Everything I Need to Know I Learned in VBS:
“Joshua – Why Would He NOT Be Afraid?”
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Through the Written Word,
And the spoken word,
May we know Your Living Word,
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
A week ago yesterday our Presbytery, that’s the members of Presbyterian churches in our conference area, met. Officially we meet four times a year to do ecclesiastic business, and those gatherings are the work of elected commissioners from each congregation. Last Saturday was that, but it was also several others who did not have voice or vote on the floor of the business meeting but who did represent their respective congregations in listening to and sharing stories of God’s work in our midst. We had a great gathering.
But what I want to share here is that less than two days before the meeting I was asked if I would lead a closing song at the end of the day – a song I did not know and therefore had to learn – a song that was a little out of my comfortable singing range.
While I really enjoy playing guitar and singing with you here, my Church Family, friends who know me and most of you love me – but this was a larger gathering of people, many of whom do not know me. I say that to preface that music is not my area of giftedness – I mean, I can sing and strum a guitar if I have the chord sheet in front of me – but I am not a soloist or a lead singer or a real guitarist in any way.
As I prepared myself for this event Jennifer wisely asked, “Why did you say ‘Yes’?” I had no real answer, but I did say Yes….
So, on Saturday, as I was getting ready to mount the platform and approach the microphone, my heart was pounding so hard… I was extremely, unreasonably, nervous. Part of the reason for this was that the person who led the same song earlier in the day, during the worship service, was a young man who earned a degree from Whitworth University in guitar performance! I feel I had every reason to be nervous! (And, by the way, I did a nearly fabulous job – right Rita and Ken?)
Here’s my thought – I’m following THAT guy? I was already nervous – now I’m super nervous! Almost anxiety-attack-nervous.
In our current Sermon Series we are looking at some of our favorite VBS and Sunday School lessons – stories of Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah and the flood, and a few about Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Moses. Today we read the final, fulfilling story of the Israelites’ entry into the Promised Land.
In these past few months we have witnessed different ways God has demonstrated His call on our lives, from the Creation stories, through God’s Word to Adam and Eve, His saving of Noah in the ark, His call and promise to Abraham and Sarah, and on and on. God’s love for His people, His invitation to us to serve alongside Him, and His gift of ultimate salvation through faith in His Son, we have seen exemplified in nearly countless ways.
Today we watch as YHWH God ushers His people into Paradise – not heaven, but the Promised Land, Palestine. And we are allowed a glimpse into our Promised Land, life everlasting.
Listen to the Word of God from Joshua 1-2 (Pp. 151-152)…. —-
Listen for the repeat-commands God gives to Joshua, and then see if you can figure out a way that those commands are not also for you, for us:
<Read from The Children’s Bible in 365 Stories, Stories 75-77. >
Who had Moses been? He was the Jesus of his day – he freed the Israelites from their bondage in Egypt, like Jesus frees us from our bondage to sin; he brought the Ten Commandments, God’s Word, like Jesus is God’s Word made flesh; he foreshadowed the Temple by building the Tabernacle in the wilderness, like Jesus’ death and resurrection is pictured as the Temple’s destruction and rebuilding in the Church; he was the means by which God brought “bread from heaven” to the people, like Jesus is the Bread of Life to all who believe in Him; etc; etc; etc.
And Joshua is named the next Leader. After Moses, Joshua is expected to be the next “Jesus of his day”! It’s like Bono is the opening act? Who’s gonna follow Bono?! (Or Frank Sinatra…, who’s gonna follow Sinatra?) Right?
But, and here’s a little kicker that may not have meant anything at the time, but to the New Testament people this is super cool – Joshua’s name is Hebrew is Yeshua and Jesus’ name in Hebrew is, say it with me, Yeshua! Which means “the Lord saves”!
Joshua becomes the new Moses, the next Jesus, the leader of God’s people, the one who brings us into salvation and the Promised Land.
But he’s following Moses! So YHWH God commands him, “Be not afraid! Fear not! Be courageous!” Why? for the same reason God told Moses to fear not – because, “I am with you!”
The VBS stories include:
- crossing the Jordan River from Amman (Jordan) into Canaan (Israel), from east to west. Moses led the Israelites across the Red Sea from Egypt into the wilderness; Joshua across the Jordan River from the wilderness into the Promised Land.
- Sending spies into Jericho (the oldest continuously occupied city in the world!) to check out the opposition. Moses sent spies in almost 40 years earlier (Joshua had been one of Moses’ spies).
- Joshua’s spies are protected by a prostitute who lived in an apartment built right into the outer wall of the city of Jericho, from which she allowed them to escape out her window!
- Side note – Rahab was the mother of Boaz, who sired Obed, who fathered Jesse, who was the father of David, the shepherd boy who became the king of Israel, born in Bethlehem where 1,000 years afterward, Jesus is born in the manger!
And that’s where we stopped reading today, but everybody knows the next story:
- Joshua fit the battle of Jericho, Jericho, Jericho. Joshua fit the battle of Jericho, and the walls came a tumblin’ down, down, down, down, and the walls came a tumblin’ down.
These stories tell of God’s powerful providential care for His people. But what they also do is reinforce God’s promise to always be with us.
God told Joshua to cross the overflowing Jordan River – impossible, but God said, “Fear not, I am with you.”
God told Joshua to march around Jericho seven times, and then watch the walls come atumblin’ down – incredible, but God said, “Be not afraid, I am with you.”
God told Joshua to destroy the whole city, to knock down the entire city walls, except for that one apartment with the scarlet ribbon hanging out the window – unbelievable command, but God said, “Be courageous, I am with you.”
God used that foreign-born prostitute Rahab to give birth to King David’s great-great-grandfather, in the family bloodline of Jesus – intolerable, but God said, “Hang tight, I am with you.”
What is God calling you to do? – To whom is God telling you to make contact? – Where is God directing your attention right now? – Does God have something new for LPC today?
What is holding you back? What’s keeping us from going full bore? What are we afraid of?
Friends, God is with you, do not be afraid! God is with you, be strong and courageous! God is always with us, His very name, YHWH, says as much, and if God Almighty is for us, who can be against us? Who else can wash our sins away? God, and God alone! Who else can raise us from the grave? God, and God alone! And what could separate us from His amazing grace? What could say it’s greater than our God?
Friends, take the time, right now, to acknowledge who God is, every knee will bow down!
Decide right now, to trust Him in whatever venture He is calling you into!
Pray, right now, to surrender our fears, our anxieties, our apprehensions, and act on our faith! This is our Promised Land! God is with us! That is what Paradise ultimately means!
Friends, God loves you, and He longs to give that love to you.
Thank You, YHWH God, for calling us to step outside of what is easy; for directing us into some new territory of Christ-honoring service; for challenging our sensibilities to trust You even beyond what makes easy sense. Thank You for always, always, always being right here with us, every step of the way, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Batchelor, Mary; The Children’s Bible in 365 Stories; Lion Pub.; Oxford; 1985; Pp. 91-93.