Faithlife Sermons

Love is a Battlefield

Joshua  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Joshua speaks his last words: love God, obey God, don't marry the locals. These are all one thing. Joshua puts his finger on the toughest battlefield for love and righteousness for the coming generations. We show and strengthen our love for God by living righteousness when its hardest.

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Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day to all you mothers out there. It is always good to celebrate our Mom’s who pour out love, who work hard. And we reserve a special day on which to do that.
And how do you do that? How do you show someone who has sacrificed so much? Who has loved you from before you were born?
Hallmark says...
For the low low price of $24 (not including envelope) you too can fully express your love and admiration and appreciation by signing your name after a short poem printed in cursive.
Beyond a hallmark holiday, how can you really show you love someone?
The founder of Mother’s Day, Anna Jarvis, actually grew to hate the holiday she created because of its commercialization and she actually died destitute in a sanatorium where, every year on Mother’s Day, she would be deluged with mass-produced greeting cards. Irony.

The Badger

I have this. This is tremendously special to me. It wasn’t given to me on Father’s Day or Mother’s Day.
For the longest time I have called my kids badgers. Usually “ridiculous badgers”. I don’t know hwy, I don’t even know all that much about badgers. I like the shape of the word, but its a ludicrously fierce animal in a small package so… it works.
But Logan hears me talking about badgers all the time, and it comes time to do an art project at school, maybe 3rd or 4th grade. And he thinks to himself “I am going to make something for my Dad. What does he love? Badgers, obviously, the guy talks about them all the time.” And he handcrafts this badger. For me.
And he was all mysterious about it, and he presented it to me.
The pride on his face as he presented it to me was only surpassed by the love in me as I received it.
This is my badger. This is love.
Many Mother’s tomorrow will receive terrible breakfasts made by unskilled hands, objectively awful drawings of stick figures holding hands and misshapen clay somethings. And they will love and cherish them because they shout love.
The Badger from Logan.
I made this.
Romeo and Juliet (without the suicide). Star-crossed lovers.
It wasn’t about the skill or the perfection or the result, it was the time and attention and effort that went into it.
Mother’s Day
Woman receiving gifts they don’t want.
That is their badger. That is love.

The last thing Joshua wants to say

We have reached the very end of the book of Joshua. (awww). In the final two chapters of Joshua, Joshua is going to say the very last things he wants to say before he dies. These are his last words, his final sermon, his parting advice to the nation he has led know in the footsteps of Moses for more than 30 years. He is 110 years old.
Joshua 23:1–2 ESV
A long time afterward, when the Lord had given rest to Israel from all their surrounding enemies, and Joshua was old and well advanced in years, Joshua summoned all Israel, its elders and heads, its judges and officers, and said to them, “I am now old and well advanced in years.
Joshua 23:
What is the last thing Joshua wants to say?
First, he summarizes the story of what God has done for Israel through his life.
Joshua 23:3
Joshua 23:3–5 ESV
And you have seen all that the Lord your God has done to all these nations for your sake, for it is the Lord your God who has fought for you. Behold, I have allotted to you as an inheritance for your tribes those nations that remain, along with all the nations that I have already cut off, from the Jordan to the Great Sea in the west. The Lord your God will push them back before you and drive them out of your sight. And you shall possess their land, just as the Lord your God promised you.
Therefore, respond in a very particular way.
Joshua 23:6–8 ESV
Therefore, be very strong to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, turning aside from it neither to the right hand nor to the left, that you may not mix with these nations remaining among you or make mention of the names of their gods or swear by them or serve them or bow down to them, but you shall cling to the Lord your God just as you have done to this day.
Joshua 23:6
He calls them to obedience.
Why? Well, remember everything God has done:
Joshua 23:9–13 ESV
For the Lord has driven out before you great and strong nations. And as for you, no man has been able to stand before you to this day. One man of you puts to flight a thousand, since it is the Lord your God who fights for you, just as he promised you. Be very careful, therefore, to love the Lord your God. For if you turn back and cling to the remnant of these nations remaining among you and make marriages with them, so that you associate with them and they with you, know for certain that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations before you, but they shall be a snare and a trap for you, a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good ground that the Lord your God has given you.
Joshua 23:9-
Blessed if you do… cursed if you don’t.
And just to make it absolutely clear, he says it all again:
And just to make it absolutely clear, he says it all again:
Joshua 23:14–16 ESV
“And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed. But just as all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you have been fulfilled for you, so the Lord will bring upon you all the evil things, until he has destroyed you from off this good land that the Lord your God has given you, if you transgress the covenant of the Lord your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them. Then the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you, and you shall perish quickly from off the good land that he has given to you.”
Look carefully, he conflates three things: love, obedience, and purity.

