Is... Part 1
Worship Is... Obedience
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
October 5, 2003
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
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?
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
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
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?
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
- 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.
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
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
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
Proverbs 16:9 (NLT)
We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.
C. Even if he
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
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
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?
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
Joshua saw God come through because he trusted Him, obeyed Him, and
followed through himself. And when you follow through, you’ll see God