Sermon on February 13, 2022
KaB FKB (Hans-Jürgen Neuschäfer)
“Take bold steps” –
(Joshua 3, 1 – 17)”
This sermon is translated from German into English. You can find the original video here
How can such a theme fit with a people who have been wandering the desert for 40 years since the Exodus from Egypt? Be brave again? Chasing that old promise again, which our parents and grandparents had raved about so enthusiastically? How are millions of people supposed to get across the river during the flood? Women, children, the elderly, the infirm, infants, wagons, etc. Why are we actually doing this to ourselves?
God had given Abraham, and thus his people Israel, this land 470 years earlier (Genesis 12:7): And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.
Namely in Shechem, today in the allegedly occupied “West Bank”, God had given this promise to Abraham. So for so many decades this promise of God had been kept alive. Now the people of Israel are about to conquer the promised land of Canaan, 1566 BC. And now we see before our eyes the fulfillment of that covenant with Israel in the book of Joshua Incidentally, it is also a very topical issue today and should also be of interest to the UN. Because even for world politics it is not clear who this country really belongs to.
1. What does this passage of the Ark of the Covenant mean for us today?
Who actually owns this land of Canaan? Leviticus 25:23: “The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me.”
God says: Mine is the land! So woe to anyone who claims the right to dispose of this land and impose conditions. God calls it his country. Zechariah 2:12: “And the LORD shall inherit Judah his portion in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again.”
Holy actually means nothing other than set apart for God. It is precisely at the junction of the three continents of Europe, Asia and Africa that he allows the essential events of salvation history to take place. And that’s what God calls my land, or the holy land. Just as we see in the book of Joshua how God fulfilled his promise, so he will continue to do so in the future. And so the book of Joshua has many dimensions in terms of salvation history. On the one hand, what happened then, but on the other hand also a prophetic meaning that is highly topical in our time.
Now, after 40 years in the desert, Israel is finally about to enter this country. And the crucial point that had to be crossed was the Jordan. To do this, we need to know what this river actually means in the Bible, spiritually speaking. 4-6 m deep and up to 1 km wide when flooded. The Jordan flows into the Dead Sea, 30% salinity, Jordan = the one going down; Root: jarad; cf.
Genesis 37:35 : You know the saying: “go over the Jordan” = die, breathe his life out. The river of death must be crossed in order for the people to enjoy God’s promised blessing. In the New Testament we can say, that every redeemed person who is of the heavenly people, is blessed with every spiritual gift. Ephesians 1:3: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” So the redeemed today are referred to as being blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ. This means that Jesus promises to give us prosperity in the spiritual realm. This means that he makes available to us the spiritual treasures in his word.
How do you get this blessing? How does a person come to belong to this group that is blessed with every kind of spiritual blessing? We can see this in the example of the earthly people of Israel. The earthly people of God first had to pass through the Jordan, and only then did they come into possession of God’s blessing.
First the people do not go through, but the priests with the Ark of the Covenant go first into the Jordan and only afterwards do the people follow, and that with dry feet. So they don’t actually feel much of the flow of death. And yet they pass through the river of death. Men, women, old young, the doubting and the faithful too. So the Ark of the Covenant precedes it by about 1 km. Now we have to understand a word again.
What does the Ark of the Covenant symbolize? What does she stand for? It stands for the presence of God, the Ark of the Covenant is in a sense God’s throne for the Israelites here on earth. And the “Shekhina”, the mysterious pillar of cloud and fire, that was over the Ark of the Covenant. So in that sense the Ark of the Covenant effectively speaks of the presence of God in the midst of His people.
But what does it express even more, symbolically? How is it structured? What was the Ark of the Covenant made of? Made of acacia wood and secondly plated with pure gold. The wood, the acacia wood, points us to the humanity of Jesus, because the acacia wood grows out of the earth. And so the Lord Jesus grew up as a man on this earth. It was considered imperishable and has thus become a symbol of eternal life through Christ.
Psalm 119:72 speaks of the word of God being purer than gold. And then when you read these verses, that becomes clear to you too. So then the gold speaks of purity and the refined gold is compared with the word of God. One of Job’s friends was named Eliphas and that means nothing else than Eli=my god and phas=fine gold, i.e.: My god is fine gold. There we have the symbolism of pure gold.
So in the Ark of the Covenant we have a picture of Jesus Christ as true man and true God. But that still doesn’t explain the meaning What does the Ark of the Covenant mean in particular? The Ark of the Covenant was also where the Tablets of the Law were kept, God’s handwriting. That’s something very special when God writes with his own hands. Where do we still have examples where God wrote with his own hand? With Nebuchadnezzar the writing on the wall. At the woman taken in adultery, where the Lord Jesus writes in the sand. So there we have the Ten Commandments, God’s handwriting from the Sinai desert. And those tablets were in the Ark of the Covenant. And let’s compare that to Psalm 40, which is a messianic psalm, meaning a psalm that points to the coming of the Messiah, verses 7-8: “7 Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, 8 I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.”
