Worship Is... Part 1
Worship Is... Obedience
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
October 5, 2003

 

Main Passage: Joshua 6:1-20 (NLT)

 

This morning we’re beginning a new series on Worship. And over the next several weeks, we’ll talk about some of the different components of what worship is. This week, we’re going to talk about how our worship can be expressed through obedience. Jesus said:

John 14:21 (NLT)
Those who obey my commandments are the ones who love me.

If we love God and if we worship Him, then it is going to be evidenced through our obedience to His Word and His instructions for our lives. And I’m not talking about obedience at gunpoint… I’m talking about voluntary obedience because we love God want to do what pleases Him. So we’re going to talk about what it means to be obedient to God, and we’re going to centre our talk around a person we’re told about in the Old Testament: Joshua.

Most if not all of us are familiar with how God used Moses to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. We know how God divided the Red Sea for them to cross over it and how He then led them to Mount Sinai where He gave then the Ten Commandments. Then the Israelites set out for the Promised Land that God was leading them to.

As they approached this land, Moses appointed 12 people to go and scout out the land, reporting back what kind of people were living there, how many of them there were, how strong they were, what kinds of crops grew there, what the soil was like and how many trees there were. So the scouts went to scope out this entire area (PowerPoint – Desert of Zin in south all the way up to city of Rehob). They returned with samples of the food that grew there and reports about a great land. But they also reported that the people who were living there were strong and their cities were well fortified.

Two of the scouts, Caleb and Joshua, were ready to storm into the land right then because they believe God when He told them He would give them this land. But the rest of the scouts kept going on and on about how strong the people were and how they could never stand a chance against them, saying things like this:

Numbers 13:31-33 (NLT)
But the other men who had explored the land with him answered, “We can’t go up against them! They are stronger than we are!” So they spread discouraging reports about the land among the Israelites: “The land we explored will swallow up any who go to live there. All the people we saw were huge. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak. We felt like grasshoppers next to them, and that’s what we looked like to them!”

And so they convinced the rest of the Israelites that there was no way they could defeat the people in the land, despite the fact that God had promised it to them. As a result, God punished them for their lack of faith by declaring that they would wander the desert for 40 years until that entire generation had died with the exception of Caleb and Joshua. And that’s what happened.

So those 40 years passed and it was finally time for them to enter into what was called the Promised Land. By this time, Moses is dead and Joshua who was one of the two scouts who believed God is in command of the Israelites.

Now Joshua was a very unique person in that he had no parents. See, it says it right in the very first verse of the book of Joshua:

Joshua 1:1 (NLT)
After the death of Moses the LORD’s servant, the LORD spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant.

Sorry, bad pun. Force of habit.

But Joshua really was quite remarkable. He was one of only two Israelites that was willing to enter the Promised Land the first time despite the size and strength of the people that were already there. He later became the assistant to Moses, and then once Moses died Joshua took over leading the Israelites. So it was now up to him to lead them into the Promised Land.

So there they were at the border once again. But they’ve had enough of the desert, they don’t want to go back for seconds, and this time they’re ready to enter the land. Their first opposition? Jericho.

(Images in PowerPoint - Jericho)

What I want to do for the rest of this time this morning is look at this encounter between the Israelites and the city of Jericho. And I want to make five observations about Joshua and the way he responded to the instructions of God.

 

Five Observations about Joshua:

 

1. Joshua Was Ready To Hear From God

Let me read to you the verses that precede the passage that Shera read earlier:

Joshua 5:13-14 (NLT)
As Joshua approached the city of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man facing him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you friend or foe?”
“Neither one,” he replied. “I am commander of the LORD’s army.”
At this, Joshua fell with his face to the ground in reverence. “I am at your command,” Joshua said. “What do you want your servant to do?”


I don’t get the impression that Joshua was expecting this. Otherwise he wouldn’t have had to ask who it was. He wasn’t expecting it, but he was ready for it. It said; “he looked up and saw a man”. He wasn’t so preoccupied with his own life and the task of getting ready to enter the Promised Land that he overlooked or ignored this messenger from God. He took the time to find out who he was and to listen.

There’s a story that I read that I can’t say if it’s true or not, but it’s pretty neat either way. It’s a story that takes place way back when the telegraph was the fastest means of long distance communication. And it involves a young man who applied for a position as a Morse Code operator. He had seen an ad in the newspaper and decided that he wanted to apply, so he went to the address that was listed in the ad. When he arrived, he entered a large, noisy office. In the background a telegraph clacked away. He read a sign on the receptionist’s counter that instructed all applicants to fill out a form and wait until they were summoned to enter the inner office.

