Where Do You Build Your Altar?

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 Joshua 8:30 Then Joshua built an altar unto the Lord God of Israel in mount Ebal ..

John 20:31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

Where Do You Build Your “Altar”?

An “Altar” is a place where you worship your God. An “Altar” is a place of surrender – not where God surrenders, but where WE surrender. Where do you build your “Altar”?

In Joshua Chapter 7 we saw the defeat of Israel at a place called Ai (עַי ʻAy, pronounced ah’ee). We saw Joshua on his face, torn clothing, his ministry of leadership in tatters. He was begging the Lord for an answer as to why he and Israel was defeated at Ai. Joshua actually blamed the Lord for the defeat.

Joshua 7:7 … Alas, O Lord God, wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? would to God we had been content, and dwelt on the other side Jordan!

Why did God’s people fail at Ai? They triumphed at Jericho, but were soundly beaten at Ai. As a matter of fact,

The defeat at Ai would be the ONLY battle
God’s people would lose!

Why did they lose? Because Israel had unconfessed sin among them.

Achan took a cursed thing from Jericho.
Joshua listened to people rather than God.
Everyone UNDERESTIMATED the enemy, and
OVERESTIMATED their own power.

They built their altars in the wrong place!

Where Is Your Altar Built?

When Israel was defeated at Ai – the only defeat recorded in the Book of Joshua – it was because of OVERESTIMATION of their power and UNDERESTIMATION of the enemy. Joshua sent spies to Ai, who came back and told him:

Joshua 7:3 … Let not all the people go up; but let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai; and make not all the people to labour thither; for they are but few.

Israel took the much larger and much more fortified Jericho without the loss of even one life. If WE can storm Jericho and take it with no loss IMAGINE what we can do at Ai. Beloved, when it becomes more about US than it is about the LORD then it is not long before we are chased about by the lost.

Never UNDERestimate the power of the enemy!
Never UNDERestimate the power of the devil!
Never OVERestimate your own abilities!
We have no power outside of Christ our Lord.

We are told over and over in Scripture that we MUST rely on the power of God our Savior. Jesus told us:

John 15:3-5 … Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. 5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

We have no power apart from God our Savior. The day that I was saved – the day that ANYONE is saved – is the day that we understood this basic principle. Before I was saved I worried about what others would say. I judged myself by myself and by others around me. But the day that I came to Christ I stopped worrying about what other people thought. I stopped worrying about peer pressure. I walked that aisle. I didn’t care who saw me, or what they thought of me. I just knew that I was a sinner, doomed to hellfire for all eternity. I knew that I was lost. But I wanted to be saved. I came surrendering my all to Jesus.

If you are saved by faith in Christ, you did exactly the same thing. But over time we forget. We forget that the Bible does not say:

I can do ALL THINGS, but
Philippians 4:13 I can do ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST
which strengtheneth me.

Apart from God our Savior we are nothing – we must not forget this. When Israel went against Ai the first time they took only 3000 warriors with them – and it was an epic FAIL. Sin was in the camp. God’s people overestimated themselves and underestimated the enemy – and people died because of it. What did God tell Israel?

Joshua 8:1-2 the Lord said unto Joshua, Fear not, neither be thou dismayed: take ALL the people of war with thee, and arise, go up to Ai: see, I have given into thy hand the king of Ai, and his people, and his city, and his land: 2 And thou shalt do to Ai and her king as thou didst unto Jericho and her king …

God’s people consecrated themselves. They confessed their sins before God. They were honest with their Lord. They put away the cursed thing, and relied totally on the Lord. God said “take ALL the people”. It will take ALL. It will take ALL who are committed to the cause of Christ. We must ALL work together, trusting in the Lord.

Let GOD do the leading, and WE the following.

When Jesus was on the face of this earth how did He battle satan and the forces of evil?

Jesus said “it is written”.
People do not like “it is written”.
Today everyone prefers “I think” over “it is written”.

We have great technology. We have advanced in technology to where hospitals and doctors can extend life beyond whatever it used to be. We have computerized things like “Alexa” that turns on and off our lights, our radios, our things. We have search engines and a world wide internet. We are covered up with knowledge. Human knowledge. People walk around staring at their phones, tapping on screens. We know so much. Yet we know so little. We desperately need God.

There are two very misunderstood passages in the Scripture. They are:

Proverbs 29:18 Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

Hosea 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.

Many of the prosperity preachers we see on television quote the Proverbs text and talk about God making you visionary. These texts have nothing to do with that.

These texts tell us the importance of knowing
and applying the Word of God.

When Joshua went to Jericho following the Word of God exactly that mighty city fell. But when Joshua and the children of Israel followed their own word rather than God’s Word they suffered great defeat.

God’s people are destroyed when they lack the Word of God. Those who are visionless are those who do not hear
and do the Word of God.

Hearing God’s direction and doing what God said – hearing His promise – things would be different the next time Israel went to Ai. Listening to God and His direction Joshua did things differently this time. We read:

Joshua 8:3-7 So Joshua arose, and all the people of war, to go up against Ai: and Joshua chose out thirty thousand mighty men of valor, and sent them away by night. 4 And he commanded them, saying, Behold, ye shall lie in wait against the city, even behind the city: go not very far from the city, but be ye all ready: 5 And I, and all the people that are with me, will approach unto the city: and it shall come to pass, when they come out against us, as at the first, that we will flee before them, 6 (For they will come out after us) till we have drawn them from the city; for they will say, They flee before us, as at the first: therefore we will flee before them. 7 Then ye shall rise up from the ambush, and seize upon the city: for the Lord your God will deliver it into your hand.

When the word of man was in control about 3000 were taken to Ai – and were chased away. But now – listening to God – Joshua does things differently. He sent 30,000 men out by night to hide behind the city – on the non-gated side. Joshua and his troops would storm Ai like they did before. This time, however, when the troops of Ai came out to attack, Joshua and his force would cut tail and run.

Joshua 8:15-19 … And Joshua and all Israel made as if they were beaten before them, and fled by the way of the wilderness. 16 And all the people that were in Ai were called together to pursue after them: and they pursued after Joshua, and were drawn away from the city. 17 And there was not a man left in Ai or Bethel, that went not out after Israel: and they left the city open, and pursued after Israel. 18 And the Lord said unto Joshua, Stretch out the spear that is in thy hand toward Ai; for I will give it into thine hand. And Joshua stretched out the spear that he had in his hand toward the city. 19 And the ambush arose quickly out of their place, and they ran as soon as he had stretched out his hand: and they entered into the city, and took it, and hasted and set the city on fire.

Oh Beloved, when God is in control His people are triumphant! When God’s people hear and do God’s Word, it is THEN the blessings of God come upon us.

Are Your Possessions Your Altar?

When Israel went to take Jericho God told them to take nothing from the city. If it was not taken into God’s treasury, then it was to be destroyed by fire. Achan took something from Jericho, and brought a curse upon the people. God told Israel:

Joshua 7:13 … There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you.

Israel was to take NOTHING from Jericho. However, when they attacked Ai God said:

Joshua 8:2 .. thou shalt do to Ai and her king as thou didst unto Jericho and her king: only the spoil thereof, and the cattle thereof, shall ye take for a prey unto yourselves

Why could God’s people take the goods from Ai but not from Jericho? Because the Word of the Lord said so. There is a very plain lesson in this for us all to see. The things that we have are a blessing that God has given us. Everything we have belongs to God. We ourselves belong to God. God spoke through the Prophet Ezekiel saying:

Ezekiel 18:4 Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.

Ezekiel 18:20-24 The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him. 21 But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. 22 All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live. 23 Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways, and live? 24 But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die.

Everything I have and everything
I hold is but temporal.
My only Permanent Possession is God My Father.

Psalm 119:57-64 Thou art my portion, O Lord: I have said that I would keep thy words. 58 I intreated thy favour with my whole heart: be merciful unto me according to thy word.

Joshua and Israel did according to God’s Word – and were blessed to take Ai without the loss of even one life.

  • Oh Beloved, do not make an idol of your possessions.
  • Oh my Beloved, do not make an idol of your children, your wife, your husband, your kin.
  • Oh my Beloved, make your altar upon the Word of God.
  • Oh my Beloved, do not worship THINGS, for THINGS cannot save you.

A rich young ruler came to Jesus in Mark 10:17 asking “what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” Jesus told that young man “sell what you have, give the money to the poor, take up your Cross and follow Me” (Mark 10:21). That young man went away sorrowful because possessions were his god. He loved not Jesus, but STUFF. You cannot enter Heaven through that narrow door carrying stuff in your arms (Matthew 7:13-14). Think about it.

When Zacchaeus was saved Jesus did not tell him to “sell all you have, give it to the poor, and follow Me”. Why? Because when Zacchaeus was saved he said in

Luke 19:8 … Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.

Jesus was to Zacchaeus “Lord”. Zacchaeus was no longer worshiping at the altar of STUFF, but worshiped God and the Jesus Who saved him.

Jesus never told Joseph of Arimathaea to “sell all he had, give it to the poor, and follow Me”. Why? Because Joseph did not have an altar built of STUFF. Joseph loved the Lord Jesus. He proved it by going to get Jesus’ body from the Cross on the day our Master died (John 19:38-42).

If you put STUFF up as an altar you will not be blessed of God. If you make your FAMILY first place in front of God you will not be blessed. Joshua never failed again because he made God’s Word first. Not just at Ai, but everywhere he went.

Joshua Built An Altar

Joshua 8:30 … Then Joshua built an altar unto the Lord God of Israel in mount Ebal,

The battle over, Joshua builds an altar “unto the Lord God”. The altar was built according to the Word of the Lord:

Joshua 8:31 … as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, an altar of whole stones, over which no man hath lift up any iron: and they offered thereon burnt offerings unto the Lord, and sacrificed peace offerings.

As it is written”. The altar is built the way that God said build it. Joshua obeyed the Word of God. He did what God said do. God spoke through Moses before that great man died and passed on leadership to Joshua:

Deuteronomy 27:4-8 … it shall be when ye be gone over Jordan, that ye shall set up these stones, which I command you this day, in mount Ebal, and thou shalt plaister them with plaister. 5 And there shalt thou build an altar unto the Lord thy God, an altar of stones: thou shalt not lift up any iron tool upon them. 6 Thou shalt build the altar of the Lord thy God of whole stones: and thou shalt offer burnt offerings thereon unto the Lord thy God: 7 And thou shalt offer peace offerings, and shalt eat there, and rejoice before the Lord thy God. 8 And thou shalt write upon the stones all the words of this law very plainly.

In Deuteronomy 27:10-13 God said that after the altar was built of unhewn stone that some of the people were to stand on mount Gerizim to bless the people, and the rest were to stand upon mount Ebal to curse. I do not have time to go into detail on this right now. But the “blessings and cursings” are found in Deuteronomy 27-28. What God was having the people do in a very graphic way was to show that they would be blessed when they followed God, but cursed when they disobeyed God. These two mountains would illustrate:

You get a MOUNTAIN OF BLESSING (Gerizim) when you obey God.
You get a MOUNTAIN OF CURSING (Ebal) when you disobey God.

Joshua built an altar. Where did he build the altar? Joshua built the altar on Mount Ebal – the mountain of cursing. Cursed be the one who disobeys the Word of God (Deuteronomy 11:26-28). Cursed be the person who disobeys the Law of God. Cursed be the person who is not perfect in his or her walk before God. When we break God’s Law we fall under the curse of God. How then are we to be blessed of God?

Look where the altar is built.
It is built on Mount Ebal.
The altar is built on the Mountain of our curse.
The Cross is built on Calvary!

Joshua built an altar on Mount Ebal – the mountain of cursing – because that is where we needed that altar. Jesus Christ died on Calvary. Jesus Christ took the judgment for my sins and for yours. The Scripture declares:

2 Corinthians 5:20-21 … we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. 21 For {God} hath made {Christ} to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

The curse was on Ebal – the curse was on Calvary. It is in the loving mercy of God that Christ’s Blood was shed for us. Jesus “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3). When Joshua built that altar on Ebal it had none of the cunning work of man’s hand. The altar was of natural, uncut stone. Man found rock and carried it to that place. We do nothing to earn or deserve our salvation. The animal slain on that altar was an innocent, just as Jesus was innocent. The Blood spilled on that altar was like that of Christ’s. His Blood was shed for me, and shed for you. He is our “peace offering”. Because of that Altar on Calvary – Ebal –

Hebrews 4:14-16 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. 15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

Oh Blessed Father, thank You for Jesus. Thank You for sending Him to die for us. Our sins, like mountains, stood between us and You. But You have given Christ to us to redeem us. In Christ we have redemption through His Blood, even the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:14). In Christ we have a Savior Who came that we might have life, life more abundantly (John 10:10). How often have we fallen short of bringing glory to You? How often have we taken the cursed thing to our breast, hiding it from You rather than repenting. Oh Lord, we deserve judgment. Oh Father, we deserve death and damnation. But thank You, dear Jesus, that You took what WE deserve upon Yourself. Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable Gift (2 Corinthians 9:15).

If you have made a commitment to follow Jesus this day, while we stand to sing our invitation will you come forward and grab my hand? I will pray with you. If you would like to join the fellowship of this Church you must give your heart to Christ, and commit to follow Him in baptism if you have not already done so. Come, stand by me. I will pray with you, and for you. Give your all to Jesus this very day. Do not waste His glorious sacrifice – He gave Himself for you all! May God touch your heart by His Word.

Posted in Joshua, Law Of God, Living God, Love One Another, Sermons Preached | Tagged ,

Blessing Requires A Covenant Relationship

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Photo by gaspar manuel zaldo on Unsplash

Joshua 6:16-19 And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the trumpets, Joshua said unto the people, Shout; for the Lord hath given you the city. 17 And the city shall be accursed, even it, and all that are therein, to the Lord: only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent. 18 And ye, in any wise keep yourselves from the accursed thing, lest ye make yourselves accursed, when ye take of the accursed thing, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it. 19 But all the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are consecrated unto the Lord: they shall come into the treasury of the Lord.

Joshua 7:1 But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the Lord was kindled against the children of Israel.

This morning I told you …
Blessing requires a covenant relationship with God.
Here’s something we learn tonight …

The Wages Of Sin Always Brings Death.

Israel had marched around Jericho just as God commanded. Once a day for six days Israel followed the Ark of the Covenant SILENTLY, keeping their mouths shut. There was no murmuring – only obedience. In ancient warfare cities like Jericho were taken one of two ways: (1) Siege Engines and battering rams took down gates, then the invading forces lost many warriors as they breached the city’s defenses. (2) If no loss of life was wanted cities were under siege, surrounded until the citizens starved and surrendered. God’s plan to take Jericho seemed odd. No one had ever marched AROUND a city to destroy it. Yet this is what God commanded.

