Every now and then we come across something in the Bible we just don’t know what to do with. And sometimes, even seasoned followers of Jesus are a little hesitant to probe these surprising – or even disturbing – parts of God’s Word. Join us as we tackle some of the more difficult teachings of the Bible.

GOD’S MISSION VS. OUR AGENDA

CRAIG SMITH | read his bio

JULY

11/12

Acts 4:32-5:11

We’re starting a new series today called, “Wait, What?” because there’s some stuff in the Bible that just catches us off guard. And that’s true whether you’ve been following Jesus for your whole life or you just said yes to Jesus last week. There’s stuff in the Bible that we’re really surprised to find there…and we’re not quite sure what to do with it.

SERMON TRANSCRIPT

Craig: Well, hey, welcome to Mission Hills. So, good to have you with us today. As we launch our new series, “Wait. What?” Really kind of part two of our summer theme of digging into those parts of the Bible that we often overlook for a variety of reasons. Our last series was called “Explicit” and we looked at some stories that we sometimes overlook because they’ve just got some elements and then they make us really uncomfortable. Elements that if you actually dramatize… Like if you dramatize the whole Bible, really everything that’s in there, it would not get a G rating, would not get a PG rating, probably not a PG 13 rating. If you dramatize everything that’s in the Bible, I’m pretty sure it would have to have an R rating. And so, sometimes we skip some stories because they just make us really uncomfortable.

In the “Wait. What?” series, what we’re going to do is we’re going to take a look at some of those stories that not necessarily that we find uncomfortable, but that we just find confusing that we find ourselves reading them and going, “Wait, what just happened there, right?” To get ready for this series, I took to social media this week and I asked people to share with me their favorite “Wait, what?” moments from the Bible. And it was really an interesting online conversation.

One guy wrote and he said, “Hey, I do not understand why there’s a talking donkey in the Bible.” I was reading through and I was like, “A donkey talk? Whoa. What what’s going on there?” Right. Somebody else wrote it and said, “Hey, Genesis chapter 6, it says the sons of God went into the daughters of men. I’m pretty sure that’s a euphemism for something explicit, right? They went into the daughters of men and they had the Nephilim, like these giants, like what’s going on there? Are those like angel-human hybrids? What is that, right?”

Somebody else said, “Hey, my ‘Wait, what?’ moment was there’s a place in 2 Kings where the great prophet Elijah does the amazing miracle of making an ax head float up to the top of the water, because it would be embarrassing to lose a borrowed ax head. Like how did that make it into the Bible? What’s the point of that?”

Somebody else wrote, and they said, “Hey, since as we’re talking about Elijah, my mind is there’s a story in 2 Kings where Elijah is dead. He’s been buried. His bones are there in some tomb. And so, there’s some guys out and one of their friends dies and they’re going to carry the body, I guess, back to bury it or something. But then some raiders come and they’re afraid they’re not going to get away, they got the body. So, they throw the body into the tomb, happens to be Elijah’s tomb. And as soon as that dude touched the bones of Elijah, that dude got up, the dead guy, the friend, not Elijah, his bone, Elijah’s bones brought this guy back to life.” And it’s just like a couple sentences. Like wait, what’s that all about, right?

And there’s a lot of these kinds of stories in the Bible that make us go, I don’t know what that’s about. I don’t know what that’s… Therefore, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to get out of that. And in this series, we’re going to look into some of the stories. And the reason we are is because the reality is I believe and this church is driven by the belief that all of scripture matters.

In fact, I love what the Apostle Paul said to his protege, a young pastor named Timothy. This is 2 Timothy 3:16. He said, “All scripture, all of the Bible, all of it. Okay? Is God-breathed. And it is useful.” It’s not just there to be entertaining. It’s not just because it’s interesting. Oh, that happened. No, it’s useful. For what? For teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. Everything is in the Bible because it’s useful because God has a purpose for it in your life to help you live on mission with him. That’s what we’re all about at Mission Hills, helping people become like Jesus and join him on mission. The moment you say yes to following Jesus, you actually say yes to ministry. You say yes to being on mission with Jesus, extending God’s influence in the world.

That’s not just for pastors and church staff. Every follower of Jesus is following Jesus on mission. And every part of the Bible is there because it’s useful for helping you do that, to be equipping you for every good work, which is to say for living on mission. And so, we’re going to dig into some of these stories.

And there’s three things really that I’ve been praying God would do with this short series this summer. Number one is that he would just give us truth, right? That we would get out of all of these stories that we look at exactly what God put them in the Bible for us to get out of them. Okay? So we can live on mission with him.

Second, my prayer is that he would give us courage. Because I think sometimes, we see some of these parts of the Bible, that the moments that we go, “Wait, what?” And we’re a little afraid to dig into them. Because we’re afraid it might change our view of God or it might undermine our faith in some way, or it might raise more questions than we have answers for, or that it might actually just in some way kind of set us off course. And so, we’re a little bit afraid to dig into these hard parts of the Bible sometimes. And I pray that as we go through this, we’ll find courage that we can tackle every single part of Scripture and get out of it everything God intended.

And then the third thing I’ve been praying that God would use this series to do is to give us some practical principles. And one of things I hope to do as we go along, it’s kind of drop what I’m going to call Bible hacks along the way that you can use in your own life, simple principles that you can use in your own life when you come across those parts of the Bible that make you go, “Wait, what?” These practical principles, these Bible hacks will help you learn from those parts of the Bible exactly what God put them there for you to learn.

So, we’re going to go ahead and dive in today with a story from the Book of Acts chapter 4, Acts in the New Testament, right after Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and the Gospels. So, if you want to turn to Acts 4, I’ll set the stage real briefly while you’re making your way there. Acts is the story of the early life of the church. Okay? So, Jesus, the Son of God came, he lived a perfect life. He died on the cross to pay for our sins. Three days later, he rose from the dead. And then after a while, he ascended into heaven and he left the mission of sharing the good news of his life, death, and resurrection with his followers. Okay? And his followers together form what we call the Church.

Okay? They’re people of God engaged in the mission of God. Now, what the Book of Acts does is it describes the early life of this group of followers of Jesus, this early life of the church. And in Acts chapter 4, we have a very interesting story. A very “wait, what?” moment from the early life of the church. This is a Chapter 4, verse 32, “Now, all the believers, all the followers of Jesus, they were one, in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.”

Now, just let me be real clear here. Some people ask me occasionally. So, I just want to make sure we don’t want to get off track here. This is not describing communism or socialism. Okay? Communism and socialism, they’re both sort of systems of economics. This is not describing a system of economics. This is describing a spirit of community. This is describing a group of people that were focused on the mission and they were focused on helping each other to stay on mission with Jesus, advancing the Gospel, extending God’s influence in the world. Okay?

So, it’s not a system of economics here. It’s just a spirit of community. And it may be a real practical way to think about this is to say that they thought more about “we” then “me.” Okay? They thought more about “we” than “me.” They thought more about “we” together as the people of God engaged in the mission of God than they did about “me” or about “my stuff,” “my property,” “my possession,” my whatever it was. They thought more about “we” than “me.” And that’s actually really important because that really sets the stage for understanding what goes on in the rest of this story.

Okay? Verse 33 says this, “Now, with great power, the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.” The apostles, that was the leaders of the early church, the people who had been with Jesus from the beginning. Okay? They continued to testify about the resurrection of Jesus. That’s the Gospel. Jesus died and he rose. Okay? So, they were staying on mission. They were focused on advancing the mission of the church, sharing the Gospel. Okay?

Now, it says they were doing that with power. And then it says this, “And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them.” Okay? So, the Gospel was advancing powerfully and the power of God was working in such a way in the early church that there were no needy persons among them. And understand, that doesn’t mean that nobody had, you know, more than anybody else.

This is not saying that they were all kind of at the same level economically. As we see throughout the Book of Acts, some people in the church had a lot and some people still had a little. But what we’re being told here is that nobody was in abject need. Okay? Nobody was going, “I can’t feed my family because I can’t afford to buy groceries.” Nobody was going, “You know, I’m living out on the streets because I can’t afford to pay my rent,” that wasn’t happening. Okay?

Even though there were different levels of sort of affluence, there was nobody who was in abject need at this point. They were taking care of each other. Okay? And I think the reason they were doing that was because they knew that if we’re going to be on mission together, we have to make sure that these needs are being met. That nobody’s kind of being left behind. It’s really hard to focus on advancing the Gospel extending God’s influence in the world if you’re trying to figure out how am I going to eat my next meal or where am I going to lay my head tonight. Okay? So, they helped each other stay on mission by making sure that everybody had their basic needs met.

Now, it says this, “From time to time, those who owned land or houses sold them, they brought the money from the sales, they put it at the apostle’s feet and it was distributed to anyone who had need.” Okay? So, from time to time… By the way, you might be reading a version of the Bible. I’m reading the New International Version. You might be reading a version that doesn’t have from time to time. But I actually love the way the NIV has translated this because from time to time picks up a nuance of the original Greek.

This was originally written in Greek. There’s a nuance of the Greek verb about selling here that basically suggests that this wasn’t something that happened once. Okay? It happened sort of on a periodic basis. In other words, it’s not that they all kind of looked at all their land and their houses and then in one moment they all sold them all and put it all on the apostle’s feet. And they’re like, “Okay, what do we do now?” No. What it’s saying is that, from time to time, it’s a Greek translation. As they saw a need, they made extra generous gifts. This is not just describing kind of like the regular offering that might be taken up in order to advance the mission of the church. This was occasionally what, oh, there’s especially great needs in the season. And so, they would sell some extra that they had in order to allow it to meet a lot of those needs.

Okay? In other words, as we say a fair amount of time here at this church, they knew what their more was for. They knew what their more was for. They realized we have excess and the excess is not just for me to hoard, it’s for me to help. Okay? They knew what their more was for, and so they would sell some of their excess to help out those people who had those great needs in that moment. Okay? So, that happened from time to time.

And then, kind of interesting example, verse 36 says, “Now Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas [which means son of encouragement] sold a field that he owned and he brought the money and he put it at the apostles’ feet,” kind of an interesting statement. I want you to notice that there’s several details given to us about Barnabas there.

And if I can just pause for a moment and I’m going to give you your first Bible hack. Okay? Your first way to kind of maybe get a handle on what some of these stories that might otherwise be confusing are actually there to teach us. And here’s the first Bible hack, the details matter. Okay? The details matter. You might even say, “God is in the details,” which is kind of the opposite of what we often, right? Sometimes we say that the devil’s in the details, meaning you can have a great plan, but it’s actually in the details of how that plan is executed that determines whether or not the plan actually comes to pass. Well, we’re kind of getting that same principle here, but we’re not going to say the devil’s in the details. We’re going to say, “God is in the details.” We’re going to say the details of God’s word matter.

So, here here’s what I do. Okay? When I’m studying a passage of Scripture, when I read through the Scripture, that passage, I believe that every passage of Scripture has one main point, one main idea that it’s intended to communicate. Okay? So, when I get to the end of a passage, I’ll write down. Here’s what I think that main idea is. Here’s what I think that big point is.

The next thing I do is I go back and look at all the details in that passage. And I make sure that all those details actually line up with or are aligned with that big idea. And if the main idea, if the main point that I thought that passage was about doesn’t align with all of the details, that’s a pretty good indicator that I’ve probably got the point wrong. Okay?

So, we’ve got to pay attention to those details. So, the next time you run across a passage, you’re like, “Wait, what?” One of the things you might think about doing is like jot down all the specific details that you see in the passage. And it may be that as you see all the specific details that you begin to find yourself pointed towards the point of the story. Okay.

So, we’re told several details about Joseph, three in particular. They’re very interesting. Joseph is a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas [which means son of encouragement]. Okay? So, he was a Levite. That’s the first detail. That means that he was from the tribe of the Levites. In the Nation of Israel, there are 12 tribes. Okay? Levites was one of the tribes. The interesting thing about the Levites was that was the tribe that the priests came from. Okay? So he came from a priestly tribe. In other words, Joseph’s family had a long history of ministry. Joseph’s family had a long history of being on a mission with God.

Okay? Second thing it says that he’s from Cyprus, and Cyprus is a little Island off the coast of Syria. Okay? Now, for the people who are getting the Book of Acts in the first century, okay? The first ones to read this, they would have been aware of the fact that the Apostle Paul, big, big, important figure in the early church, who’s described later in the Book of Acts, the Apostle Paul, he went on a mission to share the Gospel around the world. And guess where the first place he went was on his mission? It was Cyprus. Cyprus was the first stop on his mission. Okay?

So again, we had this idea that, you know, there’s a place, there’s a detail mentioned that’s kind of focusing in on being on mission with Jesus. Right? And then we’re told that the apostles had a nickname for him. They called him Barnabas. And what’s interesting about Barnabas is it means son of encouragement. It doesn’t mean Mr. Moneybags. It doesn’t mean Mr. Generous. It means son of encouragement because Barnabas had a reputation, and we see this throughout the Bible actually, he had a reputation for encouraging people to stay on mission with Jesus. When they were feeling like God wasn’t, you know, going to be using them anymore, or they were just too tired to go on or whatever it was, Barnabas was the guy who came along and said, “You can do it. God has plans for you. God’s still going to use you.” He encouraged them to stay on mission.

We got three details here that have a lot to do with mission, I think that’s really, really important. We’re told obviously that he sold a field and he brought the money. But the key here is not that he was generous. Okay? The key isn’t just his generosity. The key is his generosity was motivated by concern for the mission of the church. Okay? That’s what those three details kind of focuses in on. His generosity wasn’t just because he was a nice guy, his generosity was motivated by a concern for the mission of the church.

Now, that sets the stage for talking about another individual, two individuals actually, who also gave to the church. But I’ll go ahead and kind of give this way a little bit as we read it, maybe you can look at it through this lens, but I think they were motivated by something different. Let’s see. Chapter 5, verse 1, “Now, a man named Ananias together with his wife Sapphira also sold a piece of property. Now with his wife’s full knowledge,” she knew what he was doing. “He kept back part of the money for himself but brought the rest and put it at the apostle’s feet.” Okay?

So, he didn’t give all the money. He gave some of the money. We don’t know how much of it, but he gave some of it. And he put the rest on the apostles’ feet. And then Peter, one of the apostles, one of the leaders of the early church, Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you had lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing?” And the original Greek there for such a thing is a word that’s only used for like big deal stuff. Okay?

In other words, he says, “You know, what made you think of doing such a terrible thing. It’s such a big deal, bad thing.” He says, “You have not lied just to human beings, but to God.” I want you to notice that the word lied, showed up twice in pretty short order there. And the reason I say that is because I actually think it’s a very important thing to pay attention to. In fact, it’s probably another Bible hack. Let me give you a Bible hack number two, pay attention to repetition. Okay? Pay attention to repetition.

So, here’s the thing. In the modern world, we don’t quite understand that because in the modern world, you know, like it doesn’t matter how much we repeat something because it doesn’t cost us anything to repeat it. I mean, if you’re typing a paper and you repeat something that makes it go on to another page. Yeah. Just, you know, grab some more paper out of the drawer. You probably got some, if not, you can go down to a grocery store, honestly, and you can get more paper. Okay?

That wasn’t true in the ancient world. Paper was incredibly valuable. And oftentimes, even today, we don’t write on paper. So, we’re writing online in which case it doesn’t matter how long it goes. It didn’t cost more to go to two pages online or two screens versus one or whatever. Okay? But sometimes, even today, we do actually kind of recognize the importance of kind of being straight and to the point. When I was working on my Ph.D. dissertation, I had an 80,000-word limit. That might sound like a lot of words, but I was doing the very complex subject. And one of the things my advisor would do was say, “Hey, here, you’re kind of saying again, something you’ve already said earlier, don’t do that. You need to save the word count so that you can focus on some other important things.”

