For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that who ever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life
After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. No one will 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 never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.
“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Let us pray
Hide me behind your cross, Lord. May my words be your heart in my voice to your people. You have told us you love us, help us to know your love and live it every day of our lives. Amen
In the Old Testament, who besides Adam and Eve has no parents?
Joshua, son of Nun
That’s a preacher joke. They are kind of like dad jokes, but even funnier.
In all seriousness, we now find ourselves at the book of Joshua. And Joshua tells us the story of the conquering nation of Israel as they move into the land that was promised to them. Joshua will lead them. But Joshua is pretty new at being the only leader – his mentor and friend, Moses has just died. And so God comes to Joshua and gives him this pep talk. It is a pretty compelling pep talk – but it is a reminder that whatever else moving into the promised land might be, easy is not going to be one of the terms used to describe it.
Listen as God tells Joshua some important things about his next steps:
Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.
“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
You will lead. You need to obey. And I will be with you.
IN those things, Joshua is urged, be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or discouraged. You will do what I have called you to.
You will lead; they will inherit.
You need to obey; you will be successful in what you do.
You need to be brave and encouraged: I will be with you.
And then the whole book of Joshua is an exercise in exactly that:
God helps them cross a flooded river Jordan on dry land
God helps them investigate Jericho, the first city they must fight against
God gives them Jericho by leading them in a strange battle practice and defeating their enemies for them
God helps them save Rahab, the woman who protected their spies and includes her in the lineage of Jesus
God helps them conquer city after city and people after people throughout the Promised Land.
Until they are finally able to rest.
Each tribe is awarded their inheritance, and each prepares to inhabit the land God has given them.
And at the end of Joshua, Joshua’s last proclamation to them, includes this admonition for them to decide always to follow God (Joshua 24:15):
But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
The people agree to serve the LORD who has rescued them and established them in the promised land.
Because God’s promises have all been true: God was with them in this task. God was with Joshua in this task. God gave them strength and courage when they lacked it, and God gave them all that had been promised from the beginning.
And for a long time – the rest of that generation and a few more, the people were obedient to God.
What does the story of Joshua and the fulfillment of those promises say to us? How can we see God’s love for us in the ways God worked in this place and this time?
The story of Joshua and his leadership that you read in scripture is a reminder that when God calls us to do something, God is faithful to what has been promised. All of these stories from Genesis to Joshua (and the rest of scripture, too, of course) are a picture of God’s faithfulness. If God commands us or calls us or promises us: God will do it.
So – when we are obedient to God’s call on our lives (which is to be followers of Christ and ambassadors of our hope in him) we can accept the same promises that God makes to Joshua at the very beginning of this book:
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged. God will be with you wherever you go.
We can stand tall in the face of adversity. We can fight through challenges and hardships. We can live out our faith and we can do it with strength and courage, because we know God is faithful. Because we know God has promised that God will be with us – wherever we go.
Our commitment to following Jesus means we do not stay where we are. We do not remain stagnant in our faith. We do not live the same as everyone else – instead we love others even when its hard. We live our faith by standing up for those who can’t speak. We live our faith by being strong and courageous for those who don’t have strength and courage.
We cannot stay on this side of the Jordan river and wait for the battle to come to us, either.
We need to be moving and setting out and walking further into the call to be active followers.
You can’t follow if you aren’t moving.
So where can we go? We go by taking food to those who need it. We go by giving sacrificially. We go by doing projects around the church. We go by standing up for someone who is being bullied. We go by showing others we love them when they look most unlovable. NO matter what it looks like, we GO because we have been called and we GO knowing that we can Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged. God will be with you wherever you go.
As we have been doing every week in this series, I will remind you of what it looks like to say that the love of God is found in every page of Scripture:
What does it mean to say God loves?
God loved us enough to create us, to form us from the dust.
God loved us enough to let us fail, to let us choose our own way over God’s – to let us chain ourselves to sin and defeat and heartbreak and sorrow and death.
God loved us enough to provide a rescue, a way back: through wanderers, murderers, adulterers, defaulters, promise-breakers, foreigners, strangers, and lovers.
God loved us enough to show us mothers, judges, kings, and prophets who loved and spoke for God and kept reminding us of the promise of redemption
God loved us enough to show us how evil and wrong continually mess things up and how obedience to God fosters holiness and bestows blessing
God loved us enough to send us Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, to preach and live peace, grace, hope, joy, and love.
God loved us enough to see Jesus rejected, to see him die, to see him buried.
God loved us enough to raise Jesus from the dead and send the Holy Spirit to remind us of all we have in him and empower us to live like him.
God loved us enough to want us to live like Jesus – and abundant life infused with all the fruit of the Spirit, redeemed, free, loved.
God loved us enough to still let us choose our destiny.
God loved us enough to promise the hope of forever, of resurrection from the dead, and judgement.
God loved us enough, God loves us enough, God will always love us enough.
For God so loved the world…
God loves you.
God wants you to know it. God wants you to live in it.
God wants you to be able to love others because you know you are loved.
God’s love is expressed to us every week, most tangibly, as we gather at this table: The Son who died and yet lives, gave everything so we could know the depth of God’s love.
So, Come. Drink the wine. Eat the bread. Know you ARE loved.
God loves you. Go, love the world with him.