Summary: This sermon is the first of five from a sermon series on the book of Joshua entitled: Faith Factor. We learn that just as God promised to be with Joshua he promises to be with us. That promise doesn’t just give us peace; it gives us courage. (Sermon adapt
A child watching him would have wondered why this soldier was so reluctant to cross a little stream? Surely he wasn’t afraid of the water, was he? No, Julius Caesar was not afraid of water. In fact there wasn’t much that famed Roman general was afraid of. Nevertheless Caesar was reluctant to cross the Rubicon, a small stream in north-eastern Italy, because, according to an ancient law, to do so with a standing army meant declaring war on Rome. What should he do? Should he retreat as he had been ordered to do by the Roman Senate, or should he forge ahead and plunge his beloved country into civil war? Caesar crossed the Rubicon and the rest, as they say, is history. In fact “crossing the Rubicon” is a phrase that now means “passing the point of no return.” For Caesar, crossing the Rubicon meant that he could no longer hope to sweet talk his way into the great city of Rome; he would have to fight his way in.
About 1,500 years before Caesar stood dithering on the banks of the Rubicon, an 80-year-old man named Joshua perched on the banks of the Jordan River, his heart pounding in his chest. Oh, he had dreamed of crossing this river for 40 years now but only as an assistant to the famed leader Moses. But alas, Moses was dead and God had fingered him, Joshua, to lead 2 million Israelites across the Jordan into the Promised Land. Was Joshua up to the challenge? Crossing the Jordan meant declaring war on the well-armed people already living in the land. And really, what chance did the Israelites, a rag-tag group of nomadic shepherds, have against fortified cities? God anticipated these doubts and took the time to encourage his chosen leader. “Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9b). What the Lord said to Joshua is what he says to you who stand on the banks of loneliness and uncertainty. What factor will faith in this promise have on your fears? Let’s find out as we begin our new sermon series from the book of Joshua entitled: Faith Factor.
I can’t imagine the despair the Israelites must have felt when Moses died. He had been the only leader they had known since leaving Egypt. Moses had led them across the Red Sea. Moses had spoken to God on their behalf and had intervened when they sinned asking God to forgive them. Could they manage without him? Yes! By taking Moses from them right before the Israelites were to cross into the Promised Land, God made it known that no leader is indispensible.
I see both a warning and a comfort in this truth. I’m warned when I think that this congregation couldn’t possibly function without me – or at least not function as well. Do you ever think that about your position at work or in the family? It’s true, God may have given you special gifts to excel at what you do but don’t kid yourself, the one who gave those gifts can as easily give them to someone else. Since we are not indispensible let’s stop acting like we are. Let’s stop expecting others to do everything our way but start listening to what others have to say – and I don’t mean listening so we can refute them. I mean listening so we can incorporate their ideas in what we do. After all if we find ourselves in a position of leadership, we need to recognize that God didn’t put us there to enjoy the power for ourselves but to use it to serve others.
It’s also comforting to know that Moses was not indispensible. After his death, life went on for the Israelites. And life will go on for you too, you who have lost a spouse, a parent, or grandparents. There will be those times when you say, “Oh, if only so-and-so were here. He would know what to do.” Or “Without her I feel lost and confused. I don’t have any direction.” To you God says: “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. 6 “Be strong and courageous” (Joshua 1:5 b, 6a). Those words were gold for Joshua because while he may not have had the same presence of mind as Moses, Joshua did have the same presence of the divine (Matthew Henry - adapted). And really, that’s all that matters, isn’t it? You may desperately miss your spouse or parents and think that life would be so much better with them at your side. It’s OK to feel that way. That’s evidence of how much you loved them, of how precious a gift from God they were to you. But don’t despair. The Lord is at your side. He who once provided for you through that loved one will continue to provide for you in other ways.