Message: Awaiting Yet Worshipping | Scripture: Joshua 12 | Speaker: Pastor Stephen Choy
Patterns and types are given to us in the Bible to help us know not only the history of God’s character and work throughout time but also to ground our expectant hope of what is to come as we live worshipfully faithful lives in response. We do not strive to earn our keep, rather we are made able to keep and treasure what has been graciously provided to us. We see this, in our time, most clearly in the Cross of Christ, but for Israel, in the time of Joshua, they saw this first in Moses as they rose from captivity and then, again, as they struck down the giant kings of Sihon and Og. God had given them a pattern of provision, mercy, and grace, and as they were to enter into their inheritance, they were to make sure not to misplace their vision of that pattern. The kings of Canaan also served as a warning for what happens when the Lord’s provision, mercy, and grace are substituted with man’s greed, pride, and entitled ambition. God is the giver of all good things. God is the keeper of all good things. God is the sustainer of all good things. His promises shall not be frustrated or broken. His reign as our unfailing King shall have no end. We are simply meant to follow–we are simply meant to worship as we await the rest that he is bringing. So, as long as today is called today, do not harden your heart. Rather, examine it. Know the character and nature of your God and the victory of salvation he has brought about in your life. Give him the praise, adoration, and affection that he is due.
Come prepared to share and answer at least two of the following questions:
- Take some time to reflect on the sermon. What did you like about it? What did you not like about it? If you had some questions about it to ask one another (or Pastor Stephen) what would those questions be and try to answer them together.
- Be gracious, supportive and receptive to one another and to your group facilitators in this because they/you may not have all the answers!
- Call Pastor Stephen if you get stuck!
- Discuss one way God’s used this past sermon (or one of the previous few sermons) to grow you and/or challenge you.
- Perhaps in how often you think back and reflect on the many ways that God has shown his faithfulness to you over the past few months, years, maybe even decades. How has this thinking back/not thinking back affected your walk?
- Perhaps in how you display a graciousness and fearlessness in loving/caring for other members of your church that you may not have a good relationship with.
- Perhaps in your lethargy or fear of being faithful to share the gospel with unbelievers.
- Perhaps in your lethargy or fear to confront the sin in your own life and the lack of intentionality to take radical steps to find your satisfaction and desire in your Saviour.
- Perhaps in ways that you are self-pitying, thinking you deserve better.
- Perhaps in where/what you place your hope for what is to come or for better days ahead.
- Discuss one way that we can pray for you as a group. Try and elevate your requests above basic needs for health or economy UNLESS you feel these things must be shared.
- Provide/encourage us with an update of something that God is doing to apply his gospel in your life/how the beauty and preciousness of Jesus is being freshly applied to your current situation.
On Tuesday night, my wife was preparing my son’s bath while I was in the kitchen warming his bedtime milk. And I can remember the moment when, as I’m just about to get the hot cup from the microwave, I hear a scream from the bathroom. Now, my initial reaction was to think it’s likely not serious. I’ve heard my wife scream in pain before when Micah’s head knocks into hers or he bites her finger. But then, I heard a second scream that was both higher pitched, louder, more intense, and longer in duration, and upon hearing this scream, I ran to the bathroom because I knew something bad had happened. There she was, sitting on the floor, writhing and gasping, unable to really hold herself up, and with every second breath, screaming in pain.
I remember holding her, asking her what had happened, and her being unable to answer between the tears and screaming. Then, when she was finally able to muster the strength and breath to do so, she told me that she had fallen back on her thumb when trying to get up, and that she had bent it back in a way that she’d never bent it before. She wasn’t sure if she had popped it, broke it, torn it—all she could feel was pain. Yet, despite all the pain she was feeling—a pain that was increasing, and all the reasons she could give in those moments to yell and wonder about all the inconveniences this injury would cause, while we drove to the ER, all she could talk about was how much worse it could have been, and how much grace God had shown us to have this injury take place at this time.
See, for our first four years here in America, we had no medical insurance or coverage. We had all of our hospital bills regarding Micah’s birth covered for us. We never suffered major injuries despite the fact that Candace travelled all over America to sing with the seminary’s acapella group and despite the fact that I played a number of high intensity sports on a regular occasion. To top it all off, Candace had not fallen in such a way as to bring harm to our second child, Micah was extremely well-behaved and understanding of his mom’s suffering, and this particular Tuesday was Crossroads’ accountability night, which meant we had a number of willing and able babysitters sitting right in our living room, encouraging us, praying for us, and watching our son after I’d put him to sleep.
