- Sermon Notes
Removing the Obstacles
December 12-13, 2020
If I had room in the title bar, I would have entitled the message, “Removing the Obstacles that keep you from the fullness of God’s purpose in your life.”
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. God wants you to walk in His purpose for your life; don’t let obstacles stand in the way.
That’s what happened to Israel. After a great military victory in which they overcame impossible walls, what followed was unmitigated disaster. It becomes a life lesson in making sure that nothing stands in the way of God’s purpose in your life. But if you falter, if you allow obstacles of your own making, God gives principles so you can remove those obstacles and move in God’s purpose.
At this point in the history of Israel, they have crossed the Jordan and are camping at Gilgal, in the land God promised. And 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. God brought them into a land of promise, but it’s not over, they would have to learn to walk in the instruction of the Lord to obtain the promises He has for them.
Israel entering the land of promise is a picture of the believer who wants to walk by faith and the promises God has for them. But here, In Joshua 7, 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, be sure to learn every possible lesson from it so you can walk in victory.
After Jericho was a small village called Ai. Joshua sent men to do reconnaissance, to assess the situation. They came back with a report that Ai was just a small village. In fact, they suggested Joshua need only send 2 – 3,000 men. But the small village of Ai turned out to be a great problem.
The story is filled with application of life lessons.
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 instruction 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.
- The mantle from Shinar was beautiful, but the desire for it was quite ugly. That’s the nature of sin, the nature of the flesh.
- 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. How do you master it?
Genesis 4:6-7, The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”
- But how? 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.
- Integrity resides beautifully in the soul.
- 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.
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.
Hebrews 5:14, Solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
- That word ‘senses’ means the faculty of the mind, the ability of the mind to see and discern.
- 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.”
C. Seek the counsel of the Lord
- The key word there is the word ‘seek.’ In other words, desire the counsel 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.”
- 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. Later, when the Gibeonites deceived Joshua and the leaders of Israel into making a covenant of peace, he didn’t seek the counsel of the Lord.
- 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.
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.
- There is an old hymn in the church that speaks to this very truth…
What a Friend We Have in Jesus:
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.
II. Be Men and Women of Action
- When the men of Israel fled from the people of Ai, it was an unmitigated disaster! Not only did they lose 36 men, the cities in the rest of Palestine 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!”
- This is not a prayer of faith. The Lord responded to Joshua, “Rise up! Why is it 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.”
- In other words, be a man of action. Rise up and do something about this.
A. Remove the things under the ban
- There is a time for action. Sin is a thief, by which you will rob yourself of that which God has for you.
- Don’t let anything stand in the way of a full and right relationship to God. This thing is keeping you from God’s best. God wants you to be free. He wants you to live life to the full.
- This thing 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.
- God has better than that for you. Rise up. Do something about it. Remove the things under the ban.
Is that relevant today? Does God say 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.”
- 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 to your life.
Daniel 11:32, The people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.
Matthew 11:12, From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.
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.
1 But the sons of Israel acted unfaithfully regarding the things designated for destruction, for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah, took some of the designated things; 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, “[a]Go up and spy out the land.” So the men went up and spied out Ai. 3 Then they returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not have all the people go up; have only about two or three thousand men go up and attack Ai; do not trouble all the people there, for they are few.” 4 So about three thousand men from the people went up there, but they fled [b]from the men of Ai. 5 And the men of Ai struck and killed about thirty-six of their men, and pursued them [c]from the gate as far as Shebarim and struck them on the mountainside; and the hearts of the people melted and became like water.
6 Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the ground 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 And Joshua said, “Oh, Lord [d]God! Why did You ever bring this people across the Jordan, only to hand us over to the Amorites, to eliminate us? If only we had been willing [e]to live beyond the Jordan! 8 O Lord, what can I say since Israel has turned their [f]back before their enemies? 9 For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear about it, and they will surround us and eliminate our name from the earth. And what will You do for Your great name?”
10 So the Lord said to Joshua, “Stand up! Why is it that you have fallen on your face? 11 Israel has sinned, and they have also violated My covenant which I commanded them. And they have even taken some of the things designated for destruction, and have both stolen and kept it a secret. Furthermore, they have also put them among their own things. 12 Therefore the sons of Israel cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their [g]backs before their enemies, because they have become designated for destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you eliminate from your midst the things designated for destruction. 13 Stand up! Consecrate the people and say, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, because the Lord, the God of Israel, has said this: “There are things designated for destruction in your midst, Israel. You cannot stand against your enemies until you have removed the designated things from your midst.”