Summary: I talk about three themes found in Joshua 3-4: the power of God, the leadership of God and the necessity of remembering.
(And the Lessons We Learn)
January 18, 2003
Intro: (I began this sermon sharing a personal story non-related to the sermon)…
I’m not sure what kind of truth you’ll take away from the story I just shared…but I want to tell you a story found in the book of Joshua that is worth repeating again and again for all of our benefit. I want to recap the story of the Israelites crossing the Jordan river. Now this instance is strikingly similar to another great event in the Bible—the crossing of the Red Sea.
Transition: RECAP JOSHUA 3-4 (since we don’t have time to read both chapters today)
Moses dies. Transfer of leadership to Joshua. Joshua is to lead the nation into the Promised land. God gives Joshua assurance. He rallies his troops. Gives the priests instructions to carry the ark of the covenant ahead of them. The priests were to step into the river fully confident that God was going to allow them to pass. After crossing the Jordan they were to camp in Gilgal. After crossing the Jordan they were to take 12 stones from the river they crossed as a reminder to them of what the Lord had done.
Three important realities really stood out to me in this story. I want to share them with you today.
THE POWER OF GOD
“He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.” Joshua 4:24
The writer(s) of Joshua wanted to make it unmistakenly clear that this act was no coincidence but it was from the hand of God. God did this not man. In so doing this and all the many other “miracles” in the Bible it should lead us to respond in a healthy fear of God. Each time God makes himself known it should lead us to respond. These acts of God speak a sermon to us. They tell us about God’s giving us new life. They tell us about how God is with us. They tell us about God’s power.
So, why don’t we see a Parting of the Gulf of Mexico or of the Nueces River today? I believe without a shadow of a doubt that God could do those things and so much more. For God is the same yesterday, today and forever. But why does he have to? The reality is, there would still be so many who wouldn’t believe him anyway. We have to remember that to Joshua and the Israelites they had never encountered or heard anything like this before. This wasn’t a daily occurrence for them.
Sometimes we forget that God’s power works in other ways. The power we are given to forgive. The power of God that dries up the rivers of bitterness in our lives. The power of God that breaks through the hardened hearts of those we’ve stopped praying for because we felt there was no more use.
Illustration: A man was putting tin roof on his barn when all the sudden he slipped and began to slide down the roof. He cried out to God to save him when no sooner he got the words out of his mouth a nail caught his pants and stopped him. When he stopped he said, “never mind God I took care of it”. The problem isn’t that God doesn’t perform miracles anymore the problem is we’re not looking for God to perform miracles. (www.sermoncentral.com)
The God of Joshua is the God of today. And he is a God of wonders. Let’s sing about that.
SING GOD OF WONDERS BY THIRD DAY
Another important theme we see in these two chapters is….
THE LEADERSHIP OF GOD
Joshua gets his orders. He sends the priests ahead of everyone else because they are carrying the ark of the covenant. What’s the ark of the covenant? It was a chest that God instructed the people to build. Inside the chest contained the stone tablets of the commandments, manna (the food God provided while they were in the wilderness, and Aarons staff. This chest represented the presence of God. The priests were sent on about 1,000 yards ahead of everyone else as they journeyed to the Jordan. They had to be very careful with this ark. There were instructions not to let anyone else touch it or they would die. 1,000 yards away—isn’t that 10 football fields ahead! What do you think God was saying by this? God was in charge. This was a God assignment, accomplished God’s way. When God leads you you have nothing to fear.
“Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about 1,000 yards between you and the ark; do not go near it.” 3:4