The End of FEAR - “Swimming Lessons”
For weeks now we have been talking about "The End of Fear." Let me give you a quick recap with some background. The first 5 books of the Bible are often referred to as the Pentateuch. Of course Genesis is the first one and is known as the book of beginnings. It records the start of the nation of Israel and takes them on up through their bondage in Egypt. Exodus is all about their coming out of bondage under Moses. Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy are connected with Israel's 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. That brings us to the book of Joshua. We saw in chapter one God saying to Israel now is the time to enter the promised land under Joshua. Chapter 2 deals with plans to enter the promisied land and sending the two spies to Jericho and the story of Rahab that ensued. With chapter 3 Israel is on the verge of entering the promised land but there is something beside Jericho they must conquer first.
Joshua 3:1 says, "Early the next morning Joshua and all the Israelites left Acacia Grove and arrived at the banks of the Jordan River, where they camped before crossing."
Israel must cross the Jordan River in order to enter the promised land. The idea of conquering the Jordan River by crossing serves as a general illustration of our overcoming obstacles in our lives. It is a picture of living by faith and getting to where we need to go. Fear keep us from seeing what God has in mind for us and faith lets us see what God has waiting for us up ahead.
Here's what I'd like to do for today. We are going to take the story of the crossing of the Jordan and deal just with the specific things that lead up to it. Then we will consider these things in terms of our series theme: "The End of Fear." In addition we will have a word for fathers in all this.
So, Israel is camped on the banks of the Jordan River and ready to cross. Talk about armies and a mass of people. God needs to do something here!
Joshua 3:2-4 says, "Three days later the Israelite officers went through the camp, 3giving these instructions to the people: “When you see the Levitical priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord your God, move out from your positions and follow them. 4Since you have never traveled this way before, they will guide you. Stay about half a mile behind them, keeping a clear distance between you and the Ark. Make sure you don’t come any closer."
There are some clear instructions here that have an application for us. The Ark of the Covenant represented the fact that God was in their midst. They needed to keep their distance to show their respect and reverence. When the Levitical priests who would be carrying the Ark of the Covenant moved out they were to follow about a half mile behind them. The application for us is simple: we need reverence and a proper respect for God.
1 - The Right Kind of Fear
Ecclesiastes. 12:13 says, "That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty."
This is a final statement that Solomon makes at the end of the Bood of Ecclesiastes. Solomon gets it right. The right kind of fear is a respect and reverence for God that protects me from the impact from consequences in my life. The wrong kind of fear makes me afraid and keeps me from what God has for me.
My family knows that I am a little bit afraid of water. My approach to water is having a proper respect for it. The rest of the family's approach to water is reckless and cavalier. We were on a vacation to a rustic cabin in New Hampshire that had been a spot where my wife's family vacationed when she was a kid. It was on a lake and near a deep spot that had a rickety diving board. It was my first time there, but of course it wasn't for my wife. She was okay with the kids jumping right off and into the water. No! No! They will hit their heads and end up on the bottom of the lake. They need life preservers and someone on guard in a canoe. But my wife said no, let them go. The reason behind my fear is what happened to a cousin of mine that I visited for a week during a number of summers when I was growing up. One summer we received word he had drowned at a YMCA camp. That news that came to me back then lasted a lifetime. Respect and fear toward water has parallels to respect and fear toward God.
Dad's, it's very important to know how you can help your family have the right fear of God. Here are somethings that will help with how to lead your family to respect and reverence God.
(1) Speak of Christ - it not enough to just speak of God in general. We need to speak of Jesus Christ and his authority over our lives. Be sure to sprinkle the name of Christ into the conversations of your family.
(2) Prioritize the Church - the church is a significant part of how God manifests himself in our world. If we likened the church to our need for help with steering our lives we would not be talking about power steering but the steering wheel itself. The church does not represent all of God but an important part.
(3) Base it on the Bible - It is essential that we bring decisions and conversations back to the authority of Scripture. Scripture is the authority in our lives that is greater than the things I want.
Leading our families in these ways will help them have the right kind of fear of God in their lives.
2 - The Confident Pause
There is one more part to our Joshua passage for today.
Joshua 3:7-8 says, "The Lord told Joshua, 'Today I will begin to make you a great leader in the eyes of all the Israelites. They will know that I am with you, just as I was with Moses. 8Give this command to the priests who carry the Ark of the Covenant: When you reach the banks of the Jordan River, take a few steps into the river and stop there.’”
The (overflowing) banks of the Jordan had been reached by the priests who were carrying the Ark of the Covenant with the people following about a half mile behind. The priests were to step into the river and stop. But first Joshua told the people that when the priests did this, the waters would part so they could walk across on dry ground. The priests would then stand on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan and let all the people walk by. The picture of God's people passing by the priests and the ark of the covenant is helpful to us. The priests are to wait without a sense of hurry (perhaps the parting won't last) until all the people have passed by. This reminds us that in our lives we need to wait without hurry before the presence of God.
This is all being done so the people don't miss what God is doing. You (the priests) stand (waiting without hurry) and watch what I am doing so the people will see what I will do. There is something about the "Confident Pause" when we stand in the middle of all the rush of people around us and we rest. Mohammed Ali often boxed with a confident pause. He would wait his opponent out for awhile as he created a sense of "wait and see what I am going to do." At family dinners where a prayer is said before eating, the prayer is often like a starter's gun. We are set for the rush of grabbing what's ours. We think it is all up to us.
My wife doesn't like buffets because it's like everyone is competing for the food. She wants a plate of food set in front of her that's just for her. That's what God does. He puts a plate before us. The beauty of that is this: you don't have to rush. You just relax and wait for God.
Psalms 34:8 says, "Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!"
Sit back and don't run. When you "pause" you see what God is doing. "Pause" is how we live in Christ in the middle of the world. It is in the middle of the River, stopped, that we see what God has for us. I invite you to pause in the middle of the river, so to speak. Pause and do it. God is so good - how has he blessed? You say, "Ben, you don't understand. I am all by myself (Father's day). The things I am going through." I get that. But pause - taste and see - God is good. Discover that he is faithful.
Father, we've been running across the river, thinking it won't last. Help us pause - taste and see. Help us discover Ephesians 3 again, where we experience the love of Christ fully and are filled. Father on this Father's day, we pause, we taste and see that you are good and that you truly bless. We pray this in Jesus' Name. Amen!
Posted on Sun, June 21, 2015
by Alan Porter