The Promise Land
Wandering Through the Wilderness • Sermon • Submitted
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PG Church Council will meet at 7:00 PM.
Matthew Bible study will continue on Monday evening at 7:00 PM on Zoom.
Committee on Lay Leadership will meet on Tuesday, October 27 at 7:00 PM.
SPRC will meet next Sunday at 3:00 PM.
We will honor our veterans during our 10:30 service on November 8.
O God, who has taught us to keep your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the spirit of peace and grace, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to each other with a pure will; Through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.
PG Song - “Everlasting God”
O Lord, our dwelling place in all generations, we your people come before you in praise and thanksgiving for all your wondrous works. Your eternal Name is worthy to be worshiped.
We were made of the stuff of the earth and, like all your creation, we are made new through your infinite mercy. You have saved us that we might enjoy loving you; you have saved us and called us to love one another. We confess that we have failed in both our tasks. We have not loved you with our whole hearts; we have not honored your great gift when we treat one another with disrespect. Yet your messengers have not come among us in vain. We are called to account, and it is because of your mercy that we may ask, once again, that you will forgive us.
Bless the work of our hands that is done for you, by the gift of your Holy Spirit. Help us to speak, not to please people, but to please you. Enable us to speak clearly the word of grace with our mouths and to show it through our whole lives that the whole world may come to give you the glory.
By the example of Paul we have learned to be gentle in our loving, like a nurse taking care of her children. Empower us to be gentle to those in need of your healing in their bodies, minds, or spirits. Make your power manifest in their lives and heal them.
Satisfy us every day with your steadfast love, and answer us, for we pray in the name of Jesus Christ our blessed Lord and Savior. Amen.
PG Song - “One Thing Remains”
1 Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho, and the Lord showed him the whole land: Gilead as far as Dan, 2 all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, 3 the Negeb, and the Plain—that is, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees—as far as Zoar. 4 The Lord said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants’; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.” 5 Then Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there in the land of Moab, at the Lord’s command. 6 He was buried in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor, but no one knows his burial place to this day. 7 Moses was one hundred twenty years old when he died; his sight was unimpaired and his vigor had not abated. 8 The Israelites wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; then the period of mourning for Moses was ended. 9 Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him; and the Israelites obeyed him, doing as the Lord had commanded Moses. 10 Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. 11 He was unequaled for all the signs and wonders that the Lord sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants and his entire land, 12 and for all the mighty deeds and all the terrifying displays of power that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.
1. The Promised Land is a place of abundance. (vs. 1-3)
1. The Promised Land is a place of abundance. (vs. 1-3)
1 Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho, and the Lord showed him the whole land: Gilead as far as Dan, 2 all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, 3 the Negeb, and the Plain—that is, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees—as far as Zoar.
25 At the end of forty days they returned from spying out the land. 26 And they came to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation of the Israelites in the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; they brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 And they told him, “We came to the land to which you sent us; it flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. 28 Yet the people who live in the land are strong, and the towns are fortified and very large; and besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites live in the land of the Negeb; the Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live by the sea, and along the Jordan.” 30 But Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.” 31 Then the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against this people, for they are stronger than we.” 32 So they brought to the Israelites an unfavorable report of the land that they had spied out, saying, “The land that we have gone through as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people that we saw in it are of great size. 33 There we saw the Nephilim (the Anakites come from the Nephilim); and to ourselves we seemed like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.”
We will be reflecting some on this passage on Sunday during our sermon on the promise land. This passage is extremely important in understanding how we approach the promise land. What is our attitude concerning what is next? I know most of us are filled with anxiety about the future. We look at the presidential election, the rise of COVID cases, and the economy and wonder what is next. It is scary to think about.
When the Israelites got to the precipice of the promise land, Moses sent spies in to scout the area. Two reports came back. All of the spies said that it was a "land flowing with milk and honey." However, ten of the spies focused on the enemies that were in the land as reason not to go inside. The Anakites lived there, and they were descended from the Nephilim found in Genesis 6. The Nephilim were giants who some considered to be gods during the time before the flood. These giants scared many of the spies and prevented them from wanting to go into the land promised to them by God through Abraham.
Two other spies, Joshua and Caleb, had a very different view. They saw the giants in the land. They knew it was going to be difficult. But their perspective was much different. They wanted to go ahead and enter the land and overcome the strongholds and giants that were there. Joshua and Caleb exclaim that the Lord is with the Israelites and the people of the land do not have any protection against God.
However, the people rebelled against God and did not listen to Joshua and Caleb. Rather they listened to the ten spies that were afraid. Because of their rebellion, the entire generation that left Egypt died before they were allowed to go into the land. The Israelites wandered the wilderness for forty years because they did not trust God but instead relied on themselves in this moment. The only ones alive at this time that entered into the promise land were Joshua, Caleb, and their families.
If we are to enter into the promise land, we must do so knowing that God is on our side. Our enemies have already been defeated and the land that is flowing with milk and honey is ours for the taking. God has already promised to us that we have a destiny in him. That destiny does not mean that it will be easy. There must be conquest and battles that are to be fought, but if the Lord is on our side, we cannot be defeated. We must enter with hope knowing that God is with us all the way.
We must move from a “no” to “grow” mentality. If we look at circumstances and already say “no” we may be missing out on what God has in store for us. This shift must happen and take us to new heights. Which leads us to our second point.
