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 sayings 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 said that he always encouraged himself to live between the two essences of God – His faithfulness on the one side and His assurances on the other side.  On the last Sunday of 2020, a year that has been very difficult, we stand between God’s faithfulness and assurances. As we look back on this year, in many ways we have the same emotions as Joshua when he looked back.  He looked back over the entire journey of God’s people in the wilderness.  There were the times he cherished – of how God took His people through the Red Sea, the provisions of manna and water God gave His people and then the columns of a cloud and fire to remind Israel, “Our God is with us.”  But then, surely Joshua remembered the bad as well – all the times the children rebelled against God, the golden calf they worshipped and God’s fury as a result of that.  But, as Joshua looked forward without Moses, the man of God, he had the assurance that God would guide him.  And friends, we look back on this year and one word comes into our minds – a word we want to forget as soon as we can – Covid-19.  Thousands have been affected by this, lives were lost because of this.  And as we stand at the threshold of a New Year, we have the Assurances of God going before us.

From Joshua 1 we see that 1 God Is Faithful In His Promise.

What exactly is a promise?  One 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.  In Genesis 17: 8 He gave a promise to Abraham of what He would “set forth” – “The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”  And here we find in Joshua chapter one that God spoke to Joshua and told him, “Moses My servant is dead.”  But then He told him to get His people ready to cross the Jordan River.  Let’s think about it – among the Israelites, there must have been a feeling of hopelessness.  God’s man was dead.  Moses wasn’t just a body to fill a space – no, he was the one who spoke directly with God and he was the one who stepped in when God had all the reason to wipe His people out.  But God spoke to Joshua about continuing on.  What He promised 400 years before to Abraham was still in place as the day He made the promise.  It didn’t depend on a man; it was grounded in God Himself.

We receive the affirmation of God’s promise again this morning, because we are the recipients of the covenant.  It was given as a permanent covenant.  My friends, we have  prospects before us for the New Year – in many ways God will bless us in our families, we will see on a daily basis what God opens before us.  We will prosper, only God will make it possible for us.  Like our God told Jeremiah, He tells us, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29: 11.  One Sunday after worship at a Scottish country church, the pastor noticed an elderly man in the back of the lot.  For a moment he thought it was a homeless person who tried to find a place to stay.  He approached the man and asked if he could assist him.  The man responded, “I just moved back here after many years, and I came here today to thank God for His faithfulness.  You see, right here at this spot I gave my heart to Jesus and He told me all things will work out in my life.  And it did – I had a good career, I married a wonderful woman and had 4 children.  Now, it just me – my wife died a few years ago.  But, God kept His promise and for that I’m grateful.”   

From Joshua 1 we learn about 2 The Assurance Of God’s Presence.  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.  It would have blinded the people who looked at his face.  There was a vivid presence of God in Moses’ life.  And then God’s people reminded themselves of God’s presence.  Already in Egypt that was what kept them alive.  His hand guided them from there throughout their wilderness excursion.  And now with a heavy responsibility laid on Joshua’s shoulders, he knew there was only one assurance why he would succeed – God was going to be with him every step of the way.  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.  We read in verse 5, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  There are two words in the Hebrew we should take note of.  The first is “raphah” which is translated as fail.  We had our moments when we failed others.  Can we say that we have bailed out on them?  There was a POW in Vietnam that was brought back to America years after he was captured.  When he was asked what he thought most of during his time in captivity, he said, “Though my comrades bailed on me and didn’t come for me, I knew God wasn’t going to fail me.  That’s why I’m back here.”  My friends, just as God gave Joshua the affirmation, we too receive that – “I will always have my eyes on you.”  Isn’t it wonderful to know that there is One Who will never turn away from us.  He will always turn His face towards us to bless us.  Every minute and hour of every day in the year 2021, He will be with us.

The second word in the Hebrew is "azab."  It means to leave or forsake.  God was telling Joshua that He wasn’t going to leave or forsake him.  Why could Joshua have believed that at the time?  Because he looked at all those before him of how God had been with them.  In particular with his predecessor Moses.  What would have happened to Moses if God had left or forsaken him for a moment?  He would have perished together with all of God’s people.  To be left behind or forsaken is one of the worst things that can ever happen to a person.  Sadly, some who vowed never to do that to others, broke their promises.  But not God.  There is a very prominent affirmation throughout the Bible about that.  When I googled verses about God never leaving us, the result was over a hundred verses that God will never abandon us.

My friends, when we think of God’s faithfulness – of how His promises all came into fulfillment and we think of the assurance of His presence, we have all the confidence in the world to face each day with whatever challenges it might bring.  With David we affirm from Psalm 16, “Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”  Let’s go forward in the name of our God.

Amen.                                                                                                                                         Rev. Willem H. van de Wall