Day by day the people of God marched – once per day – around Jericho. Then on the seventh day:

Joshua 6:15-16 … they rose early about the dawning of the day, and compassed the city after the same manner seven times: only on that day they compassed the city seven times. 16 And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the trumpets, Joshua said unto the people, Shout; for the Lord hath given you the city.

The walls came tumbling down. Israel went into Jericho and killed all the residents except for Rahab and her family (Joshua 6:17). God told the people “do not take the accursed thing, lest you make yourselves accursed … and make the camp of Israel a curse” (Joshua 6:18).

Our text starts with …

Joshua 7:1 But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, … took of the accursed thing:

Who Was Achan?

Who was Achan? Was he an absolute unbeliever, a person who loved to sin? The Bible tells us much about Achan in this verse. His name is Achan – which means a “troublemaker”. How odd to name someone that!

Joshua 7:1 … Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah …

Achan is of the tribe of Judah. Judah is the ruling tribe. Both King David as well as King Jesus come from Judah. In the Book of Chronicles Achan is called by a different name …

1 Chronicles 2:7 And the sons of Carmi; Achar, the troubler of Israel, who transgressed in the thing accursed.

The Strong’s Concordance states that Achar is an alternate spelling for Achan.

Achan’s name spells TROUBLE!

Achan’s father, grandfather, and great grandfather have lived under the lash of the Pharaoh. Achan’s great grandfather and grandfather saw the

rise of Moses
the parting of the Red Sea
the Pillars of Cloud and Fire
the Blood of the Lamb on the homes
the curse and death of the firstborn Egyptian

Achan survived Egypt when he should have died. Achan has enjoyed the grace and mercy of God. He ate that bread of God from Heaven, and was fed quail in the wilderness by God. Achan has drunk deeply of water from the Rock that was Christ. Oh, how blessed Achan was.

Jesus said in Luke 12:48 … he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.

God gave Achan very much. Achan also had great sorrow.

Achan buried his parents and grandparents because of sin.
Achan
was circumcised with the other believing men at Gilgal.
Achan saw the walls of Jericho fall. He had no excuse.
Achan helped put the city to the torch.

Hebrews 10:31 It is a fearful thing to fall
into the hands of the living God.

The Lord shall judge His people (Hebrews 10:30). God gave Israel Grace not so that she could abuse Him, but so that she could be blessed. But Achan – blessed beyond measure by God – mocked His grace.

Achan took the cursed thing.

What Was The Cursed Thing?

The Cursed Thing Was A Forbidden Thing We’ve discussed Achan. Let’s now look at the cursed thing. What was it? The cursed thing was everything in Jericho. All of the people except for Rahab and her family were accursed. All of the items in the city were accursed. If you remember, Jericho was a “moon” of Canaan, which made it a “moon” that reflected all the evils of idolatry. God wanted Israel to have nothing to do with the things of Jericho. The Bible tells us that:

Joshua 6:24 {Israel} burnt the city with fire, and all that was therein: only the silver, and the gold, and the vessels of brass and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the Lord.

The Cursed Thing Was A Hidden Thing Joshua thought that all of Jericho was destroyed except for the metal items that were to be given to the Tabernacle of God. What Joshua DIDN’T know was that Achan took of the accursed thing and hid it in the midst of his family home. The Bible tells us:

Behold, ye have sinned against the LORD; and be sure
Your Sin shall find you out!” (Numbers 32:23)

Unaware of Achan’s sin “Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is beside Bethaven, on the east of Bethel” (Joshua 7:2). The name of the city עַי ʻAy, (pronounced ah’ee) means “a heap of ruins”. Israel went to a fortified city called “Jericho” which means “the moon”. As God worked through them Israel took that fortified city without the loss of even ONE life. Now Israel is headed to “a heap of ruins”. After defeating Jericho, everyone was confident that Ai would live up to its name before days end. In fact, Joshua was so confident of victory that he presumed on God. We read:

Joshua 7:3 {the spies of Israel} returned to Joshua, and said unto him, Let not all the people go up; but let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai; and make not all the people to labour thither; for they are but few.

The Cursed Thing Led To A Presumptive Thing What the spies told Joshua was “this is such an easy win … let’s just take two or three thousand with us, go up, and attack Ai.” What Joshua SHOULD HAVE said was “Let’s ask God”.

Leaders – LEAD
LEAD by LEADING God’s People To God!

When Israel defeated Jericho the LORD was in charge. The LORD told Joshua what to do. But now the SPIES and NOT the LORD are telling Joshua what to do.

Rather than Assume, or Presume,
Better to ASK GOD.

Joshua is listening to the spies rather than to God, a very foolish act. What has God told Joshua to do? Absolutely nothing. God has not spoken about Ai. Joshua has not consulted God. Joshua presumed upon God. He sent 3000 warriors to battle Ai. The results? “They fled before the men of Ai” (Joshua 7:4).

Joshua 7:5 And the men of Ai smote of them about thirty and six men: for they chased them from before the gate even unto Shebarim, and smote them in the going down: wherefore the hearts of the people melted, and became as water.

Israel was shamed. The Church fell flat on it’s face. God’s people got off lightly – Israel only lost 36 men. But Israel was shamed because 3000 Israelites could not stand to lose to what appeared to be a numerically inferior force. “The hearts of the people became as water”.

Who’s Fault Is It Anyway?

Joshua did something that we often do when we presume on God and are hurt by our presumption. Joshua blamed God.

Joshua 7:7-9 7 And Joshua said, Alas, O Lord God, wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? would to God we had been content, and dwelt on the other side Jordan! 8 O Lord, what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies! 9 For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land shall hear of it, and shall environ us round, and cut off our name from the earth: and what wilt thou do unto thy great name?

God was not at fault for Joshua’s presumption. Beloved, God is not at fault when WE do the wrong thing. Joshua should have sought the Lord in prayer before sending forces to Ai. The Lord told Joshua:

Joshua 7:10-11 And the Lord said unto Joshua, Get thee UP; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face? 11 Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff.

I want you to notice God did not say “Achan has sinned” but “Israel has sinned”. Sin brings a curse on those around you. Sin brought defeat into Israel. Israel is God’s representative on the earth, just as today the Church is Christ’s representative on the earth. Joshua sinned by presumption. Achan sinned by stealing. God told His people to repent – and recommit to a covenant relationship with Him.

Joshua, GET UP!
Israel, GET UP!
Everybody, let’s LOOK UP!

Joshua 7:13 Up, sanctify the people, and say, Sanctify yourselves against to morrow: for thus saith the Lord God of Israel, There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you.

Israel was called to “sanctify or set apart themselves”, to get their hearts right with God. They were to confess their sins. Joshua should get his eyes back on God. The people should get their eyes back on God. The people were told to execute the transgressor of the Law:

Joshua 7:15 And it shall be, that he that is taken with the accursed thing shall be burnt with fire, he and all that he hath: because he hath transgressed the covenant of the Lord, and because he hath wrought folly in Israel.

It was the next day as the children of Israel – by families – rededicated themselves to God, that Achan’s sin was found out. Sin can be hid in the midst of sin. But once Israel got right with God Achan’s sin stood out like a sore thumb. Joshua went to Achan and told him …

Joshua 7:19-20 … Joshua said unto Achan, My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the Lord God of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me. 20 And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done

God Punishes Sin Even Among His People

Joshua 7:24-26 And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had: and they brought them unto the valley of Achor. 25 And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the Lord shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones.

As we read these words we are shocked in our modern sensibilities. In America today we would have put Achan in jail for about 7 years, gave him a cable tv, and three meals a day. Then we would have paroled him. What did God have Joshua do? Achan and his family, with all that he had, was destroyed. We think this harsh. But let us remember that thirty six innocent people died because of Achan’s sin. Israel was made liable to destruction because Achan and his family hid sin in their hearts. We fool ourselves when we think that sin only hurts us. Sin hurts us all. The Spirit of God is hindered when sin is in the heart, buried in the tent. Sin’s effects spread. The Apostle said:

Galatians 5:9 A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.

Many young girls started down a wrong road because their mothers allowed them to dress indiscreetly. Many young boys find hidden pornography and are scarred for life. Sin hidden and unconfessed to God becomes out of control. It has a ripple effect that touches others, changing them, perverting what it touches.

Today’s Church says “Well, that was then, and this is NOW. God doesn’t kill people who sin in the New Testament.” No? Do you remember the case of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 who lied to God, and lost their lives because of it. Confess sin to God. Repent. Turn from it.

Note how sin creeps in. Achan said:

Joshua 7:21 When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it.

This is how sin brings destruction into the life.

Achan SAW the forbidden.
Achan COVETED the forbidden.
Achan TOOK the forbidden.
Achan HID the forbidden.

James 1:14-16 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. 16 Do not err, my beloved brethren.

What is sin’s solution? Don’t look at it – make a covenant with your eyes (Job 31:1). Jesus said:

Matthew 5:28 … whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

Had Achan controlled his EYES, he and his family would not have died. We have no power with God while sin is in our lives. Let us do as God ha said and:

1 John 1:7-9 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Let us walk “in the light” of God, refusing satan’s horrid gifts. If we sin against God let us not bury it, but confess our sins. We have a Mediator Who loves us, and gave Himself for us. Let us not normalize sin, but REPENT of sin. Remember also the lesson we learn from Achan. After Achan was punished, and sin repented of:

Joshua 8:1 And the Lord said unto Joshua, Fear not, neither be thou dismayed: take all the people of war with thee, and arise, go up to Ai: see, I have given into thy hand the king of Ai, and his people, and his city, and his land:

Keep your eyes on the Lord. May God touch your hearts with His Word.

Posted in Joshua, Sermons Preached

The Walls Come Tumbling Down

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Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

Joshua 6:1-2 Now Jericho was straitly shut up because of the children of Israel: none went out, and none came in. 2 And the Lord said unto Joshua, See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valour.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Psalm 46:10-11 Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. 11 The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.

Israel has crossed the flooded Jordan, God parting the waters and making it dry land. Israel has gone to Gilgal – a town called Rolling Wheel – and has honored God by setting up a monument to God’s glory there. Israel has honored God with their lives and with their bodies. They are now in a proper Covenant relationship with God.

You Are Saved By Faith, But Blessing
Requires A Covenant Relationship With God!

In a proper Covenant relationship Israel heads to Jericho. Jericho. The Encyclopedia Britannica notes that Jericho is “one of the earliest continuous settlements in the world, dating perhaps from about 9000 BC.” The name “Jericho” (יְרִיחוֹ Yᵉrîychôw, [pronounced yer-ee-kho’]; or יְרֵחוֹ Yᵉrêchôw; or variation (1 Kings 16:34) יְרִיחֹה Yᵉrîychôh) means “it’s moon” or as the Arabs call it “city of the moon”. That is very illustrative of what Jericho was. Think for a moment about the earth’s MOON.

The Moon reflects the light of the Sun.
The Moon has no light of it’s own.
The Moon is
unfriendly to life.
The Moon is a dead place.
No life was discovered there when
Apollo 11 landed there July 20, 1969.

There is no life in Jericho. There is PHYSICAL life, but no SPIRITUAL life. Jericho , like the Moon of earth, was Canaan’s “Moon”. All the was evil and dead was reflect – like dark light – from Canaan to Jericho. The Canaanites practiced child sacrifice, and like the Moon Jericho more than likely reflected this practice. The Canaanites worshiped many gods and goddesses, including Asherah and Ba’al as well as Dagon – over 35 different idols. Jericho reflected this. Since Jericho was an ancient and well established city, with fortified double walls all around it’s perimeter. Someone – probably an unfaithful Israelite – had told Jericho that that they were coming. I have often heard that “it is not the amount of water OUTSIDE the ship that will drown those on it, but the water INSIDE the ship”.

What Did God’s People SEE?

Joshua 6:1 Now Jericho was straitly shut up because of the children of Israel: none went out, and none came in.

Matthew Henry in his commentary says: “.. it did shut up itself, being strongly fortified both by art and nature, and it was shut up by the obstinacy and resolution of the inhabitants, who agreed never to surrender nor so much as sound a parley; none went out as deserters or to treat of peace, nor were any admitted in to offer peace.” The city was a fortress. It was absolutely impossible at this point for anyone – no matter how strong – to get inside this city.

Earlier I said there was no spiritual life in Jericho.
That’s not entirely true.
There was RAHAB.

God the Holy Spirit reached out and brought life to a tiny part of Jericho in the home of Rahab the Harlot. God through His people had promised to save Rahab and her family (Joshua 2:18, 21; Hebrews 11:31; James 2:24-25). God couldn’t just destroy Jericho like He did Sodom and Gomorrah. The Lord will not destroy the innocent with the guilty (Genesis 18:23-25).

Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?

God had angels take Lot and his family out of Sodom before He destroyed it. But Jericho is shut up. It is sealed off. None can enter, and none are allowed to leave. The gates are shut, and NO ONE can come in. But God tells Joshua:

Joshua 6:2 …The LORD said unto Joshua: See

I love what God told Joshua. I LOVE this text! In the original language the word LORD is YHWH or YAHWEH. The word JOSHUA literally means YAHWEH SAVES. So we read:

YAHWEH said unto YAHWEH SAVES:
“SEE”

The Eternal God – Yahweh, our Creator and Savior – His first word is “SEE” – רָאָה râʼâh, (pronounced raw-aw’)“Behold – look – consider this”. What God is telling His servant Joshua is “Don’t look at the fortified walls. Don’t look at the huge locked gates. Don’t look at the Archers and mighty men of valor who have guarded this city for years. Don’t look at the impossibility of this. LOOK AT ME. HEAR WHAT I AM SAYING. CONSIDER MY WORDS.

Oh Beloved, if we would seek God and hear His Word, how we would be blessed on the earth. Yet many of us – believer and unbeliever alike – put a wall around our hearts of unbelief. We look at the wrong thing. We consider the obstacle before us and are defeated in our hearts before we ever start. The Bible tells us that:

2 Corinthians 5:7 … we walk by faith, not by sight!

  • Jesus told the Apostle “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” (John 20:29).
  • While the Apostle Peter had His eyes on Jesus he could walk on water (Matthew 14:28):

Lord, if it be Thou, bid me come unto Thee on the water.”

Jesus said “Come” and Peter come out of the boat, and walked on the water to go to Jesus (Matthew 14:29). But then Peter looked at the wind and the waves. Peter probably heard a “faithful friend” call out from the boat, “Peter have you lost your MIND? People don’t walk on water!”. Oh, how terrible the discouragers are who cry out from the safety of the boat! Peter took his eyes off of Jesus and started to sink. But at least Peter had the sense to cry out “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:30). And Jesus saved him!

