We are in Joshua 9 this morning – and quick review – we’ve seen a lot of amazing things happen so far. We saw the rushing white water rapids of the Jordan river split in half; we saw the walls of Jericho come tumbling down; and we saw Israel defeat Jericho & Ai – with the incredible help of their God.
It’s a joy.
But imagine you are not a Christian living in North Raleigh years removed from these events.
Imagine you live in Canaan and hear about these attacks.
Not so exciting.
One of the nations – the nation of Gibeon – heard about Israel’s miracles streak and decided to do something about it. Before we look at their plan and see how Israel handles it; let us pray: Strengthen us this morning by the truth, O God. Your word is truth. Open our eyes to see what YOU want us to see. Open our ears to hear what YOU want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what YOU would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Gibeonite’s Deception
When the people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, they resorted to a ruse. To help us be understand the ruse – Israel was not supposed to make a treaty with anyone in the Promised Land. Why? (1) God wanted to give the entire Promised Land to the people of Israel. (2) God wanted to protect them from the false god worship that was prevalent among the Canaanites.
Gibeon understood that, so they make a plan: Trick Israel into thinking that they aren’t from Canaan. Here’s the plan:
It says they went and grabbed worn out sacks and old wineskins, cracked and mended. A sack is a sack. Not hard to interpret. But a wineskin is a bit less familiar. It was literally the skin of an animal, sewn up to hold wine. When it was new it was plump. It was fresh. It held the wine with no problem. But the Gibeonites go and grab the wineskins that have been in Uncle Joe’s basement for the past 7 years. They’re old, dusty, and are starting to leak.
Why visit Joshua with the worn-out wineskins and old sacks? Remember – they are going to tell Joshua that they are from far away. If their stuff looked new, it wouldn’t look like they were from far away. They were travelled in the desert for a long time.
So, they bring the old stuff. Hoping that the little drip of wine coming off through the broken wineskin will be enough to convince Israel they are legit.
But just in case…
They put worn and patched sandals on their feet and wore old clothes. This is literally walking the extra mile. Because when your shoes start to develop holes in them – they are not all that comfortable. You get rocks in them, sand in them, prickers in them. It’s uncomfortable.
I can almost picture one of them saying, “It hurts. I’m getting blisters. I don’t like the way it feels. The sand is scorching my feet. Can I take it off?”
Well that depends:
Do you value your life?
Wear the shoes.
(3) Gross Food.
This is where they go all in. Because they must have searched through the garbage to put together the meals for the trip. All the bread of their food supply was dry and moldy. The idea? They want Joshua to think they baked the bread weeks ago – but the journey was long. The journey was hard – the journey was arduous – and they didn’t have Air Tight Ziploc Bags – so the bread went stale.
Which is a travesty! Ever been on a long trip and somewhere along the trip – someone forgets to fully seal the Doritos before they put them back into the snack bag? It’s a travesty! Nacho Cheese goodness now tasting like cardboard – (I still eat them) – but still…
They are going all in on this ruse. Even willing to waste a perfectly good road snack.
(4) The Script.
Then there’s the script. Check out verse 6. It says, “We have come from a distant country; make a treaty with us.” It’s interesting. Joshua and the Israelites don’t buy the story at first. “Perhaps you live near us, so how can we make a treaty with you? Where are you from?” (v.7-8)
Listen to their response. We come from a very distant country. They don’t give a name. They don’t mention the place. They don’t even make up name. Just – “It’s very far away. I’m sure you haven’t heard of it. We won’t burden you with such trite details. Just know it’s very far – and it definitely is not—in any way – a part of the Promised Land.”
In fact – and this is sneaky – listen to their reasoning: We have heard about your God – all that he did in Egypt and all that he did to Sihon and Og.
Both of which are amazing stories of God’s might.
Both of which are stories of God’s might that happened decades ago.
Both of which are stories of God’s might that didn’t happen in Canaan.
Notice – these men ignore the miracles that would have happened by them: the crossing of Jordan River, the wall of Jericho and the battle at Ai. That would give them away! It would prove that they must be locals because how else would they know about these local events which happened within the last month. Remember – Joshua did not have his own Twitter handle yet and there weren’t any Vines of the walls tumbling to the ground.
Besides—the Gibeonites do not let the Israelites ponder it for all that long. They switch gears:
Touch the holes in my shoes.
Look at the moldy bread.
Smell the gross wine.
Do you remember Wil E. Coyote? He would order those Roadrunner catching kits from Acme. One of those was a refrigerator strapped to his back with a fast-acting ice maker that shot the ice in front of him allowing him to ski after the Roadrunner and catch him.
It didn’t work.
The plan from the people of Gibeon similar.
It's seems silly.
It won’t work.
II. Israel’s Terrible Detective Work
But as outrageous as this ruse is, it’s not as outrageous as the Israelite response. Look at their detective work skills: The Israelites sampled their provisions… Think about that: They ate the moldy bread. They ignored the maggots.
But they did not inquire of the Lord.
Which is especially terrible considering what God had just done.
Remember what happened in chapter 7? It was the caper of the stolen goods. The account of Achan stealing some silver and gold – and it causing Israel to fail at Ai. It was quite the detective story – trying to find the few pieces of gold among the hundreds of thousands of tents of the millions of Israelites. It was an impossible task.
But God did it.
He showed them exactly who did it.
He gave them the truth.
After God did that, why in the world didn’t they ask God for help on this one?
Instead: “But they did not inquire of the Lord.”
I wonder how often that would appear in our lives.
I wonder how often I’ve decided what my plans are for the weekend and I think, and I plan and at the end of the week, the caption underneath my Instagram photo should read: But he did not inquire of the Lord…
Whether it’s what to do for the weekend, which boyfriend to choose, which doctor to go with, how to react to the coworker, which job to get, or whatever…
How often is the tagline on our exploits: But he did not inquire of the Lord…
Or how often do we look to Facebook for the answer…
Or a horoscope…
Or a magic 8 ball…
Or my friend…
Or type into Google “What to do in this particular instance” and read a 5-step article on Wiki-How-To…
Or think and ponder and come to a conclusion myself. And at the end of the day the decision is made… But he did not inquire of the Lord.
TRUTH: Not inquiring of God is foolish.
God knows all things.
God knows the best things.
God loves you more than all things.
God loves you better than any other advice giver out there.
