Monday, May 27, 2013

Remember This (Joshua 4.1-13)

Sermon by: Robert Austell - May 26, 2013

:: Some Music Used
Prelude: "Praise Ye the Lord, the Almighty" - Martha Gardner, violin (arr. Taranto)
Song of Praise: "Come Thou Fount/We'll Feast" (arr. Austell)

Song of Remembrance: "I Will Remember You" (Brenton Brown)
The Word in Music: "Canon of Praise" (Pachelbel/Hopson)

Offering of Music: "So Art Thou to Me" (K. Lee Scott)
Hymn of Praise: "Great is Thy Faithfulness" (FAITHFULNESS
)
Postlude: "Chorale & Toccata on 'Come, Thou Fount'" (Travis)

"Remember This"
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Text: Joshua 4:1-13; Exodus 13:1-14


**Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes - search for "Good Shepherd Sermons or Robert Austell"**


I’d like to begin today with a question, not for you to answer out loud, but to think about: What is a challenge you are facing right now?

I imagine for some of you there is something that comes immediately to mind; for others, you may need to think for a moment, so I’ll give you that moment and ask again. What is a challenge you are facing right now?

Hold the answer to that question in your mind – you may even want to jot it down on your bulletin or in your Bible next to this Joshua 4 passage or in the back. As we study that passage I hope that remembering what God has done will help provide some insight and hope into how God will help you in what you are facing today.

Tomorrow our nation observes Memorial Day, a day in which to remember and honor those who gave their lives in service to our country.  Indeed, when we come to prayer later in this service, we will remember and give thanks as well. Memory is a powerful thing. It is often tied to the emotion of the past; it can inform our present; and it can shape our future. The wise person remembers and learns from the past; the fool forgets the mistakes of the past, doomed to repeat them.

As I thought about a sermon text for this morning, I was struck by the role of “remembering” in the Bible. It is a significant and major theme, for all the reasons already mentioned and more. And there is an additional link to Memorial Day, for not only are their many reasons to remember the work of God in history, but we also have in Jesus the prime example of one giving his life for the sake of other, in service to the highest authority.

So, I’d like to look with you at one story in which remembering played a significant role and we will see how that “Memorial Day” can be a spiritual blessing in our own lives.

Remember the Jordan

In the text we heard from Joshua 4, the Israelites have just crossed into the Promised Land. This has been a looooong, multi-generational and wandering journey, but they were finally here. A whole generation had lived and died in the desert, because of the sins of those who first came out of Egypt. Even their great leader, Moses, had died and the mantle of leadership had passed to Joshua. The Jordan River marked the edge of the Promised Land and Jericho now lay before them. In this text, Joshua and the people pause between a miraculous crossing of the Jordan (ch. 3) and the “Battle of Jericho” (ch. 6) for an unusual and memorable celebration. It was their Memorial Day!

So what were they remembering? They were remembering what had just happened and what had happened long ago.

What had just happened was that the Lord had instructed them to take the Ark of the Covenant into the Jordan River and the waters parted so that the people were able to cross on dry ground. It was a sign that God was in their midst and going before them into this Promised Land. It was also a reminder of a similar miracle a generation earlier, when their parents and grandparents had come through the Red Sea.

And so Joshua told a man from each of the twelve tribes to take up a stone and mark the place where the Ark had rested during this miracle. And Joshua specifically instructed them about it: it was a sign, “so that when your children ask later, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ then you shall say to them, ‘Because the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.’” And so this was to be “a memorial to the sons of Israel forever.” (v. 7)

Think about that… imagine driving along the road and seeing a huge pyramid of rocks on the side of the road. And your curious 4-year-old in the back seat says, “What’s that, mommy?” And you could tell him, “That’s where thus-and-so happened; and our family was a part of it!” That marking of the passing into the Promised Land was what had just happened. What had happened long ago was Egypt…

Remember Egypt

In our call to worship today, we heard several verses from Exodus 13. That’s the chapter that establishes the memorial meal of the Passover. That is a different kind of Memorial Day that recalls what God did in bringing His people out of Egypt. Every Jewish family and child, from then until now, knows that story. They know it because it is remembered every year. Moses explains in Exodus 13: “Remember this day in which you went out from Egypt, from the house of slavery; for by a powerful hand the Lord brought you out from this place.” (v. 3) When the children ask, tell them this: “It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.” (v. 8) And tell future children and grandchildren, “With a powerful hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery.” (v. 14)

The reason God’s people were finally coming into the Promised Land in Joshua 4 is because they had remembered Egypt. Had they forgotten that deliverance from slavery or the long-standing promises to Abraham, they may well have settled for desert or any number of places before they ever got to the Jordan. Or they may have not risked the crossing and facing the city of Jericho. But God had promised this land and had brought them this far. God had parted waters before and had defeated superior armies before. And they hadn’t forgotten.