Roger that? Your law is inside my heart. So the parallelism is quite obvious, the law in the Ark of the Covenant. So the Lord Jesus is the perfect human being, who has God’s law in his heart and is also the only human who has really lived out the Torah. That is why the Lord says in Matthew 5:17, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” The Greek expression for fulfill even means: to present in all its fullness. So not just simply to fulfill prophecy, but to fully represent the law through His perfect life. Then there was something very typical about the Ark of the Covenant. The atonement cover. It is a piece in itself, made of pure gold, and made of one piece with these cherubim, these angelic figures above. kaporet in Hebrew = atonement. Greek = hilasterion = mercy seat Romans 3,25 ; Hebrew 9.5
The Lord Jesus is directly referred to in the New Testament with this expression, with the name of the atonement cover, which translates from the Hebrew word kaporet. Incidentally, kaporet comes from the root kappar, which means to cover. So the guilty will be covered from the wrath of God, that is atonement. Romans 3:22-25: “for there is no difference: 23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God”
So it’s about redemption through the Messiah Jesus, whom God presented as a mercy seat. The word kappar cannot be used to say, for example, that you simply cover a box, as well as when you let 5 be even because what did you do with the lid?
Once a year on Yom Kippur, the great day of atonement, the high priest sprinkled the blood on the atonement cover. But doing that seven times has its special meaning.
Seven times the blood was sprinkled on the ground in front of the Ark of the Covenant. On the ground where the high priest stood. And once for God on the atonement cover. Thus the throne of judgment, for the Ten Commandments required God’s judgment if this people break the law by sprinkling with blood, became a throne of mercy. For someone stepped in to cover the others from the wrath of God, but the representative died. The scapegoat who was slaughtered innocently endured what should have happened to the others. And that’s why the lid is, so to speak, the epitome of redemption and atonement, i.e. the protection from judgment.
So Jesus himself is this reconciler and the only way to be spared from God’s wrath for breaking God’s commandments. So we see clearly that everything that has been said in the OT is correct that the ark of the covenant has to do with the cross of Christ. But I wanted us to roll it up and explain why you even come up with the idea of creating such a relationship.
So the Lord Jesus is represented by the ark of the covenant, he is true man and true God; he is the one who has perfectly fulfilled the Torah, the law, and he is the one who made the atonement through his blood on Calvary.
So the Ark of the Covenant goes first into the Jordan, carried by the priests. And then the Jordan will be cut off, the river of death will be broken, and the people will pass through. And so the Lord Jesus died 2000 years ago as a forerunner. And every person who comes to faith may know that the Lord Jesus, the representative, the redeemer, suffered for me personally on the cross. That means his death is actually my death, he suffered exactly what I should have suffered.
And in this respect the people who pass behind the ark of the covenant are in exactly the same situation as we are today. If a person claims the sacrifice of Jesus, then in God’s eyes he is a person who goes through the Jordan, through death. But he doesn’t get wet, he doesn’t feel the horror of death at all. The Lord Jesus endured all this, the terror of death.
And the Lord Jesus rose again and so the Ark of the Covenant came up out of the Jordan again and the people came up again. And so every believer can say: the resurrection of Christ is also my new beginning, my resurrection. So anyone who wants to claim Jesus’ death and resurrection for themselves must first settle their guilt before God. Defeat your own ego that tells you, you can live better without God.
Joshua speaks of sanctification, the ritual water bath. Spiritually speaking this means: we recognize our sins through the Word of God, confess them to God, are forgiven and so the death and resurrection of Jesus is imputed to us. Eph. 5:25 ff says that the Word of God is this sanctifying power of the water bath “25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” Eph. 5.25ff
In this way we can, as it were, go through the Jordan and into the blessing of God. Then Ephesians 1:3 applies to us: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:”
So that is the difference between earthly and heavenly people. But in the earthly people we see all this already prefigured. For the people of Israel, this blessing was primarily material, geographical, the entry into the long-promised land. For us today it means a spiritual blessing that is available through Jesus in His promises to us. And so the Old Testament is also a kind of picture book for us, which illustrates the spiritual truths, the reality as it has become in Christ. And we can understand a lot better that way. He went ahead on the way to death and we are to follow him, but in his footsteps.
2. This is the only way I can take bold steps!!
In the earthly people it was about taking possession of the promised land, every land your foot shall be yours. The blessing of God, His promises are ready, fully, how many promises have you claimed for yourself? How much land have you taken?
At that time it had even gotten to the point that 2.5 tribes no longer wanted to go to the promised land. Rubens, Dan and Half Manasseh You liked the country east of the Jordan so much that you wanted to stay there. But Joshua had required at least the men to come along until all enemies were defeated and then return to the women and children. Sometimes I have the impression that Christians are satisfied with little and are no longer concerned with claiming the promises, discovering, searching, making new land their own. So they don’t get the pleasure of looking forward to the many blessings that have been prepared. So they take away the joy of salvation for themselves, so the devil can sit in his chair and put his feet up.
Where are you, what is stopping you from going forward and conquering spiritual land? Are you still standing in the camp and watching how the others get ready for the passage? Only those who trust in his promises, that is, who take steps, will experience that God has already prepared everything. E.g. Peter Only if Israel remained dependent on God was victory assured, 31 kings defeated and there is still much land to conquer Jos. 13, 1-6 We may face an army of demonic forces in a spiritual battle, but victory has been won.
What “spiritual giants” Enakites, spiritual challenges are to be conquered in your life? By the way: There really were giants, the Bible describes the size of the bed of one of the giants. 4.60 meters x 2.10 meters That’s where you can get scared.
Following means running after the Lord, doing what he does, getting to know him better.
Which “spiritual land” do you personally need to occupy?
What promise do you want to experience?
How does your joy in your salvation express itself?
Can others see this in your charisma, your way of life?
Don’t let the joy of your salvation take away from you, but live it!
Every step you take is a step closer to our Lord, blessed and exciting.