Joshua 8: 1-35
Dr. Jim Denison
Thesis: We must seek God’s will for each battle we fight.
Goal: Learn why and how to seek God’s will daily.
One of the most common questions I’ve been asked in 20 years of pastoral ministry has been: how can I know the will of God? We need his will for specific decisions—vocational opportunities or problems, family issues, financial commitments. We need his will for our relationships. We need his will for the use of our time, talent, and treasure. Nothing is more important to the follower of Jesus than that we know and follow the will of God for our lives. So how can we find this will each day?
Frederick Buechner was right: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” He has an overarching will for our lives, a purpose for our existence. Stephen Covey distinguishes between the compass (our values, vision, principles and mission) and the clock (our commitments, appointments, activities). We want God’s will for both.
When we find and fulfill that will, we can follow Jim Elliot’s advice: “Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.” You and I will live with purpose, fulfillment, and significance only to the degree that we live in the will of God. So again we ask: how can we find this daily will?
Review all the ways God has led his people to this point. At the Red Sea, Moses held up his shepherd’s rod and the waters parted. At the flooded Jordan, the priests stepped into the water before it stopped. At Jericho, the army marched around the city walls. Now they would embark on yet another strategy, one of the most ingenious in war literature.
What’s the point? We must seek God’s will each day, for that day. His plans for yesterday may not be his plans for today. The way we cross the Red Sea may not be the way we cross the Jordan. We will defeat Ai differently than we defeated Jericho. Only when we live in this day, seeking God’s will for this moment, can we find and fulfill that will.
Norman Vincent Peale used to illustrate the point this way. He and his wife had a summer house, to which they would often arrive at night. A rough path of stepping stones led from the parking area to the house. Their flashlight would not illumine the entire path, just the stones directly before them. But when they stepped on each stone as the light revealed it to them, they reached their house safely. Let’s learn how to find that next stone.
Seek God’s will for this moment (vs. 1-2)
Francis Schaeffer was right: God is there and he is not silent. Hundreds of times the Bible records the words, “the Lord said to….” He speaks through his creation, his word, our worship, his Spirit. Just because we do not hear him does not mean he is not speaking. Radio and television waves fill the room where you are reading these words. You will not hear them unless you are “tuned in” to their frequency. The problem is not with them but with you.
In our text, the Lord began with yet another word of personal, direct encouragement to his general: “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” He repeated the message for emphasis, an early example of Jewish parallelism. Three times already he has given Joshua such verbal support (1:3-5; 3:11-13; 6:2-5). But never was this encouragement more needed than now.
When we sin, we often feel shame and discouragement more than courage and hope. After the first military defeat in their history, Joshua and his people needed to know that the Lord was still with them, that they were his covenant people and heirs to his promises and provision.
His word not only encouraged their spirit, but also guided their next step: “Take the whole army with you, and go up and attack Ai.” Not the 3,000 dictated earlier by human wisdom (7:3). Not led by the priests, as at the Jordan. In a moment he will show Joshua how to use this army victoriously.
They would march with this assurance: “I have delivered into your hands the king of Ai, his people, his city and his land” (v. 1b). It is already done—the battle is won. Now that Joshua and his people are walking in the covenant will of God, their victory is assured. They could have won this victory earlier, but their sin hindered the power of God. Now the king, his people, his city and his land would be theirs.
With this change from the Jericho strategy: “you may carry off their plunder and livestock for yourselves” (v. 2a). If only Achan had waited! God’s will is always determined by the need of the moment. Now they would need this sustenance as they proceeded further into the land.
They would go with this military gambit: “Set an ambush behind the city” (v. 2b). God has a will not only for our needs, but also for our service. We must ever remain flexible to his purposes. We never change the message, but we must always examine the means.
Martin Luther set Protestant theology to familiar melodies, including barroom tunes, creating what we now sing as “traditional” hymns. The organ was divisive when first introduced to sacred worship, as it did not use human breath and was not sanctioned by the New Testament. The Sunday school was a novelty in the early 18th century. Many of us remember when churches did not have a “youth ministry.”
90% of the changes in human history occurred in the 20th century, 90% of those in the last decade. We currently possess 3% of the information which will be available to us by the year 2025. And so we must seek God’s will for this moment.