A Changeless God in a Changing Time


TEXTS:       Joshua 1:1-18


INTRO:       When big changes come in life we often find it unsettling!  This has always been the case with humanity.


ILLUS:    The only person who likes change is a wet baby. -- Mark Twain, Leadership, Vol. 15, no. 3.


Change can be an energizing force for power and progress … or, if not handled well can also be a force for stagnation and regression.  The bible is a book about changes, those handled well resulted in great gains, and those handled poorly resulted in great losses.


The right way to handle change is found in the pages of Scripture. 

(1.  The first thing to recognize when facing changes is that God Himself NEVER changes … this is the bedrock of our peace, security, and confidence when facing the past, present, and future!  This is the anchor for dealing with all changes because He is the one thing that can be counted on to NOT change!

(2. The second thing to recognize about change is that God always has someone at the ready to move His plans forward, His plans are never conditioned on just a single person though He uses single individuals as part of the process.

(3. Thirdly, God’s mission must continue on!  We are invited to participate in the fulfillment of His calling; our commitment is first to the mission.


While it is always difficult to face big changes God will always be there ready to continue the progress of what He has raised up.


Therefore, CHANGE in the hand of the CHANGELESS God is safe and positive, and will yield good fruit to those that respond correctly and embrace it.


PROP. SENT:     The Bible teaches us that change is a useful part of God’s plan to accomplish His purposes on earth, and when change comes our way we need to embrace it with confidence and assurance that He has good in store for those who lean on Him.




A.   Past    1:1-2a

1.   The book of Joshua begins with a matter of fact statement of a big change for Israel:

a.   “After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua …”

b.   Moses is acknowledged as God’s servant … but without an excessive attachment to the past.  There is a simple acknowledgment of faithfulness in the past and the direction for the present and future begins in earnest.

2.  It wasn’t that God or Israel simply “moved on” without any sense of the past, they had mourned Moses’ death for 30 days.  (Deut. 34:8)

a.   It can be appropriate to have emotions over changes, but it is not appropriate to quit moving forward or simply stay in mourning.

b.   The scene shifts after an appropriate recognition of the past under Moses’ leadership to the new leadership and the continuation of the mission.

3.  It is good to recognize the past, appreciate it, celebrate it, but then to continue to move forward!

4.  For some, change is not easy!


ILLUS:    From research and personal experience I've come to the conclusion that in every church 16 percent of the members will never change. The tragedy is I see young pastors every day leaving the ministry because of that 16 percent. It's as if they're butting their heads against a brick wall. What they should be doing is concentrating on the 84 percent who are ripe for change. That's where the real ministry of the local church takes place. -- Howard Hendricks, Leadership, Vol. 5, no. 2.


5.   But change is a part of life, and God’s plan!


B.  Present    1:2b-5

1.   God simply says, “Moses my servant is dead.  NOW THEN, you and all these people get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them — to the Israelites.”  (Capitals for emphasis – mine)

a.   While some things changed, the mission had not, God had not, and the goal had not changed!

b.   They can’t live in the past; they must embrace the future with new leadership, with an established mission, and an unchanging God!

2.   There is a sense in the world that with all the changes going on there must be some things that never change, some things that can always be counted on.

a.   And there is!

b.   God will never change, His Word will never change, His commands and laws will never change … God and His Word are the constants that can be counted on, even in our modern changing world!

c.   There is evidence in this world for this … though modern man has embraced many new ideas and changes, things that at times have come rapidly, there is also a hunger for the “constant” … the true and tried, truth that does not change!


ILLUS:    The adventures of Mickey Mouse are now available in 284 languages, more than the works of Lenin or Agatha Christie.  But the Bible, or portions of it, can now be read in more than 1,907 languages. -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).


d.   No other writings in the world are as accessible in every language as the Word of God!  It was the first thing published when the printing press was invented by Guttenberg sometime before 1456 AD., and it will be the last thing in force when time closes!  Jesus said it this way,   Mat 5:18  “I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”


3.  God restates the same promises to Israel under Joshua as was promised under Moses, as was promised under Abraham.

a.   The leadership changed, the promises of God did not!

b.   The leadership changed, the goals stayed the same.

c.   The leadership changed, but God’s power and strength to accomplish the mission stayed the same!

