sermon preached on Friday 9th July 2010 (Sabbath Evening)
Praise the Wonderful and glorious Name of our Sovereign and Mighty Maker, YHWH! It is such a blessing to be gathered together keeping this precious time set apart unto YHWH. This weeks Torah reading is Numbers (Bemidbar) 30-32, which we will be looking at tomorrow morning, however I just want to read one verse from the weekly reading that in essence will flow into the message for us tonight:
Numbers 30:2 “When a man makes a vow to YHWH, or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he does not break his word, he does all that comes out of his mouth.”
When a man makes a vow or swears to Yahweh – hmmm… I wonder how many of us actually realise the depth and responsibility we have for the words we speak and the choices we make! This verse in a nutshell simply means ‘keep your word’! In other words, ‘do what you say.’ Every single day we are faced with millions of choices, many of them we make without realising it and are not conscious or aware of them, as they have become so ingrained in who we are, in how we react and how we relate to everyday living.
Too many today think that they can coast on the middle ground of ‘maybe’ and play both sides of yes and no depending on what may suit them best at that moment thinking that they can keep their options open, or they just do not want to take up the responsibility for making choices – so they can blame someone else.
Illustration: Maybe “We Will”
Alben Barkley was asked at a dinner to explain the meaning of the diplomatic term “a qualified maybe.” He said the theory is best illustrated by the story of an Irish sergeant in World War I who decided to inspire the men with a pep talk. He outlined the job ahead and then said determinedly: “Boys, will yez fight or will yez run?” “We will!” they answered to a man. “Will what?” the sergeant barked. “Will not!” they chorused. “That’s the spirit, me hardies,” the sergeant beamed. “I knew yez would.”
A qualified maybe – too many people today are certainly well qualified and have a degree in ‘maybe’. But what about ‘yes’ or ‘no’, and ‘keeping your word’ – it seems like that is not even taught anymore? We are what we say, we reap what we sow, all of this is Scriptural principles and it certainly relates to the words that precede form our mouth and the decisions we take.
Tonight I want us to look at the conscious choice we are to make daily; and that is to either follow YHWH or not. I say conscious choice, for we must be aware of whom we are choosing to follow and obey, or else we may find ourselves distracted by the past failures or present temptations and unknowingly or carelessly choose the wrong path. Tonight we are going to look at the last chapter of Yehoshua (Joshua) as he addressed the whole nation of Israel for the final time before his death and presented them with their need to earnestly make a conscious choice on which they would serve. My message is called, “The responsibilities of possessing our inheritance”, please turn with me to Yehoshua/Joshua 24 (Read).
This is Yehoshua’s (Joshua’s) final address to the entire nation at Sheḵem (Shechem), which was a town on the border of Manasseh and Ephraim. It was at this very place where YHWH had told Abraham that He would give this land to his offspring and renewed His Covenant promise and Abraham built an altar to YHWH at the great tree of Moreh at Sheḵem (Genesis 12:6-7).
Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, on his return from Hanan, came to Shalem, a city of Shechem, and pitched his tent on a piece of ground which he bought from Hamor, the Hivite prince of the region. When Shechem, the son of Hamor, defiled Dinah (Jacob’s daughter), Simeon and Levi killed the men of the region and the other sons of Jacob pillaged the town, though Jacob condemned the action. It was here, at Sheḵem, that Jacob buried the ‘strange gods’ under the oak and built an altar to YHWH. We also read that Joseph later sought his brothers near the rich pasture-lands round Sheḵem. Throughout history Sheḵem functioned as a base for worship and a base for political operations that ended in bloodbaths. Sheḵem was a place between the mountain of blessing and the mountain of curses, and Israel at this point would clearly understand the significance of the area where a renewal of the Covenant was about to take place. In a covenant there were typically always blessings and curses, and what a place to come and renew their covenant and commitment with the Almighty!!! Joshua had called the whole nation together because everyone was to be accountable for what each individual was about to say; and every Israelite was to live in a way appropriate for one who might one day become a leader. Israel was chosen by YHWH to be a holy nation, a royal priesthood, to be a light to the rest of the world. Today as we, by faith, have become grafted in and a part of YHWH’s treasured possession and royal priesthood, we too must live in a way that is appropriate and fitting for a leader, leading people to YHWH. Unity is of utmost importance, for when judgement comes, it comes on the whole household; however if each one is guarding Torah – in other words keeping YHWH’s commands, then no one would have an impossible burden to bear and each one would play their role in exercising their gifting and skills. It was vital for the nation to realise their responsibility as individuals as well as a nation living together in obedience to the Torah. We need to embrace this today – individual responsibility to obediently living in Torah – that is living in Messiah Yahshua for He is the incarnate Torah. 1 John 2:6 tells us that whoever claims to live in Him (that is Yahshua), must walk as He did!!! Many claim, and I say claim, for by the words of their mouths they speak as one who lives in and for Yahshua, however their lives do not reflect obedient living, walking as Yahshua did – for He lived Torah – He is the Living Torah! If Believers today would simply walk in obedience and lovingly choose whom they will serve and understand the responsibility for each individual to make this choice then as we would come together as a ‘priestly nation’, we would carry his presence with great power and joy. So why doesn’t it happen as easy as it sounds? Many are living in the ‘maybe’ valley; unable to choose who they will serve and then follow it through with their actions. Our individual choice affects the whole body!!!
What I find so special in this text about the location of Sheḵem is that there was a strong history of YHWH’s dealing with Israel at this place, from Abraham to those who Joshua was speaking to. Sheḵem in the Hebrew means ‘shoulder’ or rather the upper part of the back below the neck – that are between the shoulders, and so this place represented Israel renewing their covenant with YHWH and taking off their shoulders the yoke of idol worship and some of the accounts that took place here picture for us Yahshua Messiah who took upon His shoulders our burdens and sin as well as the position of all authority leading us in all Truth by becoming our High Priest and King. As Isaiah 9:6 says: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders, and He will be called, Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty El, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Isaiah 22:22 “I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.”
Sheḵem, in a spiritual sense, for me can represent to us the place where we can come and acknowledge the Authority of Yahshua Messiah and choose to follow His Word and direction, the very place where we can also come and renew our devotion to Him. Yahshua said that all who are weary and heavy laden should come to Him and He will give them rest. It is when we realise our need to choose Him daily that we can lay down our own lives and take up the joy of serving Him faithfully.
In the first half of this chapter, from verses 1-13, Joshua relays to them the words of YHWH reminding them of their past blessings. You will notice all the “I” statements where YHWH is reminding Israel what He has done for them.
The basis for any relationship with YHWH is found in what He has done for us and not in what we supposedly can do for Him. Notice all the verses that declare what YHWH had done – “I took Abraham”, “I gave Jacob”, “to Esau I gave”, “I sent Moses and Aaron”, “I did”, “I brought”, “I did”, “I brought”, “I gave”, “I destroyed”, “I refused”, “I delivered”, “I gave”, “I sent”, “I gave you a land for which you did not labour”!
This passage is very clear that our relationship with YHWH is founded on what He has done for us in Yahshua Messiah. It is not about you!!! As you reflect on what He has done for you, what “I” statements would YHWH make to you tonight as He speaks this message of Joshua to you?
After reminding them of His Mighty Outstretched Arm, Joshua then moved in to speaking about the responsibility of possessing what YHWH has given. In essence this chapter best describes Joshua’s farewell speech in outlining what YHWH has done, the conditions for worship, the choice that must be made and the responsibilities that come with choosing YHWH.
Verse 14 begins with the responsibilities and any responsibility begins with making a choice, but in order to make the right choice you need to know what you are choosing and what that really entails. They understood that all they had and all that the victories they had seen was by the hand of YHWH and as obedient chosen children of the Most High, as an obedient Bride, a Holy Nation the requirements were very straightforward:
1 – Fear YHWH
2 – Serve Him in perfection and in truth
3 – Put away idols and idols worship
In effect Joshua was presenting them with the responsibilities possessing the inheritance that YHWH has given them and the effectual results of choosing YHWH.
