Today we conclude our message series entitled “Courageous Leadership.” In this series, we’ve been learning from the life of Joshua, one of the most courageous and godly leaders in the Old Testament.
This morning our message is entitled “Lead for the Future.” We’re going to be looking at the last two chapters in the book of Joshua. In these chapters, Joshua gives his last instructions to the people of Israel, just as Moses did before he died. In these last instructions, we see the life wisdom that Joshua learned from serving God for close to 110 years. Joshua had led Israel into the Promised Land and conquered the nations that opposed them. At this point in Joshua’s life, his life was almost over. He was looking back over his life and then encouraging the people of Israel for the future.
I believe that we will glean some important lessons for each of our lives today. Our attention can be focused on three different times in our lives, the past, the present and the future. Each time period is important for us to consider from a biblical perspective. A life that is lived focused on one just time period, for example, the past, will not be a balanced or productive life. Let’s take a brief look at what the Bible has to say about each time period.
Psalm 77:11-12 (ESV) I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.
In these verses, the psalmist is encouraging us to look to the past and remember what Gd has done. As we remember what miracles God has done, both in the Bible, in history and in our lives, it leads us to worship Him. And it gives us faith for the present.
Ephesians 5:20 (ESV) giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Right now, each one of us lives in the present. In the present we ought to always be giving thanks to God for all the blessings that we are experiencing. An attitude of thanksgiving in the present can save us from much negative thinking.
Deuteronomy 30:19b-20a (ESV) … I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, …
These verses are from Moses’ words at the end of his life. Moses is encouraging the people of Israel to make a commitment for the future. The future can either bring life or death, blessing or curse. To have life and blessing, we must choose to love the Lord, obey His voice and hold fast to Him.
Right now, each of us, indeed our whole country live in a time of uncertainty and peril. We are still facing a worldwide pandemic. Although medicine, with God’s help, has made great strides in treating the disease, it is still a danger to our nation. No one knows how long it will be before the risk level is significantly reduced through a new vaccine. We are in an election season in 2020 with the most radically different choices our country has ever seen. The world in which we live is full of nations, some of which are dangerous and unpredictable. Persecution of Christians around the globe continues to increase.
How do we face such a time as this with faith? First of all, we must be rooted in the past. The Bible gives us a record from creation to the present of how God moves and works in history. We must not forget the history of America, the most exceptional nation that has ever existed. America, founded upon biblical principles that were written down in our Constitution. Many lives have been sacrificed in the past to bring us the freedoms that we enjoy today and must be fought for to enjoy tomorrow.
We must not forget the past of our denominational family, the Assemblies of God, founded in 1914 to spread the Gospel around the world. Through a huge missionary outreach, the Assemblies of God is now the largest Spirit-filled denomination in the world, numbering 70 million. Finally, we must not forget what God has done in our individual lives, guiding us and working miracles. Remembering the past gives us faith to trust God in the present. Walking with God gives us wisdom for the present.
Finally, we look to the Lord with anticipation for the future. He will be with us every step of the way in the future, just as He has been in the past. Although, we will not have heaven on earth until Jesus returns, one day heaven will come to earth and Jesus will rule over all.
1 Corinthians 2:9 (ESV) But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—
The end of the story of history is being written in heaven. It’s going to be wonderful. The things that God has planned for us in eternity is beyond our imagination. So wherever you are at in life’s journey, be encouraged this morning.
Today, we ‘re now going to learn from the end of the story of Joshua’s life, how to live for the future in a perilous time.
Joshua 23:3, 5 (ESV) And you have seen all that the LORD your God has done to all these nations for your sake, for it is the LORD your God who has fought for you. … The LORD your God will push them back before you and drive them out of your sight. And you shall possess their land, just as the LORD your God promised you.
Joshua begins his final speech to Israel with these words. He reminds the people that God had promised the land of Canaan to them. Canaan was occupied by many hostile and decadent nations. But the Lord fought for Israel and enabled them to be able to defeat the Canaanites and take possession of the land. Yet, there were still portions of the land that still needed to be conquered. Joshua reminds the people that God’s promise still stands. As He had helped them in the past, He would help them in the future to completely possess the Promised Land. Joshua then goes on to remind the Israelites what it would take for them to complete the conquest of Canaan.
