HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, September 5, 2021
Youtube link... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sF-GBnURot8
HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, September 5, 2021
Teaching Series - “Our Family Tree–Through the Bible in 2021"
Weekly Topic - “You Call That a Battle Plan?”
Text – Joshua 5-7, Leviticus 18, Deuteronomy 12:29-31, Hebrews 4:6-11, 1 Peter 1:15-17
Last week, we dipped our toes into the book of Joshua; today we take the plunge! The people of Israel are about to embark on the task of taking over the land of Canaan—the land God promised them—but to do so, God must make room for them…through the removal and/or suppression of the people already living there. The stories contained in the book of Joshua are unsettling as we read of whole towns and people groups being slaughtered and/or made into slaves.
Many in our day and age have difficulty aligning the God of the Old Testament with the God of the New Testament, whom we serve. But it’s the same God. Speaking through the prophet Malachi, God assures us that, “I am the Lord, and I do not change” (Malachi 3:6a). He has not changed; however, His revelation of Himself to us has. Jesus allowed us to see God in a new light, but that doesn’t mean that the God of justice who demanded obedience before Jesus walked the earth as a human is now only grace, mercy and love.
The Bible records many times that God changed His mind. He changed His mind about destroying the Ninevites when they repented after Jonah’s warning and we have seen times over the course of this past year when, in response to Moses’ pleading, God relents from wiping out the nation of Israel and beginning again. However, despite changing His mind, He remains the same.
I remember a story from my life that may help to make this more understandable. Shortly after Donald and I were married, I began working at a church as the Adult Ministries Pastor. After Shannan was born two years later, I had an individual tell me one day how much he had seen me change since her birth. I corrected him. No, I hadn’t changed; what had changed was his perception of me, because he was now able to see another side of me he hadn’t prior to our daughter being born.
It’s the same with God. Our perception of Him has changed. We now possess a far greater understanding of the depth of His love and the extent to which He would, and did, go to reclaim us from sin as His own—by becoming human and dying for us. It is helpful to keep that fact in mind as we read through the difficult stories contained in the Old Testament.
What is also helpful for us to keep in mind is the culture of the day about which these stories are written. No less is true in today’s lesson and we would do well to attempt to understand the Canaanite situation prior to drawing conclusions about God’s apparent vendetta against them. The people of Canaan had sunk to a level of moral depravity that had left them with a complete disregard for human life. Worship of their idols had led them into extremes of sexual corruption and the routine sacrifice of children as part of their religious observances.
“UNDERSTANDING THE CANAANITE SITUATION”
Leviticus 18:1-5 – “Then the Lord said to Moses, 2 “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel. I am the Lord your God. 3 So do not act like the people in Egypt, where you used to live, or like the people of Canaan, where I am taking you. You must not imitate their way of life. 4 You must obey all my regulations and be careful to obey my decrees, for I am the Lord your God. 5 If you obey my decrees and my regulations, you will find life through them. I am the Lord.”
What then follows is a long list of sexual deviances that God tells the Israelites they are not to engage in, sexual practices that were rife in both Egypt, the land the Israelites had left, and Canaan, the land they were entering. I must admit, I find the list repulsive and wonder how any group would allow themselves to do such things. This was not just the behaviour of a few twisted individuals; this was not even just an accepted behaviour within the society; it had become part of their expected and approved ‘moral’ code…or more accurately, lack of moral code!
The chapter forbids sex with any close relation—mother, step mom, aunt, sister, sister-in-law, daughter or grand-daughter. It also forbids sex with a person of the same gender or with an animal. Because of these behaviours, God is going to bring about their punishment, “Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, for the people I am driving out before you have defiled themselves in all these ways. Because the entire land has become defiled, I am punishing the people who live there. I will cause the land to vomit them out” (Leviticus 18:24-25).
In Deuteronomy we read a further explanation for God’s expulsion of the Canaanites from the land, “29 When the Lord your God goes ahead of you and destroys the nations and you drive them out and live in their land, 30 do not fall into the trap of following their customs and worshiping their gods. Do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How do these nations worship their gods? I want to follow their example.’ 31 You must not worship the Lord your God the way the other nations worship their gods, for they perform for their gods every detestable act that the Lord hates. They even burn their sons and daughters as sacrifices to their gods” (Deuteronomy 12:29-31).
