June 10, 2010 David Balzer

Joshua 10-12: Israel’s Two Heroes

Mark Waugh and Steve Waugh. Two great heroes of Australian cricket. Between them, they’ve played something like 700 one day internationals, and scored more than 15,000 one day runs.

And within the last few weeks, they’ve both been dumped from the Australian one day cricket team.

I’m sure Channel Nine’s already putting together a whole stack of limited edition memorabilia. Pictures and books and souvenirs. To help us remember their careers.

And I reckon, even now, Peter Fitzsimmons is warming up his computer to write their comprehensive authorised biography. Complete with all the highlights.

I reckon they’re both fantastic. Mark is probably one of the most gifted batsmen and fielders ever. He makes everything look so EASY. And Steve is as tough as old boots. Super –competitive. He’s got one of the strongest wills in the game. They’ve each saved the game for Australia on dozens of occasions.

Two great heroes/ whose achievements will go down in history.

And, in a sense, that’s what we’re looking at today. Two great heroes whose achievements have gone down in history. The MIGHTY WARRIOR of Israel. And the LEADER of Israel.

And these three chapters are like the authorised biography. The highlights of their careers.

So take a look with me at these two heroes of Israel.

1. The mighty warrior of Israel

Firstly, the mighty warrior of Israel – that’s God.

Chapter 10 starts off in a familiar way. The neighbouring kings have heard about Israel. (They’re from Jerusalem, and some of the other towns.)

But this time/ it’s Gibeon that gets their attention. Because now they’ve sided with Israel. And so these kings reckon it’s PAYBACK TIME. They decide to teach them a LESSON. They join together, and attack Gibeon. That’s in verse 5.

But Gibeon’s quick to test out its new allegiance with Israel. Verse 6. “Come up to us quickly and save us! Help us!”

So Joshua moves out. With the entire army. But there’s one EXTRA warrior who’ll make all the difference. It’s The LORD. Look at v8.

(Josh 10:8 NIV)  The LORD said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them; I have given them into your hand. Not one of them will be able to withstand you.”

God’s given these kings, and their troops, into Joshua’s hand. They’re as good as defeated. The mighty warrior is on Israel’s side. So don’t be afraid.

It’s almost like God’s used Gibeon as BAIT. It’s their treaty with Israel that sparks everything off. It’s what INCITES these other kings to go to war. GOD USES ISRAEL’S DISOBEDIENCE FOR HIS PURPOSES.

Remember, he told them NOT to sign a treaty with Gibeon. But they did. And then he uses THAT VERY DISOBEDIENCE to achieve his purposes in defeating other nations.

He uses imperfect and impure instruments to do his perfect and pure work in the world.

And that’s encouraging for us. Because even though we stuff up, and make a mess of things. Even though our motives aren’t always good. God uses us to achieve his purposes. What a privilege that is!

So don’t give up – even though you don’t think you’re the most singer, or Kids’ Church teacher, or youth group leader, or father. God’s power is SO great, he even works through YOU!

Don’t LIMIT God. That’s what you’re doing when you think about giving up. “He’s not big enough to do anything good through me. I always make mistakes. I’m not talented enough, or committed enough, or happy enough.”

If your desire is to see God glorified, then God can use you.

And Joshua doesn’t give up, either. God’s promise doesn’t make him down tools, sit back, and just wait for it to all happen. It spurs him on to greater action.

It’s not a case of “Let go and let God”, but work EVEN HARDER because God’s behind you. Colossians 1:29 puts it like this. “To this end I labor, struggling with all HIS ENERGY, WHICH SO POWERFULLY WORKS IN ME.

Verse 9. Joshua marches all night, takes them by surprise. God, the mighty warrior, throws them into confusion, and they’re defeated. As they run away, v11, God sends a ferocious hailstorm. Giant rocks from heaven. And more are killed by the hail than by the sword. Killed by the mighty warrior of Israel.

But that’s not all for this day. Because the most EXTRAORDINARY event is still to come. At some stage during the day, Joshua decides time is running out. They’re chasing after the defeated armies. But nightfall’s on the way. And Joshua’s scared they’ll get away. So he calls out to God. Verse 12

(Josh 10:12-13 NIV)  … “O sun, stand still over Gibeon, O moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.” {13} So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar. The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day.

What an amazing day! Imagine! The sun actually stopped moving across the sky! That’s what most of us think is so amazing, don’t we? In fact, our scientific minds want to know HOW it happened.

But that’s NOT what was so amazing at all! Look at the next verse. Verse 14.

(Josh 10:14 NIV)  There has never been a day like it before or since, A DAY WHEN THE LORD LISTENED TO A MAN. Surely the LORD was fighting for Israel!

