Foundation of the Church
Rev. Toh Nee Lim | On 09, Sep 2015
Scripture Reading: JOSHUA 4:1-8
‘Now when all the nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord spoke to Joshua, saying, “Take for yourselves twelve men from the people, one man from each tribe, and command them, saying, “Take up for yourselves twelve stones from here out of the middle of the Jordan, from the place where the priests’ feet are standing firm, and carry them over with you and lay them down in the lodging place where you will lodge tonight.” So Joshua called the twelve men whom he had appointed from the sons of Israel, one man from each tribe; and Joshua said to them, “Cross again to the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan, and each of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Israel. “Let this be a sign among you, so that when your children ask later, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ then you shall say to them, ‘Because the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.’ So these stones shall become a memorial to the sons of Israel forever. Thus the sons of Israel did as Joshua commanded, and took up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, just as the LORD spoke to Joshua, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Israel; and they carried them over with them to the lodging place and put them down there.”
Joshua 4:1-8 gives an account of a significant event for the children of Israel. The crossing of the Jordan River was done in a supernatural way. It is similar to an earlier event 40 years ago, the Crossing of the Red Sea. Both were crossed supernaturally with God’s intervention. It was a sight to see. When they crossed over the river, they became citizens of Palestine, which is today modern day Israel. They became forever identified with that land – so much so that today, even at this hour, they speak of the Jew in Palestine (Israel). And when he is out of that land, he is spoken of as the ‘wandering Jew’. The New Land will be eternally connect with the Jew.
God is a very interesting God when it comes to Evangel Tabernacle experience. A look at this story raises reflective images of our own experience. It makes us to take a good hard look at ourselves and at God. To be able to come over to this land we are standing on right now is nothing short of the miraculous. Against all odd, we miraculously built this sanctuary. The bible here talks about a people who finished crossing the Jordan River. We too have crossed our Jordan River. Walk out of this sanctuary and just outside is the Tabuc Suba River. I know ‘Tabuc’ means ‘cross’ ‘Suba’ means ‘river’. So put together it says ‘cross over the river’. Of course with infrastructure today the bridge allow us to easily cross over to this land where we are residing. But without the bridge as in olden days we literally have to cross over to get to this land we are gathered now. Tabuc Suba holds a special significance for us. Our church is stationed at Tabuc Suba. Truly this land is our promised land and Evangel Tabernacle will forever be identified with this land, so much so that it has become part of our spiritual journey with God. What can we learn from this portion of Scripture?
1. Our lodging place
Verse 3 mentioned a lodging place where they will lodge that night, after they had crossed over. Verse 8 tells us that 12 people carried the stones over to the lodging place. Of course we know that lodging place is called Gilgal. Gilgal is located close to the Jordan River. Gilgal, is the first campsite for the children of Israel in the Promised Land. So what is the significance of this lodging place?
Firstly we can say that Gilgal is a place of new beginnings. I did not say new beginning but new beginnings. It will be the beginning of many first. I mean, for the children of Israel they have wondered for 40 years and finally they have crossed over into the Promised Land. For us the length of our wilderness is 26 years. It could have been just 16 years because this land rightfully belong to Evangel Tabernacle in 2003. But for 10 years we just couldn’t move in. For many in Evangel Tabernacle, this place relates to your new beginnings in your spiritual life. You were not with us in Quezon Street but started your journey with God in this new place. It is a new beginning for you. You are a new group of people that has come into this church, since it was established here in Tabuc Suba. Pastor Lily was sharing with me that for the youth church, we have established the mentor, the facilitator. But as for the peer leaders we have to be patient. They are very new and give them time to grow and develop. They are the new generation for Evangel Tabernacle. They will experienced the supernatural crossing of the Jordan River and are the purchased possession of YHWH. For the older ones this place is the next chapter of your life with Etab, and God wants it to be a new chapter for your future. You have entered a new stage in the story of your life. And Christ is the author and finisher of that life. It is a new beginning in this church’s walk with God. In Isaiah 43:9 ‘Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.’ I was very encouraged by the prophetic pronouncement by Pastor Lily last Sunday. She said that she is very confident (she has no doubt) that God is going to bless this church and it will surely grow in size and numbers.’ I believe that is one of the new beginnings that God has for this church. The new thing that God has for this church is a wonderful and unheard of thing, which is filled with admiration when it is fulfilled. It will be a blessing not newly thought of, but a sign having so many valuable blessings in it; such as justification (curse removed), pardon and eternal life. This new thing will just spring forth; as a germinating herb: a beautiful image of the silent but certain gradual growth of events in God’s providence concerning this church and for the people in this church.
