It's a privilege to be at the pulpit today. Elder Gettys has given me the opportunity today. I do get in the pulpit from time to time. We'll be in next Sabbath as well, down at the Fort Ogilby area. But it's great to be here today.
Fourteen hundred years before Jesus, the city of Jericho was a thriving large and wealthy city. Filled with luxuriant palaces, awesome temples. The problem with those temples was they were dedicated to idol worship. Ashtoreth, the pagan goddess of sexual, love and maternity, fertility, she was prominently worshiped in those temples. Palestine excavations have uncovered many of the figurines of this goddess. They show her as a nude woman with grossly accentuated sexual features. Prostitution as a religion, the religious rite was widely practiced in the service of this goddess. Associated with the worship of Ashtoreth was the most vile and degrading and licentious immorality. The entire city was given over to sin and epitomized defiance of the God of Israel.
God wasn't pleased with the situation. He had decreed that the city and its people would not continue. They must all be eliminated so their degraded lifestyle would not be a snare to the Israelites who had now been brought to this task of conquering the promised land, that land of milk and honey that God had been offering them for centuries.
Jericho was seen by the leaders of Israel, Joshua, Step number one of taking over Canaan. We know that Joshua was a man of prayer, as was his predecessor, Moses. After spending time alone with God, he was assured by God that Jericho would be given over into the hands of the Israelites, and they wouldn't even have to use weapons of war. All they needed to do was march around the city each day for six days and if they marched, the priests were to bring the ark of God with the sacred law of God inscribed on the tablets of stone. No voice was to be heard. The only noise would be the treading of feet of the armies of Israel. And the seven priests would blow the trumpets. When they were done each day, their circuit of the city, they would go back to their tents in silence. The ark would be placed back in the tabernacle. This went on for six days.
As each day passed, you can only imagine the apprehensiveness of the guards of Jericho as they watched from the top of the walls. As the watchmen reported to the people down below what was going on, they were quite alarmed. They tried to reassured themselves that their wall was impregnable. They could withstand an attack form just about anybody. The guards hadn't seen any kind of battering rams or instruments of war that could possibly be used to tear down their walls. So, they couldn't have too much to worry about. They only saw people marching and blowing trumpets. Surely they were safe. But the people kept recalling that these were the same Israelites, it's the same nation that had tramped through the Red Sea forty years earlier. What was even scarier was they had just passed through an opening in the Jordan River, just days before in order to get right over here.
So, feeling that some supernatural power seemed to be helping the Hebrews, the people of Jericho were troubled, to say the least.
The seventh day came. At the light of dawn, Joshua marshaled the armies of the Lord to give them God's instructions. "March around Jericho seven times today." After they'd completed the seventh circuit, the priests were to blow the trumpets and the people were to shout at the top of their lungs.
They went around the first time. Then a second and then a third time. Watchers on the wall yelled down to the people of Jericho, "Something very different is going on today." The masses are wondering and they're shaking in their boots. Fourth, fifth, sixth circuits. Then the seventh. The seventh circuit came to an end.
Before that final climax Joshua gave the Israelites one more bit of final instruction from the Lord. Let's turn to Joshua 6:17-19 as we read it together: "The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the Lord. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent. But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it. All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the Lord and must go into His treasury."
The instructions were clear enough. No one could possibly misunderstand. All the people of Jericho must be destroyed except for the family of Rahab. All the items, all the valuables were devoted to God.
Joshua 6:20,21 When the trumpets sounded, the people shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the people gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so every man charged straight in and they took the city. They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.
Joshua said to the two men who had spied out the land, "Go into the prostitute's house and bring her out and all who belong to her, in accordance with your oath to her." So the young men who had done the spying went in and brought out Rahab, her father and mother and brothers and all who belonged to her. They brought out her entire family and put them in a place outside the camp of Israel.
Then they burned the whole city and everything in it, but they put the silver and the gold and the articles of bronze and iron into the treasury of the Lord's house.
