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Joshua 10:1-27: The Lord Fights for His People Print E-mail
Joshua
Sunday, 16 March 2008

If you are a college basketball fan (and it is fine if you are not), then you know that today is called ‘Selection Sunday.’  All the teams will be selected and the bracket will be set for the upcoming Final Four tournament that happens every March.  Many players and coaches are sweating it out, wondering if and where they will be placed.  Don’t you think that any of those coaches or players would love some reassurance that they will not only make the tournament, but actually win some games?  Or what about a guarantee that they will win the whole thing?  Of course, we all know that such guarantees do not exist in sports (or in most situations that involve competition in this life).  Anything can happen, right?  So, who wouldn’t love a guarantee?

Yet, isn’t that exactly what Israel has been given in the book of Joshua?  The Lord told Joshua in chapter 1: No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life…Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them (v. 5a, 6).  Israel has been given a guarantee that the land will be given to them.  And what is the basis of this guarantee?  It is based upon the solid foundation of God Himself.  He has promised to deliver.  He has promised to go with them.  He has promised to fight for them.  Granted, as we have seen, this does not mean that Israel can sit back and be disobedient.  No, they must believe in the Lord and act upon His promise to fight for them.

Last week we saw Israel get tricked into making a covenant with the Gibeonites, a covenant that the leadership of Israel was determined to keep, even in light of the disapproval of the people.  This week that commitment will be put to the test.  In Joshua 10:1-5 we are told of the gathering of 5 Amorite kings to attack the city of Gibeon.  Verse 6 then tells us of the plea of the men of Gibeon for Joshua and Israel to keep their covenant.  Look at that verse with me.  So, will they their covenant even though it was based upon deception?  Will they come to the Gibeonites aid?  The answer is given in verse 7.  Look at that verse with me.  Joshua and Israel will keep their word.  They immediately set out to go and help defend the city.  So, how will the Lord respond to all of this?  As always, He will keep His word.  He will fight for Joshua and Israel.  The story is told in different sections that overlap and are not necessarily chronological.  Yet, over and over again we see the Lord fighting for Israel.  So, how exactly do we see this?

How does the Lord fight for Israel?

First, the Lord assures them of victory.  Look at verse 8.  Just as the Lord had told him in chapter 1, He once again tells Joshua that none of these enemies will be able to stand against him.  Israel will keep the covenant that she had established with the Gibeonites and the Lord will keep the one that He had established with them and their fathers.  As we said above, who would not want such a guarantee at the beginning of the battle?  Yes the Lord expects them to fight and fight they will, but they fight knowing that victory is sure. 

Second, the Lord confuses the enemy.  Look at verses 9-10.  Joshua and the people of Israel had marched all night to get to Gibeon and they caught the enemy by surprise with their early morning attack.  The text tells us that the Lord threw them into a panic before Israel.  We are not told exactly how this happens at this point, but we know that Israel had great success in Gibeon.  So much so that the rest of the story focuses on their chasing the enemy seemingly throughout southern Canaan. 

Third, the Lord throws down hailstones.  Look at verse 11.  Notice that last sentence in verse 11: There were more who died because of the hailstones than the sons of Israel killed with the sword.  The Lord is winning this battle, not the swords of Israel.  Again, they are being obedient by fighting, but the ultimate reason for their victory is not in their great military prowess.  No, it rests in the fact that the Lord is fighting for them.  Of course, many skeptics will read such a text and think, ‘Well, Israel got lucky with that hailstorm, just a natural disaster.’  Yet, when the so-called natural disaster comes in response to God’s promise and just happens to kill only the enemies of Israel, then it seems safe to call it a supernatural working of the Lord.  After all, even the winds obey His voice and the hail is His to send. 

Don’t we see this all of the time in our own lives and in the lives of Christians we know?  God often uses seemingly non-miraculous events to miraculously answer our prayers.  For example, this past Wednesday night we prayed for Mark and Shawdi to be able to sell their car in the next couple of days.  Guess what news I got on Thursday, the very next day?  Yep, they sold their car.  The skeptics can chalk it up to chance or whatever, but we know better.  The Lord doesn’t always answer in this manner (and we can still trust Him and praise Him when He does not), but when He does, we should be thankful for what He has done and give Him the praise that is always due His name.

