Joshua People Obey and Serve (Joshua 1:6-8, 24:14-15)

By | January 18, 2009

The Joshua Principles #2


      Last week we began a series titled The Joshua Principles. And the first Principle was Joshua People Always Look Forward With Hope. We talked about how Hope is based on Trust and Trust is based on Faith and the implications that has in our daily lives and in the life and future of the Church. Today the Joshua Principle I want to look at is “Joshua People Obey and Serve.”

      I think this falls right in step with where we left off last week. You see Faith in God builds Trust which builds Hope. When we Trust God and are Faithful, then God is Faithful too and that deepens our Hope. When we Trust God and are Faithful, then we will Obey God and follow God’s Will.

      I want us to look at two passages this morning. Joshua 1:6-8, 24:14-15 (NRSV)

[6] Be strong and courageous; for you shall put this people in possession of the land that I swore to their ancestors to give them.
[7] Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to act in accordance with all the law that my servant Moses commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, so that you may be successful wherever you go.
[8] This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall be successful.
Joshua 24:14-15 (NRSV)
[14] “Now therefore revere the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.
[15] Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

      The context for the message is this. Joshua and the Children of Israel, the survivors of the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, are ready to cross into the Promised Land. Their first target is Jericho, so they send in spies and Rahab helps and hides them with the promise that she and her household will not be destroyed. Rahab, with her not so savory past, becomes the great, great Grandmother of King David, the greatest king Israel ever had.

      The Israelites cross the Jordan. First, as instructed, The Ark of Covenant leads the way. When they get to the waters of the Jordan, the priest enter the water and just as God promised, the whole nation is able to cross over on dry land. In that moment God reminds them of how God delivered them out of the hand of Egypt. And to mark the occasion, 12 stones are set up in Gilgal as a memorial to the crossing.

      Then Joshua is given instructions for the taking of Jericho. Archeologists, by the way, have determined that Jericho is the oldest city on earth. And there is physical and seismic evidence that the walls of Jericho came down quickly as in an earthquake. Back to the story.

      Each day for six days the Israelites are to march around the city with the Ark of the Covenant and seven Rams Horns. The horns are to be blown constantly but the people are to remain completely silent. They were told not to make a sound, no talking, no whispering, so singing, nothing until instructed to do so. And they obeyed. You can imagine the talk in the city. “What are those idiots doing? What kind of parade is that?”

      On the seventh day, horns blowing, everyone silent, they marched around the city seven times. And the end of the seventh time Joshua told the people to “Shout for God has given you the city.” They did and the walls came tumbling down. I’m convinced they were successful because they were obedient. They followed God’s instructions explicitly. And when they did God was faithful.


      A.  One of the things this passage tells me is that every decision in life has Consequences. Here we see that Obedience Has Consequences. They followed exactly what God wanted and God favored them. God was faithful in part because they trusted God and they were faithful to God by being obedient. The walls came tumbling down because they were obedient in how God wanted that to happen.

      But the reverse of that is true, also. Disobedience Has Consequences, too, as we find out in the very next chapter. With the victory at Jericho, you can imagine how pumped the people were, so they headed out to the next town, the city of AI. Spies had told Joshua he didn’t need to send in the A team. All they really needed was two or three thousand soldiers and it would be over quickly. But the failed miserably. They fled in terror. Scripture says, “The hearts of the people melted and turned to water.” [7:5]

      Joshua was beside himself and begged God to explain. It seems one of the soldiers, Achan, let greed get the better of him. Rather than turning over to the priests all the “devoted things,” the gold and silver accoutrements for the worship of idols, he decided to keep some for himself. Bad mistake. The whole nation suffered. God’s favor was withheld. Disobedience Has Consequences and everyone suffers.

      You with today’s sensibilities, we might think that punishment a little harsh. Why should the whole nation suffer because of one man’s disobedience? If you really stop and think about it, other peoples’ actions do have an effect on everyone else’s life. The reason we have traffic laws is because common courtesy doesn’t work anymore. The reason we have every kind of law there is on the books is because somebody somewhere didn’t, wouldn’t or couldn’t follow the basic rules in the Ten Commandments. And every time someone disobeys, the rest of society pays. Disobedience Has Consequences.

      B. Once again there was a great show of Obedience. The entire nation stood together before God. God sorted out all the tribes and clans and when it came to Achan’s clan, he confessed.

      The entire people of Israel meted out the punishment, death. Everyone shared responsibility for Achan’s actions as well as Achan’s punishment. Because both Obedience and Disobedience Have Consequences.

      When we are obedient the Consequences are usually quite rewarding. When we join the church and take the vows of membership, especially when someone is baptized, we take and renew our vows to live before one another as the Children of God so that we can see Christ in each other. We vow to live a Christ like life as an example for others. We vow to be part of a family who cares for each other. Sometimes we don’t do a very good job at all of that but our hope is that others will see the love of God as expressed in Christ in our lives.