Joshua 23:6-7 (ESV) Therefore, be very strong to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, turning aside from it neither to the right hand nor to the left, that you may not mix with these nations remaining among you or make mention of the names of their gods or swear by them or serve them or bow down to them,
He reminds them to be strong, just as God commanded Joshua at the beginning. They must obey all of God laws. And they must not be influenced by the pagan nations still remaining, nor must they serve or worship their idols. Then and only then would they be able to see God’s promise of the land completely fulfilled.
Joshua 23:14 (ESV) “And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the LORD your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed.
Joshua then lets the people know that the Lord is about to take him home. He gives testimony to the fact that God had kept every promise that He had made to His people. Every promise had come to pass, none had failed. So, the people could expect that the same would be true in the future. Yet, every promise of the Lord was conditional. There were conditions that must be met before God would fulfill His promise. We have seen what the Israelites would have to do in order to inherit the promise of the land. Now, Joshua goes to remind the people what would happen if they did not follow God’s instructions.
Joshua 23:16 (ESV) if you transgress the covenant of the LORD your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them. Then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you, and you shall perish quickly from off the good land that he has given to you.”
If Israel did not obey God’s commands, if they served and worshiped the gods of the pagan Canaanite nations, their promised blessing would be gone. God would be angry with their sin and would drive them from the Promised Land. And, indeed ultimately, hundreds of years later, that is what eventually happened. Joshua was showing the nation of Israel the importance of remembering God’s promises.
God’s Word contains many promises for believers today. Scholars estimate that there are at least 9000 promises in the Bible. There is a promise for every situation you may find yourself in. How do you God’s promises fulfilled in your life? First of all, you need to know the promises. Now, I’m not suggesting that you must memorize 9000 promises. As you read your Bible daily, in a systematic fashion, God will regularly show you promises that will apply to you exactly where you are at in life. As you regularly read your Bible, He will also bring to your mind, promises that you have read in the past.
In order to see that promise fulfilled, you must carry out the conditions of the promise. The you must pray in faith, asking God to fulfill the promise, until you see it come to pass in your life. Promises in the Bible can apply to you personally, to your family, to our church and to our country. One famous promise that we should all be praying and claiming in this election season is:
2 Chronicles 7:14 (ESV) if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
The prayers of God’s people in this country will determine the outcome of this election. We want to see God hold back evil and release a mighty revival in our country as we pray for God to move in this election. Remember God’s promises.
Joshua 24:2-3 (ESV) “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Long ago, your fathers lived beyond the Euphrates, Terah, the father of Abraham and of Nahor; and they served other gods. Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan …
In chapter 24, Joshua begins to prophetically recount the history of God leading Israel beginning with our father in the faith, Abraham. Abraham was an idol worshipper, whom God called to leave his people and journey to the unknown land of Canaan. Abraham believed God and followed His instructions and came to Canaan. Abraham believed God and his faith led to the birth of Isaac, the son of promise.
Joshua 24:5 (ESV) And I sent Moses and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt with what I did in the midst of it, and afterward I brought you out.
Joshua recalls God’s mighty deliverance of the people Israel from 400 years of bondage in Egypt. God worked mighty miracles through the plagues and the parting of the Red Sea to deliver Israel from the Pharaoh. Although the people wandered in the desert for 40 years, eventually, under Joshua’s leadership, they entered into the Promised Land.
Joshua 24:12-13 (ESV) And I sent the hornet before you, which drove them out before you, the two kings of the Amorites; it was not by your sword or by your bow. I gave you a land on which you had not labored and cities that you had not built, and you dwell in them.
These two verses show God fighting for Israel, seemingly through the attack of hornets on the enemies. Thus the victories of Israel over the Amorite kings was accomplished without their weapons of war. The land and cities that Israel received in the Promised Land were gifts from God. As Joshua recounted God’s gracious actions toward Israel in the past and leading to the present, the people of God offered thanks.
