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As Moses led the people out of Egypt, and they approach the Promised Land, Moses sends 12 spies to see the land God is about to give them. Two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, believe that with God’s continued help the land will be theirs.
The other ten spies convince the people that they cannot occupy the land. God condemns them to forty years of wandering in the wilderness because they have witnessed God’s mighty power over and over and still don’t believe. Now Moses has died, 40 years have passed, and Joshua has the people lined up at the river Jordan ready to cross into the Promised Land. There is just one problem. There is a river in the way, and it is at flood stage. Do you think, after 40 years in the wilderness, anyone asked Joshua, “What are we doing lined up in front of the river?” To answer their question Joshua tells them that God is going to separate the waters for them as soon as they step into the water so that they will know they worship a living God (Joshua 3:1-17). The Jews had to let a few things die before they could walk into the Jordan River. They had to let go of other securities, let go of the familiar desert, and let go of doubt and disbelief. They had to hold onto their faith and trust in a God who kept his promises with miraculous results. They walked into the flood waters and witnessed the mighty miracle of the living God as the water separated for them to cross. “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” proclaims the young shepherd David (I Samuel 17). He is bringing cheese to his brothers, and wonders why no one will fight the giant named Goliath. Do you think David asked himself, “O my God, what have I gotten myself into? Look how big he is, I don’t think I have a chance.” What did David have to let die in him to fight the mighty giant? He had to let go of fear, self-doubt, and overwhelming odds. He had to trust in God’s miraculous power to bring a mighty victory. I imagine David thought, “Look how big he is, how can I miss.” When we are fighting God’s battles can we let fear, self-doubt and overwhelming odds die? Can we worship a living God? Jump ahead about 1000 years. Jesus and his followers are in Caesarea Philippi. Jesus asks, “Who do people say I am? Who do you say I am?” (Mark 8 and Matthew 16) Peter responds, “You are the Messiah, the son of the living God.” Peter proclaims that Jesus is from the living God. What did Peter have to let go of to make this confession that Jesus was the son of the living God? Do you think Peter thought this meant Jesus was a really wise man, or a good man, or a holy man? I don’t think so because if Jesus is just a wise man, a good man, a holy man, then today he is just dead. And our salvation is dead too. Peter realizes he was once lost, but now is found, was blind but now he sees. When he is in the presence of Jesus he is saved. Now let us go to the cross where the Messiah is dying. He is dying for all those things we must let die to live meaningful lives and worship a living God. He is dying that we will give up all the idols, the doubt, the disbelief, the fear, the overwhelming odds, and all the sins that bring guilt and shame into our lives. Can we let them die with him, and be buried? If we can then we can proclaim the tomb is empty. He is alive. We worship a living God. What must you let die in your life to worship a living God? Do you believe God can do anything He wants with your life? Do you believe Jesus died for your sins and salvation? I hope today you can somehow affirm the power of the living God in your life, and never have to wander in any deserts. Al Earley is the pastor at La Grange Presbyterian Church. The views expressed in this column are those of the writer.