One of my favorite stories in the Bible is in 2 Kings 6 when Elisha the prophet is standing with his servant. The king of Aram has encircled Israel and is going to attack. The Bible says that the servant said to Elisha, “Alas, my master, what shall we do? So Elisha answered, do not fear, for those who are with us are far more in number than those who are with them.” Now, at this point the attendant has to be looking around going, what are you talking about? There’s no one with us! There's them and there's us but there's no one with us. So Elisha prayed, “O Lord, I pray, open his spiritual eyes that he may see. And the Lord opened the servant's spiritual eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” What did he see? God's angelic army. Folks, listen, there is an angelic army at the command of Jesus Christ and this angelic army is as active today as it was in the Old Testament. If God would drop the spiritual blinders from our eyes and we could see the angels all around us, we would probably all drop over dead. Do you realize that when you pray God dispatches angels? Think about it.
As Israel crosses the Jordan River God commands Joshua to have 12 men, one from each tribe, pick up one big stone from the dry river bed, hoist it up on their shoulder, and take it to the other side so that when they get to Gilgal, where they're going to camp for the night. they can use those 12 stones to build an altar. He has them do this so that in the future when their children saw the altar and asked what it was all about, they could remind them of what God did for them when He parted the Jordan River. This is one of the greatest principles of parenting you will ever find in the Bible. Moms and dads, what are you doing to remind your children of the great things God has done in your life? What are you doing to remind your children of how God has taken care of you, how God has taken care of your family and how God has responded when you have walked out on faith? You see, one of the greatest ways for your children to develop confidence that God will show up when they act on faith is for them to hear your stories about how God showed up in your life when you acted on faithAs Israel crosses the Jordan River God commands Joshua to have 12 men, one from each tribe, pick up one big stone from the dry river bed, hoist it up on their shoulder, and take it to the other side so that when they get to Gilgal, where they're going to camp for the night. they can use those 12 stones to build an altar. He has them do this so that in the future when their children saw the altar and asked what it was all about, they could remind them of what God did for them when He parted the Jordan River. This is one of the greatest principles of parenting you will ever find in the Bible. Moms and dads, what are you doing to remind your children of the great things God has done in your life? What are you doing to remind your children of how God has taken care of you, how God has taken care of your family and how God has responded when you have walked out on faith? You see, one of the greatest ways for your children to develop confidence that God will show up when they act on faith is for them to hear your stories about how God showed up in your life when you acted on faith.
I find it amazing that before God parted the Jordan River, he made the priests step into that raging water. We tend to say, “All right, God, You go first then I will take a step.” God says, “No, you got it all backwards. I want you to take a step of faith first then you'll see what I can do.” The book of Hebrews teaches us that without faith it's impossible to please God. What is a step of faith? A step of faith is not just taking any risk and hoping God comes through. The Bible says faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Biblical faith is always based on the Word of God. It's when I look in the Word of God and I see His commands and His promises and I have faith enough to act on them. One of the greatest stories in the Bible about taking a step of faith is Peter when he walks on water. Peter didn't just belly flop out of the boat. Before Peter ever stepped out of the boat he said this to Jesus, “If it's You, command me to come to You.” And Jesus said, “Come.” Peter was acting on the Word of God. When you take steps of faith you will see obstacles begin to move.
One of the reasons that God performed the miracle of parting the Jordan River was to give Israel confidence that He would give them victory over the key enemies that lived in the land they needed to conquer - the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Hivite, the Perizzite, the Girgashite, the Amorite and the Jebusite. They would need this confidence because when they got to the other side of the Jordan and came up against the walled city of Jericho and their knees began to buckle and they began to doubt, they could tell each other, “Remember the Jordan.” It would become the "remember the Alamo" of Joshua's time. If God could pull off parting the Jordan River He could give them Jericho. When they came up against huge armies with horses and chariots and fear began to grip them they could say, “Remember the Jordan.” The Jordan River would be the proof that they could trust God. Folks, listen, the way you will have confidence today to obey God even when it goes against human understanding and even when it goes against modern culture is to look back at the times in your past when God was faithful to you, and when you remember how He was faithful to you in your past, it will give you confidence to serve Him faithfully today.
Before Israel crosses the Jordan River they are commanded to consecrate themselves. The New Testament word is to be holy and it literally means to be set apart. This involves being set apart from something and being set apart to something. Let me give you an example. My wife has a set of china that she has consecrated. It is both valuable and sentimental. As a result, she has set it apart from ordinary usage and she has set it apart to a special usage. The only time all year long that we pull out her China is thanksgiving. We don't even pull it out on Christmas. It is set apart. It is holy. When I consecrate myself to the Lord it means that I am setting apart my body from sin and to the glory of God. I will only use my mind for the glory of God. I will only view things that bring glory to God. I will only listen to things that bring glory to God. I will only speak words that bring glory to God. I will only do things and go places and make decisions that bring glory to God. I am consecrating my body so that it is now separated from sin and it is stamped, "for God's use only." Tell me, are you consecrated?