      When that happens, within that family of faith we are supported and strengthened and sometimes even rescued. Some of you may have seen this clip form Krueger National Park on Youtube. The full length version might be a little scary for the little ones, so I’ve tried to edit it so it still makes its point. And it does have a great ending.

      Water Buffalo Clip

      I loved how the entire herd came back to rescue that calf. They knew the power of the claws of the lions but they also knew the greater power of the herd. And those water buffalo who sent the lions running and flying, knew the rest of the herd was behind them. That’s the way it should be in every church, every faith community. It’s good to have a herd. And when the Herd trusts God and is faithful to God through Obedience there is a strength that can’t be destroyed.

      There are Consequences to both Obedience and Disobedience and I don’t think it’s too hard to see which consequences are more beneficial.


      A.  Obedience, I think, naturally leads to service. Now there are times when obedience to certain things doesn’t make any sense. Most of us don’t like being told what to do without some explanation as to why. I hated it growing up and as a parent I tried never to say, “Because I told you so.” But sometimes in our faith walk, that seems to be the reason for doing and not doing certain things, doesn’t it? I think a lot of us are like Ralph Macchio in Karate Kid. “Wax on, wax off.” We don’t seem to get what good all the unexplained obedience is all about.

      If you remember the 1984 movie, Ralph Macchio plays a new kid who gets crossways with a group of school in crowd bullies. They make his life miserable. The custodian, Mr. Miyagi played by Pat Morita, is a Japanese man who takes an interest in Daniel and says he will train him in Karate. When Daniel shows up, Mr. Miyagi doesn’t give him any Karate instructions, he simple gives Daniel a series of what appear to be useless chores. Feeling a little like slave labor, Daniel confronts Mr. Miyagi.


      The results, of course, are Daniel’s ability to transfer that the muscle memory into the needed defensive moves in karate.

      B.   So, what does that have to do with service? Service is the natural outcome of Obedience. Just as Hope springs from Trust and Trust springs from Faith, Service springs from Obedience. Let me explain.

      They are calling it the Miracle on the Hudson and I’m sure God’s hand was involved but part of the success of the ditching of that plane and the rescue of all the passengers was the Obedience of the Pilot and the Captain of that Commuter Ferry.

      Pilot Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger, who some are calling “Captain Marvel” is a former Air Force fighter pilot who has flown for US Airways for 29 years. He has over 19,000 hours in the air and runs his own safety consulting firm. After 29 years of flying, after 29 years of pre-flight checks, safety checks and all the minutia of flying, you would think maybe someone might begin to take shortcuts, right?

      And Captain Vince Lombardi (that’s his real name, in an interview on Today said he and his crew devote two hours a month to practicing safety drills, man overboard rescue drills and the like to prepare for events like this which we all hope will never happen. It would be easy to say, “Oh, you know for the last six months all of our drills were perfect, we don’t need the practice anymore.” Shortcuts seem easy.

      We all tend to do it. Driving on the highway for example. When we were younger, the fear of getting a ticket kept us from speeding. But then we started driving to work every day and when we did the speed limit we felt like we were getting run over by the traffic. Then we began driving fast enough to keep up with the traffic so we didn’t impede the flow. And pretty soon you’re screaming and hollering at the idiot in front of you who won’t get out of the way, right?

      These two men, their crews and all of the people involved in this event, were diligent in their obedience to following the proper procedures and drills. My contention is that because that, when it came to a time of testing, they were ready to serve and give everything through that service. They didn’t have to stop and think about what was right or wrong, they knew and they did almost instinctually. And that only comes from Faith, Trust and Obedience.


      A.  As I look at the life of this church and especially as I look to the future of this church it’s easy to see that Joshua People Obey and Serve. That is the legacy and that will be the future of this congregation. We have been Obedient in so many ways. We’ve sought discernment from God. We’ve sought God’s will rather than our own. Answering God’s call to relocate; Building not one but two buildings; reaching out in so many ways to the community around us are ways we’ve been both Obedient and Served.

      I can’t help but believe that the reason we are so blessed is because we have been obedient. And because, not just as a few individuals, but as a congregation, we have a Servant Heart. We want to be faithful. We want to make disciples. We want to lead each other into a deeper relationship with Christ. We want our children and youth to love God with their heart, souls, mind and strength. We want to be faithful. Truth be told, we want to transform the world.

      We want to raise up ministers, leaders, teachers, preachers, people who can and will go into the world to make disciples, whose lives will have an impact which will ripple from here to across the rest of the world. We’re already doing that in any number of ministry areas. As we look to the future, we need to continue doing that. And we need to continually ask the question Joshua asked the people of Israel in Chapter 24.

Joshua 24:14-16 (NRSV)

[14] “Now therefore revere the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.

[15] Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

[16] Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods;

      The choice Joshua put before the children of Israel is the choice every generation has to make. If we truly want to Serve God, then as we move into the future, we have to have Faith, we have to Trust God and Trust God’s guidance and we have to Obey even when we may not understand why.

      Joshua People Always Look Forward With Hope, And

      Joshua People Obey and Serve.





This is the Word of the Lord for this day.