Joshua 1:6-9 “6 Be strong and brave! You must lead these people in the conquest of this land that I solemnly promised their ancestors I would hand over to them. 7 Make sure you are very strong and brave! Carefully obey all the law my servant Moses charged you to keep! Do not swerve from it to the right or to the left, so that you may be successful in all you do. 8 This law scroll must not leave your lips! You must memorize it day and night so you can carefully obey all that is written in it. Then you will prosper and be successful. 9 I repeat, be strong and brave! Donʼt be afraid and donʼt panic, for I, the Lord your God, am with you in all you do.” (NET)
God gave Israel a land where other people lived. He gave them the land to conquer. God promised them the land. God said Joshua will lead them. It will be hard and dangerous work to conquer the land. The people will need to completely follow God’s plan. The Israelites are at the edge of the Jordan River. The people are ready to enter the Promised Land. God told the Israelites to conquer the land, and to kill all people living there.
Today, it is hard for us to understand this command. God told the Jewish people to kill everyone living in the land He gave to them. Why? I do not know the mind of God. Most people today think they know God’s mind. They say God will never do such a thing. But it is dangerous to judge God. Why? Because we are not greater than God.
I have a few ideas why He would command such a thing. The people of the land worshipped Molech. He was a bad god. Today, we think one god is like another and we are free to worship as we want. The god Molech was a special case. Why? Because he was a god of infant sacrifice. The people living in the land built an idol of him sitting on a chair. His arms were outstretched and his hands turned upward. The idol was hollow and made of brass. For their worship, they built a fire inside the idol and heated it until it was red hot. Babies were put in the idol’s hands and they burned to death. This was the god Molech that the people in the land worshipped. God told the Israelites to kill them all.
Maybe the people living there thought their worship of Molech was good. But they will always be a twisted and destructive people. They will always destroy any good anyone else brings. It may be the only option was to kill the people of the land. Today, we may emotionally sacrifice our children to the idol of personal convenience. But the people of the land sacrificed and killed their children as a part of their worship of Molech.
This was also a time before the coming of the Holy Spirit on all mankind. The coming of the Spirit is a very important event. Why? Because it makes it possible for anyone to believe in Jesus and live for Him. He died on the Cross to pay the price for our sins. We stop living in sin and start living for Jesus. This is called “Redemption” and it is the heart of the Good News.
In today’s way of thinking, there is a total trust in a belief that education or counseling will make everyone better. That doesn’t always work and we just lock them up or put them away. We have a hard time just helping drug addicts so they won’t take drugs anymore. Our best programs have very low success rates. We end up making people more clever in hiding their sin. People refuse to face their sins and stop sinning. I don’t think counseling will change the Molech worshipers.
Since that day called “Pentecost”, when the Holy Spirit entered into Jesus’ disciples, no one is beyond redemption. The coming of the Holy Spirit makes redemption possible for all people. Why? Because now we have a supernatural power who works in our lives to change us. In Joshua’s time, the Molech worshipers could only try to change themselves. But, they were not encouraged to do that. Why? They believed what they were doing was right. Perhaps God knew they will never change. If they were allowed to live, their evil would only destroy what good may exist. I don’t think we know the full worth of the wonder and majesty of what happened on the cross and at Pentecost. We are not alone, confused about how to make ourselves better. The power of God is working in our lives.
The Old Testament can be called a picture book for new believers. When we read the Old Testament, we think of pictures for the stories. Why? Because they show the character of God and His total refusal to change who He is to fit into how we made the world. God does not make our ways work. Why? Because He demands we do things His way. When the Israelites arrived to conquer the land, they were not to make any agreements with the evil people living there. They were to destroy the old ways and make all things new. That is a picture of how God works in our lives.
When God comes into our lives, He doesn’t help us make our old ways work better. He removes those ways to make us see life differently. He does not make peace with ideas and ways that are part of our lives. He comes in to destroy the viewpoints that are part of our lives. He starts from the very beginning to make us completely new. One old way of looking at life might be that happiness comes from having a lot of things. God will not agree with that way of looking at life. Why? He destroys those old beliefs that are part of our lives and brings new ways into our lives. Then we begin to truly desire to enjoy and glorify God beyond anything that once guided our lives.
God then told Joshua to be strong and brave. People say similar things to me. When going through hard times, friends often told me to be cheerful and strong. That is a nice thing to say, but it doesn’t much help. It doesn’t tell us how to find the strength. God did not just tell Joshua to be strong and brave but also told him how to do it. The first thing God told Joshua was to meditate on His law. Joshua needed to think every day on what God said was right and wrong. Joshua needed a clear picture in his mind and heart of how God’s people were supposed to live. Most of us do not often look at the law of God, and then only look quickly. Then, we question if God really said those things.
Joshua needed to accept the law and meditate on it day and night. God knew Joshua will then know deep in his heart what is right. God knew Joshua will then have the strength and be brave to face what he must face. That same truth works for us today. We are not to accept what the world currently says is right and wrong. We are to think deeply on what God said and bring His way of thinking deep into our hearts. Knowing God’s truth will give us strength and make us brave to do whatever we are called to do. God also told Joshua about another way to be brave. He reminded Joshua that He would be with him wherever he went. Joshua will never face anything by himself. God will always be there. Joshua needed to let that truth sink deeply into his soul. God’s people will never go anywhere where God will not be with them.
Joshua was going into some scary places. God reminded him that He will be with him in all those places. Knowing God’s presence will make Joshua brave as he needed to be. The same is true for each of us. There are times when there are Goliaths in the land and the things we need to face are beyond our strength. In those times, God tells us that we can depend on Him. He will be with us and knowing that truth will give us strength and make us brave. When do we have the strength and be brave to face whatever we need to face? When we know God is with us. And, when what God says is right is guiding our lives.
This morning new deacons and elders were ordained and installed. No one knows what they will need to face the next few years. But we know whatever happens they will not be alone. They will have each other. Most important, God and His guidance will be with them. They are not to see where the people want to go and then lead them there. It is easy to do that but it is not the way leaders are to lead in the Church. Leaders in the Church are to meditate on God’s Word and lead the people into God’s Truth. Many times, that is not where people want to go. But the leaders of God’s people are to take them there. Knowing God’s Word and presence will make them brave and lead God’s people into His new kingdom.