Small Group Discussion Questions (NET)

1. Why was it important for the Israelites to keep God's Word as their primary focus?

2. How would it change our view of the circumstances and problems we face if we focused on the truth of God's Word as opposed to staring at the river in front of us?

3. The Israelites were standing at the brink of something great that God had promised them,but they had a huge barrier to overcome to receive that promise.In Chapter 1 of Joshua, God encouraged the leadership and the people to, ”Be Strong and Courageous”,“Even though you haven’t been this way before, I have and I know the way”!
God was asking them to trust Him to take them to a place that they were afraid to go on their own. What promise are you standing in front of? What barrier are you facing that seems insurmountable without the power of God?

4. We often have a sense that God is calling us to do something that is beyond our comfort zone, beyond our ability and beyond what we can even wrap our heads around!We don’t like the unknown. We fear change. But God asks us to trust Him by taking the first step. Instead of standing on the bank waiting for answers, waiting for a better time and place, or waiting for the flood to subside what is that first step for you?

There are as many first steps as there are circumstances of life. Maybe the first step is to offer another forgiveness and reconciliation. Maybe your one step is to let go of anger or resentment. Maybe your life is unmanageable and that first step is just one of twelve. Sometimes the first step is to simply be quiet, be still, and listen. Perhaps yours is to let go of having to be right, or in control. Maybe it means you no longer let fear dominate your life. Perhaps the first step for you is to risk intimacy and vulnerability, to be real. Maybe that one step is taking responsibility for your life, or to start loving your wife/husband/children with more than just your words. Maybe that first step for you is to obey ALL the law of God stop picking the parts of God's word that you will follow and leaving the rest. Maybe that step for you is the step towards God, where you come to Him and an allow Him to make the miracle of salvation real in your heart and life.

Share with the group what you feel God is leading you to do and pray together that you will will have the courage to take the first step.


Sermon Notes:

Joshua 1:5-9

Show clip of Donkey crossing the bridge.)

This morning we are going to look at a familiar passage for some of you yet for some of you it will be a completely new piece of scripture.

Regardless of whether this passage is new to you or not my prayer is that you will have significant take away from our time together this morning.

God tells us that His word is living and powerful and that His Spirit gives understanding to anyone who is willing to hear!

So I want to take a moment this morning to pray together before we dive in…

First if you would pray for yourself that God will speak to you and that you’ll be open to His voice.

Next I want to ask that you pray for me that God will speak through me and that it will be helpful to you.
Me pray…

Joshua 1:9 “ Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

This is and awesome passage It’s so powerful!

Especially for those of us who are prone to doubt or question or fear…

BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS! Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go!

God is with me!

It’s even cooler when you tie it in to the few verses before it

In this verse it starts off with “Have I not commanded you?”

The way this sits in the text it’s like when you tell your kids for the millionth time haven’t I told you…

So that made me think how many times did God tell Joshua to be strong and courageous?

It obviously happened a few times bc God wouldn’t have said haven't I told you.

so I looked it up and found a few places...

Deuteronomy 1:21 See, the LORD your God has set the land before you. Go up, take possession, as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has told you. Do not fear or be dismayed.’

Deuteronomy 1:29 Then I said to you, ‘Do not be in dread or afraid of them.

Deuteronomy 7:21 You shall not be in dread of them, for the LORD your God is in your midst, a great and awesome God.

Deuteronomy 20:3 ‘Hear, O Israel, today you are drawing near for battle against your enemies: let not your heart faint. Do not fear or panic or be in dread of them,

Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”  

Deuteronomy 31:7 Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land that the LORD has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall put them in possession of it.

Deuteronomy 31:8 It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”  

Joshua 1:6 Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them.

Joshua 1:7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you...

Joshua 1:18 ...Only be strong and courageous.”  

Now jump back with me to Joshua 1:5

Starting in verse 5 … (read v. 5-9)

Jos 1:5     No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.

Jos 1:6     "Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them.

Jos 1:7     Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.

Jos 1:8     Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

Jos 1:9     Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."

It’s easy to see that God is trying to communicate to His people that He is with them.

And if He is with them nothing should ever cause them to doubt their security or their wellbeing b/c He has their back!

Now think about that for a second…
I had friends in H.S. that were the kind of friends that I knew no matter what they had my back!

 No matter how big the guys were that wanted to mess with me, no matter what trouble I found myself in I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that they were right there with me.

I found comfort in those friendships.

In knowing that someone I could trust was always there with me.  

One problem I faced was that they weren’t always with me…

One time I needed them was when I left them to take a friend to her car and we were going to come right back...

long story short I ended up getting jumped by 19 guys in the parking lot that night  


Now I don’t hold my friends responsible for that happening to me and it would be unreasonable for me to think my friends should’ve been there to help me.

 They would have if they knew that was going to happen but they aren’t God! So they couldn’t go with me everywhere I went (especially not in a 2 seater RX-7).

God is with us everywhere we go! He promises that!

