A young child gives a drawing to grandma, one eye is near the top of the head, the mouth is crooked, the body is not proportioned right, and what does grandma say? [perfect].”
Perfect vs. not perfect is a rich theme in scripture. One of my favorite insights comes from the book of 1 Corinthians. When you read the book Paul scolds them over and over, corrects some of their behavior, the immorality, the bad judgment, the questionable behavior which leads to division and fighting. Knowing the corruption and sin of the church, listen to how the Church of Corinth is addressed in the opening verses: “To the Church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with those everywhere who call on the name of our Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 1:2).
What I think: We are harder than God on ourselves. A simple message today: God takes the imperfect and declares it is perfect. God takes the incomplete and calls it complete. God takes what is unfinished and gives us completion.
Listen to Joshua 1:2-7 which describes God’s vision for Joshua READ… Reading this you would expect Israel to systematically take over the land. There is success, but there is also failure. The people were enthused with a victory choreographed by God over Jericho, but then Israel was defeated by Ai, because they didn’t think they needed God. Israel regrouped, obeyed God and God gave them victory over Ai ~ it was a hard lesson. Thank goodness for God’s faithfulness and patience because we so easily forget God when everything goes well.
Two weeks ago Jack talked about how the Gibeonites deceived Israel. Uh-oh, if complete dominance of the promised land is the condition for receiving the inheritance promised by God, the plan is tainted with the Gibeonites. Last week in several chapters when the people listened to the Lord they were given victory after victory after victory, ending in Josh. 12:9-24 with an impressive list. 31 kings in all it says. Impressive. BUT in one of the great ironies of the Bible, what is more telling about this incredible list is the name that is left off: the Gibeonites. Israel had an impressive record! But they failed to defeat the whole land. Read what God wanted in the opening verses of Josh. 1 and it seems Israel needed to defeat everyone in the promised land ~ that did not happen.
Imagine standing before a judge and pleading your case: “judge, let me go because I walked into a store 999 times without stealing anything, only 1 in a 1000 times did I steal.” The judge will say, your record must be spotless, you pay the price for stealing. I think we are harder on ourselves than God is. Maybe that’s the way it should be. People pat me on the back and tell me what a wonderful person I am, but I know my failures, I know at least some of my faults, I know my impure thoughts, and I don’t always feel like a success. A list of 31 Kings defeated by Israel, but one name is not there ~ the Gibeonites.
Today’s scripture tells us a lot about the ways of God: God blesses us in spite of ourselves, in spite of our failures. What is imperfect he declares is perfect. Like the elephant inside the elephant… like the child’s drawing. And what does gramma say? [Perfect].
Look at today’s scripture again. amazing. We were just reminded 31 Kings were defeated, not 32. And now it says in Josh. 13:1 READ. This does not look good for Israel. At this point the historians figure Joshua has been in the promised land 20 years. “You are old Joshua, your record of defeated kings is not spotless, and you still have a long way to go.”
I am imagining a pause here. A pause when we have too much time to think... We want to see good things, but we know our efforts are a mixed bag, a feeling of incompleteness, waiting for the verdict to be read: “you are a failure Joshua.” 32 fights, 31 wins and 1 loss. Not good enough: all the enemies were supposed to be defeated to receive the promised land. If I have too much time to think, dwelling on that which I have not accomplished, the lazy days in which I could have done more, should I have turned away that one person, should I have said this or not done that, I start to question myself. I start to feel defeated. That’s my perfectionism. That’s my human nature.
Did you notice that twice it is emphasized Joshua is old? (Josh 13:1). I’ve heard more than one of you say old age is not for whimps! “~ a readers digest story: Seeing her friend Sally wearing a new locket, Meg asks if there is a memento of some sort inside. “Yes,” says Sally, “a lock of my husband’s hair.” “But Larry’s still alive.” “I know, but his hair is gone.”
You know why I like old people that have been walking with the Lord for a zillion years? Even though they have the same story as any of us, unfinished projects, sins and mistakes, disappointments, incompleteness, they have a sense of completeness, a peace that can only come with decades of walking with the Lord.
Josh. 13:2-5 is a description of everything not accomplished…. I read about a church in Spain started in 1880’s. They are projecting it will be finished in 2026. Most of you probably have a list of unfinished projects. I read about a man whose #1 unfinished project was a backyard zipline. That sounds cool. He made it pole to pole and strung a cord made of nylon///// ~ it did not work. Instead of his kids zipping along the line, they grab the handle, jump, the cord stretches and they end up jumping to the ground. There it sits ~ one more unfinished project. /////I have the most amazing deck in my back yard, you should see the gazebo, the pond with a life size elephant water fountain, well, it’s gotten as far as being in my mind. It’s beautiful. Maybe someday some of it will get finished.. Unfinished projects: Organizing photographs, wood finishing, rooms cleaned, we all have them… I saw an advice article on getting projects around the house finished. The steps made me laugh: figure out what is unfinished, decide what is important, then finish it. Really!!!!!. I would have never thought of that.