And so I kind of began to understand in that moment, you know, why it was sometimes that you needed to not repeat things. But generally speaking, like we feel free to repeat as much as possible. But remember in the ancient world, paper wasn’t common. They weren’t writing online. In fact, paper was so rare in the ancient world that sometimes they conserve space on paper by actually not putting spaces between the words, all the words. If you read ancient Greek manuscripts, copies of the New Testament, they’re all run together. The words literally, there’s no spaces in between them. That’s how valuable paper was.

And in a culture like that, repetition is important. If somebody is taking up that valuable real estate on the page to repeat something, it’s probably a clue. Okay? It’s probably something we need to pay attention to. It’s also true, by the way that, you know, in the modern world, we have lots of different ways of kind of highlighting something, emphasizing, right? We could take a word, we could bold it. We could italicize it. We could underline it. You know, we could put it all in caps. We could put it in a slightly larger font and all those words kind of would draw our attention. Hey, this is important.

That wasn’t true in the ancient world. They didn’t have that ability. Okay? So, what they would do to emphasize important things is they would repeat them. And that’s why I say, pay attention to repetition. It will often kind of focus in on key ideas. So, as you’re reading through the Bible, if you’re finding yourself going, I just don’t know what this is about. Look and see if there’s any key terms that have been repeated.

Now, in this case, the key term is lied. It’s really important because it tells us that the problem wasn’t that they didn’t give all the money, the problem wasn’t with their level of generosity. The problem was with the fact that they lied about something. Now, what did they lie about? Well, we don’t know exactly, but it’s not hard to read between the lines of figure it out, right? They lied about how much they were giving. They were claiming to give all the money that came from the sale of the land. But, in fact, they weren’t giving all the money. They were keeping some back for themselves.

But by the way, as we see Peter say, there’s no problem with them not giving all the money, right? He said, “The land was yours. You didn’t have to sell it. That was your choice. And then the money that you got from the sale of the land that was at your disposal, it was in your hands. You got to decide how it was split. You didn’t have to give it to the church.” Okay? So, not giving all the money, that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that they were lying about how much they were giving. And apparently, that was kind of a big deal.

Let’s check this out. Now, when Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. Wait, what? Yeah. He fell down and died and great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Well, wait, there’s more. And then some young men came forward, they wrapped up his body and they carried him out and they buried him.

Now, about three hours later, his wife came in, not knowing what had happened, and Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price that you and Ananias got for the land?” In other words, is this all the money that came in from the sale of the land? “Yes,” she said, “That’s the price. That’s the whole thing. It’s whole kit and caboodle.” And Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen, the feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door and they will carry you out also.”

And at that moment, she fell down at his feet and died. And then the young men came in and finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events, which probably is easiest part of this to understand, right? Like, I’d be a little concerned, wouldn’t you?

Honestly, like chances are pretty good, some of you like hear that, right? Okay. They got killed for lying about how generous they’re being. And you’re immediately thinking back to the last time you filed taxes and you’re going, “Did I exaggerate on my charitable giving? Am I going to be struck dead for that?” Probably not. You’re probably okay. I’m not saying you should do it. Don’t lie about your charitable giving, but I don’t think God’s going to strike you dead.

Okay. But then why were they struck dead? Why was this such a big deal? Well, there’s a couple of things I think we need to keep in mind. The first is we need to understand that this was early in the life of the church. Okay? The church was just getting started. It was sort of charting its course, what kind of a group of people it was going to be. And there’s an important principle we talk about here at Mission Hills, a fair amount. I call it the Law of Firsts. Law of Firsts says that our first choices direct those that follow. Okay? That in any new enterprise, in any new circumstance, whether it’s, you know, the church getting started or a church getting started or, you know, or starting a new job or launching a new company or getting married or beginning a new dating relationship or are having kids or whatever it is. Okay?

The first choices we make direct those that follow. The things that we do at the beginning of anything, kind of, they sort of determine the course that we’re going to go on in a very substantial way. I mean, think about it like this. You know, when you’re just getting married, if you and your spouse decide at the very beginning, we’re going to make God the center of our marriage. And so, we’re going to pray together and we’re going to make sure we’re being on mission together. And if you do that at the very first part of your marriage, chances are 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 years later, you’re still going to be doing that together. On the other hand, if God is a distant part of your relationship, almost a forgotten back burner kind of relationship, chances are that’s going to be hard to turn around later in your marriage. Okay?

When you’re first married, right? If you let your mother-in-law boss you guys around, that’s going to be hard to turn around later on. Okay? When you first have kids, if the first time your kids disobey you, if you let it happen, it’s going to be much harder to discipline later on. Okay? So, the point is that the first things that we do, or the first things that we allow, first things that we do
or the first thing that we allow have a huge impact in the way things go in the future. And so, what’s going on here is that the church is just getting started and God knows that what Ananias and Sapphira are doing has the potential to derail the church. It has the potential to hijack the mission that the church exists to be about. Okay? But why? What exactly is it that has this dangerous potential?

We already know it’s not that they weren’t being generous enough. That wasn’t the issue. The issue is that they were lying, but what was the big deal about the lie? Because the reality is, God doesn’t usually strike us dead when we lie, right? Chances are, we’ve all told a lie or two in our lives, but we’re still here. We haven’t been stuck dead. So, what was wrong with this lie?

And in my opinion, having studied this, what I would argue is the issue isn’t that they lied. The issue was why they lied. The issue was their motivation. Remember, their stories being compared against the story of Joseph AKA Barnabas, okay? Who gave, but as we saw back then, his generosity, his actions were motivated by concern for the mission of the church. And what we’re meant to understand is that they’re giving and ultimately, they’re lying are motivated by something else entirely, not the mission of the church.

Their mission is motivated by something personal, something selfish. Best guess, I mean, this makes a lot of sense to me, it’s that, you know, they saw what happened when Joseph kind of practiced generosity. They saw the attention that he got when he sold that field. They saw the respect he had. They saw how much he was admired that. They saw how tight he was with the leaders of the church. They saw the kind of opportunities he was given. They saw the influence he had. And they said, “I want that. I want that respect. I want that admiration. I want that position. I want that power. I want that influence.” And that was the problem, ultimately, what they were doing was motivated by a selfish agenda.

And here’s what we need to understand, especially early in the life of the church. But I still believe today as well. The mission of the church is too important to allow selfish agendas to hijack it. The mission of the church to advance the Gospel, to extend the influence of God by speaking the truth about the resurrection of Jesus and the hope that we have in Christ, the mission of the church is too important to allow a selfish agenda to hijack it.

Just recently, I was talking to a friend of mine and he told me a story from early on in his ministry that I found myself immediately thinking of this story and how a church can be hijacked by selfish agendas. Basically, he and his wife had moved into a small town. He had taken the position, he was the lead pastor. And as they moved in town, you know, they were a young couple. They didn’t really have any money. They’re driving a beat-up pickup truck. They didn’t have a lot of stuff, but they kind of limped into town and set up.

And they hadn’t been there very long. They’d been in the house for merely a couple of weeks, and a member of the church, pretty well-to-do rancher came by his office one day and said, “Hey, pastor, I noticed when you moved in, man, like your truck’s probably not long for this world. You know, it’s really beat up. I don’t think it’s going to last very long. You can’t trust it. And so, you know, I want to do something for you.” And he reached for his pocket. And he handed my friend a set of keys.

My friend said, “What is this?” And he took him outside, and in the driveway, there was a brand-new Ford pickup. My friend was…he was ecstatic. He’d never had a new car. Couldn’t believe this man’s generosity. He’s so grateful. And he ran and found his wife and he told her about it. And then she asked him a super annoying question. She said, “What’s the catch?” She said, “Are there any strings attached to this?” And he’s like, “No, the guy’s just super generous.” She’s like, “Are you sure?” He’s like, “Yes.”

But he wasn’t. And that question haunted him. And he eventually had to go and he found that man, he said, “I’m so sorry to ask this question. I feel terrible asking this question, but I just feel like I got to clear this up. Are there any strings attached to this gift?” And the man said, “Nah, no strings, but you know what pastor? This fall, we’re going to be electing new elders, there’s a couple seats that are coming up. And I would just think that you’d support me for that position when the time comes.”

My friend went, “Ah,” reached in his pocket, got the keys and he handed them back to the man. So, he recognized that there was a selfish agenda. It wasn’t just generosity. And it certainly wasn’t a generosity driven by, motivated by the church’s mission. There was a selfish agenda. There was a personal agenda. And my friend, I’m so proud of it. I hope that I would react as admirably in the same situation. I hope that I will, but I was so proud of him.

Because he understood that the mission of the church is too important to let it get hijacked by personal agendas, and this something we all have to wrestle with. We have to ask ourselves this question, I believe. I think that’s the point of this story is that we each would ask ourselves this question, “Am I doing that? Am I putting God’s mission first? Am I allowing any personal agenda to get in front of God’s mission either for the church or for my life?”

So, this is the principle that we have to grab a hold of. I have to put God’s mission ahead of my agenda. That’s the principle. I have to put God’s mission ahead of my agenda. We have to do that in the church. We have to do it in our individual lives as well. In the church, think about this. Maybe you’ve heard the announcement, super excited August 1st and 2nd, we’re reopening the Littleton campus. Super excited about that.

But you know what? In order to keep people safe, we’re going to have to do a few things that some of you are not going to like. One of the things is we’re going to use an RSVP system. We need to be able to control the number of people who show up to a service so we can stay within the government restriction and keep people safe. That’s our purpose for doing it.

Some of you hate that. And you might be thinking about showing up without using your RSVP system. And I’m going to ask you to wrestle with the question, why? Why would I think about not using the RSVP system? Is it possible that the reason that you are tempted to do that is because you have a personal agenda that’s getting ahead of God’s mission. You’re thinking more in terms of “me” than in terms of “we.”

Or how about this? We’re going to ask everyone to wear masks this first few weeks after we come back. And I know some of you were like masks don’t do anything. They’re uncomfortable. Listen, the leaders of this church has decided we’re all going to wear a mask to comply with the government requests. But also because we believe that it does probably limit some of the transmission, especially when we’re singing. And, you know, you may have even noticed in the lights. I spit occasionally when I’m talking, well, let alone, when we sing, it happens, and we want to keep people safe. And we want people to feel safe as they’re beginning to venture out into this new realm of regathering. Okay? And so, we’re going to ask everybody to wear masks.

And if you’re tempted to say, “Well, heck with that,” then I want to ask you to wrestle with the question, why am I tempted to think that? Is it because I’m putting a personal agenda preference or whatever of my own ahead of God’s mission? Am I thinking more in terms of “me” than “we?” But it also works out in our own private lives, right?

Sometimes I struggle. I struggle to put God’s mission first because I’m a people-pleaser. I want people to like me. I want people to be happy with me. And sometimes I find myself either doing things to make people happy or not doing things that will make people unhappy rather than just listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit and the conviction of the Holy Spirit and doing what I’m called to do as a leader. I’m tempted to do that. I struggle with it. But in that moment, what I’m doing is I’m putting one of my agendas to be liked ahead of God’s mission. And I have to wrestle with it. I have to put God’s mission ahead of any of my personal agendas.

Same thing can happen with the pursuit of money. People can pursue money over God’s mission for their life. If you’re a follower of Jesus, you have a mission, you’re called the ministry, okay? Not necessarily vocational ministry, but ministry, advancing the Gospel, extending God’s influence in the world. And sometimes we get in this place where we’re more focused on pursuing money than the mission, that’s conflict of agendas. Or maybe marriage, some people are so focused on getting married that they’re not focused on the mission. Some are people so focused on having kids then they’re not focused on their mission, or possessions or fame. There’s just so many different ways that we do it.

So, let me ask you this question, which of my personal agendas am I most likely to put ahead of God’s mission? I’d love for you to wrestle with that question, which of your personal agendas? Some of them might be bad. Some of it might not be bad agendas, but which one of them are you likely to put ahead of God’s mission? And then you can ask that question sort of in general, but you can also ask that question in this season, in the season in the world, in this season in my marriage, in the season with my kids, in this season with my relationship, whatever it is, in the season, what are those agendas that I’m most likely to put ahead of God’s mission?

And then the second question is just this, what’s one change I need to make? So, one change I need to make to put God’s mission ahead of my agenda. I believe if we asked that question of God, he will speak the answer because as we’ve seen here, this is a big deal to God, keeping his mission first ahead of our personal agendas. That is a big deal to God. So, we need to ask, what do I need to do, Lord? Show me those agendas that I’m likely to kind of get out of sequence and show me one change that I need to make to kind of get it in sequence. Let’s pray about that together right now. Would you join me?

Hey, God, I just want to speak on my behalf, but also in behalf of all the followers of Jesus listening to this, as we confess to you that we have often violated this principle. We have often put our personal agendas ahead of your mission. Maybe that’s in the church, but also maybe it’s just in our own individual lives, Lord. And so, we have not been engaged in your mission to the degree that we should have been because we had a personal agenda, we put out front.

We confess that to you. And we asked for your forgiveness. We ask beyond your forgiveness, and we’re so grateful that we have it, Lord, that we’re not being written out of your plans because we’ve failed in this way, in the past, beyond your forgiveness, which we receive, Lord. We also pray for insight from your Holy Spirit about those specific agendas that we’re most likely to put in front of you in your mission. We ask for insight for your Holy Spirit and what changes we need to put into place in our lives so that we stop falling into that rut. We stop falling into that temptation and we always put your mission first. Because we realize, Lord, your mission is what matters most.

If you’re a follower of Jesus, we do just begin praying right now for all those people who are listening to this around the world who have not come into a relationship with God through faith in Jesus. And if that’s you, just real quickly, I want to speak to you. And I want you to know that the inability to put God’s mission first is actually the result of all the bad stuff we see in the world. Okay? It’s the result of…or the coronavirus as a result of putting our agendas in front of God’s mission. Racism is the result, honestly, of putting our agendas in front of God’s mission. Every bad thing in the world is a result of putting our agendas in front of God’s mission. It’s a result of what we call sin.

And the essence of sin is saying to God, “I’m going to do it my way. I’ll live life on my terms. I’ll plot my own course, my own destiny. It doesn’t matter what you say, Lord, I’ve got it.” That’s our agenda. And that’s why the world is a mess as it is. And the chances are that’s why you’re experiencing life in a way that you know in your heart of hearts is not supposed to be this way. It’s supposed to be better than this, but it can only be better than this when we stop putting our agendas in front of his mission.

This is the mission of God. In spite of our sin, in spite of your sin, God loves you so much. He sent his Son, Jesus, who lived the perfect life. Then he died on the cross to pay for your sins. For all those wrong ways that you’ve lived, for every sin you’ve ever committed, for every way that you put your agenda ahead of God’s commandments, ahead of his truth, ahead of his mission. For every one of those, Jesus died.

He died so that you could be free, that you could be forgiven, that you could be completely without sin and its consequences. And so that you could come into a relationship with God. Three days later after he died, he rose from the dead, and he offers all that. He offers forgiveness. He offers salvation. He offers heaven and he offers a relationship with God and a chance to be part of his mission. He offers all of that simply by trusting in him, choosing to follow Jesus.

