the Israelites tell him "Be strong and courageous," in verses 6,7,9 and 18.

Chapter 2 refers to the power of God that inspired fear among the inhabitants of the Promised Land. Rahab says in verse 9, "I know that the LORD has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. 10We have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red SeaB for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed.C 11When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone's courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below."

The power of God resulted in a foreign prostitute helping the spies sent by the Israelites into her land. Next week we will see how the power of God enabled his people to cross the Jordan river. In Joshua it was the Lord who won the victories and, fulfilling his promise "gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their forefathers" (21:43).

When we look at last year it was full of disasters. War in Afghanistan. Violence and unrest in Israel, Northern Ireland, and many other places throughout the world. The events of September 11th in the United States. The foot and mouth crisis. Many people made redundant locally. At the start of a new year it is encouraging and reassuring to know that God is in control and that we, his people can be assured of his presence and his power. This is rooted in human history, the Bible and in the lives of millions of Christians throughout the world.

Joshua, and the Israelites had to respond to God's promises.

So we move from God's love; to...

the people's response.

The book of Joshua contains not a word about rebellion against a leader or grumbling against God. It is a good news book, a welcome relief from the discouraging tone of Numbers and Deuteronomy. What a difference 40 years had made!

This can be illustrated by the difference between the spies that were sent to the Promised Land. Numbers 13 27 They gave Moses this account: "We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. 28 But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan." 30 Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, "We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it." 31 But the men who had gone up with him said, "We can't attack those people; they are stronger than we are." 32 And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, "The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. 33We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them."

Compare this with the two spies sent by Joshua 2:23, They went down out of the hills, forded the river and came to Joshua son of Nun and told him everything that had happened to them. 24 They said to Joshua, "The LORD has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us."

This new generation of Israelites had a different approach. They trusted in God's promises and obeyed what he asked them to do.

God made it clear that Joshua had to know and obey his law. 7 Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

In the Old and New Testament people are put right with God through trust in him, itself a gift from God. A true faith is shown by obedience to his revealed will. For Joshua this was found in the Book of the Law, and we have the whole Bible.

The importance of faith and works has been likened to a rowing boat with faith written on one oar and works on the other. If either the faith or works oar was used on its own the boat would just go round in circles. But both oars, pulling equally together, faith then works, faith then works, would result in the right type of progress.

Once inside Canaan, the Israelites followed God's instructions precisely, even when it must have seemed illogical. The residents of Jericho had shut themselves behind stone walls, awaiting the onslaught of the feared Israelites. But how did the Israelites spend their first week in Canaan? They built a stone monument to God, performed circumcision rituals, and held a Passover celebration. No conquering army had ever behaved in such a manner.

In today's gospel reading ( Luke 9:57-62 ) Jesus challenges people with the need to have a radical trust in him.

Sometimes God leads us to do things that go against the thinking of the world and to trust in him. For example, he calls us to : worship him regularly; serve him even when we feel too old or too tired or when other people are not; give a proportion of our money when we do not receive very much; not use bad language whilst people around us do; not drink too much; not be envious of others; not to be involved in gossip or to be judgmental or quarrelsome...

God called and calls his people to be distinctive. The Old Testament law and the Sermon on the Mount are examples of this.

The Continental Singers visited First Baptist of Homer, New York. The Pastor's family were keeping a couple of the young men in their home. At the concert they made a plea for one of the group, named Kirk, who needed $850 or he couldn't continue with the group as they left the United States and went to Spain. If God didn't provide $850 in the next 24 hours, Kirk would be left behind.

Kirk was a young guy from a pig farm in South Carolina. That night a person from the church wrote a check for $850, yet they weren't going to give it to him until everyone in the group was on the bus ready to leave. This way he would appreciate how God answers prayer. Kirk didn't know this, but Pastor Gunderson did.

That night Kirk called his mother in South Carolina and began crying. The Gundersons wanted to burst out, "It's paid for!" but couldn't. In the morning the pastor's wife got up at 5:30 to feed her newborn baby, and she saw a light on in Kirk's room. It was all she could do to stop from opening the door and saying, "Kirk, stop praying and go to bed and get some sleep - the need has been met." The next morning they saw him get on the bus and they made the announcement and Kirk got to go to Spain.

This must be exactly what it is like for God. During our times of discouragement, he knows exactly how he is going to answer our need. He can see the future and knows the check is in the mail, the answer has already been given for that particular need. And here we are worrying, and sweating it out.

God wants us to pray, and depend on him, but since he wants us to grow in our trust, he may not intervene immediately. Through waiting and trusting we can grow.

On this first Sunday of a New Year let us reflect on the faithfulness of God and the promise of his presence and his power. Let us also remember that we are to continue to radically trust him and that, when we do, this will lead to our faith growing.