Sunday 2nd June 2013
Exeter Temple Bible notes
Bible Reading: Deuteronomy 31:1-8
There are situations in life that require even more than just confidence. They need courage. Today we have witnessed the enrolment of a soldier in the Salvation Army. This is an act of courage, as is any stand we make in obedience to God and his word.
Deuteronomy 31:7b “Be strong and very courageous for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their forefathers to give them and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
1. Courage comes from a sense of call
Even though initially it was Moses who commissioned Joshua when everything was looked difficult or dangerous, Joshua knew that his involvement in the claiming of the Promised Land was God’s idea. It was not easy following the famous Moses and Joshua needed personal reassurance from God that he was the man for the job.
Joshua 1:9: “Have I not commanded you?
The secret of courage is the knowledge that what you do is right. If we have a sense that God is behind us we can be filled with confidence. God has a particular purpose for all of us, which he promises to guide us into. For Joshua, it was to go with the people of Israel into the land and be responsible for allocating the areas where each tribe was to settle. Without the assurance of God within us, that what we undertake is what He commands, there will always be the fear that we ought to be doing something else.
How can we find that assurance?
Proverbs 3:6: “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
Guidance about what we should specifically do with our lives comes from him in a variety of ways. God speaks to us by His Spirit, into our minds, through the scriptures, through other people and in our circumstances, sometimes in more unusual ways, like dreams and visions – a variety of ways - but God does command us. We need to take time to listen. When we do a sense of certainty comes.
2. Courage comes from good company
Joshua is also told not be afraid. Fear is an immediate and intense internal alarm system that alerts us to the presence of danger. It prepares us either to flee from or fight against the perceived danger.
Almost every servant of God from Genesis to Revelation is at one time told not to be afraid. In most the Bible does not just instruct us not to be afraid but attaches promises to the instruction.
Joshua did not need to be afraid because, “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you or forsake you.”
What fear to you battle with?
It was possible for Joshua to experience fear at the prospect of the way ahead and yet be a courageous man, for courage is not absence of fear but its conquest.
In Mark 6:50 When Jesus walked on the water towards frightened disciples they were more afraid than ever until Jesus reassured them with the words, “Take courage, it is I!”
In the tense situations of life we can become so absorbed in battling with them that when the presence of Jesus becomes real we fail to be comforted. We almost see it as another thing to cope with.
Yet often the difficult experiences of life only bring Jesus closer to us. The benefit of having Jesus close to us is immeasurable.
3. Courage comes from the strength of God’s word
The conviction that we are in God’s will gives us courage to step out, but we need strength to continue. Joshua is told not only to have courage but to be strong.
Courage and strength are not the same things. I might summon up enough courage to get in the water and swim with crocodiles but that doesn’t mean I would have what was needed fight them off if they got nasty!
How would Joshua be strong?
In Deuteronomy 31 Joshua’s call comes at the end of a great summit when all the people had been called together to renew their covenant with God. The people were reminded that their future prosperity lay in holding fast to God and obeying his instructions.
Deuteronomy 30:15 “See I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your god, to walk in his ways and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.”
It is in the context of such an instruction that Joshua receives his calling to lead.
Joshua 1: 7 “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.”
Joshua could rely on his own merits and do a good job but he is told to rely on the word of God given to Moses. Short cuts to strength are very dangerous. Athletes using steroids to build muscles and increase power are dangerous giving short-term success but in the long term affecting their health. Joshua, having been a popular sort of hero could be tempted to rely on his previous successes and on his famous name to follow in the footsteps of Moses, using military experience to conquer the Promised Land. However Joshua must not rely upon his own resourcefulness but should have confidence in the word of God.
The world has a very subtle way of making us feel foolish about believing in God and his word. We need to remind ourselves that we hold the most important message our world has ever and will ever know because sometimes Christians lose their confidence.
Laurence Singleshurst: “We have seen our society move away from one that was largely based on Christian morality where the church was an accepted part of the fabric of our communities. We have watch the church decline in numbers and influence. We have seen that it has become more acceptable to hold almost any other set of beliefs than those held by Christians. We realise that we cannot expect our friends and family to have even a basic knowledge of who God and Jesus are. Do we still believe that the gospel is the powerful message which has the ability to save?
He goes on to say, “Our society is involved in an epidemic of selfishness. Our whole post-modern way of thinking that says we decide what is right and wrong for ourselves out of our own experience; that we as consumers are the ultimate answer to what is right and wrong. Now our society gives us permission to be selfish, we are making choices dependent on what feels good to me. It is a manifesto for ultimate selfishness. Is there one of your friends who has not been damaged by someone else’s selfishness?
We can have confidence in the gospel because it has an answer to the deepest sickness in our society. Through Jesus there is a way to break free from the selfishness that can now be seen to be the curse of our families, communities and nations.”
1 Corinthians 1:18 “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
Joshua needed to rely upon the wisdom of the word of God but he was also commissioned to uphold it and pass it on to others. Would he be strong enough? Again the word of encouragement comes to him and to us. “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you.”
When Paul was giving his testimony in his letter to Timothy, he wrote,
2 Timothy 1:12 “I am not ashamed because I know whom I have believed and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.”
The Message translation puts that same verse. ”But I have no regrets, I couldn’t be more sure of my ground. The One I’ve trusted in can take care of what he trusted me to do, right to the end.”
Saturday, 1 June 2013
Whilst waiting for God to fulfil his promise that Abraham and Sarai would have a son Abraham had a son by his wife’s slave Hagar. Instead of this being a solution it caused tension. Hagar ran away. In the desert God came to this desperate and lonely woman.
Hagar finds a new name for God. She calls Him; “The Living One who sees me”. Rather than this terrifying Hagar, it gave her the strength to go back and face the situation she had run away from.
Hagar was bullied by Sarah. Bullying is so often done so subtly. It seems to happen when no one else is there to defend us.
Hagar tried to escape her but God’s angel would not let her hide or deny what had happened, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” (v8)
God already sees our past but he will often take us back to acknowledge the pain and look at it again but this time through His perspective.
The angel’s second question is also vital, “Where are you going?”
Hagar knew what she was running away from but she had no idea where she was heading. But God could see and God knew and then instructed her to trust Him and go back so that she could have a future.