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Be Strong and Courageous

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
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September 11, 2023 12:01 am

Be Strong and Courageous

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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September 11, 2023 12:01 am

When we face challenges that seem insurmountable, we have this unfailing assurance: the Lord is with us wherever we go. Today, R.C. Sproul draws encouragement from God's promise to Joshua after the death of Moses.

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Renewing Your Mind
R.C. Sproul

God never promises that we can live the Christian life without difficulty, without peril, without danger, without suffering. It drives me crazy when I hear these television preachers stand up there and promise that if the Christian just has enough faith, they'll never suffer, they'll never be sick, and all that sort of thing, because it's simply not true. The Christian life isn't easy.

Having our sins forgiven doesn't mean that we now live this life without the effects, the consequences of our sin, or the sins of others. We still must navigate life in a fallen world. Welcome to the Monday edition of Renewing Your Mind.

I'm Nathan W. Bingham. Even though the Christian life isn't void of trial and tragedy, through it all, God is with us, and that's one lesson that we can learn from the book of Joshua. All week, we will visit various books from the Old Testament and we'll give you the opportunity to build your Bible study library, as there'll be a new resource offer every day. So be sure to visit renewingyourmind.org each day this week. For today, R.C. Sproul will introduce us to the book of Joshua and the lessons from the life of Joshua and the Israelites that can be a help to you and I even today.

Here's Dr. Sproul. Today we're going to be looking at the book of Joshua, and I'm excited to do this because Joshua is a fascinating character, one that I've always found particularly attractive. If you are interested in the great military leaders of history and you think of such people as Hannibal or as Alexander the Great or some of the generals in our own American history, we would have to say that ranking right up among the great generals of all time was General Joshua, who led in the conquest of Canaan in this time so many centuries ago. When I think of Joshua, I often compare him to one of our famous military leaders, and that would be Stonewall Jackson. Stonewall Jackson is known for his extraordinary feats in the Civil War, but also for his profound commitment to Christ and to the things of God. He was a man of great prayer. In fact, his chief of staff was Robert Dabney, Major Robert Dabney, who then became one of the greatest theologians of the nineteenth century in America.

And Dabney also wrote the definitive biography of the life of Stonewall Jackson. But Stonewall would always be rigorously in prayer on the eve of every battle, and then he would say to his troops before they went into battle, the battle is ours, the outcome is God's, as he trusted his own destiny and the destiny of his troops to the sovereignty of God. And in that regard, he very much reflected the character of Joshua. Let's turn our attention then to the opening chapter of the book of Joshua and look at the introductory portion of it. In chapter 1, the book of Joshua begins with these words, After the death of Moses, the servant of the Lord, it came to pass that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' assistant, saying, Moses, my servant, is dead.

Now, therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, the children of Israel. Now, in this introduction to the book of Joshua, reference is made to the historical situation where the great leader of Israel, Moses, has died, and the leadership of the nation has been passed now from Moses to Joshua. And Joshua had served Moses for many years as his chief lieutenant, as his great assistant. But I want us to notice one little detail here in this introductory portion of the book, and that is the reference to Moses as the servant of the Lord. We recently completed a series on Renewing Your Mind on the titles given to Jesus in the Scripture, and we spent some time on the somewhat difficult dimension of Christ's being the Messiah who would suffer. And I mentioned that in the messianic expectancy in Old Testament times, the Jews were looking for a Messiah who in one respect would be a prophet like unto Moses. And we saw how Jesus as the mediator of the New Covenant paralleled to a certain degree the work of Moses in the Old Covenant where Moses served as the mediator there. But there's another point of similarity between Moses and Jesus. If you recall, the thing that the disciples had the greatest difficulty with in understanding the mission of Christ as Messiah was with respect to His vocation of suffering.

We recall how Peter and the disciples blanched at the idea that their Messiah would be a suffering Messiah. And then we looked at Isaiah 53, which was a portion of the servant songs of that book, and we saw how Jesus fulfilled the role of the suffering servant of Israel. And some of you recall that I mentioned the Hebrew title for Jesus or the Messiah in that regard as the Ebed, E-B-E-D, Yahweh, or the Servant of the Lord. I mention that because here we see that same title in the introduction to the book of Joshua, but now the title is applied to Moses. Moses was preeminently in the Old Testament the Ebed Yahweh, the Servant of the Lord. And that title, incidentally, is the attributed to Joshua at the end of his book and at the end of his life, but then in a consummate manner to Jesus in the Old Testament. So now we see the transfer of authority in the covenant community of Israel from the Servant of the Lord, Moses, to his chief lieutenant, Joshua. And so now God commands Joshua to lead in the conquest of the promised land.

