Community Group Study Notes
- Based on what you heard in Sunday’s message, what does the story of Joshua and Jericho reveal about God’s character? Why is this important?
- In Sunday’s message, we heard about God’s sovereign purposes. When we rightly understand that God is sovereign, in what ways does that change how we think and how we live?
- What is one action step you can take in response to Sunday’s message?
It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes. (Psalm 118:8-9)
All right, good morning class. I'm your Math professor today. That's a bad thing because I'm terrible at Math. Here's first problem. So you got a baseball bat and a baseball, which is just a heads up like spring is around the corner. Major leaguers are already starting spring training. Every year at this time, I literally, and I don't mean this figuratively, I literally thank Jesus for baseball. I just do. It's coming. It means spring is coming. I love baseball and you should, too. I'm going to convert you eventually. So baseball bat and a ball, baseball and a baseball bat.
Here's what we know. The total cost is a dollar 10. That's the total cost of the baseball bat and the baseball, a dollar 10. Very simple. Here's what we know. What we know is that the baseball bat is one dollar more than the baseball. So how much is the baseball worth? So everybody says 10 cents. Here's the thing. If this is a dollar and this is 10 cents, this is not a dollar more. It's 90 cents more, you knuckleheads. You see, the real truth of this is that the baseball bat is a dollar five and the ball costs five cents. That's how it works out. You're going, "Dude, that stumped me." I'll tell you why it stumped you, because of zero. You see, zero is so clean and neat and nice. We see it's a dollar 10. This costs a dollar more than this. We see this nice dollar, this nice 10 cents and we just make it clean and easy. Zero starts messing with our minds. This is what zero does. It's not even a number. It's not even a real number. It's a non-number and it messes with.
Let me show you something else. You might enjoy this or you might not. In fact, you probably won't. It's Algebra. You like Algebra? Yes, that's a no. So here's the algebraic equation. This is what's called in Algebra a classic faults proof. In other words, here's what happens. You run through this equation and by the way, as an equation, it runs in logical order. That's fine. You get to a place where 2A equals A, which means that the outcome that two equals one. So you got this algebraic equation. That's all good and it actually goes in proper order. You go, "Wait a minute. Two can't equal one," so you know by kind of in your head common sense. It's like two can't equal one, so something is wrong here. Well, nothing is wrong with the formula. What happened was is it when we got to this stage right here when we started factoring and we had A minus B on both sides, here's the problem with that. We've assumed that A equals B at the very beginning.
If A equals B, then A minus B equals zero and you can't divide by zero. That's where the equation goes wrong, right there. Even though the formula is correct and get you to two equals one, you can't divide by zero. In fact, if you were to try it, I'll show it to you very quickly on my phone here on my calculator. If I have one divided by zero, equals error. You see, in our modern kind of calculators because you can't divide by zero, our modern calculators will just put up the word error. Now it's not really just so much an error. It's just that when you divide by zero, it never stops. It messes everything up.
I don't know how many of you remember when before we had really cool calculators on our phones or just little Texas Instruments calculators that we use in class or whatever before those, they actually made these mechanical calculators that were machines. They were about the size of typewriters. Does anyone remember those? Just put your hand up in the air. You just gave away your rights, thanks, because I don't. Just as a heads up. So here's me, young. Here's you all. I'm kidding. It's a joke. It's a joke, but true. That's Math, it works. So these old machines that were calculators.
Do you know what would happen to those machines if you divide by zero? Let me show you, take a look. Basically, this goes on for eternity. It never stops. You basically blow up the entire calculator. It just blows it up like eventually this thing is gone. This is how artificial intelligence takes over the world, just divide by zero and that's how they do it. Because I think if you divide by zero, it's like windows into black holes and space open up and there are new dimensions created for humanity. I have no idea what this is, but that's exactly what happens. In fact, that video we just watched was filmed in 1908. Some of you, you believe what I just said. That's crazy. That was in color. It was filmed recently but that's an old, old calculator. If you divide by zero, it basically just wears it out. It detonates, because you can't divide by zero.
Here's the thing. At the end of the day, when we talk about God and His activity in our lives, even though we have kind of formulas that we like to work with in our lives, we like to plan things out. We like to say, "Here's me. I'm in control of the situation and I'm in. I'm planning out all of the things that I'm doing. I've got all of these under control," and we kind of do the Math and then God shows up and [bhoo 00:06:22]. I don't know if any of you have ever had a time in your life where you kind of have everything planned out. You had exactly what you were going to do then God showed up and He messed everything up. By messed everything up I mean messed up your plans, messed up what you thought you were going to be doing. Even now when you look back in retrospect and you kind of look back on your life and you realize, "This is what I thought I was headed toward. This is what I thought I was doing," and then God goes "Wheew," and He blows up the formula.
