August 16/17, 2014

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Main Text: Joshua 1:1-9

After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' assistant, “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. 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 success1 wherever you go. 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. 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.”

We have been growing in our understanding of our great God as we look at Old Testament interactions between God and His people. We have learned:

  • God is our deliverer and lawgiver.
  • There are lessons to be learned when we go through wilderness experiences.

In our text today we find God’s chosen people, the Israelites, ready to cross over the Jordan River. They have wandered for forty years. An entire generation died in the desert as God tried to make sure that as a nation of people they would be ready for this moment. God’s people had difficulty trusting Him.

Let’s look at the Israelite’s long-awaited entrance into the promise land and what that pinnacle moment in history tells us today about God, generations, and our actions.

God’s love for every generation

The generation that left Egypt free from Pharaoh’s clutch was now gone. God waited for them to die and a new generation to be raised up that knew nothing more than wilderness living. The old generation refused to trust God enough to help them defeat the nations inhabiting the new land. Let’s look at Deuteronomy 5:8-10 for insight on God’s view on generations.

To understand the richness of this text, we must understand how to read Hebrew poetry. Unlike English poetry that is characterized by rhyme, Hebrew poetry is characterized by parallelism. One word or one sentence parallels another. Sometimes this is found as

  • same thoughts in different words. (Psalm 19:1)
    • (heavens/skies, declare/proclaim, glory of God/work of His hands)
  • numerical parallelism. (Proverbs 6:16; 30:15b, Genesis 4:24, 1 Samuel 18:8)
    • (n/n+1 or contrasting numbers)

Applying this to Deuteronomy 5:9b-10, we see a dramatic example of parallelism that is clearly a statement of contrast. The teaching here is that God is ready to punish sin. We must not be deceived. He will judge evil, but that is not what He longs to do. What He longs to do, many thousands of times more than judge, is show love. God is willing to punish but longing to love.

God is not saying that He will punish a future generation of people because of their ancestor’s sin. If they rebel like their ancestors they will be punished. We should identify generational sin and break the chain.
This new generation stands on the banks of the Jordan knowing that their forefathers suffered from the “grasshopper syndrome” (Numbers 13:33). They are now looking west and wondering if they have the faith to do what their parents did not. God calls them to be strong and courageous because He is with them.

The principle of the first step

After forty years, God brings the Israelites to the Jordan when it is at flood stage (Joshua 3:15). God loves to take His children through hopeless situations. He assures them that He will make it possible for them to cross. There is one condition. They must step into the life-threatening river that is 150 feet wide and 10-20 feet deep. God won’t part the waters first. They must take a step of faith before they see God move in power. What is the principle of the first step?

Sometimes God waits to act until we begin to move in faith!

This is still a lesson that God teaches His people today: “When you face a huge obstacle and you are sure you can’t surmount it, my power is sufficient. I will make a way. I will deliver you. But you have to trust me. You’ve got to take the first step.”  We can be like the first generation that refused to cross the Jordan and died in the desert. Or we can take that first step into the Jordan, watch the waters part, and enter God’s adventure. God goes ahead of us!

Lessons in first step living

Here are a few lessons we can learn about first step living:

  • God will continue to look for radical obedience and trust.
    • circumcision instead of attacking (Joshua 5:2-3; 5:8)
    • marching and blowing trumpets instead of fighting at Jericho (Joshua 6:3-5)
    • the risk taking theme goes throughout the book of Joshua
  • Many people spend their entire lives on the banks of the Jordan in fear.
    • They refuse to take the first step in their finances
    • They often wait for God to move first
    • They are paralyzed by fear

During Jesus’ ministry here on earth- he often honored people’s actions of faith:

  • Luke 5:20 – the faith of the friends of the paralyzed man
  • Luke 8:48 – the faith of a woman who needed healing and pressed through the crowds                

Here is the challenge. We must all commit to do some spiritual risk taking. Whatever our Jordan might be, it is time to step in and see what God will do. Maybe it will work out great, maybe we’ll fail, maybe we’ll get in over our head. It doesn’t really matter, because when we obey God, God uses what we do. We must get our feet wet. Nobody can take the step for us.

Will we be those people? Will we be the generation who says yes to God’s adventure, even when we are facing fear?

Take the first step, God is with you!


Further Discussion

This week, as you reflect on the message, think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing and fellowship as you open God’s Word together.

Read: Joshua 1:1-9

The phrase “be strong and courageous” is a particular theme among this section of Scripture, why do  you think that this theme is communicated?

Describe a time in your life, when you took over someone else’s role. What did you struggle with in this process? How can you relate how you felt with how Joshua might have felt?

What role did Joshua play in the story of the Israelites?

What role did Joshua play in the story of God’s redemptive plan for the world?

When you think about the role that you play, how do you see yourself in God’s redemptive plan for the world?