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FEBRUARY 18, 2024

GOD ON MISSION

JOSHUA 2
REV. MICHAEL DENSMOOR                   SERIES: UNSHAKEABLE

The transcript below has been slightly edited to make it easier for reading.

Father, we ask that You might bless our meditation of Your Word, that it might now penetrate our hearts and be food for our souls. As we struggle and live in this world, we need to hear from You be strengthened by You. Father, we ask now that You might speak and that we might listen, that You would work in our hearts. We commit these next few moments in Your hands. In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen. 

Last night, I had some ministry in another part of Jakarta. I was driving through the city and realized again how much Jakarta has changed. I remember when I first arrived in Jakarta more than 30 years ago, what a large and overwhelming city this was. Well, in this time of 30 years plus, Jakarta has more than doubled in size. As I drive through the city, I see roads, buildings, and bridges that used to not be there when I came and certainly people that weren't even born yet. You start to feel old when people ask you for example, “How long have you lived in Indonesia?” and I say, “Longer than you have.” Then I start realizing, “I've been here a while…” Actually, I've been here longer than most of you have been here in Indonesia! I realize that the world is changing. A lot is happening. 

When I reflect on the church and my ministry over 30 years, I wonder what impact have I had. I left America and came all the way to Indonesia because God called me to bring the Gospel to the people of this country. After 30 plus years of giving everything I've had to working as hard as humanly possible, to praying as much as I can pray, have we even made a dent? Has what I've done had an impact at all on this country? 

Oftentimes, I struggle with this voice in my heart. I think this passage today is a passage that helps answer this question. It's very easy for us, as Christians, to take one of two approaches. Either this is “Mission Impossible”: Jesus gave the Great Commission to go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel, but it's “Mission Impossible,” so I'm just going to go through this life, cause no ripples, get to the end, have a nice Christian family, with a nice Christian income, with a nice Christian ministry, and just be finished and nice. 

The other response is a lot of people try to pour themselves fully into it and say, “I'm going to impact this world for Christ,” and they end up becoming discouraged because it seems like the other side's winning. When you go to work or your high school on Monday morning, does it seem like the other side's winning? Does it seem like the Gospel isn’t impacting the world the way we were promised it would or the way we thought it would? 

I think when we reflect on the words of Scripture here, there’s a message that is given to us to comfort us. God has birthed you in this age, at this time of history to be His witness and representatives. He's placed us here for this purpose. It's not “Mission Impossible,” it's just “Mission according to God's timing, not according to your schedule.” I want us to reflect on what does it mean to be unshakable Christians, to have this unshakable faith despite the opposition, despite the things our eyes might be seeing and telling us, “The world is winning. Satan's kingdom is winning.” 

 

What I want you to do is look with eyes of faith, because what we see is that God has already gone before us. God has already prepared the way, the harvest, and His kingdom that is coming amongst us. Today I want us to look at what kind of faith an unshakable Christian has. An unshakable Christian realizes that he is a man or woman on mission with God. Our God is a god who's on mission. 

Joshua is relating this account of how the people are entering the Promised Land. After chapter one, where they begin to describe how God has prepared them, now because of His presence and His promise, He says, “Go and do it.” They take the step of faith. As they're packing up their stuff, we have chapter two, which is a bit of an interlude - a bit of a big picture in which God is trying to tell us that, “In a moment, you are going to see the great destruction of lives in the land of Canaan.” But don't think God is a god of wrath. God is a god of love. He's given people an opportunity for tens of years, for generations, to repent. In the story we see, against all odds, God had already prepared a Rahab - prepared her and her family to believe and follow. 

Evangelical Spirit

What kind of Christian has this faith? What kind of Christian will step into their offices Monday morning, will go to their broken marriages, and proclaim the name of Christ in the midst of these tremendous difficulties? It’s the kind of person that has the faith that we read about in Joshua chapter two. 

To start with, I think this faith is a faith that is based on the evangelical spirit. The evangelical spirit is one that says, “I believe God and His Word. I will base my life and all my actions on doing the very things that God has promised to me.” It's easy for us to say, “I believe in Jesus. I sing and praise Jesus's name. But do I really believe it when I'm face to face with the walls of Jericho? Do I believe when Jesus says, ‘My kingdom is coming and the gates of hell cannot overcome it?’ Do I believe these things?” Because with my eyes, I often look at the situation around me and I go, “I know what the Bible says, but it's not matching my reality, God.” 

