Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Sermon--Before the Vision--Joshua 5

I’ve seen several articles lately on Air Travel and the record delays.

Airline delays increased sharply last year to record highs because of a rash of bad weather starting in the fall that shut airports and stranded thousands of passengers, according to federal data obtained by USA TODAY.

Aircraft were delayed 22.1 million minutes last year, Federal Aviation Administration records show.

Holding Pattern

One of the most frustrating things about air travel is the waiting. Delays from weather, security, overbooking, stressed out controllers, too many flights, mechanical. The worst place I would want to be in such a delay rich environment is on the plane up in the air. There’s no way to get off the plane—you have a finite number of times you can circle before falling mercilessly to the ground.

One of the most relieving phrases to hear on a plane in the holding pattern is—“We’ve been cleared to land.” And when you get that vision of the city below, the airport getting closer, the ground approaching, knowing that you’re on your way in—

For 40 years—about the entire life of this church—the people of Israel were in a Holding Pattern. What the people needed, and what was coming was the Vision of how to accomplish the Landing—the taking of the Promised Land, the Victory. But before Joshua could meet with the Commander of the Army of the Lord—he and the people had to demonstrate a few things.

Demonstration of Faith –The Crossing—Joshua 4

Lining up To Cross—seeing the flooding river

First to put your Foot into the Water

Knowing Jericho is on the other side

Taken stones from the River to Remember

Many of the Steps of Faith God asks us to take will not be easy, they won’t make sense, they will be uncomfortable, they will stretch you spiritually, physically, emotionally beyond what you would pick.

And believers in Christ won’t necessarily be well liked when we take such steps. The world will sometimes hate you when you are living faithfully—b/c the world hated Jesus first. You may be persecuted, ridiculed, rejected even by family, because of your willingness to testify and share your love for Him. Seeing the difficulty ahead is no excuse to be unfaithful—it is an opportunity for greater things.

Demonstrations of Faith, prepare you and I to hear from God, prepare us to see where He is taking us.

Demonstration of Renewal –The Circumcision—Joshua 5:1-3

Covenant—Agreement—Relationship—Contract—--Pledge—with certain terms and obligations. If the people wanted to enjoy the benefits and the promise—the land of Canaan—they must submit to the sign of the covenant. V. 7 Tells us that they had neglected this sign while they were in the desert—as we’ll learn, this isn’t the only thing they neglected.

The sign had been given to Abraham—READ Genesis 17:3-11

GE 17:3 Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, 4 "As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. 5 No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. 6 I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. 7 I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. 8 The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God."

GE 17:9 Then God said to Abraham, "As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. 10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you

Renewal is Necessary after Years of Neglect—READ Joshua 6:4-5. Maybe they thought it was a waste of their time—but whatever the reason, the wonderful thing is that God was more than willing to welcome them back to the Covenant even after years of neglect.

Renewal is not easy—this isn’t easy to talk about on a Sunday morning much less seriously consider—is there anyone who would volunteer for this at your age?

Renewal may be risky—they were now in enemy territory—territory that just a generation before had scared them off—and now they want to perform surgery on their fighting men that took some time to heal

If they wanted to see the fulfillment of the Covenant—this Renewal had to be done.

Vs. 9—Gilgal—Roll—roll away the disgrace of Egypt—they were no longer slaves—they had to stop seeing themselves as slaves—a people incapable of victory—a people content and lukewarm.

Sure they had been freed from Egypt—but to What? Life in the Desert? No! They were freed to the Promised Land!!! The Desert was not it—it was not their destination—it was not where God wanted to take them and as long as they would rather stay there, the Reproach of the Old Life would still be on them.

Renewing the Covenant set them on a new course.

We are no different—when we are set free from the bondage of sin and death—we have a new and abundant life that we are freed to—yet we wander in the desert as if we are still slaves—afraid to take on the great and amazing tasks that God has in store for us. We see the obstacles and difficult tasks ahead and back down. We are free, yet we still live like slaves. I am afraid of the steps of faith, I am nervous about what it will cost me to renew and restore my relationship with God to its proper place. But it must be done.

That’s why, in order to see the vision and have the courage to follow it, the people needed to demonstrate their Expectation—and God had already given them something perfect to do it.

Demonstration of Expectation— The Celebration—5:10-11

In the Plains of Jericho, within sight or short march of the city, the Israelites demonstrated their expectation—of what God would do based on what He had done.

Just as the Israelites had neglected circumcision—apparently they also neglected Celebrating the Passover—it is the first time it’s been mentioned since Numbers 9 in the Sinai before they first sent out the spies. Their demonstration moved them to remember how God had already provided for them and protected them from the Plagues of Egypt. If He did then in their past, He would do it again in the future. The Passover was also a call to Expect more great things from God.

Before they could truly enter and enjoy the Promised Land, they had to have their relationship with God in the right place.

It’s the same way with us. In order for us to enjoy the true Promise of God we’ve got to Renew and Restore our Relationship with Him. But also, we must Live in Expectation of God doing great things in us and through us. It may take some risk, may be a little uncomfortable, but it is vital for your life, for my life, for our Church to get moving forward again.