  • What do YOU see, dear Church? What do YOU see, dear Israel? What do YOU see, dear America? God said “See”. So not see the walls. Do not see the impossibilities. See this. With God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).

SEE THE PROMISE Not The PROBLEM

Joshua 6:2 …The LORD said unto Joshua: See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valour.

God tells Joshua “I have given”. Beloved, that is PAST TENSE. Not “I WILL give”, but “I HAVE given”. God has promised this land to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God has promised Joshua the land. He has said “everywhere you step will be yours”.

Faith is not a full bank account.
Faith is not knowing every detail as to how I will do it.
Faith looks UP, not AROUND.

Hebrews 11:1 … faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Faith is when you hear God’s Word and believe what HE SAYS – not what the circumstances are saying.

  • FEAR says “Jericho is shut up. It is fortified. It has it’s own water supply, and enough food on hand to last over a year. Jericho cannot be beaten by human power.”
  • But FAITH says God can. God can open those gates. God can shut off the water supply. God can take away the food. God can tear down those walls. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down these walls! God can save Rahab. God can!” The Bible says:

Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please God: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

Faith Does God’s Work God’s Way

God told Joshua that the city was already his. But then God tells Joshua:

Joshua 6:3-5 And ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war, and go round about the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days. 4 And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams’ horns: and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets. 5 And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him.

God expects His people to do what He says. God expects His people to WORK! Every believer in Israel had a job to do for the Lord.

Thus shalt thou do six days

The work that God’s people are to do is to obey God DAILY. Too many who profess Christ as Savior are on what I call the welfare rolls of Heaven. God does not call a person to serve but once in a while. He calls His people to DAILY service. Israel was to walk around the city walls of Jericho DAILY and in one accord. God did not exempt ANYONE from service. “All ye men of war”. Every able bodied person was to walk. The priests were to walk, carrying the Ark of the Covenant – an Old Testament picture of Christ – on their shoulders. This was a UNIFIED group of believers. Some of you think that your entire calling of God is to SIT and SOAK in a pew, hearing the message preached. The Bible knows nothing of this type of faith. The Scripture says:

Colossians 1:10 … {you} walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;

Ephesians 4:1-2 … walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;

We who are Christ’s walk in the Spirit, not in the flesh (Galatians 5:16).
We who are God’s walk in love, as Christ loved us (Ephesians 5:2).

 All must walk around Jericho. All must serve God – together. All. All. When Jesus fed the 5000, did He use only one of the fish – or ALL? Did He use a little of the bread – or ALL? God uses all of His people together to do His will His way. We are all called to be responsible citizens of His Kingdom. We are all called to service.

One of the most beautiful countries I was ever stationed in while in service to our nation was Germany. Germany is a beautiful place. It is made more beautiful by the fact that the Germans will not allow litter in their country. I have seen store keepers sweep out their stores, then sweep the sidewalk as well as the road in front of their stores. The German people love and are proud of their country. When driving on their highways I never saw garbage strewn about as I do on American roads. Why? Because the German people are TOGETHER in correcting litterbugs. If you are caught by even a citizen tossing out a cigarette butt, you would find yourselves chastised by the citizens who saw you.

If every Christian would fulfill his or her calling for Christ then what a difference this would make. In the days of Nehemiah God’s people each put their hand to the plow. Nehemiah 3:28 says “Each one repaired the section immediately across from his own house”. God does not expect one person to do it all, but each believer to pitch in and do their part. We are each called to work for the glory of God and do our part. You cannot expect to be blessed if you do not follow God’s Word.

We Must Be Driven By “It Is Written”?

Joshua 6:6-11 And Joshua the son of Nun called the priests, and said unto them, Take up the ark of the covenant, and let seven priests bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the Lord. 7 And he said unto the people, Pass on, and compass the city, and let him that is armed pass on before the ark of the Lord. 8 And it came to pass, when Joshua had spoken unto the people, that the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns passed on before the Lord, and blew with the trumpets: and the ark of the covenant of the Lord followed them. 9 And the armed men went before the priests that blew with the trumpets, and the rearward came after the ark, the priests going on, and blowing with the trumpets. 10 And Joshua had commanded the people, saying, Ye shall not shout, nor make any noise with your voice, neither shall any word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I bid you shout; then shall ye shout. 11 So the ark of the Lord compassed the city, going about it once: and they came into the camp, and lodged in the camp.

Joshua had the people do exactly as God directed. The Bible tells us:

Psalm 27:14 Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.

Psalm 62:1, 5 Truly my soul waiteth upon God: from him cometh my salvation. 5 My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him.

To “wait on the Lord” does not mean to do NOTHING. It means to heed God, to seek his face, then to let HIS WORD drive you.

Joshua told Israel exactly what God told him to say. He aligned the people as God said. Joshua LISTENED to God then did EXACTLY what God said. But Joshua added one requirement that was not in God’s instructions. Did you catch it? Joshua told the people:

Ye shall not shout, nor make any noise with your voice, neither shall any word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I bid you shout; then shall ye shout

Did you catch that? What Joshua told the people was “You are ALL to stay in a state of silence. You will not say ONE SINGLE WORD until the day I tell you to shout. THEN and only then YOU WILL SHOUT!” Why do you think Joshua did this? I’ll tell you why.

  • The man of God or woman of God knows that the only way you can serve God is to HUSH. To BE STILL. To WAIT on God. To WAIT for His Voice. In our world today we are terribly impatient. We think we know it all. In fact, we are certain of that. But Beloved, we do not know it all. We know very little, but God knows ALL THINGS. God says:

I know the end from the beginning … Isaiah 46:10

God knows. We do not. If Joshua had let the people talk two things would have happened. First, you cannot hear God while you are talking. He will not speak to you unless you get still and quiet and know that HE and HE alone is God.

  • We are as humans notoriously IMPATIENT. Israel would have done well to walk around Jericho the first day. Perhaps they would do well on the second day. But around the fifth day unbelief would have spoken. Someone would have said to someone else:

We’re walking around this stupid city everyday!
What are we doing? Nothing!
What is John doing? Nothing!
Where did James go? He’s helping John. We’re doing NOTHING!
Not one rock has moved. Not one stone has turned.
We look STUPID doing this!

The murmuring would have grown. Like leaven in dough the unbelief would have spread. Perhaps some would have broken ranks. As the muttering grew by the seventh day the few Israelites left probably would not have marched around the city seven times. They may have compassed it only 4 times on the 7th day. I’m sure there would have been a few who – like children in music class – would have tooted their horns EVERY DAY and not just on the 7th circuit of the 7th day. What would have happened had Israel NOT done as God said?

The walls would NOT have fallen!

The Bible tells us to not be weary in well doing, for in DUE SEASON we shall reap, if we do not faint (Galatians 6:9). We must do God’s work God’s way. It is not the FASTEST runner who wins the race, but the runner who stays on the course and finishes well. C. H. Spurgeon put it this way:

Faith is not a fool. Faith does not shut her eyes to difficulty and then run head foremost into a brick wall. Never! Faith sees the difficulty, surveys it all, and then she says ‘BY MY GOD I WILL LEAP OVER A WALL!’”

Faith waits on God. It listens to Him, and then does as He says. Faith is not embarrassed by doing what God asks. God never asks us to do a foolish or wrong thing. Faith does not try and help God out. I imagine someone would say “Why didn’t God give them a rope ladder, and an iron hook, and let them climb over the wall?” Do you know why? Because then YOU would be glorified and not God. God will do what He says He will do. Let us heed Him. Let us “be still, and know that He is God”. Let us be like Mary who sat at the feet of Jesus listening while Martha ran about with busy work. Jesus told Martha:

Mary has chosen that good part that cannot
be taken away from her. (Luke 10:42)

Joshua listened when God spoke, and relayed what God told him to the people. And praise God, the people listened. The Scripture says:

Joshua 6:15-17 And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they rose early about the dawning of the day, and compassed the city after the same manner seven times: only on that day they compassed the city seven times. 16 And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the trumpets, Joshua said unto the people, Shout; for the Lord hath given you the city. 17 And the city shall be accursed, even it, and all that are therein, to the Lord: only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent. … 20 So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets: and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. 21 And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword. 22 But Joshua had said unto the two men that had spied out the country, Go into the harlot’s house, and bring out thence the woman, and all that she hath, as ye sware unto her.

God did what God said He would do. God always will. God destroyed the city. God saved Rahab and her family. Israel triumphed because our God is so faithful. Let us be faithful in following Him. May the Lord draw us all close to Him in obedient service. In Jesus’ name. Amen!

Posted in Joshua, Sermons Preached | Tagged , , ,

Lord, Teach Us To Pray – Part 1

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Photo by Jack Sharp on Unsplash

Luke 11:1-4 And it came to pass, that, as {Jesus} was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. 2 And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. 3 Give us day by day our daily bread. 4 And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.

Jesus had already taught His disciples how to pray … but they weren’t listening. Are YOU listening tonight?

Jesus called His apostles – the first disciples – right after His temptation by the devil in the wilderness. “Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). In between preaching messages the Bible tells us that Jesus – walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea (Matthew 4:18). They were fishermen. Jesus called out to them:

Matthew 4:19 … Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.

Jesus then called James and John the sons of Zebedee (Matthew 4:21). These four men followed Jesus to a mountain near the Lake of Gennesaret and Capernaum, the fishing town on the northern shore of the Lake of Gennesaret. The Lake of Gennesaret is shaped like a bowl, and strong winds serve as a natural amplifier. Sherry and I were at the David Crockett State Park the other day at their swimming pool. Two lifeguards were talking – one on either side of the very large pool – without raising their voices at all. The water carried their voices, and these high school kids realized and were using this to their advantage. As Jesus preached on that mountain the winds blowing toward the lake and off of the mountain carried His voice. He would not have to shout. As Jesus preached He told His disciples how to pray:

Matthew 6:9-13 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

The disciples heard Jesus’ teaching on prayer, just as many of us have heard sermons on various subjects, but it just didn’t penetrate. Sometimes we don’t want to hear. It’s like the time several preachers held a revival, and agreed to preach no more than 20 minutes each. One of the preachers got into the sermon and forgot the time limit. He preached 20 … 30 … 40 minutes. Finally one of the preachers sitting behind him on the stage had enough. He threw a song book at the offending preacher, but it missed and hit a man in the front row. As the man in the front row was going down he shouted:

Hit me again. I can still hear him preaching!

They didn’t hear Jesus the first time He taught on prayer. But the Bible tells us that “as Jesus was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, one of His disciples said unto Him:

Lord, teach us to pray,
As John also taught his disciples.

Have your children ever asked you “Momma, Daddy, Grandma, Grandpa … will YOU teach us to pray?” Perhaps it is because our children or grand children have never heard us praying. We have not made prayer a habit in our lives. But if we are saved by faith in Christ, children of God by faith in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26), then prayer should be natural to us. Jesus prayed, and prayed frequently. So they asked Him “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples”. I don’t think the disciples knew Who Jesus was. They perhaps thought Him to be a great rabbi, a great teacher, a great mentor. They called Him “Lord”. But they knew that John the Baptist – a man well respected by the faithful – was a praying man who taught his students how to pray. So now they asked Jesus, “Teach us to pray”.

The Model of Prayer

When I was growing up in the Presbyterian Church I was not taught to have a personal relationship to God by faith in Christ. But I remember every Sunday reciting two Liturgys. For those who are not Presbyterian, a “Liturgy” is from the Greek “leitourgia” which means “an established formula for public worship, a proscribed ritual which many churches use in their services and in their ceremonial rites”. We recited the Apostle’s Creed:

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,

Maker of heaven and earth,

and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,

who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,

born of the Virgin Mary,

suffered under Pontius Pilate,

was crucified, died and buried;

He descended into hell;

on the third day He rose again from the dead;

He ascended into heaven,

and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;

from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic Church,

the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins,

the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.

Amen.

We also recited the Lord’s Prayer. We used the prayer from Matthew 6 and recited it in unison. We recited it like it was indeed a prayer. Jesus never meant Matthew 6 or Luke 11 to be a verbatim prayer. He said in Matthew 6🕖:7

when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do”

Vain repetition” is to utter something without thought. It is like the Catholic uttering “Hail Mary’s” or “Our Fathers” on a Rosary without thinking or addressing God. Prayer is always to be addressed TO God, TO the God Who saved you. What Jesus was doing in Luke 11 and Matthew 6 is establishing the necessary elements of effective prayer. Let’s look at these elements.

The Elements Of Effective Prayer

Luke 11:2 And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

Matthew 6:9 .. After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

UNITY Is Absolutely Necessary! The first word in prayer is OUR. That is very important. OUR. The Christian is a member of the Family of God. In order for God to hear prayer WE MUST BE UNITED. It cannot be US and THEM. It is OUR. When our Lord Jesus prayed for His Church before His death on Calvary He prayed:

John 17:20-23 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; 21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. 22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: 23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

Unity in the Church is imperative if you will have unity with God. During our Lord’s Table services we always quote:

1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

Unity is imperative to answered prayer. If a husband is at war with his wife, or a wife is at war with her husband, God does not hear your prayers:

1 Peter 3:7 Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.

If you harbor unforgiveness or separateness within the Body of Christ God will not hear your prayer:

Matthew 6:14-15 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Jesus encourages us to “be KIND to one another, TENDERHEARTED, FORGIVING one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32). We have all failed God. Yet God tells us forgive anyway. Let it go. OUR Father.

SALVATION Is Absolutely Necessary! The second word is Father. OUR FATHER. There is but one Father over the family of God. He is the Head of the Triune Godhead, the Father. The Father of the family is the One Who punishes the wayward child. We are not “Fathers” in the sense that God is our Father. Jesus said:

Matthew 23:9-10 And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. 10 Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.

I had a “Daddy” when I was growing up. But I have only One “Father”, and that is “God the Father”. He is the One that we address in prayer. We call Him “Father” because Jesus Christ – our Master – tells us to do so, and equips us to be so. If you have been saved by faith in Christ then YOU have ONE FATHER, “Our Father which art in Heaven”. Praise God for the Father. If you are NOT saved by faith in Christ then God is NOT your Father. As Jesus told Nicodemus:

John 3:3 … Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

Just as you were born into your human family, in a spiritual way you must be born into the Family of God. Billy Graham asked:

Have you been born again? Call it conversion, call it commitment, call it repentance, call it being saved, but has it happened to you? Does Christ live in your heart? Do you know it? Many people have thought a long time about religion and Christianity and yet have never made a commitment. Are you committed to Jesus Christ? ….. How is the new birth accomplished? We cannot inherit new birth. The Bible says that those who are born again “were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13). Our fathers and mothers may be the greatest born-again Christians in the world, but that doesn’t make us born-again Christians, too. Many people have the idea that because they were born into a Christian home, they are automatically Christians. They’re not. … We cannot work our way to God, either. The Bible says that salvation comes “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).