I mean, for us, is it fair to say this that God's purposes blow up our man-made formulas. They do and in fact what I want to do is I want to turn our attention to a place in the scripture where we can see God's plans actually blowing up man-made formulas. It's in the Book of Joshua in the Old Testament. You guys remember Joshua. Joshua was the right-hand man of Moses. In fact when Moses sent out spies, remember, after Moses led the people out of Egypt and they came out of Egypt across the Red Sea and they were headed to Canaan, the Land of Promise. Moses sent 12 spies into the Promise Land because he said, "I want you to come back and bring us a report." 10 of those 12 spies came back like sucking their thumbs with a one milk bottle needing their mommies going, "These people are giants. We look like grasshoppers. We can't go there."
Joshua and Caleb were the two that came back and they were like, "God said it was ours," like giddy-up. This is what they did. They said, "Let's trust God and let's move ahead with all of this. Let's do what God said." So eventually, the people obviously, they kind of rebel. They kind of get angry. They want to go back to Egypt. They started complaining about their food and everything else. So God, "Well, okay, fine. I'm going to let you dangle around in the wilderness for 40 years." So they did and one generation, the older generation died off in the wilderness and then Moses eventually died. Who was the heir of parent? It was Joshua. Joshua's job now was to lead the people of Israel into the Promise Land. Moses never got to lead them into the Promise Land. He died before that and so Joshua was going to do that.
So Joshua was confronted now where he was going to lead the people, had to lead them across the Jordan River but the Jordan was at flood stage. I've seen the Jordan River numbers of times and it's not particularly wide. In places, it's a little wider than others. In the flood season, the river actually in the ancient timeframe could get to be about a mile in width because it was in flood stage and in flood season. Joshua had to lead the people of Israel across the Jordan, but God so fit to do it in such a way where he parted the river. He held up the river and they walked across on dryland with the Ark of the Covenant there. Then they put stones of remembrance there to remind them of what God had did and just like 40 years earlier when they had gone through the Red Sea when Moses led them. They've gone through the Red Sea that God had halted so they walked across on dry ground. Now with Joshua's leadership, they're walking across the flooded flood stage Jordan and they're walking across on dry ground.
When they get to the other side, they realized they're about to step foot into this Land of Promise. They're about to take this Land of Promise, but it's inhabited. So they pause and they camp and they pray and they actually take a time where God kind of sanctifies them and then they observe the Passover. After that, when all is settled and they're ready to go, the first stop is Jericho. Jericho is where they are headed because this is the first city that God has directed them toward. This will be the first spot that they're really taking in the Land of Promise, so they start heading to Jericho.
Now I can't imagine what Joshua was feeling. Joshua is leading these people. I don't know how old exactly at this time, but he is leading these people and he is thinking to himself, "Wow, this is extraordinary. I used to just follow Moses who is following God and now I've got the responsibility to follow God to lead these people." He had to be a bit intimidating, a bit overwhelming, a bit scary for Joshua. It's why in chapter one God was continually saying to Joshua, "Be of good courage. Don't be afraid." Why was He saying that? Because Joshua was of good courage and was never afraid? No, because he was. Be of good courage. Don't be afraid. He is trying to tell Joshua, "I'm going to be with you."
Joshua was headed to Jericho and he doesn't know what the plan is. He doesn't know what suppose to happen. I can't help but think. Joshua is human. He's going to be thinking about, "How am I going to take over Jericho? There's people there. They're expecting us. They've fortified this place. They're inside with swords and with spears and stuff. I don't know if they're going to pour boiling oil on us or something when we come over and come to the walls. What's going to happen to us?" He is working all of this stuff out in his mind. I imagine that Joshua was creating a bit of a formula of how he was supposed to lead until God blew it up, because that's what God does.
