Is God with us? A couple years ago, this church had nearly 100 people. Perhaps you are sometimes discouraged that half of those people have left. But I'd like you to consider what Moses says to the Israelites: You crossed the Red Sea, you left bondage in Egypt to worship God and hear his word proclaimed. And God was with you. He provided for all your needs. He fed you with his Word, the true bread from heaven. He has provided blessings for this congregation through the preaching of the Word, through the fellowship of the saints, through the breaking of bread, and through prayers.
But now you wonder, is God still with us? What is going to happen in the future? Are we going to grow? Do these questions enter your head? Well, Israel stood on the plains of Moab, and looked across the Jordan River, and saw obstacles. They wondered, will God still be with us? After all, Moses was about to die. How would they know who to follow? Would God really bless them?
And so here in Deuteronomy 31, Moses reassures the people of God that the Lord will indeed go before them. I'd like to focus on the first few verses of chapter 31.
The Lord will not leave you nor forsake you.
Why? Israel had been so rebellious! And indeed, Moses has predicted that Israel will continue to be rebellious! WHY will God not leave them? WHY will God go before them?
FIRST, You don't deserve God's presence with you. Well, let me ask you: WHY will God never leave you or forsake you? Is it because you are so good? Is it because of anything in YOU? Of course not!
In ourselves--in our own lives--we deserve God's wrath and judgment. Just like Israel. They had constantly rebelled against God, They had moaned and grumbled and complained about where Moses was leading them, just like us. How often have you grumbled? How often have you complained about what God requires of you? Hey, kids, have you ever complained when your parents tell you to clean your room? Did you know that's exactly what the Israelites did? They refused to listen to what Moses said. What happens when you ignore you parents? Yeah, you get in trouble with them, but what else happens? You get in trouble with God. When you disobey your parents, you are saying that you prefer your own selfish ways to God's ways. But parents, we're no different (and remember that, kids--your parents are just as rebellious as you are! They just show it differently!) How do we complain about what God requires? Perhaps at work we grumble about our boss, or fellow workers. Husbands, do you ever complain about your wife's cooking? Her attitude toward you? What are you doing? You are saying that you prefer your own selfish ways to God's ways, because he says that you are supposed to love her! What do we deserve from God? We have ignored his Word, disobeyed his commands, trampled on family and friends! Oh, we have deserved well of God!
Why should God be with us? Why shouldn't God forsake us and leave us to our just judgment? What does Moses say?
SECOND, the Lord will never leave you because of Joshua. Verse 3 says that the LORD himself will cross over the Jordan and destroy the nations. But notice how it says this: [READ] The Lord crosses over before you. Joshua crosses over before you.
Why is Joshua so important?
Well then, in v7-8, Moses turns to Joshua and says the same thing! [READ] Joshua will cause the Israelites to inherit the Land!!! But isn't it GOD who goes before them to give them the Land? How come JOSHUA is said to be the one who causes them to inherit the Land? In verse 6 Moses tells Israel that the Lord will be with them. In verse 8 Moses tells Joshua that the Lord will be with HIM.
What's the point?
The Lord will go with you because the Lord is with Joshua. Moses is teaching Israel that you need to have the right leader if you are going to enter the Land. We've already seen that Moses cannot enter the Land. Why? Because Moses is the man of the Law, and the Law cannot bring you into the Land. The Law cannot deliver the Promises. The righteousness of the Law, as Paul puts it, says this: "The man who does these things shall live by them." Moses had failed. He was not perfectly righteous. And so God wanted to make it perfectly clear, that Moses--the man of the Law--could not lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. But Joshua can! Why Joshua? For starters, because of his name! Joshua means "The Lord Saves." The Law can't save you: the law can show you your sinfulness the law can show you how much you need Christ and the law can show you how God wants you to live. But the Law can't save you! Only Yahweh--only the Lord can do that! And when it was time for The Son of God to be born of a virgin, the Angel told Mary and Joseph to name him Jesus (which is the Greek form of the name Joshua)--the Lord Saves. Joshua is a picture of Christ. Israel can only enter the Promised Land walking in the ways of the Lord who saves, walking in the ways of JOSHUA--Yahweh saves!
Only if they follow Joshua will the Lord be with them. If they follow anyone else, God will NOT be with them! God will only be with you if you follow Joshua! Joshua must go before them, as the anointed one of the Lord, the chosen one, who will lead the Israelites into battle, and who will defeat all their enemies. What a fitting picture of Christ! Because Jesus--the second Joshua--Jesus goes before us into battle, and defeated all of our enemies.
What did Jesus do on the cross? In John 12:31, Jesus says, "'Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.' This he said, signifying what death he would die."