Fourth, the Lord causes the sun to stand still.  Look at verses 12-15.  Not only did the Lord send hailstones to defeat the Amorites, now He extends the day so that Israel can finish defeating the armies.  There are many interpretations of these verses.  Some see it as just another natural occurrence (like an eclipse) that gave Israel an advantage.  Some take the language to be poetic and figurative, something like, ‘The day just seemed to go on forever.’  Yet, I still think that the best interpretation is to simply take it literally.  The Lord sent hail and the Lord stopped the sun for the battle and the moon for the march. 

I don’t necessarily have answers for all of the scientific questions that that interpretation may raise, but if God can speak the universe into existence and faithfully govern it for thousands of years, then He can make the sun stand still and handle all of the implications of such an act. 1  The author of Joshua points out the uniqueness of this day.  I mean think about it with me.  God promises Israel that they will win.  After marching all night, they begin the battle at day-break and immediately the enemy is thrown into confusion.  While they are chasing them down, the Lord sends a hail storm that only attacks their enemies.  As if this were not enough, the Lord causes this great day to be longer than 24 hours in response to Joshua’s prayer so that Israel can finish their pursuit.  I think we can agree that this was indeed a unique and glorious day for God’s people.  

Fifth, the Lord delivers the enemy to Israel and protects the people.  Look at verses 16-21.  While the five kings are hiding in a cave, Joshua has Israel block them in and finish pursuing the enemies.  Although some seem to make it back to the cities, Israel does not fail to obey and pursue them.  In fact, we will see in the next passage that they will complete the task when they capture all of the cities (see v. 28-42).  We are told in verse 21 that all of the people return safely and that not a man moved his tongue against any of the people of Israel.  Their victory was so complete that no one was left to contest them at this point.  The Lord delivers all of the Amorites to destruction and protects all of Israel.

Sixth, and finally, the Lord promises them future victory.  This story began with the Lord’s assurance to Joshua that they would defeat the Amorites.  It concludes with a striking reminder that all of Israel’s enemies will be subjected to them if they remain faithful to the Lord.  Look at verses 24-25.  The five kings are brought out of the cave and Joshua gathers all the men and has the leaders place their feet on the necks of these kings.  This was a visual display of their victory over their enemies.  Then Joshua tells them: Do not be afraid or dismayed; be strong and courageous.  For thus the Lord will do to all your enemies against whom you fight.  Thus, Joshua wants to remind the people that the Lord will fight for them and give them victory.

In all of these actions in the story, we see the Lord fighting for Israel.  He is faithful to His word and delivers the Amorites into the hands of Joshua and Israel.  This battle belonged to the Lord and He always wins.  Yet, you might be thinking: ‘Sure the Lord fought for Israel, but how does He fight for us against our enemies?’  Let me answer with three thoughts.

First, He has sent His Son in the flesh to be our Savior.  We see the miracles in this story and may think that they were only for Israel’s day, but that is not the case.  We often forget the miracle of the Incarnation: God in flesh.  Sure hailstones are great and the sun standing still is spectacular, but think about the miracle of God coming in the flesh in Christ.  He came to undo the curse of Adam (see Romans 5:12ff) by being completely obedient to His Father in every way that we had failed.  The King coming to serve His servants.  Actually we could say it this way: the King coming to serve His enemies (see Ephesians 2).  This is one of the ways that God has fought for us.

Second, He defeated our enemies at the cross.  Can we ever forget the miracle of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection?  Again, what the Lord did in Joshua’s day was incredible, but nothing compares to the work of Christ.  It was not glamorous, but it was glorious.  Listen to Paul describe it: And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands.  This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.  He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him (Colossians 2:13-15).  Christ defeated our sins, nailing them to the cross and put to open shame the rulers and authorities who rail against Him.  He fought for us at the cross, and He won.

Third, He promises (assures) us future victory over sin, Satan, and death.  There is a great parallel between the days of Joshua and the days in which we live.  Because of the finished work of Christ at Calvary, we too have the hope of the Promised Land.  At the cross the Lord said to us: ‘Come stand on the necks of your enemies and know that I will give you victory over them.’  We do not have to fear.  The beginning of the Great Commission should give us great courage: All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  May we be strong and courageous and move forward knowing that the Lord fights for us and will give us the victory.  Amen.

For the record, it should be noted that not all who doubt the literal interpretation do so because they do not believe that God could perform such an act.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Sunday, 23 March 2008 )

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