Sermon for Sunday, July 24th, 2022 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
Old Testament reading:
[Jos 1:10-18 ESV] 10 And Joshua commanded the officers of the people, 11 “Pass through the midst of the camp and command the people, ‘Prepare your provisions, for within three days you are to pass over this Jordan to go in to take possession of the land that the LORD your God is giving you to possess.'” 12 And to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh Joshua said, 13 “Remember the word that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, saying, ‘The LORD your God is providing you a place of rest and will give you this land.’ 14 Your wives, your little ones, and your livestock shall remain in the land that Moses gave you beyond the Jordan, but all the men of valor among you shall pass over armed before your brothers and shall help them, 15 until the LORD gives rest to your brothers as he has to you, and they also take possession of the land that the LORD your God is giving them. Then you shall return to the land of your possession and shall possess it, the land that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you beyond the Jordan toward the sunrise.” 16 And they answered Joshua, “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. 17 Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so we will obey you. Only may the LORD your God be with you, as he was with Moses! 18 Whoever rebels against your commandment and disobeys your words, whatever you command him, shall be put to death. Only be strong and courageous.”
New Testament reading:
[Tit 3:1-7 ESV] 1 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. 3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
[Luk 19:11-27 ESV] 11 As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. 12 He said therefore, “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. 13 Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’ 14 But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’ 15 When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. 16 The first came before him, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.’ 17 And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ 18 And the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made five minas.’ 19 And he said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’ 20 Then another came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; 21 for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ 22 He said to him, ‘I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’ 24 And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ 25 And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten minas!’ 26 ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 27 But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.'”
I. The Commands of Joshua.
We have, in this second half of the first chapter of the book of Joshua, a number of commands to the people from Joshua who had just replaced Moses as Israel’s military leader.
1. Prepare to Take Possession of the Land
First, Joshua commands the officers of the people to prepare to take possession of the land.
And I’ve always thought this is a bit confusing, because the Israelites had come from the Southwest (in Egypt) but have swung around to the EAST of the promised land and so are about to enter it from that direction. The big trouble with this, of course, is that there is the Jordan river to cross. But Joshua tells the people — perhaps having been told himself from the Lord — that they will pass over the Jordan within three days.
Moving an army across a river is quite a feat. Moving all of the people and their possessions and herds across the river will require a miracle.
2. Take Possession of the Land
Joshua then reminds the people of the command of Moses saying “The Lord your God is providing you a place of rest and will give you this land.”
The command then is to TAKE IT. To take the land. First is the command to prepare, second is the command to take the land that the Lord has promised them.
And it is to be a place of rest.
There is a rest anticipated shortly in that once the Lord gives rest to the army, then the people are to take possession of the land.
And there is a rest spoken of in chapter 22 for the Eastern tribes to return across the Jordan after victory over the Canaanites.
But the full rest promised by God is not granted by Joshua or Moses, but by Jesus Christ.
In Hebrews chapter 4 we learn that Jesus is greater than Joshua, and that Jesus gives true rest to those who have faith in Him.
It says there in Hebrews, “For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from His.”
And it says also in Hebrews: “For we who have believed enter that rest.”
In faith we receive and rest upon Jesus Christ for our salvation. We seek no more for salvation in any other place, but we know that rest which God had promised to Moses.
You can see a reason here why we study the Old Testament; it is to these writings that the New Testament authors refer. The Apostles are steeped in the Old Testament writings because they are the Word of God.
I realize that there is the impression that the Old Testament is difficult and perhaps less applicable to our lives. But it, like the New Testament, is the Word of God, and so it is the Word of God FOR US as much as the New Testament is. We should not overlook it.
3. Armed men of valor are to go first.
Well, we then have a third command of Joshua saying that “men of valor” are to go first into the land, and then when the victory is won, the people shall come and take possession of it.
In times past it might not even need to be noted, but is worth here emphasizing that these soldiers are men. God has given difference responsibilities to men and to women. Despite what the Orwellian media tells you, men cannot have babies. And despite movements to the contrary, it is men (not women) who are to be soldiers in combat.
A while ago I compared, in various events, the Olympic Records for Men with the Olympic Records for Women. And the results were quite interesting.
In races, whether of running or swimming, men’s records were about 10% better. Not that substantial perhaps.
But in athletic events like the clean & jerk, long jump, and javelin, the men’s record are 20 to 50% better.
Then, in straight power lifting, (which is not an olympic sport), men have benched, squatted, and deadlifted almost twice what women have.
But, to be fair, women are a thousand million percent better at having babies.
The point is that the Lord has made men more suitable to the tasks of physical work and warfare.
Even so, the full reason that men were to fight in war (and not women) is because it is what the Lord has established by example and command in the Scripture.
Here in our passage, and everywhere else in the Scripture, we see the men sent to fight. It is not all the men, but rather just the “men of valor.” They don’t send the cowards, weaklings, young boys or old men into battle. Only the men of valor. The Lord has called them to fight at that time for the nation of Israel against the Canaanites, and the Lord will call other men of valor to fight at other times in Biblical history.
