Sunday, 13 December 2020
Rev. Dr. Daniel Poon
We know that God has promised us a lot, and God told us that 2020 we would arise and shine. It is the end of the year and we will enter 2021. Just as the Israelites faced the Jordan River after Moses had passed away, and Joshua as the new leader to lead a new generation to enter the Promised Land. Forty years ago, they had sent spies to search this promised land, but they finally decided not to enter. Forty years later, everything was changed. The people of the previous generation had passed, and the mission was still there. They were now going to cross the Jordan River. What should they do? Compared with Moses, Joshua was a young man. He wanted to lead them into the promised land. How could they have the confidence to cross the river? We have made many plans which have been cancelled this year due to Covid-19. People got unemployed, lost loved ones, and many things have happened. How should we face the end of 2020 and enter 2021?
We know that in 2021, God has a promise for our future. What God promised you from the beginning has never changed. What has changed is our faith, the world, and the people around us, but God’s promise never changes. We must believe that God’s promise is waiting for us 2021.
1. God will provide
Not only did the Israelites see it, but the Canaanite kings heard that the water in the Jordan River was dried out, so their hearts were melted. Previously those 12 spies went to Canaan to spy and said that their hearts were melted because they saw themselves as grasshoppers in front of the enemy. What happened now had been completely reversed. The total number of Israelites was still the same, but the hearts of the people of Canaan melted. Joshua and the others did not need to fight, because the Canaanites had already lost this battle. Before the Israelites were about to cross the river, God had already prepared. But now, the Israelites did not know that the Canaanites’ hearts had been melted. They were still afraid, worried, and anxious, and they were still wondering how to cross the river.
In the book of Joshua, God kept telling him to “be strong and of good courage”, and “do not be afraid”. Joshua also had this struggle. Just like us, the future ahead is unknown, and we still worry about the path God has prepared for us. The experience in the past seems to stay in our memory. Even for the second generation, the Israelites were still occupied by the voice of the bad message sent by the spies 40 years ago. In the past we seemed to have failed and could not enter the promised land. But this does not mean that when God’s time comes, we cannot enter the Promised Land. Do we have confidence? Are we feeling timid just because of our failure in the past? Maybe someone got hurt in the past or the things that had happened did not meet your expectations. These thoughts are preventing us from entering what God wants us to enter. But I tell you today that God has prepared us to cross, not just to cross, but to enter. God knows each of us very well. He knows our weaknesses. All we have to do is to believe in Him, forget the past, have faith and cross over all that hinders you to God’s promise.
2. Separate Out
Joshua 5:2, 5, 8-12
God asked Joshua to circumcise the Israelites. Here we see an important thing. When all men are circumcised, it will take some time for them to recover because they are so painful that they cannot walk. Men born after leaving Egypt had not undergone circumcision because they did not have time in the wilderness as they had to follow the clouds for their journey.
After crossing the Jordan, they must be eager to enter the promised land, but God did not ask them to go ahead immediately. God said that everyone would be circumcised now. Remember that the Israelites had a waiting time before crossing the Jordan River. Why didn’t God ask them to do the circumcision during this time? Now that they had passed the Jordan River – by walking on the dry land, which was a great miracle, so and everyone was extremely excited and confident to occupy Jericho, but God told them to stop. If you were an Israelite, would you believe in Joshua? You may think he is crazy.
They also lost the ability to fight after being circumcised due to pain. If people from a city at night attacked them at this time, they would be killed and destroyed. But God told Joshua to prepare knives to circumcise the men. God does not allow us to enter His promised land with any impurity from the past, and God also cares whether we have such faith and obedience to Him. Many times, you may question whether this matter is logical or not, but God wants us to listen and follow. Because He knows that everything is in His hands. The true victory is not in the hands of the enemy, but in the hands of God. It does not matter whether you have the ability to fight or not, but God has prepared it and the victory of the battle in Jericho belongs to us. We may have a long to-do list we want to finish in our minds, but God wants us to wait for Him. He does not want us to look at our to-do list. We may say that we must finish this first. But sometimes God says, no, stop and wait. While waiting, you cannot do anything. What is more terrifying than waiting was just like when the Israelites were waiting after circumcision, they lost all their abilities to defend themselves.
