To the Future
Dr. Jim Denison
Thesis: We must walk with God today to step into the future he intends for us.
Goal: Examine your present obedience to the Lord and his word.
The Chinese have a saying: “To predict is difficult, especially with regard to the future.” I have often wished I didn’t have to be right more often than a weatherman. Or a futurist.
Consider these confident prophecies: “The phonograph is not of any commercial value” (Thomas Edison, 1880); “Flight by machines heavier than air is unpractical and insignificant, if not utterly impossible” (astronomer Simon Newcomb, 1902); “Sensible and responsible women do not want to vote” (Grover Cleveland, 1905); “Ruth made a big mistake when he gave up pitching” (Tris Speaker, 1921); “I think there is a world market for about five computes” (IMB chairman Thomas J. Watson, 1943); “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home” (Digital Equipment Corporation president Ken Olsen, 1977).
How do we face the future with confidence? By obeying the God of the future in the present. You and I can only step into tomorrow with God if we walk with him today.
In this study, Joshua will teach us how to consecrate our lives to God in the present by remembering his purposes from the past. Then we can trust the God of tomorrow with triumphant faith.
Let’s learn how to embrace and share the grace of a God whose love transcends our every circumstance and need.
Look back at his provision (vs. 1-5)
Many years ago, my home church pastor preached a sermon on Psalm 23 which has stayed with me ever since. He showed us “God in three tenses.” He walks before us, leading us in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. He walks with us, protecting us through the valley of the shadow of death. And he walks behind us, as his goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our lives. He is the ever-present, timely and timeless God.
Joshua here calls his people to follow God in all three tenses. First comes the past, narrated by one who lived it.
A long time has elapsed since the events of chapter 22, and “the Lord had given Israel rest from all their enemies around them” (v. 1a). Now Joshua was “by then old and well advanced in years” (v. 1b), most likely near his death at the age of 110 (24:29). At least 25 years have passed since the end of the Conquest.
Their leader from the Jordan crossing to the Canaan conquest now “summoned all Israel” by gathering their representatives from every dimension of leadership: elders, leaders, judges and officials” (v. 2a). Once assembled, he reminded them of his age and experience (v. 2b). And he took them on a pilgrimage across their past:
•They have seen all that God has done to the surrounding nations
•They must remember that “it was the Lord your God who fought for you” (v. 3).
•Joshua then recalled their tribal inheritance and distribution (v. 4).
•And he promised that the God who had given them these lands would help them continue to conquer and control them (v. 5).
An elderly saint once said with a smile, “All I have seen teaches me to trust God for all I have not seen.” Because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8), all he has done in the past he is still able to do in the present and the future. When we need to be encouraged about uncertainty ahead, it is always good to look back at the sure and certain presence and power of our God.
What about tomorrow most concerns you today? Let’s look to the past to find his love in the present. Are you worried about a health issue? The One who “healed many who had various diseases” (Mark 1:34) is still a Great Physician. Is your material security in doubt? The One who fed the widow of Zarephath and her son so that “the jar of flour was not used up and jug of oil did not run dry” (1 Kings 17:16) is still rich.
Are you struggling with loneliness or discouragement? The One whose angel touched the discouraged Elijah (1 Kings 19:5) still comforts. Is your marriage in pain? The One who blessed Hannah and Elkanah in their childless suffering (1 Samuel 1:19-20) still cares.
Are your children making disappointing choices? The One who redeemed a lost son (Luke 15:24) still forgives. Your God loves you without condition and beyond description. Remember the last time he proved his love to you—your last sin he forgave, your last prayer he answered, your last need he met. And know that he didn’t bring you this far to leave you.
Look around for his purpose (vs. 6-11)
In light of all God has done for Joshua’s people, he deserves their obedience and trust today. His requirements for the present are four.
First, “Be very strong” (v. 6a). Here is a consistent them of Joshua and the word of God: strong courage is required of the people of God. Three times in Joshua 1 we find the injunction, “Be strong and courageous” (vs. 6, 9, 18). In verse 7 the command is made even more urgent: “Be strong and very courageous.”
Paul exhorted young Timothy, his son in the faith, in the same way: “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God (2 Timothy 1:7-8).
God’s purpose will always succeed in his power, but never in our own. We can do “all things” only “through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). If your present service to your Lord does not require courage and strength on your part, your ministry is not bold enough.