This morning I am going to do a “Self-Help” sermon. It is like when you go into a bookstore and in the back is a section there is a section called... self-help. Wait, a second, when was the last time I was in a bookstore. Let me start over. This morning I am going to do a “Self-Help” sermon. It is like when you get on Amazon in the book section, there is a list of different categories. Just after Religion and Romance before Sports & Outdoors is Self-Help...
If this sermon were a book it would be found in the Self-Help section.
This morning our Self-Help Sermon comes from chapter Seven of The Story. This is the story of Joshua. In contrast to last week, when the children of Israel were not doing much Self-Help, but rather a lot of complaining, I think we are going to we find this chapter to be... Helpful.
Let me quickly tell the story, you perhaps have already read it. Let’s look for some Help for ourSelves.
Chapter Seven begins with the death of Moses and the selection of his successor; Joshua. YHWH speaks to Joshua...
Joshua 1:2-8 "Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them-- to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses... No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”
In the first few verses of Joshua we find a spectacular Self-Help lesson...
Trust God’s Book. I have said this several times lately, “You rarely live better than your theology.” Who you process God to be; your understanding of how God interacts with humans... is going to drive your life. YHWH instructs Joshua before anything else... Stay with the Book. Know the Book. Live the Book. Make sure you are careful with the Book. Then, go be strong and courageous. Being strong and courageous flows from knowing God. We even have more of the Book than, Joshua... we need to be strong and courageous... in the Book!
That is a great start to our Self-Help sermon... let’s keep going.
The next story in this chapter is Rahab.
Joshua 2:1 Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. "Go, look over the land," he said, "especially Jericho." So, they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there.
Joshua sends two spies to their first objective; Jericho. These spies sneak into the city and meet a woman named Rahab. They interview her and find out that everyone in the city is terrified of the Israelites. The people of Jericho had heard of Egypt. They knew how the armies the Israelites had defeated everyone on their way to Canaan. Then, she hides the spies from the King and sneaks them out of the city to safety. They, in turn, promise to save her and her family.
Perhaps, here is our next Self-Help lesson... Trust God in Strange People. What? Sometimes, God’s help comes through unexpected people. God could have miraculously saved the spies by turning them invisible or beaming them up or using a fiery chariot. But instead, YHWH uses a Canaanite prostitute to save the spies. This could be an important life-lesson. Watch for God’s help in odd places; through odd people. Allow them to help and, and incorporate them into the story.
Interesting side-bar, Rahab is in Jesus’s genealogy. Rahab is King David’s great-grandmother. The spies trusted God in Rahab... she is incorporated into the Story. We don’t know the two spies’ names but we know Rahab!
Watch where God may intersect your life with odd people... there may be opportunities.
Let’ keep moving...
The Israelites cross the Jordan. Jericho is first up on the docket. They attack Jericho. But the attack is a bit strange.
Joshua 6:1-5 Now Jericho was tightly shut up because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in. Then the LORD said to Joshua, "See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams' horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in."
“Seriously, that’s the plan. March around the city blowing our horns and the wall is going to fall down? How about some trebuchets with boiling oil or some battering rams with boiling oil? Boiling oil on trebuchets is always effective!” But Joshua doesn’t hesitate... “You got it. 13 times around and then a blast and a shout! Will do!”
Here is the Self-Help lesson... Trust God; Look Strange. Often trust involves weirdness. Trust in God may require you to look odd; say the weird; do the illogical. That may be the point. Trust is trust. Be willing to be different in trusting God. We must step up, even if we seem strange.
The wall falls. Jericho is destroyed. Rahab is saved. Trust works.
The next city on the hit list is Ai.
But there is a glitch. Joshua sends only 3,000 guys to take out the city. They lose. The Israelites lose the battle... what? Joshua falls to his face in confusion.
Joshua 7:7-11 And Joshua said, "Ah, Sovereign LORD, why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us? If only we had been content to stay on the other side of the Jordan! O Lord, what can I say, now that Israel has been routed by its enemies? The Canaanites and the other people of the country will hear about this and they will surround us and wipe out our name from the earth. What then will you do for your own great name?" The LORD said to Joshua, "Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions.”
God had told all the Israelites not to take any loot from Jericho. But one guy did. A guy named Achan. Achan broke the covenant with YHWW...
Joshua 7:20-21 Achan replied, "It is true! I have sinned against the LORD, the God of Israel. This is what I have done: When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath."
Wow, powerful life-lesson for Achan – not that it lasted very long; his life... Trust God; Don’t Be Greedy. You can hear Achan’s reasoning... This robe and the silver and the brick of gold... I could do a lot of good with this. I can help the poor, get my kids through college, give some to church. Achan knew it was all supposed to be destroyed... Greed is the opposite of trust. That’s something you should write down... Selfish greed reflects a lack of trust that God is going to care for you.