You see, the first thing I all remind you that I'll you show in the text is that God's purposes in leadership blow up the formula. God's purposes in leadership can blow up our man-made formulas. I can't help but imagine that Joshua was carrying the weight of what it meant to be the leader of the people of God. He is leading this army of the Lord and he is about to go and take Jericho. I imagine that the weight is heavy upon him. I imagine that the loneliness is even a bit heavy upon him, because he's thinking this is a huge responsibility. Can I handle this responsibility? What do I do with this responsibility? He didn't know the plan so he's making plans in his mind about what he's going to do. Am I going to send a battalion around the left flank? Am I going to try and attack from that angle? What exactly am I going to do? He's headed to Joshua when he's almost there and he still doesn't know exactly what's going to happen.
Then this happens in Joshua five, beginning in verse 13, "When Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and he 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?' 'Neither,' he replied." Some of your translations Joshua say, "No." "'As Commander of the Army of the Lord, I have now come.' Then Joshua felt facedown to the ground in reverence and asked him, 'What message does my Lord have for his servant?' The Commander of the Lord's army replied, 'Take off your sandals for the place where you are standing is holy,' and Joshua did so."
This is extraordinary to me because Joshua is planning how he is going to lead the people to take Jericho. While he is doing that, Bible says that he looks up. Now I don't know if that meant that he might have just been thinking and he's planning and plotting and he looks up and sees him, or if it was a little bit on a raised place that this man was standing there with a drawn sword. Jericho is kind of down a bit because you go from Jericho up to Jerusalem so I don't if that would have been the case. Maybe my imagination tells me Joshua is probably thinking, reflecting. I do that a lot. When I'm kind of thinking and reflecting, oftentimes kind of my head is down. I'm kind of looking around thinking what am I going to do, what am I going to do, what am I going to do. Jesus help me what am I going to do, what am I going to do.
Then he looks up and he sees this man with a drawn sword. Now Joshua is and military mode. He's kind of General Joshua at this point. He's in military mode because he's trying to take Jericho. God had told him this is what I'm going to do and so he's headed to Jericho. He looks at this man who has got a drawn sword and he asked him a question that makes sense when he asked him. What's the question? Are you for us or are you for our enemies? In other words, "I don't recognize you. I don't know who you are. Are you for us or are you for our enemies?" Because I guess Joshua has taken if you are for our enemies then it's game time, I guess on now. Here's the answer, "No." Wait a minute, it's like a twofold question. I gave you two options. Are you for us or are you for our enemy? No. I thought you hate that. People answer that way, no, or translated neither.
Okay, neither. That's interesting. You've got a drawn sword and there's two armies about to go at it and you're not for either one of us. He said, "No. I'm the Commander of the Army of the Lord." Now I wonder if for just a second Joshua went, "I thought I was the Commander of the Army of the Lord? That's what I thought I was. The Lord's army? I'm the only one Commander." I don't know. Maybe that was also going on in his mind. I don't think he probably talked like that though. If he did, I wouldn't want to follow hm anywhere. He realized real quickly that he's outranked. He realizes this is somebody very different than what he had thought in his mind and it was about to reorient him because this man said, "Nope, I'm not for either. I'm the Commander of the Army of the Lord."
The pastor in Dallas Tony Evans said it this way. He said, "When the Commander of the Army of the Lord showed up, he didn't come to take sides. He came to take over." That's what he came to do. He came to take over. He came to establish who absolutely is leading all of this, who actually is in charge of all of this and why. So Joshua realizes that only he's outranked but he realizes as many scholars think that he might be in the presence of God quite literally that this might be a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus as the Commander of the Army of the Lord. Joshua falls down in reverence to him. Some would say, even to some of your translations say in worship, in reverence and says, "What would you have your servant to do?" Here's the response, "Take your sandals off. The place where you're standing is holy ground." Okay, not what I was expecting.
The reason this is so fascinating to me that when the Commander of the Army of the Lord says this is he in essence, here's what he's saying to Joshua, "I don't need you, but I want you." I don't have to have you, but I want you. By the way, I remember exactly what I promised to do. You see, when he told Joshua take off your sandals because where you're standing is holy ground, this was helping Joshua to flashback to a time years and years and years and years and years before where Moses, the guy who was leading him, the guy he was following where Moses came face to face with the presence of God in a bush that was on fire but not consumed. The bush was talking to him and he said, "Take your sandals off. You're on holy ground." Why? Because you are in the presence of God. Now Joshua, here he is years and years and years and years later. The Commander of the Army of the Lord says the same thing that he said to Moses when he was commissioning Moses to lead his people.