If you’ve never done that, you can do it today. You can make that decision today. Here’s how you do it wherever you are, you’re just going to have this conversation with God. Just repeat after me in your heart. Say, “God, I have done wrong. I have sinned. I’ve put my agenda ahead of yours in so many areas of my life. I admit it. I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for dying to pay for all the wrong that I’ve done. I believe that you rose from the dead and you’re offering me forgiveness. So, Jesus, I’m choosing to follow you. Jesus, I’m saying yes to a relationship with you. I’m yours for now and forever. Amen.”

If you made that decision to do that, it’s so awesome. I’m so excited for you. And I would love to be able to celebrate with you. We all would here at Mission Hills. And so, if you made the decision for the first time today to say yes to following Jesus, would you just hit the button below me that I said yes to following Jesus button. Or if you don’t see that where you are, then you know what? You can text the word Jesus to 888111. Either way you do it, you’re going to get back a link. It’s going to tell you some things that are true about you now that you’ve chosen to follow Jesus. You’re going to find out about the forgiveness you have in this relationship with God that you get to live. We want to put that truth in your hands.

So, please either click that button or send Jesus to 888111 so we can get that truth into your hands. I can’t wait to see you soon. August 1st and 2nd, we’ll be reopening the Littleton campus. But you know what? I know a lot of you are joining us from all over the world. And I want you to know that you’re still part of our church. And just because we’re reopening physical campuses doesn’t mean that we’re going to stop focusing on you in any way. And so, wherever you are, and however you continue to join us, we’re so glad that you’ve been with us and we can’t wait to see you again next time. God bless.

THE WALLS OF jERICHO

SCOTT RIDOUT

JULY

18/19

Joshua 6

All of us have moments where our circumstances seem insurmountable, but the act of having faith is being able to move forward as led by God, without knowing all the answers first. Instead, we need to trust that God is god who intervenes; he is who he says he is and he will do what he says he can do.

SERMON TRANSCRIPT

Craig: Hey, Mission Hills. So glad to have you with us today. It is my honor and my pleasure, and I really, really mean that, to introduce our guest speaker for this weekend. His name is Scott Ridout. And maybe most importantly, I hope he thinks most importantly, I consider Scott a personal friend. And so, I’m excited to introduce my friend to you. He’s also the president of our movement, Converge, and so he’s been leading the whole Converge worldwide movement for the last six years. I’ve known him for the last three. And honestly, Scott is on a very short list of people for me that when I am in desperate need of somebody who is smarter, and wiser, and more experienced as a leader, Scott is one of my go-to guys and he always, always delivers. Really helpful. And so, I’m really excited to be able to welcome him.

Maybe more important than anything else, this is a man who loves God’s people, loves God’s Word and loves connecting those two. And so, he’s going to help us to become more like Jesus. And join him on mission this weekend by digging into one of those kinds of sticky, wait, what moments in the Bible. So, Scott, so glad to have you here.

Scott: Thank you, Craig. It’s really great to be with you today at Mission Hills. Let me just return the love with Craig a little bit. And Craig and Coletta have friends of ours for a few years, and Lisa and I love spending time with them. We love their hearts for God and for you. And we’re just so grateful that God has placed them here at Mission Hills. What a great leadership couple. In fact, your staff team is amazing, and I just wanted to give a shout out to them as well. And thank you so much for the opportunity to speak to you today. Well, we started a series last week talking about the controversial and challenging passages of Scripture that make us say kind of, “Wait, what? I mean, did God really say that? Is that really true?”

And rather than being scared of those passages, we’re going to kind of wrestle them down and look them because we believe that this is God’s Word and we can trust it. And we can wrestle with those things, and it can deepen our faith and deepen our trust and increase our courage. And part of this we’re going to do is create some practical principles for how you yourself can look at the Bible and study it on your own. And our hope, again, is that all of us could live on mission with God. So do me a favor and turn Joshua Chapter 6 where we’re going to begin.

Now, in this chapter, we got 40 years of history before this. The people of Israel have been in Egypt for 400 years and they have spent 40 years wandering in the desert. During that time, they’ve gotten the Ten Commandments. God has been leading them. It’s been great, but there are a whole lot of wait, what kind of moments in their journey. There’s the parting of the Red Sea where they make it through, but the Egyptian army doesn’t make it through. There’s the manna that falls from the sky for 40 years that God provides food for them, their daily food, their daily bread for them over and over. There’s their clothes not wearing out. Parents and teenagers, wouldn’t that be great?

And there’s also the Jordan River where it stops up. There’s even a passage of a place called Gilgal, where right before they go into battle, they decided to circumcise all the fighting men. That makes no sense whatsoever. But I think the most important moment in this conversation is what’s happening once they cross the Jordan River and they run into this place called Jericho. So, let’s pick up the passage in Joshua chapter 6 starting in verse 1. It says this, “Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in.” The people of Jericho have heard about these Israelites coming. Maybe they heard the story of Sihon and Og, the two kings on the east side of the Jordan, how he just demolished their armies and now they’ve crossed the Jordan River and now they’re coming to Jericho.

Let me give you some history about Jericho just so you know. Jericho is probably the oldest city in the world. It’s been around for thousands and thousands of years. And one of the reasons this area was so attractive was because of the natural springs that are in the area. There’s so much water in the area, even though it’s a desert, that a large population can live there. In fact, Jericho is known as the City of Palms because so many trees are there. It’s like an oasis in the desert. Jericho was a border city. It was also a gateway city. People traveling from the north to the south and the south to the north would go through Jericho, and from east to west and west to east would go through it as well. It is just 17 miles from Jericho to this place called Jerusalem, the center of life in this area. And so, it becomes a very, very important place for people to control. And if you’re going to have a battle, this is a great place. It’s a great place to start.

Jericho has the oldest known protective walls in the history of the world. These have been around for thousands and thousands of years. And archaeologists have looked at this and they’ve kind of looked at the walls and they see a pattern. First of all, the wall begins at a base that’s 14 feet wide and 11 feet high of nothing but stone. And then on top of that base, there’s another 35 feet of slope that goes about 35 degrees. So, it’s 20 feet higher of more stone. And then on top of that is another wall of stone and mudbrick. And behind that, there’s a double enclosure of another wall. I mean, this place is a fortress, this place is unconquerable. It is impregnable and it’s closed for business and yet God wants his people to take it. Going back to the chapter, there’s no way in and there’s no way out. Verse 2, it says this, “Then the Lord said to Joshua, ‘See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands along with its king and its fighting men.'” God says, “See,” and Joshua is like, “All I see is 40 feet of rock. I don’t see anything.” But God claims victory even before the battle begins.

This is not unusual for God. About 500 years earlier, He was talking to Abraham and saying, “Abraham, one day, this will all be yours.” Five hundred years later, they are right there at the place where he’s gonna take over. Now 40 years earlier, they were in a place called Kadesh Barnea, it’s on the south side of Israel. They’ve come out of Egypt and this is the point where they send in 12 spies. God said, “This land is yours. You can trust that this land is yours. Send in spies.” And the spies went into the land and sure enough, they saw it was a land full of milk and honey that the grapes were huge. It was just a great place to be, but the spies came back and two of them said, “Let’s take the land.” That was Joshua, who this passage is about, and then Caleb.

But the 10 others said, “I don’t know, God. I don’t know. I mean, the cities are fortified and the people, they just look huge to us. We feel like we’re grasshoppers in their sight.” And rather than see the size of their God, they saw the size of their enemy. And they said, “We can’t do this.” And they backed away and they disobeyed, they disobeyed God. But here we are. And so for 40 years, they’ve wandered around and the older generation has died off and God has given new instruction to the new generation saying, “Don’t be like your parents, trust me.” And so here they are. They’re at this place called Jericho where it’s probably the most fortified, the hardest place to be in. It’s a go big or go home kind of moment, except the Israelites don’t have a home. There’s no place to go. Not trusting God is simply not an option.

Hey, let me step out of the text for a second and just say, you know, all of us have Jericho moments, moments in our lives where the odds seem infinite, where the obstacles seem insurmountable, where the enemy seems undefeatable. And I gotta admit, I’m praying that God will give you that kind of moment in your life. He’s given me those kind of moments in my life. Because there’s something about those moments where we have this freefall of faith where we have to trust God, where God has to show up or we just don’t move forward because it’s in these moments that our faith meets God’s faithfulness. And we see that God is faithful. He is who he says he is and he will do what he says he can do.

Now, they have to have a battle strategy to go into Jericho. And so, normally, back then, when you had these walled-in fortified cities, there’s only two options. One is to wait it out, to surround the city, to cut off the supply, and to starve them into submission. That would be a good plan in most cases, but I remind you, first of all, that Jericho has water. And if you have water, you have everything you need. On the opposite side, the Israelites have just finished 40 years in the desert where God has provided manna, but the manna has stopped now, and they don’t have a lot of time. They don’t have a lot of opportunity. They can’t wait it out. The other option is to assault the walls. And we see history where they’ve tried to tunnel through the walls, they’ve tried to burn down the gates, they’ve built earthen ramps. In fact, if you go to a place called Masada in Israel, you’ll see this giant earthen ramp coming up to the side of the walls of that fortress. And it just takes a lot of time, a lot of energy, and causes a lot of casualties. And again, those are the two best options in old days, but God has a different option.

Let’s look at what God says. He says this in verse 3, He tells them to march around the city once with all the armed men. “Do this for six days and have seven priests carry trumpets of Ram’s horns in front of the ark. And on the seventh day, march around the city seven times with a priest blowing the trumpets. And when you hear the sound of a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a shout. And then the wall of the city will collapse. The army will go up. Everyone straight in.” He’s telling Joshua this, and Joshua is like, “Okay, let me get this right. You want us to walk around the city for six days? You want us to do that and don’t shout, I mean, but just walk around the city. And on the seventh day, you want us to do that seven times and then shout and the walls will come tumbling down. That’s your path strategy. That’s your plan.” This is the wait, what moment in the story.

I mean, can you see the American military taking this strategy? Do you think it would work for us? Can you see anywhere in modern times like that’s our best strategy, the best way of doing this? You may kind of scratch your head and wonder. And for us, sometimes we’re like, “Okay, did this really happen? Is that really true? Did that happen? How do we know? It doesn’t make sense.” And it’s even worse for Joshua because he’s heard the plan from God and now, he has to go tell his people, “Okay, here’s our strategy. Here’s what we’re going to do.”

So, I played football when I was younger, and I was part of the offensive team and the defensive team. But on the offense, we had a quarterback that would get the…he’d get the call from the sideline. And every once in a while, the quarterback get up to the line and we’d see that the defense was not the defense that the coach expected. And he would do something, he would change the play. Does anyone know what that’s called? Yeah, it’s called an audible. He would call an audible because he saw on the field what the coach couldn’t possibly have anticipated from the sidelines. And so, he calls an audible and hopefully it’s a better play than the one that the coach has called.

Now sometimes we as Christians, we read the plays that God has called from his Word and we want to call an audible. We want to say, “Okay, wait, wait a minute, you want me to forgive him? Her? You want me to show mercy? You want me to stand my ground? You want me to confront?” And we’re just like we want to call an audible on God. Then the challenge of that is this isn’t a game like football, this is real life. This is the Bible. And when you and I want to call an audible on God, God has a different word for that. It’s called disobedience. It’s disobedience.

Now, what God wants us to do is to trust and obey. He wants us to believe him. So, I see this all over the Bible over and over and over. I see this pattern of the people of God being challenged because they don’t like the odds. They don’t like the enemy. They don’t like the instruction that God has given them. And so, there’s a phrase I use all the time when I see passages like this and it’s this, “To understand why, submit and apply.” To understand why, submit and apply because there are situations in life where God does things we don’t expect, where God asks things we don’t like. That God says, “I want you to do this,” and we just don’t feel like doing it because it doesn’t make sense to us. It’s not what we would do. But to understand why, we have to submit and apply. He wants us to trust him, even when it doesn’t make sense.

Now, I gotta tell you, this happened to the Israelites. Just a few weeks earlier, they were crossing the Jordan River and if you know the story, they’re crossing across and they’re told, “Listen, the river is at flood stage and I want you to cross the river. So, I want the priests to take the Ark of the Covenant, I want them to walk before the ark and I want them to step in the water. And when you step in the water, then I’ll turn off the spigot, then I’ll turn off the water. I’ll stop and you’ll be able to walk across on dry land.” But God makes them actually step into the water before he turns off the water. To understand why, submit and apply, they had to actually take the step of faith in order to move forward in that season. He wants us to face the impossible odds. He wants us to face the impossible enemies and to trust him in those things. This plan of God, the seven-day plan just doesn’t make sense. It just doesn’t seem practical. It’s not what we would do.

We got to realize, though, this is God. And we have to ask the question, “Do I have to have all the answers before I’ll trust God?” Because that’s not faith. That’s logic. Listen, miracles by nature are not natural. Miracles are not natural. They’re supernatural. Miracles, by definition, defy definition. Miracles by nature, defy nature. This is God intervening. It’s not gonna make sense and we have to learn to trust him in those scenarios. And so, this is what the people of God do. Let’s pick up the passage in chapter 6 verse 8, and it says this, “When Joshua had spoken to the people, the seven priests carrying the seven trumpets before the Lord went forward blowing their trumpets. And the Ark of the Lord’s covenant followed them. The armed guard marched ahead of the priests who blew the trumpets and the rear guard followed the ark.” So now they got this procession going on where they got guards in front of the ark, they’ve got guards behind the ark, they’ve got the Ark of the Covenant in the middle, the ark represented the presence of God and the people of God.

All this time, the trumpets were sounding but Joshua had commanded the army, “Do not give a war cry and do not raise your voices. Do not say a word until the day I tell you to shout and then shout.” And so, they’re out there and their army is there and they’re not saying anything, the trumpets are blowing, but it’s more like a parade than anything else. And I mean, can you imagine being the people who are in Jericho looking over the wall and saying, “What is that? It looks like a parade.” I mean, they’re not saying anything. They’re not shouting, they’re not challenging us. They’re just blowing their trumpets and walking around. It says this, “So he had the Ark of the Lord carried around the city circling it once. And then the army returned to the camp and spent the night there.”

Can you imagine that night for six nights in a row? Well, that was fun. I’m not sure what good that did. They’re probably questioning, “Why are we doing this?” But to understand why, submit and apply. But on the seventh day, they circle seven times and then they blow the trumpets and shout and the walls come tumbling down. This is a crazy story. This is an amazing intervention of God. But there’s something in you and something in me that says, “Okay, did that really happen? Is this truly historical? I know it’s God’s intervention but is there any way to prove this? Is there any way to show this? Because this is not a part of my daily experience, I don’t experience miracles like walls coming down every single day of my life.” And for some of us, we’re questioning the Bible now. We’re questioning God, we’re questioning our faith.

Hey, before we go more into this text, I want to spend some time talking about some of these practical principles that apply to the Bible, things we need to think about as we view the Word of God. And why don’t I just give you a few words you can write these down and think them through and talk about them, look them up. But these really help you show, see where we as Christians hold the Bible, how we view it in our lives. And so, you’ll be familiar with some of these words, maybe not others, but let me just walk through. This is what we believe, at Mission Hills is what we believe, at Converge and this is what we believe as Christians. And the first word I want to give you is the word inspiration. Inspiration.