When we come to Christ – heeding His call to salvation – He through the Spirit of God causes us to be spiritually born into His family. If you are born again of God’s Spirit – made alive by God (Colossians 2:13) – forgiven by Christ’s Blood – caused by God to be born again (1 Peter 1:2-4) THEN God is your Father. You address Him in prayer. As Father He is the Provider, the One Who oversees the Family of God.

GLORY TO GOD Is Absolutely Necessary! Jesus said for us to pray “Our Father which art in Heaven, HALLOWED BE THY NAME. Every prayer prayed must start and finish with GLORY to GOD the Father. To glorify God is to acknowledge His greatness, to give Him honor in praise and worship. Let me ask you this question:

If you have cancer – are you giving God the glory?
If you have lost a loved one – are you giving God the glory?

Many of the prayers we pray have NOTHING to do with bringing glory to God. That is a shame. When we do not make glory to God our primary goal then we treat God the Father as if WE are the gods, and He our Servant, the Genie in the Lamp. The Scripture says:

Colossians 3:17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by {Jesus}.

1 Corinthians 10:31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

We are to make glory to our Father
the GOAL of our PRAYERS.

It’s not about making ourselves feel better. Don’t get me wrong – I understand the need. When my 17 year old boy died I prayed that God would turn that around. When my leg was crushed in a motorcycles accident in 1983 I prayed that God would take away the pain. I understand. I know. But we are to seek God’s glory. We are to be like Job was who, upon losing all that he had, said:

Job 1:21 … Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.

Many of our prayer can descend into that horrible sin of idolatry if we are not careful. God has said:

Isaiah 42:8 I am the Lord: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.

When we make OURSELVES the center of prayer and not God’s glory then we make OURSELVES our own GODS. The Lord will not tolerate this. Let us seek His glory in all things. Jesus as He prepared to go to the Cross prayed in Gethsemane:

Luke 22:42-46 … Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. 43 And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. 45 And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow, 46 And said unto them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.

If we were to pray as Jesus prayed – seeking God’s glory – then even in the NO answers to prayer the Father would send an angel from Heaven to strenghthen us in our time of need. The Father loves us, but sometimes, ofttimes, the answers to our prayers has to be NO. To answer a wrong prayer is to bring disrepute upon the character of God, and the Father will not do that. EVER.

Luke 11:2 … Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.

Matthew 6:10 … Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

When we pray our prayer is to be like the song we sing.

Have Thine own way Lord

Have Thine own way

Thou art the potter I am the clay

Mold me and make me after Thy will

While I am waiting yielded and still

Here is where we will stop for the night. We will come back the Wednesday following our Vacation Bible School and continue this message. Let’s pray!

Posted in Luke, prayer, Sermons Preached | Tagged , , ,

First Things First

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Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash

Joshua 5 And it came to pass, when all the kings of the Amorites, which were on the side of Jordan westward, and all the kings of the Canaanites, which were by the sea, heard that the Lord had dried up the waters of Jordan from before the children of Israel, until we were passed over, that their heart melted, neither was there spirit in them any more, because of the children of Israel. 2 At that time the Lord said unto Joshua, Make thee sharp knives, and circumcise again the children of Israel the second time. 3 And Joshua made him sharp knives, and circumcised the children of Israel at the hill of the foreskins. 4 And this is the cause why Joshua did circumcise: All the people that came out of Egypt, that were males, even all the men of war, died in the wilderness by the way, after they came out of Egypt. 5 Now all the people that came out were circumcised: but all the people that were born in the wilderness by the way as they came forth out of Egypt, them they had not circumcised. 6 For the children of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, till all the people that were men of war, which came out of Egypt, were consumed, because they obeyed not the voice of the Lord: unto whom the Lord sware that he would not shew them the land, which the Lord sware unto their fathers that he would give us, a land that floweth with milk and honey. 7 And their children, whom he raised up in their stead, them Joshua circumcised: for they were uncircumcised, because they had not circumcised them by the way. 8 And it came to pass, when they had done circumcising all the people, that they abode in their places in the camp, till they were whole. 9 And the Lord said unto Joshua, This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you. Wherefore the name of the place is called Gilgal unto this day. 10 And the children of Israel encamped in Gilgal, and kept the passover on the fourteenth day of the month at even in the plains of Jericho. 11 And they did eat of the old corn of the land on the morrow after the passover, unleavened cakes, and parched corn in the selfsame day. 12 And the manna ceased on the morrow after they had eaten of the old corn of the land; neither had the children of Israel manna any more; but they did eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year. 13 And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries? 14 And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the Lord am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my Lord unto his servant? 15 And the captain of the Lord’s host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so.

God Is Faithful & Expects Us To Be Faithful Also!

God’s Israel is in the Promised Land. They have all crossed over the Jordan keeping their eyes on the Ark of the Covenant, a representation of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is what God calls His Church and His Israel to do. As we serve God we trust Him to do the hard things, but we are to do our part.

Hebrews 12:1-2 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Do what God tells you to do. Keep moving. Keep trusting. The great preacher J.C. Ryle said:

The Christianity which the world requires is a Christianity for everyday life. .. A mere Sunday religion is not enough. A thing put on and off with our Sabbath clothes is powerless. Thinking men feel and know that there are seven days in a week, and that life is not made up of Sundays. .. such a faith is a plant which our Heavenly Father has not planted, and it brings no fruit to perfection.”

Israel has taken the first step – but there are other things that must be done. We are told at the beginning of our text:

Joshua 5:1 And it came to pass, when all the kings of the Amorites, which were on the side of Jordan westward, and all the kings of the Canaanites, which were by the sea, heard that the Lord had dried up the waters of Jordan from before the children of Israel, until we were passed over, that their heart melted, neither was there spirit in them any more, because of the children of Israel.

Israel is in one accord. All eyes are on Jesus. All eyes are looking forward. “all the Kings” of the Amorites and the Canaanites – those who possess the territories of the Promised Land, are discouraged. The Bible says:

Their heart was melted, neither was
there spirit in them any more”

These kings, all filled with belief in false gods and goddesses, are already defeated in their minds. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords has led His people to cross the uncrossable.

Revelation 19:15 … out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.

The leaders of the lost are defeated in their hearts already. If the leaders are defeated, the people are defeated. I can imagine there were many in Israel who thought “let’s strike while the iron is hot! They’ll give up now. Let’s rush in and do this!” That sounds good on the outside, but it’s not good in reality. We are to look unto Jesus. We are to look upward to our God.

To Be Blessed We Must Obey In The Small Things First

Canaan has been promised to the Children of Israel. Our God is not a man that He should lie; nor the Son of Man that He should repent: hath He said and shall He not do it? Hath He spoken and shall He not make it good? (Numbers 23:19). God will do what God has said He will do.

But God is in no hurry.
God is NEVER in a hurry.

God created the world, the moon, the sun, our Solar System in six literal days and then rested on the seventh day. Why did God create everything so quickly? Because He wanted to. Because He was going to create humanity and put us on a 24 hour clock, 7 days a week. But God did not create quickly because He was anxious or in a hurry. Later in Israel’s history the Prophet Habakkuk became discouraged because it seemed as if God was taking too long to bring repentance to the nation. God told Habakkuk:

Habakkuk 2:2-4 …. Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. 3 For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. 4 Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.

Habakkuk, YOU do your part and I’LL do My part. That’s what God told him. God does not get in a hurry. God prepared Moses to lead Israel for 40 years in the wilderness. God put Joseph in prison for 13 years before He made him the right hand of the King of Egypt. King David did not start out a giant killer, but a child shepherd of no repute. Sometimes we want to hurry up God. We forget that “a thousand years is to God but a day” (2 Peter 3:8).

We don’t need to worry about God keeping His promise. God has promised Israel the Promised Land. That’s why it’s called “The Promised Land”. The Lord first made the promise to Abraham (Genesis 15:18-21). The Lord repeated the promise to Abraham’s son Isaac (Genesis 26:3). The Lord then made the promise to Isaac’s son Jacob (Genesis 28:13), Abraham’s grandson. God told Joshua:

Joshua 1:2-3 … Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel. 3 Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses.

God has made the promise, and His promise is sure. The land ALREADY belongs to Israel – they just have to go and get it. But not yet. Why?

Though God made and will keep His promise to Israel, Israel has not kept their promise to God.

Joshua 5:2-3 At that time the Lord said unto Joshua, Make thee sharp knives, and circumcise again the children of Israel the second time. 3 And Joshua made him sharp knives, and circumcised the children of Israel at the hill of the foreskins.

If you read this text without reading the CONTEXT it sounds as if these people have been circumcised and are being circumcised again. That’s not the case. The Scripture tells us:

Joshua 5:4-5 And this is the cause why Joshua did circumcise: All the people that came out of Egypt, that were males, even all the men of war, died in the wilderness by the way, after they came out of Egypt. 5 Now all the people that came out were circumcised: but all the people that were born in the wilderness by the way as they came forth out of Egypt, them they had not circumcised.

Circumcision was a rite that God established with Abraham when He first promised Israel the land of Canaan. The Bible says that God told him:

Genesis 17:5, 8, 10-14 Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. … 8 And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God. … 10 This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. 11 And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. 12 And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed. 13 He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. 14 And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.

God promised Abraham and his descendants the Land of Canaan – ALL the land of Canaan. But tied to this promise was the covenant of circumcision. The covenant of circumcision has nothing to do with salvation. How do we know this? Because:

God established the Covenant of Circumcision in Genesis 17
Abraham was saved by faith in Genesis 15:6

The Apostle said in Romans 4:7-11 Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. 8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. 9 Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. 10 How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. 11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised …

Abraham had already been saved by faith in Christ (see John 8:56) long before God commanded him and his male descendants to be circumcised. Circumcision has nothing to do with salvation, but with inheritance of the land, for the land of Canaan only belongs to those Jews who were faithful to be circumcised. God established this requirement in Abraham. Every male child was to be circumcised on the eighth day after birth. This rule was absolute on the Jew. In fact, when our Lord Jesus Christ entered into this world, when the Eternal God the Son became the Son of Man, where did Mary and Joseph take the baby Jesus on the eighth day He entered humanity?

Luke 2:21 … when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

The child Jesus was circumcised. Had He not been circumcised then He would have also been cut off from Israel – and that would not do.

The first generation of Israel was an unbelieving generation. God allowed them all to reach their natural deaths before ever attempting to take a believing Israel into the Promised Land. But before THIS generation goes into the Promised Land they must obey God in the small thing.

An Opportunity For Obedience Is Given

We previously read:

Joshua 5:1 … all the kings of the Amorites, …and all the kings of the Canaanites, … their heart melted, neither was there spirit in them any more, because of the children of Israel.

The depression and discouragement that the leaders of Canaan was not there so that Israel could attack. It was there so that Israel could do what they were supposed to do FIRST. Before they can hope to take the land of Canaan they need to observe the Covenant of Circumcision. Circumcision on a baby is not too bad …. but on an adult male is extremely difficult. Israel will need several days to rest and heal before they go forward to Jericho. But Israel must keep their promise to God if they expect to receive the Promised Land.

Salvation has always been by faith in Jesus Christ.
But Blessing …. this only comes by obedience!

God expected His Israel to comply with the Covenant of Circumcision. God never asks us to do the impossible. So God provided a time of peace where the Amorite and Canaanite Kings were too afraid of Israel to bother them. That’s what God does. God gives us opportunity to serve, and commands we do so.

God gives us the POSSIBLE to do while He does the IMPOSSIBLE.
God gives us the COMMON to do while He does the UNCOMMON.

Now I’ll not make light of circumcision. I can only imagine how painful such an act must be. But here’s the thing. If God’s people had done what God told them to do in the FIRST place, there would have been no pain of circumcision in the SECOND place. If the first generation of Israel had circumcised their male babies on the eighth day – which is what they were commanded to do – those same babies would not be suffering adults right now.

Obedience to God brings blessing.
Disobedience to God brings suffering.

Jesus said “blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.(Luke 11:28).

Jesus said “Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be My people, and walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you” (Jeremiah 7:23).

Jesus said “Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock. But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great”. (Luke 6:47-49).

Salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone … but BLESSING comes by obedience whereas CURSING and PAIN comes by disobedience. The parent that does not raise the child to respect the Lord can expect that child to live a life of misery, saved or not. God calls us to do the small things to be blessed in the big things.

Jesus said “baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”. A person tells me “you don’t have to be baptized to be saved. The thief on the Cross next to Jesus was saved. After all, Jesus told him “Today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). My answer is simple. Yes, the thief was saved apart from baptism. But hear me. That thief died screaming. How do I know? The soldier broke his legs before he died (John 19:31-32). The Jews did not want these men hanging on their crosses during the Passover Sabbath. So they asked that the legs of those crucified be broken. Jesus’ legs were not broken, for He had gone to the Father (see John 19:33-34). But this man – saved by faith in Christ – died screaming.

Listen to me, dear Church. Salvation is by faith in Christ. He did the work. But blessing comes only by disobedience. What did Jesus say? “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” (John 10:27-28). Oh, thank You, Jesus, that salvation is by faith in You and You alone. You did the work. You paid the penalty. But Lord, help us all to remember that the blessedness of salvation comes only by obedience. You must obey your Lord and Savior. You must obey your Shepherd, or satan will rend you. You must heed the Light of the World, your Jesus, or you will be consumed by the darkness. You who are His are called to be salt and light in this present world. Jesus said “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.” (Matthew 5:13). You can be the world’s boot licker, or you can be God’s people. I choose to be God’s people.

God Speaks To And Blesses The Obedient

Joshua 5:8-9 And it came to pass, when they had done circumcising all the people, that they abode in their places in the camp, till they were whole. 9 And the Lord said unto Joshua, This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you. Wherefore the name of the place is called Gilgal unto this day.

God was silent to Joshua until Israel did as they were commanded to do. When Israel did what the Lord told them to do then God “rolled away the reproach of Egypt”. The word translated “Gilgal” is a Hebrew word which means “a rolling wheel”. Israel did the first thing first. Now they were moving. Now they were on the way to the blessings that God had in store for them.

