March 30, 2008

The Living God is Present and Powerful - Mar 30, 2008

The portion of God’s living and powerful word which we consider this Sunday is taken from…

Joshua 3:7-17 (NIV)

7And the LORD said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses. 8Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: ‘When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river.’”

9Joshua said to the Israelites, “Come here and listen to the words of the LORD your God. 10This is how you will know that the living God is among you and that he will certainly drive out before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites. 11See, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth will go into the Jordan ahead of you. 12Now then, choose twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. 13And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the LORD—the Lord of all the earth—set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.”

14So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. 15Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, 16the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (the Salt Sea ) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.

This is the Word of God.

Grace and Peace be to you from God our Father, and from our Risen and Living Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

God told Joshua to select twelve men before they crossed into the promised land. If we read Joshua chapter 4, we find out that these twelve men were to be rock pickers.

As the people walked through the Jordan’s dry river bed, these twelve men were each to pick up a stone for their tribe and carry it to the other side. In the future this pile of twelve river stones would serve as a memorial.

Children would ask their parents, “What is this pile of stones here for?” And parents would reply, “When our people came here, God was with us. When the LORD’s Ark was carried before us, God opened the way – right through the flooded and raging river Jordan.”

These stones would be “memory stones”, reminding children that the Living God is present and powerful with His faithful people.

In our sermon meditation for today we will see the Living God exalt Joshua in the eyes of the people. We will see God’s power work as He predicts the impossible, and then does it, delivering His chosen nation through certain death into the place He had promised them.

The people had known that Moses was God’s man. He was the LORD’s chosen representative. Moses had led their nation out of slavery in Egypt, and had performed many miracles by the power of God. But now Moses was dead, and Joshua was leading the people.

As God had shown Moses to be His chosen leader through miraculous signs, now God would exalt Joshua in the eyes of the people with more miraculous signs. They would know that Joshua was God’s man through God’s powerful presence with him.

Sometimes the ministry of Moses overshadows the ministry of Joshua. But this should not be. As great as Moses was, he did not actually lead the people of Israel over the border and into the promised land of Canaan. God’s servant Joshua did that.

It is interesting to note that the name “Joshua” is a Hebrew name. When it is translated into Greek, it is pronounced, “Jesus”. Jesus and Joshua had much more in common than the same name. Joshua did what Moses could not - leading God’s people into the promised land. Jesus did what trying to keep Moses’ laws could not - Jesus took away the sins of the world, and opened the way into the promised land of forgiveness.

Jesus’ work of salvation was a grim and unglamorous work, un-flashy in the eyes of the people. But when that work was finished, God exalted Jesus by raising Him from the dead. God’s presence in the person of Jesus was often quiet, but always powerful. Father’s presence with Jesus was clearly revealed as He fulfilled the Father’s plan of salvation.

Like Jesus, and Joshua before Him, we also are God’s representatives to the world around us. By faith God is present with us. Through His simple and powerful Word we give our friends and neighbors the gift of sins forgiven through God’s suffering Son. This message is not flashy by the world’s standards, but is powerful all the same because in every proclamation of the Good News, God Himself is present. Because this is true, we are not ashamed of our simple message. As the apostle Paul declared,

16I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” (Romans 1:16-17 NIV).

Before leading them into the promised land, Joshua took the Israelite people aside and told them what God had commanded him to. He told them that the Living God was with them, and was now going to do what He had promised.

He was going to give them the land across the Jordan. He would go with them and drive out all the faithless nations that were living there currently. And to show the Israelites that He would be with them throughout their conquest of the land, God would open the way to the promised land before them in a miraculous way. The Jordan river, which was raging in its flood stage, would dry up before the symbol of God’s presence with His people – the Ark of the Covenant.

Joshua predicted the impossible, and God would deliver. Here we see another way in which Joshua foreshadowed Jesus. Before Jesus went to the cross and the tomb, He also predicted what seemed impossible. Jesus took His Twelve apostles aside and told them,

“…‘We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. 32He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. 33On the third day he will rise again.’”(Luke 18:31-33 NIV).

