This is a message from pastor and teacher Bill Serjak from the Joshua series “New Beginnings”
We’re In This Together
Last week, I mentioned the adage that the Old Testament is The Picture Book for Baby Believers. As we study this section of Joshua, we need to look at the pictures and see what they show us about God’s character and how He works with His people. As we look at God’s people, they are on the east side of the Jordan River and must first cross the river to conquer the land they have been promised. At this time, Joshua told the officers to get ready because in three days they would cross the Jordan and begin the conquest of the land. It is interesting to note that they don’t appear to have any idea as to how they would cross this fairly large river. They don’t have any boats and the river is too deep to ford. There we’re any bridges anywhere in this area. Yet, they were making plans to cross the river in three days. They were making preparations to do what did not seem possible. I suppose God told Joshua what He was going to do but we don’t know that He had before they made preparations. The Hebrew leaders had to operate completely on faith without knowing how they would accomplish what they were supposed to do. They didn’t even have a battle plan as to how they would conquer the land if they ever did cross the river.
The officers were trusting that God would tell Joshua what they needed to do. Officers in that nation or in any church are in a very important position. Officers lead the people by faith. As our church enters a new era, we will have new leadership on the session and diaconate and soon a new pastor. Those leaders will need to lead the people by faith and help them cross over into a new era in the life of this church.
There were people among the Jews who already had their land. The Gadites, the Reubenites and the half-tribe of Manassah had been promised land that was east of the Jordan River and they already possessed that land, so their land did not need to be conquered. Since their families already had their land, they could have been selfish and just gone to their homes and let the other Jews do the fighting. However, that is not how it works in the Kingdom of God. As I said in the sermon title, We’re In This Together. The Israelites did not work as individual tribes so that as soon as the land for their tribe was conquered, they would then quit fighting and let the others go on alone. They were a covenant family and were participating together in God’s calling. The soldiers of each tribe were in the battle until the last battle was over. That is the way God’s relationship to His people always works.
Today, too often we work as individual Christians and on our individual faith with others being only helpful additions. However, in God’s plan our real value does not come from our individual worth. Our real value comes from our relationships. We think of righteousness as individual righteousness, but the Bible calls righteousness being rightly related to God. The value that each of us has as a person does not come from our individual worth but from being rightly related to God. Our culture is so individualistic that we teach that an individual has overwhelming worth. However, the Bible says we need to be rightly related to God to have any real value and then that value is reflected as we become rightly related to each other. The value we have as a person comes from being a son or daughter of God. Our value always comes from relationships and does not exist apart from our relationship to others.
In the Christian faith, our worth does not come because we prayed a sinner’s prayer or walked forward in a meeting. Our worth comes from being rightly related to God and to His people. God’s Church is bound together as His family and, as His family, we have incredible value both now and forever. As individuals, we don’t have any real value. That goes completely against the way our culture looks at our value.
Our culture sees us as having incredible value as individuals, so much so that to us God only has value when He does something that benefits us. It is the same with other people. We don’t really see them as valuable, except as to how they can benefit us. Even when we do “service for God” we want to know what we will get for what we do because we see real worth only as what will benefit us as individuals. In God’s truth, we are in this together and our worth comes as we serve God and each other. As individuals, we are not the center of the universe. We don’t have value, except as we are rightly related to God and to others.
Today, many look at all relationships, even marriage, as to how it will benefit them as individuals. We don’t realize that the value is in the relationship itself. It is relationships, not individuals, that give value. That is the way God always operates. His constant goal is to bring us back to Himself and bring us together as His people. He is not making us into perfect individuals but into His perfect family. We go to heaven to become a part of God’s complete family, not to fulfill our individual pleasure. In heaven, our relationship to God and His people will be complete and we will exist in that relationship, not as perfected individuals. Because of that relationship, we will have infinite value. In hell, everyone there is seeking to fulfill his individual desires. In hell, there is only individualistic value and the only value others will have will be how they can benefit us. If our worth is in ourselves or if our worth is in our relationship to God and others is the basic difference between heaven and hell.
The Gadites, the Reubenites and the half-tribe of Manassah already had what they had been promised but they were still a part of God’s covenant family. Their property only had value as the rest of God’s family got their property. They still needed to carry out the full job God had given His people; so, all of God’s people crossed over the Jordan.
The authority that bound the Jews together was not just their love for each other; they were also held together by what Moses had told them. Moses’s authority did not come from the will of the people. He was never elected the leader of the Jews. God appointed him to that position and Moses’ authority came directly from God. The people obeyed Moses, not because they liked what he said, but because he spoke only what God had told him to say. There is not any recorded incident where Moses told the people what he thought; he always told them what God had told him to say. Moses did not operate from what he thought should be done but always from what God wanted done. The people trusted what Moses said because he spoke only for God. It was not Moses’ brilliance or his position or his education that gave him authority. He had authority because he spoke for God.
It is the same for pastors today. I do not have authority just because the congregation elected me and the presbytery approved me. Many things can be used to sway elections. A pastor’s real authority comes when he teaches the Word of God to people. I don’t have authority because I have a master of divinity degree. That may meet a basic requirement so people will first listen to me, but it doesn’t give me real authority. Authority comes from telling the truth about Jesus Christ and what God has said in His Word, the Bible. Over the years, people have learned to trust that what I say does not come from interesting or clever ideas that I might have had, but comes from what God has said. Pastoral authority does not lie in brilliance or education or even in individual spirituality. Authority in God’s Kingdom comes only from teaching what He has said. When looking for a pastor to follow me, the most important thing to consider is whether he/she preaches his ideas or if he preaches what God has said in the Bible. His or her authority should not come from cleverness or education, but from God.
Joshua had incredible authority among the Jews because Moses passed down to Joshua some of the authority he had and because Joshua also followed what God had told him. That is the only way authority operates in God’s Kingdom.