Monday, November 18, 2013

Facing the obstacles 11/10/13

Chapter 7
It’s hard to read that scripture isn’t it?
Is is hard to hear it too.  Let’s see if we can understand why it is here.
600 years ago God made a promise to Abraham that his family would become a great nation and be given this land west of the Jordan.
In those 600 years, other people have moved into the Promised Land. They were called the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Perizites, the Hivites, the Jebsusites and others. They are wicked people. They worship other gods. They practice human sacrifice. They use sex as a means of worshipping their gods. They would sooner cut your head off than shake your hand. This is the way they are portrayed in the Bible. Because they are a wicked and sinful people God has judged them.  God’s judgment is that they will lose their land. 
Deuteronomy 9:4 (page 86 in THE STORY) says “4 After the Lord your God has driven them out before you, do not say to yourself, “The Lord has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.” No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is going to drive them out before you. 5 It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on

account of the wickedness of these nations, the Lord your God will drive them out before you, to accomplish what he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”
Did you hear that? God’s judgment on their wickedness and sin.  God will not stand such wickedness. You see, we might say it is not so much that God is fighting for the Israelites, as much as God is judging the wicked Amorites, and Perizites, and Hivites, and Jebsusites. God is not so much giving the land to the Israelites as he is using them to take it away from the sinful Canaanites.
Looking at it from the upper story, God still wants to live with his people. God still wants to do life with his people, but he cannot do that surrounded by sin.
The second reason for the war is very simple. God promised this land to the Israelites so the Canaanites have to go. War is the way that one people takes land from another people.
Looking at is from an upper story perspective this is an issue of God’s faithfulness. Does a faithful God make a promise and then say, “Sorry, someone else got it first, no land for you.” It is a matter of God being true to God’s word. It is a matter of fulfilling God’s promises.
This passage then, reflects two realities.
·        In the lower story, wicked people are living in the land that God promised to the Israelites.
·        From an upper story, God has to eliminate the sin in order to do life with his people.
We don’t have to like the violence. We don’t have to enjoy it. We don’t even have to understand it completely. We do have to accept that it is part of the Bible.  We do have to accept that even though we no longer experience God working through violence. That is the way God worked through those people in that time. It is part of our history and tradition and I think it is best understood as an act of judgment and an assurance that God’s promises are going to be fulfilled, no matter what.
Does that help you a little bit to understand the violence and bloodshed we see in the Bible? I do not know of a better way to explain it, but I do not want us to get hung up on it either.

Setting that aside, then, let’s focus on the rest of the story and see what it has to say to us.
The Israelites came to the promise land. Their spies told them that it is indeed a great land, but there is one problem. Someone already lives there. Not just anyone… they are giants. The spies felt like grasshoppers next to them. They are huge.
There is only one thing bigger than the people who already live in that land. That is the Israelites fear of them. Because of that fear, they spend 40 years wondering in the wilderness. Now a new generation comes to the border of the promised land. The Canaanites are no smaller, but the Israelites faith is a little stronger. Well, it must be a lot stronger because they don’t run away when Joshua tells them what is going to happen.
You have to imagine your response I told you this. “Folks, were going to cross that raging river over there without any boats or bridges. Once we get across, I want all the men to meet me in that big tent. Bring your knives and a band-aid. We have some minor surgery to perform. When we are all done there, we are going to all line up and parade around that huge walled city over there. They are waiting for us, but no one needs any weapons except for 7 trumpets. When I give the word, you will scream as loud as you can and the walls will come tumbling down-- I think. Are you with me?”
From the lower story perspective, this is crazy. It is like watching Wyle E. Coyote go after a gigantic roadrunner.
From an upper story perspective, it is essential.
Faced with such huge obstacles, God provides three things to make sure his plan is successful.