Racial Purity?

It is obviously a REALLY big deal that the people of Israel not make marriages with the Canaanites. Why is this such a big deal? There’s 110 year old grampa railing about racial purity again!!!? That’s what this sounds like, doesn’t it? Don’t you go around with those filthy Cananite woman with their snares and traps for you. You’ll get thorns in your eyes!!!
And there are still many Cananite people in the land and so, young people, growing up in cities together, or nearby villages, fall in love, want to get married. What kind of monster can say know to these beautiful star-crossed lovers, it is Romeo and Juliet here.
But there is an appropriate path to marriage with Gentiles. We see it in the story of Ruth, who is grandmother to David and in the ancestry of Jesus. Ruth chooses to follow Yahweh, a God-fearer, and then she marries Boaz later. It isn’t about racial purity, it is about purity and unity of the heart.
No, there is an appropriate path to marriage with Gentiles. We see it in the story of Ruth, who is grandmother to David and in the ancestry of Jesus.
Or better yet, it is about
Love and Obedience, particularly obedience in this area of purity from the surrounding nations.
Looking carefully, Joshua conflates three things: love, obedience, and purity. He says these three things again and again, mixed together, interchangeably.
Look carefully, he conflates three things: love, obedience, and purity.
He said it to the Back East Boys in the last chapter:
Joshua 22:5 ESV
Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God, and to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments and to cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
Joshua 22:
This is a stack of things… that is really one thing. Like a stack of pancakes, but it’s all just delicious pancakes all the way down.
Observe the commandment, love the LORD, walk in all his ways, keep his commandments, cling to him, serve him.
Be obedient to the command to love by keeping the commands and always serving/loving. It’s really all one thing.
Then throughout we see it.
Joshua 23:7–8 ESV
that you may not mix with these nations remaining among you or make mention of the names of their gods or swear by them or serve them or bow down to them, but you shall cling to the Lord your God just as you have done to this day.
Joshua 23:11–12 ESV
Be very careful, therefore, to love the Lord your God. For if you turn back and cling to the remnant of these nations remaining among you and make marriages with them, so that you associate with them and they with you,
Joshua 23:11-
… then bad things will happen.
Love and obedience, and in particular, obedience in the area of purity from the surrounding nations.
These ideas aren’t new are they?
We use this term righteousness and it means right living in right relationship with God. It is obedience because you are in loving relationship and that obedience both flows out of the right relationship (you do things they love because you love them) and it feeds right back into deepening and enriching the marriage. It’s a beautiful upward spiral.
This works in all relationships.
Right relationship which leads to right living which leads to right relationship.
It is effort, being careful to obey, to walk in his ways, but it is effort motivated by love… and it feeds right back into that love relationship.
How much more with God who sees and knows our every action, our every thought, the impulse of our heart.
But that isn’t easy, is it? It isn’t easy
This is true in all sorts of relationships in our lives. Our actions communicate our love. Love is action.
I had a conversation with young man, an Uber-driving philosopher, who dropped the wonderful line “I just believe God is love and so I just love God.” And the unspoken rest of that line is “I love God (as an inner feeling)… and then go and do whatever I want.”
Just “love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, soul, mind, strength.”
To misinterpret that “all I need to do is sort of have a good vibe, good will, good feeling towards God… and then I can kind of just do what I want.”
This is like a husband who lies to, cheats on and physically abuses his wife saying to her: “but you know I love you...”
No, no you don’t. That’s not what love is. That’s not what love does. Love requires action. Love is action. And acting in a right way, in a way that you know will help or bless or please the one that you love, that feeds into your relationship.
This is why I love my badger. Logan keyed into the words of His Father… and then he went and created something that reflected his words… and then he presented it to his father as a gift of love. Imperfect… but oh so beautiful.