As this chapter ends we read that the manna ceased falling on Israel, but “Israel ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year” (verse 12). But here’s something even more interesting.

Joshua 5:13 … when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?

Joshua asked “Whose side are YOU on?” The “Man” he saw was no Man, but The Commander of the Army of the Lord. Joshua immediately fell down on his face and said:

What saith my Lord unto his servant?

In our world today everyone wants to choose side. Democrat, Republican, Liberal, Conservative. We all think that God is on our side. Listen. We don’t need God to be on our side. We need to be on GOD’S side. Joshua didn’t ask any foolish questions. He didn’t ask “Are you here to help us win the battle?” or “Can you break down the walls of Jericho?”. Joshua simply asked:

What do YOU want ME to do?

Until we learn to do God’s work in God’s way we will never be blessed. We need to truly sing “Have Thine own way, Lord, have Thine own way. THOU art the Potter, I am the clay. Mold me and make me after Thy will. While I am waiting, yielded and still.” This is the key to the destruction of evil, and the triumph of God. We are to heed Him, not lead Him.

Have Thine own way, Lord! May God touch your hearts with His Spirit.

Posted in Joshua, Sermons Preached | Tagged , , ,

Preaching Christ Together

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Photo by James Coleman on Unsplash

1 Corinthians 11:26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.

I was reading an article at Psychology Today written by Dr. Glenn Croston entitled “The Thing We Fear More Than Death”. In that article he wrote:

Surveys about our fears commonly show fear of public speaking at the top of the list. Our fear of standing up in front of a group and talking is so great that we fear it more than death..”.

When I was first called into ministry I refused to go because of my fear of public speaking. This is not abnormal, but common among people. When God called Moses to go and pastor Israel he initially refused, saying:

O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.” (Exodus 4:10)

Most of us but the most extroverted are nervous about public speaking. I still feel a little nervousness every Sunday and Wednesday, and even at our Tuesday night group Bible Studies. But God made us for His pleasure, and made us for His glory. He made our mouths, and wants us to use them for His glory.

You may have come to hear me preach today, but today YOU are the preachers. That’s what our text says. You may have missed it because the King James often uses archaic words to describe things. That’s why I like to go back to the original text. Do you see the word shew that is highlighted in our reading for today? This is the Greek word καταγγέλλω katangéllō (pronounced kat-ang-gel’-lo), which means “to preach or proclaim”. What you read is literally:

1 Corinthians 11:26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do preach the Lord’s death till he come.

As the Church comes together to celebrate the Lord’s Table each and every one of us preach a message to others. This same word is used frequently throughout the Book of Acts. It was first used and translated as “preach” in:

Acts 4:2 {Peter and John} …. preached {katangéllō} through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.

Acts 13:5 And when {Barnabas and Paul} were at Salamis, they preached {katangéllō} the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews …

Dear friends, when you are partaking of the Lord’s Table you are – in God’s eyes – preaching Jesus. Unlike Baptist “Eating Meetings” that we periodically have the purpose of this Table is NOT to fill our bellies. Several years ago at a small Church I pastored I was shocked to discover that the leftover elements of the Table were being greedily slurped down by the children of the Church. The lady responsible for the cleanup called the kids in. They then fought one another to try and get as much of the grape juice and bread as they could above their fellow children. I put a stop to that nonsense!

The Lord’s Table Is Not A Time Of Selfishness & Greed

What you do at the Lord’s Table reflects on your walk with Christ. In the CONTEXT of our focal verse we see that the Apostle Paul admonished the Corinthian Church for their perversion of the Lord’s Table. He wrote:

1 Corinthians 11:20-22 When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper. 21 For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. 22 What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? what shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.

The Apostle Paul was not against what we call “Baptist Eatin’ Meetin’s”. When we were building an Education Annex and Fellowship Hall at Rock Hill Baptist I had one member come to me with this text. The member said “the Bible says we’re not supposed to eat at Church!”. No, this is a misapplication of the text. What the Apostle is telling us has nothing to do with eating at Church but the Lord’s Supper. The Corinthians were coming together at the Lord’s Table like it was a buffet line at Farmer’s Restaurant. They were coming together, pushing and shoving, and serving themselves. In fact, they were perverting the table. The Apostle said:

one is hungry, and another is drunken

The Pastor and Deacons at Corinth had allowed the Lord’s Table to degrade into a Roman Bacchanal. For the uninitiated a Bacchanal is a time when Roman citizens would come together to gluttonously eat and drink alcohol until they were in a stupor. They would then crawl to a section that was called the vomitorium where they would empty their stomachs, so they could go back to the feast and gluttonously eat some more. The Bible says:

Proverbs 23:20-21 Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh: 21 For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags.

The Lord’s Table is not a time to fill your belly nor to get drunk. The Corinthians were literally getting drunk at that Table. (The Apostle uses the word μεθύω methýō, (pronounced meth-oo’-o) in 1 Corinthians 11:21, which means to be inebriated or drunken).

The Lord’s Table is not a time when we celebrate the flesh, but the love of Christ. We celebrate the fact that Jesus Christ our Lord became Man – Perfect Man – so that He could save us. Jesus came to save us from our sins. The Scripture declares that all are dead in trespasses and in sins.

Colossians 2:13-14 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath {God the Holy Spirit} quickened together with {Jesus Christ}, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to {Jesus’} cross;

The Lord’s Table is not a time to feed our flesh or celebrate the sinful flesh. It is a time to praise God for the fact that He has saved us from our sins. We do not need to be like the Roman society which celebrated sexual and fleshly satisfaction. The Christian is the person who has been saved from corruption, saved from damnation, and saved to a glorious now and future eternity with Christ. You WERE dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh. But now you are quickened – made alive together with Christ by God the Holy Spirit. You are a living Creature of God, dear Christian, new and reborn. Unlike the lost who reject the Cross of Christ God has forgiven you all trespasses. You are no longer separated from God because of sin. God is in you, and you are in God, and it is all because of Christ.

At The Lord’s Table We Preach The Reality Of Sin

In our world today sin is out of fashion. The primary reason that many think nothing of what the Bible calls “sin” is because of Hollywood. Marilyn Monroe said: “I am good, but not an angel. I do sin, but I’m not the devil. I’m just a small girl in a big world trying to find someone to love”.

Al Pacino said: “Vanity is my favorite sin”. He also said “I asked God for a bike. But I know God doesn’t work that way. So I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness.”

Jean Harlow said “I like to wake up each morning feeling a new man”.

Two of these stars were from the 1930’s and 1950’s. You probably have only heard of Al Pacino, who came to stardom in the 70s. What these stars said was mild compared the Hollywood’s portrayal of sin. Recently the State of Georgia’s Governor Brian Kemp signed into law a “Fetal Heartbeat” Abortion Law. The law basically says that when doctors can detect a fetal heartbeat they are not allowed to abort the child. Praise God for that! Yet many are crying out against the Law, knowing that the child is a child. The giant film company Disney which made billions of dollars promoting and producing child and family friendly television and movie entertainment has said it will shut down all operations in Georgia. Companies like Netflix have also joined suit. Sin is “in”, apparently, with everyone but God.

When we partake of the Lord’s Table we show the reality of sin. Read again our focal text:

1 Corinthians 11:26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do {preach} the Lord’s death till he come.

Why did God the Son become the Son of Man? Because of sin. Sin separates us from God. Sin puts a wall between we who are created and our Creator. God told Adam:

Genesis 2:16-17 … the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

The devil told Adam “you shall not surely die”. The world tells us today “sin will not kill you – it’s just a little harmless fun”. The entertainment industry tells us “Sin? There’s no such thing as “sin”. There are only choices. Live and let live!” The feminist says “It’s my body, and that thing growing in me is but a parasite. I have the right to kill it.” The Supreme Court says “Ignore what the Bible says. Ignore the Constitution. No one has the right to life. After all, they are only 3/5th human”. The world says “sin” is nothing. But God says different.

Romans 5:6-10 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. 8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

Sin separates us from God. Sin brings death with it. It curses all it touches. The Scripture warns “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Sin is no trifle. Sin is a liar. Sin is a robber. Sin destroys that which it touch. By sin women are enslaved. By sin drugs reign over a life. By sin blindness comes on us all. Christ came to defeat sin. The Bible tells us that …

Philippians 2:6-8 {Jesus Christ}, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: (7) But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: (8) And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

When Jesus came into Jerusalem on the Day of the Passover He knew He would die. He said:

Matthew 26:2 … Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified.

The Bible tells us that Jesus celebrated the Passover Meal with His disciples (see Matthew 26:17-18; Mark 14:14, 16). It was at the end of the Feast of the Passover that Jesus created the Lord’s Table.

Luke 22:15 {Jesus} said unto {His disciples}, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer:

1 Corinthians 11:23-26 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: 24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. 25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. 26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.

The Bread is symbolic of the Body of our Lord Jesus. He went to the Cross of Calvary. He was beaten and bruised to pay the penalty of sin. Hanging on Calvary at noon day, suddenly darkness eclipsed the sun. In the midst of this unnatural darkness the Bible tells us:

Matthew 27:46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

The breaking of Christ’s body brought no cries of pain from the Master. But the pouring out of our sin on His soul caused His cry of anguish. He went as a sheep the the slaughter. Jesus Christ died for us. Pastor Joel Beeke writes:

Unanswered, Jesus feels forgotten of God. He is also expressing the agony of unbearable stress. It is the kind of “roaring” mentioned in Psalm 22: the roar of desperate agony without rebellion. It is the hellish cry uttered when the undiluted wrath of God overwhelms the soul. It is heart-piercing, heaven-piercing, and hell-piercing. Further, Jesus is expressing the agony of unmitigated sin. All the sins of the elect, and the hell that they deserve for eternity, are laid upon Him. And Jesus is expressing the agony of unassisted solitariness. In His hour of greatest need comes a pain unlike anything the Son has ever experienced: His Father’s abandonment. When Jesus most needs encouragement, no voice cries from heaven, “This is my beloved Son.” No angel is sent to strengthen Him; no “well done, thou good and faithful servant” resounds in His ears. The women who supported Him are silent. The disciples, cowardly and terrified, have fled. Feeling disowned by all, Jesus endures the way of suffering alone, deserted, and forsaken in utter darkness. Every detail of this horrific abandonment declares the heinous character of our sins!”

The Lord’s Table is such a simple sermon that even a child can understand it. A child sitting next to his father whispers, “Why do we do this thing?” The father says, “My child, we take the broken bread to show how Jesus Christ suffered for our sins. We pour out and drink this cup to show how Jesus shed His Blood for me and for you. We eat this and drink this to show that we are not just saying we are Christians, but that Jesus is inside of us by faith. He lives in each and every one of His believers.”

People make the Lord’s Table out to be complex, but its not complex. It is elegant in its simplicity.

When I eat the Lord’s bread I am eating it for me.
When I drink the Lord’s cup I am drinking it for me.
I am not eating it for my neighbor, my wife, or my child.
I HAVE PERSONALLY RECEIVED CHRIST. HE DIED FOR ME!

My salvation and my hope is all of Christ. My satisfaction is all of Christ. As the Apostle said, so do I say:

Galatians 2:20-21 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (21) I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

The Lord’s Table celebrates Christ. It is done in remembrance of Him. What Law saved me? The law of Grace. What right do I enter Heaven. By the right of Grace. How am I held for all eternity? In the arms of Grace. Jesus Christ gave Himself for me, and I eat signifying my faith in Him and Him alone. When I eat of the Lord’s Table I am openly declaring there is no other way unto God but Jesus Christ alone.

1 Timothy 2:3-6 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; (4) Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. (5) For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; (6) Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

The Lord’s Table clearly sets forth one Mediator for all. Everybody who sits to this Table can eat – anybody can be saved. Who did Jesus Christ die for? He died for all. He gave Himself a ransom for all. Are you not saved? It is not God’s fault. Be ye saved!

At The Lord’s Table We Preach The Family Of God

The world says “All men are brothers”.
Evolution says “All people are evolved animals”.
But God says “My Children are those who love Jesus”.

One day Jesus was sitting and teaching in a crowded room. Someone interrupted Him and said “Your mother and Your brothers are outside. They want to talk to You.” (Matthew 12:46). Jesus replied simply:

Matthew 12:48-50 {Jesus}answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? 49 And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! 50 For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.

It is the “will of the Father” that we believe in Jesus (John 6:29; 17:21; Matthew 7:21). When we come to the Lord’s Table and partake of it we are preaching that (1) we believe in Jesus Christ as the only Way unto God (John 14:6), and (2) that we are part of the family of God because of salvation available only through Jesus.

We are family. We take this Lord’s Table TOGETHER. We do this because salvation binds us together under His Blood.

Titus 2:14 {Jesus Christ} gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

The Bible warns us to take care and to examine OURSELVES.

1 Corinthians 11:27-32 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. 29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.

Every person partaking of the Lord’s Table is to examine HIMSELF or HERSELF. You are not to examine your neighbor. Examine yourself as to whether or not you are saved by faith in Christ. Examine yourself as to whether or not you are in fellowship with God. No one examines you here. You examine yourself. John MacArthur writes:

The result of coming to the Lord’s Table unworthily is that you are guilty of treating Christ’s unique life and death as something common and insignificant. A man who tramples on his nation’s flag isn’t merely trampling on a piece of cloth; he is guilty of dishonoring his country. Likewise, someone who tramples on the body and blood of Christ, as represented in the elements of Communion, is guilty of dishonoring Christ Himself. Communion is a real encounter with Christ. It’s so real that failure to acknowledge the reality behind it brings about judgment.”

May God speak to your hearts as we now come to His Lord’s Table! Let us preach Christ TOGETHER! And if you are not saved by faith in Him, NOW is the time to call upon Jesus and be saved. May God the Holy Spirit lead you to do so this very moment! Amen!

Posted in Communion, Sermons Preached | Tagged

Twelve Ebenezers

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Photo by Austin Neill on Unsplash

Joshua 4:1-7 (KJV)  And it came to pass, when all the people were clean passed over Jordan, that the LORD spake unto Joshua, saying,  [2]  Take you twelve men out of the people, out of every tribe a man,  [3]  And command ye them, saying, Take you hence out of the midst of Jordan, out of the place where the priests’ feet stood firm, twelve stones, and ye shall carry them over with you, and leave them in the lodging place, where ye shall lodge this night.  [4]  Then Joshua called the twelve men, whom he had prepared of the children of Israel, out of every tribe a man:  [5]  And Joshua said unto them, Pass over before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of Jordan, and take ye up every man of you a stone upon his shoulder, according unto the number of the tribes of the children of Israel:  [6]  That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones?  [7]  Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever.