The clincher. The PROOF that God was fighting for Israel wasn’t the hailstones, or even the sun standing still. The REAL miracle was that God listened to a man!

I reckon we forget how AMAZING it is that God actually hears us. What a privilege that the creator of the Universe actually takes the time to listen to the ravings of our puny minds. He actually considers the desires of our sinful hearts!

I get excited when the LOCAL PAPER publishes a PRESS RELEASE of mine. Why don’t I get excited that the One who keeps the planets orbiting the sun/ actually takes the time to hear about the tiny things that orbit my world.

The TRUE miracle of this day/ is that God listens to men and women. He did then. And he still does today.

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Psalm 8 starts off.

(Psa 8:1-4 NIV)  O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.

And then David describes God’s creation.

{3} When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, {4} WHAT IS MAN THAT YOU ARE MINDFUL OF HIM, THE SON OF MAN THAT YOU CARE FOR HIM?

David can’t understand how the God who made heavens with his FINGERS – fine detail work to God – would actually care for mankind!

As the genius in the movie “The Princess Bride” would say – “Inconceivable!”

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The mighty warrior of Israel fights on their behalf, and listens to their prayers.

And as the story continues. This point is made again and again. Battle after battle. Scan through it quickly with me. Ch 10 v14

Surely the LORD was fighting for Israel!

Verse19.

the LORD your God has given them into your hand.”

Verse 30

The LORD also gave that city and its king into Israel’s hand.

Verse 32.

The LORD handed Lachish over to Israel,

Verse 42.

All these kings and their lands Joshua conquered in one campaign, because the LORD, the God of Israel, fought for Israel.

Ch 11 v8

and the LORD gave them into the hand of Israel.

And finally, Ch 11 Verse 20

(Josh 11:20 NIV)  For it was the LORD himself who hardened their hearts to wage war against Israel, so that he might destroy them totally, exterminating them without mercy, as the LORD had commanded Moses.

At every turn, it’s GOD who’s leading the way.

And by the end of Ch 11, most of the hard work’s been done. The Ch finishes, “Then the land had rest from war”.

2. Israel’s leader:

That’s hero number one. But the other reason Israel’s successful is because of Joshua. He’s the OTHER hero.

If it wasn’t for his FAITHFUL OBEDIENCE, the outcome wouldn’t have been the same. Right back in ch 1, God gave Joshua this warning;

(Josh 1:7 NIV)  Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.

And the point Chapters 10 and 11 are making is that Joshua DID it. He WAS obedient, and God brought him success. He was the leader for Israel because of his COMPLETE, PERSISTENT faith.

Let’s look for a moment/ at what happens on the day the sun stood still. Verse 16. It describes one of the significant events of that day.

The five rebellious kings have fled. And they’ve hidden in a cave at a place called Makkedah. But when Joshua finds out about it, he tells his soldiers to roll large rocks across the mouth of the cave. That’ll keep the kings trapped until he’s got time to deal with them properly.

And then, in v20, they keep up the chase, until the foreign armies are completely destroyed.

And THEN. V 21.

(Josh 10:21 NIV)  The whole army returned safely to Joshua in the camp at Makkedah, and no one uttered a word against the Israelites.

The whole army arrive back at the mouth of the cave. And Joshua’s waiting for them. It would have been easier and quicker for Joshua to have just killed the kings himself. But he’s got another plan. He’s going to use them as an OBJECT LESSON.

Look at v24.

(Josh 10:24-25 NIV)  When they had brought these kings to Joshua, he summoned all the men of Israel and said to the army commanders who had come with him, “Come here and put your feet on the necks of these kings.” So they came forward and placed their feet on their necks. {25} Joshua said to them, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Be strong and courageous. This is what the LORD will do to all the enemies you are going to fight.”

Joshua PASSES ON God’s words of encouragement to the people. And to ram the message home, he gives them a PICTURE. He doesn’t just SAY it, he SHOWS them what God’s victory LOOKS like. Their feet on the necks of the foreign kings.

And then, in v26, he kills the kings with the sword. Then he hangs them on trees until evening. So EVERYONE can see – friend and foe alike. And then he takes the bodies down, puts them back in the cave. And seals the cave with the same rocks that were there before.

That’s an awful lot of trouble to go to just to make a point! But that’s how important it is that God’s people DON’T DOUBT. That they DO remain obedient. And that they DO keep their side of the bargain.

If they’re OBEDIENT, God promises them BLESSINGS. And if they’re DISOBEDIENT, God promises them CURSES. And Joshua’s working hard to keep them obedient.