That’s what makes these verses so awesome to me…

But upon further investigation we see something else…

In literature there is something called Chiastic Structure- this is where words or concepts are stated then repeated in reverse order.

That structure is utilized here in this passage.

A. I will be with you  (v.5)

        B. be strong and courageous (v.6,7)

                C. that you may have success (v.7)

                                 D. this book of the law (v.8)

                   C. then you will have success (v.8)

         B. be strong and courageous (v.9)

A. The Lord your God is with you (v.9)

this structure puts emphasis on the centrality of the book of the law of God as the key to Israel’s success
Joshua’s effectiveness in leadership and God’s enabling presence with His people.

This passage contains principles necessary for spiritual success in every age.

We must know what God requires, maintain awareness of that, and be consistently and completely obedient to it in our daily lives to gain victory over our spiritual conflicts (battles)

This wasn’t a new concept to Joshua, it was a strong reminder to keep God’s word, literally as the words of life.

Jump back a few pages to Deut 31

Moses is talking to Joshua and says… (v7-8)

Deu 31:7 Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, "Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the LORD swore to their forefathers to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance.


Deu 31:8 The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."

Then moses goes on (v.12,13 talking to the priests)

Deu 31:12 Assemble the people--men, women and children, and the aliens living in your towns--so they can listen and learn to fear the LORD your God and follow carefully all the words of this law.

Deu 31:13 Their children, who do not know this law, must hear it and learn to fear the LORD your God as long as you live in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess."

v. 14 continues with moses calling Joshua into the tent of meeting and God’s presence filling the tent.

And moses tells Joshua that the people will turn away from God’s word and the result v. 21 will be that many disasters and difficulties will come upon them

then God commanded Joshua…  (v.23)

Deu 31:23 The LORD gave this command to Joshua son of Nun: "Be strong and courageous, for you will bring the Israelites into the land I promised them on oath, and I myself will be with you."

God’s preparing to send His people into the land He promised them 40yrs ago!

That means they were about to be engaged in some serious “conflict” with the people who were living there now b/c those people aren’t just going to leave!

God is telling Joshua to be strong and courageous because ownership of the land depended on God’s faithfulness,


but occupation of the land depended on Israel’s faithfulness! God said I promised it, I swore it on an oath and I keep my Word!

Joshua and Israel’s responsibility included unswerving obedience to the mosaic law!


That would be the key to their success.

Knowing the law was the 1st part. Doing it was what made the difference.

Receiving words from God and then becoming fearful would tell more about their lack of confidence in God than anything else.

God tells them get ready to cross the Jordan and take the land (josh ch 1v 2)

read with me Joshua 3:1-5,8

Jos 3:1 Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over.

Jos 3:2 After three days the officers went throughout the camp,


Jos 3:3 giving orders to the people: "When you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests, who are Levites, carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it.

Jos 3:4 Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about a thousand yards between you and the ark; do not go near it."

Jos 3:5Joshua told the people, "Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you."

Jos 3:8 Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: 'When you reach the edge of the Jordan's waters, go and stand in the river.'"

 
So Joshua readies the Israelites and tells them here’s how its going to go down…


So go stand in the raging, flood waters and when you touch the water it will dry up.

Ok pause for just a second…
This is crazy God! The river’s at flood stage

Here’s a picture of it…

God told the Israelites to cross the Jordan when it was at its widest, deepest and fastest!

They spent 3 days camped beside that river and saw it! They knew what they were being told! And it was crazy! If it wasn’t God telling them to do it!!!

Joshua has led the Israelites to the Jordan River. The promised land is in sight.

Four Hundred years of slavery and forty years of wilderness wandering have brought them to the edge.

They have hoped, walked, suffered, prayed, talked, cried, trusted, regretted, sinned, and whined their way to this moment.

What do they see?

A river in flood stage, overflowing its banks.

There is no low water crossing in sight.

The river is 150 miles long. They cannot go around it.

There are no bridges. They cannot go over it. The way is blocked.


The river is impassable.


This is neither a good time nor a good place to cross.

Understanding context will help us a little bit here b/c


Water, to a biblical character, was not the same as it is to people today.

Water was scarce in these desert lands and there was never enough to swim in or to be comfortable being around.

Water, to these desert people, was a barrier to be crossed and an obstacle to overcome.

The Israelites believed that the Devil lived in the abyss, in the bottom of the lake.

They were afraid of the water and what it represented in their world.

When the Israelites reached the banks of the Jordan, they were facing an almost insurmountable obstacle.


To complicate matters, none of the Israelites could swim.

They were standing at the brink of something great that God had promised them,

but they had a huge barrier to overcome to receive that promise.

In Chapter 1 of Joshua, God encouraged the leadership and the people to, ”Be Strong and Courageous”!

“Even though you haven’t been this way before, I have and I know the way”!


God was asking them to trust Him to take them to a place that they were afraid to go on their own.

Can you picture the Priest and Levites with the Ark of the Covenant, standing on the edge of the steep banks, looking down at the flood stage waters of the Jordan?

