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North St Chapel 11.02.07 Remembering not to forget

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Joshua 5 - Remembering not to forget.

North St Chapel 11.2.07 PM

How good is your memory?  Sometimes we are glad to remember things, sometimes pleased to forget. Rob Frost says that

           

the brain is a wonderful organ. It starts working the moment you get up in the morning, and doesn't stop until you get into the office. (Humorous quotations 39)

Conversely, in the Eric and Ernie joke book Eric Morecambe says to Ernie

'My wife has a terrible memory'.  'Really' says Ernie. 'Yes' says Eric, 'she never forgets a thing'. (Humorous quotations 161)

Today we are going to look at three areas where the Israelites were likely to forget, where they had forgotten and what they needed to forget. We will try to apply them to ourselves.

1. What they were likely to forget – their past (miraculous crossing).

In chapter 4 we see how the people were called to place 12 large stones from the riverbed on dry land as a memorial to the fact that God opened the waters and allowed the people to enter Canaan on dry land. They needed the reminder for the next generation: Josh 4:6-7   In the future, when your children ask you, 'What do these stones mean?' tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever. You would think they would hardly forget, but God knows the frailty of the human mind. And lest we condemn them too much, let's remember our act of communion. Jesus was so concerned about his followers forgetting what his sacrifice was about that he gave us a way of remembering too. Paul quotes him saying 'Do this in remembrance of me' (1 Cor. 11:24) Let us remember we have passed from death to life. (1 John 3:14)

2. What they had already forgotten - their preparation (the rite of circumcision.)

We see in chapter 5 they had forgotten the rite of circumcision. Why was it so important, at this moment of great achievement and victory that they stop and circumcise all the men before overpowering Canaan? It goes back to Abraham in Genesis 17:10-12: 

This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised.  You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised...

 So circumcision was the sign of being in covenant relationship to God. But this whole

generation, because  their parents failed to circumcise them, had lost the sign of covenant

relationship with God.

So the strange situation arose that their parents had been circumcised but were not able to enter the land, whilst the new generation that grew up in the wilderness were able to enter the land but had not been circumcised.  Having committed their children to the wilderness for 40 years the least you’d have thought they could have done was to prepare them for entering the land. But apparently they forgot.  Their human forgetfulness, or at least apathy would have jeopardized the future of the people of God.

Let's pause to reflect: Our task as people of the Church is to be preparing and establishing the next generation of believers for what God has for them. The psalms have an interest in this:

(Psa 71:18)  Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.

 

(Psa 78:4-7)  ...we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. ... {6} so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. {7} Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.

We need to train our believing youngsters not just in the truth of the word but also in how to be ready and available for God to work in them. I first entered a pulpit at 15 because an older friend took me seriously and would put up with my gaffs and immaturity. That was risky, yet helped prepare me for what God had in store for the future. I wouldn't be here today if someone hadn't thought about the next generation. It is worth remembering that many of God's key figures in the Bible - Joseph, Samuel, Jeremiah, Mary and Timothy - were prepared and used whilst young to serve him. What can we do as a church to encourage and prepare young people for acts of service?

Coming back to our text, there is another reason why the issue of circumcision was so important. Had the people not been circumcised, they could not have taken the Passover meal. In 4:19 we read that they came across the Jordan on the 10th. In 5:10 we read that on the fourteenth of the month, while camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, the Israelites celebrated the Passover. These are precise and significant dates. In Ex. 12:3 we see the people were to start preparations for the Passover on the 10th of the month, and from vv5-8 of that ch. we know it was the fourteenth of the same month when the Passover was celebrated. God had so timed it that they came into Canaan at the exact day to commence the Passover celebrations, showing God's perfect timing. So from now on the Passover would signify not just escape from Egypt but entrance into Canaan. Remember the NT says in Rom. 5:6  You see, at  just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.

3. What they needed to forget – their temporary existence (sustenance of manna)

Josh 5:12  The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate of the produce of Canaan.

Remember the complaints the people made about the manna? After they came out of Egypt, they soon got fed up of it and longed for the luxury foods of Egypt. Judging from this it was probably with great relief that they came into Canaan and commenced eating the wider varieties of food.

 What I find interesting is that after forty years the miraculous had become mundane! They have actually come to the situation where they want to swap the miraculous for the ordinary provision of food from the land. I think that is significant because the miraculous provision of manna was never intended to satisfy them, only to sustain them during the wilderness period. God didn't want them satisfied there because it was not his best for them. The land of Canaan was to be their satisfaction. Every taste of manna was a tangible reminder that they were living in less than God's best and less than true satisfaction. They were not meant to be in the wilderness eating manna but in Canaan eating the abundance of the land. If there was one thing they ought to forget it was the position of settling for mere sustenance when God wanted complete satisfaction. And likewise today I suspect there are many of us who forget that God has something better, something more satisfying in store for us than mere sustenance or survival as his children. I wonder if we settle into nothing more than Christian mediocrity. Are you settling for spiritual survival when God is offering complete satisfaction? Will you pass-over from manna to the abundance of God's land?

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