Pastors Ray Viola and Ben Hiwale go through the Bible line-by-line, precept-by-precept in a series of in-depth teachings. Our prayer for this podcast series is that you would KNOW CHRIST, GROW IN CHRIST, PROCLAIM CHRIST, and bring GLORY TO GOD.
Joshua's Final Sermon and Plea
Joshua 24 brings us to the end of the life and ministry of Joshua, the servant of The Lord. It is a gripping “Thus saith The Lord” to the nation of Israel, and is a message that gets right down to what we would call the nitty-gritty, "rubber meets the road" message. There will be no tickling of the ears.
It is summarized in verses 14 and 15: “Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Again in verse 23 we hear Joshua say to the nation, “Now therefore put away … the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the LORD God of Israel.”
Joshua is going to finish his ministry and go home to be with His Lord and Savior, but his concern is for the spiritual state and condition of the people of God, and not without a reason for as we find in the book of Judges, “ …there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.” (Judges 2:10). Joshua would indeed pass on, but the work of The Lord would continue. Thus his concern for passing on the truth of God to the next generation was (and still is today) vitally important.
I think of similar last words of other servants of The Lord like Moses, Elijah, Paul, Peter, John and many of the minor and major prophets. But most notable are the last words of Jesus Christ. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
“Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15)
“Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:46-47)
“It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:7,8)
That the people of God live lives that are completely yielded to Him and for His glory is clearly found at the heart of each of these “last sermon” messages, and that is my heart today as well.
What kind of “Christianity” are you going to pass on to your children and grandchildren, beloved? What kind of a church culture are we going to pass on to the next generation of Koinonia Fellowship? May The Spirit of God speak to each of us today in a prophetic and profound way. May He cause us to redeem our times here on earth for the kingdom of God and His glory instead of the kingdom of this world and our glory. It is not a question of if you have a master passion in your life, but who or what is it? Jesus said that His meat was to do the will of The Father and finish His work (John 4:34). What say ye, dear ones? Selah
Passing the Baton
As we have studied through the Book of Joshua, we have learned how God orchestrated events and passed the baton from Moses to Joshua. We have studied the commands and promises God gave to Joshua and through him to the nation of Israel. We have studied the new nation's ups and downs, lessons they learned, and miracles they witnessed God perform as they settled in the land.
Now Joshua is nearing the end of his journey on this earth. As he prepares to pass the baton, there are many things on his heart that he wants to address. He speaks about compromise, indifference, concessions and tolerance. We also learn that God has called us to cross rivers that are impossible for us, and to trust Him when it comes to the Jericho kind of obstacles in our lives. But there is one thing that this aged leader puts forward that is without question heavy on his heart. Joshua, the old warrior, with all the elders and leaders present, knowing that this is most likely his final address to the nation of Israel, makes a statement (Joshua 23:11) that represents the first and greatest commandment: to love the LORD your God (cf. Matthew 22:36-38).
Our love of God is a direct reflection of our relationship with God. Loving God is not a suggestion, so why do we treat it as such? Joshua 23:11 should cause us all to pause and wonder why it is that God’s people need to be told to love God. Yet great emphasis is given by the placement of this command in this chapter to reveal how the people of Israel are inclined to turn back to other gods and forsake the Lord in the land. God knows this, and Joshua knows this. But our motivation for loving God should never be to avoid consequences. Our motivation for loving God is because He is worthy of our love.
Overcoming Rumors with Truth
In our study today, the 2 1/2 tribes of Israel – Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh – are going to be set free to return to their families and earthly inheritance because they had faithfully helped their brothers in the 9 1/2 tribes overcome their enemies. For 7 years, these 2 1/2 tribes lived away from their families and the comforts of home to keep their word of going to war with their brothers until God gave them victory over their enemies. Now they are sent home with all of the blessings of warfare and to be reunited with their wives, children and loved ones. Before they cross the Jordan, while they were still in The Promised Land, they built a monument, large enough for everyone to see. It was actually a memorial or token of remembrance to remind them not only the faithfulness of God, but their unity with their brothers on “the other side of the Jordan.” Unfortunately, when the rest of Israel heard about what they had done, they mustered an army at Shiloh and prepared to go to war against their brother tribes.
