In Joshua 11:23 we reach the end of the conquest of the Promised Land and we read these words, “Thus the land had rest from war.” The book of Joshua describes battle after battle but finally there's no more battle. Finally there's rest. This rest would be temporary. There would be many more battles ahead but for this brief time there was rest. I can’t help be thankful that amidst all the obstacles we go through in life there are those brief periods when God gives us rest. Those are precious times. But remember, they're temporary. There are more obstacles ahead. There are more challenges to face. But the Bible does teach that there's coming a day after the final battle is over that we will enter our promise land, heaven, and on that day from then on there will be no more tears, no more sorrow, no more pain and no more death. We will have peace, joy and rest for eternity plus perfect intimacy with God. There is coming a day for the one who has put their faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus, when we will enter eternal rest, never to battle sin again, never to battle obstacles again. You see, my friend, for the Christian, it's true. The best is yet to come.
After Joshua and the Children of Israel win a huge battle, God gives them a command that seems a bit strange. He tells them to hamstring all of the horses of the enemy army and to burn their chariots. To hamstring a horse means that you cut its main tendon in its leg so that it was no longer good for fighting. Now, if I'm Joshua, I'm a bit puzzled because my army could use those horses and. But ever since Israel crossed the Jordan River God has been teaching them that if they want to have success, they must depend on Him. If God allowed them to have these items, they would be tempted to put their trust in their newly obtained horses and chariots rather than in the Lord. Isaiah 31 says, “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses and trust in chariots…but they do not look to the Holy One of Israel or seek the Lord.” Psalm 20 says, “Some boast in chariots, some boast in horses, but we will boast in the name of the Lord, our God.” There are some big obstacles coming up in your life and when you face them you cannot rely on our own wisdom, checkbook or position. You must put our dependence on the Lord.
God gives us victories today in order to give us confidence so we will trust Him in the future. Folks listen, we have not faced our greatest obstacles yet. They are still ahead. That is why God gives us victories today, so that when a bigger obstacle comes in our future, instead of being fearful, we’ll be strong. Instead of being dismayed, we’ll be courageous. As you age, obstacles get bigger. A dear lady once said to me, “Pastor, growing old isn't for sissies.” If you don't think that's true, then go walk through your nearest nursing home facility. Let's be honest. Some of our biggest obstacles are still ahead of us. That is also true of parenting. You think it's tough to raise kids when they're terrible twos? You know what a lot of parents find out? That's not the toughest time because they ultimately become teenagers. And if you're raising teenagers and you think this is the toughest time, you might be surprised! Most parents will tell you some of the hardest times of parenting happen after your kids become adults. Some of the greatest challenges of our lives still lie ahead. That is why God gives you victories today - in order to give you confidence to trust Him for the bigger obstacles that will come in your future.
In the book of Judges we read a very sad story of a warrior named Jepthah who made an impulsive commitment to the Lord saying that if God would give him victory in battle, he would in turn sacrifice to the Lord whatever came out of his house first to greet him when he returned home. My guess is that Jephthah and his family had some pets and was pretty sure that one of those pets would come out of the house first. God gives Jepthah the victory and he comes home it is his only daughter that comes out of the house first to welcome her dad as he's returning. If I were Jephthah, I would have broken my commitment. Even though I don't like this story, I do learn from it that I need to be serious about commitments I make to the Lord. Is there a commitment you made to the Lord in your past that you've gotten away from? Maybe you made a commitment to spend time with God every day reading your Bible and praying but you have gotten away from it. Maybe you made a commitment way back that you were going to tithe regularly and you've quit doing it. Isn't it time to come back to your commitment? Let’s learn a lesson from Jepthah.
In James 4, the Apostle addresses believers who are making plans for the future without consulting God. These Christians were making decisions about when they were going to do things without seeking the counsel of God. They were making decisions about where they're going to do things without seeking the counsel of God. They were decisions on how long they're going to do things without seeking the counsel of God. They were making decisions on exactly what they're going to do without seeking the counsel of God. They were even setting goals for their future without seeking the counsel of God. The problem with making decisions about our future without consulting God is that we do not know what our life will be like tomorrow, or next week, or next month or next year. God is the only one who knows exactly what our lives will be like in the future. If I don't know what's going to happen in my life tomorrow or next week or next month or next year, but God does, does it make any sense at all for me to plan without consulting Him? James says, we should say, “If the Lord wills we will do this and that.” Those aren’t magical words we simply say. It means you consult God's will before planning your future.
In the Old Testament we see Joshua and Israel fall into deception at the hands of the Gibeonites for one very important reason – they did not seek the counsel of the Lord. Folks, listen, the number one way that God wants to protect us from deception is through our seeking His counsel before we make decisions. And the main way we discover the counsel of the Lord today is the Bible. Scripture gives us the counsel of God. If you are not committed to knowing the Bible and making the Bible a priority in your life, you will fall into deception. The Psalmist taught us that the Word of God is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. It shows us what steps we are to take. With the Gibeonites, Joshua decided to just go by his own human wisdom, his own human reasoning. He felt it was a safe bet. He didn’t seek the counsel of God. Instead, he enters into a treaty and led Israel into deception. We do it all the time. How many times do we make plans for tomorrow, plans for next week, plans for next month, plans for next year but we never seek the counsel of God as we make those plans? It’s Scripture that will protect us from deception.
