Joshua is one of the most interesting and important narratives of Israel’s history.
- Their establishment as a nation
- The beginning of their new life in the land of promise
- Showing the sovereign grace of God, His covenant faithfulness and mighty power on behalf of His people
- Showing what is required of them as God’s people: formidable obstacles overcome, fighting fierce foes during long warfare, rest in the land
These same principles picture our Christian life and walks.
- Our blessings in Christ are freely given by God’s grace
- And yet we are opposed by God’s enemy, Satan. There are many obstacles to be met and overcome by learning to depend on the Holy Spirit.
- It is both our privilege and birthright to enter in to a present enjoyment of our blessings
- To become "partakers of our heavenly calling" (Heb. 3:1) requires a response of faith on our part.
How this is accomplished in our life is the theme of challenge group. It is a process, just as God told Moses about the Canaanites, "drive them out before you little by little until you become fruitful and take possession of the land" (Ex 23:29). This principle of little by little keeps us dependent on Him; otherwise pride and autonomy would inevitably follow if we had instant, complete victory.
Joshua believed God and counted on His promises. That is why he could be strong and courageous counting on supernatural guidance and obeying the Heavenly Commander (Josh 5:14-15). He could not have understood God’s will and heard His voice unless he had spent a great amount of time in God’s word.
- Joshua 1:7-8, 23:6 Joshua begins and ends with God’s command to study the word, the Torah (written by Moses) it is still necessary today. Don’t underestimate the effect of focusing on god’s word. The long-term effect on our minds is transforming and renewing.
- "Be strong and courageous" another emphasis God repeated over and over again. Joshua needed strength and courage to conquer Canaan and take it forcibly from its inhabitants whom had lived there for hundreds of years. We need both strength and courage in our Christian walk. What do we wrestle with from day to day?
- Strong "walls" of self-will built up by years of protecting our autonomy against submitting to god
- Behind the wall "armies" of sinful thought patterns like hurt, hate, pride, arrogance, etc.
- Our enemy, controlling the world system using every deceitful tactic and weapon to defeat us.
- "Enemies" of our Christian walk surrounding us on all sides.
Crossing the Jordan River to Possess their Promised Land
What was the difference between Numbers 13-14 and Joshua 3-4? Answer: Unbelief versus faith. Not believing in God’s power to fulfill His promises versus placing faith in Him and obediently taking action. This was a crisis decision for the children of Israel to put their whole lives unreservedly in God’s hands to do His will. To trust Him in the face of great risks.
Why did God’s presence have to go ahead of the people into the Jordan? (Ark) Joshua 3:4 "you have not passed this way before". God will lead us into places and areas where we are not able to know what to do or how to get there. We need to trust Him whether we know the path ahead or not. Usually the lord doesn’t let us know what is ahead, He just says, "Follow Me." Just "consecrate" yourself, God says. Get right with God before you make an unreserved commitment to give your life completely into His hands. Then you have to take one step at a time in order to follow through, even though the path seems impossible. They had to put their feet in the water (as opposed to the Red Sea), but now God wants active fifth exercised as we grow in the Lord.
When the Israelites had crossed the dry bed of the river the waters of the Jordan came back into flood stage and cut them off — they faced Jericho and their enemies. No turning back! No place to run! The good thing is, the Israelites didn’t want to go back — now they could eat off the land, all they had been looking forward to was about to take place. It was a time of expectation, of hope, of willingness to take on the arduous task of possessing the Promised Land. This is the attitude we have when we experience God’s mighty power to bring us through spiritual crises proving to us how much He cares for us and will miraculously undertake for us.
Principles of Spiritual Victory
- Attitude of sacrifice — is an indispensable element required for victory
- Willingness to obey the Lord — no matter what He commands us to do . Often Gods plan is the inverse of anything we would plan. E.g. God’s backwards wisdom (for Israel — walking around Jericho). God’s perspective is drastically different from ours. We need to obey the Lord no matter what.
- An attitude of need and dependence is necessary because of our sinful flesh and inadequacy to live out a victorious life. Prayer is an absolute necessity. Need to have an attitude of "God has to fight this battle for me because in my own strength I am unable to win."
- We need to attitude of self-control, of perseverance, a disciplined life of faith and follow-through. Believing God will bring victory and then He gets to glory. "It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring victory ; it was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them." (Ps 44.:3)
- Take an active step of faith.
Principles of Spiritual Failure
(Ex 34:6-7; Num. 14:18-19 love/justice)
(Jesus spoke about God’s judgement more than anyone)
God could have used an earthquake, or fire, or a flood to judge the Canaanites, but He chose the Israelites as the instrument to judge the Canaanites. Not because the Israelites were good (Deut. 7); they were a stubborn, rebellious people. God was fulfilling his promise to Abraham using them to judge the inhabitants of Canaan. They were not to take anything under the "ban" to profit themselves.
