I bet many of you heard the story of Moses and the Israelites when you were young kids. If you didn’t, or it’s been a while, let me summarize it for you. God chose the people of Israel to be “his” people and Moses to lead them to a place called the “promised land.”
You’ll remember Moses, he’s the guy who proclaimed the 10 plagues against Pharaoh and parted the Red Sea. Well, he led Israel for years and years on the way to the promised land.
Eventually, he gets old and can’t lead them into the land, so God chooses Joshua to replace him in leadership. Joshua has a huge job. He’s got no military experience, and the people of Israel are not soldiers, but he has to lead them on one of the greatest military campaigns in recorded history.
You see, this promised land that they are getting ready to take is full of people in walled cities, and some of these people are trained soldiers and giants of men.
So, Joshua is understandably a bit nervous. It’s here that God gives some strong advice to this new leader:
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9 NIV)
Did you catch that? Did you see why Joshua could be courageous and strong? It’s not because he’s got great soldiers under his command (he doesn’t). It’s not because of effective weapons (we’re talking farm tools here) or a brilliant tactical plan (not an inkling). He can be strong and courageous because the Lord would be with him! If Joshua obeys the Lord he will be successful in his battles. It is that simple.
So, this campaign starts out pretty good. The crown jewel of the region is a city named Jericho. This fortress city was surrounded by 13 foot tall stone walls with 28 foot tall guard towers manned by trained soldiers. It had its own water supply inside the walls so the people never had to leave. It was impenetrable.
God tells Joshua to simply walk around the city for 7 days. On the 7th day the walls just fell down. Yes, fell down. No kidding, this really happened; and the archaeology supports the story. The people of Israel walked right in and took the city. No fighting. No storming the walls. No casualties. You see, this is the power of God being present. This is the power of God with us.
However, the next city doesn’t go so well. You see, the people of Israel got a bit ahead of themselves. They came to this little out of the way village called Ai. It was so small, and so weak that they didn’t even think that they needed the whole army. They attacked it and got soundly beat. They lost 36 people in battle and were chased out of Ai with their tails between their legs.
When they got back to camp and asked Joshua why this happened, they learned that they had lost because they had disobeyed God. God had told them to save all the gold and silver from Jericho for his treasury and a guy named Achan had stolen some for himself.
It turns out God wasn’t with them when they attacked Ai because of this disobedience. This is the tragedy of God not being with us.
Do you see this simple principle?
If God is with us then we have strength and courage because we know we will win in the end.
If we disobey God, he’s not with us, and we will fail.
Let’s fast forward 1,400 years to a tiny town about 30 miles away. We’re in a stable and a child is born who they called Immanuel. You know this baby. We celebrate his birth every year with presents, food and candles. Jesus.
Do you know what this name Immanuel means? God with us! God is here. He came to Earth to live with us, to literally be with us! All the time. Never leaving.
Here is the really good news though. Do you remember how the Israelites failed to take Ai because they disobeyed God? That is a bit scary isn’t it? It’s hard to be strong and courageous when you are worried that you’ll disobey God and he won’t be with you.
Well, Jesus not only lives with us, he also died to pay the price for all of our disobedience. The Bible calls this disobedience “sin” and Christ died to take it away so we don’t have to worry that God will ever leave us again. In Romans 5:8 the Bible says:
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Think about the implications of this. We know that if God is with us we will experience victory and can be strong and courageous in how we live our lives. We know that sin, disobedience, will separate us from God and cause us to fail. We know that God came as a man to be with us and died to pay the price for all of our disobedience and sin.
So, today, if we believe in Jesus and accept this offer of salvation we can live with no fear and absolute courage. If we are saved by Jesus Christ we know with absolute certainty that God is with us and we’ll have ultimate victory.
Now that is really good news that we all need to hear!
What a way to live! It’s incredibly fun to live with no fear of ultimate failure; especially as 2020 has thrown each of us curveball after curveball. God is with us my friends, and you can have this courage too. It’s simple, accept the gift Jesus gave and let him pay for your disobedience and mistakes so you can know God is always with you too.
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