September 7, 2023
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Joshua: We Will Serve the Lord Manuscript

DATE: 9-10-23
SERIES: Finding Jesus
SERMON: Joshua: We Will Serve the Lord!
TEXT: Joshua 24:1-28 (ESV)

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WELCOME

As always it’s a joy to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. And there’s one thing I want you to know — and this is true if you’re worshiping with us for the first time or are joining us at our North Main Campus — I want you to know that God loves you and that I love you too.

SERIES INTRO

We're returning to our Finding Jesus series today. This is a series where each week I’ll introduce you to a book of the Bible that you may or may not be familiar with. I’ll give you an overview of the book and then we’ll spend time in a specific passage. And — finally — I’ll show you how to find the one story the whole Bible is telling — the story of Jesus — because the whole Bible is pointing us to him.

In this iteration of our Finding Jesus series — we’re going to look at the books referred to as the history section because they cover historical events in the life of God’s people. Some of the books cover hundreds of years while others cover a brief period of time. And — today — we’ll be looking at the book of Joshua. So if you have your Bible, please turn with me to Joshua chapter 24.

In coming weeks we’ll look at Judges, Ruth, 1st and 2nd Samuel, 1st and 2nd Kings, and 1st and 2nd Chronicles. Then we’ll take a break for our Christmas series and finish up the final books in the Old Testament early next year. 

BACKGROUND OF JOSHUA

Now — let’s take some time to get our bearings in the book of Joshua — and I hope you’ll see that this is a book you’ll want to go read for yourself.

First, what do we know about the man, Joshua? Joshua has a key role in the life of the Israelites going back to the time of Moses. In the books of Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy you’ll find Joshua serving as Moses’ key assistant — he’s sort of Moses’ right-hand man — for example — he goes with Moses to be in God’s presence up on Mount Sinai for forty days and nights. Joshua was also a warrior. He and Caleb were the two spies who did not doubt that God would be with them as they entered the Promised Land. But — as you may know — the ten other spies spread fear among the people — thus they wandered in the wilderness for an entire generation.

As Moses’ time comes to an end — he hands leadership off to Joshua. But God’s Word makes it clear that handing the responsibility off to Joshua wasn’t Moses’ succession plan — this was a divine appointment from God. For — just as God had called Moses to lead his people — now God was calling Joshua to lead the Israelites. And — under Joshua’s leadership — the Israelites will conquer the Promised Land.

The name Joshua — in Hebrew — means “Yahweh saves” or “the Lord who delivers.” But what you may or may not know is that the name in the New Testament — that’s most likely based on the Hebrew name Joshua — is the name Jesus. And the name Jesus — means — the “Lord saves.”

OVERVIEW OF JOSHUA

‌Now let’s turn to the book itself. What’s the book of Joshua all about? The book of Joshua is about God’s people inheriting the promises God has guaranteed to them. We find this in Joshua 23:14 where we read...

Joshua 23:14 (ESV)

14 “And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed.

Do you want to hear some good news — maybe you’re in need of a spiritual pick me up today? Know that the God — who does not change — who is constant and faithful — fulfilled every promise to his people even though they failed him, mistrusted him, and even chased after other gods — not one word of his promises failed. Of all of the good things that God had promised to them — undeserved promises, mind you — not one failed. And this God — who does not change — has guaranteed promises to his people today. Promises that will not fail. Promises that will certainly come to pass. Dear Christian, no matter how heavy, or sorrowful, or heartbreaking your days may be — know this — and receive it with supernatural confidence: Not one of God’s promises to you will fail. All of his promises will come to pass for you. You will inherit his promises — they will be yours.

Back to our overview of the book — its structure is pretty straightforward. The book naturally splits into three parts. First, there’s the conquering section — where the Israelites conquer the land. This is chapters one through twelve and this is where most of the stories you are familiar with are found. The walls of Jericho come tumbling down in this section of the book. And though most of us quickly jump to the story of Jericho — when we think of Joshua — something I find interesting is how the book begins. It begins with God basically preaching a sermon to Joshua — and just to Joshua. Here’s how the book begins — and it is powerful.

Joshua 1:1–9 (ESV)‌

1 After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, 2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. 3 Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. 4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. 5 No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

And — it’s after this powerful opening — that we come to Jericho where there’s a woman named Rahab who’s a prostitute. “Why’d you have to bring that up about her, Josh? Can’t we just ignore that little detail and focus on how she rescues the spies?” We could — but we’d be missing the point of her story. You see, we’re meant to know that she’s a prostitute — we’re meant to know that she’s not an Israelite, but is a Canaanite — we’re meant to know these details because this isn’t one strike — but two strikes against her. To be a prostitute was an abomination — so was being a Canaanite. And yet this “two strikes against her” woman has the most unexpected and remarkable statement of faith in the book. And — even more shocking — to the ancient readers of this book — Rahab, a prostitute — strike one — Rahab, a Canaanite — strike two — Rahab is brought into the family of God — in fact — right into the center of the family of God. For she’s right at the heart of what God is doing in redeeming people — in saving and rescuing them from serving false gods so they’re free to worship him — the One true God.

