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Stephen R. Clark

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Oreland, Pennsylvania
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Delivered August 11, 2019 | Huntingdon Valley, PA | Huntingdon Valley Presbyterian Church
You can listen to the sermon here:

Unity. Obedience. Blessing.

Joshua 10:22-43

Readings -- Joshua 10:1-21, ESV


I own a lot of books. Now and then, I’ll want to re-read or look up something from one of them. As I begin looking for that specific book, in my mind I hold an image of what it looks like.

Yet, often, I can search and search and not find it. I’m certain I know what I’m looking for as I can “see” it in my imagination.

Well, that is until I actually do see it on the shelf, miraculously, since it’s actual color and appearance are nowhere near what I was thinking they were.

But, until I see the actual book again, I’m sure I know what it looks like. And even after seeing it, for a few moments, I’m still convinced what I imagined the book looked like is how it’s supposed to look like, even though it doesn’t.

The point of this story?

Well, in the last two sermons I said something that in my mind seemed right even though, in reality it wasn’t. I misspoke. I finally realized this last Monday evening.

It was a hand to the forehead I-could-have-had-a-V-8 “Duh!” moment followed by a boy-this-is-embarrassing-deep-reddening-of-the-face moment.

What I’ve been saying is, that of all the original Israelites who had left Egypt, only Joshua and Caleb survived and entered Canaan.

What I should have said is that they were the only two survivors of the original twelve spies.

I knew better but forgot and became fixated on my error.

Numbers 13 & 14

There were actually others who survived the wilderness and entered the Promise Land. We can read about them in Numbers 13 and 14, the references I’ve been giving for the story of Joshua and Caleb. And chapters I’ve revisited several times over the past weeks. And chapters where this passage, for whatever reason, remained invisible to me.

Did anyone else bother to look up Numbers 13 and 14?

Anyway, go there now on your device Bible -- no peeking at your email or Facebook! -- or in the pew Bible on page 144 and look at Numbers 14 verses 28-30.:

“28 Say to them, ‘As I live, declares the Lord, what you have said in my hearing I will do to you: 29 your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness, and of all your number, listed in the census from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against me, 30 not one shall come into the land where I swore that I would make you dwell, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh [jah Fun uh] and Joshua the son of Nun.”

Joshua and Caleb, as well as the teens, pre-teens, toddlers, and tots who left Egypt, entered the Promise Land. Joshua and Caleb were the only two of the twelve spies who survived and entered the Promise Land.

So, my apologies for the error. I’m sure Pastor Dan and the Session will be giving me a good talking to.

But I am kind of wondering why no one else caught it and called me out on it.

You know, one of the reasons we provide pew Bibles is so you can fact-check the sermons. If I or anyone else who gets up here misspeaks, please, don’t hesitate to corner us -- later after the service -- and point out our error.

We’re all in this together and we need each other’s iron to sharpen our own iron, if you will.

But, since we’re here in Numbers, let’s take a look at a few things before we get back to the second half of Joshua 10.

Numbers chapters 13 and 14 reveal a nation that was not unified, not obedient, and as a result, not always recipients of God’s blessings.

The people of Israel had been in exodus away from Egypt for a little over two years. They were moving through the Sinai Peninsula heading toward the Promised Land and are stopped in the Wilderness of Paran, below the southern border of the land of Canaan.

They are primed to enter the Promised Land and the Lord tells Moses to send out 12 men to spy out the land, the very areas that have been and will be discussed in Joshua. At the end of 40 days, the spies return to camp and report.

Let’s read Numbers 13:26b-33 and see what happened:

They brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 And they told him, “We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. 28 However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites dwell in the land of the Negeb. The Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the hill country. And the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and along the Jordan.”

30 But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.” 31 Then the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.” 32 So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, “The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. 33 And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.”

Oy! Nephilim and a lot of -ites and grasshoppers, oh my!

Moving from claiming the land flows with milk and honey to declaring it’s a land that devours its inhabitants is a definite 180! And it’s an example of why majority rule is not always a good thing.

The land they are talking about was promised to them way back in Genesis 15:18 where "the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates.’”

And in Numbers 13:1 and 2, the promise is reiterated when “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the people of Israel.’”

One has to wonder what part of “I am giving” that these people didn’t understand.

As I mentioned earlier, this is a nation that was not unified, not obedient, and as a result, not always recipients of God’s blessings.

This is made abundantly clear in the first 4 verses of Numbers 14 which states,

“Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night. 2 And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! 3 Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4 And they said to one another, “Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”

Okay, I take it back. In weeping and wailing, grumbling and complaining, wishing they’d died in the wilderness, and wanting to go back into captivity in Egypt, they were unified. But around the wrong things.

