Confidence to Face the Challenges Ahead
Good morning. I invite you to turn with me in your Bibles to the book of Joshua. Our passage for today is found in the last half of the chapter. We’ll be looking at verses 10-15.
You’ll remember that we have crossed the Jordan River. We are set up in a place called Gilgal, and the Israelite men have just a couple days prior undergone the rite of circumcision.
Our passage today is going to tell us about how the Israelites celebrated the Passover. Just like circumcision, it has been almost 40 years since they have done this. This is the first time since they left Mount Sinai that they have celebrated the Passover. It would likely be the first time that this second generation of Israelites have observed this feast.
But it is funny that they choose to have a party while sitting in the shadows of Jericho. Mind you this is the 3rd or 4th day that they have been camped out in Gilgal, just two miles from their enemy.
And again, before they go into battle, they need to be prepared. It’s not their battle skills that need to be honed, but their theological outlook. Their greatest need is to understand and apply the things that are spoken of here. That will equip them for what lies ahead.
I believe that the same holds true for us. We too will be greatly equipped for what lies ahead of us when we learn what our Lord teaches about himself.
So let’s read together Joshua 5:10-15…
One of the great things about the book of Joshua is the upbeat tone of it. I may have mentioned this before. But people love it because the book because it is victorious and shows us people of faith. It is really a contrast to the book of Judges, where there is defeat and apostasy.
But the book of Judges reminds us that with the Lord we can do all things. It inspires us and reminds us of the words “I can’t” should not be in the Christian’s vocabulary when it comes to serving the Lord. The only time a person should use the words, “I can’t” is in regards to sin. I cannot sin. But when it comes to everything else—when it comes to serving God, we should have the confidence of knowing that we can live and serve the Lord. We can be zealous for the Lord and do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
That’s certainly a lesson we gain from the book of Joshua. And a lesson we gain from this passage before us. This portion of Scripture is an interesting one. We read about the Passover celebration, the stopping of the manna, and this odd encounter Joshua has with a unique man. And I will admit that this passage has been puzzling to me. It has been one that I have been concerned about since we began the series. I didn’t know what to make of it.
But having studied it this past week, I feel that it really fits this idea. It’s here to further help us gain the confidence we need to face our daily challenges.
Joshua and the Israelites were about to face some great challenges. They were going into war. But before they do, the Lord gives them a confidence booster by reminding them of his great works, his generous provision, and his sovereign power.
I. Based on his history
The first verse of our passage this morning states that the people kept the Passover. And it mentions the date, the 14th day of the month. That was exactly when it was prescribed to be done.
But the Passover was a meal which commemorated their redemption from Egypt. It was a time like our Christmas where they celebrated the saving act of God to bring them out of their bondage and slavery.
So basically this feast was a time to remember what God had done in the past. To remember how they got here. It was a time where they could celebrate the fact that God had remembered them and acted to save them.
So before the Israelites start marching to war, they take some time to reflect. Their minds are prepared for battle by dwelling on God’s mighty acts. This wasn’t just a religious party or a holiday. It was a holy day which got them in the right frame of mind for the task ahead. They could say, “God has been on our side. If God be for us, who can be against us?”
This is still one of the ways we find our encouragement today. It is one of the primary ways we gain the enthusiasm to live for the Lord and fulfill our responsibilities. As we read through the bible and recall God’s mighty acts, it should reassure us and make us more zealous to live for him. This is especially so since we have the greater Passover to which we look.
Christ became that lamb that was sacrificed on our behalf. Through the blood that he shed on the cross, we have deliverance from the bondage of sin and slavery. We may say with the words of the Apostle Paul, “If he has not spared his own Son, how will he not give us all things?”
It is really what we do when we come to the Lord’s Table. This is something of our Passover meal. It is a time to remember that God is for us. He has acted in history to save us, and this is to strengthen us to go forward into another week to fight against sin.
I don’t doubt that you come here often loaded down with the weight of your responsibilities. Maybe it is your workload. Maybe you are already starting to get the agitation that Monday is just around the corner. And you don’t want to go back on the job. Your attitude is maybe one of frustration or fear. It’s going to be another week of wrestling the kids or making the phone calls. You are discouraged because you just feel like giving up or you just don’t want to tackle it all again. The responsibility seems like it is too much. You want to put the call of taking dominion on hold and extend the weekend indefinitely.
This is where you will benefit from taking communion and looking back. This is the time where you can remember that you have a God who is with you and acting on your behalf. He has been faithful in the past and you can therefore be assured that He will continue to uphold and sustain you in the present. You can fulfill your responsibilities because he is there. “How will he not also give you all things? How will he not also give you the strength to persevere in the work He has given you? If he has not spared his own Son, how will he not also help you bear the load that you carry?
Whenever we have a challenge we must face—whenever it seems that God’s calling in our lives may be a bit daunting, it’s good to look back. God wants us to always be looking back, checking out our history. He wants us to remember the past, so that we can march forward to meet the present needs.
Just as Israel had opportunity to reflect, we need to do that too.
But you’ll notice that our encouragement isn’t just based on the history of what God has done, but it is also based on God’s constant provision.
II. Based on his provision
That’s what is spoken of in verses 11-12. The day after the Passover the people of Israel ate some of the produce of the land, and the manna stopped coming.
Now this had to be kind of weird for these people to see it all of a sudden stop. They had grown up with the manna. Every day of their lives it magically appeared. They would go out and harvest the manna they needed for the day. It was a miracle of God; it was supernatural; but it was pretty much normal for them because it was something that happened for 40 years.
