15th August 2021

This was a family service, and it had readings and songs interspersed with the sermon.


We are looking at another one of the heroes of the Old Testament today, and it’s a family service so we are going to break up the readings and talks into sections through the service.  

  1. When God sets something new before you – trust him
  2. When God’s plans don’t seem like sense – trust him
  3. When you look back at your history with God – trust him

When God sets something new before you — trust Him

The people of Israel are on the border of the promised land. We saw last week how Moses had led them in their escape from Egypt, and had guided them across the desert to the promised land. Joshua has been an aide to Moses all through this time, and a wise and crafty general for the Israelite fighters. 

So right here at the border of the promised land, Moses wants to send people in to spy out the land. Twelve men are picked, one from each of the twelve tribes of Israel. Among them are Joshua and Caleb. 

Let’s find out how their spying mission went… Lance will bring our first readings. 

Reading 1: Num 13v25-33; 14v6-9

We have a classic children’s song which reflects this story

Song: 12 men set to spy out Canaan

So a few questions to check you are still with me.

  • how many people were sent to spy on Canaan?
  • What good things did they find? (A land flowing with milk and honey, grapes, pomegranates and figs)
  • What did they fear? (Powerful people, fortified cities, sons of Anak (giants))
  • How many gave a bad report, and who gave a good report?

Most of the spies looked at the problem, they measured the size of the problem, then they looked at themselves and said “There is no way we can do this”

Joshua and Caleb looked at the problem, they measured the size of the problem, then they looked at God and measured the size of God… and said “God can enable us to do this”.

For the people of Israel, stepping into the unknown in Canaan was just part of following God. The Lord had brought them out of Egypt, the Lord had brought them out of the desert, and now the Lord wanted to bring them into the promised land. It was going to be hard work for them, but God would be with them, and they could do it. 

But what happens next? The people of Israel listened to the ten bad spies. They mumbled and grumbled and didn’t want to trust God – so God told Moses that there would be 40 years travelling in the wilderness for all Israel before they could enter the land. It was going to be mostly the next generation who would be walking with God into the promised land. 

At all stages of our life, whether at school, or at university, or at work or in retirement, God can set new challenges before us. New things can seem scary, but we can be like Joshua and choose to trust God, and want to engage with those new challenges.

So that’s our starting point, “when God sets something new before you — trust him” Now on to my second point

When God’s plans don’t seem like sense — trust Him

Forty years have passed. Forty long, long, long years wandering in the desert while the old, disbelieving generation died off. Even Moses isn’t allowed to enter the promised land because of mistakes which he made – and before he dies he takes aside his trusted friend Joshua and names him leader of all Israel. Moses lays his hands on Joshua who is filled with the spirit of wisdom (Deut 34v9) and Joshua takes people across the Jordan and conquers the land. Joshua is perhaps 70-80 years old now.

Several times God tells Joshua he is going to have to be strong and courageous, and we have a song about that. 

Song: Be strong and courageous

Rather than look at the whole conquest, I want to zero in on one thing right near the start, in Joshua 6 – the fall of Jericho.

Lance will bring our second reading, 

Reading: Joshua 6v1-20

I’d like to focus on how silly this seems as a plan for conquering a fortified city. They are not building ladders, towers, or earthworks. They are marching around the walls, silently, ominously, for six days while trumpets sound. Then on the seventh day they march around six times while horns are blown. Then a mighty trumpet blast, a might shout… and the walls come tumbling down, and the city is taken!

When Joshua explained God’s plan, it probably seemed like lunacy to the assembled army. But they followed Joshua, and he knew what he was saying. As odd as it seemed, God’s plan worked. 

Looking at the church today we can be so familiar with the image of the cross that we forget just how weird Jesus’ plan seemed to his disciples — time after time Jesus explained that he was going to be crucified and die and rise again and they just didn’t get it. It seemed like a mad idea. In the New Testament times the idea of Christ crucified still seemed foolish. 

1 Corinthians 1:23-24 says “but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

We know from Roman prison graffiti that the idea of the God of the Christians being crucified was a cause for much mockery of the Christians.

When you look back at your history with God — trust Him

Our last verse is just one verse towards the end of Joshua’s life. He is now nearly 110 years old, and quite elderly when he said these things.

He recaps for the elders and officials all the things that God has done for them – from Abraham onwards, but talking in great detail of the conquest of the land which has been their life for decades, highlighting how God won each battle for them. Then he says

Joshua 24:14-15

“Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

I haven’t mentioned what Joshua’s name means, have I? it means “the LORD is salvation”. Joshua is the English version of the Hebrew name Yeshua. There is also a Greek version of this name used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament. It is Jesus. 

So the man who led the people of Israel into the promised land, and showed them what it really meant to follow the LORD had exactly the same name as our saviour, Jesus, who has opened the way for us into heaven through his cross and will help us every step of our way through life. 

We can look back at the cross – a historical event where God changed the world. We can look back in our own lives and think about the times where God has answered our prayers, guided our decisions, helped us in ways great and small. 

Can I give you an example that may seem trivial? Felicity was about 5 years old, and we were walking in town and she realised that she had lost a favourite item of clothing – it was something like a butterfly hair slide or something of similar size. We walked back and forth across the streets where she last had it and couldn’t find it anywhere. She was really upset. So I decided to take a risk. I crouched down next to her and said “I’ll tell you what. Let’s pray that God will help us find it. Because God hears and answers prayers”. I was sweating a bit inside, because I knew it wasn’t on those streets – we had walked them twice already! I felt like I was praying for something which was impossible, but I really wanted Felicity to see me praying for help with something in real life, and I really, really wanted her to see God answer prayer. 

So we prayed, and then walked back down the street, and we saw it. She was reunited. I don’t know whether Felicity remembers that prayer… but I do. 

I look back at God working in my life, in matters big and small, and I say to you today – look back at your history, and choose for yourselves whom you will serve. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD. 

So in conclusion:

  1. When God sets something new before you – trust him
  2. When God’s plans don’t seem like sense – trust him
  3. When you look back at your history with God – trust him

Song: I will worship with all of my heart

Prayers and reflection

Song: In Christ alone


  1. When God sets something new before you – trust him
  2. When God’s plans don’t seem like sense – trust him
  3. When you look back at your history with God – trust him