- Sermon Notes
Remove the Obstacles
October 21-22, 2023
God has a plan and a purpose for your life. He has great things in store. His thoughts towards you are good. But the enemy also has a plan for your life. He wants to steal, kill, and destroy. This world is filled with many obstacles that draw the flesh, want to cripple us, and make us ineffective.
We see in this section how there were objects that hindered Israel from living God’s perfect plan for them. Objects that needed to be removed.
There is an old saying that the greatest troubles often come right after the greatest victories. In other words, don’t let your guard down.
1 Corinthians 10:12, Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.
People stumble, and then feel like they have taken many steps backward, feeling guilty, ashamed, and struggling to ‘get on the right path’. During that time, they are ineffective in their calling, not focusing on their purpose and the kingdom of God.
That’s what happened to Israel. At this point in the history of Israel, they have crossed the Jordan. Though they are now in the land of promise, there are obstacles and battles before them. Their first battle at Jericho was a city fortified with a set of walls 20 to 28 feet high. They faced impossible walls, but God gave them the victory.
Then comes Chapter 7. They went from amazing victory to devastating defeat. It’s a tragic story, filled with life lessons. Here we have a picture of a setback, a defeat in the life of a believer. And it’s self-inflicted. It’s a life lesson to avoid defeat.
But if you have experienced a defeat, take heart, knowing that we can learn from our mistakes. Be sure to learn every possible lesson from it so you can walk in victory.
I. Master the Desires that Can Defeat You
- Verse 1 – It’s revealed immediately why Israel encountered defeat; the sons of Israel acted unfaithfully regarding the things under the ban.
- God gave clear instructions that when they entered Jericho, they were not to take anything for themselves. Everything belonged to God. But Achan sinned by coveting and taking some things under the ban and hiding them under his tent.
- Verse 20-21 – “Truly, I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel. I saw among the spoil a beautiful mantle from Shinar and 200 shekels of silver and a bar of gold 50 shekels in weight, then I coveted them and took them.”
A. Build something beautiful in the soul
- Achan coveted. He saw something his flesh thought was beautiful, a beautiful mantle from Shinar, and the shekels of silver and gold.
- Shinar was the plain where the tower of Babel was famously built, and then also, Babilon originated in the area. So, when the Bible speaks of Shinar, it is a reference to Babilon, which is a type of the world rebelling against God and all that that entails.
- These are the things that needed to be destroyed so that they would not become temptations to Israel. The mantle, silver, and gold then are the types of the things of the world that the flesh longs for.
Not everything in the world is wrong. But we are warned not to be lovers of the world. Even the blessings of God in our lives can become a distraction if we focus on it.
- It might sometimes look harmless, but much of it is rooted in that which wants to distract or pull you away from God and His purpose which is good for you.
- What does it take to master the ugly nature of the flesh? It’s selfish, it’s hurtful and it has no concern for the troubles and harm it brings to your life. Many will agree with this from experience. The after-the-fact regret: What have I done!?
- How do you master it? By wisdom, knowledge, and truth, by the Spirit of God within you.
Galatians 5:16, But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.
Psalm 119:9, 11, How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word… Your word have I treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.
- Many people might look at God-fearing people who love Jesus and build their lives on the word and say, ‘You are so lucky! Your life has so little drama.’ It is not about luck. Much of the drama people have is by their own doing and the choices they have made that are not aligned with God’s principles.
- When people build their lives on the rock, it ultimately produces something beautiful, even though they might also go through storms. It is the principle of sowing and reaping.
- Build something beautiful in your soul and you won’t want to spoil it with that which is ugly.
B. Train your senses to discern
- Zach Williams wrote the song, “Fear is a Liar.” Listen to the lyrics.
Illus – When he told you you’re not good enough, when he told you you’re not right, when he told you you’re not strong enough, to put up a good fight. When he told you you’re not worthy, when he told you you’re not loved, when he told you you’re not beautiful, that you’ll never be enough… Fear, he is a liar. He will take your breath, stop you in your steps, Fear, he is a liar. He will rob your rest, steal your happiness… Cast your fear in the fire, ‘Cause fear, he is a liar.
- It’s a powerful song and the point is clear, “Know a lie when you see one.” In other words, train your senses to discern truth and lies.
- I wish he would write a song called, “Sin, it is a liar.” Because sin will also rob your rest and steal your happiness. Cast your sin in the fire, ‘Cause sin, it is a liar.
- The book of Proverbs has this great metaphor that speaks of folly, or foolishness, and wisdom.
