A way in the wilderness
January 26, 2020 (click here for PDF version)
Overarching theme: In 2020, FUMC will be a Go church!
When using this material as teacher, feel free to pick and choose the point you want to emphasis in the lesson. The format of the curriculum is designed to have an abundance of information in which to refer as desired.
The past is the past. There is nothing that can be done about it. The past can only be used to gain wisdom for the future. What can change is the future. When we, as God’s people, are willing to follow God in our daily lives, God will make a good way in the future. The way may be bumpy at times and have curves, but the process will be filled with God’s love and grace.
Book of Joshua:
Joshua, is the first book after the Pentateuch, which is the Greek name for the first five books of the Old Testament. Likewise, the first five books of the Old Testament are called the Torah by the Jews. The first five books give the history of the beginning of the world and humankind while giving instructions on how to live as God’s people. In Joshua, the stage is set for the Israelites to go conquer and possess the Promised Land. Moses has died and Joshua has been anointed by God to lead the Israelites. The wilderness and wandering are behind the Israelites, while the Promise is ready for the taking. So, Joshua is the story of how the Israelites took possession of the land of Canaan under the help of God’s direction and might. After the conquering of the land, as Joshua was close to the end of life, he reminded the Israelites of God’s covenant promises to them. He called upon the whole community of faith to choose God as they lived out their daily life.
Reflect on this Scripture:
Joshua 24:13-18 (NRSV)
13I gave you a land on which you had not labored, and towns that you had not built, and you live in them; you eat the fruit of vineyards and olive yards that you did not plant. 14“Now therefore revere the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
16 Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods; 17for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight. He protected us along all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed; 18and the Lord drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.”
Joshua 24:22-24 (NRSV)
22Then Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him.” And they said, “We are witnesses.” 23He said, “Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.” 24The people said to Joshua, “The Lord our God we will serve, and him we will obey.”
Questions to Ponder:
What jumps out at you from these passages?
In what part of Israel’s history does this story take place?
What were the blessings that the people of God received up to this point?
What was Joshua doing in this story?
From our study last week, what were the people like who the Israelites conquered?
What did the Israelites commit to? What does that mean for them?
Joshua’s call to the Israelites is a call that has been beckoned from the mouths of religious leaders throughout history. The call to commitment, for a decision, or a lifestyle of following God’s leadership on a daily basis is the core of spiritual worship. The fundamental question we must ask ourselves is, “How is our soul before God?” The question helps us take stock of our daily relationship with God through our following of Christ. Take a moment to dwell on that.
The setting of the scripture for today is in the context of the Israelites. Remember, the Israelites were led out of bondage of the Egyptians by Moses, under the direction of God. While the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, God protected them, and gave them water, manna, and qual. In the midst of that, the Israelites complained, wept, formed an idol of gold, and stalled out in the desert because of fear. At the time of the story in scripture, the Israelites had conquered the Promised Land, with God’s help, and were settled in. Joshua was close to the end of life and called the Israelites to renew their dedication to God. Obviously, the previous inhabitance of the Promised Land had worshiped other gods, rather than The God of the Israelites. The conquered inhabitance had a lifestyle that was different than the Israelites, and some of those practices were being picked up by the Israelites. Those practices were diluting the pure spiritual practices of the Israelites. Some of those Israelites were becoming a creation of the original Canaanite culture, and thus perverting the spiritual culture of the Israelites. Consequently, some of the Israelites were moving away from devotion to the one true God.
How does one move away from spiritual devotion to God? In Christ? One day, one choice, one activity at a time. Our faith and devotion get muted by taking one step at a time into a culture that upholds me-ness, rather than Christ-ness. We, just like the Israelites, who have been blessed by the activity of God, need to recommit ourselves and our lifestyles to serving our God in Christ. We all serve someone, or something. Chose this day, who you will serve. I do hope you chose to serve God through Christ, with the power of God’s Holy Spirit.
At the end of the story, the Israelites, as a community, recommit to the One True God!
Questions to Ponder for accountability in the group:
What is the commitment to God by the Israelites?
How and what do you need to recommit to Christ?
What are your distractions that keep you from a strong commitment?
What does it look like to have an all-out commitment to Christ and servanthood?
What holds you back from an all-out commitment?
Activity of for the life of a disciple:
1. Remember to find encouragement for the day by reading the daily devotional from FUMC.
2. Ponder and pray on this scripture this week: Joshua 24:23-24 (NRSV)
23He said, “Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.” 24The people said to Joshua, “The Lord our God we will serve, and him we will obey.”
If you agree, then what must you do to live in this way of life?