Sunday night we talked about Israel crossing the Jordan River. But we didn’t finish the story. One of the greatest events that God brought Israel to was the crossing of the Red Sea when they left Egypt. I looked it up Monday morning. The Red Sea crossing is in Exodus 14, and is recounted in about 964 words in my King James Bible. But the Jordan River crossing is in Joshua chapters 3 & 4 and is recounted in about 1318 words in the same Bible. It is almost as if God puts more weight on what happened at the Jordan with the second generation of Israel than He does with what happened at the Red Sea. Why is that?

I think it has to do with the Ebenezers.

What in the world is An “Ebenezer”?

You’ve sung about “Ebenezers” in Church. Our worship leader has led you in singing about them. Don’t believe me? We have all sung the song “Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing”. The second stanza of the song says:

Here I raise my Ebenezer
Here there by Thy great help I’ve come
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home
Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wandering from the fold of God
He, to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood

When Baptist Minister (Stone-Yard Baptist Chapel, Cambridge, England) Robert Robinson wrote Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing in 1758 the Bible, the Word of God, was cherished by that nation. People knew what an Ebenezer was. After today you will know what it is as well. To understand an Ebenezer we need to look in 1 Samuel.

In 1 Samuel 3 we see the Lord calling the Prophet Samuel to service. Samuel’s momma Hannah was blessed by God to have Samuel. She promised the Lord that she would dedicate little Samuel to God, and she did as she promised. She took the child to the Temple to serve God with Eli the High Priest. The Bible says (1 Samuel 2:12) “the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the LORD”. Rather than correct his sons Eli looked the other way. This would come back to kill him. But Samuel from a child was taught to love God. His heart was dedicated to the Lord. And the Lord rewarded him by calling him to be a Prophet.

As goes the Pulpit, so goes the Church. Eli’s sons (1 Samuel 2:17) “sin … was very great before the LORD”. Like many preachers today they not only sinned, but tolerated sin within the camp.

Because of the sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, God was not respected. The Bible says that “men abhorred the offering of the Lord” (again 1 Samuel 2:17). But “Samuel ministered before the Lord” (1 Samuel 2:18). Here you see the forces of God and satan struggling. Oh Beloved, we must follow Jesus!

As goes the Pulpit, so goes the Church.
As goes the Church, so goes the Nation.

Israel went to war against the Philistines. No one believed in the God of our Bible, and Israel proved it by going to war without the Ark of the Covenant. Sunday night I spoke of the Ark of the Covenant and showed you in Scripture where the Ark represented Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. As Israel crossed the Jordan they were to keep their eyes on the Ark – but their focus was to be Christ. When Israel fought the enemy they were to keep their eyes on the Ark, but their focus was to be Christ. Israel went out against the Philistines with neither Ark nor Christ.

1 Samuel 4:1 … the word of Samuel came to all Israel. Now Israel went out against the Philistines to battle, and pitched beside Ebenezer: and the Philistines pitched in Aphek.

Israel Lost To The Philistines At Ebenezer

Here we see the first use of the word “Ebenezer” in Scripture. Israel set up camp next to a place called “Ebenezer”, the Hebrew אֶבֶן הָעֵזֶר ʼEben hâ-ʻÊzer, (pronounced eh’-ben haw-e’-zer) which means “Rock of Help”. Our God is “The Rock of Help”.

Psalm 18:2 The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.

There are no coincidences in life nor in the Bible. Israel is fighting an enemy from “The Rock of Help”. God is trying to speak to Israel, but they are not listening. “The word of Samuel” the faithful Prophet came to all Israel, but they would not listen.

Israel is fighting the enemy without God!

Israel was not glorifying the Lord Who saved them. Israel was lazy and lethargic, faithless, sadly influenced by the likes of Hophni and Phinehas. The High Priest Eli was no help either. Israel set up to do battle in Ebenezer thinking they would win. They didn’t. Israel was soundly beaten by the Philistines, losing about 4000 men (1 Samuel 4:2).

Beloved, if we will do great things FOR God we must do all things FOR God and FOR His Glory!

Jesus said in John 15:5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

Israel should have regrouped, repented, and recommitted themselves to God our Savior. Instead of doing this Israel went and got their “lucky rabbit’s foot”,
the Ark of the Covenant.

The Bible tells us in (1 Samuel 4:5-7) … when the ark of the covenant of the LORD came into the camp, all Israel shouted with a great shout, so that the earth rang again.  [6]  And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shout, they said, What meaneth the noise of this great shout in the camp of the Hebrews? And they understood that the ark of the LORD was come into the camp.  [7]  And the Philistines were afraid, for they said, God is come into the camp. And they said, Woe unto us! for there hath not been such a thing heretofore.

The Israelites were happy and knew they were going to win because “The Ark of the Covenant” was in the camp. Israel didn’t have God, but they had a Lucky Rabbit’s Foot. I once chanced upon a video of a famous “Rap Singer” who spoke some of the most horrific words I had ever heard. As he spoke and cursed around his neck hung a golden chain with a Cross hanging upon it. The Cross to him was nothing but costume jewelry. The Cross is to many no more than a Lucky Rabbit’s Foot, a Four Leaf Clover, or costume Jewelry. That’s how Israel was regarding the Ark of the Covenant. It was a “good luck charm”. When they brought it into the camp they had a party!

The Philistines heard that the Ark was in the camp of Israel, and began to fear. They thought they were going to lose because the God of Israel had come into the camp. Both were wrong. The unbelievers rallied themselves, attacked, and beat Israel soundly. As a matter of fact the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant and took away Israel’s rabbit foot at Ebenezer.

1 Samuel 4:11 (KJV) … the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain.

When Eli heard this the High Priest (1 Samuel 4:18) “fell from off the seat backward by the side of the gate, and his neck brake, and he died”. Israel was without God and without hope. The glory of God had departed His people!

Ichabod Was Written On That Nation!
The Glory of God had departed!

For twenty years – yes 20 – the Philistines dominated Israel. It was not until “all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD” (1 Samuel 7:2) that the people would hear the Prophet Samuel. Samuel told them:

1 Samuel 7:3 (KJV) … If ye do return unto the LORD with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the LORD, and serve him only: and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.

Israel was to REPENT and RECOMMIT themselves to God. God does not give victory to His people because they follow a rabbit’s foot. He gives victory to His people when THEY ARE HIS PEOPLE. When the hearts of God’s people are on the Lord He knows.

Psalm 119:1-3 Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord. 2 Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart. 3 They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways.

We Serve A Mighty God Who Loves Us So

When Israel repented of their sin and turned their hearts back to God “putting away the false gods, the Baalim and Ashtaroth, and serving the LORD only”. Israel heard the message and turned their hearts to the Lord. Guess what?

Their hearts on God, Israel beat the Philistines.
Israel was beaten at Ebenezer because of their hearts.
Israel lost the Ark at Ebenezer because of their hearts.
Now Israel beat the Philistines because of their hearts.
God was in their hearts!

When Israel committed their hearts to God the Lord fought through them. They defeated the Philistines. To help Israel remember this day the Prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 7:12) “took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the LORD helped us”. Samuel established a SECOND Ebenezer.

The Ebenezer is a reminder that God is the Rock of Help.

This is what is at the heart of what God has the Children of Israel do on the other side of the Jordan. Let’s read again:

Joshua 4:1-3 (KJV)  And it came to pass, when all the people were clean passed over Jordan, that the LORD spake unto Joshua, saying,  [2]  Take you twelve men out of the people, out of every tribe a man,  [3]  And command ye them, saying, Take you hence out of the midst of Jordan, out of the place where the priests’ feet stood firm, twelve stones, and ye shall carry them over with you, and leave them in the lodging place, where ye shall lodge this night.

What God asked was simple. Israel had crossed over the Jordan as if on dry land. The priests holding the Ark of the Covenant – a picture of Jesus Christ our Lord – were still standing in the middle of the Jordan. The raging water was stopped by God upstream, and stood up like a crystal pillar for all to see. God was in no hurry.

Pick a leader from each of the twelve tribes.
Let each man go into the middle of the still dry Jordan.
And bring one stone per man back to where Israel is.

Why pick a stone? It is an Ebenezer. It is what Samuel would do over 400 years later. Joshua explains to the Israelites:

Joshua 4:5-7 (KJV)… Joshua said unto them, Pass over before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of Jordan, and take ye up every man of you a stone upon his shoulder, according unto the number of the tribes of the children of Israel:  [6]  That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones?  [7]  Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever.

The stones that the men were to carry from the middle of the dry Jordan were to be “carried on their shoulders”. These were not to be insignificant little rocks you put in your pocket. These were to be BIG stones, something heavy, something that took effort to lift.

God Did The Impossible
The Twelve Did The Hard But Possible

God held back the Jordan, but now these twelve men were to do their BEST. They were supposed to go above and beyond what I like to call “close enough for government work”. They were to understand that the Ebenezer they picked up was to glorify God.

1 Corinthians 10:31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

Colossians 3:23 … whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;

They were to seek EXCELLENCE for the Lord. Not half hearted. With Excellence! These stones were to be used as an example and a memorial for the future generations of Israelites. When the children of their children would look at these stones and ask “why are these stones here?” that their parents could remind them of the great things that God did with Israel. God is so good to us all. He deserves our excellence. He deserves our praise.

When our children and children’s children look back at what mark we make, what will they see?

Joshua 4:18-24 And it came to pass, when the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord were come up out of the midst of Jordan, and the soles of the priests’ feet were lifted up unto the dry land, that the waters of Jordan returned unto their place, and flowed over all his banks, as they did before. 19 And the people came up out of Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and encamped in Gilgal, in the east border of Jericho. 20 And those twelve stones, which they took out of Jordan, did Joshua pitch in Gilgal. 21 And he spake unto the children of Israel, saying, When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean these stones? 22 Then ye shall let your children know, saying, Israel came over this Jordan on dry land. 23 For the Lord your God dried up the waters of Jordan from before you, until ye were passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red sea, which he dried up from before us, until we were gone over: 24 That all the people of the earth might know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty: that ye might fear the Lord your God for ever.

What mark will you leave for the Lord?

In 1880 a Wells Fargo agent named Lester Moore was killed and buried by Frank Dunston (or so I’ve been told). Dunston was angry over a package that arrived both late and damaged. Having words with Moore, Dunston pulled his .44 hogleg and shot him to death. Lester allegedly was buried in Boot Hill Cemetery in Tombstone, Arizona. His grave marker – his Ebenezer – reads:

Here Lies Lester Moore
Four Slugs From A 44
No Les
No More

Jesus gave everything for you. What will you do for Him? Let us live to glorify the Lord Whom we love! May God lead someone to Christ through this message.

Posted in Joshua, Sermons Preached | Tagged , ,

Raising The Standard Of Faith

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Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

You who are Christians are believers and priests before God. The Scripture tells us in 1 Peter 2:9 “YOU ARE a chosen generation, a ROYAL PRIESTHOOD …”. The priests of Joshua’s day TOGETHER held up the Ark of the Covenant.

Joshua 3:17 … And the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the midst of Jordan, and all the Israelites passed over on dry ground, until all the people were passed clean over Jordan.

You who are Christians are believers and priests before God. The Scripture tells us in 1 Peter 2:9 “YOU ARE a chosen generation, a ROYAL PRIESTHOOD …”. The priests of Joshua’s day TOGETHER held up the Ark of the Covenant. They TOGETHER marched to the voice of Jesus Christ our Lord. They TOGETHER did as the Lord told them and the miraculous occurred. O Lord, we need a miracle!

When Israel got to the edge of the Promised Land on this side of the Jordan they saw something discouraging. The Bible says:

Joshua 3:15 … the Jordan OVERFLOWETH all his banks
all the time of harvest

The Jordan River is usually a gentle river, but during the time of harvest rains have caused it to swell. It is absolutely uncrossable! When the Jordan flood the currents reach 40 miles an hour. Besides this, there is brush and debris that has been cast about by the hard flow. The Prophet Jeremiah wrote of the swelling of the Jordan (Jeremiah 12:5). The river is about a mile wide, white water rapids. Yet Joshua tells the people that tomorrow they are going to cross this impossible crossing. How? TOGETHER following the Lord.

Beloved, God is ABLE!

Tonight we’re going to talk about Raising The Standard Of Faith. I looked up the word “Standard” in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. It is …

a conspicuous object (such as a banner) formerly carried at the top of a pole and used to mark a rallying point especially in battle or to serve as an emblem”

something set up and established by authority as a rule for the measure of quantity, weight, extent, value, or quality”

Before the American Christian can make an impact on the darkness that has become our nation we must raise the standard of faith. Before the Israelite can enter into the Promised Land and take the land for the glory of God they had to raise the standard of faith.

We looked at the life of Rahab this morning, and how the Lord saved her soul. The Bible tells us that she hid the two spies from Israel, and sent them back safely to Israel. Rahab believed the Lord. The Bible says:

Joshua 2:21-24 {Rahab} sent {the spies}, and they departed: and she bound the scarlet line in the window.

The Scarlet Line was Rahab’s standard. She obedient raised this Standard, believing that she and all her household would be saved by it. When the two spies got safely back to Israel they told Joshua …

Joshua 2:24 … Truly the Lord hath delivered into our hands all the land; for even all the inhabitants of the country do faint because of us

The spies returned to Joshua with a faith filled message. Rahab was saved. Her faith and her witness inspired them. Listen Beloved:

You can be a witness to faith,
Or you can be a witness to failure.
You can trust God like Rahab and inspire others,
Or you can be a wet blanket. You choose!

God is in control. God is moving ahead of His people. The spies did not focus on the threat of the enemy seeking their lives, but focused on Rahab and what God did in her life. How does Joshua respond? He looked up, and listened up.

Faith Follows God Not Fear – It MOVES

Joshua 3:1 Joshua rose EARLY in the morning; and they removed from Shittim, and came to Jordan, he and all the children of Israel, and lodged there before they passed over.

Joshua did not hesitate. He got up EARLY in the morning. Joshua then positioned the people physically to obey the Lord. He had Israel move from where they were to the edge of the raging Jordan.

There are times you SIT and SERVE,
But other times you GET Up.

The Bible commands the believer to walk by FAITH and not by SIGHT (2 Corinthians 5:7). W-A-L-K! We are to follow the Lord. We are to position ourselves to do God’s will. The Great Commission that Jesus gave His Church is found in ..

Matthew 28:19-20 GO ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

The first part of our Commission is “Go”. We help others to go, and that is great. But God expects us to GO as well. To GO to our neighbors. To GO and share Christ. Unless GO is first done then there is nothing else. We need to position ourselves physically to serve the Lord.