It is clear that the people of Canaan are not being pushed aside simply to make room for the Israelites; God doesn’t play favourites. God explains the reason for His plan to punish the Canaanites and He warns that Israelites, even while still in the wilderness, that the same will happen to them if they disobey Him and adopt the ways of the Canaanites. “27 All these detestable activities are practiced by the people of the land where I am taking you, and this is how the land has become defiled. 28 So do not defile the land and give it a reason to vomit you out, as it will vomit out the people who live there now. 29 Whoever commits any of these detestable sins will be cut off from the community of Israel. 30 So obey my instructions, and do not defile yourselves by committing any of these detestable practices that were committed by the people who lived in the land before you. I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 18:27-30).
As mentioned in our study last week, this is not a question of whose side God is on, but rather who is on God’s side. God will punish all who disobey; God will reward all who obey. The Israelites may have been the people of the promise God made to Abraham, but they did not own God’s affections. They were chosen to play a specific role as part of His plan for the redemption of the whole of humanity. As long as they obeyed Him, He would provide His favour, just as He has promised to any person or group of people who chooses to obey Him today.
God had chosen this time to punish the Canaanites. So after crossing the Jordan River—which miraculously stops for the Israelites to cross over—and their recommitment to God through the circumcision of all the men who had been born during their wilderness travels, God reveals His battle plan to Joshua. He is about to perform a miracle on their behalf; their job is to obediently play the role of spectators in God’s defeat of Jericho’s walls. However, it also serves as a test—will they obey?
“GOD’S BATTLE PLAN"
Joshua 6:2-5 – “The Lord said to Joshua, ‘I have given you Jericho, its king, and all its strong warriors. 3 You and your fighting men should march around the town once a day for six days. 4 Seven priests will walk ahead of the Ark, each carrying a ram’s horn. On the seventh day you are to march around the town seven times, with the priests blowing the horns. 5 When you hear the priests give one long blast on the rams’ horns, have all the people shout as loud as they can. Then the walls of the town will collapse, and the people can charge straight into the town.’”
Picture yourself as one of the Israelites. Moses has died and Joshua has taken his place. You know that Joshua has gone off by himself to devise a battle plan. Soon, he gathers the troops…everyone is eager to hear the plan. Joshua gives you his marching orders, literally. The army is to march around the city once for six days to the blast of the priests’ trumpets, then seven times on the seventh day. The priests will blow one long blast, everyone is to yell, and the walls will crumble…just like that. Those of us who have heard this story retold many times, might miss out on the significance of this moment; a moment that could have led to another episode of mutiny in the Israelites’ journey to Canaan.
The plan is absolutely ludicrous! Thick city walls of stone…thick enough to have houses built into them…don’t crumble because a bunch of people yell. If it hadn’t been for all the miracles of the past forty years, it would have been understandable for some to question Joshua’s sanity. But it’s interesting to note, that this is one of the few times when the Israelites appear not to question God’s plan. They unhesitatingly obey. Joshua delivers the plan and the Israelites follow. And the walls come down!
God makes it clear that it is He who is doing the work of making room for the Israelites by moving ahead of them to remove the Canaanites. His requirement of them is unwavering and complete obedience. Without Him, the task would have been impossible; with Him, nothing will be impossible.
But, unknown to all but one man, there’s a problem; they do not completely obey…and quickly suffer the consequences. In the very next battle, assuming that all is good, they find themselves quickly overwhelmed by the military of the small and seemingly insignificant town of Ai. In their grief and confusion, Joshua himself questions the advisability of their having crossed the Jordan as he pours out his fears to God. God quickly provides him with an answer…and a reality check.
“GOD IS SERIOUS ABOUT OBEDIENCE”
Joshua 7:10-15 – “10 But the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Get up! Why are you lying on your face like this? 11 Israel has sinned and broken my covenant! They have stolen some of the things that I commanded must be set apart for me. And they have not only stolen them but have lied about it and hidden the things among their own belongings. 12 That is why the Israelites are running from their enemies in defeat. For now Israel itself has been set apart for destruction. I will not remain with you any longer unless you destroy the things among you that were set apart for destruction.