And seriously, go back? It was as if they were thinking of their years of captivity as the “good ol’ days”!

Something is really askew in their heads and hearts.

Joshua and Caleb do their best to straighten everyone out. Look at verse 7. They

“tore their clothes 7 and said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. 8 If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. 9 Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.”

“If the Lord delights in us” means “if we are obedient” then the land is for the taking. These two guys understand that when God says “I’m giving this to you,” he means just that. But how do the people respond to this?

10 Then all the congregation said to stone them with stones.

Okay, once more the people are unified. But they are united in disobedience and are about to be cursed.

And the Lord said to Moses, “How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them? 12 I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them...

This is a severe threat!

To summarize the rest of the chapter, Moses intercedes and saves their ungrateful hides. God relents from their immediate destruction, calls them a “wicked congregation,” and curses them to wander in the desert for 40 years until all are dead, except for Joshua and Caleb -- and those 19 and younger.

After all of this, the people mourn, go to bed, and get up early the next morning, cowed and repentant and ready to obey the Lord. Right?


They decide to take matters into their own hands and head into the Promised Land to do battle, saying, as rendered in the New American Standard Bible, “Here we are; we have indeed sinned, but we will go up to the place which the Lord has promised.”

Once more they’re unified around the wrong thing. They’ve been told now to not enter the Promised Land, but, you know, maybe God wasn’t serious.

Moses warns them saying,

“Why now are you transgressing the command of the Lord, when that will not succeed? Do not go up, for the Lord is not among you, lest you be struck down before your enemies.”

Again, this was a nation that was not unified -- at least not around the right things --, not obedient, and as a result, not always recipients of God’s blessings.

You know the rest of the story. They went in, were defeated, and then wandered the Sinai desert for 40 years getting their heads and hearts realigned to the will of God.

When God calls a people on a mission, he will do to those people whatever is needed to bring them in line to his will so they will be successful in the completion of his mission.

If the people are obedient and align with his will, God is among them and will bring blessings. If, however, they are a “wicked congregation,” ignore God’s direction, and try to take things into their own hands, there will be discipline, correction, and sometimes painful realignment.

A cautionary tale to be sure.


Joshua 10

So now, let’s jump back to Joshua 10.

The time in the wilderness has served Joshua well. Although it has to have been frustrating having seen the Promised Land, understood it was theirs for the taking, and then being made to wait for 40 more years to actually receive it.

Still, he had 40+ years of serving alongside Moses and caring for the people. Years of learning about God and how to worship Him. Years of learning the value of obedience.

He walked the children of Israel across the dry river bed of the Jordan, established a camp at Gilgal, saw the fall of Jericho, worked through the sin of Achan, took down Ai, and was tricked by the Gibeonites.

As did Moses, Joshua makes mistakes. But he also learns from them and recovers quickly, understanding the importance of obedience before there could be blessings. And he understood the importance of being united around the right things.

Unity is one of the big themes of the book of Joshua. The term “all Israel” appears in Joshua 17 times in the ESV.

In some instances this is clearly hyperbole, meaning that literally not every single person of the Children of Israel is included. But, the message is that, in general as a whole, they were united.

For example, Joshua 3:7 states,

“The Lord said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.”

And in 4:14,

“On that day the Lord exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel, and they stood in awe of him just as they had stood in awe of Moses, all the days of his life.”

The message is clear that, as a nation, they are in agreement. Sure, there may have been one or two holdouts who didn’t admire Joshua -- but there’s always at least one, right?

What is being clearly communicated is that this is a nation, a congregation of believers, who are unified. They are on the same page. The nation as a whole is finally of one mind and in one accord.

They had to be unified in order to accomplish all they had accomplished up until the middle of chapter 10. And they truly have to be unified in order to accomplish all that’s coming next in chapter 10 and beyond.

So here they are at Makkedah, at the end of the extended day. The five kings are sealed in a cave where they tried to hide. Joshua brings them out and uses them as graphic visual aids.

First, the kings are laid out on the ground and Joshua has his chiefs place their feet on the necks of the kings. This is the concept of Psalm 110:1 where it says, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”

Joshua shares the same encouragement he has received from God, telling his men, “Do not be afraid or dismayed; be strong and courageous. For thus the Lord will do to all your enemies against whom you fight.”

Second, he executes the kings and hangs their bodies where they can be seen by the enemies of Israel. This is a clear message that destruction awaits all those who oppose Israel, and thus oppose God.

But Joshua is careful to take the bodies down and bury them according to the law as stated in Deuteronomy 21:22-23:

22 “And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23 his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance.