It was because they were God’s Covenant people that He delivered them from bondage. The Passover is a Reminder just how far God was and is willing to go to deliver His people from Bondage, give them a vision of the Future and lead them into the Blessing of His Promise.

But going into the Promised land meant leaving some things behind—vs. 11-12

The Day the Manna Stopped

The Manna was never meant to satisfy—it was never meant to entice them to stay in the desert—it was never meant to be a permanent provision—it was merely to tide them over until they could enjoy the Fruit of the Promised Land.

Have you ever given a snack to a child between meals? When they get hungry in order to tide them over until their real meal?. Is the Snack supposed to replace the meal?

Our problem is that we often give “better” snacks than we do meals—give me a Tweenkie or Fruit Roll Up over a asparagus and meatloaf any day—or we give too much of a snack so when the meal is before them, they no longer want it.

Imagine if the Israelites woke up every morning to a full coarse of healthy sweets and fruit. Why would the Israelites look forward to going into the promised land if they really enjoyed what they were getting in the desert?

How much of the Israelites desire to enter the promised land was so that they could finally eat something different? Numbers 11:5-6--We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost--also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. 6 But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!"

The Manna—what was the daily Provision of God, had to be left behind. There is supposed to be things that are unsatisfying in this world—you are supposed to desire something better—We are supposed to be looking forward to God’s greater blessing—not a dissatisfied, “The grass is greener on the other side” kind of feeling, but an Expectation that What God will be doing is better, where He will be taking us is better, what He wants to show us is exciting.

Even this world is ultimately dissatisfying. There is a reason why Heaven is something to be looked forward to.

Right now, we are in the holding pattern—waiting for our time of inheritance—but we are not supposed to be idle—we are not supposed to just circle overhead, twiddling our thumbs—satisfied with where we are—we have work to do—We need to get a Vision of The Promised Land and a growing desire to have as many people as possible see and understand it as well.

Because we are not supposed to keep this inheritance God has promised just for ourselves. We are not meant to hoard His Promise and blessing—there is enough to go around.

You are to desire more not just for yourself—but also for everyone else around you who is not yet part of this promise. If you have no desire to share your faith in Jesus—then you don’t really have an idea of what you are looking forward to and you have no real idea of what their existence will be like apart from God in hell.

There are so many of us today that are choosing to eat manna when God wants something better, more filling, and more wonderful, but because we are afraid to do something different in our lives, we stay in one place eating manna. When God has a plan for your life, don’t settle for manna. There may be giants in the land but the greatest accomplishments come through hard work and much effort.

The Jordan river was the visible obstacle, but it was not what was keeping them out of the promise land, it was there fear and lack of trust in God.
There are other obstacles in our lives that we do not want to face because we fear the other side. But we can Remember What God has done for us and Live with Expectation and Anticipation for what He will do in us.

When we Take the Lord’s Supper in a few minutes—one of the things we are doing is not just Remembering—but Paul says in 1 Cor. 11:26, that the Lord’s Supper is a Proclamation—we Proclaim the Lord’s Death until He Comes—that is –Something Wonderful Has Happened and something even more wonderful Will Happen—Deliverance and Expectations

Deliverance from the Old Life and Expectation for What God will be doing in us as we enter the Promised land. God didn’t just save us to live in the desert—He has a place He is taking you and me. We must look forward to it with Joy—not fear, not dread—not Oh great that’s going to be a hassle.

After we Demonstrate Our Faith

After we Renew our Relationship

After we Celebrate our Expectation

You cannot have Victory in the Promised Land—Cannot See the Vision or Direction from God w/o crossing over Your Jordan and taking uncertain steps of faith, w/o a Renewal at your Gilgal, a renewal that may not be easy or comfortable, w/o a Celebration and Expectation of God’s Victory

In the Jewish concepts of Messiah, they primarily saw Messiah as the King, the Victorious Ruler, the Military Hero, Heir to the Throne of David. But they were wrong—before they or we can see Messiah as those things—He first had to come as the Deliverer—the means of Salvation—the Suffering Servant who would die on the Cross—give His life that we may be saved. Then He will come again as King, as the Hero, the Victorious Ruler--Deliverance Preceded Victory.

We will begin to glimpse what He wants to do in us, what He wants to do in University Baptist Church, what He wants to do in Macomb. I hope you are praying for that Vision—I hope you are looking with expectation on what God wants to do and where He wants to take us.

Let me let you in on part of that vision. One of those things He wants to do in us—is begin to tear down some walls. There are some formidable walls here in Macomb—we don’t have walls built around the city—we have walls built around people’s hearts—bitterness, hurt, addiction, unbelief, cynicism—all of these are built up around people’s hearts to keep faith and trust at bay.

God’s vision for us is to begin knocking down these walls

As we Celebrate the Lord’s Supper this morning—let us also see it as a Proclamation and an Expectation for What God will be doing in our future.

Lord, help us to take steps of faith, help us to renew our covenant with you, help us to demonstrate our expectation. Show us, teach us how to tear down the walls in our friends lives, in our co-workers lives, in our families lives.

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