Below is part II of a sermon from my pastor I mentioned regarding the "Clear Vision" theme he taught around 2004. I posted it with other past sermons over at the Christianity (Enlightened) forum too- so if you want, you can check other of his sermons over there as well that are not posted here (the multi-post option wasnt working today)
-- this pastor I refer to is the one who is not of any organized religion- but who prefers to permit the Holy Spirit to teach through him and whom won't put his name on any books he has written. He feels strongly that the info wasnt' from him but from God
. So all of these sermons I am copy/pasting for you are not from anyone's reasoning or rationalizing the scriptures- but were inspired line by line from the Holy Spirit through an ordinary person. There is a verse somewhere in Revelations that says, "Listen to what the Spirit says to the Churches" Maybe you can hear some of God's voice in this service to apply for your own life, or church community.
God Bless! Boldyloxx
oops...heh heh... --here's the sermon:
The Clear Vision
“Remaining Faithful to the Clear Vision”
“And if you be unwilling to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." (Joshua 24:15).
“Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?’ … After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him” (John 6:61, 66).
Under Joshua’s leadership the Lord gave the land of Canaan, the Promised Land, to the children of Israel. Each tribe was given their portion, their inheritance, except for the tribe of Levi. Why not? Why wasn’t the tribe of Levi given a material inheritance, a portion of the land? Why were they not given an earthly inheritance like the other tribes? The reason was that the Lord had ordained that He Himself was to be their inheritance.
Now, once settled and some years later, Joshua – now old in years – gives his farewell message to the people. He begins by reminding them of their beginnings, from Abraham to Isaac to Jacob to Moses and so on. We read: “Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel; and they presented themselves before God. And Joshua said to all the people, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, `Your fathers lived of old beyond the Euphra'tes, Terah, the father of Abraham and of Nahor; and they served other gods. Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan, and made his offspring many. I gave him Isaac; and to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. And I gave Esau the hill country of Se'ir to possess, but Jacob and his children went down to Egypt. And I sent Moses and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt with what I did in the midst of it; and afterwards I brought you out. Then I brought your fathers out of Egypt, and you came to the sea; and the Egyptians pursued your fathers with chariots and horsemen to the Red Sea. And when they cried to the LORD, he put darkness between you and the Egyptians, and made the sea come upon them and cover them; and your eyes saw what I did to Egypt; and you lived in the wilderness a long time. Then I brought you to the land of the Amorites, who lived on the other side of the Jordan; they fought with you, and I gave them into your hand, and you took possession of their land, and I destroyed them before you. Then Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, arose and fought against Israel; and he sent and invited Balaam the son of Be'or to curse you, but I would not listen to Balaam; therefore he blessed you; so I delivered you out of his hand. And you went over the Jordan and came to Jericho, and the men of Jericho fought against you, and also the Amorites, the Per'izzites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Gir'gashites, the Hivites, and the Jeb'usites; and I gave them into your hand. And I sent the hornet before you, which drove them out before you, the two kings of the Amorites; it was not by your sword or by your bow. I gave you a land on which you had not labored, and cities which you had not built, and you dwell therein; you eat the fruit of vineyards and oliveyards which you did not plant’” (Joshua 24:1-13).
Joshua reminds the people of the protections of the Lord. How He guided them through the wilderness. How he provided for their needs in the wilderness. How once they crossed over the Jordon how the Lord drove out the various nations and people of the land. How they were given cities they had not built and vineyards they had not planted.
Joshua then exhorts the people concerning their service and faithfulness to the Lord. He also tells them to put away other gods. We read: “Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River, and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. And if you be unwilling to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:14-15).
This last message seems somewhat out of place? Why did Joshua say these words? Didn’t this people already know the Lord? Hadn’t the Lord plan and purpose for them been made known? Yes. Why then this message? Why would Joshua feel it necessary to tell the people to serve the Lord in sincerity and faithfulness? Why would they need to be told to put away of the gods?
We can begin to answer this question with another question directed at our own life experience. When are we more prone to neglect the Lord and His will; during times of trials and difficulties or during times of relative prosperity and ease? Are we more apt to draw close to God when things are going well or when we are in the midst of trials?
At the time of Joshua’s farewell message the children of Israel had been living in Canaan for a number of years. The period of the wilderness was over, as was the period of driving out the various occupying peoples from the land. They were living a life of relative prosperity and ease. Now was the time when they were in danger of becoming spiritually lax and complacent. And during such times there is a danger of loosing one’s spiritual vision. During such times there is a danger that the clear vision of the Lord and His plan and purpose can become clouded.
Joshua exhorts the people to serve the Lord in sincerity. That is, do not serve Him with words only. Deeds and actions must be consistent with words. Our actions must testify to our nice words and expressions of our service to the Lord. They were also exhorted to put away the gods of their fathers. There was something of the past that remained, something that would hinder their clear vision and future spiritual growth.