We get frustrated with unfinished projects around the house, but the same thing can be said of following Christ. There is always more that could be done. On this side of eternity, the work will never be finished. Here’s the thing about God: even though there is always more Kingdom work to be done, he can give us a sense of completion. make the imperfect perfect. Like the child’s drawing. And what does gramma say? [Perfect.] Unfinished business. All servants of God know there is always more…
Joshua is old. There is still a lot to do. The record of victories is not perfect. What does God say to Joshua? He doesn’t say, “sorry, you blew it Joshua I’ll find somebody else that can get the job done.” He doesn’t say, “Thanks for trying.” God says to Joshua in Josh. 13:6 ~, “there is a lot left to do, I, myself, will finish driving out the rest of the people in the land, so you go ahead and allocate the land as we talked about decades ago, and btw, don’t just divide the land up using the territory you’ve already won, but go ahead and divide up the land that is still coming. The job is unfinished, but I’m going to go ahead and have you finish the job anyway. It’s all imperfect, but I’m giving you the satisfaction of completion just as I promised.”
God takes the imperfect and declares it is perfect. God takes what is unfinished and gives us completion.
In between living! That’s my phrase for what this all means. We are pulled between getting sucked down by our sins and the destruction of this world, and the salvation that is offered us through Jesus Christ. We try and find peace and satisfaction by being perfect, but this is impossible on this earth. There will always be the Gibeonites to fool you, conquests you think you can rely on your own strength, a lot of unfinished business. In between living ~ the imperfection of this world can only be met by allowing God to give us satisfaction anyway.
The theme of Joshua is transitions ~ the people enter a new life in the promised land after wandering 40 years in the desert. The promised land is new. It is a land of promised abundance, but it is not a land of absolute perfection. We crave to find peace in this old world by finding perfect rest, but life is constantly changing! The world keeps moving on and nothing stays the same. You will never find peace on this earth if you are depending on perfect constant stable conditions. We are living between the times.
Sally and I went on vacation with a few others recently…. Guess what? For the first time ever I did not feel guilty like I was neglecting something…Maybe it’s because there is a lot going on with much of it beyond my leadership or involvement. Today some people are choosing between Foothills and the Picnic literally at the same time! I will never find rest on a vacation if the condition is that all projects are complete and nobody in the church has a problem that needs attention! There will always be something! Now that our children are transitioning to adulthood after the years of normal parent worries, guess what I hear people telling me: You NEVER stop worrying about your children! Great! In any case, I am thankful I found REST on an Alaskan Cruise ship knowing a whirlwind of activity was taking place in Sumas.
inbetween living: finding rest in the middle of a chaotic world. In the middle of transitions. Finding peace when there is still work to do. The work is not finished but God says let’s tie the bow on the present ~ this is God’s gift to us.
Conquering the promised land was unfinished and imperfect under Joshua’s leadership, yet God said divide the land anyway. The next six chapters are all about which tribe gets what land ~ next week we’ll look at a fascinating case of one man that received a portion, Caleb, an incredible man of faith.
There will always be more work to do, always be sin and destruction that compromises us, yet God promises us satisfaction anyway. He promises peace and completion. Don’t be so hard on yourself…. The world is imperfect. Sin will always be part of the deal on this earth! There will always be unfinished work. A year or so after my father died we found in his files a vision for this church. He was praying for 50 men in SACC to be praying men. He wanted the men to step up… he knew the work was not yet finished in Sumas. If I am privileged to serve in some capacity another 30 years in Sumas, unless the Lord returns, I already know the work will not be done. Sin and Satan will seek to throw us from our mission. Yet God is able to give us a sense of completion even though there is more kingdom work to be accomplished.
A child gives a drawing to gramma who tapes it onto her refrigerator for the whole world to see and says [Perfect]. You’ll never find peace in this world if you are depending on perfection, or stability. There will always be something incomplete, a changing world, a situation marred by sin, a reason to worry. God takes the imperfect and declares it is perfect. God takes what is unfinished and gives us completion. The promise of God is that even when our world is in chaos, he will meet us in the middle of the whirlwind and give us satisfaction and completion. Amen. Blessed Quietness #296