The reason that Joshua is leading the Children of Israel NOW is because Joshua always positioned himself THEN to serve God and support Moses.

Nobody had to chase Joshua to get him to worship the Lord. I’ve told you all before I will not chase anyone to get them in Church. God has not called me to this. I will visit you if you’re sick, pray for you, encourage you. Heck, I’ll even bring you food! But I will not chase and babysit you. If you want to be a WINNER do what God says. Joshua did what God said. Joshua wanted to be on the front pew at the Church. You see this over and over again.

Exodus 33:8-11 And it came to pass, when Moses went out unto the tabernacle, that all the people rose up, and stood every man at his tent door, and looked after Moses, until he was gone into the tabernacle. 9 And it came to pass, as Moses entered into the tabernacle, the cloudy pillar descended, and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the Lord talked with Moses. 10 And all the people saw the cloudy pillar stand at the tabernacle door: and all the people rose up and worshipped, every man in his tent door. 11 And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. And he turned again into the camp: but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle.

Joshua is like the little brother that wants to tag along with Moses. You see Moses gets up and goes into the Tabernacle. There goes little Joshua. Moses enters the Tabernacle for a one on One with God. There goes little Joshua. Moses speaks to God, and God speaks to Moses face to face. Where were the people of Israel? They stood in their tent openings. They stayed home that day. They watched Charles Stanley and Adrian Rogers on the television. They listened to that nut from Shepherd’s Chapel. But where was Joshua? Why there’s little Joshua. He’s hiding behind a pew. He’s tagging along. One day Joshua will be GREAT.

Joshua departed NOT out of the Tabernacle.
He wanted what Moses had.
He wanted to be near God.
So Joshua POSITIONED himself near to God.

Do you want to be closer to God? Then position yourself where God is apt to be. Has He not said “where two or more are gathered together in My name, there AM I IN THE MIDST OF THEM” (Matthew 18:20).

When Moses went up the Mount at Sinai in obedience to God who was with him? You’ve got it. There goes little brother Joshua!

Exodus 24:13 …And Moses rose up, and his minister Joshua

A.W. Tozer, a mighty man of God said “I want the presence of God Himself, or I don’t want anything at all to do with religion… I want all that God has or I don’t want any.” That’s how Joshua lived his life. He wanted to be near God, and so he was. You will have as much of God as you want in your life. If God seems far from you, it’s because that’s what you want and what you do. Stop it! Follow the Lord!

Faith Follows … Jesus

The Leaders Of The People Raised ONE Standard To Follow. We read:

Joshua 3:2-4 … the officers went through the host; 3 And they commanded the people, saying, When ye see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it. 4 Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure: come not near unto it, that ye may know the way by which ye must go: for ye have not passed this way heretofore.

The Leaders of Israel did not promote themselves. If you have leaders who promote themselves, they are BAD leaders. When I was in the Air Force I saw several commanders busted down and fired from their jobs. Why? Because they made something else their standard. They stopped standing for the mission of the Air Force and, thank God, they were removed. These leaders were good leaders. They encouraged the people to follow the Ark of the Covenant.

The Ark of the Covenant is an Old Testament picture of Jesus Christ. There are three things in the Ark:

Hebrews 9:4 …. ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant;..

  1. The Ark contained the Golden Pot with manna in it, a reminder of how God fed His Children – disobedient though they were – in the wilderness. Jesus said …

John 6:32-35; 47-51 … Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. … 35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. … 47 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. 48 I am that bread of life. 49 Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. 50 This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

The Manna in the Golden Pot was a picture of our Jesus Who is pure, without sin (see 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22).

  1. The Ark contained Aaron’s Rod that budded (Numbers 17:5). This again is a picture of Christ. Crucified on the Tree of Calvary our Lord rose from the grave. Our Jesus has conquered death, and tells all who will receive Him as Lord and Savior:

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (see also John 11:25-26)

  1. The Ark Also Contained The Law On Tablets Of Stone. Our Jesus fulfilled the Law of God, keeping it perfectly for us. He said “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17). Jesus is the High Priest (Hebrews 3:1; 4:14; 5:10; 6:20) who shed His own blood for the forgiveness of our sins (Hebrews 9:12, 14; 10:10, 19; 13:12, 20). Jesus is the Messiah, the one born of the virgin (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:18, 25), who is the seed of Abraham (Genesis 22:18; Matthew 1:1). Jesus was crucified (Psalm 22:1, 11-18; Luke 23:33), and rose from the dead (Psalm 16:10; John 2:19-31; Matthew 28:6-7; Luke 24:6).

The Scripture declares in 2 Corinthians 5:21 For {God the Father} hath made {Jesus Christ} to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

The Ark Is A Picture Of Christ.
Keep A Space Between The Ark & Yourselves!

Joshua 3:4 … come not near unto it, that ye may know the way by which ye must go: for ye have not passed this way heretofore

We are to see the ARK, not OURSELVES or SOMEONE ELSE. Look to Him. Look to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). He is

the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE (John 14:6)

Faith Dedicates Itself To God

Joshua positioned the people Spiritually to obey the Lord.

Joshua 3:5 And Joshua said unto the people, Sanctify yourselves: for to morrow the Lord will do wonders among you.

The word “sanctify” is the Hebrew קָדַשׁ qâdash, (pronounced kaw-dash’) which means “separate yourself, consecrate yourself, to be hallowed or dedicated to God”. Israel was to be spiritually clean, renouncing all sin, before they could be used of God. God will not work with a sinful and uncommitted people. The Scripture says:

Isaiah 59:2 … your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.

Proverbs 28:13 He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.

1 Peter 1:15-16 … as He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all {your way of life}; 16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

God does not call His people to penance, but to repentance. Turn from your wickedness. Grab hold of the Mercy Seat, and rely upon the Blood of Christ. His Blood will cleanse you from all sin!

If we confess our sin to God, He is faithful and just to forgive us all sin, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Do not be lukewarm as Laodicea (Revelation 3:15-16). Do not forget Who our first love is as Ephesus did (Revelation 2:4). God wants ALL of us. He wants the WHOLE person dedicated to doing His will for his glory.

Our God Is Faithful

Joshua 3:10-17 Joshua said … Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth passeth over before you into Jordan. 12 Now therefore take you twelve men out of the tribes of Israel, out of every tribe a man. 13 And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests that bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of Jordan, that the waters of Jordan shall be cut off from the waters that come down from above; and they shall stand upon an heap. 14 And it came to pass, when the people removed from their tents, to pass over Jordan, and the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people; 15 And as they that bare the ark were come unto Jordan, and the feet of the priests that bare the ark were dipped in the brim of the water, (for Jordan overfloweth all his banks all the time of harvest,) 16 That the waters which came down from above stood and rose up upon an heap … and the people passed over right against Jericho. 17 And the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the midst of Jordan, and all the Israelites passed over on dry ground, until all the people were passed clean over Jordan.

What a beautiful picture this is! God’s people have their hearts focused upon the Lord. They are where God told them to be. Their hearts are focused on glorifying the Lord. What happens? God’s people cross the uncrossable. Beloved:

To Cross the Uncrossable Lift Up The Cross
Follow Christ in Love and Obedience
Take The Step of Faith
For God is Faithful!

The priests stepped out into the raging waters – and they parted. Somewhere up river the water is stood up like a crystal pillar. The riverbed is not just free of water – it is DRIED. The thunder of the river is replaced with the thunder of God’s people stepping forward in uniform obedience to the Lord. This event was so significant in the life of Israel that the Lord wrote a song about it:

Psalm 114:1-8 When Israel went out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language; 2 Judah was his sanctuary, and Israel his dominion. 3 The sea saw it, and fled: Jordan was driven back. 4 The mountains skipped like rams, and the little hills like lambs. 5 What ailed thee, O thou sea, that thou fleddest? thou Jordan, that thou wast driven back? 6 Ye mountains, that ye skipped like rams; and ye little hills, like lambs? 7 Tremble, thou earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob; 8 Which turned the rock into a standing water, the flint into a fountain of waters.

A turbulent Jordan stretches before this and every Church in America. We live in atheistic times. How can we overcome? We cannot, but God can. We cannot win, but Christ can. God can do the impossible. He has done the impossible before. He can do it again. Will we look to Him or will we, as many other Churches have done, compromised and died? I want to see God part the waters once more. I want to see God do a miracle. I want to see Jesus make a difference in our community. Will you go with me, and look to Him, stepping out in faith? Surrender to Him, and look to Him. He is able!

Posted in Joshua, Sermons Preached | Tagged , , ,

Bind The Scarlet Thread

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Photo by Daniel von Appen on Unsplash

Joshua 2:21 .. and she bound the scarlet line in the window.

Only Your Unbelief Hides God

One of the great objections I often hear as to exclusivity of Christ – that is, that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life … and that no one can come to the Father but by Him (Jesus’ words in John 14:6) is the question:

What about those who have never heard of Christ?
Will they be condemned by God?”

Those who ask such questions may or may not be sincere – I don’t know their hearts. But I do know this. My God is big enough to make sure that EVERYONE who wants to be saved CAN be saved. The Bible begins with this truth. Abel was saved by Christ, though he was murdered by his brother Cain:

Hebrews 11:4 By faith Abel offered unto God …

  • Enoch – another early Saint – walked with God and did not see death (Hebrews 11:5). He walked with God prior to Scripture and missionaries. God is able.

  • Noah was approached by God (Hebrews 11:7) and built an Ark based on God’s direction. Again, no one told Noah about Jesus but God.

  • Abraham – an ancient Babylonian man – came to Christ by faith (Hebrews 11:8). Jesus said of Abraham:

Your forefather Abraham was overjoyed to see My day. He saw it, and rejoiced!” (my paraphrase of John 8:56)

God is bigger than most of us conceive. God has said:

Proverbs 8:17 I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find Me.

Before God wrote this Bible that we cherish God wrote Himself on nature.

Only the most foolish can look at the design all about us and not know that such beauty cannot come from chaos, but from a Creator and a Master Designer. Only the most spiritually blind person – someone who my mamma used to say “doesn’t have the sense God gave a billy goat” – can look at creation and not know there is a Creator God. God is. God is.

But beyond this, God sees.
God watches the hearts.
God does not hide Himself.

God clearly reveals Himself to whosoever will believe in Him. The Israel that believed in the Lord and followed Him was blessed. The Israel that disbelieved – the Exodus generation – brought cursing upon themselves. The first generation of Israel “forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of their salvation” (Deuteronomy 32:15). An evil heart of unbelief manifested itself over and over again, until God finally said:

Hebrews 3:10-11 Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do always err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. {11} So I swore in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.)

Christ has never hidden Himself from seekers. He woos us. If you go to hell, it is because you have heard Him call but have refused Him.

Hell is not God’s problem or God’s error.
Hell is man’s willing choice.

How terrible is sinful unbelief! The disciples could not cast a devil out of a child because of unbelief (Matthew 17:20). Unbelief caused some of Israel to be broken off (Romans 11:20) from the blessings of God for a time. Unbelief is the source of all blasphemies against God (1 Timothy 1:13). Sin and unbelief caused Sodom and Gomorrah to be destroyed of God (Genesis 18:20). Sin wrecks kingdoms and destroys civilizations (Genesis 20:9). The mighty Grecian Empire that once ruled the world died under the sins of hedonism and debauchery. The mighty Roman Empire died under the weight of evil and unbelieving rulers like Nero and bloody Caligula. The great and ancient city of Jericho died under the weight of Divine Judgment.

God Will Save The Rahab Who Hears

Joshua 2:21 .. and she bound the scarlet line in the window.

Who is this “SHE”? This “SHE” is named Rahab. The word “Rahab” is actually the Hebrew רָחָב Râchâb, (pronounced raw-khawb’) which means “proud”. What is Rahab’s story? How did she even get into the Bible?

God had told Joshua that it was time for him to lead Israel into the Promised Land of Canaan. When God told Moses to go into the Promised Land the Lord told Moses to send twelve spies – one from each tribe – into the land (Numbers 13:2). Of those twelve all but two of them fell under the sin of unbelief. Their unbelief caused Israel to wander for forty years in the wilderness until the generation of all the unbelievers died. Now Joshua takes over. Forty years of misery is past. Israel and her leadership has learned the lessons of faith. The Bible says:

Joshua 2:1 … Joshua the son of Nun sent out of Shittim two men to spy secretly, saying, Go view the land, even Jericho. And they went, and came into an harlot’s house, named Rahab, and lodged there.

The spies went to a Harlot’s house. What is a Harlot? This is a woman who sells herself – her body – to others for profit. In the modern world we call such a woman an “escort” or a “Geisha”, or perhaps “Lady of the Evening” or just prostitute or whore. The Bible speaks in the harshest of terms about those involved in sexual sin, especially of those who act as or support whoredom. The Bible says:

Proverbs 5:3-8 For the lips of a strange woman drop as an honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than oil: 4 But her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. 5 Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell. 6 Lest thou shouldest ponder the path of life, her ways are movable, that thou canst not know them. 7 Hear me now therefore, O ye children, and depart not from the words of my mouth. 8 Remove thy way far from her, and come not nigh the door of her house:

God tells His people “do not go to the door of a whore’s house”.

Ephesians 5:5 … this ye know, that no whore monger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

You will find no place in Scripture where God speaks lightly of those involved in sexual sin, whether it be as client or provider. Sexual sin is grievous according to the Lord. The Bible says:

1 Corinthians 6:18 Flee {sexual sin}. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth {sexual sin} sinneth against his own body.

Sexual sin brings with it disease and disaster. It destroys families. It confuses heritage. By it nations have collapsed. It is no joking matter!

Yet we see the two spies going – deliberately going – to the house of a prostitute. Why? And why would God put this in the Bible? Because God wants you to know that He sees you, and He loves you. God sees the heart of every person. God had a plan for Rahab’s life much greater than that of debauchery and debasement. The Bible tells us that Jesus said:

Luke 5:32 I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

1 Timothy 1:15-16 This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners

Luke 15:10 Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.

Oh Beloved, how can I make this clear? Oh that God would give me the tongue of Gabriel, for I am so limited. God watches the heart. God watches His creation. I believe He was watching the hearts of all of Jericho that day … and then He saw Rahab. Why was she a prostitute? Why did she fall into this most grievous of sins? The Scripture does not tell us. We do not know the backstory of many of those the Scripture uses as examples. But we do know this. God is able. God sees. God knows. God is watching. He sees your heart today.