Inspiration is talking about the source of the Bible. We believe that the source of the Bible is God. Now, last week, I know Craig talked through 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that we believe that the Scripture is God-breathed or inspired. That’s what it means. It’s for God to breathe it and it’s useful. All Scripture is useful for teaching reproof, correction, and training, and righteousness. We believe that God is the one who wrote the Bible through people. He superintended what was written there. There’s another passage in 2 Peter chapter 1, verse 21 that talks about the prophets and how they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. These are words that give a picture of the inspiration that it is the Word of God and not of people.

The second word is canonicity. Canonicity has to do with the authority of the Bible. We believe the 66 books of the Bible, the 39 in the Old Testament, the 27 in the New Testament have an authority in our lives that when our experiences or modern ideologies challenge what Scripture says, we’re going to choose to believe Scripture and not our opinions and not our emotions. We’re going to choose to believe that this is the inspired Word of God and it has the authority to tell us about God and about how to live daily life.

The third word is inerrancy. Inerrancy talks about the accuracy of the Bible, that what it says is true. Now, 50 years ago there was a big battle over the inerrancy of the Bible. And a group of Christians came together in Chicago and made a statement. In 1978 they made the statement, let me read it to you so you understand what we’re talking about when it comes to inerrancy. It says this, “That we affirm the Scripture has been given by divine inspiration is infallible so that far from misleading us, it is true and reliable in all the matters that it addresses. We believe that the Bible is true and without error in what it intends to teach.” That word “intends” is important, I’ll talk about that in just a minute. “We believe the Bible is inspired. We believe the Bible is canonical. It’s an authority. We believe it’s an era. We believe the authority of the Bible of God, the accuracy, the truthfulness of the Bible. And we also believe that is the Word of God,” not from men, but from God himself, the reason why we hold it to such high esteem in our lives.

The big challenge is not those three, the big is the fourth word I’m gonna give you which is the word interpretation. Interpretation means that God’s intended message in the Bible. When we interpret the Bible, it’s inspired, but we have to figure out what is God meaning? What is he asking? What is he telling us about him, about the world, about our situation about what to do? And we have to look at the intended message. Interpretation is a very, very difficult scenario. It’s a very, very difficult thing for most people. And we have a tendency to make all our mistakes in our interpretation.

For example, I have some friends that had some interpretations of different passages in the Bible. One of them said, “You know I think the Bible tells me that I can’t get sick.” Now in this COVID season, that’d be a really good thing to be able to claim. The problem was, he once got really, really sick, and it almost ruined his faith because he misread, he misinterpreted the Bible. I had another friend who had this claimant mentality when it came to money. He thought, “Well, I just need to ask God for money and ask him to be rich and I’ll become rich.” And he did for a while. In 2007 he lost his business. And all of a sudden, it just wrecked his faith.

I had another friend who just looks for formulas in the Bible. It’s kind of like that God is a drink machine, you put your quarters in and you automatically have to get your drink out. And God is kind of forced. And he used these formulas in his life, but then the formulas didn’t work. And then again, it wrecked his faith. All three of these guys did what I call proof-texting. They took a text out of its context, and they just decided, “You know what? I think I’ll just claim that for myself.”

Now, Craig has been giving you some Bible hacks. Let me give you one right now. And here’s the thing, Bible hack number one is this. A text without its context is a con. A text without its context is a con. All the things written in Scripture are written in the context of the writer, written in the context of the situation, written in the context of what God has asked us to do. And we got to look at the text inside the context. When we pull it out and say, “Well, I think it’s gonna mean this for me,” or, “I think it’s gonna apply to this situation or this desire, this need,” that is proof-texting, that’s a con. You can’t trust it. Just like my three friends, you can’t trust your proof-texting. You got to see it in the context of the way it was written.

Here’s the second hack I want to give you is that the best tool for interpreting Scripture is other Scripture. The best tool for interpreting Scripture is other Scripture. So, when you see a passage that’s confusing, one of the first things you’re going to do is look at another passage that talks about the same issue that is clear. And I can tell you this, that the confusing passage can’t go against what the clear passage says. We use Scripture to interpret Scripture. The Bible is a non-contradictory book. It doesn’t contradict itself. These things complement each other. And even though we may not understand everything, we know that it’s not this because it’s definitely this. So, we have to look at the Bible that way.

Let me just tell you some other things I see people do that’s dangerous as they open the Bible. One is that they take everything literally. They take everything literally. Everything is exactly what it says it is and they put it on kind of a modern American viewpoint to whatever is said in the Bible. The danger of that of taking everything literally is there’s so many different genres, there’s so many different situations, historical context that you can’t just do that. And think about the poems of the Old Testament. I mean, poetry, I mean, is it all literal even today? Poetry is not literal. And think about this, when Jesus says, “In order to follow me, hate your father and mother.” Are we supposed to take that literally? And so, we’ve got to be real careful about taking everything literally.

On the opposite side, we’ve got to be real careful about not taking anything literally. There are people out there who look at this book and say, “That’s a great book. I love the Bible. Now, it’s not true, but it’s got a lot of great moral stories in it.” And when they look at the Bible, they just assume that they’re looking for the moral of the story. But the problem with that is there’s a whole lot of historical events like this one, a whole lot of historical events in the Bible, including one called the resurrection of Jesus. I mean, do we take that literally? I hope we do that Jesus actually rose from the dead. Paul said if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, our faith is in vain. But some people take it and say, “Well, no.” I mean, that’s just all about being a person who loves to come back. I don’t think so. I think we have to take that one literally.

Now there’s a third group that simply dismiss the Bible. They just dismiss it. They say it’s not true. And the reason they say it’s not true is they say there’s no God, that we live in a closed, self-causation universe and all this stuff with the Bible is just people trying to figure out how to find purpose in the midst of all this crazy stuff that’s going on and there’s no purpose to life. Everything is kind of random. And it just is not a way to view the Bible. And I’m just going to tell you, we believe this is the inspired, authoritative Word of God. We choose to trust his Word in our lives. You see, the danger is the Bible is inspired but interpretation is not. So, we need to be wise and careful to have this tension between literal and not literal, between moral and things that are really true in the Bible. We have to wrestle with those things in our life.

So, how does all that apply to this story? Well, I’ll tell you, I believe this really happened, that this happened in history, that God intervene on behalf of his people at the walls of Jericho, and that they fell because God was involved in this. Now, there’s a number of reasons I believe that. Let’s just walk through some of them and hopefully, this will be helpful to you. The first one is this, the reason I believe it is because the writers of the Old Testament believed it. They believe that the wall actually fell. They did. In fact, if you go to the Psalm 77, or Psalm 136, or in Hosea Chapter 6, I believe it is verse 2…Hosea chapter 2: verse 6, it talks about the wall falling. So, they believed it was historical.

Also, the second reason is the writers of the New Testament and Jesus also thought this was an historical event. In fact, you can find several places where it talks about the conquest of Canaan. It talks about the walls. Hebrews chapter 10 verses 30, 31. 1 Corinthians 10: 2-6, 11. Romans chapter 15 verse 4. But for our sake, let’s just look at one of these passages in Hebrews chapter 11. It says this in verse 30, the writer writes this, “By faith, the walls of Jericho fell after the army had marched around them for seven days. By faith, the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.”

The writer of Hebrews is having a conversation with Christians who are going through a difficult time in life and he’s challenging them to endure, to persevere, to trust God. And so, what he does in this passage is he walks through all these heroes of the faith. It’s the faith Hall of Fame of Hebrews chapter 11. And so, it goes through Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and Joseph. He gets to Moses and he starts talking about Moses, how he was raised by Pharaoh. He escaped Egypt. The plagues and the Passover, he talks about those. And then he goes into things like the wall of Jericho and Rahab.

Now, think about this for a minute. He’s trying to encourage people who are going through real-life persecution and pain. I mean, to say this wasn’t a real event would be saying, “Why don’t we just add another story to it about this train that went up a mountain and said, ‘I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.'” That doesn’t make any sense. He’s using real history to help people in real life. They believe it’s true and so I believe it’s true. Why use pretense stories to motivate real lives?

Now, I want to get to the evidence, the archaeological evidence of this because that’s probably one of our best friends when it comes to this story that there’s great archaeological evidence that this actually happened. In order to do that, though, I want to give a context of a larger picture of the Israelites even being in Egypt. Just so you know, there’s some conjecture that maybe they weren’t even there. And one of the reasons they are challenged because there’s not really much direct evidence of them being there. Now I can tell you why, I can give you some reasons why it’s so hard.

First of all, they are a slave culture. And the Egyptians were in charge and you don’t really write about those you are enslaving. Second, this is written before, this is talked about or experience before the time of paper. Students, just so you know, this is before the time of Instagram. I mean, how could that be possible before Instagram and Twitter and things like that? They didn’t have paper, all they had was rock. They had rock. They had stones. They had monument. They had these things called steels; they’d write their stuff on there. And there’s conservatory of words, they had to make sure they said the things that were really important, and the Israelites just didn’t make that page

Also, in Egyptian culture, I’ll let you know that it wasn’t exactly their pattern to tell the exploits of their enemies. I mean, the idea that slaves would rise up, and defeat them, and defeat their army, that’s not something you want to put in stone for all eternity. On top of that, one of the other challenges is this, that the Israelites lived in the Nile Delta. They lived in what’s called an alluvial fan. It’s a triangle, if you will, in the delta of the Nile. And when they were there, they actually built, but they built with mudbrick and things like that. I don’t know if you know this, but water dissolves mud. And so, after 2000 years of erosion, there’s just simply not much left in that area. So, the direct evidence is difficult, but the indirect evidence is convincing.

For example, in the story, for this story, there was a leader named Moses. And Moses, that’s an Egyptian name. In fact, if you look to the priests of the Levites, you’ll see names like Moses, Hophni, Phinehas, Merari, Hur, Mushi, all the Levites had Egyptian names. Why would they do that? And even the things that they had, the censers, the little like things they used to burn coal, the censer, that’s an Egyptian word and all the garb that the priest wore, those were all Egyptian words off of this narrative. There are loaned words from Egyptian words all through this narrative much more than any other place in the Bible.

And then there’s an Egyptian flavor to the narrative. Ramses II was the king or the pharaoh close to this time. And boy, if you read Ramesses and you read the conquest, you’ll see very similar language between the two. But rather than just look at that, we’ve also got to see that archaeologist Kenneth Kitchens says this about this, he says this, “Any scholarly consensus,” because we’re not experts, “any scholarly consensus that the Israelites were never in Egypt or did not exit Egypt is palpable nonsense and needs to be scrapped.” So, archaeologist says it happens. Archaeologists said they were there, and it happened. So, we’re confident they were in Egypt but what about the wall?

Well, let’s go back to the passage in verses 24 and 25. It gives us some clues and things to look for. It says this, “Then they burned the whole city and everything in it.” So, they’ve already shouted, the walls have collapsed, and here’s what’s happening. They burned the city and everything in it and they put the silver, and gold, and articles of bronze and iron in the treasury of the Lord’s house. But Josh spared Rahab the prostitute with her family and all who belonged to her because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho, and she lives among the Israelites today.

So, here’s three things to look for in this passage. One, did the walls fall? Two, did the city burn? And three, is Rahab still alive? Do we know if Rahab actually escaped in this scenario? So, let’s just walk in and walk through archaeology again. And so here’s what we figure out. We figure out this that in 1907 and 1909, Germans came in and excavated Jericho. And what they found was a bunch of mudbrick that had fallen from the top of a wall. In the 1950s, Kathleen Kenyon came in and she began to study as well and did an extensive study. And it’s interesting. She looked at these mudbricks and other places, and she found the same evidence that this wall had been falling down had been broken down and fallen and something happened that the wall itself had been broken down, but she found even more than that.

This is the notes from her excavation report. It says this, “The destruction was complete,” so the walls fell. And she says this, “Walls and floors were blackened and reddened by fire. And every room was filled with fallen bricks, and timbers, and household utensils. And in most rooms, the fallen debris were heavily burned.” So, the walls fell, and the city was burned. It says, “There have been four major digs. All of them had found the same evidence of the walls falling and the city being burned with fire.” But what about Rahab? Well, the good news is in this passage, it says right in verse 25 that she lives among the Israelites to this day, which means if you don’t believe me just go ask her. She’s right there. So, they could just ask her in her time. And now we can’t ask her. And this is really troubling because in chapter 2 verse 15 it says that her house was on the wall of Jericho. And if the wall fell, how could the house survive? Well, we go back to archaeology, and it finds that there was one small portion of the wall on the north side that did not fall. And connected to the wall you know what it was? There were several small houses connected to the wall.

Could it be that God intervened and saved the family of Rahab? Because archaeology says it is definitely possible. Even a better example or a better reason to believe is in Matthew chapter 1 in the genealogy of Jesus, we find a whole bunch of people and one of the names we find is the name Rahab who helped the spies. Listen, we can believe that. He says, “Just ask her to this day.” Archaeology shows us it’s true. And Jesus is in my family line, in my family tree. How did God do it, though? I mean, did he use an earthquake? Sometimes God does use natural forces for spiritual purposes.

So, there are three earthquakes that have happened in that area over history that we know about. One was in 1570 BC, which is close to this time. One was in 1267 AD. And one was just back in 1927. And it’s interesting because what happened with the earthquake…and if it was an earthquake, it’s really unusual for it to break down part of the wall but not another part. But if it was an earthquake, it’s interesting, what they found in the last two times is that there were cliffs on the north side of town a little farther up north that fell into the Jordan River and stopped the Jordan River from flowing for a period of time. Now does that sound familiar to anyone? Listen, the walls have fallen, the water has stopped, the city was burned, Rahab was spared. Is that coincidence or is it providence? I think it’s providence. I think God actually did this. This is real.

I mean, there’s so many lessons to learn from this passage that God’s ways are higher than our ways. That the supernatural doesn’t have to submit to science. That God is a God of second chances. That God keeps his promises. That the best display of our faith is in our obedience. All those things are good, but I think the biggest lesson from this is that God is a God who intervenes. God intervened on behalf of his people in the time of Jericho and the wall, so thits greatest intervention happened 2000 years ago when he came, Jesus came, and he died on the cross for you and me. And he tore down a different kind of wall, the wall of separation of our sin from us and God. He died on the cross and rose from the dead.

Today, God is still tearing down walls and he’s using churches like you, Mission Hills, to help people need to know and follow Jesus, to be ambassadors, to be bridge builders, to be peacemakers, and to take the Gospel to the people around us who need it so desperately and tear down a wall of sin between us and God. Listen, when it comes to miracles, when it comes to God’s intervention, there’s only two prerequisites for a miracle. Number one, God, and number two, a mess. I don’t know about you, but spiritually I was a mess when I began to learn about what it meant to follow Jesus to say yes to him. And I recognize what he had done for me on the cross, how he had died for my sin to bridge the gap between me and God. I spent my whole life trying to earn my way to God but the story of Jesus says God’s love, and mercy, and grace moved his way to us in the person of Jesus and said, “If you trust what I did for your sin that I paid for your sin, you can have eternal life with me as well.” God wants to perform a miracle in your life. The same way he did with mine, the same way he did in all these years with people who have tried to figure out what it means to follow Jesus. I encourage you to say yes to Jesus, to trust him because God still intervenes today.

Will you pray with me? Father in heaven, thank you for your grace and kindness to us in Christ. We read these stories in the Old Testament and we wonder did that really happen? But we know archaeology is our friend in this, we know that the Bible is our friend in this. We believe this is the inspired, inerrant, authoritative Word of God and we choose to trust what you say, even when we have questions in our heart. And help us not to be the kind of people that just question things but to understand why. Help us submit and apply as we apply your Word to our lives. And help us to begin by saying, “Yes, Jesus. Yes, I realize you died on the cross for me and yes, I need to ask you to be the Savior of my life. Intervene for me. Do a miracle in my life. And help me to follow you in all the days of my life. And I pray in Jesus’s name. Amen.