In this way, Jesus told the apostles that God was about to do what He had promised to do. God was about to take away the sins of the world and lead sinners into the promised land of forgiveness and eternal life. God would later confirm Jesus’ work of salvation with a mighty sign. Jesus would die, but three days later God the Father would raise Him from the dead. All who trust in Jesus can therefore be sure, we are God’s people now, and He is with us.

Throughout the ages, God has told His people to believe what seems impossible.

In the first century congregation at Corinth God told His believers to expel one of the members from their fellowship because He was sinning against God by fornicating with His Father’s wife (1 Corinthians 5). God commanded them to show this man the seriousness of his sin against God by removing him from their group. Expelling a person from the group does not sound like the way to help someone. But it was God’s plan. And God’s plan is always right. It was obvious this man hadn’t repented of his sin.

The congregation listened to God’s command and expelled the wicked man from among them.

Then God did the impossible. He moved the unrepentant man to repent of his sin. Because of his repentance, the man’s sin was forgiven. He relationship with God was restored! In our earlier reading from second Corinthians we heard what the Corinthian Christians were to do as a result. By inspiration of the Holy Spirit the apostle Paul wrote,

6The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him. 7Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. 9The reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything.” (2 Corinthians 2:5-9 NIV).

The saving of this man’s soul was accomplished in a way that many Christians would shy away from. But it was God’s way, and HE worked through it. We must learn to do what God says, even when we think we know better. For the presence of God is powerful, and when we align our thinking with His, miracles happen.

When the Israelite people broke camp to cross the Jordan, they did so in obedience to God command. The priests carrying God’s Ark went to the raging river, and when their feet touched the water, the flooded river went dry.

The Jordan river backed up and all the people passed over where moments before safe passage was impossible. Little children skipped across the stones with wonder, knowing that their God was with them, and He was powerful. God was finally bringing Abraham’s children into the land He had promised to give them.

Here God has woven right into the fabric of ancient history, an amazing image of our salvation through Jesus Christ. In His narrative, the Holy Spirit chooses to include some details that might slip past us. Let’s look closer.

We are told that the Jordan river piled up in a heap a great distance up river, at a town called “Adam”. We are reminded that the raging river Jordan was bound for the Salt Sea. It is called the “Salt” sea because it has no outlet, and as the water evaporates it leaves all the salts and minerals there making it impossible for fish to live there.

Do you see the picture of sin and death that is here? Every human being from Adam on down through the ages has been born into sin, destined to be swept down stream into the waiting lake of eternal death. But God Himself has opened the way through the raging torrent of sin that would have swept us away through the Covenant of grace established by Jesus’ cross.

Every sinner who turns from their sin to Jesus finds that God is present and powerful to save. Every sinner who lets go of his sin and clings alone to Christ for forgiveness finds that The RIVER IS DRY! The WAY IS OPEN! The promised land of forgiveness and eternal life with God is open.

The Israelites made a pile of twelve stones to remember how God was with them when they passed over into the promised land.

Outside the Garden Tomb where Jesus’ dead body was laid, God also left a pile of stone. This stone reminds Christians that we can be confident that we have crossed over from death to life. That heavy stone door that was rolled away shows us the tomb is empty. The Savior is risen! And because He is in us, and we in Him, we too have risen and will rise.

We put eggs in our children’s Easter baskets, because the egg is a symbol of life. But I think we should put a single stone in each basket too. And when they ask us, “What is this stone for?” We can tell them, “It’s a memory stone. It reminds us that just as God opened the door of Jesus’ tomb, He has also opened the door to heaven because of what Jesus did.”

Dear Christians, the presence of the Living God is powerful. Through faith in our Risen Lord Jesus, the Living God is present with you.


The peace which comes from God, which far exceeds all our understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

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