Sun, Sep 22, 2019
Teacher: Mark Hull
Passage: Joshua 24:15
Duration:28 mins

Message text

Joshua 24:15

Many years ago, if you wanted a pair of shoes, you couldn’t go down to “Payless Shoes” or “Shoe Carnival”.
You couldn’t even go down to Sears or J.C. Penney to pick a pair of ready made shoes to wear. There was a time when – if you wanted shoes or boots – you had to go someone called a “Shoe Cobbler.”

When Ronald Reagan was a young man, an aunt had taken him to a cobbler to have a pair of shoes made for him. The shoemaker asked the young Reagan “do you want a square toe or a round toe?”

Reagan hemmed and hawed. So the cobbler said, “Come back in a day or two and let me know what you want.”
A few days later the shoemaker saw Reagan on the street and asked what he had decided about the shoes. “I still have not made up my mind,” the boy answered. “Very well,” said the cobbler.

When Reagan received the shoes, he was shocked to see that one shoe had a square toe and the other had a round toe.
Years later Reagan commented: “Looking at those shoes every day taught me a lesson. If you do not make your own decisions, somebody else will make them for you!”

APPLY: God created us to be a people capable of making choices. And God has always given His people the power of choice
In the Old Testament, Joshua told the Israelites

“... CHOOSE for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living.
But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15
God calls upon us to make a choice: to choose Him.
Some choices are hard to make. But sometimes hard choices have to be made.
The 1989 movie Indian Jones and the Last Crusade has a classic scene near the end. The Last Crusade is the final episode of three Steven Spielberg and George Lucas sagas about a globe-trotting archaeologist who battles the Nazis for possession of the world’s great treasures. Harrison Ford played the title role.
In The Last Crusade, Indiana Jones and his father seek the one great relic they have been looking for their entire lives—the Holy Grail, the chalice from Jesus’ Last Supper.
The Nazis are also looking for it because they believe the legend that its owner would possess supernatural power to control the world. When the bad guys take Indiana’s dad captive, the hero eventually tracks them to a secret temple deep in the desert mountains south of the Dead Sea.

Once inside the temple, the son rescues the father. Indiana also discovers the hiding place of the Holy Grail. In the final scenes, just as Indiana reaches the sacred altar where the Holy Grail is kept, an earthquake shakes the mountain. Rocks fall. The temple walls move and then begin to tumble. The floor of the temple parts into a great crevasse right in front of the altar.
Indiana watches in horror as the Holy Grail, the object of his life long quest, begins to quiver and then tilt. It falls over, rolls across the altar, and tumbles toward the gaping hole in the earth. Indiana leaps for it. He grabs it just before it falls into the darkness.

Just when he thinks he has saved it, the earth shakes again. He loses his footing and slides into the crevasse himself. In desperation, he grabs for anything to hold on to. His fingers find a rock outcropping a few inches below the edge of the crevasse. The chalice falls from his hands. He is clinging by his finger tips, certain death below him. Rocks are falling everywhere. The earth continues to quake. He can barely hold on.

Just then, out of nowhere, his father peers over the edge. “Take my hand,” the elder Jones cries out to his son. Indiana is about to reach for his father and safety when he spots the Holy Grail resting on a narrow ledge just inches away. If he stretches he can probably reach it. But does he risk it?
How can he forget the Grail? His whole life has been about finding it. He can choose rescue. Or he can risk his life in the hope he can reach the chalice and still grab his father’s outstretched hand. He knows what’s at stake, but he can’t take his eyes off the Grail.
Finally the pleading voice of his father breaks the spell. “Let it go. Indiana, let it go.”
He looks up at his father’s hand and away from the treasure. He lunges for the hand. His dad grabs him and pulls him to safety. They run for their lives as the temple collapses in ruins behind them.

Some choices are hard to make. Sometimes we make them harder than need be. I am reminded of that old sketch Jack Benny used to do. For those of you too young to remember,
Jack Benny was viewed as one of the great comedians of his time. Many of his jokes played off his reputation as a cheapskate. In this scene, Benny is walking down a dark street when a thug jumps out of the shadows and points a gun at him. “Give me your money, mister!” Benny doesn’t move. “I mean business. Your money or your life!” the thief repeats pointing the gun straight at Benny. Jack still doesn’t respond. Finally, the man insists, “You heard me. Your money or your life, which will it be?” Benny hesitates and then responds with that unmistakable slow, deliberate pattern, “I’m thinking. I’m thinking!”

Abraham had a choice to make!
Notice how the story begins, “Sometime later God tested Abraham.” The King James Version creates a problem here when it uses the word “tempt” where our version (NIV) uses “test.” To tempt means to entice someone to do evil. That’s not what the Hebrew word used here means.
The same word is used in Deuteronomy 13:3. “The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

The proverb says, “The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the heart” (Proverbs 17:3).

Abraham had been tested before. The Lord had called him to leave his homeland and family and travel to an undisclosed promised land. Later God promised Abraham, that he would be the father of many nations. Then the Lord tested him by waiting. Years passed and no child was born.

What a test this was! How can any parent be expected to sacrifice a child? Obviously there are evil parents and some who have lost their grip on reality who commit unspeakable crimes against their young. Some religions, past and present, practice human sacrifice. Child sacrifice was common among the pagan nations that surrounded ancient Israel. The Law of Moses condemned it.
Deuteronomy 12:31 says, “You must not worship the LORD your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the LORD hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods.” Here God demands that very act of Abraham.