Secondly, Gilgal is a base camp for many battles of the Israelites against their enemies. After the battle in Jericho they had to go back to Gilgal. After the defeat and later victory in Ai, they had to go back to Gilgal. This place served as the base of operations in whatever conquests, the newly arrived Israelites intend to undertake. Evangel tabernacle has been the base of operations in whatever conquests we undertake; whether relief works in Northern Iloilo, repair and reconstruction in antique, planting of churches, community penetration to the barangays around; all begins from this place. Gilgal has become our refuge, our renewal, our revival, our restoration, our security and protection, our stability. And that we return to it again and again as we fight our battles to reform ourselves and get our lives into order. We come back to it to get rid of Achan (sin), to have revelation of the Commander of the Army of the LORD. One of the truth that God has revealed to me is that YHWH is in this place; our base of operation and when we come back here constantly, we will receive refreshment and strengthening and direction. I believe that Evangel Tabernacle has fulfilled that role and must continue to fulfil that function.
Thirdly, Gilgal also signifies the simple, basic religious beliefs and teachings that first introduces us to a spiritual life. It is said that Gilgal is not the name of a Town but it is likely a word for a particular human made site; more specifically an altar. That is why it was called a lodging place a few times. It is only later in scripture that the lodging place became known as Gilgal, found a few verses down on this chapter we have read, more specifically, verse 20. We must not deviate from our religious belief in Christ. We believe in a God of goodness but also a God of judgment. We keep to the doctrine of the ten commandment. When the 12 people carried the stones to Gilgal, they arranged the stone in such a way that it formed a circle. The stones are actually later known as memorial stones. Gilgal had become a memorial park. The stones here named denote holy truths, and therefore it is said all thy sons shall be taught of Jehovah. Do you know that we can be taught of God? We shall learn the holy truths from Jehovah. YHWH will teach us the religious beliefs and God’s holy truths. Cherish and study the Word of God as the truth of your life and you shall be taught of YHWH. I was very inspired by a bible commentator and I am trying to base my study of the Word of God by his principle. He says ‘You are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator. Read a chapter in one setting. Identify the subjects. What did the text say? Compare your subject or understanding of the text with 5 different translations.’ It is so powerful. He is a bible commentator and yet he says you, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. All the sons shall be taught of Jehovah. We shall learn the holy truths from Jehovah. God will give us light as we meditate on the Word.
John says that the foundations of the wall of the city, the holy Jerusalem, were adorned with every precious stone, and the stones are named (Rev. 21:19, 20). The holy Jerusalem denotes the kingdom of the Lord in heaven and on earth, the foundations of which are holy truths. In like manner the tables of stone, on which the commands of the Law, or the Ten Words, were written, signified holy truths; and therefore they were of stone, or their foundation (fundus) was stone. The 10 Words or Ten Commandments themselves are nothing else than truths of faith. And if you continue to keep to the simple, basic religious beliefs and teaching, you will continue to experience God’s faithfulness and miraculous power.
It is said that ninety percent of prescription drugs today have been developed in the last seventy years and many since 1990. Every physician must maintain a continuing education program, or he cannot keep up with the changes in pharmaceutical field. Likewise creativity in ministry has become essential in churches, since no congregation wants a dirt road church in an interstate world. The 4 essentials, the community penetration has only recently become the forefront thrust of our recent ministry. We have to be creative in our ministry. That is why the yuppie churches, the international churches composed of congregation from different nationalities are the churches that are thriving. Pastor Guna started recently a new congregation in a new place of worship, where the educated, the yuppies, the professional and foreigners; French, Americans, others nationalities congregate. And it grew so fast in a short span of time, from 80 to 160. That is creativity. That is good. But some things must never change, like God himself, and the message of Scripture, the holy truths. The Great Commission measured by mission must never change. The ten commandment, the ten words must never change.
We must guard against wrong religious belief and wrong teachings. Alright, I have to be careful here. We must not be dogmatic, Pharisaical, self-righteous judgemental (think we are always right) but merciful, humble in our attitude but we must be firm when it comes to the Holy Truth. We must guards against the spirit of Antichrist. One of the characteristics of antichrist is to change the law of God. Daniel says concerning the spirit of Antichrist, ‘He shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and shall think to change the times and the law; and they shall be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time.’ The passing of the LGBT law is actually to change the law of God. In America, courting couple sleep together before they are married. They will tell you we are living in different times, era. We must not deviate from our religious belief in Christ. We must guard against the following:
1. The false belief
2. The dangerous teaching of the heretics
3. Fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. And from among your own selves will arise men, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples
4. Those that claimed that there had been given to them a secret, special and advanced knowledge which was not open to the ordinary Christian, not even found in the bible.