JERICHO AND THE PROBLEM OF VIOLENCE

SCOTT RIDOUT

JULY

25/26

Joshua 6:17-21

When reading a Bible story where God’s actions seem shocking, it is natural to question his motives and try to interpret it as we understand things today. Scott Ridout gives us perspective to view stories through an eternal context.

SERMON TRANSCRIPT

Craig: Hey church, it’s me again, coming to you from quarantine here in my home as I recover from my very mild case of COVID-19, presumably, since I’m still waiting on my test results. But I wanted to introduce our guest speaker for this weekend, Scott Ridout is the President of Converge Worldwide, that is the movement or association of churches that Mission Hills belongs to. He’s a great man of God. He’s a great communicator of God’s Word. And I’m very excited for him to be bringing part two of his message on the fall of Jericho found in the Book of Joshua. So, Scott, take it away.

Scott: Well, thank you, Craig. It’s great to be with you again. So thankful for the opportunity to walk through God’s Word with you as well. Now we’ve been in a series called, “Wait…What?” And we’re talking about the challenging and often confusing passages that the Bible contains, passages that make us say, okay, did God really say that? Is that really what I’m supposed to do? Did that really happen? And we just have a pause in our hearts and what we’re trying to do is say, we can trust God’s Word. We can find the truth of God in this Bible. We can have courage for life. And we’re trying to learn some practical principles of how to address the Bible in our own lives, in our own personal study as we live on mission with God.

Well, Joshua chapter 6, and the stories before that have all sorts of “wait, what?” kind of moments in them. The Red Sea parting and the manna being given down from heaven while they’re wandering for 40 years, their clothes not wearing out, the River Jordan stopping its flow so that they can get across. And even last week, the walls of Jericho come tumbling down. All these are kind of “wait, what?” moments where God intervened. What we’re figuring out is just that, that God intervenes in history. He intervened back then; he still intervenes today in our lives.

The last time we looked at the passage, we were looking from a historical perspective. But this time, I wanna look at the same passage and just a different part of it, same passage from a moral one, because I think the moral questions, what happens in this story are actually bigger questions for us today. Things we need to wrestle to the ground and figure out and learn to trust God with. So do me a favor, turn your Bibles to Joshua chapter 6. And we’ll start in verse 17. Now, Joshua gets instructions from God and he shares them with the people. He says this, “The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the Lord.” circle that word “devoted” in your Bible as we’re gonna come back to that. Devoted to the Lord. “Only Rahab the prostitute and all who were with her in her house shall be spared because she hid the spies we sent. But keep away from the devoted things so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them, otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble to it. All the silver and gold and articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the Lord and must go into his treasury.”

Let’s go back to that phrase, “devoted to the Lord.” This is the idea that God is trying to teach a new culture, a new thing of putting God first. So, all through the law of the Old Testament, we see God helping them to put God first in their offerings, in the first fruits of their crops, the firstborn of their animals and the firstborn child, the firstborn son was dedicated to the Lord. The reason they’re putting God first is to put God first, to make him first in your life. Whatever’s number one in your life controls you and God wants to be number one in their lives. So, it makes sense that the first time they come into this new area, that the first city is also devoted to the Lord. It just makes sense that that would happen.

Now, the word here is the word “haram.” We’ll talk about that a little bit more, but we’re supposed to take nothing from it. So individually, they’re not supposed to take anything, the passage says. And because it’ll not just have an impact on them, but it’ll have an impact on everybody else. And he talks about Rahab and make sure she gets out because he made a promise and God is a promise keeper in what he does. Let’s continue to read in verses 20. It says this. “So, when the trumpets sounded, the army shouted and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed.” This is on the seventh day as six days of one time around, the seventh day seven times around trumpets and shouting.

It says, “So everyone charged straight in and they took the city and they devoted…” There’s a word again. “They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it, men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep, and donkeys.” We read this passage and as we read it, we realize that they didn’t just wipe out everything, they wiped out everyone, donkeys, sheep, cattle, men, women, young and old. It turns out that word “haram,” it means to dedicate to the Lord, to devote to the Lord, but devoting to the Lord and destroying for the Lord seem to mean the same thing.

This is our “wait, what?” kind of moment. It heightens our sensitivities; it makes the hair stand up on the back of our necks. And it’s like, okay, what is God doing here? I mean, there’s so many questions in this passage. Did this really happen? I mean, I know it’s war, but weren’t there some innocent bystanders there? Weren’t they there? I mean, does God sanction violence? Does God sanction ethnic cleansing or genocide? And if he did back then, does he still do it today? And this is an amazingly sensitive topic.

And so just let me just begin by saying, Craig, thank you so much for giving this one to me. I really appreciate you just giving me this softball to hit out of the park with. Thanks so much. I’ll pay you back sometime soon. You see, no matter what happens, no matter what understanding we gain, no matter what reason we give, this is unsettling. No matter what we talk about regarding whatever reason, it’s gonna be emotionally unsatisfying, because people seem to have lost their lives. It’s so sensitive that I’ve just felt that as I wanted to prepare this, I just wanna take an extra moment and pray for us as we begin. So would you pray with me?

Father in heaven, I read passages like this and it troubles my heart because I know that you say in your Word that every person is made in your image, that they were valuable to you and so I read passages like this and it just, it’s hard for me. But I know who you are God. You are a Holy God, but you’re also a loving God. You’re patient and kind and you’re also just, and so I just need to figure this out. All of us need to figure this out today. And we wanna see you for who you really are. We wanna recognize your leadership in our lives. And we wanna put you first the same way you were teaching the Israelites to put you first back in their day. So, God, help us as we walked through. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

So, let’s roll up our sleeves and let’s get going. And what I wanna do is I’m gonna give you four approaches to the Bible and then another angle at this passage that may help us and give us some more insight in the context of what’s happening here. So, let me just talk about those approaches and you can write these down if you want to. The first approach to the Bible is to dismiss. Dismiss. Now, this is the approach taken by atheists. I mentioned them last time I talked with you that atheists do not believe that the Bible is true. They do not believe that God exists. And so they believe that God is a social construct created by people to explain and to excuse their bad behavior, that they’re looking for to find purpose in life, that there’s a randomness of the universe and we’re just looking for purpose, and so we make this social construct of God. We believe that…they believe that the Bible is actually just a horrible book of a collection of outdated, morally offensive, culturally irrelevant stories to excuse our behavior. That God is a moral monster as Richard Dawkins says. He’s a moral monster that just kinds of controls people and is a construct of human life.

Now, that is a great conversation. That is a really interesting conversation. I would love to spend a lot of time on that, but my job today is to talk to people who are in church and Christians about how we should approach it. So, I wanna hand that one back off to Craig. Craig, that one’s yours. You can just take care of that one at some other time. You’re welcome for the softball. I’m gonna take the second approach though. The second approach is not to dismiss, but to deny. What we’re seeing today in a lot of churches that people are looking at the Old Testament and the New Testament and saying, well, I’m not sure the Old is applicable. I’m not sure it is true as the New, because the New has replaced the Old. And so they take this view that the God of the Old Testament is they look and they hear the stories like this one, they say, well, my God would never do that. My God would never act that way. My God certainly wouldn’t. And so they say, well, that’s because that’s just a human interpretation, a human construct that people have.

This concept here is the divine warrior concept. And they would say the divine warrior is just something in the Old Testament, not the New, and it’s a human projection on God. Now, I’m gonna challenge that a little bit because people of the New Testament didn’t actually say it was not true. Let me just talk about this for a minute. Here’s the divine warrior we see in Joshua chapter 5, verses 13-15. We see that in this story. Here it is. It says, “Now, when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand.” So, this is a warrior of some sort.

“Joshua went up to him and asked, ‘Are you for us or for our enemies?’ ‘Neither,’ he replied. ‘But as the commander of the army of the Lord, I have now come.’ And then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence and asked him what message does the Lord have for his servant. And the commander of the Lord’s army replied, ‘Take off your sandals for the place where you’re standing is holy.’ And Joshua did so.”

That picture of taking off your sandals should, for those of you who know the story, should reflect back to Exodus chapter 3, verse 5 when Moses is standing before this burning bush and he’s interested because the bush is not being consumed and he walks up to it and a voice comes and says, “Take off your sandals because you’re standing on holy ground.” And it was God speaking to Moses. And Joshua recognizes the moment, this is God speaking to Joshua, but He’s got a sword in his hand. He is the divine warrior who’s gonna intercede on behalf of the people of God.

Just so you know of the 39 books of the Old Testament, 36 of them have God as divine warrior. All the books except for Ruth, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs have a picture of God going to battle for his people on behalf of the ones that follow him. And to deny this is to question the Old Testament authority, to question its inspiration, to question its inerrancy. And we said last week, we’re not gonna do that. We’re gonna trust what God has said.

Now, there’s a couple problems with that view of denying that the first is this, that Jesus and the writers of the New Testament have an extremely high regard for the Old Testament. They don’t say it’s one or the other. They don’t say one’s a replacement for the other. Jesus looks back and he quotes Old Testament over and over and over again. And so, did the writers of the New Testament. They have a very high regard. Rather than pushing it off, they actually reinforce the view that is the inspired Word of God.

And second is Jesus and the writers in the New Testament also have a picture of divine warrior in the New Testament. I mean, think about all the times that Jesus talks about judgment, the sheep and the goats and things like that. Think about the other writers that talk about the end times and the judgment. Think about the Book of revelation. And you realize that the divine warrior of the Old Testament is the same divine warrior of the New, which means to deny the Old Testament and the truth and its portrayal of God is to deny the New Testament as well. And we just simply won’t do that. The Bible is the inerrant inspired authoritative Word of God for all of us.

And so when we can’t explain something, we don’t give up our convictions to comfort our emotions. We just don’t do that. There’s probably an answer. We just don’t know it yet. And honestly, you may not even know it until we get to heaven, but we choose to trust that this is God’s Word. So we could dismiss it, we could deny it. The third approach is this, to alleviate it, to alleviate it. To look at it in such a way where we alleviate some of the pain, some of the stress, some of the concern by understanding all the dynamics working. And some of these things are good and some are not so good. So one of the things that people do is they say, well, the problem here is the language. It’s the translation.

And for example, the word “haram,” the word for devote to the Lord is also used elsewhere to mean to ban. To ban. And so maybe they’re not actually killing these people. Maybe they’re kicking them out. The problem is how do, haram, you ban them with a sword? I think this is actually talking about taking their lives. Then there’s battle hyperbole. All through the Old Testament, there’s battle hyperbole. They’re exaggerating what happens and people say, well, maybe they’re exaggerating this as well.

I mean, you’ve had conversations right where you’ve used hyperbole. It means to exaggerate. So have you ever had an idea blow up in your face? That’s hyperbole. Have you ever watched a sports event and one team demolished the other? Did they really destroy them? Do they really demolish them? Maybe some of that is going on. And some of it is going on. I just don’t think that’s what’s happening in this passage. Then there’s the angle of misunderstood history. Could it be that these people were truly evil, that they were actually against God and that this is just God waiting for a period of time to give them the destruction of the justice that they need?

I think about the groups like the Ninevites or the Philistines or the Assyrians. I mean, all through history, the Assyrians were just the worst when it came to the treatment of other people. You know, in this story, they’re in Canaan and the Canaanites had false gods and many of them actually sacrificed their children to the gods. Could God just be saying, no, I’m gonna do something about that with the people of Israel? Some people know that during this time that Egypt still has some power in this area. And they believe that they had these vassal kings in all the city-states in all the fortified cities in Israel. And so maybe God was just using the people of God to punish the Pharaoh in Egypt 40 years after they got out of the desert. In that case, the list that happens in Joshua chapter 12 is the list of tyrants who served a Pharaoh who believed he was God.

There is also an alleviate category, this overdue justice idea. Overdue justice, that God has indeed been patient, and it’s just the time has come. This is probably happening in this passage. If you look at Genesis chapter 15 verse 16, God has talked to Abraham about 400 years of slavery and how he’s gonna actually punish the people of that country for the slavery. But then he says this in verse 16, “In the fourth generation, your descendants will come back here,” talking about this area, “for the sin of the Amorites,” which Jericho is part of that. “The sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”

Now think about this for a minute, 400 years earlier, 500 years earlier, God says, “Listen Abraham, what’s gonna happen is you’re gonna go off. You’re gonna come back and I’m gonna use you as a tool because the sin of the Amorites hasn’t come to completion, that they’re not to the place where I’m ready to punish them yet.” I mean, think about Nineveh in this context. And Jonah goes and they repent, but these people didn’t repent. And so is this God being patient rather than God being impatient during this time?

All through the Old Testament, another alleviation angle is this, the cooperate and be spared angle. Now, we do see this in this passage, cooperate and be spared all through the Book of Joshua. We see the Gibeonites who were spared because they cooperate. Rahab and her family cooperate as well. Sihon and Og do not cooperate, the kings on the other side of the Jordan. And so, but they’re given a chance to cooperate. Maybe just maybe God does give people a chance to cooperate. They just choose not to. They just choose not to switch sides. Again, Rahab did.

And think about this in Deuteronomy chapter 31 verse 12, there’s a conversation between God and his people talking about how they’re gonna worship him, that every seven years they’re gonna gather together and celebrate God’s goodness to them. And God talks about the people who are gonna be at the celebration. He talks about the men, the women, the children, and he talks about the foreigners. The foreigners are gonna be there. And he wants them to know the Word of God and to live the Word of God and to be encouraged by the Word of God.

Well, if this was ethnic cleansing, if this was genocide, why would foreigners be included in the celebration of God’s goodness? The cooperate and be spared is actually a really good angle, really thinking through some of these things. But let’s just admit that you and I have a faulty 2020 filter, that’s one way we call it. A faulty 2020 filter, that we choose to look at situations that happen 3,500 years ago through a lens that has a 2020 expectation, a 2020 understanding. We just can’t do that. First of all, Israel in this time is a theocracy. You can’t separate religion from politics in a theocracy. They’re the same thing. If you follow God, you follow God. And yet in our time we have, if we had this separation of church and state, and so we see politics in one angle, we see our faith in a different angle. The two don’t have to be connected to each other.

But to be an Israelite was to follow God back then. And to not follow God and be an Israelite, it actually made everyone in trouble as we’ll see in a future story and Achan and that place called Ai. And so it’s a very, very different thing. And even the day that we live in, I mean, think about all the things that we have here in the United States that people don’t have around the world. There are people in third world countries who would read this story and they’d say, well, that’s kind of my experience. Back in the time of Jesus, they didn’t have a problem with this because they look back and say, well, that’s kinda my experience. I mean, because every day was a day he was challenged. They had war, they had pestilence, they had disease, they had weather, they had wild animals. Every day, they took risks and every decision had ramifications. And we live in this comfortable place in our world that’s just not that way for us.

We have a forgetfulness of a modern comfort and we just assume in our arrogance that our way is the right way, that our understanding is the best understanding. And we just don’t have the context. And this faulty 2020 context is just a problem for all of us today. So people dismiss and they deny and they alleviate. The fourth option is to embrace. And just let me tell you, I’m gonna challenge some of our thinking in this moment. This is gonna be really, really hard for some of us because we have embracing, we also have to embrace the pain of some realities that we just have to grapple with, we have to grapple with.

