December 27, 2020

The Faithfulness And Assurances of God

Passage: Joshua 1:1-9

Hudson Taylor, founder of China Inland Mission, used to hang in his home a plaque with two Hebrew inscriptions on it: EBENEZER & JEHOVAH JIREH. The first means “Thus far the Lord has helped us” and the second, “The Lord will see to it.”  Taylor told that he always encourage himself to live between the two essences of God – His faithfulness on the one side and His assurances on the other side.

I will be preaching a series of messages for the next several weeks from the book of Joshua with the key thought being “Receiving God’s Promises”. Joshua was chosen by both God and Moses to complete the work of leading Israel into the promised land. God had made a promise over 400 years earlier to Abraham that his descendants would receive the land that Abraham lived in for an inheritance, as a homeland. Time had gone by, Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, went to Egypt with his family. Including Joseph and his sons, they numbered only about 70 people. However, God’s blessings were upon them and soon they begin to multiply. The Egyptians became afraid of them and soon enslaved them, but still they multiplied. The taskmasters make their work hard, they cried out to God but God’s promise seemed far away. Finally, God sent them a deliverer, named Moses, who, under the hand of God brought out the children of Israel. Moses was God’s man. He brought to the Israelites the laws of God, he spoke with God, as if face to face. Yet even Moses grew discouraged with his people. They constantly seemed to fall into unbelief and disobedience toward God, even to the point of desiring to stone Moses and return back to Egypt. They even reached the edge of the promised land, to again fall back in unbelief and spend 40 more years wandering in the wilderness. Not everyone that day was willing to give up their faith. We know that the Bible tells us that two men stood on the promise of God, saying “…Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it (Numbers 13:30).” These two were Joshua and Caleb. Let me ask you a question, how do you suppose they must have felt during the upcoming 40 years? They spent 40 years, still waiting on the promise of God, yet I don’t believe they were willing to give up for they knew the faithfulness of God, that God could be counted on.

One of my favorite hymns is “How Great is Thy Faithfulness”. The chorus reads

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!

Morning by morning new mercies I see;

All I have needed Thy hand hath provided –

Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!

This great Hymn of the church was written by Thomas Chisholm. He did not write this hymn because of something great, or even miraculous that had happened in his life, no, rather he wrote it because as he looked back over his life, he learned to see the great faithfulness of God. At age 75, he wrote these words;

“My income has not been large at any time due to impaired health in the earlier years which has followed me on until now. Although I must not fail to record here the unfailing faithfulness of a covenant-keeping God and that He has given me many wonderful displays of His providing care, for which I am filled with astonishing gratefulness.”

It is important to see the faithfulness of God in receiving the promises of God. Moses had now passed away, but just because Moses had died, it did not mean that the plans of God were dead as well. God pulls down and God raises up. It is His work. Joshua is raised up to continue the work of God. God gave him three assurances, and I believe that every believer needs to be aware of these assurances for they help us in receiving our inherited promise as well.

What exactly is a promise? The dictionary defines it as “a declaration that one will do or refrain from doing something specified.” The word promise comes from a Latin word that means to “set forth.” God sets forth what He will do.

Genesis 17:8 And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.

God had made a promise. He had told Abraham that he and his descendants would receive the land of Canaan for an inheritance. Even though over 400 years had passed, the promise of God was still real and genuine.
Here we find in Joshua chapter one that God spoke to Joshua and told him that “Moses My servant is dead.” Then He tells him to arise, or get up, and cross over Jordan to the land that He is giving them.
We know, according to Deut. 34:8, that Israel mourned for him 30 days.

I imagine that there were many among the Israelites that felt everything was lost, that what was the use of going on for Moses, God’s man was dead. Maybe even Joshua himself felt that way. Maybe they wondered how they could continue onward after the death of Moses.

God spoke and told them to continue on and restates the promise He made to Abraham 400 years before.
He reminds Joshua of a very important truth that we too need to be reminded of , that His work/promise is dependent upon Him, and not man.
He reminds Joshua that He is the Blesser. In verse 2, God says, “unto the land which I do give to them”. In verse 3, God says, “that have I given unto you”. He wants Joshua to see that He is the Giver, not Moses, nor anyone else.
I want you to see this morning, that God’s great promises are bound up in His divine nature. God is the Giver and God is the source of our blessings. Twice He declares to Joshua that He is the divine Giver.
Just because Moses had died, did not mean that the work and promise of God would die out. God wanted Joshua to see that He was the Giver, not Joshua. We too need to see God as our Blesser. Far too often we tend to view our job, our boss, or our own ability as the key to what we have.
Like Israel, we too are on a journey, a journey to receive the fullness of God’s inheritance, a journey that will have ups and downs, just as theirs did. And like Israel, God wants us to see that He is the One that will help us make it through.

James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

(CEV) Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father who created all the lights in the heavens. He is always the same and never makes dark shadows by changing.