When God told Joshua to have the people follow the Ark of the Covenant wherever it went, they were also told to stay 3,000 feet away from it. Why was that the case? The ark represented the presence of God and in the Old Testament the teaching regarding the presence of God was to keep your distance. Why was this the case? Because God is holy and man is sinful. That's why when the temple was built and the Ark of the Covenant sat in the Holy of Holies, only the high priests could go in once a year to offer a sacrifice for the sins of Israel. That all changed with the cross because when Jesus died on the cross the temple veil was ripped in two showing that we now had access because Jesus paid the penalty for our sin. No longer is the command to keep your distance. Now the book of Hebrews says we are to draw near and come boldly to God. Why the change? Because the cross had the final word and the final word is that we can be forgiven. We can be cleansed through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. There is no need to keep our distance any longer. Through Christ, we can now boldly approach God as often as we desire.
As Israel prepares to cross the Jordan River, God tells them that when the saw the Ark of the Covenant move they were to follow it. One of the things the ark represented was the Law of God because within it were the stone tablets in which God had written the law and given it to Moses. The word picture is that when we come to an obstacle in our life we must be committed to following the commandments of God. That can be difficult because often the way God instructs is opposed to our own human understanding. God is going to command the priests carrying the ark to step into a raging, flooded river. Does that make sense? Not at all. When they get to the other side and it's time to start the military campaign, the first thing that God is going to instruct Joshua to do is to have all the adult men circumcised. Does that make sense? Not if you're getting ready to fight a battle it doesn't. And then when they get to Jericho, God’s simply going to tell them to march around the city. That doesn’t make sense either. How important it is that we practice Proverbs 3:5 and trust in the Lord with all our heart which means not leaning on our own understanding.
After Rahab saves the Jewish spies, they promise her that she and her family would be spared when God gave them the city of Jericho as long as she would hang a scarlet cord from her window as she live right on the wall of the city. This cord served two purposes. The first is practical as it would identify for the military men of Israel which home was Rahab's so they know which home to save. But this scarlet cord also had a spiritual purpose. All throughout the Bible from beginning to end there is a scarlet thread that's woven through the story of the Bible that leads us to the cross of Jesus. Throughout the Old Testament God symbolically pointed us to the blood of Jesus. That's what this red cord symbolized. It pointed hundreds of years down the road to the cross of Jesus where Jesus Christ sheds His blood and dies to pay the penalty for our sin. The Bible says that without the shedding of blood there could be no forgiveness of sin and that it is the blood of Jesus Christ that cleanses us from all of our sin. It is the most important truth you can ever read in the Bible - the blood of Jesus Christ can cleanse you today from your sin.
The story of Rahab is amazing. She goes from first being mentioned in the Bible as a pagan prostitute to being mentioned in God’s great hall of faith in Hebrews chapter eleven. This is where God lists all the incredible examples of great faith that we should follow. He lists the big dogs in this chapter. You can find Noah, Abraham, Moses and David. And alongside of them you find Rahab the harlot. But that’s not it. In Matthew 1, when we see the genealogy leading up to Jesus, the Messiah we once again find Rahab the harlot. She ends up being the great, great grandma of King David which puts her in the genealogy of the Messiah Jesus Christ. Maybe this morning you are thinking that there is way too much baggage in your life for God to accept you, way too many sins that you have committed and skeletons that are in your closet. Folks, if God can take a pagan prostitute and put her in the line of the Messiah because she believed -- listen -- God can change your life today. He will forgive your sins. He will change your life. He will give you a home in heaven. If you doubt this then let Rahab becomes your proof.
When Rahab the harlot hides the Jewish spies in Jericho, one of the things she clearly did was to lie in order to protect the spies. The question we have to answer is, “Was Rahab's lie justified?” She definitely lied but what was her reason for lying? It was to save the spies. Is that a good reason? Sure. Her intent is good but does that justify her lie? Is it ever right to do wrong in order to do right? We call it today "situational ethics." Nowhere in scripture is Rahab ever condoned for telling the lie. She is commended for showing faith in hiding the spies but nowhere in scripture is she ever commended for lying. Could God have saved the spies without Rahab lying? Didn't He save Daniel in a lions' den? Didn't He save Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in a fiery furnace? Could God have saved the spies without Rahab lying? Most certainly he could have. We can debate if Rahab’s lie was justified until we’re blue in the face but we cannot use this verse to justify sin in your own life. That's what we have done today. We've become so very good at justifying our own sin. This verse cannot be used as a proof text that says it's okay to sin under certain circumstances to sin.