Guidelines for a Great Future
Joshua 3:1-4:24 (Initial Reading: Joshua 3:1-13)
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - May 5, 2013
*When the Children of Israel were living in Egypt, they were forced into brutal slavery by the Pharaohs. But God heard the cries of His people, and in Exodus 3&4, the Lord appeared to Moses in a burning bush. There God called Moses to lead His people out of slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land.
*When the Lord called Moses, He knew that Pharaoh would resist letting the people go. And God promised to send terrible judgments on Egypt. In Exodus 3:18-20, the Lord said to Moses:
18. . . "You shall come, you and the elders of Israel, to the king of Egypt; and you shall say to him, 'The Lord God of the Hebrews has met with us; and now, please, let us go three days' journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.'
19. I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not even by a mighty hand.
20. So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My wonders which I will do in its midst; and after that he will let you go.
*Those wonders came in the form of 10 terrible plagues that God sent on Egypt, ending with the death of the firstborn of all men & beasts, except those protected by the blood of the Passover.
*Pharaoh then let God’s people go, but quickly changed his mind, and planned to crush them when they were trapped against the Red Sea. But God miraculously parted the sea so that His people could safely cross over. Pharaoh’s army was then crushed by the collapsing wall of water that had been held back by the Lord.
*God then gave His Law to the Israelites, and led them right up to the edge of the Promised Land. But tragically, most of those people refused to trust the Lord's ability to give them the Promised Land. So they spent the next 40 years wandering in the wilderness. By today's Scripture all of that generation has died except for Joshua and Caleb. But a new generation was ready to move forward into the Promised Land. With this background in mind, let's begin by reading Joshua 3:1-13.
*It's graduation time, and that's a big, big deal. We honor our graduates today! Graduating from high school or college is surely one of life's greatest milestones.
*But what about after graduation? How can we keep moving forward in life?
-We need some guidance, and the best place to get it is the Word of God.
-In this Scripture, the Lord gives us 3 guidelines for a great future.
1. First of all: Follow God's footsteps.
*This is the wisdom we can find in Joshua 3:2-4:
2. So it was, after three days, that the officers went through the camp;
3. and they commanded the people, saying, "When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests, the Levites, bearing it, then you shall set out from your place and go after it.
4. Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure. Do not come near it, that you may know the way by which you must go, for you have not passed this way before.''
*"You have not passed this way before." That's easy to see at graduation time. But in a sense, it's true for all of us every day. Every day is a brand new day. And we have no idea what the day will hold for us. How are we going to know where to go, and what to do? -- The answer is: Follow the Lord.
*You see, when the Children of Israel were told to follow the Ark in vs. 2, they weren't just following a box. Of course the Ark was a box about 2 feet high, 2 feet wide and 4 feet long. It was covered with gold, with two angels facing each other on the top. And it looked something like this: [Ark PIC]
*There were some amazing things inside that Ark: The Ten Commandments written on stone by the finger of God, Aaron's rod that miraculously sprouted buds, blossoms and ripe almonds overnight, and a golden pot of Manna.
*Manna, of course, was the miraculous food provided by the Lord to feed the Children of Israel on their 40-year journey in the wilderness. Psalm 78:23-25 explains:
23. Yet He (i.e. the Lord) had commanded the clouds above, And opened the doors of heaven,
24. Had rained down manna on them to eat, And given them of the bread of heaven.
25. Men ate angels' food; He sent them food to the full.
*The Ark contained some amazing, miraculous things. But what was most special about the Ark was the cover. It was called the "mercy seat." That was the most holy place where the blood of the sacrifice was sprinkled. And that was the place where God came down and met with His people.
*The Lord spoke to His leaders, and revealed His glory there at the mercy seat. So the Children of Israel weren't just following a box, they were following the Lord. And that's what we should do!
*You see, God has a plan for our lives, and we have great potential, IF we will follow His plan. The reason why the Children of Israel had to wander in the wilderness for 40 years is because they didn't believe what God had planned for them. They got into big trouble, because they didn't follow God's plan for their lives. And we always get into trouble when we don't follow God's plan.
