Have you ever felt a little bit put off coming to Church because of the people there? Do you think they are all a bit too self-righteous or hypocritical? Or perhaps you know some of them and know full well that their behaviour is less than perfect?
You might be surprised to know that the Bible is full of people who have really messed up! Murderers, adulterers, deceivers, prostitutes and yet many of them played key roles in pointing to Jesus, because they believed in God’s faithfulness, forgiveness and saving grace.
This week we are looking at the story of Jericho in the Old Testament book of Joshua; here we find one of these people, her name is Rahab. Rahab was a prostitute, her life was by no means perfect but she had faith in the ‘God of Israel’. She had heard all about his power to save and professed: “for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below!”
When Joshua and the Israelites destroyed Jericho, Rahab was saved. She was rescued because of her faith. She was forgiven her past life and went on to be one of the ancestors of Jesus Christ! She was remembered, not for her past, but for her faith. God used her despite her past, because of her faith. She had a part to play in the future because she believed in the power of the God of the present.
Why not come along on Sunday at 11 am and meet some of our folk who, in spite of their failures, believe in the saving grace of a very present God!
What do you think of if someone mentions ‘The Promised Land’? Perhaps, if you’re familiar with the Old Testament, you might think of the nation of Israel being rescued from Egypt and finally possessing the land of Canaan, their promised inheritance.
This Sunday we are looking again at the book of Joshua, just at that pivotal point when Joshua finally took possession of the entire land, just as the Lord had directed Moses, and gave it as an inheritance to Israel; the pilgrims had at last become settlers and could rest.
If you’re less familiar with the Bible and are more of a music lover, perhaps ‘The Promised Land’ reminds you of songs with that name? Chuck Berry and Bruce Springsteen both sang of a better place they believed would be at journey’s end, where dreams and hopes could come true. For many people, ‘The Promised Land’ holds an eternal hope, of life after death and mourning turned to joy. Johnny Cash also made this connection with Heaven when he wrote:
When I shall reach that happy place, I'll be forever blessed, For I shall see my Father's face, And in His bosom rest. [Chorus] I am bound for the promised land, I am bound for the promised land, Oh who will come and go with me? I am bound for the promised land.
But do you know that there is a type of Promised Land that we can claim this side of Heaven? You don’t have to be Jewish and it’s not confined to your dreams! Jesus said “Come to me and I will give you rest”. In Jesus we find a place of total peace and rest, and it’s available now. He is our promised possession and our inheritance! In him you will find your happy place and you don’t have to search too hard; Jesus knocks at the door of your heart and waits for you to invite him in.
Do you have a place where you feel really at home? A place you can run to when you are feeling overwhelmed, or ‘got at’ by the world, or even just tired? A place (and people) that offers safety, shelter and protection? For many people that may be your home, or your parents’ home where you grew up, or even a small, safe space with-in your home. Perhaps you travel a lot and just to return to your home country and home town brings that sense of comfort.
So many people in the world today have been displaced from their homes, towns and countries which are no longer safe places to be, either because of war, fear of violence or persecution. They are forced to seek refuge and sanctuary in places unfamiliar to them.
This Sunday in Church, we will be looking at the cities of the Promised Land that were allocated to the Levites as their inheritance and, in particular, the Cities of Refuge. These were safe havens where those in fear of retribution for accidental manslaughter could escape their avengers and receive a fair judgement at their trials (the Levites being just mediators, especially between Israel and God).
We all need a safe haven, a place of refuge; somewhere or someone to run to, to escape all the rubbish this world throws at us. But more than that, we need the Rock of Safety, we need to run to Christ! He is our refuge from sin and it’s punishment; He will shield us from our accuser, ‘The Avenger’; He is the just mediator between us and God; He wipes our slate clean with his fair and righteous judgement. And He will do that for us today, even now! Our eternal ‘Safe Place’ and ‘City of Refuge’ is Heaven when we run to Jesus Christ for sanctuary! The Bible tells us: “We who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us.” (Hebrews 6:18 NLT)
Why not come along on Sunday at 11 am and discover the way to your own ‘Place of Safety’.