4.  God says simply, As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  (God had promised the same to Abraham and others)

a.   It is the CHANGELESS God that enables us to confront a changing world and move forward!

b.   It may be the end of one leader’s responsibilities, but it is not the end of the mission.




A.   Possibilities     1:6-8A

1.   Change however must be approached correctly for continuity to occur, and there are guidelines that should be followed in making change.

a.   God addresses the new leader, Joshua, with these words, "Be strong and courageous…”  In fact, this phrase is repeated at least 4 times in this chapter!

b.   Character DOES count!  Joshua was gifted differently than Moses, but their character and commitment were the SAME!

c.   Like Moses, Joshua had already been proven to have godly character, there was no doubt about his character, and no doubts about God … a great combination!

2.  God addresses Joshua to make the Word of God the defining guideline of his leadership … and if so he will be both prosperous and successful.  (1:8)

a.   The law of God will be his authority, his safety net, his guiding force, his success hinged on it!

b.   This is still true with godly leadership, it is not just about talents or gifts; it is mainly about character!  Talents can be learned, and gifts developed, but without character they are nothing.

c.   They will not find God’s will and find God’s plan if they don’t follow the law of God to get there!  God’s Word is like signposts that direct us to where we are going; we will get lost without them.


ILLUS:    During the early days of World War II, when the Nazis invaded France, French citizens took down all signposts.  As the Nazi armies advanced, they didn't know which way to turn or in what direction lay their objective.  Does it seem to you that the signposts of life have all been taken down?  They were not taken down by us to confuse the enemy; they were taken down by the enemy to confuse us.  We don't know which way to turn until we open the Scriptures.  The only reliable signposts are there. -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).


3.   It should not surprise us that Satan today is trying to convince the world that the Bible is a worthless book … without God’s Word there is no way to find eternal life and our way through all the changes society will throw at us.


B.   Promises    1:8b-9

1.   God promises Joshua success in leading … if he stays committed to the Word of God.

a.   He warns Joshua to follow the Word, not the world; even when the voices of the world are many … the majority does not always speak for God, God alone is the final authority!


ILLUS:    Majorities mean nothing: during the Flood only one man knew enough to get out of the rain. -- Edythe Draper, Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). Entry 781.


b.   Godly leadership while sensitive to the majority will not bend if asked to contradict God’s Word!

2.   Popularity is not the goal of a godly leader, faithfulness is!

3.  Joshua should not be afraid, or discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."

a.   It won’t be easy, but it will be successful!

b.   He doesn’t have to be exactly gifted like Moses, but he must be as committed to God’s Word as was Moses.

4.  While the instrument is important, it is the Master that is more important!


ILLUS:    Years ago, there was a master violinist in Europe. He would play in concerts, and he had a magnificent Stradivarius violin, extremely expensive. He would play the Stradivarius violin in concert and everyone would whisper in the crowd, "Listen to the beautiful sounds of the Stradivarius." He would play in churches, and people would say, "Listen to the beautiful sounds of the Stradivarius." He even played before kings and queens, and they, too, would turn to one another and say, "Listen to the beautiful sounds of the Stradivarius." All the glory went to the instrument.

Then one day this master violinist was walking by a pawnshop. He noticed an old, beat-up, worn-out violin. He walked into the pawnshop and asked how much it would cost. The owner of the pawn shop told him the American equivalent of five dollars. He bought the violin, and he took it home. He polished it, and he refined it, and he tuned it, and he retuned it, and he built some character into that violin. Then, when he was to play the greatest performance of his life in a concert hall, he took out the little, five-dollar, worn-out, beat- up violin that he had polished and refined. He put it up to his chin, and he began to play, and everybody in the concert hall whispered, "Listen to the beautiful sounds of the Stradivarius." -- Ron Lee Davis, "Rejoicing in Our Suffering," Preaching Today, Tape No. 74.