Proverbs 9:13-18, The woman of folly is boisterous, she is naïve and knows nothing. She sits at the doorway of her house, she sits by the high places of the city, calling to those who pass by, who are making their paths straight, “Whoever is naïve, let him turn in here,” and to him who lacks understanding, she says, “Stolen water is sweet; bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol.
- It is important to note that she is calling out to those who are making their ways straight. There are people who have decided that they want to walk the straight and narrow path, yet folly calls to them, trying to trip them up.
- Those who are guests, in other words, visit and dwell in the things of foolishness eventually introduce death to their souls.
- The section before this, speaks of wisdom which is the contrast to this woman of folly. Both are calling. One is virtue, one is death.
Illus – I see this picture in my mind’s eye. A man walking down the road. Wisdom is the first house he gets to. It is warm, comfortable, safe, full of integrity, care, and real love. This is the best place to be, like a homely cottage. But as he reaches the front door, he sees another house down the road. With neon lights flashing, overwhelming the senses, pictures that entice the eyes, play to his flesh. It is like a moth drawn to a flame. Let me just go see what this is about. It looks dangerously exciting!
- This is the ploy of the enemy. He draws closer with illusions. You can discern it is dangerous. Something is wrong, but it is drawing you in.
- He draws those who lack understanding: One has to see the thing for what it is. Step back and ask for wisdom. See the end result of that which is calling to you. It ends in death.
- Choose before the temptation comes. Get discernment before you are enticed. When you see the truth from the word, it will be easy to discern the false.
Illus – There once was a man at the Secret Service training to discern the difference between real and counterfeit money…
Hebrews 5:14, Solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
- The word ‘senses’ means the faculty of the mind, the ability of the mind to see and discern.
- I am sure many have been in a situation before where you feel your soul say – Danger!! Walk away. Maybe walking into a room and just sensing something is off.
- Those who have their senses trained to discern good and evil know that short-term gain is not worth long-term pain.
Proverbs 9:1-6, Wisdom has built her house, she has hewn out her seven pillars… she calls from the tops of the heights of the city, “Whoever is naïve, let him turn in here!” To him who lacks understanding she says, “Forsake your folly and live, and proceed in the way of understanding.”
- You will still have to walk past the house of folly, walk past the temptation, but decide to forsake it, not go in, and live.
C. Seek the counsel of the Lord
- How do we know what is right or wrong? Many things today are not specifically mentioned in the bible. Yet there are principles that guide our walk.
1 Corinthians 10:31, Whether then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
- This is a great principle and guideline. Is this thing bringing glory to God? Does this reflect the character of God? We are called to be the physical representation of Christ so people can see His heart, love, and life in our lives.
- We have to desire the counsel of the Lord. It is our way of life.
Illus – It makes me think of those Indiana Jones-type movies. Where they are in a tomb full of booby traps. Yet one person has figured out the stones they have to step on to be safe. He guides the others very carefully, and the rest listen attentively and follow his instructions exactly because this is a life-or-death situation. This is the image we should have in mind when we call ourselves disciples of the Lord.
- You can be sure that Achan did not walk in the counsel of the Lord. “Do not touch the things under the ban or you will bring trouble on the camp of Israel.”
- Your choices don’t just affect yourself. It ultimately affects those around you as well.
- Joshua, himself, had to learn this lesson. He didn’t seek the counsel of the Lord when he sent only 3000 men to face Ai.
- Those who are wise will remember this life lesson. Seek the counsel of the Lord, seek the peace of the Lord in whatever you’re about to do and be sure to live by the counsel of God’s word.
- God’s peace is a guide to our soul. If you feel uneasy, trust that guide.
James 1:5, If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
- When you are in Christ, the soul knows, it can discern that which is death.
II. Be Men and Women of Action
- When the men of Israel fled from the people of Ai, it was a great disaster! Not only did they lose 36 men, but the rest of Canaanite cities would no longer fear them.
- Joshua tore his clothes and fell on his face before the ark of the Lord. They put dust on their heads, and Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord God, why did you ever bring this people over the Jordan, only to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? If only we had been willing to dwell beyond the Jordan!”
- It is amazing that as soon as something went wrong, Joshua immediately doubted God’s faithfulness and integrity. Why did God do this? Isn’t this a common response people have? His faith in God was shaken, even though he saw God’s mighty hand move many times before.
- This prayer of Joshua was not a prayer of faith. The Lord responded to Joshua, “Rise up! Why is it that you have fallen on your face? Israel has sinned, they have transgressed my covenant which I commanded them, and taken things under the ban. They have both stolen and deceived.”