Then one day it all stopped and they had to start getting their food from the land like normal people. It was their “new normal.”
Now, one thing you may say is that they obviously didn’t have time to grow this themselves. They have only been on this side of the Jordan for a week. We know that some corn and wheat didn’t sprout up over night. So they probably were eating what had been stored in graineries by the Canaanites. We can probably assume that the people were scared and they left their homes and fields and fled. Perhaps they went into Jericho or moved further inland. So that was probably an encouragement in and of itself, seeing the people cower and run.
But when the manna stopped, it would have made them think: God’s been good to us. God has preserved us and provided for us every step of the way. Even though our fathers had sinned against him and been faithless, God has graciously supplied for all our needs.
And on top of that, here on their plates was a definitive testimony that God had keep his promises. They were eating food from the land God had promised them.
I don’t know about you, but it never ceases to amaze me that I have food on my table each night. As a matter of fact, when we bow our heads to pray over our meal it is something that I repeat each time, “we are truly thankful that you have seen fit to give us this food yet again. You are gracious to place this here before us. We don’t deserve to feast like this. Yet you have brought these morsels from the far regions of the earth to be placed right here for us to eat.”
Unfortunately, since our food comes to us in a “normal” way, we often don’t have that amazement. We’re not astonished because we see it more as a product of our having worked and purchased it. But even though it comes through what we may consider “ordinary means” rather than the extraordinary means of falling out of the sky, it is still here because God has worked by his Providence to put it there. He has blessed our work, he has filled the stores, he has sent the rain, he has allowed the farms to prosper.
I would assume that for most of us the recent toilet paper shortage has been the closest thing any of us have come to seeing any kind of famine. And I would assume most of us have had much more in our cupboards than just what was necessary for the day.
And I think that should speak something to us. Really, there is something of a miracle to “give us this day our daily bread.” At the very least, even if we overlook the hand of God in bringing it to us, to remember that each bit and each morsel has been a gift of his grace, it is a thing that should amaze us.
There’s another point of encouragement from this text though. Our confidence lies not just in what God has done in the past and what he has given, but it is also in his power.
III. Based on his potency
That is to say our hearts should be revived by the simple fact that he is completely sovereign and holds a position of absolute preeminence over us.
That’s what I believe is being communicated in verses 13-15. In this last section of the chapter, Joshua meets up with this man who is bearing a sword in his hand. And Joshua asks for some identification, “Are you one of the good guys or are you one of the bad guys?”
And he responds by saying, “Neither.” He identifies himself as the commander of the army of the Lord. And that rank solidifies in Joshua’s mind that this is not just a man, but it is the Lord himself. We may say that this is an appearance of a pre-incarnate Christ. And Joshua further confirms this by falling down on his face to pay honor to him. And then he is asked to remove his sandals, just like when Moses encountered the Lord at the burning bush back Exodus 3.
Now, I like what Dale Ralph Davis says here. The response of the Lord is kind of funny. He’s not for the Canaanites or for Joshua. Well, you naturally ask, “why is he not for Joshua? Isn’t the Lord pro-Israel?” Davis explains it like this. He says, “Sometimes we need to see that the Lord is not so much partisan as sovereign. It is more important to recognize God’s position than to know his plans.”
That is to say, sometimes it’s best to just be still and know that He is God. He is not so much for us as He is over us.
You know kids will typically go through the “why?” stage. It’s usually between the ages of 3 and 6. They will ask why ad nauseum. And I know that as parents we want to cultivate curiosity and engage the mind of our children to help them understand our world. So we’ll do our best to satisfy their little philosophical desires.
But I know one way my father answered me when I was younger put all my theoretical ponderings in line. He might tell me to go and pick up my toys and I asked him why. He responded by saying, “Because I said so.”
That was all I needed. I didn’t ask why to that one. It was enough to know that the buck stopped there. I had to pick up those toys because he was in charge and that was that. At that point, it was simply about his authority. My job was not to contemplate it or wonder about how he felt about me. My job was simply to put my hand over my mouth and understand that there is no room for questions. A line had been drawn and I was to understand that I was just a kid and had better recognize it. He had a position of authority. He had rank as my father and that spoke volumes.
That’s what I think is being said here. Are you for us or for them? Neither. You just need to know who I am.
Sometimes we just need to know that God is God. And if we grasp that, if we understand his rank and authority, then that sets our hearts aright. We see him as greater than men. He is greater than our enemies. He is greater than our trials. He is who he is and we can have the confidence that that alone settles everything for us.
Joshua understood that God was greater than Jericho’s walls and the forces that may lay within. He came face to face with the Messiah’s sheer stature and it led him to worship.
In the same way we are given so many different pictures of Christ in his authority. On the very night he is betrayed, as the bands of thugs come with their clubs and swords to take him away, he shows how impotent they are. They ask where Jesus is, and he response, “I am.” They all fall back like bowling pins simply at the sound of his voice. That’s how overwhelming his power is.
The Book of Revelation gives the persecuted church a picture of Christ in a dramatic way. His eyes are full of fire. Out of his mouth comes a sword. His voice thunders like a roar of many waters. This not a picture of one who is tame. He’s depicted as one is ready to overpower and bring to nothing any who would stand in his way.
And the sole reason this description is given is to give the early church confidence. They did not need to fear anything. God was supreme. Their oppressors were nothing. Yet they could face the challenges that met them in the streets because he is God.
And the same is true for us. On the other side of those doors there stands some battle you will have to face. You can walk out of here today with confidence. You can know that no matter how great it is, even death itself, you need not cower or run. For God is supreme in power.