So, Joshua regroups over AI. Joshua’s got a plan.
Joshua 8:3-7 So Joshua and the whole army moved out to attack Ai. He chose thirty thousand of his best fighting men and sent them out at night with these orders: "Listen carefully. You are to set an ambush behind the city. Don't go very far from it. All of you be on the alert. I and all those with me will advance on the city, and when the men come out against us, as they did before, we will flee from them. They will pursue us until we have lured them away from the city, for they will say, 'They are running away from us as they did before.' So, when we flee from them, you are to rise up from ambush and take the city. The LORD your God will give it into your hand.”
Here is my favorite Self-help... so far... Trust God; Plan Well. God works with good plans. Preparations don’t hurt. Trust God to work with your preparations! I like it!
The next story is tricky.
The Gibeonites also came up with a plan... that worked.
Joshua 9:3-16 However, when the people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, they resorted to a ruse: They went as a delegation whose donkeys were loaded with worn-out sacks and old wineskins, cracked and mended. The men put worn and patched sandals on their feet and wore old clothes. All the bread of their food supply was dry and moldy. Then they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and the men of Israel, "We have come from a distant country; make a treaty with us... The men of Israel sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the LORD. Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath. Three days after they made the treaty with the Gibeonites, the Israelites heard that they were neighbors, living near them.
Here is the odd part...
Joshua 9:18-19 But the Israelites did not attack them, because the leaders of the assembly had sworn an oath to them by the LORD, the God of Israel. The whole assembly grumbled against the leaders, but all the leaders answered, "We have given them our oath by the LORD, the God of Israel, and we cannot touch them now.
The Gibeonites tricked Joshua into thinking they were from out of state. Joshua made a covenant with them. Here is a life lesson that is a bit different, Trust God by Honoring Your Covenants. When you make an agreement... even a bad one; even when you were tricked... you need to honor it. God is a god of covenants. Honoring your agreements is a way of trusting God!
Didn’t see that one coming.
Joshua goes through and defeats the kings of the Land of Promise... one after another until Israel had pretty much secured the land. At the end of Joshua’s life, we find a powerful sermon with two more life-lessons.
Joshua 24:1-11 Then Joshua assembled all the tribes of Israel at Shechem... Joshua said to all the people, "This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'Long ago your forefathers, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the River and worshiped other gods. But I took your father Abraham from the land beyond the River and led him throughout Canaan and gave him many descendants. I gave him Isaac, and to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau... but Jacob and his sons went down to Egypt. Then I sent Moses and Aaron, and I afflicted the Egyptians by what I did there, and I brought you out. When I brought your fathers out of Egypt, you came to the sea, and the Egyptians pursued them with chariots and horsemen as far as the Red Sea. But they cried to the LORD for help, and he put darkness between you and the Egyptians; he brought the sea over them and covered them. You saw with your own eyes what I did to the Egyptians. Then you lived in the desert for a long time. I brought you to the land of the Amorites who lived east of the Jordan. They fought against you, but I gave them into your hands... Then you crossed the Jordan and came to Jericho. The citizens of Jericho fought against you, as did also the Amorites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites and Jebusites, but I gave them into your hands...”
Trust God by Remembering Your History. It is good to remember. Maybe, I like this lesson because I am getting older. For me to think back to God’s faithfulness to my grandparents, and my parents and through my life... Remembering the victories; seeing the good in the failures; the fun times and the sad times; watching YHWH work in my life is a trust-building exercise.
Then Joshua offers a challenge...
Joshua 24:14-15 "Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."
Trust God; Make a Choice. Don’t waffle between two worlds. Go all in. Don’t vacillate between two choices. Sell out to exclusively to serve the LORD with all, or don’t bother. Make a choice about the kind of person you and your family is going to be! Dabbling isn’t trust.
You may have noticed that each of our Self-Help Lessons began with “Trust God”. My entire Self-Help Sermon in just two words... Trust God.
--Trust is more than belief. Trust is more than acknowledging God’s existence. Trust is knowing God will work it out. Trust goes beyond belief.
--Trust is more than faith. It is more than acknowledging a set of doctrines as being right. Trust is operating under the assumption of God’s care. Trust operates in spite of. Trust goes beyond faith.
--Trust is more than conviction. Trust moves us to obedience. I do because He is. Trust obeys even when.
--Trust is the foundation of how we live.
That has to be the Self-Help Lesson from chapter seven of The Story... Trust God!
February 25, 2017
Los Alamos Church of Christ