God has blessed each one of us to live in the land that we live in, America. We still are the most blessed country on the face of the planet. Why has America been so blessed over the centuries? It is clear that our blessing was a result of this country being founded upon sound biblical principles. Down through the years, many have sacrificed their lives to protect the freedoms of life, liberty and religion. God has allowed us to defeat enemies from without and within through His power.
Yet, we are aware that America is far from perfect. We must acknowledge that we have strayed from our dependence on God and His Word. Sin is increasing at an unprecedented rate and the church seemingly grows increasingly weaker. We must recount what God has done in our country throughout our history, many do not even know the facts. We must recount what God has done in our own lives. And we must make a commitment for the future of …
Joshua 24:14-15 (ESV) “Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. … choose this day whom you will serve, … But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
Joshua now challenges the people of Israel for the future. They are to fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully. All idols must be put away and the Lord must be served alone. You see, down through the history of Israel, they attempted to serve the Lord and idols at the same time. That was abhorrent to the Lord. The Lord must be worshipped and served only.
Joshua presents the people with the stark choice about whom they would serve, either the Lord alone or idols. He makes it clear that both himself and his family had chosen to serve the Lord, throughout his life thus far and until his passing. Yet Joshua warns the people …
Joshua 24:19-20 (ESV) But Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the LORD, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good.”
Even though the Lord had done good and blessed the nation, they mustn’t presume on God’s grace and mercy. If they turned away from the Lord and served idols, the Lord would bring judgement upon them. Ultimately, that judgement would result in the people being removed from the Promised Land. So, Joshua challenges the people to choose to serve the Lord God only.
Joshua 24:21, 31 (ESV) And the people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve the LORD.” … Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua and had known all the work that the LORD did for Israel.
The people whom Joshua had led into the Promised Land vowed to serve the Lord alone. Joshua was a great leader and Israel served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua. These were the last days of Joshua and he soon passed away at the age of 110. The elders of Israel who had seen God’s miracles in bringing Israel into Canaan and defeating their enemies also continued to serve God. As the leaders served God, so the people served God. But, as we continue the story in the next book, the book of Judges, we see Israel beginning to turn away from serving the Lord. Every person and every generation must make a choice to serve God alone.
God is challenging each one of us to make that same commitment this morning, to serve God alone. Although, we might not be aware, America is full of idols that many people serve. Many people think they are serving God, but they are also worshipping idols. Which means they are not serving God alone and are not under His blessing.
Matthew 6:33 (ESV) But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
In every avenue of life, our personal life, our family, our work, our church, our relationships, our finances, our future, we are to seek God’s kingdom first. We aren’t to live to please ourselves, we don’t live to fulfill our desires, but God’s desires. Oftentimes, God calls us to do things for him that we don’t want to do. Yet, as we submit to God’s will, we are blessed. In this election season, we aren’t to vote for who we like or against who we don’t like. According to God’s Word, we must fulfill our right and responsibility to vote in this democracy. We aren’t to vote for people because they look like or don’t look like us. We are to vote for those who will best implement policies that advance God’s church and kingdom.
How can we do that? The easiest way is to simply compare the two major parties’ platforms. Studies have shown that candidates closely follow those platforms when elected. In your bulletin is an insert comparing the two parties’ candidates and platform positions on issues clearly addressed by God’s Word. We encourage you to vote according to biblical values and to encourage others to do the same. To not vote isn’t an option for a believer. Voting is an important aspect of serving God alone.
Today, we’ve looked at the last words that Joshua spoke to Israel. Joshua left a godly legacy to his family and people that are instructive for us as well. We must remember and live by God’s promises to us in His Word. God’s purpose for our lives will only be achieved as we believe and fulfill the conditions of His promises. We must recount and give thanks to God for His gracious actions in the past. As we recount God’s past actions, it builds our faith for the present and the future. Finally, God calls us today and everyday to choose to serve God alone. There are many idols that we can serve, even many that are good things, but must not be first in our lives. We are to seek God’s kingdom first and then He will supply everything that we need.