We should listen to him.
If you haven’t, listen to Him right here:
III. The Truth Revealed
Because look at the result of not inquiring from God. Three days after they made the treaty with the Gibeonites, the Israelites heard that they were neighbors, living near them.
They approach the Gibeonites: What gives!?! How could you trick us?
The Gibeonite’s response is simple: We feared you. We feared your God. We didn’t want to die – so we signed the treaty. Do with us as you wish.
And now the leadership is in a tough spot.
God had told them to completely, destroy every nation in the Promised Land.
But God had also told them to keep their oaths – one of which they just made to NOT destroy the Gibeonites.
What should they do?
The rest of the Israelites are getting testy…How could you leaders have done this?
So, they respond:
We have given them our oath by the Lord, the God of Israel, and we cannot touch them now. This is what we will do to them: We will let them live, so that God’s wrath will not fall on us for breaking the oath we swore to them. (v.19-20)
In other words:
We are representing God.
We have given his Word.
And in His Word he tells us that His Word is never broken.
That’s a huge truth for Israel, too! Because it means:
Even if Israel had sinned, God would not break his promise to win them the Promised Land.
Even if Gibeon had sinned, God would not break his promise to keep them safe, too.
Even if all them all had sinned, God would not break his promise to send his Messiah.
No matter how hard it got.
Because keeping your word can be hard.
There’s unexpected expenses, a meeting you forgot, health issues that prevent it or even distance.
But nothing’s too hard for God.
There is no harder time for anyone to keep their Word than God about 2000 years ago. He had promised to send a Savior. He had promised to be that Savior. He had come to earth, live 33 perfect years and was ready for the final part of his promise.
But it got hard.
He was abandoned by his friends, arrested, beaten, nailed to a across, slowly suffocated, all with the sins of the world on his back and God the Father’s wrath against him!
Having the hellfire wrath of God against you? Nothing sounds more difficult.
But Jesus did it.
He kept his Word
And he keeps his Word.
And in his Word, he declares you forgiven.
Don’t take my word for it. Inquire of His Word yourself:
Colossians 1:14 -- In Jesus we have the forgiveness of sins.
Ephesians 1:7 -- In Jesus we have…the forgiveness of sins.
1 John 2:2 – Your sins have been forgiven…on account of his name.
Acts 13:38 Through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed.
IV. How to Inquire?
Since you have been forgiven, God wants you to be confident. To inquire of him.
But how to you do that? A few things to keep in mind:
In the Old Testament, the Israelites had this special thing called Urim and Thummim. It’s a strange word without a translation because it spoke to very special items that the Israelites would use to inquire of God. Not a lot is known about these items – other than that they were items of chance. It sounds a bit like picking the shortest straw to find the answer – except that God had given them these items and told the Israelites to use them to find answers.
You don’t have to wait for archaeologist to find the Urim and Thummim.
God has given you prayer.
Prayer is a conversation with God.
And God loves you.
So, ask him for anything.
For help figuring out your health.
For help figuring out if that relationship is for you.
For help figuring out where to go on vacation.
For help figuring out how to handle that coworker.
From the big to the small – God has no limits on prayer. He simply tells you to pray to him. Inquire of him. If it’s important to you, it’s important to God.
(2) Listen to His Clear Word
Because there’s this idea out there that after we pray, we just kind of listen. As if you might here God’s voice in the wind and he’ll tell you what to do – or he’ll give you a good feeling and that’ll tell you what to do. (Unless you mistake an old burrito feeling for God’s voice.)
There’s a simpler place to look for God’s voice.
There’s a clearer place to look for God’s voice.
Do examine God’s Word when you are making a decision.
For instance, if I’m at Kroger and a guy cuts in front of me in line when I get distracted by the latest National Inquirer Headline – and I’m trying to figure out how to react and I wonder “Should I punch this guy in the face?” I look in God’s Word. God’s Word says, “Love one another.”
I have my answer: Don’t punch him.
Simply put –
If God’s Word says do it; do it.
If God’s Word says don’t do it; don’t do it.
(3) Seek His Will
But what about the neutral zone? You know the neutral zone in hockey. It’s the area that’s neither on one team’s side or another’s. The spiritual neutral zone is neither on the commanded side nor the forbidden side.
Like what kind of jelly to put on my peanut butter sandwich.
Neither commanded nor forbidden.
I can eat strawberry.
I can eat grape.
I can eat apricot.
But even in the area of the neutral zone – remember God’s Word.
God wants us to love him.
God wants us to love each other.
Suddenly, that affects my jelly choice.
I might remember that my wife doesn’t like the smell of grape jelly on my breath, so I don’t pick that.
I remember that my kid likes strawberry and there’s only a spoonful left so I don’t pick that.
I remember that apricot is the healthiest – which allows me to keep the body God has given me in good shape so that I can go and share his Word and give him the glory – so I pick that.
That’s just one scenario. Whether the decision is big or small – seek God’s Will! Inquire of God.
Because God speaks the truth.
Here’s where it gets really interesting. In the final verse it says, “Joshua made the Gibeonites woodcutters and watercarriers.” Servants. If you go backwards in Scripture all the way to Genesis 9 – Noah (the guy with the ark) tells his son Canaan who is the patriarch for the Canaanites that he will one day serve his brother Shem – the patriarch of the Israelites.
Here – it comes true.
They don’t die. They live. It’s better to be a servant in God’s house than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
God has made the same promise to you.
The truth is you will one day be in his Promised Land.
Don’t believe Him? Inquire about it. He’ll gladly tell you again. Amen.
Joshua bristled at the bitter boldness of his morning coffee.
It was stronger than normal, since he was a bit drowsy. It had been a long couple of days. They had marched around Jericho for a whole week, seen the walls topple down, entered into the city and completely destroyed it. They toppled every wall, killed every citizen and burned to the ground every building.
Then, they partied.
Today, it was back to work.
Today they were attacking the next city in Canaan.
Ai was a much smaller city. Located in the countryside to the west of Jericho, it lacked the fortification of Jericho. In fact, there’s not even a reference to any kind of wall. And when spies came back to report on it, they recommended that Joshua give most of the men rest. They would only need 2 or 3 thousand soldiers to easily take the city.
If taking Jericho was a miracle…
Taking Ai was expected.
