Friday, February 17, 2017

Encouraging Words from an Old Man to the Rest of Us

After Joshua encouraged the elders, he gave his last sermon to the congregation, which once more included the leaders.

Once, many years ago I went to a Women's Ministry meeting, at church, on a Monday night. The lady who spoke that night talked about rehearsing the goodness of God. I had never heard that phrase before until that night and it is one of those phrases that has stayed with me. The context in which rehearsed is used in the Bible simply means to tell or declare; to repeat. In modern times it means to practice, run through, or review.

In either context, when you rehearse the goodness of God you become emphatic in declaring what God has done for you, and this is exactly what Joshua did in his last sermon. Joshua emphasized how God delivered the people of Israel and how He fought for them in the most eloquent terms, from the time of Abraham to their present - I gave you lands you did not work for and you partake in its benefits. (Joshua 24:1-13)

Joshua then encouraged the people to,  now, therefore, serve the Lord with sincerity and truth. (Joshua 24:14).

When you rehearse what God has done, there's only one response that makes sense; that acknowledges His goodness - service.

Because it's always up to each of us individually to make the choice, Joshua issued a challenge to the congregation- choose ye this day who ye will serve. (Joshua 24:15) Joshua had already made the decision for his household but, would others follow?

What happens next is not something I've ever seen in a Sunday morning service. It almost has a call and response feel to it.

The Israelites said, "We'll serve God." (Joshua 24:16-18)
Joshua said in so many words, "No you won't. You'll mess up. God is not to be messed with." (Joshua 24:19, 20)
The people countered and said, "No we won't; we'll serve God because we have experienced Him."(Joshua 24:21)
Joshua said - "OK. Let's set up a covenant as a witness to what you said you would do." So a covenant was made that day;  it was written and a stone was set up by the sanctuary of the Lord to indicate that a covenant was made between God and the people. (Joshua 24:26, 27)

Joshua died at the age of 110 and it seems the people remembered their covenant because...Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that overlived (i.e. outlived) Joshua, and which had known all the works of the Lord, that he had done for Israel. (Joshua 24:31)

Through Joshua's prompting, Israel remembered all the works of the God. They rehearsed the works of God which allowed them to remember which ultimately encouraged them; for to lose memory is to lose hope.

Since that night, many years ago as a young working (tired) mother, I have rehearsed the goodness of God. When I felt too tired to care, I remembered how God carried me. When I thought I was at my wit's end, I remembered how God came through in providing a different way for me to look at a situation and arrive at a resolution. Even for work, when I was expecting difficulty God paved a way and provided opportunity. God has always been good to me in spite of my circumstances. The simple act of waking up and breathing is evidence of God's goodness. So I rehearse; I practice so that I remember. Like a runner who practiced so that their performance is automatic. Like a singer who rehearsed so that singing is second nature. When we rehearse we're creating muscle memory. We're strengthening our faith and hope muscles creating muscle memory. The work of God in each life is powerful; powerful to change us, powerful to encourage us and powerful to make us live right.

I will remember the works of the Lord. Yes, I will remember the amazing things you did long ago! Psalm 77:11

Like Joshua did to the children of Israel, rehearse God's goodness in your life. Choose who you will serve. Make the choice to serve Him because of all that He has done for you.

Are you ready for rehearsal?

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