Her story continues to be baffling — and remarkable — and an illustration of God’s rescuing and redeeming power — as she — a prostitute from the land of Canaan who’s not part of the people of God — is not only rescued by God — but whose descendant would one day be king of Israel. Who am I talking about? King David. For Rahab is the mother of Boaz, who’s the father of Obed, who’s the father of Jesse, who’s the father of David — who would become king. And — as if that’s not enough to blow our minds — do you know who comes from the line of king David? Jesus — the Son of God — the Great Rescuer from Heaven. The One whose name means “the Lord saves.” In Jesus’ earthly ancestry is a woman who seemed destined for the wrath of God due to her own choices — prostitution — and things outside of her control — she was a Canaanite. Yet God redeemed her and rescued her and ultimately transformed her story in such a beautiful way that she became the ancestor of the King of kings.

The second section of the book focuses on the distribution of the land — chapters thirteen through twenty-two. This is the thrilling part of the book where you read about all of the boundaries of the land given to each of the tribes. And — by thrilling — I mean...

Joshua 15:1–4 (ESV)

1 The allotment for the tribe of the people of Judah according to their clans reached southward to the boundary of Edom, to the wilderness of Zin at the farthest south. 2 And their south boundary ran from the end of the Salt Sea, from the bay that faces southward. 3 It goes out southward of the ascent of Akrabbim, passes along to Zin, and goes up south of Kadesh-barnea, along by Hezron, up to Addar, turns about to Karka, 4 passes along to Azmon, goes out by the Brook of Egypt, and comes to its end at the sea. This shall be your south boundary.

Exciting, right? Not so much — but here’s why this was written down. These — cough, cough, — boring details are the literal fulfillment of God’s promise to his people. He promised that they’d be given the land of Canaan and here — in these seemingly overly detailed verses — we read of God’s faithfulness in fulfilling his promise to his people. These details may seem boring to us now — but when God shows up and proves himself faithful in your life — don’t the details matter? Don’t the details of, “I can’t believe God did this for me — I mean — he promised he would — and he did it!” — don’t the details matter to you when it’s your story? Well it mattered to the Israelites because this was their story. And it’s our story too — for this is our history — but I get how hard these parts of the Bible can be to read. So the next time you’re in one of these passages — maybe every few verses — when you’re starting to zone out — say to yourself, “This is reminding me that God is faithful in fulfilling his promises to his people and he is still faithful to his people today.”

The final part of Joshua — chapters twenty-three and twenty-four — can be called the “living in the land” section of the book. The passage we’ll be looking at more closely is from this section.

MAIN PASSAGE

So — with that as our introduction and overview of the book — let’s turn to our passage where we’ll discover one way to find Jesus in the book of Joshua. We’re in Joshua chapter twenty-four — beginning in verse 1.

Joshua 24:1–28 (ESV)‌

1 Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel. And they presented themselves before God. 2 And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Long ago, your fathers lived beyond the Euphrates, Terah, the father of Abraham and of Nahor; and they served other gods. 3 Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan, and made his offspring many. I gave him Isaac. 4 And to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. And I gave Esau the hill country of Seir to possess, but Jacob and his children went down to Egypt. 5 And I sent Moses and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt with what I did in the midst of it, and afterward I brought you out. 6 “‘Then I brought your fathers out of Egypt, and you came to the sea. And the Egyptians pursued your fathers with chariots and horsemen to the Red Sea. 7 And when they cried to the Lord, he put darkness between you and the Egyptians and made the sea come upon them and cover them; and your eyes saw what I did in Egypt. And you lived in the wilderness a long time. 8 Then I brought you to the land of the Amorites, who lived on the other side of the Jordan. They fought with you, and I gave them into your hand, and you took possession of their land, and I destroyed them before you. 9 Then Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, arose and fought against Israel. And he sent and invited Balaam the son of Beor to curse you, 10 but I would not listen to Balaam. Indeed, he blessed you. So I delivered you out of his hand. 11 And you went over the Jordan and came to Jericho, and the leaders of Jericho fought against you, and also the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And I gave them into your hand. 12 And I sent the hornet before you, which drove them out before you, the two kings of the Amorites; it was not by your sword or by your bow. 13 I gave you a land on which you had not labored and cities that you had not built, and you dwell in them. You eat the fruit of vineyards and olive orchards that you did not plant.’ 14 “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” 16 Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods, 17 for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight and preserved us in all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed. 18 And the Lord drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.” 19 But Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. 20 If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good.” 21 And the people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve the Lord.” 22 Then Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him.” And they said, “We are witnesses.” 23 He said, “Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your heart to the Lord, the God of Israel.” 24 And the people said to Joshua, “The Lord our God we will serve, and his voice we will obey.” 25 So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and put in place statutes and rules for them at Shechem. 26 And Joshua wrote these words in the Book of the Law of God. And he took a large stone and set it up there under the terebinth that was by the sanctuary of the Lord. 27 And Joshua said to all the people, “Behold, this stone shall be a witness against us, for it has heard all the words of the Lord that he spoke to us. Therefore it shall be a witness against you, lest you deal falsely with your God.” 28 So Joshua sent the people away, every man to his inheritance.