13 ‘Get up! Command the people to purify themselves in preparation for tomorrow. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Hidden among you, O Israel, are things set apart for the Lord. You will never defeat your enemies until you remove these things from among you.
14 ‘In the morning you must present yourselves by tribes, and the Lord will point out the tribe to which the guilty man belongs. That tribe must come forward with its clans, and the Lord will point out the guilty clan. That clan will then come forward, and the Lord will point out the guilty family. Finally, each member of the guilty family must come forward one by one. 15 The one who has stolen what was set apart for destruction will himself be burned with fire, along with everything he has, for he has broken the covenant of the Lord and has done a horrible thing in Israel.’”
It’s almost as though God is rebuking Joshua, “Isn’t it obvious why you lost? I told you that I would help you if you obeyed me. I was not with you at the battle of Ai, so it should be presumed that you have not obeyed.” As it turns out, there’s only one guilty party, Achan; but God saw his sin as infecting the whole of the Israelite community. Achan’s disregard of God, His instructions and for believing he could take what belonged to God with impunity, needed to be made an example of.
After God singles Achan out from the rest, he finally confesses to his crime—"Then Joshua and all the Israelites took Achan, the silver, the robe, the bar of gold, his sons, daughters, cattle, donkeys, sheep, goats, tent, and everything he had, and they brought them to the valley of Achor. 25 Then Joshua said to Achan, ‘Why have you brought trouble on us? The Lord will now bring trouble on you.’ And all the Israelites stoned Achan and his family and burned their bodies. 26 They piled a great heap of stones over Achan, which remains to this day. That is why the place has been called the Valley of Trouble ever since. So the Lord was no longer angry” (Joshua 7:24-26).
We might judge God as being too harsh, but it is clear that God equates ‘almost’ or ‘mostly’ obedient as disobedient. God had promised to reward them, to be with them, to go ahead of them, and to do the impossible on their behalf as a result of their loyalty. But why should God bless disloyalty? It is not up for negotiation. Less than 100% faithfulness still leaves room for unfaithfulness. God will forgive us when we confess our sins, but it is wrongly presumptuous to expect God’s favour in the face of our disloyalty.
What are today’s takeaways?
· The same God who judged the Canaanites to be in need of punishment is the same God we serve today. Sin still removes God’s blessing, just as Achan’s disobedience caused suffering on the Israelite community. God still requires obedience, faithfulness and loyalty from His followers.
· We still have a ‘promised land’ at stake—the promise of an eternal rest. The writer of Hebrews referred back to the time of Joshua’s day to make this point, “God’s rest is there for people to enter, but those who first heard this good news failed to enter because they disobeyed God. 7 So God set another time for entering his rest, and that time is today. God announced this through David much later in the words already quoted: ‘Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts.’
8 Now if Joshua had succeeded in giving them this rest, God would not have spoken about another day of rest still to come. 9 So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God. 10 For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world. 11 So let us do our best to enter that rest. But if we disobey God, as the people of Israel did, we will fall.” (Hebrews 4:6-11)
Disobedience robs us of God’s rest and of His favour.
· God’s presence is our greatest reward for our obedience and eternal separation from God is the result of disobedience. Today’s story reminds us that we must resist the urge to blur the lines of obedience. Willful disobedience, no matter what society declares as the current moral standard, will result in punishment. ‘Almost’ or ‘mostly’ obedient aren’t good enough either. We serve a holy God. “15 But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. 16 For the Scriptures say, ‘You must be holy because I am holy.’ 17 And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time here as ‘temporary residents.’” (1 Peter 1:15-17).
For Further Study
The Bible Project – Joshua - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JqOqJlFF_eU
Sunday, September 12, 2021- “Living By Your Own Code” (Judges) - In-person and Online
Weekly lessons are now being made available on Youtube – “Pastor’s Study” - Go to our website: hopechapelcollingwood.ca and click on the Youtube icon or click on the link below https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrF8GWFnLjTmRyXjYnq1Ytw
Pastor Jane Peck, Hope Chapel
(Collingwood EMCC Church)
"Learning and Living the Way of Jesus!"
First licensed for pastoral ministry in 1994, Pastor Jane Peck has served in camp and church ministries in three denominations, five provinces and in a variety of roles. Her most recent position is that of Pastor at Hope Chapel which she began in 2020. She is excited to see what God can and will do in the days to come!