Why is that so incredibly encouraging and humbling for Joshua at the same time? Because it was a reminder of what we read in Joshua chapter one when God says to Joshua, "No one will be able to stand against all 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 courageous because you will lead this people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them." So in other words, it's both really humbling and really encouraging at the same time. The humbling part is a reminder, "Hey Josh, you're not in charge. I am, but I remember my promise to you. We're going to do exactly what God has promised for his people."
This passage means quite a bit to me because when I came to The Chapel back in 2002, I was only 32 years old. I am now not 32 years old, but I'm not as old as those of you who remember the calculator that was machine driven. So I'm 48 now, so this August it will be 16 years that I've been at The Chapel. When I came at 32, I just kind of fit in try to grow with this congregation and this congregation grow with me and we showed each other a lot of grace. As we preach the gospel, God continue to grow the church and the ministry and those kinds of things. People start to come into faith in Christ. We started growing. We were adding services all of that. Like I told you last week, we realized we ran out of space. We didn't have anywhere to go. We were asking God to come through on our behalf as a church and God did.
I told the story last week how He provided miraculously really for us where the math did work, but God just made it all work because God is God. He provided the land for us here and across the street with the where apex is, so we have all of that. Then God brings His people together who in faith share and commit enough money, all of us together to be able to start building and get into a place that we're in here at the CrossPoint Campus. We talked about last week this wasn't just for us. It's for what God has done, Lockport and Cheektowaga and other places and soon to be Niagara Falls.
Then as that was starting to happen and the building was starting to go up, I'm feeling of significant amount of leadership stress I can promise you. I'm feeling like I'm feeling this weight. I'm feeling a touch of loneliness. I'm feeling all of that kind of stuff and the week leading up to when we were doing the grand opening for this building, this facility. All the news channels had scheduled to be here. They were going to be doing interviews, blah, blah, blah. It was a big to-do. We're going to open this new facility. We're going to worship in here and the week of our grand opening I get shingles on my face.
Some of you that were here you remember that and you remember the story surrounding that. Those of you who weren't like I don't wish that on anybody, worst pain I've ever felt in my life. I felt lots of pain as if I've had two children. Giving birth, giving birth is hard. Edie is looking at me like, "Shut up. Stop it." It's a horrible pain because you got so many nerve endings in your head and it's attacking your nerve. It's neurological. I was like, "Yaah." So my face blows up. My eyes are swelling. The bridge of my nose it's just all one swat of flesh, puffy flesh. Looking at me I'm like EDI. My eyes are closing. This is gross than the elephant man like what's happening in it.
Thankfully, doctor diagnosed me well and got me started on some medication, but I mean it was wrecking me. This was a few days before we were like, "I'm preaching at the grand opening of the CrossPoint Campus. Congratulations me," and then doing all the interviews with the news channels, which I did do. I just did them from the side. I was like, "Hey, could you all do them from this direction? Because this side people will just be staring at my face. How about this side?" They were nice enough to do that.
Here's the thing now. I changed what I was going to preach about because of what God was teaching me and showing me. I preached this passage Joshua five, this exact passage. As I preached and I talked about where glory belongs that it is not about us. It's not about me. It's about God and His glory and His purposes. I told our congregation that day it's probably you probably dig it up online. I told our congregation that day I'm clear who the leader of this church is. I'm clear it's the Lord Jesus. He's the Commander of the Army of the Lord. I'm clear.
I want to say again in 2018 I'm clear who the leader of the church is. Because sometimes what God will do in the midst of feeling like, because I felt I was carrying this heavyweight. I felt I was carrying this heavy burden. I felt I was carrying this loneliness. It's as if God came to me and humbled me and said, "So really your formula was dependence upon yourself? Is that what you're thinking? Because you don't have to carry all of this, because this is My church. These are my people. You don't have to carry all this. You have a responsibility, but it's a responsibility to do what I want done in the way that I want it done in the power that I give you. This isn't just about you."
Has that happened for you in your life as well where sometimes we need these reminders that God in His graciousness and through His own purposes needs to just show up in our life and remind us, "Hey, you're not as in charge as you thought you were. I've got better ideas. I've got better plans. I know exactly what I'm doing. Here's what I want you to do. Take your shoes off, because you're standing now in the presence of God and just do what I tell you to do."
You see, God's purposes in leadership blow up our formula for leadership, but this ties into the second piece. God's sovereign purposes also blow up the formula. By sovereign, I mean that God is the one that's totally and completely in control. Unfortunately, we often are the control freaks of our own lives. We're the ones who have all the plans. We got all the details. We're doing of this stuff and here's what it's going to be. This is what's supposed to happen and I planned all this and God sometimes just goes, "Bhoo." Because His sovereign purposes blow up the formula. Let me show what I mean.
