Milpitas Adventist Church April 27, 2013
One Step Taken in Advance
Pr. Joshua Shin
The Scripture Reading: Joshua 3:5
Joshua told the people, "Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD
will do amazing things among you."
The 40 Years in the Wilderness
The 40 years of wilderness life had almost come to an end. Moses had known how accurately God’s promise would be achieved, and he realized that the there would be only two more months remaining.
On the first day of the 11th month in the 40th year, (Deut. 1:3) Moses began to preach his last sermon in Arabah to the Israelites where he can see Kadesh Barnea and the land of Canaan. This famous sermon is the whole book of Deuteronomy.
The first chapter of Deuteronomy starts with the recalling of an incident that happened 38 years ago. Although Moses was 120 years old, his physical strength was still powerful and his eyes were still bright. In reminiscing about the days in the wilderness, he remembered God’s wonderful guidance throughout their sojourn.
Departing from Goshen in Egypt via Sinai Peninsula to the Mount Horeb, the Mount of God, the journey took two months. The Israelites stayed at the foot of Mount Sinai for a year and received new instructions and training from the Lord on how to live in the land of Canaan.
In order to demonstrate HIS divine presence with HIS own people on earth, in order to teach them the mission of the Messiah—forgiveness and atonement through animal sacrifice, and in order to present the clear mission to the people of God on earth, the God of heaven requested Moses to build a tabernacle.
Through the daily supply of Manna, God showed Himself as the caring Father and taught them why, when, and how to keep the Sabbath day holy—a practice which would be a great blessing to the Israelites.
The pillar of fire and the pillar of clouds, hovering over the vast and formidable desert, the water from the hard rocks in an arid and dry land, the protection from the venomous snakes and scorpions in the desert were strong evidences of God’s power to guide and protect in such ever-dangerous environments. (Deut. 8:15)
Sinai to Kadesh Barnea / New Leadership System
After about two years of spiritual training for the Israelites under the shadow of Mount Sinai, God told Moses it was time to leave for the land of promise.
However, just before this great move, Moses was visited by his father-in-law Jethro who advised Moses to structure a leadership system for the millions of people. The effective leadership system of having commanders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens and tribal officials was introduced to the Israelites
I personally understand the reason God positioned one commander over 1,000 people and three commanders over 100 people was to minimize the governing power but maximizing the serving man power for God’s administration. I believe we really need to think about this wisdom.
With the help of the commanders, the Israelites set out from Horeb and moving in perfect order, reached Kadesh Barnea of Canaan just within eleven days.
Moses was so excited and confident that God was with them, so he ordered the people of Israel, saying:
You have reached the hill country of the Amorites, which the
LORD our God is giving us. See, the LORD your God has given
you the land. Go up and take possession of it as the LORD, the
God of your fathers, told you. Do not be afraid; do not be
discouraged. (Deut. 1:20-21)
But then, all the leaders and the people of Israel came to Moses and suggested,
Let us send men ahead to spy out the land for us and bring
back a report about the route we are to take and the towns
we will come to. (Deut. 1:22)
The idea seemed good to Moses, and he accepted the idea and chose 12 leaders from the 12 tribes. (Num. 13:11-16)
From Ephraim – Hosea: “God is Salvation,” “He saves”
From Judah – Caleb: “faith, devotion, wholehearted”
Moses renamed Hosea to Joshua: giving him a different name with
the same meaning => “YAHWEH is Salvation”
To me, it was Moses’ understanding of the Messiah Jesus, which is the Greek translation of Aramaic form of Yeshua, the name of the Messiah.
We know these two leaders were only people who entered the Promised-land because of their great faith in the Lord! The combination of these two names—to have the wholehearted faith in the Lord, WHO is our salvation—this should be our identity.
Now Moses commanded the spies,
Go up and see what the land is like and whether the people who live
there are strong or weak, few or many. What kind of land do they live
in? Is it good or bad? What kind of towns do they live in? Are they
unwalled or fortified? How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there
trees on it or not? Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the
land. (Num. 13:17-20)
Analysis vs Faith
My dear church members, please listen to me carefully.
The command of Moses to scout the land would be okay for precise analysis, but it shouldn’t be the focus of the report, for it robbed people of their faith when their focus was on the actual situation only. We Christians need to see more than the actual things such as living conditions, the size of the land, the number of trees, or the quality of soil, for God is much bigger than all those conditions.
Each individual, each family, and each church can have its own Canaan from the Lord. Job, marriage, living place, working conditions, church size, church location, and church finance can be some of them. But the Almighty God stands behind or in front or within these many issue, and He wants us to see HIM through them.
So what, if the land isn’t that fertile, if there are not that many trees, if the people are living in the fortified city? What is your problem? Are you able to handle these issues? No way. You have just come out of the wilderness after 40 years of nomadic life.