WE WILL SERVE THE LORD!

‌Are there any cat lovers among us? Maybe love is too strong for you — any cat tolerators? Any flat out anti-cat people? Well here’s a story for you that’ll seem like a piece of fiction — but — as best I could find — is a true story.

The Associated Press article states: Police aren’t sure how else to explain it. But when an officer walked into an apartment Thursday night to answer a 911 call, an orange and tan striped cat was lying by a telephone on the living room floor. The cat's owner, Gary Rosheisen, was on the ground near his bed having fallen out of his wheelchair. Gary said his cat, Tommy, must have hit the right buttons to call 911. "I know it sounds kind of weird," Officer Patrick Daugherty said.

The cat’s owner wasn’t wearing his medical alert necklace when he fell down and was unable to get up or contact help in any way. Yet the police received a 911 call from Gary’s apartment, but no one was on the line. The police called back and no one answered — so they sent an officer to check out the situation. That’s when Officer Daugherty found Tommy the cat next to the phone with his owner on the floor and in trouble. Gary said he tried to train his cat to call 911 but wasn’t sure if it had worked.

Gary, it looks like it worked. Nothing like a good rescue story, right? That is until we’re the owner desperate for our cat to call 911. Second thought — we might take that option over the rescue we’re all in desperate need of — being rescued by God. Yet God rescuing his people is what our text in Joshua is all about. In fact — this is what the entire Bible is about. And this easily offends us because we don’t like to view ourselves as someone in need of being rescued. We may not be desperate to play the hero — but we definitely don’t want to be the equivalent of a cat owner in need of a 911 miracle — surely that’s not our story. I mean sorry for him — glad it all worked out — I hate cats but, “Yay for Tommy the hero.” But me — you — we don’t need to be rescued, do we?

Our passage in Joshua begins with a lengthy reminder of the history of what God has done to rescue his people. In the first thirteen verses there are eighteen instances of God speaking about himself in the first person — God speaking of what he’s done for his people. “I took Abraham. I gave him Isaac. I sent Moses and Aaron. I plagued Egypt. I brought you out of Egypt. I destroyed them.” On and on God reminds the people — through Joshua’s words — of what he’s done for them. He’s reminding them of his faithfulness — of his protection — that his promises always come to pass.

And — he not only reminds them of his faithfulness — but as God reminds them of their story — their history — he’s so kind to them. They can read between the lines of God’s gracious words. Words like “they served other gods” when referring to Abraham. God didn’t choose Abraham because Abraham was seeking him — Abraham was literally worshiping false gods. Yet God — in his kindness, grace, and sovereignty — chose Abraham to be the father of a nation blessed by the One true God.

They could read between the lines of words like, “I gave him Isaac.” Abraham — though a man of faith — had some major trip ups. Like when he and Sarah took the promise of having a son into their own hands — resulting in Ishmael.

They could read between the lines of words like, “And you lived in the wilderness for a long time.” Oh yeah they did — and why? Because they didn’t trust God to fulfill his promises to them. They grumbled and complained and even longed to go back to slavery in Egypt rather than trusting in God’s faithfulness.

There’s much to be read between the lines of the gracious words being spoken to the people — but the focus isn’t on the people — not even on their folly — the focus is on God and all that he’s done to rescue his people. And — remember — this generation — hearing these words from the mouth of Joshua — were hearing their history. Their parents were the ones who grumbled against God and died in the wilderness — the ears of those listening were the children of those God had rescued out of Egypt — this is their history.

And — if we put ourselves into the text — into this moment of history — we can then feel the power of these next words.

Joshua 24:14–15 (ESV)

14 “Now therefore (having been reminded of all that God has done for you) fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Joshua — with some of his final words as the leader of God’s people — urges them to serve the One true God and him alone. He commands them to put away the false gods from the culture around them — false gods their parents had allowed into their lives. And...