*God has a plan for your life. God has a place for you. He was leading these people into the Promised Land. And He has a place picked out for you.
*You could ask, "Where does God want me to be?" I don't know if He wants you to be in Grayson or Great Britain. But one thing I do know: God wants you to be close to Him.
*In vs. 4, the people had to stay 3,000 back feet from the Ark. The Lord was reminding them that our sin separates us from God. But Jesus Christ took our sins when He died on the cross for us. And now we can get so close to Him that He will even come to live in our heart, if we will open our heart to receive Jesus as Lord and Savior.
*That's why in the New Testament, we hear God say things like:
-"I am with you always, even to the end of the age.'' (Matthew 28:20)
-"I will never leave you nor forsake you.'' (Hebrews 13:5)
-And "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." (James 4:8)
*God will lead you to just the right places in life as you closely follow His footsteps. Sometimes you will face obstacles, just like these people faced that flooded river. But you keep moving forward with God.
*He will help you cross over! Jesus will help you cross over every obstacle you will face in this world. Then one day, He will help you cross over into Heaven.
-If you want to have a great future, follow God's footsteps.
2. But also bear God's burdens.
*That's the second guideline for a great future: Be willing to bear God's burdens.
*In vs. 8, the Lord told Joshua: "You shall command the priests who bear the ark of the covenant, saying, 'When you have come to the edge of the water of the Jordan, you shall stand in the Jordan.'''
*And in vs. 13, Joshua told the people: "It shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, that the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off, the waters that come down from upstream, and they shall stand as a heap.''
*Then starting in vs. 14:
14. So it was, when the people set out from their camp to cross over the Jordan, with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people,
15. and as those who bore the ark came to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests who bore the ark dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks during the whole time of harvest),
16. that the waters which came down from upstream stood still, and rose in a heap very far away at Adam, the city that is beside Zaretan. So the waters that went down into the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, failed, and were cut off; and the people crossed over opposite Jericho.
17. Then the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan; and all Israel crossed over on dry ground, until all the people had crossed completely over the Jordan.
*There the priests stood, straining and sweating and serving, holding that Ark up, while all of those people passed by. This reminds us that Christianity is not just about "What's in it for me?" Christianity is about service and sacrifice and sweat. It's about being a servant of God, and doing all we can to help other people.
*It doesn't seem possible, but our high school seniors this year started first grade just a few weeks before the terrorist attacks on 9-11. Mychal Judge was the New York City Fire Chaplain who became the first official fatality at the World Trade Center. He had the kind of servant heart that we need today.
*Mychal had been a firehouse chaplain for ten years. He lived across the street from Ladder Company 24. On the morning of 9/11, he threw on his fireproof uniform and raced to the burning towers.
*There he was killed by falling debris. And on his body they found this prayer that Mychal had written years before:
-"Lord, take me where You want me to go;
-Let me meet who You want me to meet;
-Tell me what You want me to say,
-And keep me out of Your way." (1)
*That's the kind of burden-bearing attitude that we need. God has burdens for us to bear, and other people will be blessed. Other people will even get to enter the Promised Land when we shoulder the responsibilities God has given to us.
-If you want to have a great future, bear God's burdens.
3. But also highlight God's help.
*This is the third guideline for a great future in today's Scripture: Highlight God's help in your life. And this is what the Lord told Joshua to do next. Please look at Joshua 4:1-7:
1. And it came to pass, when all the people had completely crossed over the Jordan, that the Lord spoke to Joshua, saying:
2. "Take for yourselves twelve men from the people, one man from every tribe,
3. and command them, saying, 'Take for yourselves twelve stones from here, out of the midst of the Jordan, from the place where the priests' feet stood firm. You shall carry them over with you and leave them in the lodging place where you lodge tonight.'''
4. Then Joshua called the twelve men whom he had appointed from the children of Israel, one man from every tribe;
5. and Joshua said to them: "Cross over before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and each one of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel,
6. that this may be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come, saying, 'What do these stones mean to you?'