It was quite a victory for God's people. Israel, why they were ecstatic. They saw the power of God working in such a dramatic way. Soon after the fall of Jericho, God told Joshua that Ai would be the next town to deal with.
Five went in and looked around. They reported that there was just a small number of people living there. They wouldn't have to send out much of an army to take the city, so Joshua dispatches three thousand. The three thousand men felt confident of an easy victory. They rushed in to take that city and when they got near the gate, to their surprise they met with determined resistance. It seemed there were more people in Ai than they had imagined, and they were well prepared, well armed, well trained for battle. Israel fled in panic chased down by the army of Ai. Thirty six Israelites were killed before they could escape from the chase. Ai was only a small town, but Israel suffered and embarrassing defeat. And they were totally disheartened.
Joshua realized there was something badly wrong here. God had just gotten through working a tremendous miracle for them at Jericho, and here it was obvious God had done nothing. What happened? Joshua 7:6. Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell face downward to the ground before the ark of the Lord., remaining there until evening. The elders of Israel did the same and sprinkled dust on their heads. And Joshua said, "Ah, Sovereign Lord, why did You ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us? If only we had been content to stay on the other side of the Jordan! O Lord, what can I say, now that Israel has been routed by its enemies? The Canaanites and the other people of the country will hear about this and they will surround us and wipe out Your name from the earth. What then will You do for Your own great name?"
The Lord said to Joshua, "Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? Israel has sinned; They have violated My covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied they have put them with their own possessions. That's why the Israelites can't stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction."
So, now we see that somebody has gone directly contrary to God's command. And He's warned Israel not to take any of the spoils of Jericho. If anybody did he'd be cursed, and he'd caused the whole camp of Israel to be cursed. God said it was that bad. He won't allow Israel to conquer Ai because some one in Israel had rebelled. Some one had intentionally defied this commandment, and God tells Joshua "The first thing you need to do is to tell the whole camp of Israel that there is a cursed thing in the midst and He won't succeed in battle until it is taken out of the midst. Tell them to sanctify themselves, because tomorrow we're going to find out who the culprit is. When we find the culprit, he and all he has will be burned."
Now, the reason God asks Joshua to warn the people is to give the offender an opportunity to confess and to repent, but no such thing happened. So the next day all Israel cast lots. The lot falls on the tribe of Judah. Next the lots are cast by the families in the tribe of Judah, and the lot fell on the family of the Zarahites. The lot was cast the third time and we have it down to the very household, and it's the household of Zabdi.
Still no confession, you know. There is nobody in Zabdi's home comes forward and says, "I'm the man." Finally the lots are cast within that household and the lot falls on a man named Achan. And then we read verse 19, Joshua 7:19. Then Joshua said to Achan, "My son, give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel, and give Him the praise. Tell me what you have done; do not hide it from me."
To establish his guilt beyond all question, leaving no ground for the possible charge that Achan had been unjustly condemned, Joshua begged Achan to confess. And then in verses 20 and 23, Achan replied, "It's true!" I have sinned against the God of Israel. This is what I have done: When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath."
So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent, and there it was, hidden in his tent, with the silver underneath. They took the things from the tent, brought them to Joshua and all the Israelites and spread them out before the Lord.
Amazing! Achan finally confessed but is not repentant, not a change of heart. We must understand how defiant his sin really was. Achan went against the most solemn warning of God. God had said that even if one touches anything in Jericho and thinks he will keep it will be cursed and will cause all Israel to be cursed. And that command, you must understand, was given immediately after the Lord had miraculously caused them to cross the Jordan River right through the opening in the Jordan River the command was given before the walls of Jericho came crashing down by God's power. The fact that it was divine power alone that brought that victory gave prohibiting the taking of spoils greater weight. God by His own word had given them that conquest, and to Him alone the glory went, and everything is contained that was devoted to God.
Only this one man had the audacity to violate God's command. His confession revealed his problem of covetousness. He says he coveted, this beautiful robe from Babylon. He saw it and fell in love with it. It was not like he had to have it, regardless what God said. He saw the money, the gold and silver dedicated to God and he had to have it, too.