So, Joshua had the trumpeters gather the small group that he would send against Ai. His speech was simple: “We took the great city of Jericho – this won’t be that hard. Let’s go in, get the job done, and get back to celebration.”
So, the army marched to Ai.
They marched boldly.
They marched confidently.
They marched directly into a route.
About three thousand men went up; but they were routed by the men of Ai, who killed about thirty-six of them. (7:4-5)
How can they go from conquering Jericho – a huge city with a gigantic double wall – to getting routed by the agricultural community of Ai?
Before we take a look at the reason and learn a few very important lessons about sin, let us pray: Strengthen us this morning by the truth, O God. Your word is truth. Open our eyes to see what YOU want us to see. Open our ears to hear what YOU want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what YOU would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Route of Ai
Take a look at verse 7. We’re going to find out what happened at the same time that Joshua found out what happened. Because -- take a look at Joshua’s words – he is absolutely dumbfounded as to why Israel was unsuccessful:
Joshua tore his clothes because he was so upset.
He fell face down on the ground.
He stayed there weeping.
Then, he spoke: “Alas Sovereign LORD, why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us? If only we had been content to stay on the other side of the Jordan! Pardon your servant…what can I say?" (7:7-8)
Why did you do this if you just wanted us to lose?
Why the escape from Egypt?
Why the splitting of the Jordan?
Why make the walls of Jericho tumble?
Why all the promises?
Why did you do this to us?
And in response,
God let’s Joshua finish.
Then, He clears his throat:
The LORD said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant.” …They have taken some of the devoted things.” (7:10-11)
What were the devoted things? In chapter six, God mentions this to Joshua again and again. Unlike some of the other cities coming up – which God would allow them to reoccupy and use what’s there – Jericho was God’s. As such, it was to be completely destroyed. All the people. All the animals. All the buildings…and the few things not destroyed: Gold and Silver were to be saved for use in religious ceremonies.
God said, “Keep away from the devoted things... Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction.” (6:18)
So, what does this mean when God tells Joshua that Israel had taken devoted things?
It means the loss at Ai wasn’t God’s fault.
It was Israel’s.
TRUTH #1 -- You can’t blame the results of sin on God.
I bring this up because humans do this all of the time.
My wife and I are feeling disconnected. You must not be blessing our marriage God. And no, I don’t think it has anything to do with the porn that I look at on my phone.
Work is hard. No one likes me. That’s on you God! Not on the fact that I’m a total jerk.
My boyfriend left me! And I feel terrible. God why do I have such emotional pain? It certainly has nothing to do with the fact that I was living together with him and sleeping together with him – long before we were married!
The reality is that the results of sin are not God’s fault.
The results of sin are on us.
Just like the results of sin – the loss at Ai – was on Israel.
II. Achan’s Story
And Joshua should have known that.
God wouldn’t have broken his promise. If they lost at Ai, the only option was that Israel had sinned! It’s why God tells Joshua to “Stand up!” He needs to quit moping and start acting.
And God has a plan. He tells Joshua to bring all of Israel out together -- a mass meeting. Then, Joshua would cast lots. He’d assign a number to each tribe and then roll a pair of dice. The number that was rolled would represent the tribe that was at fault – and so on it would go down from tribe to clan to family to man.
His heart skipped a beat.
No, no, no. They know someone took the sacred things? I was careful. I made sure no one was looking. I…I… I’m sure this won’t work. There’s millions of Israelites. That game of chance will not reveal me. Better to stay hidden.
And the first lot was cast.
Ok…That’s coincidence. There’s a 1 in 12 chance. It’s unlucky, but Judah is the biggest of the tribes. There’s still hundreds of thousands of others. I’ll be fine. Just stay calm. Stop sweating. Breathe deeply.
What!? Don’t panic. Another lucky guess. That’s all. There’s still hundreds of other people. There’s still hundreds of other chances. No one knows what you did. No one…
Except maybe God. O I hope he takes my brothers. Maybe I could frame him. Or my cousin? He’s been in trouble before. Please don’t let that lot fall to me. Please don’t let that lot fall to me. Please don’t let them find out it’s me!
And Achan fell to the ground.
God had been behind that investigation.
God had revealed the culprit.
And Joshua approaches, “Son, give glory to God and tell me what you’ve done.”
And Achan stops hiding.
He stops pretending.
He’s been caught.
I have sinned.
TRUTH #2 -- You can’t hide sin from God.
To be fair – you can hide sin from your pastor.
You can hide it from the elders.
You can hide it from the other people at church.
But not God.
You can hide it from your family.
You can hide it from your parents.
You can hide it from your spouse.
But not from God.
In fact, Scripture says this, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:13)
And laying it bare means ‘it’s uncovered.’ It’s like if you have a bunch of mold under your sink, but you cover it up with all kinds of bottles and cleaner and always keep the door shut. That way no one knows about it.
But God is like the Home Inspector who comes in, walks right over to the kitchen sink, throws open the doors, takes out the bottles and shines a light on the mold. God has a way of making sin known.
Whether it’s through the rolling of dice in Achan’s fault or whether it’s through internet search history, phone records, stories that don’t match up, funny receipts on the credit card, or just plain that “weird feeling about him,” God will make sin known. Or whether it’s through the divine fiery judgment of Judgement Day, God will make hidden sin known.
III. God’s Mercy
So, don’t hide your sin; but confess it.
Because in Achan’s case, it was God who revealed the sin and God who held Achan accountable.
Then Joshua, together with all Israel, took Achan, the silver, the robe, the gold bar…and all that he had. Then all Israel stoned him, and after they had stoned the rest, they burned them. (7:24-26)
Which might seem harsh…but remember:
(1) Wages of sin is death.
(2) He had repeated opportunities to confess.
(3) His sin led to the death of 36 people! 36 involuntary manslaughters.
But I think there’s one more thing that’s important.
One more thing that’s missing.
There’s no call for mercy.
No call for God’s love.
That’s striking. Had Achan confessed rather than been caught, does the situation change? Maybe.
It certainly does for you. That’s what God tells us in 1 John: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us all of our sins.”
(1 John 1:9)
Why trust this? Because: TRUTH #3: God is the ultimate eradicator
In fact, may that be motivation for your confession. Because the reality is that God already knows all of your sins. He already knows what you’ve done. He knows and, in fact, he knew. He knew and he went to the cross for you. “He himself bore our sins” (1 Peter 2:24) in his body on the cross.