I mean, as we look at this and think about these kinds of things, we have to embrace the fact that we may not know what God knows, that God’s ways are higher than our way. So, there’s this guy named Job, there’s a whole book about him in the Old Testament. And Job has the amazing family, he’s wealthy, he’s healthy, he’s all these sort of things. And he loses it all. He loses his family. He loses his health. He loses as wealth. His wife tells him to curse God and die. His friends ask him about the sin in his life. And it finally gets to the place where he’s just tired and he begins to question God. “God, why? Why did you do this?” He questions God’s authority, he questions God’s wisdom, he questions God’s goodness.

And God actually responds in the Book in Job chapter 38 verse 2. And this is the response of God. It says this, he’s talking to Job. And he says, “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge.” I can tell that God is not happy with Job right now. “Brace yourself like a man,” he says. “I will question you and you answer me. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me if you understand. Job was questioning God and why you let this happen and aren’t you good and all these sort of things. And God says, okay, let’s just back up for a minute. Let me ask you a question. First question, where were you when I laid the foundations of the world? Don’t you realize that I have a plan? Don’t you realize that you’re just a little speck on the timeline? Your life is just there and you’re trying to ask me questions about the long span things. He’s kinda, how dare you. And for the next two chapters, he just goes after Job, where were you when I did this, where were you when I did that? Where were you when I did this? He’s saying, “You have no right to question me. You have no right to push back on the things that I’m doing.”

In Isaiah chapter 45 verses 9 and 10, Isaiah writes it this way. He says, “The clay doesn’t ask the potter, what are you doing? Why are you making me this way?” You just don’t do that with God. So here’s in a loving way, here’s the hard conversation. God doesn’t owe us an explanation. God doesn’t owe us an answer. God is in charge of all things. And Job says, “The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

And there’s some things that just because we don’t have an explanation for, just because we don’t understand it, we can’t just curse God and die. We can’t just stop and say, well, that’s it. That’s the straw that broke the camel’s back. That’s the one thing. We can’t do that. Because questioning the God who’s been in the past, who’ll be in the future, who’s in the present, the God who is… he’s all loving, he’s all powerful, he is all-knowing, to question him with our knowledge and our wisdom just doesn’t make any sense.

There’s an arrogance that comes with sin in our lives that we think we have the right to question God. Remember, this is the embracing of the hard things that we have to do in our lives. We can’t understand it, so it can’t be right. We can’t explain it, so it must not be true. That’s the arrogance of us mortal humans trying to explain God. And it just doesn’t work for us. God says, you are so limited. I can’t possibly tell you. Will you just trust me? Will you just trust me? In the end, it’ll make sense but for now, I just want you to trust, even though it doesn’t make sense, even though you can’t explain it, will you trust me in this season?

By not trusting him, we in a sense are saying, well, I know better than God. I know better than God means I’m playing God. And that is a very dangerous game to play. Another piece of embracing is learning what the Bible teaches about innocence because we say what about the innocent bystanders? Well, they’re just innocent. The Bible says, well, here’s the thing, we’re in a world tainted with sin.

In Romans chapter 3 verse 23, it says that, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Now there are no innocent. It goes in Roman chapter 3 verse 10. It says, “There’s none righteous, not even one, none who seek after God, and just a whole list of challenges, of being, living in sin, and living in a way that dishonors God. In Ephesians chapter 2, there’s a picture of us painted in the first few verses, that says, ”You were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly lived in the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air. The spirit now working in the sons of disobedience and it causes objects of his wrath.” But verse 4 says, “But God, because of his love and mercy and grace made us alive in Christ.” It says, “You were dead, but God made you alive in Christ.”

Listen, we’ve got to embrace the hard teachings of Scripture. You’re like, thanks, God. This is like a feel-good weekend. I feel so good about what’s happening here. I’m like, no, no, no, no, no, no, listen, listen, God loves you. He’s in charge. He just doesn’t owe you. He doesn’t owe me an explanation. But one day, we’ll get in heaven and we’ll be able to ask him all the questions we want. Until now what he wants, what he wants is trust. Even when we don’t understand, even when we don’t agree, even when we can’t grasp, even we can’t explain, will we trust God anyway, the God who sent his one and only Son to die for us on the cross. We need to be grateful and not gripe over what we don’t understand.

Alright, let me step out of those four. We’ve got dismiss, deny, alleviate, embrace. And let me just go one more angle. I think you’re gonna like this one because it’s a bigger picture angle. I learned this from a guy named Tremper Longman. He’s got a five-fold plan of God. And the idea behind this is this, that God uses Old Testament, Israel to paint a physical picture of a spiritual reality. God uses Old Testament Israel to paint a physical picture of a spiritual reality. And he talks about this five-fold plan in the Bible.

The Bible starts off with man and woman sinning against God. And the rest of the Bible is about the redemption plan of God and how he works it out. And the first step in that redemption story is this that God fights, that God fights against the flesh and blood enemies of Israel. God fights for them against the flesh and blood enemies of Israel. And it’s really interesting because if you look at the Old Testament, what you can see is this connection between warfare and worship.

Let me just explain some of this. So before they go into battle, the people of Israel are being prepared. As they cross the Jordan River, it tells them to consecrate themselves and then they take Passover and then they circumcise the men. They’re purifying and preparing themselves for battle. And then as the battle goes out, the Ark of the Covenant goes before the people of God and it’s God going to battle for them. It’s all about God’s presence. That’s worship. I mean, even the Psalms. One-third of the Psalms are actually battle hymns. They’re things that they would sing, things they would pray as they walked into battle. Worship and war were connected in the Old Testament. That’s how we get famous verses like, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” Psalm 20 verse 7. I mean, it says, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord.” Zechariah 4:6. It’s those kinds of passages that show God is going to battle and worshiping God.

The second stage is this, that God fought against the enemies. And now God fights against Israel. He fights against Israel. And it was Israel, once they get into the land, they don’t honor him they don’t obey him. And so we find story after story where God has to discipline his children, God has to purify them. God has to sanctify them. God has to help them see that he is God and they’re not. In the rest of the Old Testament, we see them not recognizing God for who he is and honoring him the way that he’s supposed to be honored.

The story right after this story of Jericho is a story of a place called Ai. I say it that way because it’s spelled A-I. It’s actually I. It’s Ai and it’s a guy named Achan who took some of the stuff there in Jericho, some of the things devoted to the Lord. As a result, God punished the entire people. And so here’s God’s punishing Israel for the sin of one person. And so we see God fighting Israel to purify them, to sanctify them, to prepare them to serve God for all eternity.

The last part of the Old Testament is the third phase. In the third phase, God speaks of the future coming…of his future coming to fight Israel’s oppressors, the real oppressors. And so we have books like Daniel and Malachi and Zechariah who loo to this future coming King who’s gonna rescue them from their oppressors. And they’re longing for this time after they’ve been disciplined themselves and their enemies have been conquered. They’re longing for this time for God to come back and rescue them. Which gets us to the fourth place, which is the coming of Jesus, the coming of Jesus to fight the spiritual enemies of God. But this is a twist. This is a twist because they all thought that God was coming back to fight their physical enemies.

And what we see is a switch from the Old Testament to the New that rather than having physical enemies, they have spiritual enemies. Rather than having physical sanctifying efforts, they have spiritual sanctifying, growth efforts, reasons, and ways to grow. I mean, Jesus is fighting on behalf of them. He’s not Roman rule he’s worried about, it’s Satan’s rule he’s worried about it. It’s not the law and the observations of the Old Testament. It’s the actual worship of God in our hearts. And the writers in the New Testament talk about the spiritual battles that are going on for people’s souls and not just the physical battles. So in the New Testament, our battle gear is not war, it’s worship. It switches, it’s just the…it’s worshiping God, trusting God, living for God in this season. It’s evangelism, not war.

In the last phase, the last phase is the great phase we’re all looking forward to, it’s when Jesus wins the final battle and establishes his rule and reign for all eternity. So the New Testament is not a correction of the Old Testament. The New Testament is the progression from the Old Testament, from physical to spiritual, from physical enemies to spiritual enemies, from physical preparations to spiritual preparations, looking for and longing for the true final coming of Jesus when he comes back and rescues us from the world of sin.

And that’s a great picture. It’s a great picture of this passage. And I like it because it reminds us, listen, Old Testament, you can’t just look at it alone. You’ve gotta look at it in the context of the whole. You’ve gotta see everything that’s happening here because context is king. The physical is a picture of the spiritual. So how do we land this conversation? What do we do this? Well, let me go new school. Let me go to the New Testament real quick and look at what Jesus does in this, and I think this is really gonna help you as we think through, how do I look at the Old Testament now?

So in Luke chapter 13 verse 1, it says this. “Now there were some present at the time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.” So what’s happening here is there some Galileans who have been saying stop giving tribute to Caesar. Don’t trust him. And Pontius Pilate is bent. And he hears about these Galileans coming to the Passover and making sacrifices at the temple. And he sends his guards out to them and he kills them right there as they’re making their sacrifices so that their blood is mixed with the blood of their sacrifices.

And Jesus is asked about this contemporary event. Can you believe that? I mean, I cannot believe. What do you think about this? And they want this commentary on CNN or MSNBC or whatever. They just want this commentary over and over about the same thing over and over. But Jesus doesn’t even go there. Jesus turns the conversation on its head and he says this. He says this, “Jesus answered, ‘Do you think that the Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans that suffered this way? I tell you no, but unless you repent, you too will perish.'” He says, Listen, do you think this happened to them because they’re worst people? Do you think this happened to them because of something that they’ve done? Listen, this is an important conversation because but it’s not about them, it’s about you. They’re concerned about them, their eternity, they know exactly where they’re at, but what about you? What if something like that were to happen to you? What would you… Are you prepared?

It goes on, it says in verse 4, “Or those eighteen who died when the Tower of Siloam fell on them, do you think that they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you no, but unless you repent, you too will all perish.” He says that it doesn’t matter if it was retribution for your actions. It doesn’t matter if it’s an accident, a tower falling because of gravity. Listen, all those things happen in a fallen world. All those things happen. Difficult things happen. Hard things happen. COVID happens. The question isn’t why, the question is what? It’s not, why is this happening? It’s what. God, what do you want me to do this? What do you wanna teach me with this?

Could it be that we’re so caught up in what happened 3,500 years ago? Are we so caught up in that because we don’t wanna actually look at our own lives and say, well, I don’t know where they were in a God, but where am I with God? Where am I in the light of eternity? What do I believe about Jesus? What do I believe about God? What’s happening with me?

Could be where we just kind of throw the whole conversation over here because we’re in denial ourselves and say, I don’t wanna deal with my own issues. I don’t wanna deal with my own mess. I don’t wanna deal with my own need. Now, there’s good news in this, because if you’re one of those people that’s saying I’m not ready, I’m not ready to say yes to Jesus. I just want you to know there’s another passage that’s really great, it’s 2 Peter chapter 3 verse 9, it says this, And people were asking, when is the end gonna come? And why is it taking so long?’ And here’s what Jesus or the writer says. Peter says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise.” His promise of stage five, coming back and reigning in our lives. “As some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you. Listen, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

What it says here is that God is giving every one of us, me, you, everybody giving all of us time to ask the question, where am I with God? Whether it’s the tower of Siloam, whether it’s the Jericho walls, whether it’s the Galilean sacrifice, where am I in my walk with God? Where am I in my situation? Do I know him? Do I recognize that Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sins? Do I recognize what Jesus said himself in John 14:6, that, “I am the way, the truth, and the life and no one comes to the Father except through me.” Do you recognize the sacrifice that God made for us that instead of us having to work our way to God, God, by his love and mercy and grace worked his way to us in the person of Jesus, that Jesus died on the cross for your sin and for mine? And are we willing to trust him for our salvation?

Are we willing to say “Yes, Jesus, I know I’m a mess. I know I’ve sinned and I need a Savior.” Will we say yes to Jesus? I hope you will. I hope you’ll say yes and I hope you’ll let the church know when you do say yes, but it’s been a privilege to be with you these last few weeks. And I just wanna pray with you as we close. Listen, God’s Word is inspired. It is inerrant, it is authoritative. It’s worth the read, read this book and live it out in your lives and live on mission with God. He is faithful. He says who he says he is and he can do what he says he can do.

Will you pray with me? Father in heaven, thank you so much for your grace and kindness and mercy. And I know this passage was hard. It’s hard for people to understand, but the idea that you and I, that we would understand, that we would understand before God explained it to us. I mean, God, you’re bigger than our moment, you’re bigger than our lives, you’re bigger than our generation, you’re bigger than our century, you’re bigger than our millennia. You know better and I just, I choose to trust you even when I don’t understand because a faith that can’t be tested, can’t be trusted. And God, I trust you. My faith is in your word, my faith is in your character, my faith is in your Son Jesus, who died on the cross for my sins. And I pray these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.

The Day the Sun Stood Still

CRAIG SMITH | read his bio

AUGUST

1/2

Joshua 10:1-14

Sometimes we will have to step forward in faith and fight to take possession of God’s promises. God also values our promises because it is an example of our character.

SERMON TRANSCRIPT

Craig: One of the things my Bible says is that we can know our God is great, and that he is in control because he’s always working in the midst of everything. And so in fact, we found in the Book of Romans, it says that God is working in the midst of all things, bringing good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose. And we know one of the things that God has been doing in the midst of this pandemic, he’s been allowing us to reach a whole lot of people who would not otherwise have been able to reach and we are so looking forward to being able to meet some of you in person for the first time when we reopen August 29th and 30th here at the Littleton campus. But in the meantime, we really wanna continue reaching people that we wouldn’t otherwise reach. And so, it might be that you’re watching this right now and you’re by yourself, I encourage you to do something beyond mission with Jesus, right? Now, take this moment, and your online hosts will make it easy, they’ll give you a link you can share, but why don’t you text somebody and say, “Hey, I’m watching the service. I think it’s gonna be really powerful. Why don’t you join me?” Or maybe there’s somebody in the house with you that isn’t watching, and you can invite them to be part of it. Just invite somebody else to join you right now for this message because I really believe that God has a powerful word for all of us. And for some of the people that he has a powerful word for, they’re not tuned in yet, but you could be part of helping them be here and to listen to this message right now. So, why don’t you go ahead and do that?

I have been trying to figure out what to do to wrap up this series, this “Wait… What?” series where we take a look at some of those parts of the Bible that even as believers, sometimes when we’re read along, we’re like, “Whoa. Wait… What? Did that really happen? How am I supposed to think about that?” And I got so many great options… As I was preparing for this message, one of things that I did was I just kind of went on a couple different forums and I said, “Hey, what are your favorite ‘Wait… What?’ moments from the Bible?” And there was one story in particular that came up every single time I asked that question, every single time. And it’s interesting that it’s in the same book that our friend Scott Rideout was preaching from over the last couple of weeks from the Book of Joshua, so I thought, maybe that’s a divinely super intended direction, right? So, we’re gonna be in the Book of Joshua today for another one of those “Wait… What?” moments. Why don’t you go ahead and turn with me to Joshua chapter 10. And let me set the story up just a little bit. We need to go back. There’s one important thing that you need to know before we get into the story. And that is here is kind of a quick sketch of the history of all these things.