When does the Bible say that the river divided?

When they went in!

God required them to get their “feet wet”!

They had to slide down the bank and get into the river... Before God would divide the water.

How does this apply to us and our walk of faith?

We often have a sense that God is calling us to do something that is beyond our comfort zone.


That is beyond our ability. That is beyond what we can even wrap our heads around!

We don’t like the unknown.


We Fear change

We want God to open all the doors, show us the path and then place plenty of road signs along the way to assure us.


Otherwise, we are afraid to go.

This account shows us that we often have to just “go for it’ because…

God won’t act until you get in!

He needs to see if you will trust Him to take you to a place that you haven’t been before.


If not, don’t expect God to divide any rivers in your life!

Don’t think I’m saying that this is easy or that it is never something I struggle with!


Lord know's there are many times when i sit on the edge of the river doubting, questioning; terrified

For the Israelites, Staring at that river had to be incredible scary!

Just like is for us today when we stand looking at the river we must cross!

Like the Israelites probably thought,

there are times when I think "this is not the time or the place that I would have chosen to cross."

We forget, however, that this is not our time or place.

God has chosen and brought Israel to this time and place even as God chooses and brings us to the time and place for our crossings.

The only way across the river is through the river.

But just like Israel we never go alone.

God himself goes into the river.

I don’t know if you caught that in the account but the priests literally carried the presence of God into the river before any of the people got in!

He is, let us not forget, the God of water crossings.

He was there as Noah drifted across the flood waters that swept away the old and receded to reveal a new world, a new life, a new relationship.

He wrestled with Jacob in the night, blessed and renamed him, and then watched him limp across the Jabbok River with a new identity, Israel.

He called his people out of bondage in Egypt and through the Red Sea to a journey of salvation and freedom.

Every crossing is an act of God’s faithfulness.

We each have a Jordan River that must be crossed and usually more than one.

 It seems that the life of faith is a series of water crossings.

Like Israel we stand at the edge of the Jordan.

The only way into the promised land is through the flood waters of life.

How deep is it?
How solid is the bottom?
Is it slippery?
Is this safe?
Is the water cold?
How strong is the current?
How far across is the river?
What will I find on the other side?


All good questions.


In some way those are the questions of life, the questions that arise every time we make a move, whether geographical, emotional, or spiritual.

They are not, however, questions that get answered before we step into the river.

Ultimately, it is God not the answers that takes us across.


God, however, did not hold back the water for Israel before they put their feet in.

It is only after they stepped into the water that God acted.

The waters do not part until we step out in faith, until our feet are dipped in that impassable river, as an ultimate step of faith and an act of trust in our Loving Creator!

Standing on the bank waiting for answers, waiting for a better time and place, or waiting for the flood to subside offers God nothing with which to work.

God will not act, the river will rage, and we will remain stuck.

That first step, however, gives God something to work with.

One step is all it takes. One step.

As soon as Israel’s feet were “dipped in the edge of the water” God acted, the flowing waters stood still, there was dry land, and all the people crossed over.

With that one step we follow the ark of God’s presence into the Jordan.

We all have that one step, that first step, that needs to be taken.

Take that first step and you have offered God something with which to work.

 The flood waters of your life will be parted, dry land will be revealed, and the way forward will be opened to you.

What is that first step for you?

There are as many first steps as there are circumstances of life.

Maybe the first step is to offer another forgiveness and reconciliation.

Maybe your one step is to let go of anger or resentment.

Maybe your life is unmanageable and that first step is just one of twelve.

Sometimes the first step is to simply be quiet, be still, and listen.

Perhaps yours is to let go of having to be right, or in control.

Maybe it means you no longer let fear dominate your life.

Perhaps the first step for you is to risk intimacy and vulnerability. To be real!

Maybe that one step is taking responsibility for your life.

or to start loving your wife/husband/children with more than your words

Maybe that first step for you is to obey ALL the law of God stop picking the parts of God's word that you will follow and leaving the rest

I don’t know your first step but I trust that God does.

I don’t know when or how you will cross your Jordan

but I do know it happens one step at a time

and that first step always takes us to a new land, to a new way of being, and to a new life,

b/c it is in that first step that we encounter God and we gain a new understanding of how powerful and awesome our God is.

It is because of that first step that we come to know God in new and exciting ways!

We get to see Him work miracles in our hearts and in our lives!

But more often than not we can be found sitting on the edge of the river terrified and discouraged, asking questions and waiting

And God in His incredible patience and kindness is yelling to us “haven’t I commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

In a moment we are going to have a time of prayer. The band is going to play. And we are going to provide you with an opportunity to step out in faith.

Maybe that step for you this morning is the step towards God.

Where you come to Him and an allow Him to make the miracle of salvation real in your heart and life.

Or maybe it’s a chance for you to deal with God in a different way.

Whatever it is, my prayer is that you will have the courage to step out in faith and get your feet wet!

Lets pray…