Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:
‘Finding the Perfection of God’s Purpose by Way of Faith and Action’
© March 9 2014 by Steve Mickelson
Announcements and Call to Worship: Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #642
(Call to Consecration – Romans 12); Prayer
Opening Hymn #84: Come and Praise the Lord Our King (Tune of Michael Row the Boat Ashore); Choruses
Scripture Verses: Joshua 6:2-20 and James 2:14-26
Joshua 6:2-20 (ESV)
2 And the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor. 3 You shall march around the city, all the men of war going around the city once. Thus shall you do for six days. 4 Seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. 5 And when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, when you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout, and the wall of the city will fall down flat,[a] and the people shall go up, everyone straight before him.” 6 So Joshua the son of Nun called the priests and said to them, “Take up the ark of the covenant and let seven priests bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the Lord.” 7 And he said to the people, “Go forward. March around the city and let the armed men pass on before the ark of the Lord.”
8 And just as Joshua had commanded the people, the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the Lord went forward, blowing the trumpets, with the ark of the covenant of the Lord following them. 9 The armed men were walking before the priests who were blowing the trumpets, and the rear guard was walking after the ark, while the trumpets blew continually. 10 But Joshua commanded the people, “You shall not shout or make your voice heard, neither shall any word go out of your mouth, until the day I tell you to shout. Then you shall shout.” 11 So he caused the ark of the Lord to circle the city, going about it once. And they came into the camp and spent the night in the camp.
12 Then Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the Lord. 13 And the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the Lord walked on, and they blew the trumpets continually. And the armed men were walking before them, and the rear guard was walking after the ark of the Lord, while the trumpets blew continually. 14 And the second day they marched around the city once, and returned into the camp. So they did for six days.
15 On the seventh day they rose early, at the dawn of day, and marched around the city in the same manner seven times. It was only on that day that they marched around the city seven times. 16 And at the seventh time, when the priests had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, “Shout, for the Lord has given you the city. 17 And the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the Lord for destruction.[b] Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall live, because she hid the messengers whom we sent. 18 But you, keep yourselves from the things devoted to destruction, lest when you have devoted them you take any of the devoted things and make the camp of Israel a thing for destruction and bring trouble upon it. 19 But all silver and gold, and every vessel of bronze and iron, are holy to the Lord; they shall go into the treasury of the Lord.” 20 So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they captured the city.
Let us pray…
A short while ago, Sophie and I watched a television broadcast of the 2010 of the Karate Kid movie. This remake had some script changes from the earlier version of the movie starring Jadan Smith, as the student, and Jackie Chan playing the teacher.
Instead of the teacher waxing a car, remember the “Wax on, wax off” routine of the original film, the Jack Chan character has the Jaden Smith, repeatedly, doing a routine of: “throwing the jacket to the ground, then picking the jacket up, next hanging the jacket up on a peg mounted on a pole, and ending with taking the jacket off the peg to put on the jacket”.
Both routines, though different, show how repeating seemingly mundane routine actions, gave each respective student a muscle memory routine, that taught attention to detail, obedience to the teacher, self-discipline, focus and trust, while he learned a skill- set beyond actions.
The first of today’s two Scripture verses could have us, initially, questioning: why did the Lord have Joshua, along with seven priests and all of his men, repeat the routine of marching around the city of Jericho seven times, on seven days. On each of the first six days, all were silent, save for the blowing of their horn trumpets as they marched. And on the seventh and final day, the routine was repeated again, not once but seven times and on the completion of the seventh and final circuit, those assembled would “shout for the Lord.” And after they shouted, the city walls of Jericho were destroyed.
The only people of Jericho to survive were those in the household of Rahab, a prostitute who gave shelter and safety to messengers that were sent by the Lord.
Some of you may recall a message that I shared here at BLCF a few years ago about the healing of Naaman, a Gentile, who was Commander of the army of the King of Syria. Naaman was afflicted with Leprosy, is described in the fifth chapter of 2 Kings. A servant girl who was captured from the people of Israel and served in commander’s household told the Commander’s wife that she believed that the God of Israel could heal Naaman of Leprosy.
Elisha, a prophet of Israel, refused to touch, anoint, touch or even speak to Naaman, instead sending a servant to deliver a letter, instructing the Syrian Commander to wash himself in the Jordan River seven times.
Initially, Naaman was infuriated that Elisha had refused an audience with him and that he was told to bathe in the Jordan River instead of a river in Syria, so he stormed away. But Naaman was convinced by his servants that Elisha was a mighty prophet of God, reminding their master that he was promised to be healed, if he followed Elisha’s directions. Eventually, Naaman did follow the instructions and was completely healed of his affliction.
We see with both actions, one which destroyed Jericho and the other, being the healing of an affliction, are examples of how God rewards obedience and faith. It is interesting to note that Joshua and Naaman, each, were instructed to repeat an action seven times. Fortunately, both Joshua and Naaman did not quit after completing only six repetitions, electing instead to faithfully follow their instructions to the end. In both accounts, we see how the repetition of seemingly insignificant actions such as marching in circles or bathing in a river, can have miraculous consequences when God is involved. And also interesting is how God’s Glory is revealed through the faith demonstrated by a servant girl and a prostitute. How marvelous that a leper, who does not have the birthright of the people of Israel, may receive God’s blessing for actions that demonstrate a faith and trust in the Lord!