Now there are two other points of background. Remember that Moses was not permitted to enter into the promised land, and so the full redemption of the Jewish people from their bondage in Egypt did not occur in Egypt, did not occur until after the death of Moses. Moses was able to go up on the mountain and look across the Jordan into the promised land.

He could see it, but he wasn't allowed to enter it. Now we also remember that Joshua was one of the spies that had been sent out by Moses earlier to reconnoiter the hostile territory that they would be called upon to invade. And remember that most of the spies came back, and they were intimidated, and they said, oh, we can't go over there because the people were fierce, and there's giants living in the land, and all the reasons why it would be prohibitive for them to mount a military campaign against the Canaanites. But two of the spies came back bearing the grapes and so on, and talking in glorious terms about the beauty and wonder of the land, saying that it was a land flowing with milk and honey. And this is how we find Joshua early on, as faithful not only to his leader Moses, but also faithful to the promises of God, confident that they would be able to possess the land that God had promised to their fathers. And so now here we find the opening chapter where the command is given now by God to march. Now therefore, He says, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon, I have given you, as I said to Moses. This is quite a promise. Everywhere that you go, every footstep that you take, you will be stepping on land that I will give you?

No. This is one of the fascinating points in this announcement by God. I'm sending you to the land that I already have given you.

So that what's going on here is a command for the people to actualize and realize in time and space, in history, what God had already decreed from eternity. It's not that I will give you this land, but I have already done it. My sovereign decree is that this land belongs to you. All you have to do now is go in and possess that which I have already given. As I said to Moses, from the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites and to the great sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory.

No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. Now again, this kind of promise that God is giving to Joshua and through Joshua to all of the people of Israel is a repetition of the kind of promises that God had given characteristically throughout earlier Jewish history. This is the promise He made to Abraham when He said that He would make Abraham the father of a great nation. You remember when He met with Jacob in the midnight vision at Bethel where God said to Jacob, I will be with you.

I will never leave you, and I will never forsake you. Now that's crucial because here the people are about to embark on perhaps the most dangerous journey that the people had ever taken. I say perhaps because obviously the exodus was an extremely perilous occasion. But in that case, when the people were leaving Egypt, they were fleeing from a hostile nation. Now they are entering a hostile nation. They're not running from the enemy. They are going up against the enemy, and there is that difference. And this is an extremely dangerous, humanly speaking, and extremely perilous situation into which Joshua is asking the people in the name of God to follow him.

Now, let me just pause here for a second and say we do not live on the other side of the Jordan. We're not asked to cross the river and go into military conflict for the sake of God right now. God doesn't call us to a holy war in the sense that this was. Yet Christian people are often called to be involved in dangerous, perilous adventures. In one sense, the whole Christian life is an adventure, and God never promises that we can live the Christian life without difficulty, without peril, without danger, without suffering, without calamity.

It drives me crazy when I hear these television preachers stand up there and promise that if the Christian just has enough faith, they'll never suffer, they'll never be sick, they'll never experience death, and all that sort of thing because it's simply not true. The Bible repeatedly describes the history of God's people as a suffering people, and as I've said many times, Jesus not only says that suffering is possible for His people, but it is certain in the world. You will have tribulation.

You will have affliction. You will have pain and grief and all of these things so that we don't ever have an absolute promise from God to have a life free of suffering or free of death or free of peril, being free from peril or danger. If that were the case, the God of the Bible had made such an absolute promise, we would have to reject the God of the Bible because the reality is clear that that Christians throughout the ages have been called upon to suffer. What God does promise categorically and what He does promise absolutely to Joshua and to us through Jesus is His presence. I will be with you.

And the negative, I will not forsake you. Now, there are many times that we feel like God has deserted us. There are many times that we feel the absence of God, and we feel like He has forsaken us. But then the test becomes our sensual feelings and the integrity of the Word of God. God didn't promise that you would never feel His absence.

He said you would never live in His absence. I've often been tempted to write a book called The Sensuous Christian, where our faith and commitment and devotion and obedience is only as strong as the intensity of our feelings at a given time. I've known this in my own ministry, where I have been overwhelmed by a sense of the powerful, forceful, immediate presence of God, sometimes the presence of God is so perceptive to me that it's almost tactile.