While there is still a lot pain and healing to do on Candace’s part, there is simply so much to be grateful for particularly in the circumstances that God orchestrated to make this the most painless painful experience of my wife’s life. When we look back, we don’t account for the fall, we think about the grace that’s both enabled us to persevere and the hope for better days ahead.
Similarly, Israel has just gone through something fairly traumatic. They’ve just come through the longest war in the history of their people, and yet, as they recall what was assuredly a difficult and painful time for them, the prevailing memory is of God’s deep faithfulness to them, and their hope in him for better days ahead. So, let us turn our attention now to the text as we read and remember the details of Israel’s first conquest through the Promised Land in Joshua 12. TWoL:
Now these are the kings of the land whom the people of Israel defeated and took possession of their land beyond the Jordan toward the sunrise, from the Valley of the Arnon to Mount Hermon, with all the Arabah eastward: 2 Sihon king of the Amorites who lived at Heshbon and ruled from Aroer, which is on the edge of the Valley of the Arnon, and from the middle of the valley as far as the river Jabbok, the boundary of the Ammonites, that is, half of Gilead, 3 and the Arabah to the Sea of Chinneroth eastward, and in the direction of Beth-jeshimoth, to the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, southward to the foot of the slopes of Pisgah; 4 and Og1 king of Bashan, one of the remnant of the Rephaim, who lived at Ashtaroth and at Edrei 5 and ruled over Mount Hermon and Salecah and all Bashan to the boundary of the Geshurites and the Maacathites, and over half of Gilead to the boundary of Sihon king of Heshbon. 6 Moses, the servant of the LORD, and the people of Israel defeated them. And Moses the servant of the LORD gave their land for a possession to the Reubenites and the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh. 7 And these are the kings of the land whom Joshua and the people of Israel defeated on the west side of the Jordan, from Baal-gad in the Valley of Lebanon to Mount Halak, that rises toward Seir (and Joshua gave their land to the tribes of Israel as a possession according to their allotments, 8 in the hill country, in the lowland, in the Arabah, in the slopes, in the wilderness, and in the Negeb, the land of the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites): 9 the king of Jericho, one; the king of Ai, which is beside Bethel, one; 10 the king of Jerusalem, one; the king of Hebron, one; 11 the king of Jarmuth, one; the king of Lachish, one; 12 the king of Eglon, one; the king of Gezer, one; 13 the king of Debir, one; the king of Geder, one; 14 the king of Hormah, one; the king of Arad, one; 15 the king of Libnah, one; the king of Adullam, one; 16 the king of Makkedah, one; the king of Bethel, one; 17 the king of Tappuah, one; the king of Hepher, one; 18 the king of Aphek, one; the king of Lasharon, one; 19 the king of Madon, one; the king of Hazor, one; 20 the king of Shimron-meron, one; the king of Achshaph, one; 21 the king of Taanach, one; the king of Megiddo, one; 22 the king of Kedesh, one; the king of Jokneam in Carmel, one; 23 the king of Dor in Naphath-dor, one; the king of Goiim in Galilee, one; 24 the king of Tirzah, one: in all, thirty-one kings.
Our proposition for our text this morning is that as those who have been delivered from the war over our sin—we are called to examine our hearts regularly so that we might direct our worship properly. And despite the repetitiveness of our passage, I think there’s sufficient information to instruct us in how we are to examine our hearts. These “how-to’s” make up our outline, and it’s to the first point of our outline that we’ll now turn. Examine your heart regularly so that you might direct your worship properly by evaluating the patterns and setting expectations:
1) Evaluate the Patterns and Set Expectations
Chapter 12 is an interesting section in the book of Joshua because many people, including myself, have asked the question, “why is it here?” If you were to read the end of chapter 11 and go straight into chapter 13, you would miss nothing narratively-speaking. Chapter 11 marks the end of the conquest. It tells us of Joshua’s war with the northern regions of Canaan, then it recaps for us all the parts of the land that he fought for and won from south to north. Here would be the perfect time to start discussing the actual distribution of the land, but for some reason, the author of Joshua under the divine inspiration of the Spirit of God decides to write another chapter recounting the Israelites victory in war, but this time, instead of giving us the geographical boundaries, he wants to tell us about all the kings who were slain but not only those in Canaan (7-24) but also those east of the Jordan (1-6).