The evangelical spirit begins by having men and women who say, “I will stand on all the promises of God.” Every single promise that God has ever given are answered, “Yes,” in Jesus Christ. God has never failed to fulfill a single one of His promise to you. All His promises, that He will bring you to heaven, are promises that He will continue to keep until you meet with Him face to face. The evangelical spirit is one that is anchored in the Word of God. We believe the Word of God. We believe what He’s told us and we are willing to stake our life on this. 

It's also, though, a faith that sometimes needs to be assured, because we live in reality. “I believe these promises are certain, but you know what? I sometimes need to feel like they're certain.” I know when I go to my places of ministry, I often hear these voices in my head or around me saying, “Don't go there. Don't do this. Don’t proclaim this,” and I need this sense of assurance that what I'm doing is really the very heartbeat of what God wants. 

Joshua, in our passage, wants a sense of assurance. He wants to know that these walls of Jericho, that are insurmountable obstacles before him, won't stand to the power of God. So he sends these spies into the land. He had sent spies before. He had been a spy before. Moses, 40 years earlier, had sent 12 spies into the land - and Joshua was one of them. He saw with his own eyes that God had prepared this beautiful land. Yes, there was great opposition, but like Caleb said, “We can definitely do it.” Joshua and Caleb were the only two that opposed the others and said, “We can enter.” Now once again, in the same place, Joshua is the one sending the spies. It's not that Joshua's faith is wavering. For 40 years, he has kept this confidence. It's that Joshua wants to assure the people that God has already gone before them and has prepared a harvest, has prepared a victory for them. So he sends these spies. 

It's sort of like when you get married. This year will be 30 years of marriage for me and my wife, Maria. When I got married, I said to my wife, “I love you.” She looked in my eyes. I looked in her eyes. We held hands. I said, “I love you.” Since then, to my surprise, I have had to repeatedly tell her every day, “I love you.” I already told her - I announced it before the entire church, “I love you,” and made a commitment. I signed a piece of paper. I put a ring on the finger. I have told her everything, “I love you and I will never stop.” But for some reason, she likes to hear me say it and I like to hear her say it. “I love you.” “I love you too.” Why? It's not that my confidence in her love for me has wavered. It's not that I no longer believe that today she doesn't love me. It's because I like to feel that she loves me. 

So too with our evangelical spirit. I know God has a plan. I know God's kingdom is coming - we pray for it every week, “Your kingdom come.” We know it's happening. We've got the Bible. It explains all the end of the story for us. This is going to happen, brothers and sisters. But I need to feel it sometimes. I need to become connected to this promise. That's where the evangelical spirit is. “I'm willing to do it. I'm willing to live my life based on the promises of God. But God, I need Your presence with me. Speak into my life.” God says, “Don't worry, My kingdom is coming. Do not be afraid. Be strong and courageous.” Joshua, over and over again, needed to hear these words from God, “Be strong and courageous.” Why? Because we live in a world in which we struggle. God continually speaks to our hearts. His kingdom is coming. 

We also see that faith isn't just a faith that believes these promises, but it's a faith that steps out and acts based on these promises. If I know it's true and I know His kingdom is coming, I am going to live differently. One of the biggest tragedies of our age is that the Christian life is almost indistinguishable from the life of the rest of the community. We spend our money on the same things, we spend our time on the same activities, and we have values that are so similar to the world’s that they don't see a difference. We're losing our saltiness as a church. 

The evangelical spirit is one that says, “I understand the promises of God. I come to God so that I might have this assurance that this promise that He’s speaking to me will happen. Then I am willing to stake my life on it. I’m willing to live it out in the marketplace. I'm willing to live it out in my school and in my family, because I know that this is true.” 

God has already promised to Joshua in chapter one, “Every place the sole of your foot will tread, I will give to you. Every place.” Joshua says, “Amen. I've been waiting for this. For 40 years I've been waiting.” Joshua certainly could go back into a tent, close the flaps, and pray and say, “Come on, God. You promised. Where's my land?” God could have just gone and made Jericho fall over. He could kill all the people in the land without the Jews ever crossing over. But He asks us to have the kind of faith that doesn't just passively wait for God to do His work, but a faith that engages with God in the very work that God is doing. 

That's the evangelical spirit. That's the spirit that doesn't just presume that God's will is going to happen, but says, “Because God has a plan and God is on mission performing His plan, I am going to invest all that I have. I will invest my family, I will invest my resources, I will invest my time, and I will invest my vacation days to make sure I prioritize the kingdom because I know that that brings glory to Him.” So we see in our evangelical spirit that it first begins by being men and women who act on the promises of God. 