- They acted unfaithfully. That sin often comes on the heels of, and in contrast to, great victory. Ego and self-pride took over, forgetting that it was God who won the victory when they were dependent on Him at Jericho. Our life can often be characterized by instability brought about by lack of sober assessment and not being on the alert against our flesh, our enemy, and the world. We need to develop spiritual consistency and continual dependency. Verse 1 "But" is the friend of failure.
- Spiritual laziness — trying to diagnose spiritual failure often turns up the fact that we like to easy way to do God’s work: i.e. ignore scripture, prayer, means of growth. We try to figure out how to make doing the Lord’s work just a day a the park relaxing and doing nothing. The spiritual vigor we have is directly related to the effort we put into god’s work and digging into His word, obeying it, and praying.
- Self-pity — not really concerned for god’s name, just his own skin (v7-9); sinning and blaming God (Joshua collapse).
- Hidden sins
- Disobedience to God’s orders — both Achan and the Israelites were guilty of unfaithfulness towards god, same word used for adultery — this is god’s perspective. Why? These people had made a commitment to God — to follow Him and obey Him.
- So quickly they forgot their promise, their commitment to obey god. The moment after the battle of Jericho, Achan threw out his commitment and chose to disobey God. After such a commitment and then deserting Him, God considers that act adultery, and disciplines.
The Gibeonites — What is the Lesson? (chapter 9)
(Vs. 14) "So the men of Israel took some of their provisions (for granted) and did not ask for the counsel of the Lord." This was foolish, especially in view of Ai not so long ago. God does, in fact, withhold wisdom — insight — when we don’t seek His counsel. The basic attitude here is self-confidence: relying on our own ability, believing in our own perceptions and gifts without consulting the Lord. Since God knows our heart attitude He is willing to wait until we fail and are finally driven to humility to come and seek out His counsel. This independent self-confidence is fundamental to our nature. We need to develop, instead, a dependent attitude, keeping a teachable heart no matter how many times we have encountered the same situations. The Lord is the only One who can accurately evaluate the situation and give us His wisdom in our current, day to day events. We always need to seek His counsel instead of charging head handling it like "I’ve already learned to do it so many times before". Come to God first, obtain His tools and direction (wisdom), and then do the job (Jms. 1:5).
"It is the function of grace to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. It is the work of grace to undo the work of sin." Ruth Paxson, Life on the Highest Plane.
The book of Hebrews in chapter 3 and 4:1-11 is teaching us the lesson of the faith-rest walk. A lesson the first generation of Israelites refused to learn. The second generation, here in Joshua, is learning to trust god, believe in His promises and walk into the Land of Promise.
The important lesson here is to realize that you cannot grow into the mature believer God wants you to be and you cannot produce "the fruit that remains" until your faith is tested. This testing is often in the secret part of your life where you have refused to move forward into the life, which God has provided. This is when God tests you and warns you to "fear lest, while a promise remains of entering His rest, you should seem to have come short of it" (Heb. 4:1).
Hebrews 3:8-11 Let’s see what God is warning us to "fear" in our Christian walk.
- "Do not harden your hearts" — through habitual unbelief and failure to trust. We trusted God for salvation — the BIG miracle - now, will we trust Him for our daily needs and through our Meribah, "no water", testing?
- "They do not know My ways" (vs. 10) — notice not only did the Israelites fail to trust God, but they still did not know His ways — even after all His miraculous provisions of water and manna.
- "Take care, lest there should be in any of you an evil unbelieving heart" (vs. 12) — to "keep standing away" from the living God is to refuse to believe His word — His promises and provision — it leads to hardening (becoming unresponsive and insensitive, because unbelief is sin). What we usually do in a hopeless situation, a test of our faith, is to cry out "I can’t stand this any longer, I don’t see any way out." God is saying, "Will you trust me? Or are you going to fall into your pattern of failure? Or trying in your flesh?"
- "We have become partners with Christ if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end" (vs. 14) — To see God’s gracious provision (through Christ) in every phase of our Christian experience so that we believe and rest in Him, to the very end, in every moment, through every trial. This is the only way to grow confident in Christ and have victory over our sin of unbelief. (I Peter 1:7-8) "The proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ…believe in Him and greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory" (i.e. character of Christ).
- "Let us fear lest, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you should seem to have come short of it" (4:1) — generally speaking we as believers are told not to fear in our Christian walk. Here is the exception: we are to be afraid of not entering into the faith-rest life. The only two ways of walking in the Christian life are by faith or by unbelief. God is saying to us, as He said to the Israelites so many years ago, "I have many wonderful things for you, just trust Me and rest in Me." But we cannot seem to rest. We have to keep doing, trying something new, seeking stimulation, studying different scholarly viewpoints. The more we try the more we are seeking peace and blessing by means of our flesh. It is so important to stand still and receive what God has provided — here it is called "rest" — His gracious, endless provision for us in our day to day life.