I don't believe that problem came about just that day in Jericho. Achan had that problem long before. I think he had cherished that sin a long long time, until it became a habit. He didn't really want to bring disaster on Israel. He didn't think that really happened. See, he didn't really believe what God said. He had practiced this covetousness so long that when the temptation came, he fell. In Patriarchs and Prophets by E.G. White, on page 186 it says, "Are not similar sins still committed in the face of warnings as following an explicit indulged covetousness as was Achan to appropriate the spoils of Jericho." God has declared it to be idolatry. Idolatry, the problem of covetousness. It's a form of idolatry. Putting something under service in our hearts. Something that is more important to God, it would get in the way of all our future spiritual growth if we don't get rid of it, if we have that problem.
If there is something we place before God we can't prosper, we can't grow, until we allow God to get rid of it.
There are many species of idolatry. This isn't the only form of idolatry. Because anything, any thing that comes that comes before God in our hearts is an idol. Prophets and King by E.G. White , page 210, say, "the spirit of idolatry is rife in the world today, although, under the influence of science and education, it has assumed form more refined and attractive than in the days when Ahaziah sought the god of Ekron.".... "Today the mysteries of heathen worship are replaced by secret associations and seances, the obscurities and wonders , of spiritistic mediums. The disclosures of these mediums are eagerly received by thousands who refuse to accept light from God's word or through His Spirit." Do we see this happening today, folks? We see a tremendous rise over the past twenty or thirty years of spiritism. It's just taking different forms: the New Age Movement, The New age Movement tying in with Christianity.
Years ago I read the book by Will Baron, To See By the New Age. It was quite an eye- opening book. You might want to pick up a copy at the ABC, if you really want to see what is happening. And that book was written a number of years ago. It's picked up so much since then. There are incredible thing that are going on today. Psychics, and contact with dead relatives, and these programs, like "Crossing Over," coming in on the scene. All of this is idolatry, folks.
It has supplanted the truth of God's word in people's hearts. "I'll turn to this, not to God's word. There is no power, no information, there is no help for me in God's word. I've got to turn over here for direction in my life." Prophets and Kings, by E.G. White, p. 170 says, "In the exaltation of the human above the divine, in the praise of popular leaders, in the worship of mammon, and in the placing of the teachings of science above the truths of revelation, multitudes today are following after Baal. Doubt and unbelief are exercising their baleful influence over mind and heart, and many are substituting for the oracles of God the theories of men."
You look at evolution, look at what goes on in our world today how we have examined the fossil record and we believe it's true saying there was life on earth millions of years ago. Now, you don't have to be an atheist to believe evolution, because we have theistic evolutions today. Meaning; "I believe in God, that I believe this is His method. This is His way of bringing it about. This is His way to bring about life on this earth. So, we say these days in creation in Genesis 1, they could be millions of years for each day. We don't need to believe in a literal six- day creation. God can use other forms, other methods."
There are two problems with this. Two big problems, in fact. And it gets back to the Hebrew language where the problem is. That Hebrew word for "day" in Genesis 1, is the word "yowm." Now, that word "yowm" can refer to indefinite periods of time in some circumstances. There are several instance in the Old Testament where it did refer to longer periods of time. One time it refers to a month, another time two years, another time three weeks. But it is always when "yowm" occurs in connection with prepositions or prepositional phrases with a verb, or compound construction. This is when it means the longer periods. Whenever there is a Hebrew word that stands alone without those prepositions etc. it means a literal twenty-four hours period every time in the Old Testament. In Genesis 1, there are three times that "yowm" is used. It's used alone.
And so it's absolute foolishness, really, when you get down to things that are being taught today in what scientists are embracing, and even what is being taught in the seminaries of various churches across the world as they have embraced evolution. The ones that are getting the biggest laugh of it all is the true Hebrew scholars in our world today. They are laughing their heads off, because they know that the scientists are totally off base here when they try to bring the Bible in and tie in this thing and harmonize the long ages with the Bible.