Joshua 5: 8
The translation of the NKJ version is different from the Chinese one. NKJV says all people, and in Chinese it was translated as “People of Nations”. After they are circumcised, they are the people of the kingdom of God. From the people to the people of the kingdom of God, God cares about this matter. You will think that we are thirty or forty years old, why should we get circumcised? God cares whether we obey God’s Word or not. The Bible says that the word of God is a lamp to our feet. Do we follow the lamp before our feet, follow the word of God?
Joshua 5: 9
We do not know that we were full of reproach when we followed this world in the past. God wants to roll away the reproach of following the world from us. When we are putting one foot in the world and one foot in the kingdom of God, it is what the Bible says, the “reproach of Egypt”. We must let the reproach of Egypt be rolled away from us in the name of Jesus. We are set apart because the promised land we are facing is difficult, and we will fail without God. Many people have lost their dreams, thinking that completing the to-do list daily is good enough. We feel that we have lost the ability to do it. The needs of life and mortgage pressure us to live day by day, and we seem to be used to a life of slavery. The life of slavery in Egypt in 430 years seems to be fine for us. But God cares. He wants the Israelites to be circumcised and roll away Egypt’s reproach.
The Israelites celebrated Passover as they left Egypt. 40 years later, in front of Jericho in the night, the Passover was observed again. God reminded them how they left Egypt 40 years ago. The firstborns of Egypt were killed, and the firstborn of Israel did not die. When you cross over, it is not by your ability, but by the Lord. Who has led you to where you are today? If it were not God, you could not have come here. If you forget about this, you will lose your relationship with God and be alone. God was teaching every Israelite to know who to rely on before entering the city of Jericho. In the same way, God is also reminding us, we cannot get here this far by our own ability, nor is it by our ancestors’ effort. If not by God, we will not have won the victory.
John 5:17 “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.” As long as we seek Him, God’s work will not just stay in one generation only. The Jews keep the Passover because they will tell their descendants every year how God led them out of Egypt and do not want their children and grandchildren to forget how God blessed them. They knew that their children and grandchildren could not rely on material possessions. They could only rely on God, because God is the God of creation. Only by relying on Him can their lives be blessed. Do we still remember how God led us and blessed us? Have we taught our children to rely on God, our Lord?
3. Rely on God Only
When Joshua was about to go to Jericho, he lifted his eyes and looked, and he saw someone. It was similar to the records in Genesis 18:2 where Abraham saw three people standing opposite him. God promised Abraham many things, but he did not know what was going on and how to make the promise happen. He wanted to find answers and signs. God knew him. At that time, three people met Abraham. God choose us and God knows us. When God is talking to us, are we willing to listen and have a humble heart or not? Joshua saw a Man standing opposite him with a sword drawn in His hand. Joshua asked Him, “Are you for us or for our adversaries?”
V14, He replied, “…as Commander of the army of the Lord I have now come. ” We often pray that God will help us fix our problems. This is our prayer and the way we interact with God. We let ourselves be God, and let God serve us, so God can help us as we want. But the truth is, He is the commander of the Lord’s army. If each of us is in His army, He will be the One with power and fight for us. Are you willing to become the army of the Lord and follow God? He is our commander and leads us to victory. Joshua fell to the earth and worshipped, showing his humility to God. He was willing to follow God. He fell on his face completely.