Scott did some of this over the last couple of weeks and did a great job looking at the Israelites as they attempted to capture the city of Jericho. The reason they were capturing the city of Jericho was because they were taking possession of the Promised Land. So, Israel had been enslaved in Egypt for a very, very long time. God had come through the person of Moses and done all kinds of miracles, parted the Red Sea, the Israelites escaped. And now, they got into the edge of the Promised Land. And they’re in the process of taking possession of the Promised Land. And by the way, just kind of as a bonus truth, I think it’s important to understand, sometimes we have to fight to take possession of God’s promises. See, the Promised Land wasn’t uninhabited. It wasn’t just a vast wasteland with nobody in it. There were other peoples. There were enemies of God’s people that were in there. And the Israelites had to fight against those enemies to take possession of the Promised Land, okay?

And sometimes that’s just the way it works. Sometimes we have to fight to take possession of God’s promises. Now, don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying something I was told as a kid, which is that the Lord helps those who help themselves. That’s not what I’m saying, okay? I’m not saying that taking hold of God’s promises depends upon us. But sometimes God requires us to take steps forward in faith before we get to those promises that he’s laid in front of us. It reminds me a little bit when my kids were little and they were…I mean really super little and they were just beginning to learn to walk. They would get to that stage where they were just standing on their feet and we’d hold them and then maybe they’d stand up at the edge of the couch. But to get them to take their first steps, what Coletta and I had to do is we would stay just a couple of steps away from them, and we’d hold out something that we knew they wanted, right? Something they were really excited about. And because of that, they would take that first faltering step forward. And of course, we were right there ready to pick them up if they fell down, okay? They weren’t on their own. But to get that thing we were holding out, they had to take those steps forward. And that’s what I’m talking about, okay? Sometimes we have to fight to take possession of God’s promises, and that’s what the Israelites are doing, okay? They’re fighting, but they’re not fighting alone. God is with them. And God is with them every step of the way. And he’s ready to catch them when they fall, okay? God is in this, but he’s requiring them to take their steps forward.

Now, in the process of doing this, they’re winning all of these battles and they’re getting kind of a reputation. People in the Promised Land are beginning to go, “What’s up with these people? How are they so powerful? They’re not even that, like, big a tribe? How on earth are they winning all of these battles?” They were seeing that something supernatural was happening. And there was one particular group, and you can read about this in Joshua 9, we’re not gonna read the whole story today. There’s just one part I wanna keep in your mind because it’ll make a difference as we look at the rest of Joshua 10. There was one city, in particular, the city of Gibeon, that saw what was happening. And they went, “Man, we got to do something.” And so, they decided basically to trick the Israelites into an alliance, to trick them into a treaty, okay? And so, they sent some emissaries, they sent some ambassadors to go to Joshua and to say, “Hey, basically, hey, we’re from a very far away city. We’re nowhere near here, right? We’re so, so far away. But we’ve heard about your reputation. We’ve heard about what the Lord did for you. And so, we would love for you to enter into a treaty with us. It’s probably not gonna cost you anything, you probably never have to do anything about it because we’re so far away.” And of course, the Israelites were like, “How do we know you’re far away? How do we know you’re not from some city real near us?” And the Gibeons said…the Gibeonites, I guess, had sort of thought about that and so they had sent their emissaries with really old clothing, worn down sandals, old cracking wineskins, and moldy bread. And so, when the Israelites said, “How do we know you’re not from around here?” The Gibeonite emissaries, they pulled…they said, “Look at my sandals, they’re all worn out, right?” And they said, “Look, our wineskins are all cracked. These were new when we started. And look at this bread. It’s all moldy and gross. But that was brand new, it was fresh baked right out of the oven when we left. That proves how far we’ve come to be here with you. And so, we’re clearly coming from a really, really far distance.”

And then there’s an interesting statement in Joshua chapter 9, verse 14 that is gonna be really important for our story today. It says this, Joshua 9:14 says, “The Israelites sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord.” So they tasted the moldy bread, they looked at the wineskins and their sandals and they went, “Oh, okay, yeah, you must have come from a long way away.” So, they sampled their provision, but they did not inquire of the Lord. What that means is they didn’t pray. They didn’t ask the Lord whether or not this was a good treaty to enter into, whether or not this was a good alliance to be part of. They didn’t pray. They didn’t ask the Lord. And because of that, they entered into an alliance, they agreed to come to the aid of the Gibeonites if necessary. And that’s gonna be very important for our story today. But they were tricked into it. But they were tricked into it because they did not inquire of the Lord. And I think this is an important thing for all of us to recognize, listen to me, a very important principle, never commit to anything without inquiring of the Lord. Never commit to anything without inquiring of the Lord. In other words, you need to pray before you enter into any kind of commitment, big and small, pray about it. And then you need to spend some time listening, okay? And I think that means a couple of things. It means listening in prayer. I mean, that’s an important part of prayer, actually. We pray and we go, God, I need guidance. I need wisdom. And so, if you wanna speak to me right now, I’m gonna just sit here quietly before You and I’m gonna listen. We need to do that.

We also need to listen to the Lord by inquiring of other people who have consistently been sources of wisdom and good advice to us, because God often speaks to his people. And so, before we commit to anything, we need to listen to the Lord by seeking wise counsel and seeing what other people have to suggest about it. We need to do that before we commit to anything. I think about that right now, a lot of you are making some really big decisions in life right now, right? Maybe you’re thinking about asking somebody to marry you, or you’re thinking about making a move, or you’re thinking about making a job change, or maybe the fall’s coming up and you’re a parent and you’re trying to figure out, what am I gonna do with my kids as far as school is concerned? Am I gonna commit to homeschooling them, continuing throughout this fall, maybe all of next spring? Maybe it’s a new permanent thing. We’re just gonna be a homeschooling family. Or maybe my school is opening, but I’m just not sure if I should send my kids back to it. Should I commit to it? Should I not commit to it? Don’t commit to anything before you’ve inquired of the Lord. Pray, listen in prayer, but also get wise counsel from people around you because God often speaks to his people. But it’s so important that we do that because otherwise, we find ourselves making commitments that we really shouldn’t be involved in and that’s really what happened to Israel. Joshua and the Israelites, they entered into this alliance because they did not inquire of the Lord. It was a bad idea, and yet that’s gonna come back to haunt them.

Now, Joshua 10:1 says this, “Now, Adoni-zedek, king of Jerusalem, heard that Joshua had taken Ai,” that’s a city, “and totally destroyed it, doing to Ai and to its king as he had done to Jericho and its king,” and Scott Rideout preached on this over the last couple of weeks. And that the people of Gibeon had made a treaty of peace with Israel and had become their allies. He and his people were very much alarmed at this because Gibeon was an important city, like one of the royal cities. It was larger than Ai, so it was an even bigger city than the Israelites had already conquered. And so, they were afraid that if its men joined with Joshua, everybody else would have all kinds of problems, and that all of its men were good fighters. So, Adoni-zedek, king of Jerusalem, appealed to Hoham, king of Hebron, Piram, king of Jarmuth, Japhia, king of Lachish, and Debir, king of Eglon.

And I’m just gonna pause for a second there. You might be feeling like that is a lot of names. That’s a lot of names of individuals, a lot of names of cities. And if you’re with us a few weeks ago, we talked about an important Bible hack when it comes to getting out of these stories everything that God intended us. And one of those Bible hacks was details matter, okay? Paper is really valuable, okay? So, nobody wasted space. In those days, paper was really valuable. So nobody would waste space, writing things that weren’t necessary to communicate the point of the story. So, why is it important that we know all of these names of individual cities? And I think what’s happening is this, I think that Joshua is reminding us that he’s recounting history, okay? He’s giving historical names and historical cities so that everybody remembers this, right? You’re telling us a history lesson. That’s gonna be really important in a moment because really, what’s about to happen is so incredible, so almost unbelievable that you’re gonna be tempted to read it and go, “That couldn’t have happened. That has to be a myth. That has to be a work of fiction. Maybe it has to be like…I don’t know, maybe it’s a parable or something like that. That couldn’t really be history, could it?” And Joshua was giving us all this historical information to remind us that he is in fact recounting history. That’s gonna be really important, I think.

So the king, Adoni-zedek, king of Jerusalem, he said, verse 4, “Come up and help me attack Gibeon,” because it has made peace with Joshua. And the Israelites we got to take these people out before they really joined forces with our enemies. And then the five kings of the Amorites: the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon, that’s repetition, you need to pay attention to repetition, again, Joshua is reminding us this is history. These are real people, real places. This is not a made-up story. They joined forces and they moved up with all their troops and they took positions against Gibeon and attacked it. And the Gibeonites sent word to Joshua in the camp of Gilgal. They said, “Do not abandon your servants. Come up to us quickly and save us. Help us because all the Amorite kings from the hill country have joined forces against us.” And let’s just acknowledge right now that Joshua had all kinds of good reasons for not going to their defense, right? He had all kinds of good reasons for saying no. First off, right, they’re not part of his family. They’re not Israelites, okay? So, they’re not family. There’s no family ties there. Second, right, the power arrayed against him at this moment is substantial. These five kings represent a tremendous armed force. The chances of Joshua winning, certainly the chances of Joshua winning on his own are basically as my coach used to say in high school, slim to none and slim just went home, okay? This is not a battle he’s likely to win. And then third, he got tricked into this alliance in the first place, right? They deceived him. And so, Joshua has every reason to say no to this request for assistance, but it’s not what Joshua does.

Verse 7 says, “And so Joshua marched up from Gilgal with his entire army including all the best fighting man.” He marched up with his entire army. He didn’t just take a few. It wasn’t a token effort. It’s not like he’s gonna get a few people in and go, “Well, we didn’t think there were so many. Sorry, we tried,” and then they’re out of there. No, that’s not what’s gonna happen. He took his entire army including all of his best fighting men, that’s emphasized, right? In other words, Joshua is committing everything necessary to this even though from an earthly perspective, very low chance of him necessarily winning this battle. But here’s what we see. We see that Joshua is committed to keeping his promises regardless of the price, okay? Joshua is committed to keeping his promises regardless of the price. He might have been tricked into this alliance, but he gave his word. And I love this about Joshua. It reminds me of a quote, I don’t know who said it, originally. I’ve seen it in a couple of different settings, but I love this. It says, “People with good intentions make promises. People with good character keep them.” I love that. And Joshua is a man of good character. He’s committed everything he has to to keep his promise, even though from an earthly perspective, there’s no way he’s going to win this battle.

Now, it’s interesting, verse 8 says this, “The Lord said to Joshua, ‘Do not be afraid of them. I have given them into your hands, not one of them will be able to withstand you.'” And I love that promise. It’s such an interesting thing. This is an alliance. This is a treaty. This is a vow. This is a pledge. But Joshua should never have been involved and he screwed up. He didn’t pray, okay? He didn’t inquire of the Lord. And yet in spite of that, God is honoring him for keeping his promise. And I think that’s a very, very powerful thing. It says to me that God is willing to put his power into the equation to help us keep our promises, even when they’re promises we probably shouldn’t have made in the first place. It tells me something about how much God cares about keeping promises, which is not really that surprising to me, not surprising that God cares a lot about keeping promises because the Scripture says that God is incapable of not keeping his own promises. It’s part of his character. It’s his nature. It’s what we call an attribute. It’s one of those characteristics that actually makes God God. He is faithful. He’s incapable of not keeping his promises. And so, it stands to reason that those of us who have been made in or as his image, need to pay attention to our promises in the same way and that God pays attention to the promises that we make as well. God puts all of his power into the equation so that Joshua can keep the promise, even though it’s a promise he shouldn’t have made in the first place.

And then, now don’t misunderstand me, I’m not talking about promises to do sinful things, okay? Maybe you’ve made a promise to be involved in something that you know you shouldn’t be involved in and honestly, it’s a bad thing to be involved in, it’s sin. I’m not talking about those kinds of things, right? So, maybe I’ll just do something crazy. Some of you are out there right now and you’re like, well, I made a promise that I made with these guys and that we’d murder this guy, okay? If you made that promise, feel free to break it. That’s not what we’re talking about, okay? Not promises to do sinful things but promises that might have been pretty foolish in the first place, God’s still willing to put his power into that equation because our promises and keeping them is really, really important to God.

Now, it says this, “After an all-night match in Gilgal, Joshua took them by surprise.” So, not only did he bring everybody, but they marched through the night so they could get there as quickly as possible. “And the Lord threw them into confusion before Israel. So, Joshua and the Israelites defeated them completely at Gibeon. Israel pursued them along the road going up to Beth-Horon, and they cut them down all the way to Azekah and Makkedah. As they fled before Israel on the road down from Beth Horon to Azekah, the Lord hurled large hailstones down on them and more of them died from the hail than were killed by the swords of the Israelites.” And understand that what we’re being given here is a very clear picture that the battle was won by the Lord. It wasn’t won by the Israelites. They were fighting to take possession of the promise, okay? They were doing their thing. They were taking their steps forward in faith, they were working hard at it. But at the end of the day, the battle belonged to the Lord. It wasn’t their great strategy. It wasn’t their great strength. The Lord threw them into the confusion, the Lord rained down hailstones upon them, and more of them died from the hailstones than from the swords of the Israelites. So the victory is the Lord’s. The battle belongs to the Lord. That’s so important. “Now, on the day that the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel…” And this is sort of like a zinger. It’s coming after the fact. I mean, I think we’re meant to understand that Joshua actually prayed this at the beginning of the battle, okay?

But we’re only finding out about it now because this is sort of the focus point. This is where the author really wants to make sure that we zero in and so he’s kind of set it apart. He probably set it at the beginning of the battle, but he’s telling about this now so we can focus on it. He says, “On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel,” check out this prayer, “‘Sun, stand still over Gibeon, and you moon, over the valley of Aijalon.’ And so, the sun stood still. And the moon stopped until the nation avenged itself on its enemies as it is written in the Book of Jashar.” The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. Wait… What? The sun stopped moving, the moon held its place in the sky. Really? I mean that’s a pretty big claim, right? It’s interesting to me…probably the most interesting thing about this is actually that he mentions the moon too. The sun and the moon both stood still because of course in the ancient world, they believed that the sun and the moon moved, right? They didn’t believe the earth rotated, they didn’t know that. And so, they thought that the sun’s movement and the earth’s…or and the moon’s movement were the result of the sun and the earth moving and they assumed that they moved independently of each other, right, because they didn’t progress at exactly the same rate and those kinds of things. So, they thought they moved independently.

So, it’s interesting that they note that the sun stopped, but also that the moon stopped because the only way to really explain that both of those things stopped is that the earth stopped rotating. And if the earth stopped rotating, we would expect the sun and the moon to both kind of lock in place for a period of time. So, in the modern world, what happens there is exactly what we would expect to happen since we know that the earth is actually rotating. But they didn’t know that. So, it’s interesting to me that the moon is involved in this. And that, to me suggests that there’s more going on here than just a myth or a parable. Now, it’s still a crazy miracle, right? It’s the kind of miracle that even Christians can sometimes read and go like, “Did that really happen? I mean, is there any way to know that that happened?” And what’s interesting is that I think that a miracle like that is particularly hard to believe because if that actually happened, we should expect that other people talked about it, right? Because that’s not like well, the Red Sea parted and the Israelites went through, and then they got to the other side, and the Egyptians got killed by the waves crashing in. You wouldn’t expect the Egyptians to talk about that, only the Israelites would. So, just that fact that nobody else talks about the Red Sea parting doesn’t mean that it’s not a real thing. But if the sun stopped and the moon stopped, that the earth stopped rotating, that affected everybody in the planet and you kind of expect some other people to be talking about that, right? Here’s what’s so fascinating. There are other people who talk about it. There’s a Babylonian story about a day that lasted twice as long. There’s a Persian story about a day that lasted twice as long.