You are not able to fight against the enemies or conquer the land without God’s help!
It shouldn’t be your main focus!
Church Administrative Leadership Style
But let me tell you the truth. So many church leaders, pastors, including me of course, church elders, and denominational officers are not bold enough to move forward with faith alone. Rather, the passive and conservative and dubious attitude of the administrative leadership is well accepted, respected, and recognized as one of the best leadership qualities in our church.
As for Joshua’s and Caleb’s attitude in facing the challenge with wholehearted faith in the Lord is considered as unreasonable, too aggressive, and very reckless in the leadership of the church. Why?
It is because of our faith in the Lord. Actually it is not the matter of the strength of our faith, but it is a matter of the existence of our faith in the Lord. Please understand it, for if someone has faith as small as a mustard seed, it will move the mountain from one side to the other. One step taken to venture out will bring God’s miracle!
Soon we will be choosing the leaders of our church for the fiscal year of 2013-2014. I pray, I really pray that the chosen people will be acting as Joshua and Caleb for this church of God. I pray that their faith, devotion, and wholehearted faith in God’s salvation will lead us to the Promised-land.
Soon after his long sermon, Moses went up to the Mt. Nebo and reached top of the Mt. Pisgah, looked at the Promised-land from a distance and went to his rest. Then the young leader, Joshua succeeded Moses’ position and the leadership
Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of
Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the Lord showed him the whole land—
from Gilead to Dan, all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh,
all the land of Judah as far as the Mediterranean Sea, the Negev and the
whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar.
Then the Lord said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham,
Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let
you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.” (Deut. 34:1-5)
From Shittim to Jordan
Joshua also counted the days of God’s prophecy, and he knew that only 5 more days were left from the 40 years in the wilderness. (Jos. 3:1-5)
The command of God was given to Joshua. It should be the last move from one place to another. Why? For the time had come. The command of God was to move from Shittim to the shores of the Jordan River. (Jos. 3:1)
Behind the Jordan, a fortified city was seen. That was the city of Jericho, and it looked like an impenetrable fortress in the sight of the Israelites.
The Israelites stood up, packed up their tents, and moved on to the Jordan.
They stayed there for three days. And on the 4th day, Joshua sent the officials throughout the camp, giving orders to the people:
When you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God carried by Levites,
you are to move out from your positions and follow it. (Jos. 3:3-4)
Joshua visited the Levites personally and told them while the officials visited camps:
Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on ahead of the people. (Jos. 3:6)
When you reach the edge of the Jordan's waters, go and stand in the river. (Jos. 3:8)
And Joshua told the people, "Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you.” (Jos. 3:5)
Finally the consecration day was over, and the D-day had come. It was the day of God’s promise over 600 years ago—from Abraham through Issac and Jacob, and 430 years in the land of Egypt and 40 years in the wilderness.
The Levites put the ark of the covenant of the Lord on their shoulders. The 12 tribes lined up with their tribal flags.
Dear church members,
Just try to imagine this strange scenery. Over three million people lined up with their livestock against the water of Jordan!
Imagine yourself as one of the people in the city of Jericho carefully watching the movement of the Israelites from Shittim to Jordan. They were getting uncomfortably close and stayed around quietly for three days. Then the people started moving around here and there on the 4th day, and then they all stood up, took down their tents, and lined up… lined up against the Jordan River … for what? What are they going to do now? Don’t you think they were terrified?
Finally Joshua commanded the Levites to move forward to the edge of the Jordan. Now the Jordan was at flood stage during the harvest. All eyes were fully focused, and all lips were totally silent.
The priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan, and their feet touched the water's edge. The Bible says,
The water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great
distance away, while the water flowing was completely cut off. So the
people crossed over opposite Jericho. The priests who carried the ark of
the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the
Jordan, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed
the crossing on dry ground. (Jos. 3:15-17)
O my dear church members!
I am so excited and thrilled whenever I read this story.
To me, it is not a 4000-year old antique story from the Old Testament, but it is the real story of my church and my people and my life in this 21st century. How about you?
I ask myself. “Joshua, what is your life mission? Where are you now? Are you ready to move from Shittim to Jordan, for soon you will have to cross the river? Pr. Joshua, are you ready to carry the ark of the covenant of the Lord in front of God’s people? Are you ready to stand in the middle of the Jordan, taking the risk till all your church members will be have completed crossing river and entered the kingdom of God?
I personally sense God’s prophetic time, and I know that the end will come very soon. So for me it is time to move nearer to the Jordan and get ready to cross the river. But it is also true that the miracle here at Jordan was performed by God when the Levites, tribal officials, and the people of God all worked together!
So my dear church members and leaders,
I want to keep this sense of urgency continually before you, and I hope that all church leaders and you feel it together with me. This is my prayer for you this morning!