So, in addition to asking why this chapter is here, I want to ask you why the author includes verses 1-6 about Moses’ defeat over Sihon and Og, and his subsequent distribution of their land? What does that episode in Israel’s history have to do with what’s taking place in our narrative now? And, so as not to keep you in suspense, I believe the answer is to provide the people of God with a foundational pattern—a pattern that’ll have ripple effects throughout history—a pattern about his character and the way he works in the world.
If you just take a look at the map that shows the entirety of the land provided by God to his people—both on the east and west side of the Jordan, you’ll see that Sihon and Og are not small areas, which tells us that these two kings were not unimportant or unimpressive. To the world’s standards, they were hugely important and impressive—in fact, we’re told in Deut 3 that the bed of the king of Og—a descendant, as our passage tells us, of the Rephaim—giants related to the Anakim—his bed was made of iron to uphold his incredible weight, and it measured, according to today’s metrics, 13 ft long and 6 ft wide. These were an impressive people. In fact, we’re told throughout Joshua that the Canaanites feared Israel and its God because of what they, a weak, slavery-torn people, had done to these two major superpowers—no one was able to defeat them, that is, until Israel came along.
So, the pattern that God is establishing here—the reason why vv. 1-6 were written was to show us something about who he is and the way he intends to conform history to his image. He wants to tell us that no matter how impressive a person thinks he or she is, God is far more impressive, powerful, and important. His authority reigns supreme over all creation. There is no king—no superiority amongst man that is comparable to him in any way.
And this is utterly important for Israel to both remember and retain as a defining feature for their lives because of what this chapter is doing, namely, as verse 1 tells us, it’s preparing Israel to possess the land. See, up until this point, Israel has only conquered over their enemies, but we’re told over-and-over that after their battle, they return to Gilgal or to some specific location upon the land. They don’t return to the areas that are supposed to be designated to them because it hasn’t been designated yet.
So, God, here in chapter 12, is telling his people to take a breath and remember the way that he does things before they go in and take possession of their respective regions. Remember how impressive Sihon and Og were, and yet they were still delivered over to you against all odds. Remember that the means by which God does these incredible things isn’t through competing, global superpowers but through lowly, humble people—people like Moses—people like the slave-nation of Israel. And notice with me in verse 6 that the words “Moses, the servant of the Lord,” are repeated twice to provide us with an emphasis of the kind of person that he will use to overcome the world. It’s the lowly and humble who shall accomplish his ends, but they are not just any kind of lowly or humble. They are lowly and humble because they know who they serve—the Lord God of Israel.
Yet, God doesn’t stop there. He doesn’t only establish the pattern of his power and his use of lowly servants to bring about his intended purposes, but he also provides us with the pattern of what happens to those who oppose him and his servant—he destroys them and distributes their storehouses to those who are nothing in the world. This is exactly what God does through Moses. He gives the tribes of Israel the land of Sihon and Og after completely wiping them out.
So, in these six verses, God is making sure that as Israel goes into possess the land of Canaan, that they do so properly—that they fix their affections rightly knowing they have not deserved what they’re about to receive, that they understand the grace that’s been shown to them—a grace that has preceded them even before they entered into this land, and that they evaluate the disposition of their hearts as those who are at the mercy of a holy and righteous God. God is making sure that his people properly evaluate the pattern.
And as they evaluate the pattern of how he accomplishes his purposes in the world, two things are supposed to happen. First, for those who are about to possess the land west of the Jordan, they’re not to neglect their brothers and sisters who are east of the Jordan. They are to remain united as one people under their one God. No one is entitled to what they receive—this land—all of it whether east or west of the Jordan—was God’s land, and all of Israel—east and west of the Jordan—were the people of God. Thus, they were to deal with one another and represent the name of God in the earth with equal deference and respect because God had dealt with all of them far better than they deserve.
Church, let me say quickly that this ought to be an imperative for us—as those who have been dealt with far better than we deserve. We’re to care and provide for all those amongst us, even those who we’re prone to disliking—even those who may have harmed or offended us in the past—no matter how much they’ve harmed or offended us. We are to remember that we were the offensive and harmful ones. We crucified the Son of God to a tree, and yet he has called us friends, beloved, his children. How much more, then, are we called to unity in one Spirit under one Christ as the one people of God? We have received grace-upon-grace, and we’re to dispense that grace freely, especially to those whom we call brothers and sisters, as it has been given freely to us.
The second thing that’s supposed to happen as Israel remembers this pattern of who God is and how he accomplishes his purposes in the world is that they set the expectation amongst themselves to be faithful to God. What the pattern of these six verses tell us is that God is as faithful today as he was yesterday, and he will be as faithful tomorrow as he is today, and because this is the case, we can be faithful to him. This is what patterns are supposed to do. They’re supposed to lead us in having the right expectations for what is to come and provide us with the basis for how to live our lives in light of those expectations.