Jesus died for every last one of your sins.
He took your sin in his body on the tree.
He brought them to the cross for eradication.
When you confess, all your trust is in his eradication abilities. It’s like signing the dotted line for the Terminix man. When you do that, you trust that he’ll be able to poison, burn, trap, and eradicate every single pest that you have in your house.
Trust in Jesus to do the same.
He'll go under the floor boards, look in the cupboards of your heart and eradicate the sins that even you didn’t know were there!
Jesus eradicated every one of your sins.
Jesus will eradicate their eternal consequences.
Confess and trust in his mercy.
III. What Now?
(1) Eradicate Temptation.
Because God didn’t eradicate the consequences of your sin, just to leave you in sin. God wants you to eradicate sin from your lives. That’s what Israel does. They eradicate Achan and the stolen devoted things.
You do the same.
Get rid of the unrestricted access to internet porn.
Set limits on late night with boyfriend so you aren’t tempted to sin.
Throw out the alcohol.
Flush the drugs.
Stop the late nights that prevent you from church in the morning.
“Break up” with the group of ladies that wants to sit around and gossip.
Whatever the sin might be – eradicate the things that tempt you to do it.
It’d be like the exterminator telling you that the reason you have so many rats in your house is that you have been stacking your half-finished pizza boxes in your living room.
Get rid of the pizza boxes.
Get rid of temptations.
Be free from sin, guilt and shame.
(2) Watch God Work.
After the Israelites do all of this – God says, “Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged…Go up and attack Ai.” (8:1)
Which if I was an Israelite, I’d probably think, “Don’t be afraid? We just got our butts kicked. God, you didn’t help us. It was our fault, but how do we know that sin is really forgiven?”
But God promises.
So, they trust. They attack Ai. They are more than victorious.
Trust God to eradicate sin.
Trust that he already eradicated its consequences.
Trust that He will eradicate its power.
Trust that he will enable you to eradicate temptation.
I. The Wall
As the soldiers peered at it through the thick foliage of the distance, they couldn’t help but feel a bit intimidated.
The city was named after the “moon god.” One could see why. It had an abundance of water and a pleasant year-round climate. Everything was impressive. Impressive gardens. Impressive marketplaces. Impressive culture and night life. From the distance, one could see ancient skyscraper-like apartments.
But the thing that was most noticeable about Jericho?
A double wall.
A thick double wall.
A wall of solid stone.
A wall of solid stone wrapping completely around the city.
And because of the impending invasion, the city gate was closed.
There was no way in.
There was no way out.
There was no way under – without having the guards at the top of the wall pin you to the ground with spears.
There was no way over – without taking an arrow to the chest.
For some reason…
They were planning on going through it.
The LORD said to Joshua, “March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have the priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven time with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them around a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse.” (6:2-5)
In other words: March around the city and make some music.
The 6-foot-deep, 15-foot-high double wall will be no match for some jazz.
This had to be one of the greatest faith tests that the Israelites had ever faced. Yes, they had just seen God’s Almighty power as he split the Jordan river in half, but there’s a couple of reasons that this faith test was more challenging.
(1) The Composition
Because this wall isn’t made of liquid. It wasn’t easily transported like the Jordan River might have been. It wasn’t able to be manipulated by the simple touch of a hand. This was a solid wall of stone.
Just to give us a better understanding of what that wall was, archaeology in the 1950 has uncovered remains of a wall around the area where Jericho would have been. Based on their finding, the mound of the city was surrounded by a great earth rampart with a stone retaining wall at its base. The retaining wall was some 12-15 feet high. On top of that was a mudbrick wall of about 6 feet thick and 20-26 feet high.
The third little pig would have been proud of the people of Jericho. How in the world would you get past that wall? This task was humanly impossible. There was no technology of any kind that would allow them to destroy it.
So… God’s plan.
(2) The Tools
A bomb? Didn’t exist yet.
A battering ram? That allows the defenders to attack the single spot – for the hours you’d be at work.
A ladder? You’ll take an arrow to the chest before you get very high.
God says that they should walk.
I was playing BIG JENGA last week with Julianna. Have you ever played BIG JENGA? It’s the board game where you remove one brick from the tower at a time without having it fall over – only it’s a giant version of it.
I remember as I started to get nervous that I might lose. I started marching around, stomping my feet, jumping up and down in hopes that the vibrations might cause the tower to fall during Julianna’s turn.
If marching around a toy the whole point of which is to make it fall doesn’t make that toy fall down, how likely do you think marching around a giant 6-foot-deep, 15-foot-high double wall until it falls down will be?
Because in order to split the Jordan River all that had to happen was the priests touching the river with their feet. Then – instant miracle. This miracle was going to take days. It was going to repetition. It was going to take repetition of the same thing without any visible results.
And the people of Jericho would have noticed:
You idiots. What are you doing?
Oh no, Bob! They’re walking again! Duck!
I’m cowering in fear at the sight of those deadly, deadly trumpets!
In fact, if you’ve ever seen Veggie Tales, this is where the people of Jericho – played by a bunch of peas – come up with this doozy of a song: “Keep walking, but you won’t knock down our wall. Keep walking. But it isn’t going to fall. It’s plain to see that your brains are very small, so keep walking, but you won’t knock down our wall.”
Question – how likely are you to keep doing something if you don’t see any results?
God says, “Pray to me and I will hear it.” But…what if you don’t get what you’re praying for?
God says, “Study my Word and I will grow your faith.” When it feels like that isn’t doing anything, do you keep it up?
God says, “Trust in me.” When finances are tight, you’re behind on your mortgage, your ant’s in the hospital and there’s all kinds of stress at work – it sure seems a lot easier to just give up?
When it seems impossible, when it seems like there’s nothing going on, when it seems like God’s not doing anything…
God is at work.
And God specializes in demolishing walls.
II. The Demolition
At least, Joshua thought so.
And he was the commander.
So, no matter how foolish it sounds or how impossible it seemed, the soldiers obeyed.
They obeyed for six days.
They endured ridicule.
They endured doubt.
They endured sore calves.
Then, the seventh day.
They walked again.
They walked a third time and heard the ridicule from the soldiers at the wall.
They walked a fourth time and heard the doubting from the soldiers behind them.
They walked a fifth time and started to doubt themselves.