Joshua 24:16 (ESV)

16 Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods,

They then recount all that God has done in rescuing them — they repeat what Joshua said to them about God’s great rescuing power and love for them.

Joshua 24:19–24 (ESV)

19 But Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. 20 If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good.” 21 And the people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve the Lord.” 22 Then Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him.” And they said, “We are witnesses.” 23 He said, “Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your heart to the Lord, the God of Israel.” 24 And the people said to Joshua, “The Lord our God we will serve, and his voice we will obey.”

Joshua’s words seem harsh — the people’s words sound so committed. Yet — in some of the last words of the book — we read...

Joshua 24:31 (ESV)

31 Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua and had known all the work that the Lord did for Israel.

During all the days of Joshua — and all the days of the elders who outlived him — Israel served the Lord. And — I don’t want to downplay their faithfulness — they served the Lord — yet — our next book — Judges — will show us that this will not be true for future generations. And there will be consequences for their chasing after and serving other gods.

FINDING JESUS

‌So how do we find Jesus in this historical moment when the people of Israel are committing themselves to serve the Lord? 

Years ago, I was on staff at a church in Connecticut. And — while at that church — I went through an ordination process to become a pastor. One of the questions I was asked was “how did Jesus make it clear that he is God?” Meaning, “not how other people in the Bible make it clear that they thought Jesus was God but — specifically — what did Jesus do or say that makes it clear that he claimed to be God?”

Now — there are a variety of responses you may be thinking of right now — for instance — his “I am” statements from the gospel of John — but I took another route — one that relates to what we see in Joshua.

But there’s something you need to know that I’ve saved until now about our passage — and it’s about the word “serve” in our verses — “the serving of other gods” — “serve the Lord” — “choose this day whom you will serve” — “as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” Throughout our verses the word “serve” is really about worship. In fact, one Bible translation decided to make this clear by substituting the word “worship” in place of “serve” throughout our verses. So it’s “the worshiping of other gods” that the people are not to do — instead — they’re to “worship the Lord.” And they’re to “choose this day whom you will worship.” But “as for me and my house we will worship the Lord.”

“So what does this have to do with Jesus and your ordination question, Josh?” One way that Jesus claimed to be God was by allowing others to worship him. For example...

Matthew 14:33 (ESV)

33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

This instance — after Jesus calmed the raging sea — is just one example of people responding to who Jesus is by worshiping him — and Jesus doesn’t stop them. Angels — they stop people when folks start to worship them — but not Jesus. He doesn’t stop people because they’re not breaking any commandments — they’re not violating the words Joshua spoke to the people centuries before — when they worship Jesus. For he is God — the Lord whom we’re to serve — the Lord whom we’re to commit our lives to — the Lord whom our houses are to worship.

CONCLUSION

‌You see, our situation today isn’t all that different from the people Joshua was speaking to. The culture around them offered many gods to worship — so does our culture. The gods of our day may not be tiny statues made of wood or stone — but we’ve got our gods of money, fame, and self who demand our service and worship. False gods of comfort, political figures, and even pastors who demand we devote our lives to them instead of to Jesus.

But know that the One true Lord will share his rightful place of worship with no other. And there will be a day when you will give an account of whether or not you served and worshiped him with your life. For he’s offering you a rescue story — one even more amazing than a cat dialing 911 — a rescue story from Satan, sin, death, and Hell. A rescue from serving and worshiping the idols of our day. A rescue story where the One who is Lord — in love — gave his life on a cross to rescue you. And he’s offering you rescue today. Salvation — deliverance — and the joy of the freedom he gives to all who worship him alone. Today is the day of salvation. Jesus — whose name means “the Lord saves” is saying to you — choose this day whom you will serve. May he be the One who you worship. May Jesus be the One who we raise up the next generation to worship. Let’s pray.

PRAYER

‌Heavenly Father, thank you for your Word to us today — your Word to us from the book of Joshua. What an amazing history of your faithfulness and commitment to your people. Thank you for leaders — like Joshua — who you raise up to lead your people — leaders who display what it means to serve and worship you alone.

Spirit of God, empower us so we commit our lives to faithful service of the One who’s rescued us. Cause us to remember how easily faithfulness can slip away from one generation to the next. And may this remind us to raise up the next generation to know, love, follow, and worship Jesus.

And — Jesus — thank you for being the Lord whom we’re to serve — for you are the Lord who came to rescue. You came not to serve — but to be served — to give your life as a ransom for many. And we — who are part of that many — commit our lives to worship you and you alone. In your name we pray. Amen.

‌‌

BENEDICTION

May you go committed to serving the Lord. Amen.

God loves you. I love you. You are sent.

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