Summary: This message was preached for my present church’s 40th Anniversary and it calls us to ’cross the Jordan’ and move into the "Land of Promise."
* My personal intent for today’s message was to entitle this “From the Wilderness to the Promised Land” and draw a parallel between the COI and HBC. However, God had other ideas, not about this message or the parallel, but about the title.
* In context, 40 years earlier God brought the COI to Kadesh which is on the southern border of the land of Canaan. Canaan was the land which God had promised to Abraham generations earlier and now it was time to claim what God had promised them. God had said “you can take it” and they responded, “We can’t and we won’t.” Recently, I have heard 2 different preachers give 2 unique thoughts on what transpired at Kadesh. The first preacher suggested that the “Land Acquisition” committee changed their mission. They were told to scout the land, see what’s there, and bring back some fruit. Instead they came back that it was ‘unfeasible to take the land.’ The other preacher suggested that the failure at Kadesh was a leadership failure. His words were that Moses caved into the majority instead of following what God had told Him. While I can certainly argue this case, I sympathize with Moses. That said, historically the majority tend to get things wrong because the majority tends to be logical and ‘bottom-line’ oriented instead of God led. In scripture God calls a man, not committees, to lead.
* When the committee returned, gave the bad report, and the majority said, “We’re not going to do this,” in an over simplistic translation God’s response was, “Fine. Try forty years of wandering around in the wilderness.” And by the way adults because you decided to disbelieve and be disobedient, you won’t ever get to see the land flowing with milk and honey because you will die in the wilderness.”
* As an aside, the thought of spending 40 years wandering is tough. To wander is to go about aimlessly, with no sense of purpose, no clear direction; it is simply to exist by doing today what you did yesterday and repeating that behavior again tomorrow, simply because you have always done it that way. However, to spend life wandering in a wilderness is unthinkable, but to die there is unimaginable. Today, there are many believers and congregations who are wandering in the wilderness of this culture. We live today like we did yesterday and like we plan on living tomorrow – with no sense of God’s purpose or direction – and before we know it, a lifetime has come and gone, & we have little or nothing to show for it.
* It all comes back to ‘Choices’ or ‘decisions’! Every day we make decisions, both personally and collectively. These daily decision, while seemingly small, can have far-reaching consequences. For instance, the decision you make today will determine how you act, what you say, and how you live – tomorrow. How you live tomorrow, may well determine the eternal destiny of someone you meet.
* Let’s put a personal touch to this story then draw the Biblical parallel for life.
* In 1971 a tragedy occurred in Hueytown, Alabama. Because, based on the word of God and His call for unity, anytime God’s people experience disunity, it is an affront to God. The people who made up a church determined to go in two different directions. One group stayed in the church while the other group, almost a year later, constituted a new church. Even after 40 years, when this topic comes up, there still exists strong emotion about ‘who was right and who was wrong.’ I stand here, at the risk of life and limb, to tell you who was right and who was wrong. God was right and people were wrong. The issue never was, never has been, and never will be, ‘who’ was right in the formation of this congregation. The real issue is “what does God think, what does God want, and what does God expect?” For you see, it is all about HIM and not at all about US!
Next week we cross the threshold of 40 years in service. During this time many people have come and gone. In fact, some of us in this room have come, gone, come, gone, come, and gone (and come). While this may be uncomfortable for some of us, if we expect God to bless, we will have to get honest. Think about the experiences of the Children of Israel. To read their story is to ‘think’ that they are about to ‘get it together’ with Jehovah God – only to walk away from Him in disobedience. How much do we resemble Children of Israel?! It’s frightening.
* I don’t know you, but I have long been tired of ‘wandering in the wilderness.’ My prayer for this past year has been for God to send a revival among us and that this month be a symbolic ‘crossing over Jordan.’ Over the past couple of months, I have sensed from those who are involved in ministry that we are ready to cross the river and leave the barren wilderness behind. God’s Promised Land is a new land with new focus with the birth of new soul is made possible because of a new commitment to a God who makes all things new.