Let’s start with a little history, shall we?
If you know the story – maybe this is a refresher, otherwise, it’s some much needed background (pardon my brevity in this effort to tell a quick story). In the book of Genesis, the author chronicles the journey of a man named Abraham and his family and the promises that God made them. Abraham, while advanced in years, had a son which God had promised; Isaac. Isaac had two sons, Jacob and Esau – and through Jacob, God continued his promise to make Abraham the father of many nations. Jacob (aka Israel) had 12 sons, most notably Joseph. Joseph was sold into slavery into Egypt, and rose to a place of prominence, a position that would help his brothers (the tribes of Israel) in their time of need. His brothers came to Israel and called it their home, and for years they grew and flourished and multiplied there, that is until an evil Pharaoh came into power.
The Pharaoh saw the strength in numbers of the Hebrew people, and he enslaved them. They cried out their God to rescue them, and God, the constant keeper of His promises, made a way. He called Moses, a child raised in the Pharaohs own home to lead the Hebrew people out of Egypt. Through ten plagues and constant mind changing, he was finally able to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt, and toward the promised land.
From parting seas to provisional food and drink, God made a way for Moses to lead the people to the promised land. While Moses took the people to the edge of the promised land, it was his understudy and protege, Joshua, who led them in. Joshua was not a foreigner to the power and provision of God, in fact, one of his first stories on the job, was God allowing the Hebrew people to take down the city of Jericho, and to literally see its walls fall down by the blowing of their horns. Crazy. As the city crumbled, God instructed Joshua and his people that they were not to loot the city. That the prize was the victory from the Lord, not the spoils of the fallen kingdom. But, the people didn’t listen, and latched onto the things God told them to leave alone. That’s where this story becomes ours…
It’s the start of 2017. The popular social media opinion is that 2016 needed to hurry up and end, yet I know a lot of people that would say 2016 is their best year yet. I’m not sure where you are on the spectrum, but 2016 like every year before it has things you’d love to never be reminded of again, and probably seasons or days that you wish you could revisit because of their enjoyment, just ask any sports fan in the cities of Cleveland or Chicago, as two championships that had long avoided the cities came home. I’m not sure what spoils of 2016 you’d like to grab hold of and hang onto, but I know they are there (or maybe you are still living in the hopes of a return to the glory days of 2015, 2014, etc). In any case, we all suffer from a tendency to want to “go back to the good ole days” regardless of what they are. Maybe your “good ole days” were a mission trip, a real season of feeling close to the Lord, a relationship, or simply a “before the bad news happened”.
In that sense, this story we find in Joshua is also about us…
Even though God had proven himself faithful in countless victory after victory, the people of Israel still disobeyed. They plundered the fallen Jericho, and they took these things with them in preparation for their next battle (and what they assumed was the next victory God was going to give them). Except this time, they lost. Yep, the people of God lost a battle, and Joshua was none too happy. He complained to the Lord and cried out on his face before the Lord and this was God’s response:
The Lord said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.
Go, consecrate the people. Tell them, ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow; for this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There are devoted things among you, Israel. You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove them.'”
God had a lesson for the people of Israel. They had held onto the wrong thing from previous victories. What they needed to hold on to was the promise of the Lord, not the plunder from the victories He had given them. Let’s stop right there.
Don’t we do the same. Don’t we, at times, hold onto the things God gives more than we walk confidently in the provision he provides and has demonstrated to us? And look at what the Lord is reminding Joshua. When you hold onto the wrong things, you have no confidence in front of your enemies.
I’m not sure where your mind goes when you think of enemies. I rarely feel like the hero in a story that is fighting a well defined villain, or an enemy, if you will. But enemies in my life many times mask themselves as sin and as untruths or lies. When I face difficulties, when untruths come my way about myself or where I am in life or where I am with the Lord, when the sin that I am easily entangled in shows up; if I have held onto the wrong things, I will not stand confidently before those things that oppose me. In fact, I will be easily overtaken.
If I only hold onto the things God has done in the past and not the promise of what He is still doing, accomplishing, and providing, I miss a vital part of living in relationship with Him. I don’t want to hold onto just the things He’s done for me. I want to hold onto Him.
The word “consecrate” means to “make holy”. The Lord’s remedy for the people of Israel to walk in victory was to consecrate themselves, to stop holding onto the things that if you trust lead to destruction. He instructs to “consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow” and He instructs us to do the same.
We believe that the person that makes us holy is not ourselves or our own efforts to modify our behavior, but is Jesus. He makes us holy as He is holy because of His work on the cross and His resurrection from the grave. The book of Ephesians tells us that before we knew Him, He knew us, and he fashioned us for blamelessness. Jesus knew full well what He was getting into – that we would fall short, that we would hold onto the wrong things, that we would see the victories from the Lord and forget to trust Him the next time around – and He still chose us. He still loves us. He still makes a way for us. He still desires our trust in Him. Our trust in Him is the pathway to our blamelessness, or our consecration. How do you consecrate yourselves for tomorrow? Trust Jesus.
So that becomes our prayer this 2017. Let’s get ready for tomorrow. You know what comes with tomorrow? Enemies. They come our way everyday. How do we stand in front of them in confidence? By trusting in the right thing, the right person. Jesus.
My prayer for you, my prayer for me, my prayer for us is one of consecration. May we trust Jesus this 2017. May we trust Him more each day. May we tell stories that tell of His greatness, not so that we hold onto yesterday, but that we face our tomorrow, any tomorrow, with the confidence that He will do the same. Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow – TRUST JESUS. Amen.