2. The Promised Land is a place of blessing. (vs. 4-8)
2. The Promised Land is a place of blessing. (vs. 4-8)
4 The Lord said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants’; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.” 5 Then Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there in the land of Moab, at the Lord’s command. 6 He was buried in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor, but no one knows his burial place to this day. 7 Moses was one hundred twenty years old when he died; his sight was unimpaired and his vigor had not abated. 8 The Israelites wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; then the period of mourning for Moses was ended.
18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, 19 the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.”
14 in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
16 Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
The land was promised to Abraham in his covenant with God in Genesis 15. There God declares that this land was a place of blessing for the descendants of Abraham. In that same chapter, before the blessing ever comes to Abraham, it says this, "As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram , and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him" (Genesis 15:12). Abraham had been in a crisis of faith up to this point. He really didn't know if God was going to do what he promised. In chapter 12, God told Abraham that he would have descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky or the grains of sand. He and Sarah had no children at this point. So Abraham asks God, "O Lord GOD, how am I to know that I shall possess it [the land]?" (Genesis 15:8)
The unknown is a terrifying place for us. How did Abraham know that God would follow through on his promise to him? That is when God makes a covenant with Abraham. God has already promised earlier in the chapter that Abraham's reward will be great. In other words, if Abraham believes and trusts in God, he will receive a great blessing from the Lord. That blessing in Abraham's case was descendants and land. God fulfilled his promise when Moses stood on Mt. Nebo and saw the vast land in front of him - a land flowing with milk and honey - that will be for God's people.
What would have happened if Abraham had said “no”? What would he have missed out on had he not looked at the circumstance differently and said that he trusted in what God was doing?
But what about us today? We are not promised land. However, we are promised blessing when we trust in Christ in faith. The promise that we receive is a promise through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit brings blessings to God's people in faith. We can stand here on this side of the promise land while we are still in the wilderness and see what God has in store for us. God wants to bring revival to the church. Everything that has happened in the past seven months is a reminder that we must rely on and trust in God and not in ourselves. He is the one who can make all things new, not us. So we can look over in the promise land and see that land flowing with milk and honey. We can see people coming to know Christ as Savior. We can see the Spirit reviving the church from its slumber and filling the people of God with power. The question is, "how do we get there?" What is the plan and vision to bring this about? What is God saying to us to bring this to pass? God always brings us vision, and he also brings us the way to that vision.
That leads us to our final point...
3. The Promised Land is a place with a future. (vs. 9-12)
3. The Promised Land is a place with a future. (vs. 9-12)
9 Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him; and the Israelites obeyed him, doing as the Lord had commanded Moses. 10 Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. 11 He was unequaled for all the signs and wonders that the Lord sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants and his entire land, 12 and for all the mighty deeds and all the terrifying displays of power that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.
11 For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.
1 After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying, 2 “My servant Moses is dead. Now proceed to cross the Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the Israelites. 3 Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, as I promised to Moses. 4 From the wilderness and the Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, to the Great Sea in the west shall be your territory. 5 No one shall be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous; for you shall put this people in possession of the land that I swore to their ancestors to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to act in accordance with all the law that my servant Moses commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, so that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall be successful. 9 I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
God already had a plan in place after Moses’ death for the Israelites to continue forward with the vision God had for them. God does not abandon us. At the beginning of the book of Joshua, the Lord speaks to Joshua before going into the promise land. In that speech, God tells him several things that are important for us: every place your foot trods, the Lord has given us, no one shall stand against us, the Lord will never fail us, be strong and courageous, obey the Law and you shall prosper, the Lord is wherever you go.
This is the vision that the Lord had for his people and for us. He tells Jeremiah that he has given the people a future of hope. Now it may seem hopeless to us. But God is putting in place a new vision for us beyond what we can see right now. He has given us the tools and gifts that are needed to do the work that he has called us to do right now.
What might that vision look like for us? The beginnings of the Methodist movement give us some insight into what we are called to do and be. We are to be a people who are discipling one another. The vision is that we have more missional communities springing up across our charge. Our missional community will begin meeting again after the first of the year, but I would love to see one or two others form as well in homes helping each other grow closer to God. One of my visions is for us to have missional communities and times of discipleship in the community. Going to a local coffee shop once a week to meet and talk together is something that I have been working on as well. I have the place lined up. If you would like to learn more, there will be an announcement in the e-edition of the Methodist Messenger this week. Another part of the vision that God has for us is to focus on the needs of our community. Missions is the life of any congregation. We are in times when our neighbors are in great need. Focusing our energies in ways that will benefit those around us is what we are about. Helping children learn to read better. Providing clothing for others. Caring for the elderly around us. Providing food boxes at Christmas for families that are hurting. These are some real and tangible ways we can make a difference in people’s lives here.
I am sure that there are other things that all of you have in your hearts as well that would be great ways to focus on discipleship and missions in our community. Please share those ideas with me and let’s talk about them. If God gives us a vision, there is a reason for it. Getting to the promise land is a process. In order to get there, there were obstacles that got in the way of Israel. They had to cross the Jordan River. They had to rely upon the Lord to tear down the walls of Jericho. When they got into the promise land, they had to fight battles with the enemies of God to overcome. It will not necessarily be easy. There will be battles and obstacles ahead. Satan does not want us to succeed. He wants us to remain in the wilderness in continue to wander forever. But God has a different plan for us. We must seize upon the opportunities and vision that God is giving us so that we can be successful and follow through with what God has in store for us.
PG Song - “Beautiful Name”