What James is saying is that God doesn’t change. It is in the very nature of God to give. Through out the Bible, you will find God giving, the promise to Abraham-Gen. 28:4, the law to Moses-Exd. 31:18, rest to Israel-Jos. 22:4, wisdom, honor, and wealth to Solomon-1 Kings 4:29, the kingdom to David-2 Chr. 13:5, peace and rest to Jehoshaphat-2 Chr. 20:30, knowledge to Daniel-Dan. 1:17.
You can’t not read the Bible and not see the giving of God. We need to realize that God is our Source, He is our Blesser, and He will be faithful in His promise to us to supply for us as we too receive our inheritance.
Israel knew that God was with Moses. Moses’ face literally shone with the glory that came from being in the presence of God so much that he wore a veil to cover it.
There was no doubt that Joshua now had a heavy responsibility laid on his shoulders. To be the leader of over a million people would certainly be a job.

Joshua had already seen the people’s response to Moses, even with the evidence that God was with Moses, the people often rebelled and spoke out against Moses, even to the point of desiring his death. He needed to know if God would be with him.

We too are like Joshua, we know the way is difficult, we know that it’s not easy, life itself is not easy.

Job 14:1 Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble.

We know that we have opposition, we know that we have trouble, and we know that we will face hardships. We too need to know in our Christian walk if God will be with us.
Note that God reassured Joshua twice, not just once but twice, that He would be with him. God told him in verse 5, and then again in verse 9, that He would be with him. Two things to note.
The strength of God’s assurance.
God told him in verse 5, as I was with Moses, so will I be with you, I will not fail you nor forsake you. There are two words I want us to see that are in the Hebrew. 1st, is the word “raphah” {raw-faw’}to be feeble, slack, to relax, or to abandon. It is translated as fail. I remember when raising both Jon and LaDonna, that as a father, there were times that perhaps while watching them, something would distract my attention and I would be slack, or relax in watching them to focus on whatever had attracted my attention. Then I would think, I better look out for them. You see, regardless of how complex our minds are, we can still only focus on just a few things at a time. God is telling Joshua, “I’m not going to fail you, My eye will always be on you, you will always be the center of My attention.” God is not slack, nor does He relax when His children are concerned.
The 2nd word I want you to see is the Hebrew “azab” {aw-zab’} to leave, loose, forsake, or neglect. It is translated as forsake. My wife will tell you that I have a problem with laying things down and forgetting what I do with them. My keys are the one thing that comes to mind. So then I want to tear up the whole house to try and find them. Many has been the time that I wished I could just bind them, or tie them to me, so I wouldn’t lose them. May I tell you this morning that you are bound to the heart of God by cords of love. God was telling Joshua that I’m not going to let loose of you, I’ll not forsake you. I believe that same promise is available for us today. God’s presence is all around us, through good times and bad times for we are bound to Him. His attachment to you is so strong that you are bound to Him. The author of Hebrews reiterates this in Hebrews 13:5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
The scope of God’s assurance.
In verse 9, God tells Joshua that He will be with him “whithersoever thou goest”. The Hebrew is just one word which is “yalak” {yaw-lak’} which literally means to go or walk. In other words, where ever your feet are, where ever you step, God is saying, “I’ll be there”. May I tell you there has never been a time in your life that God hasn’t been there. From the moment of your first breath, your first day of school, through out every moment of your life, God has been there.
What God is saying to Joshua and I believe to us as well, “Regardless of what you are going though, regardless of your circumstances, I’m not going to take My eye off you, I’ve bound you to Me, and every step of your life, I’ll be there”. That’s why we can receive our inheritance, not because of us, but because of God.
In verse 7, God told Joshua to be strong (rigid and hard) and courageous( brave and established), to observe or keep the law of God.
Yes, God’s faithfulness is seen in His promises, His presence and also in His precepts. God expected Joshua to walk in His word, to make His word/law a priority in his life.
God has not changed, if He expected Joshua to be diligent in His law, He expects us to be diligent as well. God told Joshua to not turn from the right or the left regarding His word, to not let it depart from out of his mouth. In other words, he should speak the word, his speech was to be seasoned with the word of God. He told him to mediate on it day and night. In other words, God’s commands were to be the guiding focus of his life so that he could do what God desired of him to do.
The promises of blessing and prosperity were contingent upon the Word. The word prosper is the Hebrew word sakel, which means to have insight. Our problems today as to why we don’t stand on the promise and we don’t feel the presence of God in our lives is closely related to what emphasis we place on the word of God, we don’t have enough insight to see God working in our lives for we haven’t spent enough time in His precepts.
Do we see the faithfulness of God in our lives? or do we mutter and complain? When we look back over our lives, will we have the insight to see God’s work and greatness displayed? A well known psychologist named Erikson developed a theory of aging in which he broke the life span down into a series of stages. One of the last ones was the stage he called integrity versus despair. He felt that a person who could look back over their life and see satisfaction or see only unmet goals. It would result in either integrity (wholeness) or despair. I have already mentioned the hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness”. Thomas Chisholm wrote over 1200 hymns, such as “O to Be Like Thee” and “Living for Jesus”. “Great is Thy Faithfulness” was not written, nor I believe could it be written in his youth, but only after being able to look back over life and by having the insight from God’s precepts to see the faithfulness of God.