Joshua has learned the importance of obedience.

The bodies are placed in the cave where the kings sought safety and the cave is sealed with a heap of stones -- something we’ve seen in Joshua several times -- stones that serve as a memorial of their victory.

The long day ends with the fall of Makkedah.

Makkedah is the first of seven cities to fall as listed in the end of chapter 10. One after another, Mekkadah, then Libnah, then Lachish, then Gezer, then Eglon, then Hebron, and finally Debir fall. This was one extended campaign that’s known as the southern conquest. All of these cities were located south of Jericho.

While only seven cities are listed -- and seven is the number of perfection in the Bible -- other cities also fell. This is merely a summary of the entire campaign.

Note verses 30 and 32: “the Lord gave” these cities into the hand of Israel, just as he had promised centuries before.

Through this extended campaign, there are no more Ai failures, no more Gibeonite deceptions, and no more Achan disobedience.

Why were they successful?

Because they were unified around the right things, obedient to the word of God, and on the receiving end of God’s blessing.

Look at verse 42:

42 And Joshua captured all these kings and their land at one time, because the Lord God of Israel fought for Israel.

Everything they accomplished was due to God fighting for them and giving the land into their hands. It had little to do with their prowess as warriors.

When we land on the last verse, there’s a tangible sense of completion:

43 Then Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, to the camp at Gilgal.

Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together?

I ended on a single point last week. I want to share that again, with a little tweaking:

When God’s people are in synch with and unified around his will, walking in obedience to his Word, then he is there in their midst blessing and striving with them, and together they will accomplish great things that will stun, silence, and transform a watching and hurting world.

Here at HVPC our Session, the board of Elders, seeks to discern the will of God for our church. The overarching, known will of God is stated in the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18-20:

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The desire of the Session is to hear God’s voice and determine how he wants us, as a local expression of the body of Christ, to specifically fulfill the great commission here in Huntingdon Valley.

No leader in this church, whether on the staff, an Elder, a Deacon, a Sunday school teacher, a committee chair, a small group leader, or any other leader, acts frivolously or independently, doing things just because they want to. At least I’ve not witnessed this so far.

But what I have witnessed are leaders who look into God’s word, pray together, share their hearts with each other, and strive to ensure all that they do, whether tending to a trivial detail or taking on a larger project, that they do these things in the will of God, to the glory of God, with the intent to best serve the people of God, as well as effectively reach out to the lost in our community.

For any church to be successful, there needs to be unity, around the right things. Starting points for determining what the right things are here include the Great Commission as well as our own HVPC mission statement which reads:

“For God’s glory, and by His power, we are a fellowship of sinners who worship God, study God’s word, love all people, and share the hope we have in Jesus Christ.”

In other words, our service is not about us. It’s not about pursuing self-interest, getting our own way, insisting on our own rights, resisting like the post-Egypt, pre-Jordan crossing Israelites who were ready to reject Moses and Aaron, and choose a new leader to take them back to Egypt, to the good old days.

Hebrews 13:17 exhorts us to

“17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

In Numbers, we saw the Israelites being a source of groaning and trouble for Moses and Aaron. Now, they are a source of joy for Joshua.

It took 40+ years of arduous realignment for the Children of Israel to finally understand the necessity and value of uniting behind the leaders God gave them.

They also learned the value and necessity of obedience. Forty years prior, Joshua told them that if the Lord delighted in them -- meaning if they were obedient -- the Promised Land would be given to them.

The same is true for us. Obedience to God’s word is an absolute priority. We can’t cherry pick the Bible and pay attention only to the parts we like, or that we are comfortable with, or that make us feel warm and fuzzy.

Recall the renewal of the covenant that took place after the fall of Ai. Joshua brings the people to the word. In chapter 8, verses 34 and 35, we see that:

[Joshua] read all the words of the law, the blessing and the curse, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law. 35 There was not a word of all that Moses commanded that Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, and the women, and the little ones, and the sojourners who lived among them.”

Why did he do this? They had just suffered a loss of 36 men because of the sin of Achan. They had to root out the sin and purify their camp before they could restart their conquest of the land. Joshua is reminding the people -- discipling them -- of all that God’s word says -- blessing and curse, easy and difficult.

He is teaching them that the blessing, the receiving of the Promised Land, will be theirs, but only if they are unified around the right things, and obedient to God’s word and his leadership.

They got on the same page, followed Joshua’s leadership, and in one long campaign, conquered city after city after city. What had been promised was now becoming a reality.

The same is true for us. Serving in unity and obedience to the right things will bring blessings to HVPC as we pursue the mission God has given us here in Huntingdon Valley.



 Let’s pray.










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