5. An evil spirit inspiring the false teachers and the false prophets.
I was talking to Pastor Lily concerning how a certain preacher who has successfully delivered a false belief. He would take an idea and repeat it and repeat it and repeat it until it settles into the minds of others and they begin to accept it as true simply because they have heard it so often. This is easier today than ever it was because he has so many means of mass communication–books, newspapers, wireless, television, and the vast resources of modern advertising. A skilled propagandist can take an idea and infiltrate it into men’s minds until, all unaware, they are indoctrinated with it. This lodging place, this tabernacle must be a place where the Holy Truths is known and YHWH shall teach us his Holy Truths.
2. The importance of the twelve
‘The Lord spoke to Joshua, saying, “Take for yourselves twelve men from the people, one man from each tribe, and command them, saying, “Take up for yourselves twelve stones from here out of the middle of the Jordan, from the place where the priests’ feet are standing firm, and carry them over with you and lay them down in the lodging place where you will lodge tonight.”
This paragraph has several commands.
1. “Take for yourselves twelve men,” – imperative, Jos. 4:2
2. “Command them,” – imperative, Jos. 4:3
3. “Carry them,” – imperative, Jos. 4:3
4. “Cross again,” – imperative
5. “Take up a stone -imperative
Joshua is giving direct, specific commands. We learn from Jos. 4:8 that the specific commands were from YHWH. We must understand that the commands of Joshua 4:8 comes from YHWH. So the command to choose leaders is imperative. It is a divine command. The command to cross over to the Promised Land is imperative. The command to take up a stone (responsibility, burden) is imperative. Each are given different responsibility in the church but you must at least take up a stone. The command to carry the stone is imperative.
Twelve has always been a symbolic number of organization. Evangel Tabernacle is a church and at the same time, an organisation. We are registered with the SEC as an organisation. The number twelve is of special significance in the Bible.
A. Outside the Bible
1. Twelve signs of the Zodiac
2. Twelve months of the year
B. In the OT
1. The sons of Jacob (the Jewish tribes)
2. Twelve pillars of the altar in the tabernacle in Exod. 24:4
3. Twelve jewels on the high priest’s breastplate in Exod. 28:21
4. Twelve loaves of bread in the holy place of the tabernacle in Lev. 24:5
5. Twelve spies sent into Canaan in Numbers 13 (one from each tribe)
6. twelve rods (tribal standards) that Pastor Lily shared in the leaders’ retreat last Monday.
7. Twelve stones of Joshua in Jos. 4:3, 9, 20
C. In the NT
1. Twelve apostles chosen
2. Twelve baskets of bread (one for each Apostle) in Matt. 14:20
3. Twelve thrones on which NT disciples sit (referring to the 12 tribes of Israel) in Matt. 19:28
4. Twelve legions of angels to rescue Jesus in Matt. 26:53
5. Twelve stars on the woman’s crown in 12:1
6. Twelve gates, twelve angels reflecting the twelve tribes in 21:12
7. Twelve foundation stones of the New Jerusalem and on them the names of the twelve Apostles in Rev. 21:14
Evangel Tabernacle is not only a church but also an organisation. But it is an organisation filled with people. Taking up yourself twelve men is imperative. The twelve is found among the congregation. The twelve here are not the 12 princes of the tribes of Israel. They are not the elders and definitely not the pastors of the church. The twelves selected had to be strong because the stones are large and heavy. How do you know the stones are large and heavy? They had to be carried on the shoulder. So most likely they are the strongest man in each of their tribe; the Samson of each tribe. So the twelve had been selected and ready for the task. The stone is also a symbol of a burden. The twelve are picked from the congregation. The twelves are representative of everyone in the whole congregation of the church. They represent you. They represent each individual in the church. Each member of this church and every one of us has to take up a stone. We have to carry the burden of the church. Each had a burden, a responsibility in the church. Actually it means they carry the responsibility of the church. They have to go to the place of the Priest and carry each a stone. The whole of the congregation of Israel have already cross the Jordan River. But the priest are still at the middle of the Jordan. How do you know? Because verse 2 says “Take up for yourselves twelve stones from here out of the middle of the Jordan, from the place where the priests’ feet are standing firm.’ ‘Are’ is the present tense. It has not passed yet. Why must go to the Priest? The priest gives the direction to the leadership as well as to the people. The Priest is the oracles of God. We are told the priest stood firm carrying the Ark of the Covenant. The word firm indicates that the priests are sure of what they are doing. They have been given vision and purpose and direction from YHWH. And the vision, purpose and direction of God becomes a burden, a responsibility to each individuals of the church and each individuals have to carry the burden and responsibility of that vision, purpose and direction of God. You ask? Pastor, what is my burden and responsibility or ministry in this church. Please remember that the twelve had to go back to the middle of the River Jordan where the Priest with the covenant stood. The River Jordan is a symbol of the death and resurrection of your life. But it is more than that. The word Jordan is divided into two words; ‘Jor’ which means ‘spread’ and ‘dan’ which means ‘judging’. It was at the same River Jordan where Jesus’ forerunner stood and exercised his ministry. His ministry was ‘prepare ye the Way of the Lord’. Jesus is coming back again. God works for 6 days creating the world and He rested on the 7th Day. A day with the LORD is as a thousand year and a thousand year is as a Day of the LORD. Six thousand years has already passed. We have entered into the 7th thousand years. It is the beginning of the Millennium. Before the Millennium begins, Jesus has to return. Jesus is coming back already. And how did John the Baptist, prepare the way of the Lord. John the Baptist spread the Word by judging. By preaching; crying out ‘Repent ye’. We have to tell others to repent and come to the salvation of the Lord. Our burden, responsibility and ministry has always to do with soul or more specifically salvation of souls.
When they carried the stones from the centre of the river, and cross the Jordan, the river resumed its flow. We cannot go back to our past life anymore. We cannot go back from where they have come from.
3. Memorial stones
In Verse 20 we are told that the twelve stones ‘did Joshua pitch in Gilgal’. I read to you, ‘And those twelve stones, which they took out of Jordan, did Joshua pitch in Gilgal.’ The stones were not left flat on the ground but orderly formed into a monument. The Hebrew word for ‘pitch’ is defined by Young’s Concordance as ‘to cause to stand, raise.’ Twenty times this word was rendered ‘set up’ as in the Authorised Version. It is the same word which was used in connection with the erection of the Tabernacle. Thus these large stones were arranged in such a manner, as to attract the attention and invoke the inquiry of those who should afterwards behold and approach them. I look at this church. Passer-by will look down from the bridge and ask what this building is about. Then it will evoke memories and stories of how this Tabernacle was erected, set up. The building becomes a memorial stones. It can be called the Memorial Park. We have stories of the miracles of God executed on our behalf.
In America, they celebrate Memorial Day. They are reminded of those who sacrificed and lost their lives so that America can be a free country until today. For this church we also need the Memorial Day. We trust that we are reminded of the ultimate sacrifice that was made for us as Jesus gave Himself as the atonement for sin. Also at the same time we need to be constantly aware of the provision that was made for us that this church comes about. We are reminded of the followings:
Power of God – We are reminded of the power of God in our lives. Much has happened during this 29 years and we are celebrating our 30th Christmas this December. In all of that, God was faithful.
His Deliverance – I am certain there were those who remembered the time of captivity, with much of that time enslaved in bondage, God brought us out with a mighty hand! I am convinced that it would do us good to set up a stone of remembrance for our deliverance as well.
His Guidance – We cannot think of the deliverance of Israel and the wilderness wanderings without considering the guidance of God. We may not always see it, but looking back we cannot denied his guidance. At times we literally have no idea what our future is but God led us with His providential hand. He guided our steps and led us to this land of promise. Has He not led our livesl? I literally wondered where would I be today had God not been there to lead and guide us?
His Providence – I stand amazed as I read about the provision of God for His people in the midst of a barren wilderness. Our lives stand as a resounding testimony that God is more than able to meet our needs! What kind of Providence?
Manna – This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat.
Clothing – Deut. 29:5 – And I have led you forty years in the wilderness: your clothes are not waxen old upon you, and thy shoe is not waxen old upon thy foot.
Protection – Time will not permit to talk of the countless times that deal with God’s hand of protection upon His people. These were people who had been enslaved with no weaponry or means of defense and God sustained them! Has God not been good in our lives? Has He not blessed us far more than we could ever deserve? Surely we need to be reminded of His providence!
His Patience – Consider the many times that we murmured and complained in the wilderness. Think of the times we wished to be back in Egypt. Rather than being thankful for our deliverance, we murmured against God. He was merciful and patient, continuing to guide us and meet our needs.
And concerning our future, he will do likewise. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. The purpose of the memorial stones is to tell us what He is done for us in the past, He will do it again.