First God says be courageous.
Moses tells Joshua on page 87 of THE STORY. “Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their ancestors to give them.”
In the first chapter of Joshua God repeats it 4 times to Joshua. “Be strong and courageous.” // “Be strong and courageous.” // “Be strong and courageous.” // “Be strong and courageous.” which is followed in chapter 2 by the story of Rahab.
Rahab was a prostitute of the Canaanite city of Jericho. When the spies went to stay at her house, she hid them from the soldiers under the flax on the roof and sent the soldiers on a wild goose chase. She saves the lives of the spies and makes a deal to save her family. In the process, she had a revelation and believed in God. Her beautiful confession is recorded on page 90 of THE STORY. FOR THE LORD YOUR GOD IS GOD IN HEAVEN ABOVE AND ON THE EARTH BELOW.”
What courage it took for a Canaanite to say that! What courage it took a prostitute to receive that revelation. Remember the temple prostitution is one of the things God has condemned. Rahab is one of the reasons for the judgment on the Canaanites.
 What faith it took for her to make that confession! She had such a courageous faith that Rahab is even mentioned in the books of Hebrews and James as an example of courageous faith.
Rahab’s faith becomes a model for the courageous faith for the Israelites and us. The first key to facing insurmountable obstacles is to have a courageous faith.

Courageous faith is the first key to facing obstacles. The second is an obedient faith.
On page 89 of the story, God tells Joshua, “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. (Joshua 1:6-8) Be strong, be courageous, and be obedient. Obey the law. God says you know what is right, so do it.
Achan becomes the example of failing to be obedient.
Achan was one of the soldiers of Israel when Israel was routed by the Army of A’i.
It was a humiliating defeat. They only sent three thousand men because A’i was not that well guarded. They were beaten and chased, running like little girls from the city. What happened? Well, the Lord was not with them that day because someone had disobeyed during the battle of Jericho.
God said that everything they found in Jericho was to be devoted to him. All the plunder was to be either given as a burnt offering to him, or given to his treasury. Achan saw a beautiful robe, 4 pounds of silver and 1 pound of gold. Achan took it and buried it in his tent. He violated God’s order that everything be devoted to him. He broke the 10th commandment and coveted. Then he broke the 8th commandment and stole from God.
When the army went out to A’I,  therefore, the sinner went with them and God didn’t. Remember God cannot stand sin. God let them be defeated in order to teach them that they have to be obedient.
An obedient faith is the second requirement for facing obstacles.

A courageous faith, an obedient faith, and staying close to God.
We have to remember why God gave the law.  In the upper story God gave the law so that people would get along with each other in community, and it would be the kind of community where God could live with his people. The whole goal of the law was so that God could live among the people. The whole goal of the saw was so that God could say, “I AM WITH YOU. “
That same passage we have been citing in full reads like this, God says, “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Wherever you go! Isn’t that t great promise?
Go into the wilderness He is there.
Go into the Jordan, He is there.
Go into battle, He is there.
Go into the promised land, he is there.
Have a courageous faith, have an obedient faith, and stay close to God. Those were Joshua’s instructions. Now listen to the outcome.
“So Joshua took the entire land, just as the Lord had directed Moses, and he gave it as an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal divisions. Then the land had rest from war.” Joshua 11:23
And the land had a rest from war! How good does that sound. The land had a rest from war. We could use a rest too couldn’t we?
We could use a rest from the giants of a lousy economy.
We could use a rest from the giants of a corrupt and inept federal government.
We could use a rest from the giants of personal setbacks
We could use a rest from the giants of conflict with family and at work.
We could use a rest from the giants of the consequences of our own bad decisions.
We could use a rest from the giants of addiction, and depression, and pain.
We could use a rest from the giants of parenting and life choices
We could use a rest from the giants of disappointment and discouragement.
We could use a rest from all of the obstacles of our lives.
We can find that rest in God.
We can find that rest in a courageous faith.
We can find that rest in an obedient faith
We can find that rest knowing that God is with us.
We find that rest in God.
We find that peace in God.
We find that hope in God.

Be brave, be obedient and may God be with you. AMEN.

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