Summary: A reworking of one of my previous messages, this time for a New Year's Day emphasis.
Joshua 1:12-18 – Settling into the New Year
I heard a story about a college student who once sent a telegram to his parents reading: "Mom – flunked all courses. Kicked out of school. Wasted all money, mine and yours. Prepare Pop."
Soon afterwards, Mom sent back a response: "Pop prepared. Prepare yourself."
This is, of course, the 1st Sunday in the New Year. I think it’s wise to prepare ourselves for what God might have in store for us in 2011. Could we be the people God wants us to be?
Today I’d like to share with you a thought or two from the book of Joshua, in the OT. It’s a book about new beginnings, so it seems appropriate for today, January 2nd. I’ll read the passage, then give you some background about what’s going on, and finally, what it means for us today. Let’s read Joshua 1:12-18.
Now, to understand what’s going on, I need to teach a little bit of Hebrew history. The Israelites were slaves for 300 years, but God used Moses to free them from the Egyptians. God wanted to lead them to a land called Canaan, an area rich in resources. It was the Promised Land. But because of unbelief, the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years. “Wandered” isn’t completely the right word, because they found places where they camped. Not places that they would establish a homestead forever, mind you, but places they could put up a tent and be comfortable.
At the end of that 40 years, Moses appointed a new leader – Joshua, a man of faith and courage. Moses died, and Joshua took over. It was his task to lead the 12 tribes of Israel – the 12 main families descended from Israel, a.k.a. Jacob – into the Promised Land of Canaan. Now, here’s the catch. Some of the groups decided that they liked the land so much they wanted to stay there. At first it was the tribes of Reuben and Gad, but the feeling spread to the half-tribe of Manasseh as well. I say “half-tribe” because they were not a full tribe. They were from the son of Joseph, who was a son of Israel. Joseph’s 2 sons Ephraim and Manasseh each got a full share of land division.
Anyway, this is what they said: Numbers 32:3-5. Now, you can see why they wanted to live there. First, they were already living there, as much as they had lived anywhere. Second, the land was already theirs. Third, it was just plain easier to stay there than moving on.
And I think this is the hinge of the argument. They wanted to stay there because it was just easier to stay than to go. It was easier on their families to stay put. It was easier on their livestock and herds to stay put. It was just easier not to leave and to stay right where they were at.
I like the word “settle”. I think it carries enough meanings for us to look at. Those 2-1/2 tribes just wanted to settle. Yes, it means that they wanted to pitch their tents and live on the eastern side forever. But, it also means that they were willing to accept less than the best. They were going to try to be content with their little share. They were going to be happy just making themselves happy.
And I don’t think that people are much different today. Even in the church. After all, look at what God has done for us. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. He took the punishment we deserved. He carried our sins, our foibles, our mistakes to the cross. Every time we cursed, Christ carried it. Every time we lied, Christ carried it. Every time we rebelled, or we disobeyed our parents, or we harbored bitterness, or we showed selfishness, or we lusted, or we did the opposite of what we knew God wanted, Christ carried it. He took our sins and He took our punishment. He took our place.
He took the punishment for our sins so that we wouldn’t have to. Our death He died. But the grave was not the end, neither for Jesus nor for us. As we looked at last week, there was a resurrection on the 3rd day. He didn’t continue to carry our sins. He shook them off like an old rag. But the next part of the story is the part most miss. Folks, just as Christ got rid of our sins, so should we. The fact that Christ took our sins is no excuse for you to remain in them. Forgiveness is not a good enough reason for you to remain in sin.
Yet some see it that way. Once they are forgiven, they assume that nothing can ever separate them from God. They assume that they are now out of the water. After all, isn’t that what “saved” means?