Archive for the ‘Joshua’ Category

Bernie muluuGuest post from our good friend Bernard Muluuta, pioneering some grassroots work encouraging faithful Bible teaching in Uganda:


Preaching is fundamental in the growth of the church and bears much fruit in the lives of Christians especially when done faithfully.

There are steps we go through when we get down to preaching or rather prepare to: we pray, study, pray some more, study more, write, pray and finally speak God’s Word to His people.

In our study and preparation, we are encouraged to handle the text right. “Context. Context. Context,” we are reminded, “is key” to understanding the big idea of the text. One other reason why we need to get our context right is because it affects how we apply the text to our hearers. A good understanding of the text and its context will greatly help us to apply the text to the people we are preaching to and show them why the text is relevant to them today and through that we hear God speak to us.

Spotting the context within a verse, chapter or book is good but it is also helpful to see it from the big picture perspective of the whole sweep of Scripture. All through the Bible we run into precedents – events that set patterns, they become a mould other events can fit into or are modelled on. (I don’t think I am the only one who runs into déjà vu moments in Scripture.)

We see patterns (set rolling by precedents) that are repeated in the Bible: the sacrificial system; prophets preaching God’s Word to a wayward people; God’s judgement against the people for their rebellion; the need for a king to lead God’s people; salvation for those who have faith in Jesus Christ.

The patterns have a lot to teach us about God, His character and plans, what He was teaching His people and how deviating from the pattern brought punishment against the people.

But it’s not just precedents and patterns we run into, we also find one-off phenomena – occurrences that happen only once and we are left with no other events to draw parallels to in an attempt to find a good explanation for the event. These are the exceptions.

moses-and-the-burning-bush-the-bible-27076046-400-300In the Old Testament we find events like Enoch walking with God and being taken away (Gen. 5.24), Moses and the Burning Bush (Ex. 3), Joshua and the messenger of the LORD (Josh 5.13), Gideon and the woollen fleece (Jdg 6.36-38). In the New Testament we find Paul’s encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9), Paul’s shadow and handkerchief healing the sick (Acts 19.11-12).

I point out this distinction because it is easy for us to mistake an exception for a precedent. In preaching some dwell on some of these exceptions and make so much of them more than the text itself intends.  This is reflected in the applications in the sermon as people are told they should walk with God that like Enoch they will be taken away (as mysteriously as he was). Or how like Moses they need a burning bush experience. In yesteryears I have heard (and unfortunately still hear) sermons where people are told that they like Paul should have the power to heal the sick with their shadows and handkerchiefs.

People experience frustration when they hear sermons that turn these exceptions into patterns that are supposed to be happening in their lives but never materialise. It has resulted in Christians who think their faith is weak simply because “these signs are not following them.” (Mk. 16.17-18) Others wonder what is wrong with them if they have not had a “face-to-face” chat with God like Moses did.

We need to be careful as preachers to study the Scriptures right and understand where events fit into God’s salvation story and revelation of Himself. Our understanding of their relevance then and God choosing to reveal Himself in a particular way will affect what we preach as well as how we apply the text to our hearers.

Let us not weigh down the church with expectations and challenges God did not intend for them or leave the church with the wrong impression of what God is communicating.

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Just heard Ken Mbugua preach a great series of sermons on leadership from Joshua. Here were some of the points:

  • The necessity of leadership – Not because it is sociologically necessary (e.g. for group dynamics, efficiency etc.) or because it is theologically necessary (God could easily get stuff done without us) but simply because God has ordained that he will accomplish his plans through human leaders – Moses, Gideon, Joshua, David, Nehemiah, Peter, Paul etc. We don’t just pray and sit back and expect things will just happen – someone is going to do it.
  • The disposability of leadership – Moses has died, Joshua will one day die. Leaders are necessary but no one leader is necessary (except Jesus). God’s mission is the main thing and that will continue without even a massive leader like Moses.
  • The weaknesses of the leader – Again and again Joshua needs to be told to be strong and courageous. Why? Because he’s weak and scared.
  • The promises for the leader – The presence of God – “I will be with you.”
  • The bottom line is faithfulness – Not creativity, not results, but faithfulness in sticking to exactly what God has told you to do (Joshua 1:8 cf. 1 Cor. 4:2).
  • The power for God’s mission is God’s power – In every battle, time and again, it’s shown to be God who fights for them, God who gives the nations into Israel’s hands. As the book wraps up God tells them, “It was all me, from first to last” (Joshua 24:2-13). If you are doing work that doesn’t require God’s power it probably isn’t God’s mission. And if you’re doing God’s mission without God’s power you will fail.
  • The book of Joshua is not really about leadership, it’s about the great Joshua – The big picture of the Bible starts with Rest With God (Gen. 1-2) and ends with Even Better Rest With God (Heb. 4; Rev. 21-22). In Genesis 3 enter the serpent, sin and death. We’re thrown out of God’s rest and into darkness, slavery, pain, malice, curse. Since then we’ve been looking for a seed of woman who can overcome evil and sin. But not one has withstood. All have been overcome and defeated by sin. Finally Joshua comes – God-Saves – the one who will “save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). The serpent throws every temptation at him (Matt. 4) but he is not overcome. Finally, at the Cross he tramples on the serpent, takes all our sins and destroys them in his own flesh, enters the door marked ‘Death’ and blows a hole out the other side. He is the great leader who takes us into the Promised Land. None can stand against him. He fights for us. All fall at his feet. Through him we enter the Great Rest.

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