So this young man completed his form and sat down with seven other waiting applicants. But after a few minutes the young man stood up, crossed the room to the door to the inner office, and went right in. The other applicants sat outside muttering to themselves that they hadn’t heard any summons. Who did this guy think he was? They took some satisfaction believing that the young man would be reprimanded for his actions and disqualified for the position.

But within a few minutes the young man emerged from the inner office escorted by the interviewer, who announced to the other applicants, “Gentlemen, thank you very much for coming, but the job has been filled by this young man.”

The other applicants began grumbling once again, and one of them even spoke up. “Wait a minute—I don’t understand. He was the last one to come in, and we never even got the chance to be interviewed. Yet he got the job. That’s not fair.”

To which the employer responded, “All the time you’ve been sitting here, the telegraph has been ticking out the following message in Morse Code: ‘If you understand this message, then come right in. The job is yours.’ None of you heard it or understood it. This young man did. So the job is his.”

God speaks to us. He speaks to us through our minds and hearts. He can speak to us through our conscience. He can implant impressions or passions on us. He can use His Church, other Christians, or other messengers. He definitely speaks to us through His Word (the Bible), and He occasionally even speaks audibly to His followers. But for us to hear God we must be ready and willing to listen, and get so close to Him that we can recognize His voice.

John 10:14-16 (NLT)
“I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice; and there will be one flock with one shepherd.

Joshua was not going to allow the distractions of everyday life and his own troubles to prevent him from hearing what God had to say to him. Joshua was ready to hear from God. Are you?

 

2. Joshua Trusted God’s Direction

Did you catch the directions Joshua was given? Let me read them for you again.

Joshua 6:2-5 (NLT)
But the LORD said to Joshua, “I have given you Jericho, its king, and all its mighty warriors. Your entire army is to march around the city once a day for six days. Seven priests will walk ahead of the Ark, each carrying a ram’s horn. On the seventh day you are to march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the horns. When you hear the priests give one long blast on the horns, have all the people give a mighty shout. Then the walls of the city will collapse, and the people can charge straight into the city.”

Strange instructions to be sure, but Joshua didn’t question them. He knew that God was trustworthy. God had proven himself time and time again. In Joshua chapter one, when Joshua was first taking command of the Israelites after the death of Moses, God told him:

Joshua 1:9 (NLT)
I command you—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

And Joshua never doubted that God was with Him. He trusted Him completely.

I believe we’ve got a shortage on trust in our society today. Our kids fail us, our spouses fail us, our closest friends fail us. Other people have failed us and let us down so many times that we don’t like to count on them anymore. It’s almost impossible to believe that someone might have our best interests at heart. Our doubts even cloud our trust in God.

But let me tell you something: God is trustworthy. He has always kept His Word, He’s able to do anything He wants, and He has always done what He said He would do. And He wants the best for you.

I think sometimes we tend to get the idea that we know better than God does. We think maybe He’s holding something from us or that our ideas are as good or better than God’s. But Joshua didn’t seem to have that problem. He knew that God knew better and could be trusted.

Isaiah 55:8-9 (NLT)
“My thoughts are completely different from yours,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”


“My great concern is not whether God is on our side; my great concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”
~ Abraham Lincoln

God knows better than we do. Joshua understood that. Joshua trusted God’s directions. Do you?

 

3. Joshua Obeyed God’s Instructions

It’s one thing to trust God, it’s another to act on that trust. I would say that God is tired of people simply agreeing with him and desires for people to obey him. He wants followers, not admirers.

1 Samuel 15:22 (NLT)
“What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Obedience is far better than sacrifice. Listening to him is much better than offering the fat of rams.”

Joshua did exactly as he had been told. He had the Israelites march around Jericho once a day for six days, and seven times on the seventh day. He had the priests blow their horns and the people shout on cue. And he left the rest up to God.

“All true knowledge of God is born out of obedience.”
- John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion

“The most important characteristic of the active spiritual life is obedience.”
- Charles R. Swindoll, Active Spirituality

Quite a statement.

1 John 5:3 (NL T)
Loving God means keeping his commandments, and really, that isn’t difficult.

 

Joshua obeyed God:

A. Even if he didn’t understand

Joshua had no idea how God was going to defeat Jericho by having the Israelites march around the city and blow some trumpets, but he still obeyed.

In Albert Einstein’s early days, physicists struggled to explain the orbit of the planet Mercury. Newton’s theories of gravity had served well for centuries to explain the orbit of the other planets, but they couldn’t figure out Mercury. So for some fifty years physicists scratched their heads in wonder.

Astronomers trying to explain Mercury’s orbit theorized that another small hidden planet that they named Vulcan might orbit near the sun and exert gravitational force on Mercury. But Vulcan was never discovered (outside of Star Trek).