There is no harmonizing the Bible with evolution. The second proof of that is that it is built on selection and the survival of the fittest. In other words, according the evolutionary theory, there was death from the very beginning. There is the hot-soup theory, and the accretion of molecules to form the first life. I goes from one-celled animals and then it goes to two-celled, and it keeps working its way up. There is death all along the way. Higher forms of life are evolving. One species os evolving from another species. Som species went extinct, even. Death, death, death. Finally through evolution, man comes on the scene as the apex of the pyramid of life.
Now folks, we're really going to have to think about this because according to the Bible, man was created on the sixth day. When was the first death? Genesis 3. After Adam and Eve were created, there was no death until they sinned. The idea that death existed prior to the fall raises serious questions about whether death really is the wages of sin. Death and sin are related all through the Bible. That's basic. That's fundamental, folks. And then we get to Romans 5:12. Therefore just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all have sinned. then skip to Romans 5:16. Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man's sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if by the trespasses of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.
You see, brothers and sister, If I believe death was in the world millions of years before man even existed, I have undermined the atonement of Christ that we see here in Romans. Salvation is only through Him, because death came as a result of the sin of Adam and Eve. We don't harmonize and the word of God. Forget it. You can't make them go together.
God says it's a species of idolatry, evolution is. God's word says this: My heart wants to believe this. And if it's a belief, it becomes an idol. I saw in the Adventist Bible Commentary 1105: "No outward shrines may be visible. There may be no image for the eye to rest upon, yet we may be practicing idolatry. It is as easy to make an idol of cherished ideas or objects as the fashion gods of wood or stone."
When I was growing up, in Lexington, Kentucky, I was raised in a church that didn't take the Bible literally. The church members believed in evolution. They felt that Genesis 1 was one account. Adam and Eve and what happened in the garden of Eden was allegorical. It wasn't to be taken literally. My parents subscribed to that belief and we never really read the Bible as I was growing up. Neither other members of the church. No body would bring a Bible to church. It was just kind of in the way to bring a Bible to church. You had what you needed in the bulletin and we followed a very liturgical form of worship. We would read our part and read the prayers and the scripture and the minister would read his part and we would just follow right on through there. And then it came to the sermon. And that was more philosophical or psychological or sociological than it was Biblical.
And so around the age of 17 or 18 when my parents went through a divorce, I lost all interest in the church and didn't really attend church for most of my four years of college at the University of Kentucky. In the classes while I was there, I was really bombarded by evolution everywhere I went. It was in biology and geography, and anthropology and you name it. It was not taught as a theory but as absolute fact. This is the way it is. You're going to be tested on this. So you're going to have to know to pass the test. By the time I was through college, I had evolution thoroughly ingrained in me.
Interestingly enough, though, it was around that time that I graduated from college that God led me to the Seventh-day Adventist message through the influence of a friend who had married an Adventist in the Adventist church. That was the first time I ever set foo in the church. At the reception I met some nice Adventist people who encouraged me and wanted me to come to the church and give it a try. I came to church a few Sabbaths. After three or four Sabbaths I saw the brochure for Kenneth Cox's meetings that were coming soon. Of all things, Kenneth Cox coming to Lexington right at that time. Well, I went to the meetings. They sounded interesting. I wanted to get into prophecy and understand a little bit more of that so I came to the meetings most of the nights. As he preached on the subject of the Sabbath, that was no problem to me to accept that. It was very clear to me. Kenneth Cox has a way of making thing clear. I accepted that readily, but when it came time for baptism and they called for baptism and they baptize forty-four people, but I wasn't one of them.
The hangup for me, really, was that subject of evolution. I wasn't sure al all that I could reject all I had been aught about evolution. How could the Seventh-day Adventist church take the Bible that literally? Were they behind? Have they put their heads in the sand on the subject? Had they really studied all the evidence about evolution? Did they really know what was out there? It took me several months of study on that question, and the study of the word of God, and the study of the Spirit of Prophecy to shake loose from evolution, and be baptized.
