A Series of Sermons on Joshua 3&4
The Crossing of the Jordan by the Children of Israel.
Israel has been cleansed of the disobedience of the “Exodus generation” and is ready to move forward with God’s plan for His chosen nation. They are now to claim the Promised Land and establish a nation that embodies Kingdom values as a witness to the world of God’s love and sovereignty.
This series will examine the steps that were necessary for Israel to accomplish that part of God’s plan and will show us how we can establish a life and a community that embodies kingdom values.
Essentially, “Crossing the Jordan” represents a movement toward Christian maturity within the church community. It is the gradual fulfillment of Jesus’ prayer, “thy kingdom come.”
Consecrating Yourself – Joshua 3:5
Following God’s Presence – Joshua 3:1 - 6
Crossing the Waters – Joshua 3:13 - 17
Gathering 12 Stones – Joshua 4: 1 - 9
Going Somewhere New – 4:13 & 3:4
What does it mean to be consecrated?
Joshua 3: 5, 6
5 Joshua told the people, "Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you." 6 Joshua said to the priests, "Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on ahead of the people." So they took it up and went ahead of them.
It is important to begin this series with the right perspective. We will look at Israel following God’s presence across the Jordan, gathering 12 stones to mark that miraculous event and moving on to conquer Jericho. But before all of that took place and before God would work great miracles on their behalf He required one thing, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you.”
Israel needed to remember what type of people God was calling them to be. Israel was moving into the Promised Land to establish a nation that would display God’s character and will, thereby fulfilling the promise to bless all nations though His people (cf. Gen. 12:1–3). They were to do this by living under his rule with his Presence in their midst. This sanctifying Presence would mark Israel as a holy people, set apart for his work and required holiness of life in response.
This lifestyle would demonstrate to the surrounding nations the benefits of being a people living under God’s rule.
To maintain this lifestyle God gave ritual, moral and social laws that were to be strictly kept. These three areas represent three realms of holiness presented in the OT:
1. The Priests’ Realm – ritual holiness involved being separated from the idolatrous culture surrounding them.
2. The Sages’ Realm – inner integrity and individual moral acts
3. The Prophets’ Realm – speaking and acting out for social justice
The act of consecration was an act whereby Israel purified Herself and recommitted Herself to this lifestyle. They were reminded of God’s holiness and the requirement that they be a holy people. As it was with Israel so it should be with us. We must examine our lives and our communities with regard to these three areas before we seek to move forward.
As Christians our consecration, i.e. dedicating our lives to the service of God, which is made possible by God’s act of forgiveness through Jesus. We are called upon to ‘separate ourselves’ or to ‘offer ourselves as living sacrifices’ because we are called to be people of consecration.
How do we do this?
Stepping away from the idolatrous culture surrounding us
Being ‘in the world, but not of the world’ is a real challenge. We could feel guilty that sometimes we get an urge to respond to someone in a manner we know would not make Jesus happy! Sometimes we are ‘tempted’ to act as one without The Holy Spirit. We need to listen – listen to what God has to say:
I think that this subject revolves more around the choices we make than any other subject. I think so because it requires us to ‘step away’. It means that we need to be deliberate…
• Men: from the internet sites we visit, to the way we manage our personal funds…from the way we use our time to the way we treat our wife. You can be part of the culture and build your own custom ‘idol’ very easily.
• Women: from the manner in which you dress to the way you use your time and talents…from the priorities you set for yourself to the way you deal with your husband.
• Building families and homes of integrity will mean we build a legacy.
Therefore we think about ritual…what rituals help guard us from building ‘idol-like’ life?
• Reading our Bible – spiritual food
• Marking a time to pray – spiritual communication
• Building in devotional time – spiritual direction
• Setting aside ‘an amount’ for giving to God – spiritual priorities
• Involving yourself in something ‘bigger than yourself’ – spiritual service
• Attendance at church – spiritual community
Much of that is ritual…you have heard me say a hundred times – our faith is about relationship not ritual – that is true in regard to ‘our salvation’. But ritual can help us keep spiritual disciplines. It is those disciplines that separate us out…and testify to the advantages of our faith…
Illustration: Jim wanted to know why I didn’t gamble at Rotary. I’ve set myself apart from the world…and we see the disadvantages of taking other people’s money!
• In what ways are we living by separate standards because of our faith?
• What benefits do we see as a result of the stands we take?
• In what ways have we, the church, adopted the values and attitudes of our culture, maybe without even realizing it?
• How does that hinder us from being a blessing to the nations, i.e. the people around us?
Having inner integrity
Living as if we have integrity, and living with integrity are two different things.
Living like we have integrity is: keep up appearances…being careful to do what is right so people see how ‘good we are’. Living like we have integrity means being careful not to get caught in a lie.
Living with integrity means we do right, even when no one is looking…when no one knows we did the right thing. Living with integrity means dealing in truth.
Our neighbour Phil – shoveling his walk…our neighbour noticed and pledged to help. For a moment I felt proud of ‘being seen’ doing the right thing – and I felt the Spirit of God rebuke me… ‘do it for the right reasons’
Matthew 6:1 “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”
We’ve been shocked by the recent press on a SA employee who allegedly set up two ghost company accounts and paid phony invoices to himself in order to defraud TSA for over $2,000,000. He was part of TSA, part of the mechanics necessary to ‘do good’…but all the while was allegedly doing so for personal gain.
Where does pride start? Where does the plan to defraud begin?
Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”NIV
“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” NRSV
• How do we guard our thought life?
• What do we base our values on?
• Are we spending enough private time with God to recognize his voice? to gain strength?
Parents – if there is an area of life that you can teach your children about – this is it! It will not be taught by what you say…it will be caught by what you do. If you have integrity then they will know it.
Practicing social justice
Here-in lies the very essence of faith. Where faith is demonstrated…through our works.
Matthew 25:42-45 “For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ "They also will answer, ’Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ "He will reply, ’I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “
I think about our Self Denial efforts…we gave more as a congregation than anyother congregation in the country. We could feel really good about that – we could feel justly proud…but when we think of the bounty of this land I wonder if we have really done well or just what we should have done!?
I think about groups like World Vision, Save the Children, Care…and a host of other groups who fight to keep children from starving. The Children of Israel were instructed to care for the widows, the orphans, the disadvantaged. We need to not only ‘do’ these things but be a voice into our world.
One of the things I like about being involved in Rotary – I am in a committee that deals with overseas development…drilling water wells, building schools, renovating hospitals…I do it thru Rotary, but my motivation is Biblical.
• In what ways are we as a church and as individuals speaking out for those without a voice the way the early Army did?
• What decisions can we make to benefit the disadvantaged rather than adding to their burden?
Consecrating ourselves is more than just ‘being religious’…it has to do with allowing God to bring us to a point of spiritual maturity…
Romans 12 is an entire chapter built on these principles. From consecrating (verses 1,2) to having inner integrity to practicing faith through actions which affect the world of our brothers and sisters.
As the Children of Israel stood on the edge of the Jordan, and looked across the water. As they looked upon what God called ‘the promised land’ they did so with very specific directions from God about how they would move Forward.
But moving FORWARD without first putting things in the right perspective can be dangerous.
It can lead to us following our own agenda rather than following God’s plan for us.
This week we need to look at what God requires of us, particularly in the areas of being separate from our culture, maintaining our integrity and speaking up for the disadvantages members of our society.
Once we’ve reaffirmed our relationship with God and what that means for our lifestyles, we can examine how to follow His Presence.