And this story – this REMEMBRANCE – was passed on from parent to child. It was shared and told and re-told, so that the children would know both the promises and the faithfulness of God and be able to respond in faith when the day of action came.

And so I would ask you this question: What do you remember about the character or involvement of God from the Bible?

Jot a word or phrase down in your bulletin or there at Joshua 4. You may want to take it directly from these stories. In Exodus, God hears His people cry out in their suffering. God delivers; God saves. Or in Joshua, God goes before them; God is faithful to His promises. Or you may remember another story: Jonah and Nineveh, the fruit of the Spirit, the story of Lazarus. What was God like? What did Jesus do? What comes to mind. Maybe you want to write the question down and spend more time with it later… that’s a great start into remembering.

What do you remember about the character or involvement of God from the Bible?

Remember…

That brings me to today and one more question: What do you remember about the character or involvement of God in your own life?

Where has God shown up before in your life? If you are a Christian, He has. Even if you do not yet trust in Jesus Christ, God has shown up; it may just be harder to see or acknowledge.  So ponder that question deeply. We’ve looked to the stories of the Bible to remember about God’s character and involvement. Now consider the story of your own life.

Let’s start with Jesus. His life was spent in perfect service and obedience to God. And all the more, His death was an act of loving obedience, given in service to God for the sake of the world. That’s what John 3:16 teaches us… God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes will not die, but have eternal life. And Jesus embraced that mission. Jesus gave his life out of love for God and love for you. If you can remember nothing else, remember that! That is why Good Friday is the ultimate Memorial Day! In fact, the night before Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, which is our ongoing “Memorial Day” remembrance of that ultimate act. It’s right there on our Table and most others: “In remembrance of me.”

And then for each of you, the story of God in your life is as individual as you are. Can you think of one example of God showing up in your life? Maybe it was an answer to prayer, or encouragement deep in your spirit when things looked hopeless. Maybe it was direction or guidance when you were confused and lost. Maybe it was an experience of closeness or “connection” in worship or a feeling of peace in the middle of great distress. I have shared with you before one example from my own life when I was all closed up and closed off in my 20s and after an extended time of spiritual and emotional dryness, God broke through, first in a dream and then in real life. What about you? Where has God shown up?

What do you remember about the character or involvement of God in your own life?

Remember

And finally, think back to the question I asked at the beginning of the sermon. What is a challenge you are facing right now? And with that in mind, let me ask one more question.

How do these memorials of God’s character and involvement inform the challenge you are facing?

What does remembering God’s character and involvement in scripture tell you about how God will meet you in your current challenge? What stood out to you in your remembering… that God was faithful, strong, near, forgiving, merciful, or something else? What about God’s involvement; what stood out… that God listens, delivers, saves, or something else?

What did you remember from your own life? What stood out? Is that something you need to be reminded of… to remember?

I would encourage you to write these things down, to ‘mark’ them both to help in the current challenge and to remember in the future. Scripture even says we can use such things to teach the next generation about God.  If answers to these questions didn’t come to mind in the short time I gave you to answer, I’d encourage you to write the questions down and work through them on your own.  Here they are again:

  1. What is a challenge you are facing right now?
  2. What do you remember about the character or involvement of God from the Bible?
  3. What do you remember about the character or involvement of God in your own life?
  4. How do these memorials of God’s character and involvement inform the challenge you are facing?
If you were able to respond, I’d encourage you to write those responses down in your Bible or some other place you can find them again. Maybe you could mark them “Memorial Day 2013” or have a special page in the back of your Bible for “Things to Remember about God.” That was the purpose of the stones Joshua put in the Jordan River… it was to remember and be reminded, both for himself and for the generations to come.

Scripture says that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)  Trouble is, our memories are short and we forget that. Beloved, hear the Good News: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31) Remember that and be encouraged! Amen.


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