Text: Joshua 3: 7-17
Prayer: O Lord, we come to those great moments in life when we can look ahead and see the past. At these crossroad times, may we seek you most. May our faith reach out to you for guidance in what direction you would have us move. May the words of this text speak to such times. Amen.
Have you ever looked forward to something and when it happened, it was so much more than you anticipated? Maybe this was your experience at the time of your marriage or the birth of your first child. This was somewhat like the experience of David Livingstone, the explorer and missionary to central Africa in the mid‑1800s.
In his journal he tells about his discovery of the great falls, which he named the Victoria Falls, and what that experience meant to him. He had heard from the natives that there was something up the river, but he was not sure what it was.
He could hear the roar of the falls for miles and he could see the spray five miles away. He said he could never explain the splendor that fell upon his soul when he looked on the falls for the first time. Suddenly, right before his eyes, the Zambezi River was a mile wide; it sloped slightly and then cascaded in a 400‑foot plunge in a display of awesome splendor. He said for several minutes the sight literally paralyzed him. He knew that something was ahead but his discovery was far beyond his wildest imagination.
In the same way the Israelites woke up on this morning, finished making all the arrangements they had been planning for weeks, and gathered for a historic event. The air was filled with excitement and expectation and the Hebrews people massed on the banks of the Jordan River and prepared to cross over into the Promised Land. God’s mighty power had liberated this people from Egyptian slavery.
The book of Joshua is a book of history and vision. While it gives the history of Israel’s journey into the Promised Land, it speaks also about God=s vision for the people and their calling to be a holy nation.
For forty years God has guided this headstrong, rebellious people across a perilous desert. An entire generation had died in transit and had been buried in that desert sand. Now they stood on the edge of that rich land, flowing with milk and honey, but a land which also contained fearsome enemies. With excitement and anxiety, they crossed over.
Please notice with me the for the Hebrews as well as our church today, there are times we all have when we don’t know what lies a head.
FIRST, Look at the text when it says, the Officers of the Hebrews Passed Throughout the Camp Telling the People “We Are Going Where We’ve Never Been Before.”
The Hebrews did not know what lay ahead. Their only reconnaissance had come from the exaggerated reports of a few spies. Not only did they face the Jordan River at flood stage; but on the other side they would confront the walled cities of fierce Canaanite fighters.
We too face an unknown future. None of us can predict what the national economy will be. Few of us can be absolutely certain of our employment in the future. None of us knows what our health will be.
For the ancient Hebrews and for us, faith then becomes critical. Faith is the “assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1) Faith is being willing to venture with God, blindfolded.
The Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle has a sawed‑off, supercharged version of the deer called an Impala. It has a vertical leap of 10 feet and can broad jump 30 feet. With that kind of capability, one would think that the Impala would be almost impossible to keep inside a wall or fence. But that is not the case. In fact, a three‑foot wall is sufficient to hold an Impala. Why? Because the Impala will not jump unless it can see in advance where it is going to land.
Faith is being willing to jump when God says jump, even when one cannot see the landing zone, and to trust that God will make it good.
For a Christian, life begins to zing when we stride forward without even a road map, but with our hand in the hand of God. Then it becomes an absolute thrill to go where we’ve never been before.
Notice a second similarity between the ancient Hebrews and the Church. In verse five, their leader Joshua declared ,
“TOMORROW THE LORD WILL DO WONDERS AMONG YOU.”
The greatest teacher I ever had was that eminent Scots Presbyterian, James S. Stewart of Edinburgh. In one of his inspired sermons he declared, “Bring everything you have and are to your ministry — bring it without reserve. But when you have brought it, something else remains. Stand back, and see the salvation of God!” Dr. Stewart was saying that when God anoints what we have with the power of the Holy Spirit, that’s when all heaven breaks loose!
God continues to be a wonder‑worker. He is always doing some great new thing. As Apostle Paul told us, “Eye has not seen nor ear heard, nor can people even imagine what good things God has prepared for those who love him.” (I Cor. 2:9)
One of God’s great promises in scripture is this: “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it.” God always completes things. When God sends a sunrise, you can be sure that a sunset is on the way.
Goodness knows, I cannot predict the future. But I am beginning to discern some of the wonders that God will work among us. I foresee a Church where we step forward to make a difference in ways we haven=t foreseen. But when faithfully follow, wherever God leads us, sometimes God will dazzle us and occasionally shock us, but God will never bore us. We serve a wonder‑working God.
I notice a third similarity between the ancient Hebrews and the modern Church.
The leader Joshua’s command is appropriate for both. He said,
SANCTIFY YOURSELVES OR CONSECRATE YOURSELVES OR DEDICATE YOURSELVES.
In other words, “prepare yourselves spiritually for an exciting venture with God.
God is calling us to bring to this venture praying hands and willing spirits.
Near Charlotte, North Carolina, a young man named William Franklin Graham, son of a dairy farmer, spent a sleepless night on the empty fairway of a golf course, stretched out in prayer that God would give him certainty about his message. The next morning he stood up ready to cross over. Billy Graham marched off that golf course and into God’s destiny.
We may not have prayed all night, but we have prayed many days and nights.
God has given us a bold vision, a vision that some say is larger than our capability. That’s good! Then God will have to help us and when we succeed, God will get the glory. What a joy it will be to look back and say, “I was a part of God’s miracle in my Church.” Think about those that we have remembered today, who have been faithful members of this church, so for many years. We stand on their shoulders for all that they have contributed to the life of this community of faith, and the mission we have.
Don’t we want to be able to look back upon our lives and say honestly that we never backed away from a challenge. I want to know in my heart that we stretched this great church to the full extent of its capability, under the anointing power of the Holy Spirit.
I want people to be able to say that when God transformed a tired denomination called the United Methodist Church into a vigorous movement of the Kingdom, God used some churches like ours as God’s agents of change.
I want people to say fifty years from now that the secret of our church’s vitality is that she never tires of calling people into a relationship with Jesus Christ and service to the world that God so loves. But, you know, there is something I yearn for even more than all that. I want to hear God say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servants.”
In what direction is God leading us? New beginnings bring new opportunities to live out our faith. Our faith always beckons us to the future — to the new thing that God is doing in our lives, in our church, and in our world. We march forward with the knowledge that God is with us as God was with the Israelites when they took their first steps into the promised land. Amen.
Prayer: O Lord, lead and we will follow, bless and we will be blessings, empower and we will be the power that makes a difference. Help us to cross into the future that you have for us all. And may we trust you with each step of the journey. Amen.