Summary: 1st in a potentially very long and thorough series on Joshua. Also a good New Year sermon. This 1st one deals with faith and courage.
Joshua 1:1-9 – Starting Over
Jeffrey Anselmi wrote these words: “I am the new year. I am an unspoiled page in your book of time. I am your next chance at the art of living. I am your opportunity to practice what you have learned about life during the last twelve months. All that you sought and didn’t find is hidden in me, waiting for you to search it but with more determination. All the good that you tried for and didn’t achieve is mine to grant when you have fewer conflicting desires. All that you dreamed but didn’t dare to do, all that you hoped but did not will, all the faith that you claimed but did not have – these slumber lightly, waiting to be awakened by the touch of a strong purpose. I am your opportunity to renew your allegiance to Him who said, "Behold, I make all things new."”
Well, I know that we are already in the 2nd Sunday of the New Year, but I felt that it would still be appropriate to begin a series on starting over. Turn with me to the book of Joshua. Let’s read Joshua 1:1-9.
I need to give you some history background. The Israelites, the extended family of Jacob, a.k.a. Israel, have been freed slavery. They were the unwilling servants to the Pharoah in Egypt for 400 years. Eventually their cries for deliverance grew so great that God answered them. God sent Moses, one of their own, raised in the palaces of Pharoah, to be their leader, which he did well. Moses led them out of Egypt after a series of unfortunate events, called plagues, convinced the powers-that-be that the Hebrews, the Israelites, were more trouble than they were worth.
Moses led them out but the group was fairly ungrateful. They complained pretty adamantly about not having enough to eat or enough to drink, even though God had just shown them that He was more than willing and able to meet their needs. They got to Mt. Sinai, also called Mt.Horeb, where the Law was given. And soon this group found themselves on the eastern side of the Jordan River, which flowed north to south. Why the eastern side? Because the western side was occupied. The western side, this rectangular piece of land some 250 miles long, between 30 and 60 miles wide, this land called The Promised Land, was overrun by people collectively called the Canaanites.
Moses sent 12 spies across the river to find out what kind of people were there. When the spies returned, 2 of them – Joshua and Caleb – reported that the land was ripe for taking. The other 10 said it would be impossible to take the land, because the people in Canaan were so big, the spies felt like grasshoppers in comparison.
Well, the majority of the Israelites believed the 10 with the bad report. God was not pleased with this, because the people chose to believe the 10 instead of the 2. More importantly, the people chose to believe the opinion of others instead of the opinion of God, who had promised the land in the 1st place. So, out of punishment for their lack of faith, God sentenced the Israelites to “wander” in the desert, 4 years for each negative report, totaling 40 years. It is now at the end of that 40 years.
And Moses is now dead – v2. That’s not just a piece of daily news. It’s more than historical fact. What that means, is that a new day is here. The old has gone. God was saying, you cannot live in the past anymore. That preacher, he’s gone. That leader, they’ve left. That hurtful time, it’s over. That betrayal, it’s past. That letdown, it’s done with. That event that changed you and scarred you and has defined so much of who you are, it is time to leave it. Put it behind you. With the grace of God, you do not have to be a slave of your past, whatever you did or whatever happened to you. Christ has set you free from it. Claim that promise.
After all, look at God’s promises of blessings: promises of land (v2-4), and promises of His presence (v5). Just as He promised Moses, He promised to Joshua – v3. And look at the verbs: “I’m giving” (v2), “I’ve given” (v3), “I’ve sworn” (v6). You see? God had already promised the land to them. He promised it to them 40 years earlier, and He promised it to them almost 700 years earlier to their forefather Abraham. His promises were there for the believing. Folks, the reason we live so far below our potential has nothing to do with God; it has to do with our lack of faith. Ephesians 1:3 says that He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing. Why don’t we have them? Where’s our joy? Where’s our confidence? Where are the answered prayers? We don’t have them because we don’t believe them. We have not because we ask not.