Liberating a City - Msg1 Heart Liberation
Liberating a City … there was great joy in that city. (Acts 8:8)
Message 1 Heart Liberation Joshua 5:1-8; NLT
Real liberty begins with the heart. The book of Proverbs advises,Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. (Prov.4:23; NLT). Another author put it like this, “Keep your heart with all diligence and God will look after the universe.” (A.W. Tozer). This is the first message in our series,Liberating a City, and the first reading is from Joshua, chapter 5:1-8. It reveals two groups of people whose hearts need liberating.
1. Cities need heart liberation v1 … all the Amorite kings … and all the Canaanite kings … lost heart and were paralysed with fear because of them.
The citizens of the cities of the Amorites & Canaanites and their kings were descendent from Ham, the son of Noah. Ham’s family line had a curse on it and, as predicted, turned away from God with unrelenting idolatry. They eventually lost the moral right to stay in their land. For a modern example, we may consider the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia or the Daesh (IS) in the Middle East. In the New Testament, a deteriorating heart condition is recognised as universal, including Jew and Gentile. Paul concluded, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Rom.3:23).
Despite having varying degrees of poor heart condition, cities have a special place in God’s eternal program and they are loved by God. In the book of Jonah, the prophet learned to appreciate God’s love for even the wicked city of Nineveh. Cities are often personified and described as being either judged or blessed according to their condition. It is interesting that the Bible starts with a garden in Genesis, the Garden of Eden, and ends in a glorious city in Revelations, the new Jerusalem descending from heaven. This, the ‘Bride of Christ’, has people from all nations streaming into it. It says, … the kings of the world will enter the city [of heavenly Jerusalem] in all their glory. (Rev.21:24; NLT). In other words, the cities of the word belong to Jesus. All the cities of our world can expect heart liberation. Before we look into this for our city of Sydney, we must consider its present condition.
Sydney has both natural beauty and human constructed ‘glory’ to be admired but it is still far short of the ‘glory of God.’ There is a dark haze emanating from the city’s heart. How can we be blessed by heaven if we no longer believe in God? Or if we don’t appreciate how much God cares for us? Without this hope, people abandon restraint, become arrogant and rude in their prosperity or poverty, and live unsatisfied lives. Nowadays there are many accumulating fears in people’s hearts. Some are real, some imaginary. We fear climate change, a tsunami hitting the east coast, droughts, floods, fires, terrorism, and shoddy constructed buildings. Despite a highly advanced health system, we are afraid of sickness and death. We must lift our vision higher to see that eternity is in the hands of Jesus.
At the start of his ministry, Jesus quoted from the ancient prophets declaring,“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free.”(Luke 4:18; NIV). Referring to himself, he asserted, “.. if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36; NIV). And as the famous chorus goes, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty!”
Why, then, did the kings of the Amorite and Canaanites lose heart? They had heard that Israel had now entered their land. They heard how they had stepped out in faith and miraculously crossed over the flooded Jordan River. The hand of God was with them! However, the kings did not relent. Except for the prostitute Rahab and family, their hearts were hardened.
All cities like these need heart liberating from their fears, corrupt thinking and unbelief. Sydney needs liberating. The struggle to attain libertion begins with the people of God.
2. God’s people need heart liberation v2-7 … the LORD told Joshua, “Make flint knives and circumcise this second generation of Israelites.” …..
While the kings’ hearts were paralysed with fear, God spoke to Joshua. He didn’t say, “Attack!”, as we might expect. No, Israel wasn’t ready. They also needed to be heart liberated. But why circumcision? Why such a painful exercise? It may have been hygienic, but this was not the reason. God had given circumcision to Abraham (Genesis 17) for his descendants, the Jewish people, as a mark of identity and a sign of heart commitment to the LORD. In was also associated with reproductive fruitfulness. Abraham by divine promise was to be the father of nations carrying the special ‘seed’ (Genesis 3:15). The breaking of the Noahic and Adamic curse would come through Jesus. In the New Testament, the early church agreed not to imposed circumcision on non-Jewish believers (Acts 15). Believing and dedicated in the heart is true circumcision and heart liberation, effected by the Spirit of God, and for male and female. For the Israelites under Joshua, however, only males had to be physically circumcised.
During the forty years in the wilderness, a new generation of Israelites had grown up who were not circumcised. In order to succeed, all Israel had to be united together in their commitment to the LORD. As churches grow, new comers may be added who have not yet committed their hearts fully to God. They need heartcircumcision, inner faith and righteousness. Before we can help others, we must first receive help. Otherwise we would become the blind leading the blind and both fall into a hole (see Luke 6:39). Jesus elaborated on the need for personal heart liberation,“… whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body … the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.” (Matthew 15:14-18). Do you need heart liberation? Make a full commitment to Jesus.
3. It takes time to heal the heart v8 … they rested in the camp until they were healed.
Circumcision was a quick operation but not a quick fix. It took time to heal. It takes time to develop good habits, good thoughts and produce faithful deeds. It takes time to have past issues fixed up and to learn how to stay in faith, filled with the Holy Spirit. Psalm 147 says, He heals the broken hearted, binding up their wounds, before appointing to shine like stars.
God uses ordinary people, transformed by his grace, to become godly leaders who help people sorely in need and in turn bring heart liberation to a city. Through the struggle of prayer, strategies are revealed from heaven. Are you a believer? Your city is in your hands! “Without God people can’t, without people God won’t.” Will you join me in liberating a city?