Face Your Battles with Strength and Courage
Last week at Mount Hebron Presbyterian we were looking at the passage of the Israelites through the desert after the Exodus. They had a habit of complaining! The sermon about 'Wandering' can be found here. This week we are moving on to look at chapter 7 of 'THE STORY' and the account of the entry into the promised land.
When someone keeps telling you to “be strong and courageous,” you might suspect you are up against something big. And the Israelites were. About to enter the land that had been promised them 600 years before, they had a giant-sized task awaiting them. Literally. Forty years earlier ten spies had come back and told the Israelites that the inhabitants of the land were so big they felt like they were the size of a grasshopper in comparison.
Fear took them captive without a battle and sent them off as a group to wander around in a wilderness where they took their chances against wild animals rather than face their giants. They wandered so long that those who had grasshopper-sized faith died out. Forty years later their children were ready to take the land. They were physically no taller than their parents had been. The enemies in the land were no smaller than before. But the Israelites’ had grown in faith.
There were two spies who had reported the land was theirs for the taking. One of them, Joshua, is now the Israelites’ leader. He was courageous. God wanted to keep him that way. So God tells him three times in the first nine verses of the first chapter of Joshua: “Be strong and courageous.” He also reminds him “The Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
We all have giants to face. Some uphill battles can appear insurmountable. Some tasks demand more than we think we can give. Another thing on our “To do” list – no way! An illness that came out of nowhere. An accident that we never saw coming. The loss of work or a drastic change in income. The passing of a good friend or family member. We may feel like running away and hiding.
Instead, scripture invites us to be courageous. The New Testament equivalent of the name “Joshua” is the name “Jesus.” One of His amazing promises is to be with us... always (Matthew 28:20).
As we move in the church calendar towards Easter we recall how during Easter week Jesus faced the most soul crushing of human experiences. Betrayal. Torture. Injustice. Intolerance. Prejudice. Violence. The list goes on and on until His death upon the Cross where He cries “My God, Why have You forsaken me?”
The Easter mystery is that God in Christ was redeeming the world to Himself. On Easter morning the Risen Christ appears to His followers and they begin to declare to all the world that we can face our giants through faith in Jesus Christ.
Whatever we may come up against in the coming days, let us pray that God will grant to us the courage and determination to find a way through. We are never promised a trouble free ride. But we are promised that God will travel with us, whatever may come.
For some music, the pure and powerful voice of gospel Queen Mahalia Jackson, singing “Joshua Fit the battle of Jericho” as she appeared in 1957 singing on the Nat King Cole show. If you happen to be able to make it to Mount Hebron Presbyterian this coming Sunday morning you may well find their choir offering their own interpretation of this classic song.
The Reverend Adrian J Pratt B.D.