Sermon for Sunday, July 3rd, 2022 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
Old Testament reading:
[Jos 1:1-9 ESV] 1 After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, 2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. 3 Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. 4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. 5 No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
New Testament reading:
[Rom 8:31-39 ESV] 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
[Mat 28:16-20 ESV] 16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
In our recent sermon series on the Book of Exodus, we saw that despite the MANY sins of the people, the promise OF GOD always remained. His promise continues. And now, in the Book of Joshua, though a new generation is on the scene, the promise OF GOD continues.
The scholars Keil and Delitzsch say of the of the purpose of the book of Joshua:
“The purpose of the book is to show how, after the death of Moses, the faithful covenant God fulfilled
to the children of Israel, whom He had adopted as His people of possession through the mediation of
His servant, the PROMISE which he had made to the patriarchs.” (KD, 15)
The promise of God continues. The promise of God is being fulfilled.
As we begin this book, it is a good time for us to learn some Hebrew. Joshua, like many other books of the Old Testament begins with the letter Vav. It is, in fact, what is called a “consecutive vav.” When, in Hebrew, this letter prefixes a word, it is a conjunction, usually the word “and.”
Now children, if you started a paper (or even a sentence) in your English class with the word “and” your teacher would say “You can’t do that.” “That is poor English.”
So you might consider then writing your paper in Hebrew (!) because it is perfectly acceptable to start with the word “And.” Or at least it is when continuing from a previous narrative.
Exodus continues the narrative from Genesis and so it starts with an “and.”
Leviticus continues the narrative from Exodus and so it starts with an “and.”
Numbers continues the narrative from Leviticus and so it starts with an “and.”
Then, Deuteronomy, what does it do? … takes a break, starting anew. (Tricked you there)
But the Book of Joshua continues the narrative from Deuteronomy. And so it start with “and.”
While this doesn’t show up in our English Standard Version, the King James translated Joshua 1:1 saying:
KJV; “NOW after the death of Moses…”
It uses the conjunction, not translating it as “and” but as “now.” Either way it is the same in Hebrew.
All of this tells us that these books of the Old Testament are not haphazard, individual, unconnected books. The books of the Bible connect in many ways, helping us to see that it ALL is the Word of God. He narrative continues and the promise of God continues.
I. The Promise Continues
The same promise continues now in Joshua.
Moses had done so much, had he not?
Moses is the one who led the people out of Egypt.
Moses is the one who led the people over the Red Sea.
He was the one who went up the Mountain to hear from God.
He was the leader of the people for a generation. And they had never known another leader; only they had had slavery in Egypt under Pharaoh.
But now Moses has died.
And yet, the people are to “fear not” because the promise of God continues; the promise that “the Lord be with you.”
Well, a great many military and national powers have ended upon the death of their leader. Without a leader to stand behind—or to be prodded forward by—the people disband. It was just eight days after Adolph Hitler’s death that German forces issued an unconditional surrender. Ad when Alexander the Great suddenly died at age 32 without a chosen successor, the empire soon fell into a 40-year long war over who would rule the empire.
But here, with Moses dying, the LORD himself chooses a successor—Joshua. There is no serious hiccup, because it is not Moses or Joshua (or anyone else) who leads the people, but the Lord God.
Incidentally, if we better followed this principle, having the rule of the law of God guiding our land, little would change from President to President. Executive orders and all their uncertainty would cease, and people and businesses would have more stable expectations on which to organize their plans in business and in life.
The Israelite people have the greatest stability because even though Moses dies, the promise of God continues. The people WILL inherit the land, and the Lord says “I will be with you.”
We believe this promise of God because of the Holy Spirit working in us, but we also have as testimony the many excellencies of the Scriptures. That is, their internal evidence of truth.
The Book of Joshua, for example, was not written in some later period reflecting back many centuries. Rather, it was written shortly after the events in it occurred. There are a number of internal evidences of this fact, but a couple that I find most striking.
Joshua 6:25 says of Rahab “And she has lived in Israel to this day.” The author is telling us that Rahab is still alive. It is an indication that the book was written within the generation of its events.
Then in Joshua 5:1 and 5:6, in speaking of events the Israelites went through, he uses the pronouns “we” and “us” including himself in those events. The author was there and is still living to write the book.
So, for these and others reasons, Keil and Delitzsch conclude: “the conclusion becomes and extremely probably one, the book was written not later than twenty or twenty-five years after the death of Joshua, in all probability by one of the elders who cross the Jordan with Joshua, and had taken part in the conquest of Canaan, but who survived Joshua a considerable time.” (KD, 19)
The promise they knew was recorded in their lifetime for the people and for God’s people in all times.
II. Led by the Law
So the Lord says “Be strong and courageous.”
But he’s not speaking here of lifting weight and charging into battle. He immediately tells that being strong and courageous is “following the Law of the Lord.” “Being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you.”
He continues saying “Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.”
