Sermon – August 13, 2017
The people of Israel are experiencing the victories of the promised land; watching as God’s promises steadily become reality. One by one, the kings and cities that stand in Israel’s way fall. The anticipation of the fulfillment has now become reality. We can often be confused as to how the promises of God become fulfilled in many of our lives, taking a “let go; let God” approach to his promises. But God’s promises don’t quite work like that.
1. God’s promises require work
Joshua’s victories are recounted briefly in 10:29-11:20. Therefore, we might have the impression that the battles themselves took barely any longer to complete than it took us to read. But “Joshua made war a long time with all those kings” (11:18). Day after day, Joshua needed to prepare his troops, to encourage his officers, to fight for the land promised to him and his people. This doesn’t mean that it was Joshua’s fight only (see 10:42), but it necessitated his work.
2. God’s promises reject meaninglessness
When reading through Joshua, the book re-emphasizes everywhere that Joshua’s work had meaning and lasting impact because it was God working through him. The promises of God ensure that our work is not empty, meaningless, or in vain. Rather, we are ensured of the import of much of our work precisely because of God’s promises.
3. God’s promises reinforce courage
The people originally rejected the taking of the promised land, not least because of the giant Anakim that roamed the land. But Joshua 11:21-23 tells, quite unremarkably, of the removal of the giants from the land. No hailstones from heaven, not chasms on the earth; no miracles from God have wiped them out. Strengthened by belief in the promise, Joshua and Israel face their great enemy face to face. “Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Josh 1:9).
4. God’s promises remain sure
The recounting of all the victories of Joshua 12 seem tedious and unnecessary. But such tedious reminders are there to demonstrate the fulness and surety of God’s great promises. Our need of the gospel is the same. Friends, all of God’s promises have been made true in Christ, truth we are reminded of in every presentation of the gospel, every hearing from his word, every morsel of his Supper, every stirring of baptismal water. God’s promises are sure.
Know this: Jesus Christ has brought an end to the curse. He has defeated death, sin, Satan. His work on the cross has redeemed his people, and reconciled the earth to God. The resurrection is the seal and assurance that these things are true. Be then strong and courageous, zealous for good works God has prepared, for this honors God’s promises, and glorifies his work.