V15, Joshua took off his sandal, and stood on the holy ground. The same thing happened in Exodus 3:4-5 when God said to Moses not to go near that place. God asked both Joshua and Moses to take off their sandals. Why did they wear sandals? For Israelites, they needed to wear sandals for walking. When God asked them to take off sandals on a holy place, they could not rely on themselves anymore, and that place is where God’s will would be done on earth as in heaven. This is what God teaches us to pray in the Lord’s Prayer. We forgot to remind ourselves and our children that we must take off our sandals. If we do not take off sandals when we pray, we will not put down our own ways and still choose the easy way. When we experience hardships, we do not think it is God’s way because we only believe in material blessings, which is not the truth. Jesus and all the apostles had gone through all the hardships, but our heavenly Father never abandoned them. People threw stones at Stephen. He did not call on the Lord to help him so that the stones would be gone. The Bible says he fell asleep. He knew that God was with him. Sufferings and problems are no longer problems for us when God is with us. Our only problem is that we are far away from God. What God cares about is our relationship with Him. How is your relationship with God now? What do you pray for? We prayed that the Covid-19 virus would completely disappear, and the world become peaceful again. We forget to ask God, why did these things happen? And what is God’s will? What God treasures is that the Gospel will be spread to all nations because of this, because only God’s kingdom will last forever.
Brothers and sisters, maybe you came to the church with different expectations. God knows what you really need in life. God knows how to truly bless our lives. Are you willing to take off your sandals and stand on the holy ground?
Looking backwards in December, we seemed to have wasted a whole year. However, in the kingdom of God, even forty years in the wilderness is not a waste. In this season of cross-over, we will align with God again. Do a prophetic action for yourself, imitate Joshua and Abraham, use your hand to take the shoes off your feet and show that we are willing to take off our way of walking. We also take a step forward to symbolise entering to the promise of God, to His kingdom, and never going back.
书 5:2, 5, 8-12
5:2, 5- 神要求约书亚去给以色列人行割礼，这里我们看到很重要的事情，当所有的男士受割礼，他们需要一段时间来恢复，因为他们痛得无法行走。出埃及后出生的男人没有行割礼，因为他们怕无法行走而落后行路。以色列人是怎样起行，不是根据自己的状况，因为神借着云彩告诉他们起行或停留。他们过了约旦河，一定想要马上进入应许之地，神却没有说，冲。神说每一个人现在要受割礼。以色列人在跨越约旦河之前有一段等候的时间，为什么神不要他们在这段时间去行割礼呢？现在已经过了约旦河了，每个人都很兴奋要去攻打耶利哥城了，但是神跟他们说要停止，他们能在约旦河干地行走是神迹。一步又一步，他们充满信心觉得耶利哥城都是他们的。神却说停下来，你们先受割礼。如果你是以色列人，你相信约书亚吗，还是觉得他很疯狂。
NKJ版本翻译跟中文不太一样，NKJ说的是所有的人，中文说的是国民people of nations，在他们受割礼后，他们就是属于神国的子民。从people百姓到神国的子民，神在乎这件事情。你会觉得，我们已经三四十岁了，为什么要行割礼。神在乎我们是否听从神的话语。圣经说神的话是我们脚前的灯。我们是否有跟随脚前的灯，跟随神的话语。
V15, 约书亚因所站的是圣地就脱下鞋子。 同样的话语发生在出埃及记3:5，神对摩西说，不要靠近那个地方。神要约书亚摩西脱下鞋子，他们为什么要穿鞋子。对以色列人来说，需要穿鞋行走。神说脱下鞋子，他们就不再倚靠自己，因为这里是圣地，是只有神的旨意行在地上如同行在天上，这是神教导我们在主祷文的祷告。我们忘了教导自己和孩子，必须要把鞋子脱下来。我们这样祷告，但我们还是穿着自己的鞋子，不肯放下自己的方式，仍然选择了容易的道路，经历困苦的时候，我们不要经历主的道路。耶稣走过了所有的艰难，使徒经历了所有的苦难，但是主永远不丢弃他们，神永远与他们同在。司提反，人给他丢石头，他没有呼求主啊，帮助我，让石头不见，圣经说他睡了。他知道，神与他同在。苦难、问题，对我们就不再是问题，我们唯一的问题是我们远离了神，神在乎的是我们与他的关系，现在你跟神的关系是怎样的，你祷告的内容是什么。我们祷告肺炎完全离开，世界和平，我们忘了问神，为什么会发生这些事情？但是神的心意是什么，不是这些消失，神在意的是福音要因此而传遍列国，因为只有神的国是永远长存的。