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is … not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

Rahab Laid Her Life Down

Joshua 2:2-4 And it was told the king of Jericho, saying, Behold, there came men in hither to night of the children of Israel to search out the country. 3 And the king of Jericho sent unto Rahab, saying, Bring forth the men that are come to thee, which are entered into thine house: for they be come to search out all the country. 4 And the woman took the two men, and hid them, and said thus, There came men unto me, but I wist not whence they were:

A prostitute sells herself for profit. Here are two men in her house, and the King of Jericho hears of these men. He knew their business. How did he know what business they were on? Probably because an Israelite betrayed Israel. Just as Judas Iscariot betrayed Christ so there are false believers in the Church and in Israel. Some sell their Lord for thirty pieces of silver. Others sell their Lord for temporal pleasure. But God knows. God knows.

The Lord knows those who are His. (2 Timothy 2:19)
The Shepherd knows His sheep (John 10:14)

The spies are found out. But Rahab – amazingly to us – saves these men. At the risk to her own life she hides these men, then lies about it. The Bible doesn’t mince words. She lies. But she lies to save life. She lied as Germans lied to hide the Jews in their homes from the concentration camps during World War II. She saved their lives by risking her life. She hid these men until the search party went away. Why would she do this? The Bible tells us that before the men rested that night:

Joshua 2:8-11 .. before {the spies} were laid down, {Rahab} came up unto them upon the roof; 9 And she said unto the men, I KNOW1 that the Lord hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you. 10 For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed. 11 And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the Lord your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.

“I KNOW” the LORD – the Eternal Great I AM – has given you this land”. Here we see saving faith. This was not merely an intellectual assent of knowledge. It was not “I know” like people say “I know the grizzly bear is dangerous”. Many people say that, and yet every year hundreds of people are mauled by grizzly bears. Why is that? Because they have an intellectual assent to the fact that grizzly bears and dangerous, but have not internalized that knowledge.

There is a difference between an intellectual assent to truth
and an internalizing of spiritual truth.

Rahab knew Who God was. The reason she knew is not because she read her Bible. She knew because she had the witness of what God did in Israel.

Joshua 2:10-11 For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that [were] on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed. {11} And as soon as we had heard [these things], our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he [is] God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.

The world watches God’s Israel, and the world watches God’s Church. When you go home after a Church fight and call your unbelieving friends to gossip, the world hears all about it. The world knew that Joshua sent spies into Jericho. The world knows how you as believers live your lives. Live for Jesus, Church, so that others will be saved!

Rahab’s confession of salvation is found in the words “the LORD your God, He is God in Heaven above and in earth beneath”.

By Faith Rahab Perished Not

Here is the wonder of God’s Grace. No matter how deep your sin, no matter how far you may think yourself from God, Jesus Christ laid His life down for you. The Scripture promises:

Romans 10:9-10 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. {10} For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Those who believed in Jesus were saved when Israel entered the land. Rahab was saved by her CONFESSION. But Rahab was also saved by her OBEDIENCE. Rahab wanted herself and her family saved from death. So she said:

Joshua 2:12-14 12 Now therefore, I pray you, swear unto me by the Lord, since I have shewed you kindness, that ye will also shew kindness unto my father’s house, and give me a true token: 13 And that ye will save alive my father, and my mother, and my brethren, and my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death. 14 And the men answered her, Our life for yours, if ye utter not this our business. And it shall be, when the Lord hath given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with thee.

The men once saved from death told Rahab:

Joshua 2:18-19 Behold, when we come into the land, thou shalt bind this line of scarlet thread in the window which thou didst let us down by: and thou shalt bring thy father, and thy mother, and thy brethren, and all thy father’s household, home unto thee. 19 And it shall be, that whosoever shall go out of the doors of thy house into the street, his blood shall be upon his head, and we will be guiltless: and whosoever shall be with thee in the house, his blood shall be on our head, if any hand be upon him.

When God sent the death angel into Egypt he looked for the blood of the Lamb on the doorposts of the believing home. When God came to Jericho He looked for the scarlet thread. The scarlet thread is symbolic of faith, of the Blood of Christ. What does the Bible tells us about Rahab? We are told in ..

Hebrews 11:31 By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.

You cannot go so low that salvation by Grace cannot reach you. I can show you time and time again in the Scripture where God’s grace has been sufficient to save even the most lost.

Who cannot be reached by Grace? The person who clings to their sin as if it be an idol cannot be saved. The person who believes themselves to be sufficient unto God cannot be saved. The person who believes that there are many ways unto God cannot be saved.

But the Scripture promises that whosoever will …

Psalms 116:13 … take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD…

shall be saved.

Romans 10:13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Rahab was saved by OBEDIENT faith, a faith that looked to God and His purpose. The Scripture says:

James 2:25-26 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? 26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

Rahab did not debate the small thing. She did as she was directed – and so she and her whole household was saved. She obeyed God – not with the obedience of a slave, but with the obedience of a dear Child.

That great preacher C.H. Spurgeon said: “… when {Rahab} tied the scarlet line in the window, she expressed her confidence in the fact that Jericho would be destroyed, and that she would be saved because she had received a promise to that effect. Sin would not have hidden the spies if she had not believed in their God … Beloved, obey in faith. The obedience of the slave is worth little; the obedience of the child is precious, for it is the fruit of love. That keeping of God’s commands which comes of slavish fear lacks the very heart and bowels of obedience, for love is absent, but, as God’s dear children, resting alone in Jesus confiding in your Father’s promise, feel that because you believe you must obey, not because you dread hell, or expect to win heaven through any works of your own, but because you have believed in Jesus to the salvation of your soul, and therefore, it is your joy to do his bidding.”

Joshua 2:21 .. {Rahab} bound the scarlet line in the window.

The line was bound in the window. She did not hide her faith under a basket. Rahab made an open declaration. Will you make an open declaration of your faith in Christ today? Will you turn to Him Who loves you, and gave His life for you? Do not delay. Do not tarry. Trust Him. Trust Jesus. Bind the scarlet thread in the window of your life. Give yourself to the Lord openly, publicly. If you do, you and your household shall be saved.

May God touch your hearts with his Word.

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United We Stand

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Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Joshua 1:9-18 {God said} Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest. 10 Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying, 11 Pass through the host, and command the people, saying, Prepare you victuals; for within three days ye shall pass over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land, which the Lord your God giveth you to possess it. 12 And to the Reubenites, and to the Gadites, and to half the tribe of Manasseh, spake Joshua, saying, 13 Remember the word which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, saying, The Lord your God hath given you rest, and hath given you this land. 14 Your wives, your little ones, and your cattle, shall remain in the land which Moses gave you on this side Jordan; but ye shall pass before your brethren armed, all the mighty men of valor, and help them; 15 Until the Lord have given your brethren rest, as he hath given you, and they also have possessed the land which the Lord your God giveth them: then ye shall return unto the land of your possession, and enjoy it, which Moses the Lord’s servant gave you on this side Jordan toward the sun rising. 16 And they answered Joshua, saying, All that thou commandest us we will do, and whithersoever thou sendest us, we will go. 17 According as we hearkened unto Moses in all things, so will we hearken unto thee: only the Lord thy God be with thee, as he was with Moses. 18 Whosoever he be that doth rebel against thy commandment, and will not hearken unto thy words in all that thou commandest him, he shall be put to death: only be strong and of a good courage.

Beware Lest We Fail To Glorify God

As Israel stood on the border to the Promised Land this second generation was faced with an impossible challenge. They had new leadership. The first generation of Israel had all died in the wilderness for disobeying God. Moses himself had died and been buried in the land of Moab. We don’t know exactly where Moses was buried, for the Scripture says that God …

Deuteronomy 34:6 … buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Bethpeor: but no man knoweth of his sepulcher unto this day.

I find this interesting because Joseph (of the coat of many colors)

Genesis 50:25-26 … took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence. 26 So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.

When Moses left Egypt “Moses took the bones of Joseph with him: for he had straitly sworn the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you; and ye shall carry up my bones away hence with you.” (Exodus 13:19). Joseph’s bones went with Israel to the Promised Land. When the first generation of Israel disobeyed God and were left to wander in the wilderness until they died (forty years), Joseph’s bones went on a forty year ride with them. These bones would not be buried until Israel – a unified people – occupied the Promised Land. At the end of the book of Joshua we read:

Joshua 24:32 … And the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for an hundred pieces of silver: and it became the inheritance of the children of Joseph.

Moses was buried by God and his bones have never been discovered. Joseph’s died and was buried in Egypt, but his bones were carried out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. They found their final resting place in Shechem (also called Sichem) a place where Abram traveled through right after God called him to salvation. The bones of Moses and the bones of Joseph are highly symbolic of faith and failure.

Moses failed God by striking a rock rather than speaking to it.
Moses could not enter the Promised Land.
Though Moses did everything else right.
But when it mattered Moses failed to glorify God.
God loved and buried Moses – but not in Canaan.
Joseph glorified God in his life.
Tried and betrayed by his family, Joseph glorified God.
Tried and betrayed by Potiphar’s wife, Joseph glorified God.
Forgotten by the Chief Cup-bearer, Joseph glorified God.
Joseph’s bones made it to the Promised Land. He glorified God.
Beloved, Glorify God!
It is a terrible thing to not Glorify God!

Those who wait upon the Lord – who are faithful to glorify Him – will ultimately be blessed. Those who do not will bear their own burden. We are to look to our own lives, and remember the words of the Apostle:

Romans 14:8-11 For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living. 10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at bought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.

The Unity Of God’s People Glorifies The Lord

Joshua 1:10-12 … Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying, 11 Pass through the host, and command the people, saying, Prepare you victuals; for within three days ye shall pass over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land, which the Lord your God giveth you to possess it. 12 And to the Reubenites, and to the Gadites, and to half the tribe of Manasseh, spake Joshua, saying

As Israel got ready to enter the Promised Land Joshua relayed God’s Word to the leaders of the people. The leaders were to be unified in glorifying God. Everyone communicated with one another. There were no whisper campaigns, no subterfuge. God had given orders, and they were to obey those orders. Joshua said within three days ye shall pass over this Jordan”. THREE DAYS is a significant number in Scripture. Our Lord Jesus died on Calvary, and laid in the grave three days and three nights (Matthew 12:40).

Then Joshua specifically addressed three tribes: the Reubenites, the Gadites, and to half the tribe of Manasseh. These tribes made up roughly 25% of Israel. When these tribes encamped on this side of the Jordan they looked at the land they were on. We read in ..

Numbers 32:1-5: Now the children of Reuben and the children of Gad had a very great multitude of cattle: and when they saw the land of Jazer, and the land of Gilead, that, behold, the place was a place for cattle; 2 The children of Gad and the children of Reuben came and spake unto Moses, and to Eleazar the priest, and unto the princes of the congregation, saying … 4 Even the country which the Lord smote before the congregation of Israel, is a land for cattle, and thy servants have cattle: 5 Wherefore, said they, if we have found grace in thy sight, let this land be given unto thy servants for a possession, and bring us not over Jordan.

They were well satisfied where they were. They did not want to cross over the Jordan. They were not trying to be troublemakers, but they would just rather have this land rather than the Promised Land. This was something that could threaten the unity of God’s people. Jesus told us as His people:

John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

Christ is not honored when His people are in disharmony. The Apostle tells God’s Church:

1 Corinthians 1:10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

God is not blessed by, nor will He bless, disharmony and infighting. He will not honor those with “I problems”. Moses is forbidden the Promised Land because of an “I problem”. The first generation of Israel is dead because of an “I problem”.
We must live for God!

Moses tells the Reubenites and the Gadites:

Numbers 32:6-15 Shall your brethren go to war, and shall ye sit here? 7 And wherefore discourage ye the heart of the children of Israel from going over into the land which the LORD hath given them? 8 Thus did your fathers, when I sent them from Kadeshbarnea to see the land. 9 For when they went up unto the valley of Eshcol, and saw the land, they discouraged the heart of the children of Israel, that they should not go into the land which the LORD had given them. 10 And the LORD’s anger was kindled the same time, and he sware, saying, 11 Surely none of the men that came up out of Egypt, from twenty years old and upward, shall see the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob; because they have not wholly followed me: 12 Save Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite, and Joshua the son of Nun: for they have wholly followed the Lord. 13 And the LORD’s anger was kindled against Israel, and he made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until all the generation, that had done evil in the sight of the Lord, was consumed. 14 And, behold, ye are risen up in your fathers’ stead, an increase of sinful men, to augment yet the fierce anger of the Lord toward Israel. 15 For if ye turn away from after him, he will yet again leave them in the wilderness; and ye shall destroy all this people.

Moses did not speak sugar coated words to the Reubenites and the Gadites. He spoke the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) which is what we all are to do. God is honored by a divided people. God calls His people to harmony, to unity of purpose. The Apostle said …

Ephesians 4:1-6 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2 With all lowliness and meekness, with long suffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

God’s people are called to be ONE and OBEDIENT. God wants us to move forward under His direction. To be one Church, one Israel. Not one with the world, but one with God and with one another. We are never to compromise with the world nor with worldliness. “Friendship with worldliness is to make God your enemy” (James 4:4 my paraphrase).

Israel was to have one purpose, to bring glory to God.
The Church has one purpose, to bring glory to God.

We WILL Work Together To Glorify God

The Reubenites and the Gadites proposed a solution to the problem before them. Please note they did not stomp their feet and have a fit. They suggested a godly and peaceful solution. They suggested to Moses:

Numbers 32:16-19 … We will build sheepfolds here for our cattle, and cities for our little ones: 17 But we ourselves will go ready armed before the children of Israel, until we have brought them unto their place: and our little ones shall dwell in the fenced cities because of the inhabitants of the land. 18 We will not return unto our houses, until the children of Israel have inherited every man his inheritance. 19 For we will not inherit with them on yonder side Jordan, or forward; because our inheritance is fallen to us on this side Jordan eastward.

Moses agreed with their suggestion. As they prepare their hearts to go into the Promised Land Joshua reminded them of what their elders promised Moses.

Joshua 1:13-15 Remember the word which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, saying, The Lord your God hath given you rest, and hath given you this land. 14 Your wives, your little ones, and your cattle, shall remain in the land which Moses gave you on this side Jordan; but ye shall pass before your brethren armed, all the mighty men of valor, and help them; 15 Until the Lord have given your brethren rest, as he hath given you, and they also have possessed the land which the Lord your God giveth them: then ye shall return unto the land of your possession, and enjoy it, which Moses the Lord’s servant gave you on this side Jordan toward the sun rising.

They were all to work together, loving and supporting one another for the glory of God. Joshua warned the people – as did Moses – against betraying the unity of the Body. Let us follow the same example. Let us live together and in one accord for the glory of Christ!

May God touch your hearts with His vision and His Word!

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