1 – Fear YHWH - It begins with a reverent fear of YHWH – the fear of YHWH is the beginning of wisdom. They were to have a reverence for the Elohim of such infinite power, fear to offend Him and to forfeit His goodness, to keep up an awe of His majesty, to have a respect and esteem unto His authority, a great fear of His displeasure and a continual regard for His ‘all-seeing’ eye upon you! I am not sure if most who claim to follow Yahshua actually fear displeasing Him and we are to have such a high and devoted reverence for Him that we would not even think about displeasing him in any way, that the reverence would cause us to make right choices in line with His Word.
2 – Serve Him in Perfection and in Truth – The Hebrew word for ‘perfection’ or in some translations ‘sincerity’ is ‘ta’mim’ and this can mean the following – ‘without defect, blameless, entire, full, whole, complete, honest, devout’.
In other words if we are to serve YHWH, the Most High El, then it requires us to live upright, holy, blameless lives that reflects a complete and honest wholehearted devoted living to please Him. This sounds a lot like what both Sha’ul (Paul) and Kepha (Peter) taught – live upright, holy, blameless lives!!! The word ‘serve’ carries with it the meaning to ‘expend considerable energy and intensity in a task or function’. What does this mean? We are to give our all in serving YHWH!!! How much energy and intensity do you put in to your daily walk with the One you call upon?
To the outworking of a reverent fear for YHWH and serving Him with our all, will and should result in the 3rd responsibility of possessing our inheritance:
3 – Put away strange gods – the term ‘put away’ means to ‘throw off’. We know Sha’ul (Paul) tells us to throw off everything that hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles us as we run with perseverance the race set before us! Throw off means throw off – YHWH is a jealous El, He desires total devotion. Ya’aqob (Jacob) told his household who were with him at Sheḵem to put away the foreign gods that were among them and cleanse themselves. This was necessary, for the Israelites had foreign idols with them, they may not have been worshipping them, but they were to destroy them lest they be tempted to serve them! The 2nd commandment was clear – “You shall have no other mighty ones (gods) against My face.” What that means is that they were not to even have in there possession any foreign god or thing that represented another god. He wants to look upon His chosen and does not want to see any defilement or distraction in our worship unto Him. Many today may have loads of artefacts and objects of stone, wood, images etc that are in effect idols and they can easily say, “Oh but I don’t worship it, it was just nice to buy and makes the home look pretty. I don’t know where it comes from?” You see it is not a matter of whether we think or don’t think any item is or is not an idol, it is about what is before the face of the Almighty. Many people have loads of junk in their homes and I call it junk because it is – and the worst part is that this ‘junk’ sometimes costs a fortune!!! I am not going to go too much in to this right now, but there is a great series called, “Maak skoon jou huis”, and is a great teaching on understanding what and where some of the things we have all had or still have in our homes – things we have acquired over the years – that are foreign idols before the face of YHWH and then we want Him to bless our homes and lives when we often are cluttered with ‘junk’ that He does not want us to have before or against His face!!! If anyone is interested in seeing this series please let us know. Put away foreign gods, throw off those things that have consumed you in worshipping them – it may be a physical object or even a hobby – even a cyber idol – that which consumes your time over the net!!! What do you have that YHWH is telling you to just stop but put away?
The other thing worth mentioning is that Joshua told them to put away those things which their fathers had worshipped beyond the river. They were now in the land promised and given to them, and they were to live by YHWH’s instructions – there was no room for following any of the things their fathers worshipped. I find this so true for us today, in light of what YHWH is doing in preparing His Bride and calling His people our of the harlot. Jeremiah tells us that in the last days that the nations will come from all over the earth and say that “Our fathers have inherited only falsehood, futility, and there is no value in them.” (Jeremiah 16:19). Today many have inherited traditions and lies that have been passed down from generation to generation and YHWH is calling out His Bride from the falsehood and worship that is futile and has no value in it! It is time for the Bride to put away idol worship and choose pure worship, amen!
