Monday, December 12, 2016

Sermon Recap: Joshua 21:43-45

The following is a summary recap of the Sermon preached at Trinity Presbyterian Church in New Martinsville WV on Sunday, December 11, 2016 by Pastor Dennis Bills.

In these verses we are reminded that 1) the Lord kept all his promises and that 2) the Lord fought for Israel.

V. 43 Thus the LORD gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers.

We know that 600 to 800 years before this, God took an oath. He created a covenant and made a promise. We find that promise in Genesis 12:1-7; 15:1-21; and 17:1-8. In these passages, God brought Abraham into the promised land. He told him that this land, now full of Canaanites, would someday be his and his heirs forever. Abraham believed God’s promise, and God counted that trust as righteousness. God told him it would not be his, per se, but would belong to his heirs. He told him his heirs would be strangers in a foreign land for 400 years, but someday they would return and God would give them the promised land. First, though the iniquity of the Canaanites would have to come to its fullness. And then God would judge the Canaanites and keep his promise.

So in keeping with his oath, our text says that The Lord gave all the land. This means that the land was the Lord’s to give. He was the owner of the land. He is in fact, the owner, the creator of all the earth.Therefore, he is the owner, the creator of all things. No one possesses anything that by rights their own. Our materialistic society misses this biblical teaching. We as Christians often forget it.

As the owner, God had the right to evict the occupants. As the only true God, he had reason to evict the occupants: They were evil and oppressive and getting worse. With time. In God ‘s time his judgment would fall upon the Canaanites.

The land was a gracious, unearned gift, given freely. Nothing forced God to give it, and nothing about Israel required God to give it. It was God’s to give to whomever as he saw fit.

The initial promise was made to a man (abraham) and reiterated to his son (Isaac) and to his grandson (Jacob, a.k.a. Israel) and to his great-grandchildren (the 12 sons of Jacob a.k.a. the children of Israel) , and so on to all their children and their children’s children, unto a thousand generations, unto all who would someday be known as the children of Israel.

The land was therefore an inheritance. An inheritance is something passed down from generation to generation. Just as the promises were passed down and finally fulfilled, so the fulfillment of the promises was to be passed down. Both the promises were an inheritance and the fulfillment of the promises were an inheritance.

V. 43 “And they took possession of it, and they settled there.”

Six hundred to eight hundred years after the promises were made, they were finally fulfilled to the children of Israel. That kind of time requires trust--the same kind of trust that God counted for righteousness in Abraham. Hundreds of years of trust--trust when everything about their circumstances for hundreds of years told them their was no reason to trust. This Trust required patience, hundreds of years of patience, even through great trial and tribulation--a wait-upon-the-Lord kind of patience. A never-doubt-the-Lord-even-when-you-have-every-human-reason-to-doubt kind of patience.

But not a hang-around-and-do-nothing kind of patience. Not a give-up-all-hope kind of patience. God had expectations of them in the meanwhile. Trust requires obedience.

Through all those hundreds of years, God never left off his demand that his people be different from the pagan world around them. They were to trust the Lord enough to be holy, to do right. To do justice and have mercy. When it came time to enter the promised land, they were to trust the Lord enough to fight even when--especially when--the odds appeared to be against them.

The result of God’s faithfulness to his promises and the result of Israel’s eventual trust in God’s promises was v 44.

V. 44 “And the LORD gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers.

Rest was important in Israelite religion. It was built into the created order. Just like the Lord’s rest on the seventh day marked an end and a beginning, so this rest marked an end and a beginning. Rest was also built into the commands of God. Six days shalt thou labor, but on the seventh, you shall rest. The Lord gave them the Sabbath rest he had promised. This was the end of the national campaign. The end of tents and campfires. The manna ended the day they crossed the Jordan. They had rest from the slavery in Egypt, from the wandering in the wilderness, from the years of marching and warmongering.

That did not mean there wasn’t still work to be done. Remember, they still had to trust and obey in order for each tribe to continue the work of evicting Canaanites, of enacting God’s judgment upon the pagans who still dwelt within their own tribal territories.