What about us? What is there in our life, some vestige of the past that is a snare in our present relationship with the Lord?
We are reminded of the multitude who Jesus fed by the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish. Recall how it was the next day when the people who had been fed the day before went looking for Jesus. While their motivation for seeking Jesus was based on the miracle of the day before, Jesus longed to take them to a higher spiritual plane. In the gospel of St. John we read:
“So when the people saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Caper'na um, seeking Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you; for on him has God the Father set his seal.’ … ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world.’ They said to him, ‘Lord, give us this bread always.’ Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst’ … ‘I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.’ The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed’” (John 6:24-55).
While the people were focused on Jesus providing for their material needs, Jesus sought to introduce them to a higher spiritual truth. The miracle of the day before was to be a material symbol of a much greater spiritual truth. What was the people’s response? We read: Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?" After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him (John 6:61, 66).
Sadly, the people had allowed the miracle of the previous day to cloud their spiritual vision. Consequently, they were unwilling to allow the Lord to bring them into a new and higher relationship with him. However, notice that Jesus left them free. No one was forced to go on with Him. In fact, Jesus even turned to the disciples and asked them if they too did not also want to go back.
Like Jesus, Joshua did not force the people to remain faithful to the Lord. Rather, he left them free. They could serve the Lord in sincerity and faithfulness, or they could turn back to the old ways and worship. He did, however, make it clear what his own personal intentions were. We read: “And if you be unwilling to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." (Joshua 24:15).
What about us? We too are surrounded by many false gods. We must not make the mistake of assuming that the only form a false god takes is some idol that one bows before. A false god is in fact anything from our past or present that distorts our spiritual vision and prohibits us from serving the Lord in the manner He requires. The time comes when we must step back and take stock of our service and worship. Is it sincere, or is it merely full of nice words and expressions?
What was the people’s response to Joshua’s message? We read: “Then the people answered, ‘Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD, to serve other gods; for it is the LORD our God who brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, and who did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed; and the LORD drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land; therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God’” (Joshua 24:16-18).
The people were certainly clear in their response. They recognized the Lord’s grace on their behalf and exclaimed their willingness to serve the Lord and not to forsake Him for other Gods. Joshua, however, was not convinced and he went on to say more. We read: “But Joshua said to the people, ‘you cannot serve the LORD; for he is a holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm, and consume you, after having done you good. ‘And the people said to Joshua, ‘Nay but we will serve the LORD.’ Then Joshua said to the people, ‘You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the LORD, to serve him.’ And they said, ‘We are witnesses’” (Joshua 24:19-22).
What did Joshua mean when he said that the Lord is a jealous God? The word jealous as used here means that the Lord is jealous for our good, and that He will not tolerate that in our lives which will hinder us from becoming a holy people.
Finally, Joshua put the people to the test by commanding them to put away their foreign gods. He then made a covenant with the people, using a giant stone which was a prophecy of Jesus. That stone – Jesus Himself – would be a witness to the promise of the people that day to serve the Lord and remain faithful to Him. We read: “[Joshua] said, ‘Then put away the foreign gods which are among you, and incline your heart to the LORD, the God of Israel.’ And the people said to Joshua, ‘The LORD our God we will serve, and his voice we will obey.’ So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made statutes and ordinances for them at Shechem. And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God; and he took a great stone, and set it up there under the oak in the sanctuary of the LORD. And Joshua said to all the people, ‘Behold, this stone shall be a witness against us; for it has heard all the words of the LORD which he spoke to us; therefore it shall be a witness against you, lest you deal falsely with your God’” (Joshua 24:23-27).
Did the people remain faithful as they had promised? For the most part the people of that generation did remain faithful. However, with the death of Joshua, the people began to backslide. Consider what we are told concerning this people in the next book of the Old Testament, the book of Judges. We read: “When Joshua dismissed the people, the people of Israel went each to his inheritance to take possession of the land. And the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work which the LORD had done for
Israel. And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died at the age of one hundred and ten years. And they buried him within the bounds of his inheritance in Tim'nath he'res, in the hill country of E'phraim, north of the mountain of Ga'ash. And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers; and there arose another generation after them, who did not know the LORD or the work which he had done for Israel. And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Ba'als; and they forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; they went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were round about them, and bowed down to them; and they provoked the LORD to anger. They forsook the LORD, and served the Ba'als and the Ash'taroth” (Judges 2:6-13).
We are told the new generation did not know the Lord? Was this true? Not in a literal sense. They certainly did know about the Lord and all He had done for their ancestors. They did not, however, have a clear vision of the Lord and His will for them. This new generation did not remain faithful to their calling, and consequently their once clear vision became more and more clouded. Absent this clear vision, they forsook the Lord and His will, plan and purpose for them.
May this serve as a lesson for us! May we pray for grace to remain faithful to God -- may our service to Him be sincere -- may we not turn back to a lesser light. May the Lord help us!