In His life, Jesus had cast out demons from many people. In His death, Jesus casts out the devil himself! In His death, Jesus destroyed the power of sin, death, and the devil. Think about it: Joshua destroyed a few enemies. But what happened? Israel was continually seduced away from God by their enemies. What does Jesus do? In the Old Testament the gospel never spreads very far! But immediately after his death, the gospel begins to spread like wildfire! Why? Because Jesus defeated his enemies. Because Jesus' death destroyed the hold that Satan had on this world! Sure, Satan has not yet been cast into the Lake of Fire, but Jesus said that in his death "the ruler of this world will be cast out." Satan NO LONGER is the ruler of this world. Jesus Christ ascended to the right hand of the Father, and sat down on the throne of David. HE is now the ruler of this world. And as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:25, "Christ must reign until He has put all enemies under His feet." Christ now rules over all things. That is why he told the disciples, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." Not just some, not just in part, but all. Jesus Christ IS the king of kings and the lord of lords. He has defeated all of our enemies, and is now in the process of wiping them out.
The cross was like D-Day--the day that the Allies stormed Normandy during World War II. On that day World War II was won. The German resistance was broken. Sure, it would take a whole year to finally capture Berlin and force the Nazi surrender, but on D-Day, 1944, the decisive battle was fought.
In a far more powerful way, on the cross nearly 2000 years ago, the decisive battle was fought. Jesus Christ, ALONE, went before his people to defeat our enemies.
In Deuteronomy 34:9 we are told that Joshua receives the Holy Spirit--the spirit of wisdom. Because Joshua is the Spirit-filled leader, Israel follows him. Because Jesus is the Spirit-filled leader, we follow him. But Jesus is better than Joshua! Because Jesus gives us his Spirit! God was with Israel because the Spirit was with Joshua, but God is with us, not simply because Jesus leads us, but because Jesus Christ himself has become our very life! He has done this by giving to us HIS Spirit
And so THIRD, we may have courage because God HIMSELF is with us in Jesus Christ.
Notice the contrast here: the contrast between fear and courage. Are you a courageous person? Or are you a fearful person? What are you afraid of? Are you afraid of what others think of you if you lived and spoke up for the gospel? Are you afraid that you might not be a good parent? Are you afraid that the church might just shrivel up and die? Are you afraid that you won't be able to pay all your bills this month? Are you afraid that God just isn't listening to your prayers?
Our fears are so deceptive. But there is no ground for our fears. There is no reason to be afraid. Turn over to I John 4:17. [READ] "He who fears has not been made perfect in love." You see, if you truly love God, then you cannot fear! Because the one who loves God--or rather, the one is loved BY God, for we only love because he FIRST loved us. So the one who loves God is completely confident in Christ. The one who loves God understands that ONLY God can save! ONLY God can deliver us! The one who loves God understands the name of Jesus--the name of Joshua--that the LORD saves. This is why we can have courage! Brothers and sisters, if we walk faithfully before our Lord, Loving one another as Christ has commanded, then we have no reason for fear, because HIS perfect love casts out fear.
But when you are tempted to be afraid, what should you do? How can you have courage when everything around you says to fear? The only thing you can do is FEAR the Lord! Because it's okay to be afraid about ONE thing: what God thinks of you! You can fear HIM! Don't fear anything else! But fear him! Because when you truly fear God, then you can't be afraid of anything else!
Think about it: if you are more concerned with what God thinks of you than with what anyone else thinks of you, then how will you be able to fear anyone else? Fear is not intrinsically bad. You were created to fear God, so when you fear God you are doing what you were created to do. When you fear anything else, you are saying that that thing is able to control you. You are saying that that thing is worthy of your fear! Is anything able to control your life except God? No! So why fear it!? Don't fear your enemies. Fear God.
Okay, but HOW do you fear God rather than anything else? Moses tells you: (verses 9-13). They did this every seven years. Now we do this every seven days! The way that you learn to fear the Lord rather than anything else, is by hearing the Word of God. Men, women, children, strangers--all are to be gathered to hear the Word.
Isaiah 55:10-11 declares this: [READ] God has given us his Word--not merely to bounce off our ears or settle in our brains, but to penetrate our hearts! This is why Paul says in Romans 10:9-17 [READ] You need the Word of God to soak into you, so that it oozes out in whatever you do! And there are three places where this happens: 1) Here in worship--and this is the primary focus of Deuteronomy, Isaiah, and Romans--because it is here that the Word is PREACHED. It is here that the Word is driven into our hearts! 2) But also hear the Word in your homes (family worship). 3) And you hear the Word in your private devotions.
The Lord will never leave you nor forsake you, because he is with you in Jesus Christ. He has gone before you to defeat all your enemies, and he has given you his Word to show you the way in which you should go.