But it's also a spirit which needs comfort from God. These two spies are sent into the city of Jericho because Joshua told them to go there. They cross the river Jordan, and the first thing they see of the city of Jericho is the gateway that’s keeping all the roads so they can protect the whole land from invading armies. It's a formidable city. So the spies go there first because they've got to go past the city. They have to conquer the city and Joshua wants some modern intel on the situation. So they act on faith, they go by faith, and they step out into this land. When they get there, they find themselves facing a situation in which it's not enough just to act for God, but you also need to experience God's comfort in the midst of these struggles. 

If they made this passage into a Hollywood movie, it would be incredible, wouldn't it? These two spies go into the city, and immediately the story turns as a surprise happens. These spies get to the city and first they go to the house of Rahab because she's a prostitute. We don't like this story in Sunday school, because we don't like stories about prostitutes for our children.

 

She is a prostitute who has a place in which visitors stop in. Everyone passing through spends the night there, so it's not uncommon for two visitors who are unknown to the city like these spies to go there. It's a great place to get intel. If I was going to try to get intel, I would go here because all the travelers could tell me where are the armies, where are the checkpoints, how many gates are in the city - they can get all the lay of the land very quickly from the other visitors in this brothel. 

It's shocking because the minute they get there, the king of Jericho sent to Rahab and said, “Bring them out. There are spies here who have been sent to check out our land.” This is shocking because these spies just arrived. They haven't even done anything yet, and immediately they are discovered. These are probably the worst spies in the history of espionage. All they do is arrive and already their cover is blown. They haven't even had time to interview anybody. They haven't scoped it out. They probably haven't had kebab and hummus yet at the corner markets. They are just trying to just unpack their stuff in the room, and immediately the secret police has arrived at the door, SEAL Team Six is at the door, because these spies are already discovered. They probably wore shirts that said, “We're Jews! God rules!” and probably had a church logo on their on their arm. This is the kind of spies that Joshua sent. Surprise number one, the incompetent spies are immediately discovered. 

Then in our story, there's a second surprise that happens. The second surprise is Rahab, this Canaan prostitute who is an enemy of the Jews, instead of turning them over, protects them. The king sends SEAL Team Six to the door. They're at the door and they knock. Rahab answers the door and they say, “Where are the spies? Hand them over!”She's got a choice to make. She can either turn them over and get a reward -she would be paid handsomely. She could easily explain it away, “I put them upstairs so that they are away from the other visitors. Easy to capture. Don't worry about collateral damage. I've been luring them in and making them sleepy with wine, so they're not going to be able to oppose you.” She could explain this and turn this whole tale to her benefit to get lots of riches. 

But instead of siding with her own people, she sides with the Jews. People she's never met before. People who could give her nothing. Instead of saying to the SEAL Team Six at the door, “There they are. Go get them,” she says, “They're not here. They were here, but they took off. You know those holy Jews, they don’t like prostitutes so they they took off. They weren't comfortable here. They didn't like my clientele. They're gone.” 

Another twist to the story is in verse seven. After she explained this all that, “The men were here and they left,” it says in verse seven: 

So the men pursued after them on the way

Surprise number three: SEAL Team Six, the Jericho secret police believed her story and didn't even search the house. We don't just have the worst spies in the history of espionage, we now have the worst special forces in the history of warfare. “We know they're here,” and this prostitute at the door goes, “Oh yeah, they were here. They left. You hurry, go on your way.” They go, “Okay miss,” and off they run. This is literally what's happening here. What would it cost them to say, “You guys go. We're going to check out the house?” If they had gone in there, on the top of the roof (which is flat) where you spread out grain (which is flat) you’d easily see a couple little lumps, wouldn’t you? Shocking! When we read the Bible, try to read it realistically because it's not just all these spiritual things. This is just shocking. If they were making a Hollywood movie out of this, they'd make a lot of money. 

God had promised the city to the Jews. God had promised all this land to the Jews. Now they’re scoping it out and the situation goes from bad to worse. But God overrules all of these problems. So what's the point that God is trying to tell us? What's the point for our evangelical spirit? The evangelical spirit says, “I believe God's Word. When I act on God's Word, God comforts me. I'm not foolish in my faith, but I'm confident in my faith. I'm confident that if I do what God promised that He will do, and if I live my life to do the very thing that is the heart of God in His mission, all of my incompetencies and all of the world's strengths will be neutralized because God's kingdom is coming and God's will is being done on earth as it's being done in heaven.” 

