Seeking the Lord and obeying his commands enables us to have the courage to believe his covenant promises

Covenant of Promise  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  24:07
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People often struggle to understand some of the difficult parts of the Bible.
Others simply discount it because they don’t like it.
Others see things they don’t like and use them to attack the claims of Christ and his church.
Scene 1/ If we are to learn from the difficult parts of the Bible we need to understand why they were necessary & the promises behind them.
All too often many Christians stay away from the hard parts because they don’t understand them.
They have never been taught how to deal with the difficult passages and are sometimes scared of what they might have to believe if they do look at them.
A people who do not know the Scriptures, are a people who do not have a full and correct understanding of the Lord.
How can they have the courage to trust his promises if they do not understand why the promises and commands were given.
As a result they miss out on all that he has for them.
When we look at the book of Joshua we are confronted with numerous instances where God commands the complete destruction of a group of people.
In Joshua 8:1 the Lord says this “Do not be afraid or discouraged. Take all your fighting men and attack Ai, for I have given you the king of Ai, his people, his town, and his land. 2 You will destroy them as you destroyed Jericho and its king. But this time you may keep the plunder and the livestock for yourselves. Set an ambush behind the town.” (NLT)
Why would God demand the killing of every living person in a town?
Why is there this idea of Holy War, when today we see such a thing as evil?
When we ask this question we are starting at the wrong point.
God had claimed the land of Canaan as his special place; there he would dwell with his people.
He could claim any place he wanted as he had created every place, he chose Canaan.
So firstly we need to understand that wherever God dwells must be consecrated.
Just as the Ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle were consecrated to God.
Just as the people had been consecrated to God
So the land, where the Lord himself was to dwell had to be consecrated.
And before you can consecrate something to God you must first purify it.
The land of Canaan was not pure.
There were a number of reasons.
Firstly the people of the land, the various groups collectively known as the Canaanites & Amorites had defiled the land by worshipping pagan gods.
These gods claimed certain territory as their own.
The worship of these gods was debauched and included child sacrifice.
This brings defilement on the land known as blood guilt.
A defilement that Genesis 15:16 tells us was growing in each generation.
Genesis 15:16 NLT
16 After four generations your descendants will return here to this land, for the sins of the Amorites do not yet warrant their destruction.”
A defilement which must be addressed.
Secondly the people of the land were in open opposition to the Lord.
None of them came to offer themselves to the Lord, they all opposed Israel and her God.
The only notable exception was Rahab who protected the spies at Jericho.
Rahab was saved because we read in Joshua 2:11 that she not only acknowledged the Lord, she changed sides.
She chose to accept his Lordship rather than stand against it.
Thirdly the Canaanite people were very happy to lead Israel to sin against the Lord.
Repeatedly we read of times when they sought to absorb Israel through trickery or temptation.
In Genesis 34:23 we read that the people of Canaan saw Israel as an opportunity to get rich., where it says, “But if we do this, all their livestock and possessions will eventually be ours. Come, let’s agree to their terms and let them settle here among us.””
In Numbers 25 we read that the Moabites, used seduction to get Israel to worship their idols.
For these reasons and more the land needed to be purified.
This meant cleansing it of all defilement.
For this reason and as judgment for their despicable sins the Canaanites were to be destroyed.
Their cities burnt and the wealth of those cities put into the Lord’s treasury.
Everything was dedicated to the Lord.
The Old Testament uses a specific word to describe this practice.
It is a verb which means ‘to devote to the ban’ [1]
To purify the land by giving everything in it over to God.
This raises a second question about the idea of killing every living person in a town.
Isn’t every person on earth already under the sentence of death for their sin?
Each person continues to live only by the grace of God (Gen. 3:3).
So God doesn’t need any further justification for the death of any person, including the Canaanites.
The abominations of the Canaanites however, went beyond those of other sinful men, they deserved what they got.
Furthermore, as the eternal Creator and sovereign Lord of the universe, God controls the lifespan of every person (Job 1:21; Ps. 31:15; 39:4–5; cf. Dan. 4:35).
So whether death comes by natural means or through war, it is strictly in His hands.[2]
We need to remember that God was dealing with the problem of a defiled land, whilst planning to provide the environment where his chosen people could flourish.
The religious practices of the Canaanite people were toxic, the land needed to be purified in order to be provide a place where Israel could flourish.
After all none of us would put a newborn in a vat of toxic waste and expect that it would be good for the child.
God had promised his people a land flowing with milk & honey, a good land where they could live in peace and devotion to him.
He asked them to trust his promise and take the land.
They would be his instrument of purification; but they needed courage because the task before them was huge.