Did you catch that? When Israel heard about this altar or memorial, without hearing the whole story from their brethren on the other side, they decide that they were sinning against God and it is time for war! When the delegation from the 9 1/2 tribes confronts their brothers in the 2 1/2 tribes on the other side of what was the meaning of this altar, the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh assured the others by Jehovah, the God of gods, that were not in rebellion against the Lord and did not build the altar to sacrifice offerings. The truth was they built the altar as a memorial because they loved the Lord and feared that in the future the children of the 9 1/2 tribes would say to their children. “What right do you have to worship the Lord God of Israel? The Lord has placed the Jordan River as a barrier between our people and your people and you who chose to dwell of the other side of the river have no part in the Lord.” (Joshua 22:24,25) The fear was that this rumor would be believed and thus discourage the descendants of the 3 1/2 tribes from worshiping Jehovah. But they could reply, "Look at the altar of the Lord that our fathers made. Yes, it is patterned after the altar of Jehovah, but it is not for burnt offerings or sacrifices; it is a symbol of the relationship with God that both of us have.” (v 28)
The name of the altar was Ed, which means witness or testimony (v 34). The real intention of building this altar was to be a witness or a testimony of the unity of the 12 tribes for future generations. An important lesson that is tucked away in Joshua 22 is that people and churches that are judged falsely are damaged when rumors or gossip are acted on as absolute truth. Beloved, when you hear a rumor about something or someone, before you come to a decision yourself, make sure that you go to the source of the matter and get all of the facts. Had the 9 1/2 tribes not gotten the full story, a civil war between the tribes on the two sides of the river would have broken out! How many wars that have broken out amongst God’s people may have been avoided if after we heard a rumor about someone, we had gone to the person and gathered all of the facts about the situation first? What peril lies in the incompatibility of Christian with Christian! How easily misunderstandings occur, and with what damaging results! How rapidly they spread, and the farther they go the worse they get, until often an evangelical church is completely ruined by this very sin. Why is it we are all so ready to listen to gossip? Why is it that we are so quick to impute the worst motives to other people? Why do we believe so quickly a rumor concerning another person's character, and then repeat it with hundredfold exaggeration?
The devil has used gossiping, slandering, backbiting Christians to infect other Christians to divide more churches and destroy more lives and ministries th
God is Faithful
Our God is a promise keeping God. In our study today we read that “There failed not aught of any good thing which the LORD had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass.” (Joshua 21:45) Everything that God promised to Israel regarding the occupancy of the promised land, He fulfilled, just as He said He would. What the ten unbelieving spies at Kadesh Barnea said could never happen did happen, because individuals like Caleb and Joshua believed God and obeyed His Word. In Joshua 23:14 we read, “And, behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth: and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the LORD your God spoke concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof.” Once again we read that every good thing that God had promised to the Israelites had been given to them. All the promises had been realized; nothing was lacking. Jesus Himself said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” (Matthew 24:35) Even though all that is of a material nature is finite and will end, that which God says is certain and eternal in nature.
Beloved, take a moment to pray and read those passages that I just shared with you. Those are the words of The Living God, Who is our Lord and God and Father. All that He promises will come to pass. To believe that everything God says, He will surely bring to pass, is critical in a world that is filled with lies, chaos, confusion, and empty and unfulfilled promises from every strata of society. That God is faithful to do what He says He will do is the very basis of peace, confidence, and security in this fallen world. However dark things get, however impossible the fulfillment of God’s promises might seem, both history and experience teach us that time and time again, all that God has promised has been realized “exceeding abundantly” above all that was asked or thought (Ephesians 3:20). God is the same today as yesterday; He is not further from us in heart, nor feebler in powers. His promises do not have an expiration date on them, and He is still fresh to do what He has promised.