So we have these commands from Joshua to the people: Prepare to take possession of the land, take possession of the promised place of rest, and have the men of valor go into battle.
II. The People’s Promise
In response to Joshua, we have the promise of the people. Or, I call it, as I’ve titled this sermon, “The People’s Promise.”
16 And they answered Joshua, “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. 17 Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so we will obey you. Only may the LORD your God be with you, as he was with Moses! 18 Whoever rebels against your commandment and disobeys your words, whatever you command him, shall be put to death. Only be strong and courageous.”
This sounds great, does it not? “All that you have commanded us we WILL do.” “Just as we obeyed Moses IN ALL THINGS, so we will obey you.”
Really? Don’t you remember their track is DISOBEYING Moses? (And therefore disobeying God)
In the book of Exodus—which we recently concluded—the people wanted to go back to the meat pots of Egypt, they doubted the exodus plan, they even worshipped the golden calf.
Is this the sort of obedience Joshua is to expect?
The reality is that the People’s Promise is not kept. People sin.
But remember the first half of the first chapter of Joshua? There we saw God’s promise — “I will be with you.”
Even though the people will indeed DISOBEY Joshua as they disobeyed Moses, the Lord’s promise continues. The promised rest comes not because of their obedience, but by the Lord fulfilling His promise to the people, despite their sins.
We should, no doubt, obey our leaders (as we read in Titus chapter 3 – be submissive to rulers and authorities) but thank the Lord that our salvation rests in His promise rather than in man’s promise.
Consider this: How many times have you tried “starting over?” Living Holy? Promising (to yourself anyways) to read your Bible, exercise every day, and brush your teeth three times a day? Have you ever succeeded? Perhaps for a time.
But we are no better than the Israelites. We, at times, disobey our leaders and disobey God. Yet, like the People of God in book of Joshua, we have a savior who loves us unconditionally; who loves us despite our sins, our failures, and our disobedience.
It is a good thing to say to God, like the Israelites did to Joshua, “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go.” We should strive for this. And I pray that the Lord gives us the strength to obey His commands. But even more, what a great joy it is to know that we are saved not because of our obedience, but despite our disobedience. We, sinners though we are, are saved by the grace of God.
Just look at the consequences if not for the salvation of Jesus Christ. What do we read in the final verse of this chapter?
18 Whoever rebels against your commandment and disobeys your words, whatever you command him, shall be put to death.
Indeed, the Lord reigns, and those against him perish.
And this isn’t just an Old Testament idea. Jesus says likewise:
Luke 19:27 But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.’
This is why the Coming of the Lord is a great terror upon many; those who do not rest in Him.
But for those who believe, the Coming of the Lord is a great joy. We know that the death we deserve was died by Jesus Christ on the cross; that His atonement covers our sins and gives us eternal life.
We who were his enemies are now called friends.
III. The Command to Obey God
A major theme of this passage is obedience to God.
The final command Joshua gives is this: “only be strong and courageous.” And we know that this is a command not to warfare but to obey God.
And indeed we SHOULD obey God.
This is indeed a Biblical command. Obey God. And one is not a legalist if he emphasizes this Biblical truth.
But we must understand that our obedience is not FOR our salvation, but FROM our salvation. [Let me REPEAT this: our obedience is not FOR salvation, but FROM our salvation]
Obedience does not save us. Rather we are saved UNTO obedience. Now that you know that salvation in Jesus Christ and the grace of God through faith, now that you know that, obey the Lord.
We can say “Obedience is an expression of our love of God.”
Indeed the Apostle John records Jesus saying just that:
“If you love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)
If you love me … then … keep my commandments. Obedience comes because we love the Lord who loves us.
So let us say, without hesitation, I love the Lord and I desire to obey Him. And let us strive to obey him, thanking him for the salvation He has won for us.
Application: How Do We Grow in Obedience?
Rather than obeying as a last resort, let us look for opportunities to obey. Say each day “How might I better obey the Lord this day?”
We think of children obeying adults. And that is, in part, because of their helplessness. They need the direction of adult. But if adults are 10x wiser than children, God is infinitely wiser than adults. So how much more do we then need to obey God? Let us not think we are sufficiently mature so as to “go it alone.” Let us always look to God and obey His commands.
Let us say “Not my will, but thine.”
Let us conclude with this.
Perhaps best explaining the relationship of obedience and salvation best is 1st John chapter 2:
[1Jo 2:1-6 ESV] 1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
We ought to walk in the ways of the Lord. We ought to obey, to keep His commandments so that we do not sin.
But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, who is the propitiation for our sins, not only of the Jews but of the Greeks; for all people who have rest in Him through faith.
While we have been disobedient—as the Israelites were disobedient at times—Jesus Christ was fully obedient to the Father, actively in all that He did in life, and passively in His death on the cross for our salvation. We are saved by the active and passive obedient of our savior Jesus Christ. Let us rest—strong and courageous—in His promise.