In View of God’s Mercies
Joshua 24:1-13, Romans 12:1
Last fall we revisited our vision and core values, and now we are about to launch our new KOP campus. We have a vision to be a Gospel-spreading movement. As we’re just a few weeks away from our launch, we want to call our church to a covenant renewal. We want to recommit ourselves to Christ and to our church and its mission. Last week we started a series on our covenant renewal.
Today we want to take a look at Joshua 24. The Israelites have come out of Egypt, wandered in the desert for 40 years, crossed into the land of Canaan and have just finished conquering the land. Joshua has led them in this conquest, but he is soon going to die. Israel is about to begin a new and long-awaited chapter of their history. This is a moment of transition. We also are in a time of transition.
Joshua calls the leaders/representatives of the tribes for a covenant renewal, a time to reaffirm their covenant relationship with YHWH. Vv. 2-13 Joshua recalls all that God has done for them throughout their history, then vv. 14-24, he calls them to turn away from all other gods and serve YHWH. We want to look at the first part of this covenant renewal today and the second part next week.
This first section recalling God’s saving work through Israel’s history can be broken into 4 sections:
1. Patriarchs (vv. 2-4)
Joshua recounts how Abraham’s family lived beyond the Euphrates River and served other gods. They were not worshippers of YHWH.
But God brought Abraham out from that land and brought him to this land of Canaan.
Abraham had Isaac, who had Jacob and Esau. God gave Esau the hill country and Jacob and his 12 sons went down to Egypt.
Note: God is the Actor. I did this, I did that. Abraham didn’t just leave his homeland, God lead him to Canaan. Abraham didn’t just have a son, God gave him Isaac. This whole section is the story of what God has done for the Israelites and recognizes sovereignty of God.
2. Exodus (vv. 5-7)
In Egypt the Israelites eventually became slaves. God send Moses and Aaron, God sent the 10 plagues.
We skip a lot of other details, but we read about the crossing of the Red Sea. After the Israelites left Egypt, the Egyptians changed their minds and wanted to bring back the Israelites. So they sent their chariots. The Israelites were trapped with the Red Sea on one side, and the Egyptian army on the other. But God parted the Red Sea so the Israelites could pass, but when the Egyptians pursued them, the water returned and they drown.
“Your eyes saw what I did in Egypt” (v. 7). This story is within some of their memories. At this covenant renewal, some of the older ones were kids when Moses led them out of Egypt. This was their own personal story.
After being brought out of Egypt, because they doubted and feared the Canaanites, God had them wander in the wilderness for 40 years.
3. Transjordan Victories (vv. 8-10)
When the Israelites approached Canaan, they had to go through other nations, who came out to fight them. We hear the story of Balack who got a prophet Balaam to curse the Israelites. But God specifically instructs Balaam to bless and not curse the Israelites.
God leads this nation of freed slaves from victory to victory.
Before the Israelites cross the Jordan River into Canaan, some of the tribes like the land, and so they settle on the east side of the Jordan.
4. Conquest of the Promised Land (vv. 11-13)
After they cross the Jordan, they come to the fortified city of Jericho. They march around it, blow their horns, and the walls come down. For much of the book of Joshua, we read of victory after victory over the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hittites, etc. God sent hornets and drove out some nations.
I gave you a land on which you had not labored and cities that you had not built, and you dwell in them. You eat the fruit of vineyards and olive orchards that you did not plant. (Joshua 24:13)
Abraham was a foreigner, a pagan. But God called him, and after many centuries, the promise given to Abraham is fulfilled: he has many descendants and they now possess the land of Canaan. This is the story of how God kept his promise, how He took one man and made him a might nation.
As Joshua calls the Israelites to serve YHWH, the notice the people’s reply:
Then the people answered, "Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods, for it is the LORD our God who brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight and preserved us in all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed. And the LORD drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.” (Joshua 24:16-18)
YWHW brought us up out of Egypt (Exodus)
Preserved us throughout our journey (Wandering)
Drove out the nations of Canaan (Conquest)
They recognize how God has rescued them, provided for them, fought for them. They now have cities they did not build and vineyards they did not plant.
Israel’s history is not a story of the strengths and virtues of the Israelites but of the loving favor of YHWH.
This is a covenant renewal, calling the Israelites to serve YHWH, but the context of that call is the recognition of all that God has already done for them. The structure of the covenant was to first recall all that God has done for them. When the people decide to serve God, it is based on this history of God’s kindness for them.
This is very much like Romans 12:1
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. (Romans 12:1, NIV)
We offer ourselves to God, but we do this “in view of God’s mercy.”
For much of my Christian life, I thought the focus, the key to this verse was on my willingness to sacrifice myself, to dedication, my self-renunciation and commitment to God. It was a call to put myself on the altar of surrender. And yes, there is a definitely a call to sacrifice ourselves and commit ourselves to God.
But the power of this verse, the key, the fuel of our commitment is not in our dedication and self-sacrifice. The engine/power of Romans 12:1 is in Romans 1-11, it is in “view of God’s mercy” just described in the first 11 chapters of Romans—the story of God’s mercy for us.