So Joshua is headed in leading them to capture Jericho. He's probably thinking, "This is basically impenetrable, because they've got an outer gate and then they've got the walls. I don't know how I'm going to be able to do this." Then the Commander of the Army of the Lord shows up and says, "I didn't come here to take sides. I came to take over. So take your shoes off and listen. I'm about to tell you what you're going to do."
Here's the battle plan, Joshua chapter six, "Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites and no one went out and no one came in. Then the Lord said to Joshua, 'See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands along with its king and its fighting men.'" He said this before the walls cme down. He said, "I've already delivered this." This is how confident God was in His own ability. "March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams' horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, and everyone will go straight in."
Let me just quick reality check. With that have been the plan you would have come up with to take Jericho? So for instance, you are Commander Joshua or Commander Jocelyn, whichever you are. You say, "I've got it. Everybody gather round. Here's what we're doing. On the first day, we're going to get a line. We're going to put the ark up here and we're going to walk around and blow horns. Day two, same thing. Day three, four, five and six, same. Then on day seven ..." Watch this, watch it, "Day seven, were going to go around seven times blowing horns." After the seventh time, here's what we're going to do, 'Whaaaaa!' Then here's what's going to happen. Everything is going to come just tumbling down." Wow, thanks General Patton. Thank you Douglas McArthur. You would immediately been like, I mean, everybody that's listening to you would have been like, "That's pretty. Put him at the back of the pack." Somebody else leads. Somebody else lead because this is not what we are thinking we should do.
Do you see God's sovereign purposes? Why did God want them want to doit this way? Listen. So the glory would be His, not theirs. The glory was about God, not about them. This one would have been for sure only God could have gotten the credit. What did you guys do? That was unbelievable. What did you guys do to take Jericho? Walked around and then shouted, "Raaaah!" Then all the walls came down. What? It's beyond our comprehension. Sometimes God does things in a way that only God can do things so that people are reminded that this is about Him instead of about us.
So God does this in a striking way and then they all make their way in. What did they do on the seventh day? This is what they did. After doing it for six days, on the seventh day they got up at daybreak and marched around the city seven times in the same manner except that on that day they circled the city seven times. The seventh time around when the priest sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the army, "Shout, for the lord has given you the city." When the trumpet sounded, the army shouted and at the sound of the trumpet when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed. So everyone charged straight in and they took the city. They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with a sword every living thing in it, men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep, and donkeys.
Now before you get too tongue-tied on the fact that Israel went in took over the city and this is a war report, you have to remember a couple of things. One is you have to remember the war language that's used in the Old Testament in the ancient world. It was common in the ancient world to use war language that was exaggerated. That doesn't mean that this is incorrect. It's exactly correct. They went in. They took the place. It doesn't mean that every single thing because ... By the way, later on when we're reading about the entire conquest of Canaan and all of the cities there, it uses Washington language to describe everything was basically wiped out when we know that they were actually still living beside some people who were still alive during that time from some of these cities. It's war language and that was common in the ancient world. It doesn't make it wrong. It makes it what they did and war language was intentionally exaggerated like every single living thing, every single sheep and every single donkey.
There's also another concept and it's the concept of haram in the Hebrew, which means harem the translation would be to ban, to ban. In other words, this is idea of devoting everything to the Lord. This wasn't a war that was won where you just win in and you destroyed everything and then you kept all the loot for yourself. That's not at all what they did. In fact, they didn't keep anything. Israel didn't keep anything of themselves. What they did is they only kept a few of the kind of silver and gold articles so that they could use them in the worship of the Lord, but nothing to enrich themselves because this was all devoted to the Lord. Then the third thing we have to remember is that this is a part oft sovereign purposes of God. What was happening in Canaan was a part of the sovereign purposes of God, the God who has all of the information available to Him from beginning to end, who knows everything about everything, determined that this is what he wanted to do.
Now this goes back to a promise that God made to Abraham, which I taught to you about last week. This promise to Abraham was a promise about land, wasn't it? Here's what it says in Genesis 12 to remind you. The Lord has said to Abraham, "Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you." This was the land of Canaan. Then in Genesis 15, He reaffirmed this promise. God said to Abraham, "I am the Lord who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it." Abraham said, "Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?" Then a few verses later, it says, "Then the Lord said to him, 'Know for certain that for 400 years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there.'" Where was that? Egypt, right?