The point we're supposed to get from this whole story is that you shouldn't be filled with anxiety or be concerned about how the world's turning. You should rest in the very sovereignty of our God. The rock that the evangelical spirit sits on is that our God is a sovereign god. He controls the mouth of a prostitute. He controls the the desires of the secret police. He will control everything because His mission is moving forward. 

When we talk about what it means for us to follow Christ, when we talk about what does it mean for us to have this evangelical spirit that says, “I want to be involved in God's kingdom-building,” it says that, “I start out of a position of faith in the sovereignty of God's plan.” That's why we turn to God's Word each week. That's why we rely on Him day-by-day, because we know that His plan is a perfect plan. Even though His promises might still be a ways off, His promises (every single one of them) are being fulfilled. 

Biblical Faith

Secondly, in this passage I see a very important thing in the faith of Rahab. I see what is biblical faith. We are the Reformed Evangelical Church. What we mean by “evangelical” is this Spirit of evangelism, the spirit of believing, and living our faith in this world. But the reformed faith reminds us that it's a biblical faith that is anchored and rooted in God’s grace. Salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. 

That's exactly what we're seeing in this passage. What's really remarkable is when you get to the end of verse seven and she says to the police, “Go, they ran off to the hills. Run! Pursue them! You'll catch them before they get there,” immediately they go and the city gates are shut. We're all sitting here at the end of our seats (if we're watching this movie) thinking, “Oh no. They have escaped the immediate capture, but now they're stuck. They're locked inside a city. Eventually those soldiers are coming back and will say, ‘They weren't out there, they must still be in here.’” We're left with this question: how are they getting out of the city? That's the big question we're waiting for an answer to. How is God going to save these people? 

Before we get to that answer, it's like the whole movie stops and says, “Before we continue our movie, we’ve got some announcements to make,” and everyone goes, “Oh no, announcements.” But it's not quite an announcement. Rahab stands up and gives her testimony. This is the central point of the passage. This is the very heart of what God wants us to see. He saying to us, “Those spies that are trapped, don't worry about it. God’s sovereign.” Remember, we're resting in His sovereignty. God's got a way out for them. It's not important what it is, because it's already taken care of. 

God has a plan before the spies even went there. Rahab, years ago, had three houses she wanted to buy and she chose to purchase the one in the wall that had a window, so that these spies years later would have an escape patch. God said, “I took care of it years ago! That's old news. I’m thinking way ahead of you all. But listen, Rahab's got something important to tell us. Listen to what she has to say. This is the point of it all.” 

The point of it is that God, in this Canaanite pagan city, in a brothel, in the heart of a prostitute has put saving faith. That's the point. God has already worked ahead of us. God is on mission and He's already working. He's asking you and I, “Do you want to join Him? Do you want to be a part of this mission?” The evangelical spirit says, “Yes, I believe the promises. God is on mission, I'm going with Him.” Then the biblical part of the faith says, “I will do this because this faith is the only faith that can help another person. This is the only way that anybody can ever be restored to a relationship with God. This is the only way they can ever enter heaven.” 

So what do we learn from this conversion of Rahab? What do we learn from her faith? The first is, when we look at the faith of Rahab, she realizes and is aware that she is perishing. Rahab knows that she is defiled. She works as a prostitute. Every day when she is at work, she recognizes, “I am doing sexual sins.” Sexual sins in the Bible are used over and over again to describe spiritual adultery. Just as you are to be faithful to your spouse, so too we are to be faithful to the one true God. Rahab is isn't just plying the trade of sexual sins, but she is also a pagan who is worshiping idols. She knows that she is defiled spiritually, as well as physically. 

Unstoppable Movement

So how do we do this? Let me share with you a few thoughts. First of all, how do we have a greater zeal, a greater passion to do God's work? It starts from believing that God's will is the best will. God's will is the best. 

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Father, we don't want to be half-hearted. We don't want to be like the people that settle for second-best, but we want to be people that not only trust You, but act upon it. So today, Father, as we have reflected on Your Word and as You've called us to a deeper commitment to following You, we ask that at this time You will lead us into Your plans for us. That our hearts will well up in great enthusiasm for the work of the Lord. That we'll be more willing to take the step of faith and encourage one another as we pursue our Jordan-crossing. Today, as You are speaking into our hearts, as we face our challenges in our marriages, in our singleness, in our career, and in our life-calling, Father open our eyes to see You in heaven. To know that every promise, You fulfill. Give us the faith to step out. Give us the faith to pursue You. May Your name be glorified in and through us. We thank you. In Jesus's name we pray, Amen.

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