But with this rest, God wanted all to know and understand that the current state of the land, the end of the national campaign, their ability to take possession of cities they did not build, harvest crops they did not plant, eat grains and fruits they did not reap, meat and milk they did not raise, the ability to go home into houses they did not construct--all of it was an undeserved gift of God’s goodness. Theoretically, the hard part was done. God had proved himself again and again and again. The people had every cause to trust going forward. They had traced out every edge and line, every border and boundary of the land and had it presented to them as a gift, one tribe at a time. And in the midst of their new land, saturating the entire territory, were the symbols of the presence of God dwelling among them. Emmanuel!

To enjoy a sabbath, more than anything else, means to enjoy the presence of God. That is what this day should mean to you and to me. To leave off all else in order to rest with God. To experience the presence of God. To fellowship with God. To have peace with God. Sabbath rest day is a gift to his people for the purpose of undistractedly experiencing the presence of God . Do you recognize that? Do you keep your sabbath holy?

In the verse 43 we were reminded that 1) The Lord Kept his promises, and in the next verse we are reminded that 2) the Lord fought for Israel

V. 44”Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the LORD had given all their enemies into their hands. “

The story this book tells is replete with evidence of the fact that God fought for his people. See 6:2; 8:1, 7; 10:10-11, 14, 19; 11:8 and more.

We learn from this that when God made his promise, he also promised to give his people everything they needed to see that promise come to pass. He fought for his people tirelessly and awesomely. We learn from this that the promises of God are backed up by the almighty power of God.

At this point, let me Explain an apparent inconsistency. You have read continued reminders in this story that each tribe of the Israelites had yet to enact God’s righteous judgment upon the evil Canaanites within each tribe’s territory. So what does it mean when it says that “the LORD had given all their enemies into their hands?” It means that the national campaign had ended and all remaining inhabitants were contained within the land. They were either enslaved, subdued for the time being, or were prepared by God for his justice. All that remained in the years to come was for each tribe to finish the job of justice and judgment that God had commanded them. His promises to all tribes would become promises to each tribe as each continued to trust him unto patient obedience. In that patient obedience, each tribe was to continue being holy. In that patient obedience each tribe was to continue being God’s sword of justice. If they patiently obeyed in holiness and justice God would continue to fight for them.

We have hints that they failed to trust and obey God in this respect. The book of Judges tells that horrible story--how that in those days, there was no king in Israel, and each person did what was right in his or her own eyes. But at this moment in the story, that does not change the fact of verse 45.

V. 45”Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.”

The Word all is found five times in these three verses; six times in the Hebrew. You can count them. The emphasis of this repetition is on the completeness of God’s faithfulness. God cannot in any way be faulted for any failures that were to be revealed in the decades and centuries ahead.

  • The Lord Gave All the land
  • Not one of all their enemies withstood them
  • The Lord Gave all their enemies into their hands
  • Not one word of all the promises failed
  • All came to pass

What This Means to Us Now

Hundreds of years later, through Jesus and the Apostles, after the land was conquered by pagans again and again and again, after all the kings died off, after all the children of Israel were scattered in pagan lands, we learned that all these promises were ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ and his kingdom. The land is the entire globe that Jesus has conquered, is conquering, and will conquer. We--believing Jews and Gentiles--are the people, the children of Israel, the inheritors of the promised kingdom. And Jesus, the lion of the tribe of Judah, is the king of it all. Not one of all the promises God has ever made has failed. He is backing up his promises with his almighty power. He is taking over the world.

In the course of keeping those promises, God is bringing to pass his judgment. Just as he was patient with the Canaanites, telling Abraham that their iniquity is not yet full, so God is patient with the world, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But just as he passed judgment upon the Canaanites, so this earth and its inhabitants and all their works will be purged with fire, and according to his promise, we await a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. And then we will have rest on all sides and enjoy the presence of God in our midst for all eternity.

While we wait, brothers and sisters, we trust, and that trust manifests itself, like in Israel of old, in patience and obedience--our obedience is our love and our swords are our Gospel. We must be holy and obediently conquer the land with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. While we patiently wait for rest, we trust only in God, not in earthly kings, political parties, presidents, earthly judges, congressmen, or senators. Our kingdom is in this world but not of this world.

While we wait, brothers and sisters, God commands us to be holy, and to bring the Gospel to every nation, to every city, to every town, to every neighborhood, to every neighbor, to every loved one. Trust and obey, for Christ said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and upon earth, and lo, I will be with you always, even unto the end of the world.”

He has promised; will you trust and obey?

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