Why Standing Stones?

Why Standing Stones?

In ancient Israel, people stood stones on their end to commemorate a powerful move of God in their lives. It was a memorial to something God spoke or revealed or did. Often these standing stones became reference points in their lives. Today, we can find reference points in the written Word of God. Any scripture or sermon can speak something powerful into our lives, or reveal something of the nature of God. In this blog I offer, what can become a reference point for Christians, taken from God's ancient word and applied to today's world.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Flattening the Walls of Opposition

A missionary in 1815 traveled to Cape Town, South Africa, but the government was hostile to missionaries.  This man was in the will of God, wasn't he?  Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all creatures.  That’s what Christians are called to do, right?  But he was resisted and had to leave that place and find another place to preach.

So he got some oxen and a cart took his wife and left to find another place.  Think about how he felt, for a moment.  He was sure he was in the will of God.  He had gone to a lot of expense and effort to get to Cape Town and now he’s turned away.

But 27 days after they left Cape Town he met a group of Khoikhoi tribes-people who had camped near them.  He began to speak with them and discovered that the tribe was on the way to Cape Town to find a missionary who would preach the Gospel to them.

This is an amazing story.  This missionary faced obstacle after obstacle that seemed insurmountable and God broke through all of those obstacles to see His will done:  For the missionary to preach the Gospel and for the tribe to hear the Word of God and be converted.

God can overcome obstacles

There will always be opposition to the will of God for our lives and today I want to post on flattening the walls of that opposition.

Joshua 6:1-5 (NKJV)
6:1 Now Jericho was securely shut up because of the children of Israel; none went out, and none came in. 2 And the Lord said to Joshua: "See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor. 3 You shall march around the city, all you men of war; you shall go all around the city once. This you shall do six days. 4 And seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark. But the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. 5 It shall come to pass, when they make a long blast with the ram's horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, that all the people shall shout with a great shout; then the wall of the city will fall down flat. And the people shall go up every man straight before him."

Obstacles to the Will of God

We sometimes forget the fact that the devil’s not afraid of us.  But I want you to know, right now, the devil’s not afraid of you.  I've seen the t-shirts that say things like, “When I wake up in the morning the devil says, “Oh no…he’s awake!”  But that’s really kind of presumptuous, because the devil isn’t afraid of you.  I saw a twitter post recently, though, that put it all in perspective that post said, “Satan’s not afraid of me, he’s afraid of who’s in me.”  That’s the truth, right there.  The devil doesn't fear you he fears Jesus.  That’s why we need God’s power:  To overcome the devil’s obstacles.

Look at the position in which Joshua and his men find themselves.  They’re looking at the city of Jericho.  Jericho is the first step to God’s promise.  It’s the first obstacle that has to be overcome to see the promise of God for Israel come to pass.  The problem is that the walls of Jericho were huge obstacles:

Excavations at Jericho indicate that the city covered perhaps eight acres and was protected by two high parallel walls, which stood about fifteen feet apart and surrounded the city. It was the sight of cities like Jericho that convinced ten of the Jewish spies that Israel could never conquer the land—Bible Exposition Commentary - Old Testament

Five meters separated these massive walls, so after one was breached the second one was still there and had to be overcome as well.  The walls were obstacles to God’s will.  In order for Israel to see the promise of God fulfilled, they would have to overcome these obstacles. 

Do you face any obstacles in finding the will of God for your life?  We’re all trying to press through to God’s will, aren't we?  That’s what Christians should be doing…the will of God.  If you've ever tried to do that, then you know it’s not always easy.  There are always obstacles to God’s will.  

A friend of mine is trying to get his visa to stay in Taiwan.  He came here as a missionary.  He came in answer to a call to preach in Taiwan.  He tried to get a work visa but he was turned down.  So now he’s trying to get a visa as a volunteer worker, just to stay in the country, but there are difficulties, and obstacles; roadblocks.  The devil doesn't want this to happen.  He wants to frustrate the will of God. 

The problem for us is the same as the problem facing Israel.  We don’t always have the capacity to overcome in our own strength.  Look at Samson for a moment, he was so strong, so powerful…when he was in the Spirit.   

Do you remember the story?  Samson was a Nazarite.  There was a prophecy about him prior to his birth saying that he would begin the deliverance from the Philistines.  When he faced an obstacle the Spirit of God would come upon him and he became incredibly strong. 

He tore a lion apart with his bare hands.

He killed a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey.

At the end of his life he tore down the temple and killed many, many Philistines.

So when God was there to help him he was incredibly strong.  He was able to overcome anything through his sheer strength.  But what happened when the Spirit of God departed from him. 

Judges 16:20-21 (NKJV)
16:20 And she said, "The Philistines are upon you, Samson!" So he awoke from his sleep, and said, "I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!" But he did not know that the Lord had departed from him. 21 Then the Philistines took him and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza. They bound him with bronze fetters, and he became a grinder in the prison.

When God’s spirit departed from him and he had to depend on his own strength, he was unable to free himself and was blinded and made a slave. 

In the Book of Numbers when the twelve spies went into the Promised Land they saw cities like Jericho and were so dismayed that they came back and gave a bad report. 

Numbers 13:28-29 (NKJV)
13:28 Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large; moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites dwell in the land of the South; the Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the mountains; and the Canaanites dwell by the sea and along the banks of the Jordan."

One of those fortified cities was Jericho and they felt like they couldn't overcome the obstacles of those huge walls.  They lost faith in God’s power to deliver them. 