Love is a Battlefield

So what is the deal with this purity from the surrounding nations?
Joshua puts his finger on where the biggest challenge to righteousness is going to be for the Israelites in the coming generations.
He identifies Love’s battlefield for his generation. For the generations following Joshua, this would be the great temptation, and they would fail again and again. But how beautiful if and when God’s people could struggle and strive to act in righteousness as a response to God’s love and care, as a gift of love back to him.
Some areas of our life it is going to be harder to live righteous lives in ways that will reflect His word, glorify and bless him, please our heavenly Father. And because of the blood of Jesus, we are free forever from the guilt and shame of sin. There are still earthly consequences to our sin and stupid, but he has freed us from the eternal penalty. We don’t lose the Kingdom when we surrender the Battle for Righteousness.
But we still lose something.
Our righteousness is as dirty rags, it doesn’t earn us anything. In the same exactly way that this Badger didn’t earn Logan anything. I didn’t pay him. I didn’t love him more, I already loved him fully.
The struggle for righteousness is the battle for love. It is the struggle to create something as beautiful and precious as we can, not because we earn righteousness, but because it pleases our heavenly Father. Look Dad, I made this. It’s imperfect and it’s impartial, and it might be smudged here and there, but I made it for you. To express my love. To more fully experience yours.
I expect some areas of righteousness are harder for you. Sin is only hard to resist when you resist it! Walking in righteousness can be hard and you know where the hardest area of holiness is for you. You know where you are fighting.
What is the battlefield changes over time, but I will identify three big ones that Jesus talked about a lot!
Jesus talked more about time (Sabbath) and money than about sex and marriage. Not necessarily because
And if you are fighting because of sin and shame, stop it. You are forgiven and you are whole and you are forgiven. You can’t earn it, that is grace.
That wasn’t the biggest battle of their generation. Actually, they had this
But, coming from a place of freedom, you can step back into the fight for righteousness as an act of love.
Jesus says in the Gospel of John:
Just “love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, soul, mind, strength.”
To misinterpret that “all I need to do is sort of have a good vibe, good will, good feeling towards God… and then I can kind of just do what I want.”
This is like a husband who lies to, cheats on and physically abuses his wife saying to her: “but you know I love you...”
No, no you don’t. That’s not what love is. That’s not what love does.
John 14:15 ESV
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
and John later writes to the churches, elaborating:
1 John 5:1–3 ESV
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
Those commandments are for our good, not burdensome, but we each have our struggles.
It isn’t about guilt and shame… we are forever free of that in Christ.

Fight to follow, fight for love

Let’s make something beautifully righteouss for our heavenly Father.
What is your battlefield?
Our righteousness is as dirty rags. It isn’t high art.
We live in a sex obsessed culture, much like 1st century Rome. Lust, pornography, adultery… maybe those are your battlefield.
Jesus talked more about money and time than he did about sex. How we spend our money and time reveal our heart… Perhaps money is your battlefield of love. Maybe the way you spend your time?
Pride? Fear? Trust?
I bet you can all name an area of great weakness and temptation where it is, over and over again, just SO HARD to stay holy, to stay “pure” to practice righteousness.
But here is the reason why it is worth it. Never because of guilt and shame, never because you need to earn it, but God knows exactly how hard that area is for you. And what a beautiful act of love it is, what a beautiful act of worship is every victory you make on that battlefield.
Anxiety? Trust?
Present your little victories of holiness and righteousness as gifts of worship to your Heavenly Father. Here… I made this for you.
FIght for that righteousness, you ridiculous, beautiful badgers. Fight to follow in all his ways. Fight to love.
But the striving towards and living in righteousness is an act of love. And when it is hardest, th
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