Summary: Practicing our faith daily is the way to become strong and courageous.
Be Strong and Courageous
The Reverend Anne Benefield
Geneva Presbyterian Church, October 21, 2007
Moses said to the Israelites, “See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in His ways, and observing His commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying Him, and holding fast to Him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”
Introduction: The passage we just read is sometimes referred to as “the Gospel of the Old Testament” because it tells of the loving, compassionate God doing incredible things to save a frail people. The voice of Moses distills the alternatives that the wandering Israelites face. The choice is theirs. Unlike when Pharaoh held their life and death in his hands and chose according to his whims, the Israelites now hold their own lives in their own hands. We, too, hold our own lives in our hands. The choice is ours.
The passage I am going to read now is the command that God gave to Joshua as he was commissioned to lead the people following the death of Moses. As we open the book of Joshua, the people are camped on the plains of Moab about seven miles east of the Jordan, where they have been for months. In verse 3, God promises Joshua, “I will give you every place where you set your foot.” Where they actually went, God gave them the land. But where they didn’t go, the Canaanites continued to hide out and harass them.
The same is true for us: To grow in faith we must believe the promises of God and desire to see them fulfilled in our own lives. [Ralph F. Wilson, firstname.lastname@example.org, retrieved 10/18/2007]
God said to Joshua, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you: I will not fail you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous; for you shall put this people in possession of the land that I swore to their ancestors to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to act in accordance with all the law that my servant Moses commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, so that you may be successful wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall be successful. I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
On Thursday, Carolyn Chou came by to see me. You may remember her. She and her husband, Yuan, were married here and we baptized their children, Matthew and Sabrina, who is now 20 month old daughter. Carolyn brought Sabrina with her. Sabrina is in the throws of separation anxiety. As Sabrina sat on her mother’s lap, she cried. And she cried. And she cried. There wasn’t much we could do. Even though Sabrina was sitting in her mother’s lap, she was thinking about her mother leaving her. So even though she was touching her mother, it wasn’t enough.
I feel that way sometimes, too. I can be hugging Olya and worrying about keeping her safe from all the things that can hurt a young girl. I can be holding my paycheck in my hand and still be afraid I won’t have enough money to pay the bills. I can be enjoying lunch with my Mother and still be concerned because she won’t be here forever.
Perhaps most importantly, I can be resting in the everlasting arms of our Lord and still, like Sabrina, be sure God is no where to be found. Our passage today starts where we left off last week, not because it is the next passage in I Kings, because the central idea is the same. God tells Joshua, “I will be with you.” God says, “Trust me. I will never leave you.”