"I will punish the nation Egypt that they serve as slaves and afterward they will come out with great possessions. You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation after you, your descendants will come back here for the sin of the Amorites," who were Canaanites. "The sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure." In other words, God, when He made this promise about the land, 400 years He said it's going to be up to a 400-year time period. All of these generations are going to pass but eventually you're going to come back, because right now the sin of the Amorites, the Canaanites, have not yet reached its full measure. In other words, God saw their wickedness. He saw how their wickedness was growing and filling this wickedness cup over and over and over to the point where God was going to enact sovereign justice on them just as He did with Sodom and Gomorrah hundreds of years earlier. Now when they were coming in to possess the land, it was for that reason.
In fact, when Moses was talking to Israel about how they are to live when they come in to the land, look what he said in Leviticus chapter number 18. The Lord said to Moses, "Speak to the Israelites and say to them, 'I am the Lord your God. You must not do as they do in Egypt where you used to live. You must not do as they do in the land of Canaan where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices.'" Why? Because there were such wickedness in Canaan. What kind of wickedness?
Well, when you fast forward Leviticus 18, read a little bit further. Here are some examples. He says, "Like them, don't give any of your children to be sacrificed to Moloch for you must not profane the name of the Lord your God. I am the Lord." In other words, they were doing child sacrifices. "Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable. Do not have sexual relations with an animal and defile yourself with it. A woman must not present herself to an animal to have sexual relations with it; that is a perversion." These things were going on in Canaan.
Then it says in chapter 19, "Do not degrade your daughter by making her a prostitute or the land will turn to prostitution and be filled with wickedness." These are the kinds of things and I just gave you snapshots. There's two full chapters full of this stuff and basically saying, "Don't live like them. Don't do what they're doing." That's why they were getting this command from the Lord, because that's this is the way that the people of Canaan live. So what God was doing now; listen to this, God was going to deal with Canaan's wickedness because in His sovereign purposes He wanted people to be able to see Him and they weren't going to see it through this wickedness. So He was going to; listen to this, use Israel as an instrument of His justice so that He would create a people for Himself where He could be seen and known by the world. This was God in His sovereign purposes.
Now before we get ahead of ourselves, what we need to remember is that Israel did not possess the land because they were righteous and awesome. They didn't get into the land because they were awesome. They got into the land because God is awesome. They didn't get into the land because they were righteous. They got into the land because Canaan was so wicked. In fact, just to make sure that everybody was clear about that, listen to what it says in Deuteronomy chapter nine, "Here, Israel: You are now about to cross the Jordan to go in and dispossess nations greater and stronger than you, with large cities that have walls up to the sky. The people are strong and tall - Anakites! You know about them and you've heard it said: 'Who can stand up against the Anakites?' But be assured today that the Lord your God is the one who goes across ahead of you like a devouring fire. He will destroy them; He will subdue them before you. And you will drive them out and annihilate them quickly, as the Lord has promised you."
"After the Lord your God has driven them out before you, do not say to yourself, 'The Lord has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.' No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is going to drive them out before you. It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land." I wonder if you went 40 years, 40 years. Hello? "But on account of the wickedness of these nations, the Lord your God will drive them out before you, to accomplish what He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people."
You see, this wasn't a scenario where the sovereign God is just saying, "I like you better than you necessarily." He wants to say this because of your righteousness is real and so you're going to get the land. He was saying, "I knew that these people were going to be so wicked that I was going to have to justly deal with them because this is an abomination in the land and it's causing all of the other people in places around them to turn to ways that are basically abominable and destructive and not for human flourishing, like child sacrifice, like sex with animals, like all of these kinds of of things that are noted in there."
He says, "No, no. Israel, I'm bringing you not because you're righteous. You're stiffed-neck. You've been in the wilderness for 40 years because you're so stiffed-neck. I'm bringing you in as an instrument of justice to give you this land because I knew from the very beginning when I promised Abraham I knew exactly what I was going to do and how I was going to do it. This is now how I'm going to do it and it's I who am doing it, not you." It's extraordinary when we see the sovereign purposes of God at work.