It is easy for us to allow secret sins to creep into our life. When that occurs, how should we respond? First, you confess it to God. The Bible says that if we confess our sin He's faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us. The word confess literally means to say the same thing as. It’s saying, “God, I confess to You that this is in my life and I agree with you that it is a sin. Please forgive me.” Second, you repent. The word “repent” means to turn away from that sin. If there's a certain place you go to do this sin then you quit going to that place. If there's a certain person you're doing this sin with, then you break off the relationship. If there's something in your home that you use to commit this sin, then you get that out of your home. And finally, you admit it to another brother or sister in Christ. The Bible says that we are to confess our sins one to another. Chances are good that if this sin has been in your life long enough that you've become addicted to it. You need someone that you can admit this to who will pray for you and keep you accountable.
In the book of Joshua, when we read about the sin of Achan, we see a path. Achan saw the items, then he coveted the items, then he took them. He saw the items. He desired the items. And ultimately, he took the items. Now, why is that significant? Because that is the path of sin all throughout the Bible. Let me give you an example. Go back to Genesis 3 and notice how Eve's sin took place. Remember the ground rules. God said here in the garden you can eat of every tree but not this one tree. When the woman saw that the tree that it was a delight to her eyes and desirable so she took from its fruit and ate. She saw, she desired, she took, just like Achan. King David did the same thing in 2 Samuel. One evening David was walking around on the roof of his house and from the roof he saw a woman bathing and she was very beautiful in appearance. David desired her so he inquired about who this woman was. He then sent messengers and took her and had an affair with her. He saw, he desired, he took. One of the greatest ways to guard your heart from desiring sin is to guard your eyes from what you see.
After Israel is defeated by the city of Ai due to the sin of one man named Achan, God tells Joshua that “tomorrow” He is going to reveal the guilty party. Why tomorrow? Why didn’t God reveal the culprit right then? I believe God was giving Achan a chance to repent. Something tells me Achan didn't sleep well that night. All night long Achan had opportunity to walk over to Joshua's tent and confess but Achan never repented. The next day, when it comes time for the revealing, God goes through a long process of narrowing. First He identifies the tribe. Next he identifies the family of Zerah; then the family of Zabdi; then the family of Camri; and finally He identifies Achan. Why did God do it that way? I believe that through each step in the process He was giving Achan more chances to repent. That is what I love about God. He gives us opportunities to repent. In fact, Peter teaches us in the New Testament that this is the whole reason why Jesus hasn't returned yet. He made a promise over 2,000 years ago that He was going to come back and Peter says, you know why He hasn't come back yet? Because He's still giving opportunity for people who don't know Jesus to repentAfter Israel is defeated by the city of Ai due to the sin of one man named Achan, God tells Joshua that “tomorrow” He is going to reveal the guilty party. Why tomorrow? Why didn’t God reveal the culprit right then? I believe God was giving Achan a chance to repent. Something tells me Achan didn't sleep well that night. All night long Achan had opportunity to walk over to Joshua's tent and confess but Achan never repented. The next day, when it comes time for the revealing, God goes through a long process of narrowing. First He identifies the tribe. Next he identifies the family of Zerah; then the family of Zabdi; then the family of Camri; and finally He identifies Achan. Why did God do it that way? I believe that through each step in the process He was giving Achan more chances to repent. That is what I love about God. He gives us opportunities to repent. In fact, Peter teaches us in the New Testament that this is the whole reason why Jesus hasn't returned yet. He made a promise over 2,000 years ago that He was going to come back and Peter says, you know why He hasn't come back yet? Because He's still giving opportunity for people who don't know Jesus to repent.
In the book of Joshua, after the amazing victory at Jericho where the walls come tumbling down, Israel’s victory becomes squelched as they lose a devastating battle to the much smaller city of Ai, and the reason for the defeat is due to one person’s sin – a man named Achan. God had commanded that at the battle of Jericho everything was under the ban and no personal plunder should be taken. Achan, however, takes a garment that he thought was attractive, along with some gold and silver, and he buries them in his tent. As a result of Achan's disobedience, the entire nation of Israel is affected and God's anger was turned toward the entire nation. This shows very pointedly that you cannot disobey God and have it only affect you. Any time you disobey God it affects others, especially those who are closest to you. That principle is also found in 1 Corinthians 5 as Paul writes to the church at Corinth regarding sin that was taking place by some in the church. In verse 6 he says that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. In other words, a little sin affects the entire church. If you are allowing sin in your life, don’t be deceived. You cannot disobey God and only have it affect you.