Note how the Lord words his command. “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love.” This was Isaac, the child of promise! Abraham actually had another son. Ishmael was born of Hagar the servant when Abraham and his wife Sarah had lost faith in God’s promise of a child. But God kept his promise. Abraham regained his faith.
The boy’s name, Isaac or “laughter,” carried a double meaning. It reminded Abraham and Sarah how they had doubted, even laughed at God, when first told the promise. The name no doubt reflected the long delayed joy that the boy brought into his aged parents’ lives.
Any couple who has had a child or adopted after years of waiting knows what that joy is like. The text doesn’t tell us how old Isaac was when all of this happened. Most Bible scholars estimate his age at maybe fifteen or perhaps even twenty.
Mom and Dad had watched their pride and joy grow up. He was almost a man. Oh, how they loved him! And now God says give him back!

Undoubtedly, the death of Isaac would have broken Abraham’s heart. It would have also broken the inheritance that God had promised. No Isaac; no grandchildren. No grandchildren; no descendents to inherit the promise of God. There was more than a stack of wood riding on Isaac’s back as father and son climbed the slopes of Mt. Moriah that day.

Did you hear what Abraham told his servant when he and Isaac headed up the mountain? “We will worship and then we will come back to you.” We! We will worship! We will come back!
The New Testament cites this event and says, “By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.” (Heb 11:17-19).

Who can read the words of young Isaac and not feel the drama. “Father, here is the wood and the knife. Where is the lamb for the offering?” His Father’s answer, “God will provide.”
The two walked on in silence. Father Abraham piled up stones for an altar of stones, laid down the wood for the fire, and then bound his son and laid him on the altar. He raised the knife, prepared to do the unspeakable.
Those moments must have seemed like an eternity. Like Indiana Jones at the edge of the crevasse he must have looked down at his son and then toward the Heavenly Father. First down at the treasure that his whole life had been about then toward the Father. It was as if the pleading voice of the Father was saying, Abraham, let him go. Let him go.” That was Abraham’s test.

This whole episode was about the first two of the Ten Commandments. Ultimately everything is. Commandment One: You shall have no other gods before me.
Commandment Two: You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God” (Ex 20:3-5).
Translation—Nothing—not the creation of his hands, not the creation of our hands, not his gifts to us nor our gifts to him—must be more important to us than God himself. Idolatry is choosing anything other than God.

Another subplot flows just beneath the surface of this story. Those not familiar with the rest of the Bible seldom see it. But it is there. The clues are everywhere.
When God first called Abraham, he made a point to tell him that what was happening was not just for him. It was for the whole world. God chose and blessed Abraham to start a family (Isaac) through whom would come a blessing that everyone needed.
This was a long range plan. For the next two thousand years others would point back to Abraham as the beginning.
The place where all of this happened was also a part of the plan. Abraham lived in Beersheba a small oasis in the middle of the southern desert.
God told him to travel three days north to make his sacrifice and his choice. He was to go to a place called Moriah. That name may not mean much to you. But according to 2 Chronicles 3:1, a thousand years later it was there that King David bought a piece of ground from Araunah the Jebusite to build an altar upon which to worship God.
That would become the property on which Solomon, David’s son, would build his temple for God in Jerusalem. A thousand years later still, Jesus came to that same place, cleansed the temple of the money changers, and taught people the way to God.
To this day you can see this piece of real estate on the nightly news. Jews, Muslims, and Christians refer to this very site as the holiest place on earth. It was where Abraham built the altar for his son.

It was in the shadows of Moriah that another “father” gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. The place of Abraham’s ultimate choice became the place God’s ultimate grace

Here’s the big clue. Jesus said that no one could understand him until they recognize that he came to seek and save the lost and to lay his life down as a ransom for men’s sin. He didn’t come to be just a teacher, though he was. He didn’t come to perform miracles, though he did. He didn’t come to be king. That comes next time. He was a savior! “Behold the lamb of God,” John had said.

How could God command Abraham to sacrifice his only son? While I can’t explain all the issues that surround that question,
BUT this I know. God never tells anyone to do something that he isn’t willing to do himself. Isaac’s story is Jesus story. The same place, the same devotion, the same act. God provided for Abraham at Moriah. God provided for us at Calvary. Do you see how much trouble God went to for your salvation?
He offered Jesus as the sacrifice for our sin. He also prepared and planned and pointed to that sacrifice for thousands of years in advance.

God chose Abraham. And then God asked Abraham to choose him. What would he do? Choose God or the one thing that meant more to him than anything else in the world? Which would it be? God knew the answer. Maybe Abraham didn’t.

What if the decision to go to heaven wasn’t a matter of praying, acknowledging Christ, and obeying the Gospel in baptism? What if it was like this? God tells you to prepare for a long trip. You pack all your most important possessions. Since this a dream even your most important relationships, your ambitions, your likes and dislikes, all go in your suitcases.

You arrive at the airport. There is no baggage check. You drag everything all the way to the plane. There’s the plane—Heaven Bound! But there’s no gangway, not even stairs.

Instead the Lord himself is standing at the door of the plane with a hand outstretched to personally pull you on board. What a welcome sight!

One problem! Your hands are full. You lift one of your bags toward the door expecting the Lord to set it inside. He doesn’t take it. He just shakes his head.
For a moment you are puzzled. Then you understand. You must choose!
You look up into the Father’s face as he pleads, “Let it go! Let it go!”
And that is the ultimate choice!


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