I praise God that He brought me to this place. I have membership in this church and it's just a new church. It's not like other churches. It's a special church. It really is. It took me several years to understand, even after baptism, the full significance of it all.
I'm talking about the three angels' messages (Revelation 14:6-12). We talk about the three angels' messages, we talk about Revelation 14. We're talking about a message, folks, for the last days. We're talking about a message to go to all the world as this angel proclaims this gospel to every nation, tribe and people. If the call that goes in the last days doesn't happen until the judgment has started, part of the announcement is "they hour of God's judgment has come." So, it doesn't even start to be preached until 1844. John the Revelator was seeing down the stream of time to 1844.
It's a call to get away from evolution. It took me a long time to see a call to come away from evolution and worship Him who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and the streams of waters. That's terminology coming right out of the Sabbath commandment. You don't find that exact terminology anywhere in the Bible, but the Sabbath commandment in Exodus 20.
The call to come away from evolution, but a call top be more than that. The call to come away from idolatry evolution. Fundamentals of Christian Education by E.G. White, p. 287 says "From the pulpits of the popular churches, it's proclaimed that the first day of the week is the Sabbath of the Lord. But God has given us light showing us that the fourth precept of the decalogue is verily binding, as are the other moral precepts. It is our work to proclaim to our children the first day of the week is not the true Sabbath. After light has come to us, as to what is the true Sabbath is idolatry in the plain contradiction to the word of God."
Not all Sunday worship is idolatry. It is idolatry after light has come to us, and the Spirit has convicted us and we rejected it. Many Sunday-keepers who are also out there calling people away from evolution. I appreciate what they are doing. They just haven't seen the whole picture yet. They haven't seen that only Sabbath-keeping really points to the creation in six literal days. It's the Sabbath that points us away from evolution.
In the work we are doing here in the church I greatly appreciate in distributing the books on the "Ten Commandments, Twice Removed." Getting the message out about the Sabbath. Many many thousands are being enlightened right now with this emphasis coming up on the Commandments. Next week is a big one. Eyes are drawn to this. In this material we put out, many are going to see the truth, but only a percentage will follow it. And, yes, it will become idolatry for people at that point.
Because there is something more important, whether it's my friends, family, my job, or whatever it is, there is something more important in stepping out and following what God says. There are a few people who have part of God's message but haven't seen the whole picture yet. Revelation 14:8 is a call out of Babylon, a call out of the confusion of churches that have submitted to evolution and the like, and then verses 9-11 is a call to avoid the mark of the beast. God brings you and me to the final test, the final sifting. Have the idols been cast out? Do we believe God enough to be willing to give up our lives for Him and His truth? Is obedience more important than life on this earth? Where is our trust? Do we fear the decree of man is more than that of God? We know there is a decree in Revelation 13 to those who receive the mark of the beast: not only will the not be able to buy or sell, but they would be killed. But then Revelation 14:9-11 says that God threatens those who receive the mark of the beast with eternal death. Whose decree do we fear most? Which power do we feel can carry out the threat? The beast power or God? That's our final test. How we fare, you and me, in the final test will be based on whether we have cast off all idolatry in our lives.
It's wonderful to be an Adventist, and to have the wonderful message of truth that we have for these last days. Bu every day you and I need to search our hearts. Is there anything in my heart that is more important than God?
That word, 'worship,' comes in two words. Worth and ship. Whatever we put the most worth on is what we worship. If there is anything that stand in the way of me going all the way with God. Are there any idols that need to be cast out?
Let's close this with the scripture I started out with here in the scripture reading: 1 John 5:19-21. We know we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. We know also that the Son of god has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know Him Who is true. And we are in Him who is true even in Huis Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.
Dear children, keep yourlseves from idols.
Hymn of Praise:#43, When Morning Gilds the Skies Scripture: 1 John 5:19-20 Hymn of Response: #567, Have Thine Own Way, Lord
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last updated 28/04/06 by Bob Beckett.