- Joshua is corrected by God. What they were experiencing was the result of sin. They could not stand under God’s blessing if there was sin in the camp.
- We have the wonderful provision of God’s grace and forgiveness in the New Testament by the blood of Jesus, but God will not be mocked: what one sows one will reap. Sow to the wind. Reap to the whirlwind.
- This, however, was not the end of the story. God was telling Joshua to rise up. Do not sit in self–pity. Do not be discouraged and overcome by this setback. Be a man of action and do something about this.
- You might have experienced setbacks because of sin, a continuation of sin, or falling into temptation, but don’t stay there. Rise up!
A. Remove the things under the ban
- What are the that are under the ban that are bad for you? Things God doesn’t want you to touch?
- If you cherish this thing, it will defeat you; you’ll stay longer than you wanted to stay, it will cost you more than you wanted to pay. You will not like the reaping that comes from that which you are sowing.
Illus – It reminds me of the character Gollum in Lord of the Rings. Consumed by his “precious” it robbed him of everything.
- God says to you, “There are things in this world I do not want you to touch. Have nothing to do with them, they will poison your soul. I love you and I want you to live to the full, but this thing is poison.”
Deuteronomy 32:31, “Indeed, their rock is not like our Rock, even our enemies themselves know this. For their vine is from the vine of Sodom, their vine is from the field of Gomorrah; their grapes are grapes of poison, their clusters are bitter. Their wine is the venom of serpents, and the deadly poison of cobras.”
- The world has a veneer of gold, but when you look underneath it is a rotten mess. It is poison.
- There is a time for action. Sin is a thief, by which you will rob yourself of that which God has for you.
- God has better than that for you. Rise up. Be men and women of action.
- If there is a stronghold in your life, if you are being defeated, if you are not experiencing the promises God has in store for you, do something about it. Remove those things God does not want in your life.
Daniel 11:32, The people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.
B. The valley of trouble is a door of hope
- Before this chapter in the history of Israel ends, Joshua says to Achan, “Why have you brought trouble upon us? The Lord will trouble you this day.” Therefore, the name of that place has been called the valley of Achor to this day. It means the valley of trouble.
- But much later in the history of Israel, a word of prophecy is spoken over them in the latter days, and it becomes a word of hope for us today…
Hosea 2:15, Then I will give her vineyards from there; and the valley of Achor as a door of hope. And she will sing there as in the days of her youth, as in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt.
- In other words, the valley of trouble is the very thing that God will use as a door of hope.
- God can bring beauty out of ashes, triumph out of tragedy, and grace out of defeat.
- While it’s true that the one who sows to his flesh will from his flesh reap corruption, it’s also true that…
Galatians 6:8, The one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
- Stop sowing to the flesh. Stop watering the flesh. Start sowing in the Spirit. Spend time with God and surrender to His Spirit so the Spirit of God can water the seeds of righteousness and work the fruit of life.
- The soul was made to worship. If it is not connected to the vine and on fire for God, it will search for something else to try and fill it. Fan the embers of your relationship with God.
Joshua 7:1-13 NASB
7 1But the sons of Israel acted unfaithfully in regard to the things under the ban, for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah, took some of the things under the ban, therefore the anger of the Lord burned against the sons of Israel.
2 Now Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth-aven, east of Bethel, and said to them, “Go up and spy out the land.” So the men went up and spied out Ai. 3 They returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not let all the people go up; only about two or three thousand men need go up to Ai; do not make all the people toil up there, for they are few.” 4 So about three thousand men from the people went up there, but they fled from the men of Ai. 5 The men of Ai struck down about thirty-six of their men, and pursued them from the gate as far as Shebarim and struck them down on the descent, so the hearts of the people melted and became as water.
6 Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until the evening, both he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust on their heads. 7 Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord God, why did You ever bring this people over the Jordan, only to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? If only we had been willing to dwell beyond the Jordan! 8 O Lord, what can I say since Israel has turned their back before their enemies? 9 For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it, and they will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will You do for Your great name?”
10 So the Lord said to Joshua, “Rise up! Why is it that you have fallen on your face? 11 Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. And they have even taken some of the things under the ban and have both stolen and deceived. Moreover, they have also put them among their own things. 12 Therefore the sons of Israel cannot stand before their enemies; they turn their backs before their enemies, for they have become accursed. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy the things under the ban from your midst. 13 Rise up! Consecrate the people and say, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, for thus the Lord, the God of Israel, has said, “There are things under the ban in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you have removed the things under the ban from your midst.”