They walked a sixth time and heard Joshua’s command, “Keep going. God is with us. This will happen. Trust him.”
Then, they walked a seventh time. And as they made their way around to the same rock that they had seen so many times this past week – the priests stopped.
They lifted up their trumpets.
They pressed them to their lips.
They blew with all of their might.
And Joshua commanded them, “Shout! For the LORD has given you this city!”
The soldiers looked at one another.
They shrugged their soldiers.
And as they shouted, suddenly, they heard a bass added to their music.
It wasn’t coming from the trumpet.
It wasn’t coming from a fellow soldier.
It was coming from the wall.
The rocks began to tremble.
The fortification began to give way.
And the men shouted even louder.
When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet the wall collapsed. (v.20)
And they took the city. (v.21)
III. What Now?
1. Hire the Same Demolitionist
Nobody has the power to knock down walls like our God.
Not Home Builders, Inc.
Not Demolitions ‘R Us.
Not even the U.S. Army with all its fire power.
No one is an expert demolitionist like our God.
And the greatest wall torn down isn’t even this one from Joshua 6. Take a look at what Isaiah 30 says: Sin is like a high wall. That’s because sin does what walls do: It separates. Us from God. It makes it so that God’s on one side and we’re on the other side.
There is a disconnect.
There is a barrier.
There is a barrier of sin between us and God!
Maybe you’ve done sins and you’ve felt that.
Apart from God.
And there’s nothing we can do about it. No dynamite of doing good has any effect. The TNT of trying hard doesn’t make a dent. Even the hard-swung wrecking ball of “I’m really doing my best God,” will fail to tear that wall of sin down.
No one human can tear that wall down.
You can’t tear that wall down.
Only God can.
And He did.
Ephesians 2 says this, “Formerly you…were separate from Christ…without hope and without God in the world. But…in Christ you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace! Jesus has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility!” (v.10-14)
Understand what it’s saying:
Jesus is the spiritual TNT.
Jesus is the spiritual dynamite.
Jesus is the wrecking ball to knock down the wall of sin and leave us barrier-less…connected to God!
And finally….it means God is the one to turn to no matter what kind of wall your facing.
God destroyed the wall of sin. God destroyed the wall of Jericho.
Whatever wall you got? It’s no problem for him.
Hire him for all of your problems.
2. Appeal to His Grace
But…what if you’re part of the wall?
Do you remember Rahab? She was not an Israelite. She had a job that was not remotely God honoring – she was a prostitute. Yet when she heard that God was going to take back the Promised Land – she didn’t fight.
She appealed to God’s mercy.
Look what happens in verse 22 - Joshua said, “Go into the prostitute’s house and bring her out and all that belong to her, in accordance with your oath to her.” So…the young men went in and brought out Rahab and all who belong to her.”
And here’s what’s most interesting. Her house – had been built into the wall. Yet it was the wall that was destroyed! How did Rahab make it out?
Even though she was a part of the wall (and by her sins against God was a part of the spiritual wall), God had mercy on her. God kept her alive. God brought her out. God spared her.
Have you built your own wall of sin between you and God?
Do you feel like you are a part of that wall?
Do you figure – there’s no way he’ll spare me?
Appeal to his grace.
Because while God is powerful – knocking down walls, our God is merciful to spare those who built the wall.
Without Jesus, you aren’t getting to God.
With Jesus, you are.
Call on his mercy.
Believe in Jesus.
You will not be destroyed with the wall.
You will be saved.
You will be a recipient of God’s incredible mercy.
Because those battle cries must have turned into cries of praise! God had done the impossible. God had knocked a wall down. God had kept his promises.
God had done the same for you:
He did the impossible.
Jesus knocked down the wall of sin.
Jesus kept his promise.
Shout for joy!
Don’t just do it here – but do it out there.
Do it when you go home to see the rest of your family.
Do it when you’re around your friends.
Do it on Facebook.
DO it on Instagram.
Do it at work, at the coffee shop and at the workout club.
Wherever you are – shout God’s praise! Tell others about the GREAT Things he has done.
Tell others about our God – and the walls he has brought down.
We are a chapter away from some big-time action in this Joshua series. But before we get there, chapter 5 reveals some final preparations that God does before he acts. As we take a look at these, it’s interesting to note that God uses very similar things to prepare us before we enter the Promised Land above.
So as always, before we begin, let’s say a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth, your Word is the truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Preparations for Jericho
Take a look at the first preparation. It isn’t even a preparation on the hearts of the Israelites. It’s on the hearts of the Canaanites. Take a look:
Now when all the Amorite kings west of the Jordan and all the Canaanite kings along the coast heard how the LORD had dried up the Jordan before the Israelites until they had crossed over, their hearts melted in fear and they no longer had the courage to face the Israelites. (5:1)
It makes sense that the Canaanites are afraid. Because if you remember when we were talking about Rahab – the people of Jericho had already heard of God’s awesome work in the desert. They had heard of God’s promise to give the Promised Land to the Israelites. They had heard of all the miracles he had done in the desert to get them to the Promised Land’s borders.
Now? They heard that their God had split a raging, white water rapids in half – wide enough for a million some odd people to cross!
This miracle was from God.
This miracle caused the people of Jericho to be afraid.
God caused the people of Jericho to be afraid.
…this was a blessing.
This fits in well with a question that a few different people have asked me recently.
What did Jericho do wrong?
And to be fair that’s a question I’ve pondered before. They seem to be minding their own business. They weren’t like the Egyptians who held the Israelites in slavery. They weren’t like the kings in the desert that attacked the Israelites. They were just enjoying life in the land of Canaan.
What’d they do to get kicked out of their city?
Why was God attacking them?
Why is God being so mean?
While I understand where that line of questioning comes from (and there’s a lot of forms in it when it comes to Old Testament God), that line of questioning makes two incorrect assumptions:
(1) “People are generally good.”
Do you know what bias is? Bias is the underlying worldview or notion that someone has when they look at a particular event. Bias isn’t always a bad thing, but bias can absolutely affect the way that you react to or report on a certain event.
Take the new:
One network says, “Republican does dumb thing.”
Another network says in the exact same story, “Republican stands up for what is right.”
One network says, “Democratic is whiny.”
Another network says, “Democratic defends freedom!”
