This is a message from pastor and teacher Bill Serjak from the Joshua series “New Beginnings”
Be Strong and Courageous
God did not give the people of Israel a land that was there for the taking. He gave them a land to conquer. God promised them the land and said that He would lead them through Joshua, but they had hard and dangerous work to do to conquer the land. They needed to be totally involved in God’s plan. At this point, they were at the edge of the Jordan River and ready to enter the Promised Land. God told the people not only to conquer the land, but to slay all the inhabitants. In the twenty-first century, it is hard for us to swallow that God would require the Jews to slay all the inhabitants.
I do not know the mind of God, but most people today think that they do and say that God would never do such a thing. It is dangerous to judge God, because that puts us in the position of being greater than God. However, I do have a couple of thoughts as to why He would do such a thing. The people of the land worshiped Molech. He was a terrible god. Today, we think that one god is pretty much like another and everyone should be free to worship as he sees fit. Molech was a special case and worshiping him was firmly entrenched in the minds of the people. Molech was a god of infant sacrifice. The people had built an idol of him sitting on a chair with his arms outstretched and his hands turned upward. The idol was hollow and made of brass. For their worship, they built a fire inside the idol and heated it until it was scorching hot. Babies were then put in the idol’s hands and they burned to death.
It could be that people who saw their worship of Molech as being good would always have such a twisted and destructive mindset that they would destroy the good that anyone else w bring. It may be that all that could be done with them was to eliminate them. Today, we may emotionally sacrifice our children to the idol of our personal convenience, but these people made an open and literal sacrifice of their children.
This was also a time before the coming of the Holy Spirit on all mankind. The coming of the Spirit is an incredibly important event because it makes redemption possible for anyone no matter how twisted they have become. In today’s way of thinking, we have total trust in the belief that education or counseling will make anyone better. However, that obviously doesn’t work in the most severe cases: those, we just lock away. We have a hard time just redeeming addicts so they won’t take drugs anymore. Our best programs have very low success rates. Instead, we usually succeed in making people more sophisticated in hiding their sin instead of facing it and getting rid of it. I doubt that counseling, even if it was available at that time, would have changed the Molech worshipers.
The coming of the Holy Spirit makes redemption possible for all people because there is now supernatural power at work in our lives who can change us. Since Pentecost, no one is beyond redemption. In Joshua’s time, the Molech worshipers could only attempt to change themselves and they were not motivated to do that since they believed what they were doing was right. Perhaps God knew that they would never change. If they were left alive, their corruption would only destroy what good might exist. I don’t think we appreciate the wonder and majesty of what happened on the cross and at Pentecost. Since then, it is no longer just us, fumbling around trying to make ourselves better. The power of God is working in our midst.
The Old Testament can be called the picture book for baby believers. When we read the Old Testament, we need to look at the pictures of the stories because they show the character of God and His absolute refusal to compromise who He is in order to fit into how we have made the world. God does not make our ways work but insists on our doing things His way. When the people of Israel came to conquer the land, they were not to make compromises with the evil that was already there. They were to destroy the old ways and make all things new. That is a picture of how God works in our lives.
When God comes into our lives, He doesn’t seek to help us make our old ways work better. He removes those ways in order to make us see life differently. He does not make peace with the ideas and ways that currently inhabit our lives. He comes in to destroy the view points that currently inhabit our lives. He starts from scratch to make us completely new. One old way of looking at life might be that happiness comes from our having an abundance of things. God does not compromise with that old way of life by bringing us the things we think will make us happy. Instead, He destroys the beliefs that inhabit our lives and brings new ways into our lives. In time, we begin to actually desire to enjoy and glorify God beyond any other thing that once guided our lives.
God then told Joshua to be strong and courageous. I have had people say similar things to me. When going through hard times, friends often told me to buck up and be strong. That is a nice thing to say, but it doesn’t really help that much. It doesn’t tell us how to find the strength. God did not just tell Joshua to be strong and courageous but also told him how to do it. The first thing God told Joshua was to meditate on His law. Joshua was to think daily on what God had said was right and wrong. Joshua was to get a clear picture in his mind and heart as to how God’s people are supposed to live.
Most of us glance at the law of God once in awhile; even then, we question if God really has said those things. But Joshua was to accept the law and meditate on it day and night. God believed that if Joshua knew what is right, deep in his heart, that would give him the strength and courage to face what he must face. That same principle works for us today. We are not supposed to take seriously what the current trends of the world say is right and wrong, but are to mediate on what God has said and bring that way of thinking deep into our hearts. Knowing God’s truth will enable us to have the strength and courage to do whatever we are called to do.
God also told Joshua about another source of courage. He reminded Joshua that He would be with him wherever he went. Joshua would never face anything by himself; God would always be there. Joshua needed to let that truth sink deeply into his soul. God’s people will never go anywhere where God will not be with them. Joshua would be going into some scary places and God was reminding him that He would be with him in all of those places. Knowing God’s presence would give Joshua the courage he needed. The same things is true for each of us. There are times when there are dragons in the land and the things we need to face are beyond our strength. In those times, God tells us that we can depend on Him. He will be with us and that knowledge will give us the strength and courage we need. When we know God is with us and what He has said is right is guiding our lives, then we will have the strength and courage to face whatever we need to face. No one knows what the new deacons and elders who have been ordained and installed this morning will need to face over the next few years, but we do know that whatever comes, they will not be alone. They will have each other and, more importantly, God and His guidance will be with them. They are not to seek where the people want to go and then lead them there. It is easy to do that but not the way leaders in the Church are supposed to lead. Leaders in the Church are to mediate on God’s Word and seek to lead the people into God’s Truth. Many times, that is not where people want to go, but the leaders of God’s people are to take them there anyhow. Knowing God’s Word and presence will give the courage to lead God’s people into His new kingdom.