- "We who have believed enter that rest" (vs. 3) — It all goes back to the appropriation of grace in the only manner possible — by FAITH! This involves two principles:
- Knowing the Promises of God in His Word involves not only studying them, but also "hearing" them (3:7). The "rest" only comes as we appropriate His promises. And usually it is only through difficulties and hardships that we wake up and by faith allow God’s gracious provision to meet our deep need. God says, "I want you to lean on me, and rest. I have given you promises. I want you to know them and I want you to claim them, then you can be a living proof that Christ and His grace is sufficient."
- Believe God’s promises and claim them. One of the paradoxes of the Christian life is that so often god must make us completely miserable to make us completely happy. He often must remove every flesh-crutch we lean upon before He can convince us to trust Him and lean on Him. "you have been made complete in Him" (Col 2:10). God sometimes has to take away all our self-crutches in order for us to learn dependence on Him and to delight in that dependence continuously.
We all start with the slender cord of faith: trusting Christ for our salvation. Now daily we need to add to cords of the faith-rest walk — trusting Him moment by moment; keep on claiming God’s promises, mixing them with our faith then enter into this rest/walk. The faith-rest life is no longer the energy of the flesh. You become a relaxed, stabilized worker deriving strength from the Holy Spirit.
- "Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest" (vs. 11) - Diligence is "eagerness", not work to enter the faith-rest walk. This great objective is so rewarding that once you walk this way you will never want to leave it. It is a life wonderful beyond description, the place of stability, peace and blessing. These are the same promises Christ gave to His disciples in John 12-17.
The Battle is the Lord’s
Ex. 14:13; I Sam. 17:47
We do not seem to be able to trust the Lord very long at a time when it comes to the problems of our life and our insurmountable scary circumstances. We can pray and cast our burden on the Lord during our quiet time, but then we go on to work and soon we say, "I just thought of a solution to my problem… give it back — I’m going to try this first." So we try our "solutions", it all falls apart, we become miserable again, we turn it back over to the Lord…and for a while we have peace again as we trust Him. But, all of a sudden we have another though and off we go again. Meanwhile, we are churning inside as we spend so much time passing our problem back and forth, back and forth!
Let’s turn to Isaiah 40:29, 31 "He gives strength to the weary and to him who lacks might He increases power. Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength, they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary." As a believer in Christ, the battle of our faith-rest walk is not ours, it is His. Stand aside and "wait for the Lord". That is the hardest thing in the Christian life: to do nothing. By dong nothing God does not mean letting our mind go blank, nor does He mean to cease from our normal activities. Christ wants us to let go of the problem and trust Him with it. "He gives power to the faint", or as Paul terms it, to the "weak and helpless". God can never help us until we recognize that we are helpless and cannot solve it ourselves.
How do we "wait for the Lord" (vs. 31)? This word "wait" could be translated "trust" or "faith". This word was originally used of making rope: there is first just a little strand, which is easy to break. But as this little strand is woven in with other strands, it becomes a rope, which cannot be broken, and it comes it mean "trust". Those who "wait on the Lord" are "those who keep on trusting the Lord". Those weak little strands, those who keep on trusting the Lord, grow into a powerful rope which nothing can break. The "new strength" is not human strength at all, is divine strength. "They who keep on trusting the Lord shall exchange their strength."
When we say, "Lord, I can’t do it", the Lord answers, "I will solve the problem, I will give you the strength, I will provide everything necessary for you to meet this difficult problem in your life." But I want you to notice there is no exchange of human strength for divine strength until there is a constant trusting the Lord.
And what is the result? We fly! "We mount up with wings as eagles". And "we run without becoming weary". We do not "burn out" — we keep on moving. This is the faith-rest life. The Lord is waiting focus to trust Him. He is waiting for us to trust Him. He is waiting for us to wait on Him. The less we try (and fail), the more quickly God can solve our problems and win our battles for us. We have the infinite power of the Holy Spirit who reveals through the word of God the way to wait on Him.
We will study how He wants to do this next month.
- Moody — September/October 1998. A Mind Controlled, God offers us the opportunity to have the very mind of Christ. Gary L. Thomas. Pages 13-17.
- Victorious Christian Living. Counting the Cost. Pages 36??
- Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest. December 30, "And Every Virtue We Possess".
- Moody - The Sin in Self-Discipline, An Interview with Dr. Larry Crabb.
- Ruth Paxton. Life on the Highest Plane. Believer remaining Spirit-filled.
- Ruth Paxton. Life on the Highest Plane. Life on the Highest Plane.
- Ruth Paxton. Life on the Highest Plane. Relationships of Spiritual Man.
December 1998 - Assignment #3
- Identify our blessings, grouping them according to the function of each member of the God-head: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Can you explain the practical significance of at least 3 blessings in your own life?
- Study Paul’s prayers for his believers (Eph 1:17-23; 3:14-19). What do these verses teach about the "deeper-life" walk? Using words like "know", "dwell", etc. Explain how we can possess our possessions?
- Read and meditate on Ruth Paxson’s article from her Life on the Highest Plane. Be ready to discuss it.
- Read articles from Moody on Who’s Guarding your Mind (3 of them). Prepare a short teaching on Renewing Our Mind.