In presenting these responsibilities the people cheerfully responded – sounding ready as they were greatly moved and motivated by Joshua’s arguments and by the magnetism of his example when he said to them basically that if you are not willing to serve YHWH then choose today who you will serve, for now is decision time and he make this great statement, “But as for me and my house, we serve YHWH.”
The people were all excited and saying yes, we will too – however was there traces of insincerity? Joshua had possibly hoped that the instructions would have stirred them in their faith to bring forth their idols and destroy them. Jacob’s family had brought them and they were hidden under the tree centuries before – know would they bring their and destroy them. Well at first there was no response in this regard and Joshua tells them plainly that they were not able to serve YHWH!!! That sounds pretty harsh – but what is he saying here? He is saying that we must not think that it is easy to serve YHWH – He is jealous and would not forgive the rebellion of their sin. Joshua had given them instruction – they now had knowledge and could not plead ignorance – if they disobeyed now then YHWH would not forgive them. Look at what Hebrews says:
Hebrews 10: 26-29 “For if we sin purposely after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a slaughter offering for sins, 27 but some fearsome anticipation of judgement, an a fierce fire which is about to consume the opponents. 28 Anyone who had disregarded the Torah of Moshe dies without compassion on the witness of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment do you think shall he deserve who has trampled the Son of Elohim underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was set apart as common, and insulted the Spirit of favour?”
We cannot take lightly the work Yahshua has done for us and that is what Joshua was saying here!!!
Joshua was impressing upon them the weight of the responsibility in choosing to follow and serve YHWH – YHWH will not be served ‘lightly’ and to forsake Him deliberately to serve idols would be a presumptuous wilful sin for which there was no forgiveness under the Torah (Numbers 15:30-31).
Joshua again reminds them after their positive response to serve YHWH that they need to realise the seriousness of their decision and they said yes they would serve YHWH. This choice then calls for devotion and he tells them to then put away or destroy the idols in their midst and incline their heart to YHWH. Put away the junk in your life and give your heart totally to YHWH!!!
CHOOSE THIS DAY WHOM YOU WILL SERVE
We all have a will and we must exercise it. I must ‘will’ to obey and I must ‘will’ to receive the Spirit of Elohim. When YHWH gives us a vision of Truth, it is never a question of what He will do – for He is faithful – but rather what we will do. Choice is a deliberate calculation and not something you just drift in easily into – ‘go with the flow’ so to speak, no – you must decide! It is between you and Elohim so do not confer with flesh and blood. Each individual must work out their own salvation with fear and trembling!!! The responsibility to choose right not only affects your own life but also those around you! Each one must profess to Him that “I will be loyal” and immediately you become a witness against yourself – you can never blame anyone else – the choice is yours!
Courage and obedience are the graces that led to the conquest of Canaan and they are essential in our lives today.
Choice is never between serving YHWH and a personal freedom. The choice is between YHWH our Elohim or other masters or gods – whether they are pagan gods, sinful passions and lusts of the flesh, wealth, success or power – the choice is yours and ultimately it is between YHWH and Satan! We all have to choose someone to serve and when we choose YHWH as Joshua did, we shape not only our own future, but our families as well!
Choosing YHWH involves a total cleansing and that is why Joshua commanded this – it cannot simply be lip service only – they were now challenged to prove their sincerity by their works of faith in YHWH, for some were practising idolatry and the cleansing was necessary and still is today! In serving YHWH there can be no mixing of worship unto Him with worship unto any form of idolatry. To serve Him means to fear Him, obey Him and worship Him only – in other words truly love Him and fix your heart on Him because you choose to not because you are forced to.
We have been redeemed and the root form of redeemed literally refers to the one who is ‘called to service’!!! Yahshua is our Redeemer – He came to serve and not to be served and so to we the redeemed are called to serve, amen!