You see, what we think when we look at this passage, we think it's Israel against the nations. Here's the truth. God actually selected Israel for the sake of the nations so that the world and the nations might be able to see a people who are His own, who are committed to God, the only wise God, Yahweh, the only God of the universe. That's why he did what he did, but we can always see that because is God is sovereign and we are not. We think we're in control. We think we have all the information; we don't. Now we should be reminded of that today because God, His sovereign purposes blow up our formula.
By the way, just so you know, God did the same thing that He did with Israel, He did it to Israel. May I note Babylon and Assyria who were not righteous but were used by God to discipline His own people. You see, God has sovereign purposes that are beyond our finding out. So it's imperative ladies and gentlemen that we understand that truth about God and we learn to trust God completely because He is the only one that is fully in control. He is the only one that has all the information at exactly the same time. He is the only one, not you, not me. Control, freak. Step off. That's what I have to tell myself sometimes in those exact words, "Control, freak. Step off." Only God is sovereign overall of this. That means in whatever circumstance you find yourself, know this that the sovereign God can take those circumstances and use them for His glory and for your good even if they're bad circumstances.
So you have to learn how to trust the sovereign God in the midst of your suffering. You have to learn to trust the sovereign God in the midst of your persecution. You have to learn to trust the sovereign God even when you have success. You have to learn to trust the sovereign God when you are brokenhearted. You have to learn to trust the sovereign God when your dreams come crashing down, because God is the only one who has all of the information and you don't know what He is about to do. You just know you can trust Him because He is sovereign and He is good. This is imperative for us.
Let me give you a last thing. You got to stay with me here, because I'm going to land this plane in just a moment. Here's the last piece of this. Gods purposes in salvation also blow up the formula. Boy I love this part, stay with me. I'm going to go a minute or two or 40 over my time today. Kidding, not that long.
God's purposes in salvation blow up the formula. Do you know that when God sent Israel in to take Jericho and Jericho was going to experience the sovereign justice of God that not everybody in Jericho was destroyed. Look what it says in Joshua chapter six, "The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the Lord. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent." Joshua said to the two men who had spied out the land, "Go into the prostitute's house and bring her out and all who belong to her in accordance with your oath to her." So the young men who had done the spying went in and brought out Rahab, her father and her mother, her brothers and sisters and all who belong to her. They brought out her entire family and put them in a place outside the camp of Israel.
You say, "Wait a minute. Why did they save this prostitute?" We have to back up a little bit in Joshua to find out. Joshua chapter two says this, "Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. 'Go, look over the land,' he said, 'especially Jericho.' So they went and they entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there." Do you know why that was smart? Because there are always men coming and going from there. They wouldn't look out of place. "The king of Jericho was told, 'Look, some of the Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land.' In other words, they found out that there was two spies that were there. So what did she do? She hid them and she basically lied and said, "No, never seen them. Yes, they ran off." That's what she did.
Then pick up with me in verse number eight, "Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof and said to the spies, 'I know that the Lord God has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of this, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below. Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and my sisters, and all who belong to them and that you will save us from death.'"
Here's what they say, "'Our lives for your lives!' the men assured her. If you don’t tell what we are doing, we will treat you kindly and faithfully when the Lord gives us this land. So she let them down by a rope through the window, for the house she lived in was part of the city wall. She said to them, 'Go to the hills so the pursuers will not find you. Hide yourselves there three days until they return, and then go on your way.'"
"Now the men had said to her, 'This oath you made us swear will not be binding on us unless, when we enter the land, you have tied this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you have brought your father and mother, your brothers and all of your family into your house. If any of them go outside your house into the street, their blood will be on their own heads; we will not be responsible. As for those who are in the house with you, their blood will be on our head if a hand is laid on them. But if you tell what we are doing, we will be released from the oath you made us swear.' 'Agreed,' she replied. 'Let it be as you say.' So she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window."
You see, this was an interesting thing because if you were to ask me when I look at this passage, I see a miniature repeat of the time of Passover. Do you see it? You see, a miniature repeating of the time of Passover where blood was put on the door and everybody who is inside of those were saved. Now there's a scarlet cord coming out of a window and whoever is inside of the place where the scarlet cord comes out, they will be saved. You've got now God doing with Joshua what God did with Moses, God promising, "I will be with you Joshua just like I was with Moses." You see it?