Then Einstein formulated his general theory of relativity. And when he applied the formula to the orbit of Mercury, he had one of the breathtaking moments of his scientific life: the numbers fit. And he went on to live long and prosper.

There are plenty of things in life that we don’t understand fully: the nature of light, what causes cancer, and women. Along with why I even bothered to roll up the rim. (I just won’t let it go, will I?) The thing we need to realize is that God created everything that exists, He’s got it all under control, and He sees the big picture. So even when we don’t understand, he does and we can trust Him. What’s more, we can act on that trust and obey Him.

“God is too good to be unkind, He’s too wise to be confused, and if I cannot trace His hand I can always trust His heart.”
~ C.H. Spurgeon

 

B. Even if he had other plans

Remember, Joshua had visited this land 40 years earlier and saw what he considered to be giants. I doubt that he ever forgot that experience. In fact, I would expect that Joshua had spent those 40 years thinking about how the Israelites could defeat these giants. He had probably already worked out a battle strategy. Perhaps he hoped to avoid Jericho altogether. But when God delivered new instructions for him, the old plans went out the window.

You may have your life plans all mapped out… your career goals, your family goals, your life goals, and how you’re going to get there. But if God’s map takes you in a different direction, you’ d be wise to follow it.

Proverbs 16:9 (NLT)
We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.

 

C. Even if he looked stupid

Theological term. Imagine that you were one of the Israelites. How do you think you’d feel marching around the walls of Jericho expecting to overcome the city? I expect 1’d feel pretty dumb. I mean, there’s no way you can march around the city and expect the walls to come down. That kind of thing just doesn’t happen.

Imagine the people on top of the walls ridiculing you and hurling insults at you and dumping their garbage on you. For seven days! I can’t imagine I’d be that encouraged going back to the camp every night for six nights after marching around the walls but seeing nothing happen. Imagine if nothing ever did happen. How stupid would Joshua have looked?

But imagine how stupid Noah would have looked if all the ark turned out to be good for was a lawn ornament.
Or imagine Moses at the Red Sea if he stretched his arms out and held his staff over the sea and the only thing that split was the crowd of people following him.
Or imagine how David would have looked if he hurled a rock and Goliath. . . and missed!
Or imagine Peter stepping out of the boat expecting to walk on the water only to discover what it means to go down under.

Sometimes you’ve just got to risk looking stupid. Because it’s at those times that God comes through the biggest.

On the seventh day, the Israelites were instructed to shout. I would say most of us would prefer to whisper. I know I would. We prefer to keep our faith hidden, just in case God fails. We don’t want to look stupid.

One of my favourite sayings is:

“Behold the turtle. He makes no progress unless he sticks his neck out.”

As hard as it can be, there are times when we just need to stick our necks out in obedience to God and let him take care of the rest. Joshua obeyed God’s instructions. Will you?

 

4. Joshua Followed Through

What do you think the Israelites talked about every night? Do you think they discussed going back into the wilderness? How about back to Egypt? Do you think they may have talked about adopting a different strategy? Maybe negotiating a truce? Or maybe skipping over Jericho all together?

I would expect there would be Israelites that would push for all of those options, but thankfully Joshua was in command and he was determined to follow God’s instructions through to the end. So every day they got up to go and march around the city again.

I love what Joshua said later on in his life:

Joshua 24:14-15 (NLT)
“So honor the LORD and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD alone. But if you are unwilling to serve the LORD, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the LORD.”

He was determined to follow God’s instructions through to the end, no matter what. How about you? Do you ever feel discouraged? Do you ever wish that you could see more results from your obedience? Do you ever wonder if obeying God isn’t all it’s cracked up to be? Do you wonder if you even got the right message from God? My advice to you this morning is hang in there. Do not lose heart. If you’re truly doing what God wants you to do, and you can usually be pretty sure if that’s what you’re doing or not, then stick it out.

God will not fail you. God’s got perfect timing. He’s never a minute too soon or a moment too late.

Even when he got discouraged and the going got tough, Joshua followed through. Will you?

 

5. Joshua Saw God Come Through

Joshua 6:15-16, 20 (NLT)
On the seventh day the Israelites got up at dawn and marched around the city as they had done before. But this time they went around the city seven times. The seventh time around, as the priests sounded the long blast on their horns, Joshua commanded the people, “Shout! For the LORD has given you the city!
When the people heard the sound of the horns, they shouted as loud as they could. Suddenly, the walls of Jericho collapsed, and the Israelites charged straight into the city from every side and captured it.


Joshua saw God come through because he trusted Him, obeyed Him, and followed through himself. And when you follow through, you’ll see God follow through.
 

 

 

 

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