It is courageous to obey God’s commands, because, for one, you will at times have to disobey the commands of men. You put yourself at great risk when you follow the commandments of God.
In Roman times the Christians were persecuted because they would not follow the commandment of Rome to worship Caesar as god.
In our day Christians risk losing their job if they do not go along with whatever popular-wordly program the company is implementing at the moment.
It takes courage to close your business on Sunday, and to tithe a percentage of your money. To trust in the Lord’s provision.
It takes courage to give birth to a child. To trust in the Lord’s provision.
It takes courage to worry more about your relationship with the Lord than your popularity among your peers.
Ultimately, the people are to be led by the Law.
And when they do, blessings result.
“For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”
These verse of Joshua may remind of Psalm 1
Joshua says “The Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth.”
Psalm 1 says “But his delight is in the law of the Lord.”
Joshua says “but you shall meditate on it day and night.”
Likewise, Psalm 1 says “and on his law he mediates day and night.”
And finally Joshua says “For then you will make your way prosperous.”
And Psalm 1 says “In all that he does, he prospers.”
There is a difference. Joshua commands, and the Psalm describes the follower of the Lord.
Joshua says “you shall”
The Psalm says “He does.” The blessed man is led by the Law of God.
And to be led by the law of God you need (1) to read it, and (2) to meditate on it.
Christian meditation is never an emptying of the mind, but it is a filling of the mind with the Word of God. We are to think of God’s word wherever we are and whatever we are doing. Meditating on it day and night.
Doing so, you will not be frightened nor dismayed because the Lord is with you.
[Col 3:16 ESV] 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
III. The Lord Be With You
If you have the Word of God on your mind, you have the Lord with you. And so wherever you go, you are prepared with His wisdom and with the peace of God to respond to whatever situation arises.
The Lord says “Do not be frightened for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
And it struck me that the command “Do not be frightened” or “Do not fear” is a command in the Scriptures only made by the Lord OR with the Lord in reference.
Genesis 15:1 – “Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and they exceeding great reward.”
Isaiah 43:5 – “Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west;”
Joel 2:21 – “Fear not, O land, be glad and rejoice, for the Lord will do great things.”
So it is no surprise that Jesus Christ, very God of very God said to the disciples
in Matthew 14:26 when walking on the water “”Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
Jesus has the power not only to walk on water, but the right to say “Be not afraid.”
The ultimate reason why we should never fear is that we have the promise “the Lord be with you.”
In the liturgy of many churches the pastor will say “May The Lord be with you.”
And how do you respond? – And also with you.
(Sometimes you might even sing it!)
And we should know that saying “the Lord be with you” is not a WISH of the pastor, it is a PROMISE of the Scriptures.
Application 1: Be Courageous
The Lord is MY helper, I will not fear.
I’ve heard it rightly said, if you want to be a rebel today, join a church, get a job, raise a family.
It is easy to live the life of the world.
It takes courage to live the Christian life, not falling into any sin that comes your way (like a Zombie chasing every brain) but being led by the Lord to do the right thing.
It takes courage to do the right thing.
But that is what we are called to do. Be courageous. The Lord works together all things for good for those who have been called according to his purpose. Trust in Him, have courage, and do not fear, for the Lord is with you.
Application 2: The Lord Be With YOU
The people in the Exodus were the people of God, and the people in Joshua were the people of God. They are different people, for the first all die in the wilderness before coming into the promised land. Though they are different people, the promise remains.
And the promise remains for us. And in far greater realties than the types and shadows of the Old Testament. Whether we own land or not is not the issue. It is whether we know the Lord, and have eternal life, in an eternal place, with eternal blessings.
[Tit 1:2 ESV] 2 in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began
The promise began before the ages began, was given to the patriarch, and fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
The Lord is with YOU, whether you are alive in this word, or alive again in the next.
[Jos 1:5 ESV] 5 No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.
[Rom 8:31 ESV] 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
And if God is for us, what is there to fear? Fear not, the Lord Be with you. The Lord IS with you.
[Mat 28:20 ESV] 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
The promise entails that Christ is always with us.
APPLICATION 3 : The Lord is with you through the ups and downs.
If there is one thing we see in Joshua — or even the Old Testament in general — it is that God is with His people through all their ups and through all their downs.
We should never underestimate God’s presence and preserving power. All things happen according to the counsel of his will. He guides, establishes, and ordains all things. Therefore, we need not worry.
[REPEAT: We need not worry]
A corollary from the state “God is with you” is the fact that “God is with you at all times, including your ups and your downs.”
Praise him during the ups.
And pay to him in the downs.
Praise him in the downs as well, for we are to praise God at all times.
The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord.
Even in the bad times, God is with you. Rest in him. Seek the Lord. Find comfort in Him.
The promise is that the Lord is With you, and therefore, I pray may the Lord watch over your coming and your going both now and forevermore.
The Lord Be With You. [And also with you]
Let us pray.