We need Joshua’s today who will confront us and challenge us! If there is somebody in your life, other than me each week, nagging you to do the right thing – praise YHWH! If there is someone who upsets you and confronts you about a change you need to make – sing HalleluYah! Because for most of us, if we are not pushed to choose, we may never get off our … and choose wisely! If someone is bugging you and probing you and challenging you about your walk with YHWH – be glad; be glad that someone cares enough about you! We also need to take up the responsibility of being a ‘Joshua’ to others!!!
Joshua 24 reminds us of the challenges that lie before those who will follow the leading of Yahshua Messiah in their lives. At the heart of this challenge to worship and service was the need to be rid of the idolatry of the past and to renew their commitment to worship and serve YHWH alone. Let me ask you tonight – what baggage are you carrying from the past?
Jacob hid the idols here at Sheḵem, Joshua was calling for them to not only hide but destroy the idols they had here at Sheḵem. What idols do you have in your life? What ‘junk’ from the past do you need to let go of? Do you have any foreign gods that have taken precedence over your relationship with Yahshua Messiah? Maybe you have, like Jacob, buried the sins of your past, but yet later find yourself digging them up on occasion because you didn’t bury them in Yahshua! Tonight is a call to put away and destroy those things from the past. Can you let go of ‘unforgiveness’, can you let go of ‘bitterness’, hatred, anger, lust etc – those things you have been serving? Yahshua died to forgive us from sin and He rose again to give us hope of eternal life that we may live the abundant life here and now. If there are any things that have continued to plague you in your life – be it a bad habit or problem or a secret sin that you haven’t been able to let go of – then tonight I ask you to choose whom you will serve and put away once and for all let it go. Maybe there are traditions that have been passed down that have been hard to let go of and have formed the basis of your worship unto YHWH only to discover they were inherited lies and pagan worship – Christmas, Easter etc – let go of them tonight as you choose to serve YHWH – His way! Joshua 24 was a reminder of what was still buried within the land of their own hearts and warned them to leave it untouched! What Yahshua has paid for – praise Him and move on in service to Him, not looking back at sin!!! It is good to remember what YHWH has done for us to equip us to choose Him daily!
The sin of the assembly at Thyatira was compromise – they lacked commitment. There was too much world in them and not enough set apart living fro YHWH and today many are the same for they consider fellowship and assembly as secondary, inefficient and a hindrance. We cannot be Yahshua’s students if we set a lower standard than His Word. His standards for admission are very high as we die to self to live for Him. Yahshua basically told His disciples that if you cannot serve Him and give Him and His body the highest priority by love then they might as well go and serve someone else! No half hearted efforts need apply!!!
Israel was a chosen nation – but they still had to choose, and even if everyone chose to fall away, Joshua had made his choice! When we make the choice to follow YHWH and serve Him alone, we become witnesses against ourselves and we are to guard what we say, stay committed to the choices we make. Joshua cut covenant, foreshadowing the renewed covenant that Yahshua cut with those who too said, “We will follow you no matter what, we will even die for you.”
Based on what Yahshua Messiah has done for you – all His ‘I’ statements, can you make the decision to fear and serve Him daily and take up the responsibilities of possessing your inheritance in Him, putting away anything that takes your worship away from Him. Witness against yourself today and take up your responsibility to possess all He has given you – come to the ‘Sheḵem’ of today and see His shoulders, that they have taken it all upon them in order to give us the freedom to worship Him and follow Him according to His instructions and possess the inheritance of eternal life, for his plans for you are good, amen! We have a responsibility in possessing that inheritance in which we live daily and they are to fear Him, serve him in perfection and truth – serve Him His way and put away all idolatry and profane worship. Will you take up the responsibility of possessing the wonderful free gift of Salvation and abundant life by living his way and choosing daily YHWH as the One whom you will serve – the choice is yours!!!
What has YHWH done for you?
Will you choose to serve Him faithfully?
What idols or things do you have to put away?
Do you realise and recognise the responsibility of possessing your inheritance in Him? Will you take it up with great joy in courage and obedience to His Word?
YHWH bless you and guard you, YHWH make His face shine on you and show favour to you; YHWH lift up His face upon you, and give you peace.