Saints, do you believe this morning that there will not fail anything of the good that God has spoken to us? Do you believe that nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39)? Do you believe that “my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19)? Do you believe that “this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life” (1 John 2:25)? Do you believe that “all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us” (2 Corinthians 1:20)? Yes, we are living in difficult and challenging times. The very moral foundations of our nation and our society are out of control. But “godliness (following Jesus Christ) is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” (1 Timothy 4:8, emphasis added)
Let the promises of our Great Shepherd direct your steps today and give you peace. Selah
Place of Refuge
When Russia invaded Ukraine, we saw a flood of refugees into neighboring countries, trying to get to their families abroad. When people feel unsafe in their homes, they travel to places where they can find refuge. Recently violence has been plaguing our country in ways we have not experienced before. We as a country have possibly come to a place where everyone is doing what is “right in his own eyes.” (Judges 17:6, 21:25) When a person takes on the responsibility of justice, seeking to cure or cleanse the evil in the circumference of his or her hurt and pain, they don’t realize that they have blind spots, that their perspective might be skewed and their reaction is based on anger.
The world wants peace and protection. People are seeking places of refuge for many reasons, whether it is for food, shelter or safety related to emotional, mental or physical matters. Our all-knowing God understands that this is a necessity that needs to be addressed in many lives and generations.
The newly formed nation of Israel did not have a police force or jails. They needed a comprehensive solution for dealing with matters of life and death, whether the cause was accidental or malicious. God gave them a plan for a place of refuge, as we’ll see in Joshua 20, so the young nation would not slide into the chaos experienced in the American west. (See also Numbers 35:9-28.)
All life is valuable to God. Regardless of the consequences, God still demonstrates that we all need a place of refuge. We all need a place where we can run to when we find ourselves in trouble. Where do you run when you have blown it? Where and to whom do you run when you have sinned? Where and who is your refuge? Our refuge is found in the Lord (Psalm 46:1,7,11, et al).
Why is it important for us to study the boundaries of the land that God gave Israel? The first reason is because it is a part of holy inspired Scripture. Secondly, because it is a land that has a special place in the heart of God. It is the land that God promised to give to the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The eyes of God are always upon that parcel of land (Deuteronomy 11:11,12). Not that God is indifferent to the rest of the earth; but He has created and given that particular piece of “real estate” to the Jewish nation as the “theater” for the plan of the redemption of mankind to be accomplished.
Deuteronomy 32:8,9 says, “When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel. For the LORD’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.” Ezekiel 5:5 says, “This is Jerusalem: I have set it in the midst of the nations and countries that are round about her.” What a remarkable revelation! It is as if God planned the alignment of every other country on the planet around eretz (“the land of”) Israel, and in particular, the city of Jerusalem.
In this lesson I would like to share some significant facts with you about this parcel of land that we have been covering over the past few weeks. I pray that God’s Spirit will illuminate our eyes and set out hearts ablaze as we read some of the biblical passages about this land, and see how relevant they are to you and me this morning. Beloved, we are living in both troublesome and exciting times! Against all “odds”, Israel was declared a nation on May 14th, 1948. The prophet Isaiah said, “Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children.” (Isaiah 66:8) In spite of numerous attempts to wipe out the Jewish people, the nation of Israel was “reborn”, so to speak, because as I said a moment ago, that piece of property would be the major theater for God’s redemptive and prophetic plan.
Why is it important to study and learn about the land of Israel? Because in doing so, we learn that our God is a promise-keeping God. Every square inch that Israel obtained in the Promised Land that we have been covering in the book of Joshua was because God is faithful to keep His promises. And what is the connection between what God promised Israel and you and me this morning? For those who repent of their sin and trust in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ on the cross for their sin debt and believe that He rose again from the dead, God declares: “And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.” (1 John 2:25) “And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. (Hebrews 9:15) All praise, and glory and honor be unto our God Who has promised His children that by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ, they which are called will receive the promises of eternal life and an eternal inheritance. Selah