Scene 2/ It takes courage to trust God’s promises, especially as most of what he asks us to believe is physically impossible.
We all know that some things are physically impossible.
You can’t breathe in outer space.
There is no oxygen and there is no air pressure.
Now if you just happen to step outside the spacecraft bubbles will form in the blood supply, followed by a lack of circulation at which point you will suffer decompression sickness, any fluids on or in the body will freeze, your lungs may rupture as you hold your breath and you will suffer radiation damage, which won’t really matter too much because it is believed that you will be unconscious in less than 14 seconds and dead soon after.
However contrary to popular myth you will not explode, you will just swell up.
Apparently it is only possible for a person to explode if the pressure instantly drops from very high to normal.
This has happened only once in a deep sea diving incident when a decompression chamber operating at 9 times normal atmosphere was breached and instantly dropped to normal atmospheric pressure.[3]
A scene in a movie, I think it was James Bond, picked up on this idea as one way to deal with the bad guys.
So it is impossible to breath in outer space, but it is possible to explode on earth.
But is it possible for a group of nomads to take control of a large settled region, full of fortified cities and professional armies?
This is the challenge that Joshua and the nation of Israel faced.
The covenant promise seemed impossible.
God had promised them the whole land.
Humanly speaking it was an impossible task.
They only had what they carried.
They had no chariots, no horses, no siege equipment and they were living off the land with no supply chain and very basic weapons of javelins, swords and shields.
Their enemies were in fortified cities, with all of the resources of a settled people.
And the Lord says to Joshua and the people of Israel, “Be strong & courageous, I will give you this land that I promised” Joshua 1:6.
Isn’t it the same with the resurrection of Christ?
By all human understanding this too is impossible.
Yet the Lord asks us to believe it as the central pillar of our faith.
Jesus himself made the point in Luke 24:25 when he said, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. (NLT)
Then in Luke 24:36-53 Jesus confirms that which is impossible is actually true.
Luke 24:36–53 NLT
36 And just as they were telling about it, Jesus himself was suddenly standing there among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. 37 But the whole group was startled and frightened, thinking they were seeing a ghost! 38 “Why are you frightened?” he asked. “Why are your hearts filled with doubt? 39 Look at my hands. Look at my feet. You can see that it’s really me. Touch me and make sure that I am not a ghost, because ghosts don’t have bodies, as you see that I do.” 40 As he spoke, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 Still they stood there in disbelief, filled with joy and wonder. Then he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he ate it as they watched. 44 Then he said, “When I was with you before, I told you that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and in the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. 46 And he said, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day. 47 It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.’ 48 You are witnesses of all these things. 49 “And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.” 50 Then Jesus led them to Bethany, and lifting his hands to heaven, he blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up to heaven. 52 So they worshiped him and then returned to Jerusalem filled with great joy. 53 And they spent all of their time in the Temple, praising God.
The disciples trusted God’s promise, the Holy Spirit came and they were witnesses to Christ, as a result the church was born.
In obedience they preached the Gospel and many have come to faith.
We today are a fulfillment of that promise and the obedience of the disciples in the face of something seemingly impossible.
Scene 3/ Believing God’s promises is the key for only when we believe will we step out in obedience.
The Lord told Joshua that no one would be able to stand against him.
Joshua was given a promise that the Lord would be with him wherever he went. (Joshua 1:5)
The people of Israel in Joshua 7:24-26 had seen the result of disobedience when Achan deliberately disobeyed God.
As a result their courage melted away.
But Joshua and the elders of Israel chose to keep believing God’s promises.
They dealt with the sin in their midst and in belief answered God’s call.
We read in Joshua chapter 8 that the Lord guided them to win a great victory over the king of Ai and all his people.
Israel believed God’s promise and in obedience they saw his victory.
In Joshua 8:30-35 they reaffirmed the Lord’s covenant with them; they had stepped out in obedience and seen the impossible become possible.
Jesus has given us a promise in Matthew 28:20 that he will be with us always to the very end of the age.
It is a promise which is wrapped up in a command.
Matthew 28:18-20 “18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.””
The courage to trust the promise only comes through belief in the one who gives the promise.
Will you believe today?
God has promised eternal life,
He has promised to be with us wherever we go.
He has promised peace in the midst of strife, comfort in the midst of despair.
Joy in the midst of sorrow.
The power of the Holy Spirit to preach the gospel in word and in deed.
Will you believe?
[1] Hess, R. S. (1996). Joshua: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 6, p. 46). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. [2] Packer, J. I., Tenney, M. C., & White, W., Jr. (1997). Nelson’s illustrated manners and customs of the Bible (p. 297). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson. [3]
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