Just as God had provided all the means for Moses and Israel to take Sihon and Og, he has provided all the means for Joshua and Israel to possesss Canaan. And just as God has provided all the means for Joshua and Israel to possess Canaan, he, and he alone, shall provide all the means for Joshua and Israel to keep Canaan. Therefore, Israel does not need to worry. All they have to do is remember the pattern and go on living worshipful, thankful lives. That’s it. They don’t have to earn the land because it’s already theirs. They don’t have fight to keep the land because the battle’s already won. Let your faithfulness be a result of God’s faithfulness. Let your work be the fruit of grace.
This is why vv. 1-6 are included with the list of defeated kings in Canaan—to make sure that Israel sees the pattern, and that they, subsequently, live a life of expectation—an expectation that God will act as he has always acted, and so, now, we can act in the way that God has always wanted. The striving is done. The work is assured. Examine your heart. Evaluate the patterns of God’s salvation history that have borne its effects in your life and set for yourself the proper expectations that acknowledge the faithfulness of his preserving power. This, brothers and sisters, is proper worship.
2) Count the Cost
Now, I think most people look at the next verses from 7-24 and think to themselves that they can glance over them rather quickly, or perhaps, for some of us, we skip verses like these entirely. And I think the reason why we do that is because it’s a list. It’s like an inventory, or an accounting, and if we’re honest, lists are usually pretty boring—there’s no drama—nothing to keep us entertained. But I want to spend the next few moments on this list because when we seek to understand it, it not only becomes less boring, but it also seems to give us life. And the way that we might receive benefits from lists like these is to determine what kind of list it is, and I put it to you that this is a list—an accounting for the cost of war.
I imagine that as the people of Israel read through this list—Jericho, Ai, Bethel, Jerusalem, Hebron, so-on and so-forth—there are many things that come into their minds, but perhaps, on first glance, they are remembering what was lost—that brother in Ai, that best friend in Hebron, that father in Libnah, that son in Shimron. And not only are these Israelites remembering those that they have lost from their own people, but this is, on its own, a list of remembrance for people who have died—kings and all those they represent.
In other words, TCCBC, this is a list that shows us the consequences of sin, and, just like it is meant to do, in part, for Israel, it’s supposed to, firstly, sober us and remind us about the reality and fate of both some of those who reject the world and all of those who reject God. The world can and will cause us pain—it can make us suffer—it may even take our lives, but there is a reason why this list does not contain the names of lost Israelites while naming every single defeated king. It is because as sorrowful as it is to lose one’s life for the sake of service to God, it is far more sorrowful to lose one’s life for the sake of oneself. Each of these kings are named because they belong to the legion of those who led their people to ruin based upon their lies and false promises of hope. They are to be most pitied of all. How terrible to have reached the pinnacle of human achievement only to find the eternal fires of hell as the reward for your labour.
I have an aunt who growing up I was very close to. She is the brightest person I know. She attended not one, but two Ivy League schools. She was the top of her class. She is currently one of the top medical practitioners in all of Canada, and yet when my mother talked to her about her sin and her need for salvation. Do you know what she said? She said, “well I believe God is absolutely sovereign, which means for those whom he’s elected, they shall surely be saved. But maybe I’m just one of those whom he’s condemned. Maybe I’m just one of those he doesn’t desire to be saved.”
When I heard this—even to this day, when I think about it—my heart breaks, and I pity her because for all of her brilliance—for all the heights that she has achieved in the world, she has decided that God hasn’t done enough to show her he loves her. For her, Jesus is not enough—the gift of his own Son is not sufficient to convince her that God desires to save her—that he’s willing to give up everything for her sake despite the fact that she does not deserve it. She wants more than that. And her attitude towards God is not unlike these kings, who rejected God and all he had to give them in himself. For them, he was not enough—they desired more than what he had to offer.
Dear sir or madam who might be sitting here, trying to decide whether or not to believe in Christ—trying to decide whether or not God is enough, I hope you have counted the cost, and when I say that, I do not mean to say that I hope you have counted the cost of belief. Rather, I hope, like Israel, as they read over this list of slain kings, that you have counted the cost of unbelief because your doubts are not admirable nor are they proof of your worthiness of his affection.