7. Then you shall answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever.''
*Why did the Lord want Joshua to highlight God's help with that stack of stones?
 Part of it had to do with thankfulness.
*As we move forward in life, it's important to look back and remember how we got where we are. Wisdom helps us understand that we have had lots of help. And our greatest help has come from God.
*The Lord God Almighty held the water back for the Children of Israel. And He has helped us in countless ways! Jesus even died on the cross to take the punishment for our sins. Then He rose again from the dead to give eternal life to all who trust in Him.
*With great gratitude in our hearts, we must remember how much the Lord has blessed us! That's why in Psalm 103:2, King David said: "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits." God wants us to remember that He is the source of every good thing in our lives.
*Author Alex Haley always kept an unusual picture hanging on his office wall. It was a picture of a turtle on top of a fence post. Sometimes people would ask, "Why is that there?" And Haley would answer: "Every time I write something significant. Every time I read my words and think that they are wonderful, and begin to feel proud of myself. I look at the turtle on top of the fence post. And remember that he didn't get there on his own. He had help." (2)
*And so have we. We highlight God's help to build up our thankfulness.
 And to build up our trust.
*That's why the Lord wanted those stones stacked up. Whenever new obstacles rose up in front of the Children of Israel, they could look back at the stack of stones any say: "Remember what God did for us when we crossed over the Jordan River? -- Nothing is too hard for the Lord!"
*King David did the same kind of thing when he was about to face the giant Goliath. In 1 Samuel 17:32-37 David said to King Saul:
32. "Let no man's heart fail because of (the giant); your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.''
33. And Saul said to David, "You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.''
34. But David said to Saul, "Your servant used to keep his father's sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock,
35. I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard, and struck and killed it.
36. Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.''
37. Moreover David said, "The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.''
*Christians, all of us can look back at the great things God has done.
-We can look into His Word and see many examples of His great help.
-We can also look back at the great things God has done in our own lives.
-Plus, we can feed our faith on other wonderful stories of how God touched lives with salvation, deliverance and revival.
*We highlight God's help to build up our trust.
 And to bring out our testimony.
*This is why the Lord wanted those stones stacked up. In vs. 6&7, Joshua explained that the stones were a testimony for future generations. But the testimony wasn't just for the Children of Israel.
*Look starting down in vs. 18:
18. And it came to pass, when the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord had come from the midst of the Jordan, and the soles of the priests' feet touched the dry land, that the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and flowed over all its banks as before.
19. Now the people came up from the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and they camped in Gilgal on the east border of Jericho.
20. And those twelve stones which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up in Gilgal.
21. Then he spoke to the children of Israel, saying: "When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, 'What are these stones?'
22. then you shall let your children know, saying, 'Israel crossed over this Jordan on dry land';
23. for the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed over,
24. that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.''
*Christians: We all need to highlight the ways God has helped us in life: "That all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty."
*Somebody told us.
-And we need to tell others the great things God has done.
-Then they can see the great things He can do in their lives.
*We have not passed this way before. How can we keep moving forward in life?
-Follow God's footsteps.
-Bear God's burdens.
-And highlight God's help in your life.
*Think about these things as we go to God in prayer.
(1) "Walter Scott's Personality Parade," PARADE magazine, Jan. 6, 2002, p. 2. September 29, 2002 - Sermons.com sermon "A Tale of Two Brothers" by King Duncan - Matt 21:28-32 - 2005 - Other sources: "America Out of the Ashes," Honor Books, 2001, p.43; One Nation, Little, Brown and Company, 2001, p.70; Parade, 162, p.2 - From: "In Other Words" - September 11, 2006 - produced by Dr. Raymond McHenry - 6130 Barrington - Beaumont, Texas 77706 (409) 866-2111 - www.iows.net
(2) Adapted from SermonCentral illustration contributed by SermonCentral PRO - SOURCE: Melvin Newland, Minister, Ridge Chapel, Kansas, Oklahoma