Monday, May 26, 2008

When faith doesn't make sense

Joshua 5:13 – 6:16, 20

When faith doesn’t make sense.

Bill Cosby: “Okay, Joshua, let me be sure that I’ve got this straight. You say that for six days we’ll walk around the city of Jericho carrying the ark of the covenant (the Canaanites want to know what’s in that box), saying absolutely nothing, with seven of our priest blowing the ram’s horn trumpets? Then we go back to camp to sleep every night. Then on the seventh day we walk around seven times silently? Then all at once, when the trumpets start blowing, we all start shouting, and those double, twenty-five foot high walls are going to fall down? Come on, Joshua, that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.”


I.         What Joshua learned:


            A.        God is not on “our” side.

“Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, "Are you for us or for our enemies? [14] "Neither," he replied, "but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come." Then Joshua fell face-down to the ground in reverence, and asked him, "What message does my Lord have for his servant?” [Joshua 5:13 – 14]


                        1.         We like to think in terms of “sides.” (“Who’s side are you on?” “Pick a side right now!” etc...)


                                    a.         Current “war on terrorism”


                                                1.)       One pastor publically curses America by wishing God’s damnation upon it...


                                                2.)       Other’s will declare America to be blessed by God... God’s on “our side.”


                                    b.         “If God is for us, who can be against us?” [Romans 8:31b]


                                                1.)       It is a comforting thought... image... to think of ourselves as invincible because God is on “our side.”


                                                2.)       However, this is not the same as the exchange between God and Joshua.


                        2.         Joshua does not, when he challenges the man, recognize God.


                                    a.         Joshua is out scouting... planning the attack, when he meets a soldier with a drawn sword.


                                    b.         Joshua’s question is meant to clarify what he needs to do at that point.


                        3.         God’s answer is to turn the question around.


                                    a.         You see the real question is not if God is on “our side” it is are we on God’s side.


                                                1.)       Are we going to submit to God, allow God to take charge?


                                                2.)       Are we going to resist God, not allow God to take charge?


                                    b.         Reality check: there is no “our side.”


            B.        Consistent waiting is the key to faith.


                        1.         The first issue is “duty.”


                                    a.         Israel had just renewed a broken covenant and celebrated Passover.


                                                1.)       They were not going to allow the sins of the past generation to rule them.


                                                2.)       “We may then expect the discoveries of the divine grace when we are found in the way of our duty and are diligent and sincere in our attendance on holy ordinances.” (Matthew Henry)


                                    b.         Joshua is doing what it is expected.


                                                1.)       He was near Jericho... thinking? Praying? Planning? Observing? Mapping?


                                                2.)       It is in this warrior mode, that God appears to him. Remember Joshua had been commanded to be “strong and courageous.” [see Joshua 1:6, 7, 9] That’s exactly what Joshua was...


                        2.         The plans were spiritual not military.


                                    a.         Remember the spies that discouraged the people 40 years ago?

“But you were unwilling to go up; you rebelled against the command of the LORD your God. [27] You grumbled in your tents and said, "The LORD hates us; so he brought us out of Egypt to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us. [28] Where can we go? Our brothers have made us lose heart. They say, `The people are stronger and taller than we are; the cities are large, with walls up to the sky. We even saw the Anakites there.” [Deuteronomy 1:26 – 28]


                                    b.         God wants to demonstrate that walls are not a problem... lack of faith is the real problem


                                                1.)       God has to undo the image of the damage planted by the past generation into this one...


                                                2.)       The image of the walls falling was to be a picture that with God, we are not to lose heart... regardless how hard this looks.


II.       God’s ways are not our ways!

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. [9] "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” [Isaiah 55:8 – 9]


            A.        Basic fact, God is God.


                        1.         When we make God to act like us, we have created a false god. God’s “weakest” action is way above our strongest ones.


                        2.         When we make God to think like us, we have created a false god. God’s “dumbest” thoughts are way wiser than our best and smartest ones.

“For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.” [1 Corinthians 1:25]


            B.        God’s “foolishness” is our power!


                        1.         Imagine providing salvation by sacrificial death? Jesus did that on the cross.


                                    a.         Think about how smart it was to die for people, the vast majority would, and still do, reject and mock that sacrificial death.


                                    b.         We could think that the walls of man’s stubborn, rebellious hearts are to high and think for God’s love to get through...


                        2.         “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” [1 Corinthians 1:18]


                                    a.         And God uses preaching, of all things... foolish ways on top of foolish message.


                                    b.         “but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.” [1 Corinthians 1:23]


            C.        It’s all about who gets the glory.


                        1.         “Who among the gods is like you, O LORD? Who is like you – majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?” [Exodus 15:11]


                                    a.         Fact is that only the Lord is worthy of glory...


                                    b.         When we make a grab at glory, we are in serious trouble.


                        2.         “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” [Psalm 19:1]


                                    a.         Even creation points to God’s glory.


                                    b.         Did you know that God knows how many stars they are, and what their names are? [see Psalm 147:7]


                        3.         “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” [Revelation 4:11]


                                    a.         Irony, this the “411” (phone number dialed for information) that everyone should know.


                                    b.         Only God is worthy of glory, honor, and power!


III.      What does it take today?


            A.        You must stand on holy ground.


                        1.         Holy ground is in the presence of God.


                                    a.         When God calls you, you have the opportunity to respond or resist.


                                    b.         When you respond to God, you are changed.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” [2 Corinthians 5:17]


                        2.         You must seek a life changing encounter with Jesus...


                                    a.         If God is calling you, then effort is required... because effort gives and creates value.


                                    b.         “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” [Matthew 6:33]


                                    c.         “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” [Matthew 7:7]


                                    d.         “God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.” Acts 17:27]


                                    e.         “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” [Hebrews 11:6]


            B.        You must set aside fear, comfort, selfishness, and other like things as you carefully prepare and wait for God’s time and God’s work.


                        1.         Another way to say this is focus.


                                    a.         The plans God gave Joshua were to “try their faith, obedience and patience.” [Matthew Henry]


                                    b.         “To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. [8] But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.” [Romans 2:7 – 8]


                        2.         God could have taken the walls down on the first or second day.


                                    a.         Throughout the Bible there seems to be a heavy emphasis and value placed on constructive waiting. (Like the 10 days between Jesus leaving earth and the day of Pentecost. The 25 years Abraham waited for the promised child, Isaac. The 40 days Jesus spent in the desert between His baptism and His first sermon.)


                                    b.         Your timing must match God’s timing... “Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. [9] Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.” [2 John 1:8 – 9]

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