Did you know that there’s a bias that humans naturally read the Bible with? A bias that humans are naturally good. Why do we have that bias? Because…(Wait for it)…we’re humans! I like to think of myself as good.
So…when I come across instances in the Bible where it pits God against humans and I don’t find an immediate obvious sinful thing (like Pharaoh horribly mistreating hundreds of thousands of Israelite slaves) my human bias tends to demonize God.
He’s being a jerk.
He did wrong.
He is a monster.
Is that right?
Is God a monster?
Think about it!
Our God created us – he didn’t have to.
Our God gave us this wonderful world – he didn’t have to.
Our God died for us – he didn’t have to.
Our God rose to save us – he did not have to.
Our God did this because our God is good.
All the time good.
When God and humanity clash?
That’s not on God.
That’s on us.
In fact, this is exactly what Scripture says, “The sinful mind is hostile to God.” (Romans 8:7) Hostile means an enemy. A violent enemy. A violent enemy with a bias on the opposite side of God.
Don’t be surprised when your sinful human bias look at a Bible story and wants to rewrite the history to make God the villain!
That’s the wrong narrative.
It’s the sinful, broken, imperfect narrative.
The narrative is not about a good people and a cruel God.
The narrative is about a good God and a cruel people.
And…maybe you know that?
Because you know this world is broken.
To name a few.
And at least a few of those made your heart squirm because you’ve walked a bit close to those lines.
Let me tell you.
That uncomfortable feeling?
Proof that God’s always in the right.
(2) “That God didn’t care about the people of Jericho.”
If you were here last week, do you remember one of the purposes of the memorial that God had his people build? It was so that “all the nations on earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful.” (v.24) That’s a key purpose. Because it shows you that with these miracles – with this memorial – with the message that was striking fear into the hearts of the Canaanites – God was making it very obvious:
I am the LORD.
That’s what Rahab did! Remember the prostitute? She concluded that God was with the Israelites. She concluded that God was going to use the Promised Land for HIS purposes! And…rather than fight, she concluded that she would follow the true God.
Was Rahab the only one who knew about God’s power and Strength?
Nope. She’s just the only one who decided not to fight God.
But even after that…Chapter 5:1 is proof – yet again – that God wanted these Canaanites to recognize him as the one true God. He splits the Jordan River. (1) to get Israel across (2) to give Israel confidence (3) to give the Canaanites a warning! They were up against the One and Only God of Heaven and earth! That fear they were feeling? Was a gift! – a warning – a divine smack in the back of the head – to listen to him and follow him, lest they be destroyed!
The fear then is proof that God cared about the people of Jericho.
1 Timothy 2:4 says this about this God of the Old Testament, “God our Savior, wants all to be saved.”
That includes the people Israel, sure.
But it also includes the people of Jericho.
In fact, that’s the ultimate purpose of Israel having ownership of the Promised Land, isn’t it?
God wanted the Promised Land because…
God promised a man named Abraham his descendants (the Israelites) would dwell in the Promised Land, because…
God also promised that same man a Messiah would be born in the Promised Land, because…
God would one day send his son Jesus to be born in the Promised Land, because…
God wanted it to be clear and simple and obvious that Jesus Christ was the promised Messiah, because…
God wanted all people – even the people of Jericho – to read these prophecies, trust in this Messiah and be saved.
What does this mean?
It means this fear isn’t God being a big meanie.
This fear is a gift from God.
A gift to get them on his side.
A gift to get them to listen to him.
A gift to cause them to be just like their friend Rahab – and turn to him as their Savior.
It’s a wonderful blessing from God--
They just didn’t listen.
II. Preparations for Israel
Let’s shift. While this fear spreads over Jericho, Joshua is following God’s instructions to prepare the Israelites. Look at verse 2 (Yes, we are at least ten minutes in and haven’t even made it past the first verse…but I digress):
1. The Preparation of Circumcision
2 The Lord said to Joshua, “Make flint knives and circumcise the Israelites again.” 3 So Joshua made flint knives and circumcised the Israelites…
I’ll say it once so we don’t linger on it. Circumcision is exactly what circumcision is today. It’s the cutting off of skin in the male private area. Interesting note – this was done amongst the ancients for a lot of reasons: health benefits, a tribal mark, a rite of passage, or even simple hygiene.
Biblical circumcision was a visual, outward reminder of God’s personal promise to the recipient. It’s similar to a tattoo of a cross or a key chain that says John 3:16. It’s a very personal reminder of God’s promise.
And it’s permanent! You can’t undo it. Just like you couldn’t undo God’s promise – Even when you faced terrifying things:
In battle and surrounded by the enemy? I have been circumcised – God has promised to be with me.
Walking around a giant, impenetrable wall? I have been circumcised. God has promised to be with me.
Setting up my home for my first year in the Promised Land? I have been circumcised. God has promised to be with me.
2. The Preparation of the Passover
10 On the evening of the fourteenth day of the month, while camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, the Israelites celebrated the Passover.
Remember – the Passover was a reminder of how God saved the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. In the final plagues, he sent the angel of death to kill the firstborn son of every family in Egypt. But to those who trusted God, they need only take an innocent lamb, slaughter it and paint its blood on the wooden frame of the door. Then, the angel of death would “pass over” them and they would be safe.
The Passover was a bit different from circumcision then. The Passover was a visual, outward reminder of God’s public promise to the recipients. He would be with them. He would deliver them to the Promised Land.
And I love the very special meaning behind this Passover. Because it was the first Passover that had ever been eaten in the Promised Land. Look at verse 11: The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain. (5:11) Because they were where God had promised the nation that they would be.
Can you imagine the patriotic spirit that night?
4th of July was cool, but…think of it like the 4th of July in 1779 – they year after the Revolutionary War was over!
That’s what was going on for the Israelites.
They had made it.
God had made it for them.
That night -
They reminded each other.
They celebrated together.
They encouraged each other in God’s promises.
III. What Now?
A couple things from these lessons –
1. Thank God for Fear
Because maybe earlier…you felt a bit uneasy when we talked about sin and being enemies of God. That’s a good thing.
It’s similar to the uneasy feeling that you might get if you head to the zoo and you get a bit close to the giant jungle python. It’s behind bars. It’s behind the glass that’s supposed to not break – but still you don’t tap on the glass because you’ve got a healthy fear and respect for the giant serpent.
Same thing with God.