You see, God's purposes, His sovereign purposes work themselves out even in salvation. Ultimately even in this, it's extraordinary to me because it seems to blow up our formula. Because if you were to ask me who should be delivered from Jericho, if you were to ask me who should be saved from Jericho, I don't think that the first in line that I'm going to think about is a lying foreign whore. That should be my first call. Yes, that's the one lying foreign whore. That's who we should put into the camp of Israel. That's going to go really good, lying foreign whore. She is a professional fornicator and we're going to bring her into the camp of Israel.
Is that really going to be your formula? No. You're going to think of something else like who's got the most money. Who can we bring in, who's going to ... God's purposes in salvation, they blow up our man-made formulas. Because here's the thing ladies and gentlemen, listen carefully. Here's the thing. God in doing this in His sovereignty and saving Rahab, God was not just saving a prostitute and her family. God was saving the world through this prostitute and her family.
Because when you get to the Book of Matthew and it begins to tell us the genealogy of Jesus, look what it says, "This is the genealogy of Jesus, the Messiah, the son of David, the king, the one who is going to save the world, the son of Abraham, the promise seed. Abraham was the father of Isaac; Isaac the father of Jacob; Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers; Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar; Perez the father of Hezron; Hezron the father of Ram; Ram the father of who whatever; Amminadab the father of Nahshon; Nahshon the father of Salmon; Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab; Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth; Obed the father of Jesse; and Jesse the father of King David. This was in the line of the promise seed of Abraham and the kingly lineage of David and right there pluck down God is so fit to take a lying foreign whore and His promise traveled through her so that we have the Messiah. God's purposes in salvation will blow up our man-made formulas.
Listen. Here's why that's so important to us. Why it's so important to us is this, because people, we see all these examples all over the place like Saul who is killing Christians. God saves him. Jesus saves him. Now he's going and preaching the gospel to family members of people that he had had put to death. This is not how God ... We can't compute that because in our minds we got a formula for how God suppose to act. For God to take a small farm boy from Charlotte and he has the opportunity to preach the gospel to more than anyone in the history of the world, 200 million people. He's been face to face with preaching the gospel named Billy Graham. Who would have thought? You see, it always comes it seems from unlikely places and unlikely sources. I can tell you this on every single one of our campuses at CrossPoint, at Lockport, at Cheektowaga. We have a rosterful, churches full of people who are unlikely prospects for salvation.
Yet God in His sovereign graciousness rescues us because here's why. Because He gave a scarlet cord in the blood of Jesus that ran out of a window that when we hold on to, we will be delivered and saved from every enemy that tries to get us. This is the beautiful hope of the gospel. So God's purposes blow up our man-made formulas. So you trust Him. You stop trying to be in charge all the time. You listen to how He wants it done, in the way He wants it done, in the timing He wants it done. Because He didn't show up in your life to take sides, He showed up to take over because His purposes are better than yours. His dreams for what He wants to do are better than the ones you create for yourself. He loves you enough to rescue you even if you were living tlife of Rahab or Paul. His grace can reach you right where you are.
Let's bow our heads together. We're dismissed in just a moment. If you're here and you've never before entrusted your life to Jesus, I hope that you realize that God has gone to extraordinary lengths to rescue you, to extend a scarlet cord of forgiveness and redemption to you because he went to a cross. Jesus went to a cross to die in your place to cover a sin that you owed that you could never pay. He rose from the dead, satisfying the justice of God. He now will save you that by faith in him you can be reconciled to a Holy God whom you could never stand before unless Jesus the righteous had stood in your place. So if you need to understand what it means to be forgiven to receive Jesus, then when we dismiss in a moment I'll hope you'll come by the Fireside Road. It's clearly marked out in the atrium. Just come by, there are some pastors and prayer partners. Just make your way right over there.
Father, for so many of us who already know You, who claim to know You, I confess God that there are times in my life where I will take on the banner of self-leadership. I need to be reminded and we need to be reminded who the Commander of the Army of the Lord is, that we're not as in charge as we think we are, the Your sovereign purposes are so much better and wiser. Your ways are above our ways. Your thoughts are above our thoughts. So help us to humble ourselves before You so that You might be able to work out Your purposes among us, because we want what You want, because Your ways are better. Help us not to look around that people in our world who we think are beyond salvation, because we think they're like Rahab or we think they're like Saul, but instead we'd be reminded of the God who pulls don walls and who extends scarlet cords of redemption to people who seemingly don't deserve it.
Would You remind us that we were just as undeserving, that our sin has separated us and we are just as undeserving, yet in Your grace You have extended the scarlet cord of redemption to us through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Help us with that, we pray in Jesus' name. Amen.