I mean, it's like you can reach out and touch Him. And those are glorious times. But that's not my experience all the time. I'll never forget a time where I was speaking to a church where I was serving as a visiting pastor because the regular minister was extremely ill, and it was a great crisis for the people because their pastor was dying, and he was greatly beloved by the congregation. And I was called upon to do a special service at the church, and it was a communion service. And I remember how deeply I wanted this to be an unforgettable moment in the life of the people of this congregation because I knew they were looking to me to help usher them into the presence of God. And so I prayed earnestly for that service. I prepared a special sermon, and I remember it was one of those days where I got up into the pulpit, and it just seemed like every word that I wanted to say wouldn't come, that my mind was blank, that I was lethargic. I didn't have any sense of being anointed, and I just felt the terrible, sterile absence of God. And then I went and proceeded through the Lord's Supper, and I felt like a hypocrite because I felt so unmoved by the whole thing. And I remember at the close of the service, I felt like such a failure that after I pronounced the benediction, I didn't want to have to go stand at the back door and greet the people. I wanted to run.

I wanted to find a place to hide. So I didn't. I went to the back door, and I stood there to greet the people. And I'll never forget it, because one person after another just came out of there with this look of raptured bliss on their face, and they said to me, and they squeezed my hand, Oh, Pastor, I've never felt the presence of God like I did today.

And the whole congregation has kind of experienced the revival, and I missed it. And I walked out of there, and I thought, Never again am I going to allow my feelings to determine the truth of God's promised presence. Of course, I had to struggle with that vow because there are many times since then that I have wrestled with that same sensation. But the lesson, I hope, that I learned that day was the truthfulness of God's integrity in keeping His Word rests not upon my feelings or upon your feelings, but upon His character.

And that's what he was asking Joshua and the people of Israel to believe. Look, I've given you this land. We're going to go in there. We're going to cross the Jordan.

This is our Rubicon. We're going to enter into this conflict, and I'm going to be with you. And every place that you put your foot will be yours, for I have given you this land already, and I will not forsake you. In verse 6, be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to the fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left that you may prosper wherever you go. The book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night that you may observe to do all according to what is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and you will have good success.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage. Do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

The two things are emphasized here, the promise of God and the responsibility of the people. I will be with you. He repeats this promise every step of the way, and you must meditate on my word day and night. I don't want you to forsake me.

I don't want you to forsake my law. But this shall be before you every day, and that's what will bring you the success that I have promised, that you live according to my law. Let me just conclude by saying, in the twenty-third Psalm that we're all familiar with, we read the famous passage, "'Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.'"

God does not promise that we won't have to walk through the valley of the shadow of death. What He does promise is His presence. We talk a lot in our day about male bonding and how men like to have close companions, not only from their wives and so on, but of other men. And one of the expressions that men use about male bonding and camaraderie is something like this, that's the kind of guy I want to have in my foxhole when the shooting starts. Or conversely, I don't want him around me when the shooting starts because I'm afraid that that guy will run and let me to take the heat by myself.

And this is a male thing where we are encouraged by other men's courage. Well, think about how you would feel if you were in a foxhole with Joshua. Would you have any fear that Joshua would run at the first sight of the battle? I mean, I would take courage by having a man like Joshua next to me in battle.

But, you know, it's even possible that Joshua might turn tail and run. But to have God present in the midst of the battle, that's what inspires heroic courage, to know that He is there. It can be easy to forget that, but He is there.

God is with His people. You just heard a message from R.C. Sproul on this Monday edition of Renewing Your Mind, and this message is from his series on the book of Joshua. We'll be in a different book of the Bible tomorrow, so if you'd like to continue studying Joshua with R.C. Sproul, you can request digital access to this 10-part series with your donation of any amount at renewingyourmind.org.

You can also call us at 800-435-4343 as well. In addition to this Joshua series, we'll also send you Dr. Sproul's 57-part series, Dust to Glory. That's his overview of the entire Bible.

In addition to the DVD, you'll have digital access to all of those messages and the study guide. So give your gift today at renewingyourmind.org, as this offer ends at midnight. Throughout history and around the world, Christians have always experienced opposition.

More recently in the West, that has increased and is increasing at a significant rate. So how should Christians pursue the Great Commission amidst opposition? That's tomorrow as R.C. Sproul looks to the book of Nehemiah, here on Renewing Your Mind. you
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-10-29 23:29:13 / 2023-10-29 23:37:18 / 8

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