Fear means a healthy respect and awe and wonder and yes – even a bit of – unease. It recognizes the danger we are in as we, sinners, approach God.
Don’t fight him.
Fall at his feet.
Ask for forgiveness.
Ask for his mercy.
Ask for his compassion.
Be confident that he has sent it – in the form of his Son Jesus Christ dying on the cross for your sins.
Moving us from enemies – to friends.
2. Remember God’s NEW Personal Promise
Because circumcision is no longer a church ceremony. Still – we have a ceremony – a beautiful, divine ceremony in which God places his personal promise onto our hearts.
In Him [Christ] you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism. (Colossians 2:11-12)
See the connection? Just as Old Testament circumcision involves the cutting off of flesh, so baptism involves the spiritual cutting off of sin from our hearts! And what’s more? That sin that’s been cut off has been tossed into the grave.
It’s been left behind.
It is no longer who you are.
Have you been baptized? This is God’s personal promise to you.
Want to be baptized? Wonderful. Let’s talk. And God will make his personal promise to you.
3. Remember God’s NEW Public Promise
In fact, as related as circumcision seems to be to baptism; there is an even simpler and easier to see correlation between the Passover and a different New Testament ceremony.
While Jesus and his disciples were eating the Passover Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Matthew 26:26-28)
The connection is greater than just Jesus started the Lord’s Supper in the middle of the Passover meal.
Scripture calls Jesus the “Lamb of God.” (John 1:29)
In fact, the “Passover Lamb” (1 Corinthians 5:7)
And “The blood of Jesus purifies us from all sin.” (1 Jn. 1:7)
In other words, because of Jesus blood – God’s wrath passes over us.
That’s what’s going on when we partake of the Lord’s Supper.
It’s a big deal.
It’s one of the reasons that we ask people who haven’t been through our newcomer’s class to go through our newcomer’s class before they come up here for Lord’s Supper. Because this is a big deal what’s going on up here and I don’t want you to miss it.
And honestly, if you have kind of forgotten why it’s a big deal – come back to newcomer’s class. I’ll call it “review class.” Learn again what your Savior did for you.
I love the ending to this section: The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate the produce of Canaan. (5:12)
Cool. They are no longer desert dwellers.
They are no longer warriors.
They are home.
Though there are battles to come, because of God’s promises – they are as good as home.
The same is true for you.
Humbled by our fear of God.
Trusting in God’s mercy.
Dwelling in the promise of baptism.
Meditating on the promise of Lord’s Supper.
We aren’t home.
But we’re as good as home.
Previously, we saw how God helped the Israelites pass into the land of Canaan. He didn’t use a boat or a connecting flight in Miami. He caused an entire river to wall up by his invisible hand. The entire nation, close to a million Israelites, crossed on dry ground.
What’s do you think would be the first thing you did if you were an Israelite entering the Promised Land after a 40+ year desert journey?
Take a nap?
Eat some of the famous Milk and Honey?
Take a selfie by the WELCOME TO CANAAN sign?
The Israelites choose to do none of these. In fact, before they can leave the Jordan River they have some very important business to take care of. Before we dive in to God’s Word and learn what that is, pray with me: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth, your Word is the truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Original Memorial
1When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, 2 “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, 3 and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.” (4:1-3)
Take note – God’s next command for Joshua comes right after the nation has successfully navigated to the dry riverbed. That means every last one of them is safe. Every last one of them is on dry ground. Every last one of them is in the Promised Land.
God has kept his promise.
What God tells them to do next isn’t a requirement to enter the Promised land; it’s a response to entering. They choose 12 men -- a man from every tribe in Israel. And head to the middle of the river where the Priests are still standing – still holding up the ark – which is still holding up the water-- and the men remove 12 stones. Not rocks or pebbles. Joshua tells them to put them up on their shoulder (v.4) – meaning they were big enough that they needed to be carried like a sack of flour – and take them back and set them on the river’s edge.
This not an easy task. It sounds like a bit like a Crossfit workout. Had these guys been snacking on so much manna that they really needed a workout?
Not exactly. In fact, the one who wanted the stones was God. Not an overzealous exercise guru.
Was God really that vain?
Did God have a big stone collection?
Was God a fan of fine art?
Not so much.
God might have commissioned the project.
But it wasn’t for Him.
It was for His people.
Particularly four different groups:
1. For the Kids
In verse 4, Joshua said, “In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’7 tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord.” This memorial was going to be used just like any other memorial – to teach kids history that they themselves had not seen. But the history was not about how awesome Joshua was, or how incredible Moses was or how believing dad was in walking across the water.
It was about God.
About his grace.
About his power.
About how He keeps his promises.
2. For their Grandkids – and beyond!
Joshua continued, “These stones are to be a memorial for the people of Israel forever.” This wasn’t just for their kids. It was for their grandkids. It was for their great-grandkids. It was for their great-great-great-great-great-great-grandnephews -- twice removed. It would be a way for the Israelites who had just witnessed God’s grace and mercy to share God’s grace and mercy with generations beyond them.
3. For Non-Israelites
Jump to verse 23 after the memorial is set up. Joshua identifies another group blessed by this memorial 23 “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 22 tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ 24 God did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful.”
This wasn’t just for the people of Israel. It was for the Canaanites --- the Girgashites, Perizzites, the Shechemites, and all the other “ites” that existed.
People who didn’t care for God.
People who refused to acknowledge God.
People who were far off from God.
People whom God loved.
People whom God hoped would turn to him.
People to whom God would use this memorial to speak to their hearts and lead them to saving faith in Him.
Finally, God wanted this memorial constructed for the sake of one more, very important group: Themselves. Check out the end of verse 23 “God did this…so that you might always fear the Lord your God.”
Because God wasn’t going to do these miracles every day.
It wasn’t going to be so obvious that He was on their side.
It wasn’t even going to be so obvious that He was there.
But this memorial reminded them that he was.
It reminded them to follow Him.
It reminded them to keep their faith in the Lord.
So the Israelites did as Joshua commanded them.
They got the stones.
Set them up.
And a memorial was built.
II. A Replica in Your Life?
So…The obvious question that keeps flooding my mind as I read this:
What memorial are you leaving behind?
For your kids…
For your neighbors…
For generations to come…
What will they remember about you?
What did you stand for?
What did you do?