To preach Romans 12:1 without Romans 1-11 is like telling a guy to be a loyal and devoted husband to woman he’s never met. Our spiritual act of worship is not self-generated but the response to seeing, beholding someone amazing!
Worship is the response to seeing the mercies of God. And offering ourselves as living sacrifices is a form of worship. Offering ourselves is our response to seeing the mercies of God.
The key to covenant (and the Christian life) is to see what God has done for us.
We must first “view God’s mercy.” We must first recall, keep fresh in our minds and hearts, the loving and faithful favor of our God.
Or to put it another way. The fundamental problem for Christians is not their lack of discipline or diligence (though we may lack these). The more fundamental problem is that we don’t recognize all that God has done for us, we are not looking at the mercies of God. We don’t “taste” the loving favor of God, we don’t really believe it. It is a lack of faith.
A few weeks ago, P. Dwight showed us the Gospel Grid [diagram].
The key to the Christian life is to see the mercies of God, the space between His Holiness and our sinfulness. We want to see more and more of His holiness, glory, beauty and worth, and more of our sinfulness, and how the mercies of Christ have bridged the gap.
The picture of spiritual maturity is not doing more, it is seeing more, seeing more and more of the mercy of God.
The key to the covenant (and the Christian life) is to see what God has done for us. We need to get busy looking at the mercies of God. As we consider our own covenant renewal, what we want to see more of us is not our goodness/dedication to God, but God’s goodness to us.
For the Israelite, this recounting of all that God had done was very personal. They (or their parents) actually lived through these events. The mercies of God were not in the abstract. We also want to see the mercies of God for us in our own personal stories.
Let’s go back to our passage to use it as a tool to help us see/celebrate God’s mercies on our own lives. We want to get busy looking at the mercies of God.
1. Starting Point: Where would you be without Christ today? Where did God find you?
Abraham’s father lived in a foreign land and worshipped other gods. And if God had not reached into his world, that’s where Abraham would have remained.
I asked out staff, what would have happened if they didn’t become pastors, if they never became Christians.
I went to college as an engineering major. I probably would have become a “nice,” law-abiding, hard-working engineer, but probably pretty self-righteous and self-serving.
Dan would have a comfortable/convenient life as a high school math teacher and wrestling coach, a bleacher bum at a local baseball stadium during the summers, and... a male model as a side job.
Dwight would be an adventure-junky, seeking the next big thrill—whether it be hunting for terrorists as a soldier or waiting to surf the perfect wave on the shores of Indonesia—to try and escape the meaningless, monotony of a mundane existence.
I remember discussing the same question with some other pastor friends. We joked one would be a Honda salesman, one would have been a business tycoon, and one would have been in jail.
Have you considered, where would your life be without Christ today? What would your priorities be? Where would your marriage be? What would your soul look like?
2. Salvation: What has God rescued us from, brought us into?
The Exodus from Egypt is a great metaphor for our own salvation. We’ve been delivered from sin, condemnation and death and brought into the loving family of God. Consider how you’ve been saved.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:1-7
Sons of disobedience, children of wrath à seated with Christ, given the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us.
New members write their testimonies, recounting their salvation stories. Some just fulfill the assignment; some want to tell their story and recall the mercies of God on their lives.
3. Balaam: Who has God used to bless and not curse?
So many times the love and mercies of God come through people. God uses brothers and sisters in Christ to be channels of his faithful care and blessing.
What are some of the mercies of God given through His people?
Perhaps there was a CG leader, a youth pastor, a close friend who cared for, prayed for, and blessed you.
Perhaps it was your parents who’ve been praying for you so faithfully.
Perhaps it its someone who doesn’t even know you that well, but God used a kind word, a simple act of service, a thoughtful gift to encourage you.
In recent years, there were 2 friends who God used in richly bless me. One friend helped me through some really difficult ministry struggles and another who was willing to postpone a personal dream to support me. They were angels to me.
4. Provisions: In what ways have you received cities you did not build and vineyards you did not plant?
Earthly provision: You recognize that it really was God’s grace
God got you into a school, gave you a job, some award
Perhaps through a generous person God gave you some generous gifts: a cool gadget, a special dinner, hours of help on some task, tuition money, a car, a downpayment on a house.
Maybe you’re enjoying the ministry of others. Their teaching, music, counseling, intercession, giving have impacted you. Others have labored and prayed, but you enjoy the blessing of their gifts. I’ve been the recipient of other’s ministries.
Recommend the practice of Thanksgiving.
Heaven. Of course, all the provisions of earth pale in comparison the home He has prepared for us.
We will enjoy a world where all the curse has been removed and everything will be as it is supposed to be. No more sickness, no more tears.
We are heirs of an inheritance, made rich beyond our wildest imagination.
We will dwell in the unshielded radiance of the glory of God in perfect fellowship. Where angels cover their faces, we will see him face to face!
I can only imagine what it will be like when I walk by your side
I can only imagine what my eyes will see when your face is before me
I can only imagine
Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus or in honour of you be still
Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine
At the end of January we call on our church to make a covenant renewal. But we do so in the context of what God has done for us, “in view of God’s mercies.” Our act of worship flows out of the loving kindness and favor of our God.