Reading: Joshua 11-15
I confess that reading sections like Joshua 11-15 are difficult for me. Difficult because, I have a hard time relating to the names and places (if these were places I was familiar with here in the United States, I would find it much more interesting); difficult because we are reading about things we don't like (i.e., the destruction of whole cities leaving nothing that breathes alive); and difficult because at times I find it hard to know what I am to take away from it (“what does it mean to me today?”). Maybe some of you can relate.
Israel has been clipping along at a good pace taking the Promised Land. But imagine the scene with me for a moment... don't worry about the names here, but think about how many kings and states were joining together to fight against Israel. Picture it.
When Jabin king of Hazor heard of this, he sent word to Jobab king of Madon, to the kings of Shimron and Acshaph, 2and to the northern kings who were in the mountains, in the Arabah south of Kinnereth, in the western foothills and in Naphoth Dor on the west; 3to the Canaanites in the east and west; to the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites and Jebusites in the hill country; and to the Hivites below Hermon in the region of Mizpah. 4They came out with all their troops and a large number of horses and chariots—a huge army, as numerous as the sand on the seashore. 5All these kings joined forces and made camp together at the Waters of Merom, to fight against Israel. (Joshua 11:1-5)
I thought God was giving Israel the land, as a promise. I thought it was an inheritance. But now they are facing an army that strikes fear and the thought of impossibility into their minds and hearts. I can't relate to this from my own experience, but I did see The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. And I imagine it looked something like the massive hoards in the battle scenes. All I know is that I was really glad to be in a comfortable seat in the theater, instead of trying to fight against that. Israel wasn't in a comfortable seat in the theater.
Why couldn't the Lord just work it out so all the nations tried to make peace like the Gibeonites? I am so tempted to want to read this from my own perspective and think that God is like me. Yet I read Joshua 11:19-20 and realize that God had different plans. It helps me to remember that the mercy I have received is mercy because it was freely given. God was not constrained to give it; He wasn't obligated to give it. It is always best to let God be God, and for us to not think we could run things better!
Back to the hoards gathered against Israel. What did God say about this?
6The LORD said to Joshua, "Do not be afraid of them, because by this time tomorrow I will hand all of them over to Israel, slain. You are to hamstring their horses and burn their chariots." 7So Joshua and his whole army came against them suddenly at the Waters of Merom and attacked them, 8and the LORD gave them into the hand of Israel. They defeated them and pursued them all the way to Greater Sidon, to Misrephoth Maim, and to the Valley of Mizpah on the east, until no survivors were left. (Joshua 11:6-8)
The Lord told them not to fear because they would be victorious over them. Then, the Lord was invisibly at work as the Israelites went into battle.
How does all this relate to me?
The shadow of the Old Testament points to the spiritual realities we learn in the new.
17I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (Ephesians 1:17-23)
The Israelites had a hope to which they had been called; they had an inheritance they had been given; they had been promised God's power to bring it about. Yet they had to go and fight. And in fighting they would see God's victory. We too have been called to a glorious hope, an exceedingly rich inheritance, and have been promised power beyond anything we can imagine. We too have powers aligned against us, wanting to keep us from living in that inheritance (vs. 21). But what are our weapons and how do we fight the hoards that have gathered against us?
How do we go to war? With what shall we conquer this massive hoard? Consider the following. Paul might answer the question saying, we fight “with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left” (2 Corinthians 6:7), because “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” (2 Corinthians 10:4) What are weapons of righteousness? This might best be answered by Paul again,
The night is far gone, and the day is near: so let us put off the works of the dark, arming [same root word as weapons in Greek] ourselves with light, With right behaviour as in the day; not in pleasure-making and drinking, not in bad company and unclean behaviour, not in fighting and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not give thought to the flesh to do its desires. (Romans 13:12-14 BBE)
We are to take up the weapons of light: righteousness in our lives, living clothed in Christ Jesus... Christ in us the hope of glory! This might provide insight into what is meant in Romans 6. There this same word, which is everywhere else translated as weapons in the New Testament, is here translated as instruments. It might make more sense to consider it this way:
Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as weapons of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as weapons of righteousness. (Romans 6:13)
We are to do spiritual warfare by obeying God, living Christ-like lives, and praying. Paul's prayer in Ephesians 3:16-19 prays that we would be empowered by the Spirit in such a way that we would begin to love as Christ loved us (my paraphrase). And should we not take the encouragement to Joshua ourselves, “Do not be afraid.” Let us always remember, “Christ is much more powerful to save than Adam was to ruin.”1 We have been given power to love others, even our spouse and children, and the difficult person in our care group. We have been given power to pray for our enemies, including those who we work with. We have been given power to forgive those who sin against us, even if it has been 490 times! These are real battles. You don't get to take a comfortable seat in the theater and just observe. You must live as Christ in these. Now get up and take up the weapons of righteousness and fight! Conquer the enemy with good. (Romans 12:21). And check out Romans 12:9-21 for the various implements of war that you have been given. You have an inheritance to take.
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,
1John Calvin, from Commentary on Romans, quoted in F. F. Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free.