In my room growing up, there was a shelf that was literally dedicated to trophies. The goal was to put all of my achievements and accomplishments up there. And after a few years – it was crowded. With really impressive stuff:
A dozen relay participation ribbons.
A third place 6th grade boys high jump finish.
A consolation basketball tournament plaque.
About 5 certificates of 1* trombone achievements
And 1 bowling trophy – that my dad won – and I pretended was mine.
Here’s the thing – I thought it was so impressive. And I loved to have it up there (pathetic as it was) because I wanted to broadcast me.
I wanted to memorialize myself.
I wanted to people to remember – me!
I know I’m not alone. The honest truth is that people are more interested in memorializing themselves than they are in memorializing God.
Look at my beautiful diploma I’ve got displayed.
Check out my Facebook page and all of my accomplishments.
Listen to me tell you about me and how awesome I am.
This is a heart problem.
A heart problem in America.
A heart problem with Christians in America.
Because you are nothing without God.
He gave you life.
He gave you new life.
He gave you eternal life.
Why do you want to steal the credit from him?
Still – here’s the awesome truth about God. In spite of us, God has still found a way to leave memorials on this earth. And I’m not talking about rocks. I’m not talking about crosses. I’m not even talking about memorial plaques “dedicated to God.”
I’m talking about you.
Have you been to Pullen Park before? It’s the world’s 16th oldest, continuously operating park. But being around that long has caused some rust, some dirt, some falling apart. From 2009 to 2011, they dealt with those issues.
The train was repainted.
The plants were replanted.
The animals on the carousel were cleaned, painted, and polished to perfection.
Now – it’s as good as new.
2 Corinthians 5:17 says this, “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
In other words -- Jesus did the same with us that Raleigh did with Pullen Park.
Jesus refurbished us.
He scrubbed off the sin.
He removed the gummy guilt “yuck.”
He fixed our brokenness and brought us into working condition.
He polished, shined and displayed us in righteousness.
He made you like new!
He placed you on the trophy case complete with the crown of life – such that when the angels pass by in the heavenly halls he says – “Look at what I won! Look at what I paid for with my death and resurrection. Look at my dear brother – Check out my sister. Aren’t they awesome?”
III. What Now?
Well…maybe you’re itching to set up a memorial to God. He’s awesome. He’s wonderful. He’s done great things. So…Pastor…Do you know of a place that sells any river stones close by?
Here’s the thing. I love the enthusiasm – but I don’t know that we need river stones to make a memorial.
In fact, the memorial that God’s looking for is already in this church.
1. Be a Memorial
I love this passage from 1 Peter 2:5 and I think it fits in well with this lesson on Memorial Stones. Peter wrote, “You (are) living stones...” Literal…memorial stones. Showcases of God’s glory!
Think about it:
We were lost. We were sinners. We were deserving of God’s wrath. We were selfish people on the road to hell.
But Jesus saved us. He lived for us. He died for us. He rose for us. He placed you on the path to heaven and uses you to display his glory to the world.
Be that memorial. Live for God each Sunday. Let your kids see how important Jesus is. Let your husband see how important Jesus is. Let your friends see how important Jesus is as you head off to worship your Lord and God.
Be that memorial. Live for God during the week. Live for God at home. Live for God at work. Live for God at the gym. Live for God in the grocery aisle. Live for God at the library, the coffee shop, and the comic book store. Wherever you are – live for God.
Be a memorial to his love and grace. Be so obviously full of love -- people stop. People ask. What makes you tick? And you tell him – that it’s because of my Lord and Savior. He rescued me from sin and death.
2. Be a part of This Memorial
Back to that passage from Peter. It says, “You are living stones…being built into a spiritual house.” That’s us. Together.
Because the reality is that if the monument looks like that (picture of rock by itself), it’s not all that noticeable. A few people might see it; not a lot. Especially not a lot from far away.
But when you build the rocks together – It’s visible from miles away!
That’s the goal of God’s church.
That’s the goal of this church.
That’s our goal fellow memorial stones.
Which got me to thinking:
If tomorrow Gethsemane ceased to exist, would anybody notice?
Particularly – anybody outside this church?
Granted. We’ve got Precious Lambs. It reaches the community. A lot of parents would be missing the childcare that they receive.
But outside of that? I wonder.
Here’s an encouragement for us. We need to keep reaching.
We need to keep outreaching.
We need to keep getting into the community and letting the memorial stones be seen.
Not to our own glory.
Not to the glory of our church.
But to the glory of God!
Yesterday at the Food Bank was a great example of that. We need to keep thinking about more ways to do that together as a church – If you have some ideas let me know. And if you see opportunities like that – Let’s take them.
Again the goal – making these memorials to God clear for all to see.
3. Stop Criticizing Other Memorials
Because while we all have the same Savior, the reality is that as different people we have different memorials.
Just like artists are different.
One uses pointillism.
One uses realism.
One uses abstract shapes.
It doesn’t do a lot of good for one person to say, “I don’t like that you are giving your money to that church fund.”
“I don’t think you serve in that way...”
“I think you should serve in this church and do this job in this particular way that I always do it…or else maybe you shouldn’t have the job.”
This is criticism.
This is ungodly criticism.
Case and point – The woman from Bethany. She comes into the room where Jesus is staying and stoops down near his feet. She opens up a bottle of perfume – hundreds of dollars of perfume – Eau de Expensive Perfume And she pours… it onto Jesus’ head.
The disciples are indignant!
This was a waste of money.
This memorial could have been used better.
This memorial is not the memorial that I would have given.
And Jesus? He says this, “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me…Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached through the world, what she has done will also be told.”
Instead of criticizing each other; encourage.
Practically speaking it means --
If someone makes the cookies differently than you would, thank them for making the cookies.
If someone trims the flowers differently than you would, thank them for trimming the flowers.
If someone plays the music differently than you would, thank them for playing the music.
If the thing they are doing isn’t sinful, encourage them.
It’s just another stone to add to our memorial for the community of North Raleigh to see –
That they might see Jesus.
In fact, that’s kind of what happened in our Joshua story. Because did you see what happened in verse 12?
And (at the time of the Book of Joshua’s original writing) the stones are there to this day.
The memorial did its job.
The testimony to God was there for generations.
How long will your testimony be there?
How long will our testimony?
By God’s strength – may we make our testimony tall and our memorial enduring. Amen.