My daughter actually…I was talking about the story at dinner the other day, and my youngest daughter said, “Wait, I didn’t even know that was in the Bible.” I said, “Yeah, I mean, it says the sun stood still. And basically, it was a day that was twice as long.” And she’s like, “I was just in class this past semester and they were talking about the fact that the Incans and the Aztecs actually both have records of a day that lasted twice as long.” And I’m like, “I know.” She said it before I said it, “That’s awesome.” She found that out in school, a secular school even. So, so interesting to me. The Egyptians don’t have anything that survived that talks about this but there’s a Greek historian named Herodotus, who actually writes in one of his history books about being shown Egyptian records from the temple that talk about a day that lasted twice as long as it should have. So, it’s not just here, okay? We have other stories outside the Bible that talk about this day. And even the Bible mentions the Book of Jashar, that this is mentioned in the Book of Jashar. And you might be going, “What exactly is that?” We don’t know. We don’t know. We know that it was a history book. And we know that the audience who was reading Joshua originally probably would have been familiar with it. It’s mentioned at least one other time in the Bible, maybe a third time possibly. We don’t know much about it, but apparently, it was a history book. And the writer of Joshua was saying, hey, I’m not only the one…the only one telling you this, you’ve also read about this in the Book of Jashar because he recognizes…I know this sounds insane. I know this sounds crazy, but I’m not the only one telling you this really happened. Remember, I’m writing history to you, okay? So, so interesting.

But you know what, at the end of the day, even if we prove that it happened conclusively, beyond a shadow of a doubt… And some of you, the evidence I presented, that’s all you need. And some of you are like, I really want a little bit more than that. I can’t give you more than that. But even if I could, even if at the end of the day, I was able to prove to you conclusively that this happened, we still have a really important question, which is, why? Why did God do this incredible miracle on this particular day? Why is this story given to us in the Bible? What’s this all about? And as I have prayed through and as I’ve thought through and wrestled with this story, there’s three things that I believe that God wants us to take away from it. And I believe that one of these is exactly what you need to hear right now, as you’re listening to this message. One of these three truths is there just for you. Here’s the three truths that I think we’re supposed to take away from this story. I’ll give you all three of them and then we’ll kind of break them down by truth. Okay, the first truth is this, our promises are a priority to God, okay, that’s the first one. Our promises are a priority to God. God cares a lot about our promises. Second truth is this. Our prayers are powerful. Our prayers are powerful. Third truth, our peace comes from knowing God fights for us. Our peace comes from knowing that God fights for us. One of those truths is for you. Maybe if you’re sitting next to somebody, maybe just look at him right now and just tell him I think number two is for me, or I think number three is for me. Number one is for me. But just tell somebody near you, who is it or which of these promises is it that is there for you, that you’re listening to this message because you need to hear that truth?

Let me break them down a little bit more if you’re not quite sure which one applies to you. The first promise, our first truth is this, our promises are a priority to God, okay? As I said, God cares a great deal about our promises and he’s willing to put his power into the equation so that we can keep our promises. It’s interesting when Moses was leading the Israelites out of Egypt, he gave them this statement, this is Numbers chapter 30, verse 1, “Moses said to the heads of the tribes of Israel, ‘This is what the Lord commands. When a man makes a vow to the Lord or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word, but he must do everything he said.'” Joshua would have known that command. He would have heard it from Moses, his mentor, okay? God clearly takes keeping our promises very, very seriously. And what we see in this story is a confirmation of how seriously God takes our promises and how willing he is to go to bat for us to enable us to keep those promises.

And I think for some of you, that’s what you need to hear right now because, honestly, you’re struggling in this very moment with the temptation to give up on a vow that you’ve made, to give up on a promise that you’ve made, I think specifically of marriages right now that might be struggling. When this whole thing started, when this pandemic began, I kind of jokingly said to somebody, “I think two things we can be sure of will come out of the pandemic, this quarantine, number one, some babies, number two, some divorces.” That’s not a joking matter. God hates divorce. It’s not His intention for us. But unfortunately, I’m not gonna call it a prophecy, I was just kind of joking, but unfortunately, it’s coming true. I’m hearing about rising divorce rates and people filing for divorces in record numbers as this quarantine drags on. And maybe you’re in that place. And maybe you’ve made a vow to your husband or your wife and you’re in this place where honestly, you’re just so worn out from struggling with that relationship, you’re so tired, you’re, in a moment of weakness, you’re thinking about committing… Well, we got kids in the audience so let’s keep it as PG as possible.

You’re thinking about doing with somebody what you should only be doing with your husband or your wife. You’re thinking about breaking your vow and that…or you’re thinking about filing for a divorce? Because you’re just worn out, you’re just wrung out and you just feel like you’re at the end of your rope and you need to hear this word from the Lord. You might be at the end of your rope, but you’re not at the end of God’s, okay? God is willing to put all of his power into the equation between the husband and the wife. He’s willing to put all of his power into that relationship to enable you to keep those vows that you made when you said, “Until death do us part,” okay? God will do that for you. Maybe you’re at the end of your rope, but you’re not at the end of his. His power is available to you, but you’ve got to call upon him to bring that into it. We have this incredible ministry here at Mission Hills called Re Engage. Re Engage is an unbelievable ministry. It’s saved so many marriages already. And what they do in that ministry is they teach you how to bring all of God’s power to bear upon your relationship with your husband or your wife. And if you’re struggling right now, the host is gonna put up a link so that you can get connected to that ministry and you can learn how to invite God’s power into your marriage so that you can keep that promise that you made to each other. So maybe that’s the word of the Lord for you today, that God puts a priority on our promises. Our promises are a priority to God. Or maybe it’s this, our prayers are powerful. Our prayers are powerful.

Did you know why God did this? Do you know why God did this crazy, incredible thing? Well, he says it very explicitly. This is Joshua chapter 10, verse 14, “There’s never been a day like it before or since a day when the Lord listened to a human being.” The Lord listened to a human being. The Lord listened to this prayer and the Lord did something inconceivable because Joshua prayed. And I gotta be honest, I don’t know how on earth Joshua had the courage to pray that particular prayer. I would always dial it back, right? Lord, if you’d make the sun and the moon stand still, or if you don’t want to do that, maybe you could just like, you know, I don’t know, just make it seem longer, or do something…I don’t know, just be in this, do something, right? I don’t have that, necessarily, that kind of boldness. I love his boldness. I love it. It’s so powerful. But the point is God did this because he prayed. And I’m not gonna promise you that every time you pray God’s gonna make this…the earth stands still or the sun and the moon stand still. I’m not gonna promise that. That would be chaos, right? But I will promise you this, I promise you that you will miss out on pretty much 100% of the miracles that you don’t pray for.

The Book of James says this, James chapter 4, verse 2 says, “You do not have because you do not ask God.” You don’t pray for the miracle, don’t be surprised when you don’t experience it. It says, “You do not have because you do not ask God.” Some of you then will go on, “Well, wait a minute, I pray. I asked God for the big, crazy, bold miracles. And sometimes he says no.” Listen, God always hears your prayers, but sometimes he does say no. And if you’re wondering why that is, maybe you’re struggling with a prayer right now, let me give you three things. We could spend all day on this. I wanna give you three things real quick, three reasons why sometimes God says no to something that we pray for. The first one is just this, a prayer might not be answered because it is selfish. We might be praying for something that’s truly just all about us and our pleasure. In fact, interesting enough here in the Book of James, James 4, verse 3, after he said, “You don’t have because you didn’t ask God,” he said this, he says, “When you ask you do not receive because you ask with the wrong motives that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” Okay, God doesn’t answer selfish prayers. He will not feed our selfishness. That’s a fire he cannot afford to stoke, okay? It’s a fire that we cannot afford to have God stoke. So, sometimes God says no because our prayers are selfish. Second, a prayer might not be answered because we lack trust. We lack faith.

Also in the Book of James, he says this, this is James 1: 6, “But when you ask you must believe and not doubt because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea blown and tossed by the wind, that person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.” We’ve spent a lot of time on this, this is often mistaught. Let me be really clear here. When I say that sometimes a prayer is unanswered because it’s not asked or it’s not uttered in trust, what I mean is trust that God is good, okay? I don’t mean that you lack faith that God will do that particular thing. No, that’s not what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches that we have to trust in God. And when we’re kind of half-hearted like, “Well, God, I’m asking for this, but I’m also thinking maybe I’ll go over here and do this. Maybe I could get this done over here in this way.” We’re not trusting in God. He says, “You’re double minds.” Don’t be surprised when those prayers aren’t answered. Okay. And then third, a prayer might not be answered because God has something better planned. That’s my favorite one.

Sometimes God says no to what I’ve asked him because he’s got something much better planned. Listen to me, you’ve gotta believe that when… The disciples saw Jesus arrested, right? When they saw the guards come and take him away, falsely accusing him of things, when he was on trial, and liars were coming forward and making up all kinds of crazy stories, you’ve gotta believe the disciples were praying like crazy that God would move, that God would release Jesus, that the truth would be known, and he’d be set free. They had to be praying that. They were praying that hard. But God didn’t set Jesus free. He didn’t answer their prayer. Why not? He had something so much better planned. So, Jesus had to have people lie to get him arrested. He had to have people lie to get him ultimately convicted because he was an innocent man. That was the plan all along, that God would send his Son who would live a perfect life. He’d be a completely innocent man. They’d have to make up things about him. But he didn’t bring the truth out in that moment in that trial because Jesus needed to die. That was the better plan. Jesus is an innocent man. He died on the cross, not because of his own sin, but to pay for ours. Jesus died on the cross to pay for your sin. He died on the cross to pay for my sin. Three days later, he rose from the dead. Another fact of history we got to come to grips with. He rose from the dead and he offers us forgiveness for every wrong we’ve ever done by trusting in what he did for us on the cross. That was the much better thing God had planned.

And if God had answered the prayers of his people, when they were going God, “Let the truth be known. Let Jesus be released. Let us go back to ministry as normal,” we would have missed out on something so infinitely much better, eternal life with God that’s available to us by faith in Jesus. Sometimes, listen to me, it’s hard, but sometimes, God says no because he’s got something better planned. But prayer is powerful. And understand when I say prayer is powerful, it’s not the prayer that’s powerful. Prayer is powerful because God is powerful. Prayer is powerful because that’s how we invite God with all of his power into our circumstances. That’s why prayer is powerful. Maybe that’s what you need to hear today. Or maybe it’s that third truth, that our peace comes from knowing that God fights for us. Yes, sometimes we have to fight to take possession of God’s promises. But we don’t fight alone. We don’t fight in our own strength. The victory is always the Lord’s. We’re just taking those faltering baby steps forward with the Lord there to catch us every step of the way, as we move forward in faith into everything that he has promised for us. Maybe you just need to hear that right now. Maybe you’re in the fight of your life. Maybe right now you’re struggling because you’re just worn out. Maybe you feel like you’ve been fighting and yet you haven’t seen the results you’re looking for. You’re just not quite there yet. And you’re beginning to stumble and you’re beginning to just grow so weary. And you need to hear this truth.

Real peace comes from knowing that our God fights for us. My friend Danny has this great song and I thought of it as we began to plan for this message series. It’s called “Fight For Me.” And I asked if he’d play it and maybe we could even figure out how to sing it together a little bit. It’s an incredible reminder of this reality that God will fight for you. And if you are at the end of your rope right now, you’re not at the end of his. And if you’re worn out, he’s not. And whatever you’re struggling with, you are not struggling with alone. He is with us and he’s fighting for us.

[Song]
Sometimes I feel surrounded
Dark spirit’s in the air
Waiting to destroy me
More than I can bear
Aware of desperation
Nowhere left to run
Look into the heavens
Feeling so undone
Fight for me, yeah,
And I will remain still
Fight for me, yeah,
And I will remain still
[end song]

Craig: Wherever you are right now, whatever it is that you’re struggling through right now, just understand you’re not alone. The God of infinite power, a God for whom it is absolutely nothing to make the earth stop its rotating and start it back up again. He’s not worn out by that. He’s not exhausted by that. He doesn’t need a nap after that. His power is infinite, and it is at your disposal. He’s there to help you keep your promises. He’s there to give you the strength to continue fighting the good fight. Maybe right now you just desperately need to invite him to bring his power into your circumstances. And maybe as Danny said, “You just need to be still and let him fight for you.” Would you pray with me? God, on behalf of your people right now, scattered around the world, engaged together in the Spirit in this moment, we come before You knowing that our power is insufficient. Our strength is utterly insignificant compared to yours. And that we will move forward in faith. You show us what those faltering steps look like and we commit to you, we will take those steps forward, we will trust in you and we will fight for possession of your promises. But we know Lord, that only, only when you fight for us, can we ever hope to win. Only when you fight for us, can we ever hope to actually break into that moment where we grab hold of all that you promised us. So, on behalf of all my brothers and sisters around the world right now, we just lay our burdens before you. We lay the scary situations that we’re struggling with before you. Those places where we’re just feeling wrung out, worn down, weak, and weary, in this moment, Lord, we simply put them at your feet. And we step back and we say, God, come into my circumstances, and fight for me.

If you’re a follower of Jesus, I also want to invite you right now to join in the fight with the Lord for those around the world who don’t yet know him. If you’re a follower of Jesus right now, in this moment, would you begin praying for all those people that are watching, people that are listening, they don’t know God, they don’t have a relationship with God through faith, and the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and his resurrection from the dead. Would you join right now? Would you pray for those who are watching that don’t have that relationship? And if that’s you, if you’re listening to this, and you don’t have that relationship, maybe you spent your whole life fighting and you’re just worn out from all of that and you don’t understand why life’s so hard. Life is so hard because it was never meant to be lived apart from God’s power.

But our sin separates us from God. And we’ve all sinned. I’ve sinned, you’ve sinned. And there’s a consequence to that sin. It’s a separation from God for all of eternity. But God loves you so much he sent his own Son to live that perfect life we talked about, to die in the cross for your sins, for my sins. Three days later, he rose from the dead to prove that he defeated the power of sin, the power of death. And you can have a relationship with a God who loves you that much right here, right now. If you’re ready to commit your life to trust, to faith in Jesus, to following Jesus, here’s what you do, you’re just gonna have a conversation right now in your heart, you’re gonna say this, “To Jesus, I’ve done wrong. I have sinned. And I’m sorry. Thank you for dying to pay for my sins. I believe that you rose from the dead and that you’re offering me forgiveness. But Jesus, I’m done fighting you. It’s time to be still before you. Jesus, come into my life. I commit my life to yours. I’m gonna follow you, Jesus, for now and forever. Amen.

And if you made that decision for the first time, I’m so excited. I’m so excited about that. We’d love to know about it. If you just do a couple things for me…do one of these things for me, your host will show you right now, a way that you can say, “I said, yes, I’m committing my life to Jesus. I’m following Jesus,” click that button, let us know you made that decision today. If you don’t see that in whatever forum you’re watching, then text the word Jesus to 888111, that’s the word Jesus to 888111. However, you do that, sending is gonna happen. We’re gonna get you a link to some truth so that you can have access to this truth and you can begin following Jesus as you’ve just committed to. We wanna get that truth into your hands. So, please let us know in some way that you made that decision today. God’s power is infinite. And he’s willing to bring it to bear on your circumstances. That is the power of prayer. He will fight for you. What a blessing it is to know that sometimes we can just be still and let him fight a fight that we could never win apart from him.