No, the Bible tells us—these verses in Joshua 12 tell us—that these doubts are pitiable—and fearfully so because the pattern has been set. Under Moses, we counted two kings who are to be pitied and yet were slain without mercy. Under Joshua, we counted 29 kings who are to be pitied and yet were slain without mercy. Under Jesus, we count hundreds of kings throughout the history of Israel who are to be pitied. And I guarantee you, when Christ comes again, we will count billions of those who thought themselves kings and queens, and all they will receive will be pity for it is a terrible thing for any man or any woman to fall into the hands of the living God!”
This section is short, but I hope its message is clear: examine the attitudes and entitlements of your heart. See how God works in history to save people who are unworthy to be saved. Set the expectation that he desires your faithfulness as a result of his faithfulness. And count the cost of unbelief as you consider the fate of those who have refused his mercy and grace. He is to be worshipped. He is owed your allegiance. Give it to him before it’s too late.
3) Revel in the Hope of Future Grace
Now, I hope you know that the intended purpose of verses 7-24 is not meant to leave you in sorrow and in fear. In fact, the purpose of chapter 12 is the reverse. As I’ve said, it’s meant to prepare Israel and us for what is about to come—for the possession of the land. Israel and the readers of this book are being prepared for future Grace—the conquering is done. The enemy has been defeated. And the taking is about to commence.
This list isn’t just to mourn the dead, it is meant to provide a subsequent, more vibrant, life-giving anticipation for the joy that is ahead because God is at work here, is he not? And the way that the author of Joshua does this is not just by writing a list, but as Israel is on the precipice of finally receiving their inheritance from Joshua, the author does this very specific thing of recounting how the land was obtained. But instead of doing that in the normal literary style that we’ve become accustomed to, he switches from a narrative retelling to a kind of lyrical—almost poetic—style.
And the reason he does this is because this list is supposed to be sung. If you know anything about the Hebrew language, it’s a very musical tongue—and it had to be because most people at that time were illiterate, so the way that they communicated knowledge and history to one another was through singing—that’s why the longest book in the Bible is a book of songs. Songs are easiest to remember. And the author of Joshua wants the Israelite people to remember this accounting. Why? Because of where it points.
While the information that’s contained in these verses highlights the many kings who once ruled the land of Canaan, the actual emphasis of each line is on the word “one” so that as you go through this list—as it is chanted or sung—what ends up happening is a reorientation of attention and affection from thinking about these men as kings over their territory to hearing that each listed man was just another man. They were one of many, and one-by-one each of them fall. One-by-one each of them fails to live up to the standard and the promises that they made to their people. There was one king of Jericho, he is no more. There was one king of Ai, he is no more. There was one king of Jerusalem, he is no more.
And like any song or chant, as you do it more and more, and as it is done in the congregation as these things were meant to be done outloud, your affection and enthusiasm is supposed to grow as the understanding of the text becomes clearer and clearer. One-by-one these men were exposed for what they were—frauds, liars, hypocrites, and powerless—and as you come to the end of the chant—the king of Goiim in Galilee, one, the king of Tirzah, one—your mind is supposed to turn and realize—the king that has outdone and outlived God, there is NONE. The God who not only remains forever, but who has fulfilled every promise that he has made, HE IS ONE; HE IS KING NOT OF MEAGER TERRITORIES OR SMALL WORTHLESS CITIES BUT OF ALL CREATION AND HIS REIGN IS INVINCIBLE.
This ONE God is worth of our every endeavour and pursuit because he has shown his faithfulness in history. He has shown his faithfulness in the present. And surely that is enough to know that he will remain faithful until the end. He’s given us Moses to distribute Sihon and Og. He’s given us Joshua to distribute the territories of Canaan. And, now, our God, our King, has given us his own Son as the propitiation and conqueror over our own sinfulness so that when he accounts for our names, we shall not be amongst those who are mourned or pitied. Rather, through his saving grace and the regenerating work of the Spirit, our faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Lord, shall be included amongst those whose names belong in the book of life.
So, we are to prepare ourselves. We are to examine our hearts and fixate our worship on him who is deserving because on that day, there shall be a great and final distribution of his eternal kingdom. Long will the time of war be over. Long will the days of sorrow and sin be wiped from the face of the earth, and peace shall fill the land. On that day, we will see him shining brighter than the sun, and the longing affection of our hearts shall be satisfied as we stand in the presence of the Almighty Lord, the King of kings, the ONE AND ONLY worthy of our worship. Let, then, your heart find its contentment in him. Let your praise of his name be the song that raises your affection and anticipation for what is to come for he alone is the faithful God who can and shall do all that he has said he will do.