A.   Preparations    1:10-11

1.   Joshua picks up the mantle of leadership and embraces the mission given by God that has not changed.

a.   It is time to move forward though leadership has now changed.

b.   He instructs the people to PREPARE for forward momentum again.

2.   It was time again to move God’s plan into action!


ILLUS:     We do not want, as the newspapers say, a church that will move with the world.  We want a church that will move the world. -- G.K. Chesterton, The New Witness.  Christianity Today, Vol. 30 no. 8.


3.   Moses was indeed gone, but the Promise Land was yet theirs to take!

a.   The only difference now was who was in charge, the goal was the same, the mission the same, the promises of God the same, the challenge the same!

b.   It was time to finish the mission even though the leadership had changed hands.

4.   Like Moses before him, Joshua works with the existing leadership in place, Josh 1:10 “So Joshua ordered the officers of the people:”

a.   While some things changed, other things did not … the existing leadership in place had already embraced the mission, the goal, the promises of God, and Joshua works with them as a team member to get moving again.

b.   Good leadership is a shared experience, shared with others who have the same commitment to the Word of God, have proven character, and are not afraid to move forward no matter what.

5.  Like Moses before him Joshua doesn’t do all the work, he not only engages the other leaders but gives them authority to act as well, note:  “So Joshua ordered the officers of the people: ‘Go through the camp and tell the people…’”  It is not Joshua that goes through the camp to tell the people, he gives this authority to other leaders; he trusts them to act as well.

a.   No doubt this bolstered confidence in Joshua’s leadership.

b.   This also demonstrated that Joshua was a part of them, not just lording over them.

c.   Shared servanthood promotes servanthood.

6.  Note too that Joshua had a plan ready, he had already worked out details, and his instructions to the leaders were specific:  'Get your supplies ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the LORD your God is giving you for your own.'"

a.   He had calculated the number of days needed, that supplies would be required ahead of time, and encourages them with the promise of success based on God’s promises and not just wishful thinking.

b.   If you read the next several verses you will also note that he had specific plans in mind for several tribes to follow through with, there was a specific plan in mind.

7.  Preparations were the order of the day … they always are for good leaders!


B.   Partnership     1:12-18

1.   Once in the promise land there would be some tribes who would get their territory up front, territory promised to their particular tribe, so they could settle sooner than the others could.

a.   However, Joshua understood the need for everyone to partner together until they all received what was promised.

b.   So Joshua instructs the tribes who got their land area early to join with their other brothers who would fight for their land later … they were to work together for the good of all of them!

2.   Even in change some people may benefit sooner than others may … but those who do must not slack off in helping the whole!

a.   The goal of the Promise Land was more than just to get their piece of the pie and then relax … it was to help each other achieve the promises of God together!

b.   Doing God’s work is not just about personal satisfaction, or even personal prosperity, it is about working together to achieve God’s purposes!


ILLUS:    It's easy to make a buck.  It's a lot tougher to make a difference. -- Tom Brokaw, Marriage Partnership, Vol. 12, no. 2.


3.  The success of Israel to experience all God had promised was contingent more on their working together than it was on just a certain individual who led them.

a.   They had to unite in purpose.

b.   They had to support the new leader God raised up for them.

c.   They had to trust the promises of God.

d.   They had to have faith in the mission God had given them.

4.  THEN … change would not hurt them, and in fact, God would use the changes to still accomplish the mission. 

a.   While personnel changed – character must not, confidence must not, and shared commitment must not.

b.   The results after change when they did it right?  THE PROMISE LAND!

5.  God will move things forward even in the midst of change because He Himself never changes … and it is on Him we have our ultimate hope, not an individual.


CONCLUSION:   The one thing that never changes is that everything except God changes!  Because God doesn’t change we can be at peace when everything else around us does.  God works in our changes to move us forward, never backward.  In every change we can be sure God is planning for our good, moving us closer to Him.  In this way we can not only embrace change but also welcome it.