But why were Joshua and Naaman instructed to repeat their action seven times? After all, would doing such action one time be enough to satisfy God? Is there any significance to seven repetitions asked of Naaman and Joshua? To understand the significance of the number 7 in the Holy Scriptures, let us look to an excerpt from biblestudy.org:
What does the word for 7 mean in Hebrew? (From: biblestudy.org)
But now turning to the number 7, we must first consider the meaning of the word.
In the Hebrew, 7 is shevah. It is from the root savah, to be full or satisfied, have enough of. Hence the meaning of the word “seven” is dominated by this root, for on the seventh day God rested from the work of Creation. It was full and complete, and good and perfect. Nothing could be added to it or taken from it without marring it. Hence the word Shavath, to cease, desist, rest, and Shabbath, Sabbath, or day of rest.
It is 7, therefore, that stamp with perfection and completeness that in connection with which it is used. Of time, it tells of the Sabbath, and marks off the week of seven days, which, artificial as it may seem to be, is universal and immemorial in its observance amongst all nations and in all times. It tells of that eternal Sabbath-keeping which remains for the people of God in all its everlasting perfection.
In the creative works of God, seven completes the colors of the spectrum and rainbow, and satisfies in music the notes of the scale. In each of these the eighth is only a repetition of the first.
Another meaning of the root Shavagh is to swear, or make an oath.
God gave a seven-fold blessing to Abraham:
Seven-fold blessing Abraham received from God
Abraham’s seven-fold blessing in Genesis 12:2, 3: –
“I will make of thee a great nation,
And I will bless thee,
And make thy name great;
And thou shalt be a blessing;
And I will bless them that bless thee,
And curse him that curseth thee:
And in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”
And aside from those accounts we have just read, courtesy of boblestudy.com, we see the Psalmist describing the Lord’s words being pure as silver that has been refined in a furnace seven times. When God speaks, it is often not just words, but by His promises:
Psalm 12:6 (ESV)
6 The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.
While the ESV translation talks of the “words” of God, the CEV translates Psalm 12:6 it more powerfully as “promises” of God:
Psalm 12:6 (CEV)
6 Our Lord, you are true to your promises, and your word is like silver
heated seven times in a fiery furnace.[a]
Footnotes: a. 12.6 in a fiery furnace: The Hebrew text has “in a furnace to the ground,” which may describe part of a process for refining silver in Old Testament times
God’s promises include His Covenant, which He made with Israel:
What was God’s 7 part Covenant with Israel?
God’s seven-fold covenant with Israel in Exodus 6:6-8. 7 times does the expression, “I will” occur in these few verses, stamping the whole with spiritual perfection. These are preceded by “I have” three times repeated (verses 4,5), giving the Divine basis on which the blessing was based.
I have established My covenant with them, etc.
I have also heard their groaning, etc.
I have remembered My covenant.
Then follows the seven-fold blessing: –
I will bring you out from Egypt.
I will rid you of their bondage.
I will redeem you.
I will take you to Me for a people.
I will be to you a God.
I will bring you in unto the land.
I will give it you.
And the number seven has relevance found in the seven miracles described in John’s gospel of the New Testament:
What are the 7 miracles written about in the gospel of John?
- The water turned into wine. (John 2:9)
- Healing of the nobleman’s son. (John 4:47)
- Healing of crippled man at the pool of Bethesda. (John 5:4-9)
- The feeding of 5,000 people from only five loaves of bread and two fishes. (John 6:10)
- Healing of the man born blind. (John 9:1)
- The raising of Lazarus from the dead. (John 11:43)
- The catching of 153 fishes by some of the disciples. (John 21:6)
These formed the spiritual perfection of the “signs” that Jesus was the Christ.
And then there are the seven miracles performed by Jesus on the SABBATH:
What were the 7 miracles Jesus performed on the SABBATH?
Seven miracles wrought by Christ on the Sabbath day: –
- 1. The withered hand, Matthew 12:9.
- 2. The unclean spirit, Mark 1:21.
- 3. Peter’s wife’s mother, Mark 1:29.
- 4. The woman, Luke 13:11.
- 5. The man with dropsy, Luke 14:2.
- 6. The impotent man, John 5:8,9.
- 7. The man born blind, John 9:14.
But even though the Scriptures indicate that the number seven is significant, it is the combination of faith and action that is important. So in the accounts of Joshua and Naaman, which is more important, the action or the faith? James indicates that both are important:
James 2:14-26 (ESV) Faith Without Works Is Dead
14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good[a] is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
Footnotes: a. James 2:16 Or benefit
We see that James not only acknowledges the faith of the prostitute Rahab in James 2:25, but her actions to protect the messengers, as well. We are told that neither faith nor works may exist alone. Together, we have the two working in harmony as a complete expression of our belief and trust in God, and to fulfill Scripture. That faith without action is dead and action without faith is dead. Both are important to God, and either alone is meaningless to Him.
It is through actions performed by faith in God that we receive steadfastness by way of the Holy Spirit, which like God’s number seven, is perfect and complete, lacking nothing:
James 1:2-4 (ESV) Testing of Your Faith
2 Count it all joy, my brothers,[a] when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Footnotes: a. James 1:2 Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to men or to both men and women who are siblings (brothers and sisters) in God’s family, the church; also verses 16, 19
And in our faith walk, may we look to Christ, as a perfect example for us to follow in order to receive hope, endurance and encouragement, to preach the gospel of Christ and glorify all that God provides:
Romans 15:1-7 (ESV) The Example of Christ
15 We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3 For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” 4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
Let us pray…
Closing Hymn #225: Standing on the Promises