He’s Israel’s leader.

Look at how Joshua’s described in the verses that follow. Half way through v30.

The city and everyone in it Joshua put to the sword. He left no survivors there. And he did to its king as he had done to the king of Jericho.

And so on all the way through Ch 10. Until we get to v40.

(Josh 10:40-42 NIV)  So Joshua subdued the whole region, including the hill country, the Negev, the western foothills and the mountain slopes, together with all their kings. He left no survivors. He totally destroyed all who breathed, JUST AS THE LORD, THE GOD OF ISRAEL, HAD COMMANDED. {41} Joshua subdued them from Kadesh Barnea to Gaza and from the whole region of Goshen to Gibeon. {42} All these kings and their lands Joshua conquered in one campaign…

God commanded it. Joshua did it. And the same story again into Ch 11. This time in the NORTH. Verse 9.

Joshua did to them as the LORD had directed:

And v12.

(Josh 11:12 NIV)  Joshua took all these royal cities and their kings and put them to the sword. He totally destroyed them, as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded.

And again in v15.

(Josh 11:15 NIV)  As the LORD commanded his servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua, and Joshua did it; he left nothing undone of all that the LORD commanded Moses.

And the last enemy to be defeated are the Anakites. They’re the GIANTS who scared off Israel the FIRST time. Forty years ago. Everyone was petrified of them – except for two spies. Caleb and … JOSHUA. “We can defeat them. God’s on our side,” they said then.

And, eventually, they were proved right. Joshua, the leader, even defeated THEM.

And v23 summarises his career.

(Josh 11:23 NIV)  So JOSHUA took the entire land, just as the LORD had directed Moses, and HE gave it as an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal divisions. Then the land had rest from war.

Notice the two heroes of Israel? Joshua took the land. God gave it to Israel. God, the mighty warrior. And Joshua, the faithful leader.

Let me make one final point. This obedience of Joshua’s was no ONE-OFF, RAPID BURST OF ENERGY AND ENTHUSIASM. Look at Verse 18 of Ch 11.

(Josh 11:18 NIV)  Joshua waged war against all these kings for a long time.

One estimate is SEVEN YEARS from Jericho until Ch 11.

And that’s the sort of obedience that God STILL calls us to. Long-term, committed obedience.

In some ways, it’s easy to put in a quick burst of enthusiasm for some task. Like a beach mission, or a camp. But it’s not good enough if we’re CONTENT WITH THAT – if we rest on our laurels for the whole YEAR, thinking that’s enough to satisfy God.

Or resting on PAST efforts. Perhaps you USED to lead a bible study, or youth group, or teach Kid’s Church, or pray regularly, or read your bible. But now life’s too busy. But you keep telling yourself that one day, you’ll get back to it. When the kids grow up, or when we get the mortgage down a bit, or when I make partner. Or when I get through exams.

The Christian race is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t run out of puff when the race has barely started. It’s how we FINISH that’s important, not how we START.

Faithful obedience is seen in the week in- week out slog. In doing ministry DESPITE not seeing wonderful success. Living your WHOLE life in CONSISTENT, long-winded, long-sighted service to God.

It’s why we meet together regularly. To encourage each other to keep going. To not give up.

Have a look at Heb Ch 12 v1-3. It’s printed in the news sheets.

The writer to the Hebrews has just given us a great long list of Old Testament heroes in Ch 11. People who showed faithful obedience. And then he starts Ch 12, with what that means for us.

(Heb 12:1-3 NIV)  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses (that’s the Old Testament heroes of faith), let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and LET US RUN WITH PERSEVERANCE the race marked out for us.

And then, v2, someone ELSE for us to focus on.

{2} Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. {3} CONSIDER HIM who endured such opposition from sinful men, SO THAT YOU WILL NOT GROW WEARY AND LOSE HEART.

Consider Jesus. He’s BOTH our mighty warrior. And our leader. He’s the ultimate example of servanthood, and endurance, and suffering. And we’re to our lives on him.

But he’s also OUR MIGHTY WARRIOR. He’s gone before us. He’s defeated sin and . He’s the author and perfecter of our faith. He’s the one who makes it all possible, the CREATOR of the life we now have as God’s friends and followers. Without his work on the cross, we’re still in our sin. And we’re without any hope.

And as we recognise that/ we can begin to obey him in GRATITUDE for HIS obedience. We can begin to serve others in gratitude for HIS SERVICE for us.

Jesus is OUR mighty warrior. Jesus is our leader. Continue in faithful, persistent obedience like Joshua. And like Jesus.

Run the race with perserverance. Don’t grow weary and lose heart.

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