New Year’s Message
(Joshua 7)

Rev. Jim Bogle, given January 4, 2008

In your bulletin this morning you see a painting by Titian; a Sixteenth Century, Italian painter. The title of the painting is An Allegory of Prudence. Allegory means an abstract representation of some reality. In the case of Titian’s painting, the three headed man represents the past, the present and the future. His painting then represents an allegory of PRUDENCE! Prudence means sensible, levelheaded, reasonable, rational, wise, and sound!

As we step off into the New Year we can learn a great deal from this painting. Looking back, hopefully, we can recall times of great victory in the Lord Jesus; times where we have grown in our confidence and faith in serving Him! But, as we look back, we can also see times where we exercised little faith and failed to serve Christ at all.

The prudent man or woman takes the lessons of the past, and begins to apply that gained knowledge and wisdom as he or she steps off into the future.

Our daily lives are always before the Lord. We need to begin every day with Him. No day is less significant than another. God wants us to trust him day by day; not just in the big issues of life, but in the small issues as well.

In this light, I call your attention to the life of Joshua! (Joshua, Chapter 7)

You will remember (in Chapters 5 and 6), as the Israelites prepared to enter the land of Canaan, their first challenge was the great fortress city of Jericho. Joshua and the children of Israel trusted God for every detail of the battle plan. They considered themselves merely instruments in God’s hands. And because they fully trusted the LORD, before their very eyes, they witnessed the fall of the great fortress walls of Jericho! God gave Israel complete victory without the loss of a single man.

They were obedient to His Word.

But then we read in Joshua, Chapter 7.

Joshua 7:1-7

1: But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against the children of Israel.

There is a very important issue here. God specifically told His people to take nothing for themselves of the spoils of this accursed city. Yet one Israelite could not contain his lust for material things and this one man’s sin would touch the lives of so many others; his family and his countrymen. Our sin always touches others.

Joshua needs to know there’s sin in the camp! How would he find this out?

2: And Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is beside Beth-aven, on the east side of Bethel, and spake unto them, saying, Go up and view the country.  And the men went up and viewed Ai.

This was the same approach Joshua took with Jericho. He sent spies ahead and when they returned, Joshua opened his heart and ears to the LORD and the Lord told him exactly how to gain the victory. He needs God’s counsel before he goes any further.

3: And they returned to Joshua, and said unto him, Let not all the people go up; but let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai; and make not all the people to labour thither; for they are but few.

How many Israelites labored to gain victory at Jericho? This is just a small problem to Joshua’s counselors.

We can handle it ourselves…

How many little problems did we seek to handle last year without any thought of allowing God to direct our path?

Surely when we’re in the hospital facing a serious surgery, we call out to God.

When the house is on fire, or we lose control of the steering wheel, we call out to God.

But in the little small daily affairs of our life, we just as soon do things our own way. Not realizing that the little things done “our way,” day after day, lead us further and further away from God’s way.

Joshua, doesn’t realize it yet, but the little city of Ai is about to become a major disaster for Israel.

4: So there went up thither of the people about three thousand men: and they fled before the men of Ai.

5: And the men of Ai smote of them about thirty and six men: for they chased them from before the gate even unto Shebarim, and smote them in the going down: wherefore the hearts of the people melted, and became as water.

6: And Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the LORD until the eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads.

7: And Joshua said, Alas, O Lord GOD, wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us?  would to God we had been content, and dwelt on the other side Jordan!

Joshua, having no understanding of what has happened to Him, looks back and sees benefit in not crossing the Jordan at all. He’s confused, bewildered, and, I believe, he fears that God may have left them all alone. But - Who has left whom???

Joshua is God’s man for the conquering of the land of Canaan, but God can always get another man. (Moses was God’s chosen vessel to lead Israel out of captivity in Egypt, but the Bible says, God met Moses in route to Egypt and sought to kill him because he was more concerned about how his wife felt about religion than how God felt about religion. (Exodus 4:24-26)

Though God spent a great deal of time preparing Moses for the mission; the success or failure of the mission didn’t rest on Moses; but on God! Man is to listen to God first, and then take good care of his wife and his family!

Joshua is bewildered and confused simply because he has become self-sufficient! And he even questions God’s motive for bringing him into the land.

7: …O Lord GOD, wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us?...

It seems that Joshua now wants to turn back.

Paul, having faced every kind of disaster;

“Five times he was flogged by the Jew. Three times he was beaten with rods, three times suffered shipwreck, he spent a night and a day in the deep (floating adrift at sea); once he was stoned, he was robbed, in perils by his own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, He was in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.”

All of these miseries came upon the Apostle Paul, yet he never thought one time of giving up, turning back, or giving in.

Philippians 3:8-11

8: Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,

9: And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:

10: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

11: If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.

When Paul committed his life to Christ, he lived daily to die!!!

Romans 8:35-39

35: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

36: As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

37: Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

38: For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

39: Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Paul placed everything in the Lord’s hands, the big issues and the small issues. He left behind a great testimony and example of faithful service to Christ.

Joshua is concerned about the mission he has been called to…Is it the right mission, is it the right time, is it the right way…

Joshua 7:8-11

8: O Lord, what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies!

9: For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land shall hear of it, and shall environ us round, and cut off our name from the earth: and what wilt thou do unto thy great name?

Israel turned their back on God before they turned their backs to the enemy. And the best thing for Joshua to say is, “God forgive me!”

He is on his face before the LORD pleading for understanding, seeking direction, and concerned about God’s marred reputation in the land.

Does it matter to you, in your daily walk, how you represent your Lord and Savior to the world?

The Matthew Henry:

“This should be our concern more than any thing else. On this we must fix our eye as the end of all our desires, and from this we must fetch our encouragement as the foundation of all our hopes. We cannot urge a better plea than this, Lord, What wilt thou do for thy great name? Let God in all be glorified, and then welcome his whole will.”

10: And the LORD said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face?

11: Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff. 

Joshua took the experience of that one day in his life, and made it a lesson never to be repeated again. As the out-stretched arm of God, he conquered the land, led the children in the dividing of the land, and enjoyed the peace of the land until his death.

In this New Year let us be prudent in facing the future. Take the lessons from the past, and the challenges of this day, and faithfully commit the future to Christ.