Numbers 13:33 (NKJV)
13:33 There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight."

They thought themselves small, they thought themselves weak:  They had forgotten that God had the power to overcome.  They had forgotten that God had promised them this land and that he would overcome all of the obstacles to give it to them.  He kept that promise.  God used His supernatural power to destroy Jericho’s walls.  He has the power to destroy the obstacles to His will and He will do that for us, just like He did for in Jericho for Israel.

Joshua Prepared for God’s Power

God used His power to destroy the walls of Jericho.  God brought about the victory, but Joshua didn’t just sit on his hands.  He played a role in this deliverance.  He had a responsibility to this deliverance.  In fact, he did three things that made it possible for God’s power to deliver them. 

First, he listened:  God gave him a plan, He sent an angel to deliver the plan to Joshua.  That’s what our text is; it’s God’s plan for the destruction of Jericho’s walls.  What is amazing is that Joshua heard that plan and didn't balk.  Listen to the plan.  Walk around the city one time a day for six days.  On the seventh day walk around the city seven times, blow some trumpets and yell really loud.  Then I’ll knock down the walls and you can take the city.

What would you do if I came to you one Sunday with that plan?

“Okay, I prayed and here’s the plan.  We’re going to walk around the city once a day for six days.  Next Sunday, we’ll walk around the city seven times and blow some horns and yell really loud and then we’ll be able to have revival.  Okay…Who’s with me?” 

A couple of people might follow me, but most people would say, “He’s lost it!  Don’t make any sudden moves around him, who knows what he’ll do.”  Do you know how I know that?  I know that because only a few think outreaches are effective.  Everyone else is like the ten spies; they have lost faith that God can bring about a victory.  Here’s Joshua, he hears this plan and responds by getting people ready to do exactly what the angel told him to do.

Second he obeyed:  He took the word seriously and went out and immediately began to put the plan into place. 

Joshua 6:6-7 (NKJV)
6:6 Then Joshua the son of Nun called the priests and said to them, "Take up the ark of the covenant, and let seven priests bear seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark of the Lord." 7 And he said to the people, "Proceed, and march around the city, and let him who is armed advance before the ark of the Lord."

He heard from God and just obeyed.  This is important – God’s promise requires our obedience.  Often God’s promises are conditional.  IF you will; THEN I will…

IF you will pray THEN I will heal your land.

IF you believe THEN you will have everlasting life.

IF you will give, THEN I will give, pressed down shaken together and running over.

Each promise has a condition and more often than not that condition is obedience.  If Joshua had never obeyed and never marched; never blew trumpets and never yelled then the walls would never have fallen and the promise would have been lost.

Third, he had faith:  Joshua was a man of faith.  Remember, in Numbers 14, he and Caleb were the only spies who believed that they could take the Promised Land.

Numbers 14:6-8 (NKJV)
14:6 But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes; 7 and they spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying: "The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. 8 If the Lord delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, 'a land which flows with milk and honey.'

This is the same Joshua.  He took God at His word when they spied out the land in Numbers 14 and he’s taking God at His word here.  Because of his faith that God would do what God had promised, he was willing to follow God’s instructions to defeat the city.  In other words, he took the action of his faith. 

The Bible tells us that faith without works is dead.  We can have all the faith in the world, but if we sit on our hands and don’t take the action of our faith…nothing happens.    When we got saved we took the actions of faith and repented.  The faith part was that we believed the works part was repentance. 

When Joshua listened and believed; then acted on that belief he opened a door for God to act out on His promise.  GOD KNOCKED DOWN THE WALLS!

God will Knock Down the Walls in Your Life

Finally, I want to encourage you.  I know that some of you are facing obstacles to God’s promises and I want to clarify a couple of things that I believe will help you to see God’s deliverance.

Is it God’s will or your will?  Is it God’s promise or what you want God to do?  Sometimes, God’s will and your will are not the same things.  God promised the land to Israel; so defeating Jericho was God’s will.  God flattened the walls to see His will done.

How can you tell the difference between God’s will and your will?  If it’s God’s will it will have something to do with what God’s doing in the world; God’s purposes for the earth.  It probably won’t be something that would benefit just you and not further the Gospel in some way.  If you want to receive the desires of your heart then make the desires of your heart the desires of God’s heart. 

I've had people come to me and tell me that they can’t get a breakthrough in something they want to do.  “I want to do this thing or that thing and I’m praying but I can’t overcome some obstacle.”  The real problem is that it’s counter to what God is doing.   You’re struggling against God.  God has a plan for your life.  Are you trying to make God’s plan happen or are you trying to make God follow your plan?   

READ THE BIBLE – You can know God’s desires and character by praying and reading your Bible.  Many people only read their Bibles during Sunday’s service…and then it’s only the scriptures used in the sermon.  Read it every day.  Make Time.  It’s important to know God and understand His will for your life. 

PRAY – We all really need to pray.  It worries me sometimes when I ask for prayer requests at church and nobody has any.  If you’re praying for something let us pray with you.  If you’re not praying there won’t be any prayer requests.  How can you hear from God if you don’t pray?  We need God to move in our lives.  We need to hear from God.  We need to be able to lay our petitions before God so He can move in them.

We read in our text that God spoke to Joshua.  Do you think Joshua was kicking back and playing video games, when God spoke to him?  God spoke to him while he prayed.  God spoke to him through the scriptures.  

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