The Bible is the great story of God’s rescue plan for humanity. It is marked by many great epochs. There is the epoch of creation and the fall of humanity when Adam and Eve sinned against God. There is the dark epoch that followed as humanity descended so far into sin that the most
Abraham’s descendants, the Israelites, migrated to Egypt where they were enslaved. God rescued them in the Epoch of the Exodus. At my church, we used this responsive reading to review that Epoch and set up the topic of this blog.
Pastor: The Lord our God is mighty to save! He rescued to Israelite slaves from Egyptian Empire.
People: Through 10 plagues, He judged Egypt’s gods and proved they were nothing.
Pastor: Moses led the Israelites to the edge of the Red Sea,
People: But the Egyptian army came to destroy them. The Lord rescued Israel again.
Pastor: He parted the sea so Israel could walk through on dry ground,
People: But the Egyptian army drowned in the sea.
Pastor: God led Moses and the Israelites to Mount Sinai to make a sacred covenant.
People: The Lord gave Israel the 10 commandments and the Law.
Pastor: If they would trust God and be faithful to obey to His Law,
People: The Lord would protect them, prosper them, and give them peace.
Pastor: But if Israel was unfaithful,
People: The Lord would punish them with plagues and war and defeat.
Pastor: The Lord promised to lead Israel into a land flowing with milk and honey,
People: But Israel still did not trust the Lord to do it. They wanted to go back to Egypt and be slaves again.
Pastor: So God made them wander in the dessert until that unfaithful generation passed away.
People: Only Joshua and Caleb were left because they were the only ones who believed the Lord.
Pastor: Then the time came for the Lord to lead Israel into the Promised Land.
People: Joshua and Calab and the people of Israel were ready to obey the Lord.
All: And so the first Epoch of Israel begins—The Epoch of Conquest.
The rag tag rabble of slaves that left Egypt has been transformed into an army of God’s faithful, harden by 40 years of nomadic dessert living. They are thirsty to finally take possession of the Promised Land and begin their life as God’s Kingdom on Earth. But to do it, the Israelites must first conquer the Canaanites who live in the land. Moses is dead; so God appoints Joshua as the new commander and chief. (By the way, Joshua is the same name as Jesus…) And in Joshua 1:6-9, we read God’s instructions to Joshua. They will be the war cry of the entire book and the entire epoch of the conquest of Canaan.
6“Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. 7 Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. 8 Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. 9 This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Canaan was a land full of cruelty and debauchery that had persisted for hundreds of years. You can be sure, God gave the Canaanites every opportunity possible to repent and be saved. However, there comes a moment when your time runs out. That time had come for the Canaanites.
The Canaanites lived in fortress cities, like Jericho, surround by impregnable walls. Israelite spies had described them as giants who could not be defeated. But if the Lord can defeat the mighty Egyptian Empire, He can defeat the Canaanites. And that’s just what God does in the book of Joshua.
In battle after battle, the Lord God of Israel defeats every king in Canaan. No one can stand against Him. But here’s the thing you may miss if you aren’t careful. The victory in battle is never won by the Israelite army. It is God who is doing the fighting. As it says in Joshua 23:10, “Each one of you will put to flight a thousand of the enemy, for the Lord your God fights for you, just as he has promised.”
Perhaps the best example of the Lord fighting from the Israel is the famous Battle of Jericho. God told the Israelites to march around the city every day for seven days. Then, on the seventh day, God told His people to march around the city seven times. Then the were to blow trumpets and shout. And when they did, the walls of the city came crashing down. Now this is a ludicrous battle plan. No military strategist in their right mind would suggest this as a viable plan, but it worked! And the point is, this is God's work, not the soldiers. Incidentally, their is archeological evidence in Jericho of an ancient city from around the time Joshua would have been there that shows a walled city where the walls have collapsed outward. If this is the same city, it would be string evidence for a supernatural defeat of a walled city (walls don't collapse outward if they are being sieged by an army on the outside of the city).
It is God who does the fighting. The Israelites just have to be faithful and trust God and be obedient. Whenever they are faithful and obedient, God wins the victory for the Israelites. Whenever the Israelites lose faith and are disobedient, they are defeated.
There are three lessons we can learn from Israel’s conquest of Canaan. We learn the first lesson from the sad demise of the Canaanites. Judgement will come. God is patient when we sin. The Canaanites lived in sin for hundreds of years. In Genesis when Abraham visited Canaan, we read some of the terrible things they did. In addition to rejecting the one True God for idols, the Canaanites raped and murdered. They were sexually and morally depraved. They sacrificed their children to idols. I was watching a documentary last week about the Canaanites that explained how their kings would defeat and capture a city and skin the defeated people alive and hang their corpses up for everyone to see. And all this evil persisted in Canaan for well over 600 years until God finally said, enough is enough. At just that time, the Israelites showed up at the door of Canaan to execute God’s judgment.
If you are clinging to your sin, refusing to surrender to God repent, you need to understand: time is running out. God is patient, but He will not delay judgment forever. You will have to face God’s judgment one day soon. Jesus is either going to come back for the whole world all at once or he is going to come for you as an individual when you take your last breath. What will you say when you stand before Him face to face? How will you answer for your sin?
When Jesus came the first time, he said, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” (Paraphrased from Mark 1:15) And Romans 8:9-10 says, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” The believing that Romans mentions is not mere intellectual assent. If a person really believes Jesus is Lord and He is coming again. they will act accordingly and it will result repentance and righteous living. Time is running out. Repent today.
The second lesson from the conquest is that God fights for those who are faithful and obedient. When we trust God through Jesus Christ we are in a new covenant with God. He becomes our Lord and we become His people. He promises to fight for us. As Isaiah 54:17 promises, “No weapon that is formed against you will succeed; and you will condemn every tongue that accuses you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord…” What a great promise we have in the Lord.
Therefore, the third lesson for us today is be strong and courageous. The conquest was a test for the Israelites. God did the fighting, but the Israelites had to step onto the battlefield. There are tests in our lives too. God does the fighting, but we still must trust Him enough to show up for the fight. We must step out on the battlefield. We must be vulnerable and trust He will be our strength and shield.
What battles lie between you and the blessing God has for you?
One battle may be fear. You may be afraid to repent. You may worry, "What will people think of me if I decide to follow a God you can't even see." The Israelites were accused of something similar. Everyone around them worshipped idols. Now, today we would thin it silly to worship a statue made by human hands. Ironically, the opposite was true in the ancient world. People looked at the Israelites and said, "Where is your God?" And all they could say is, "Yahweh is invisible. You can't see them." And it was ridiculous to non-Israelites because they could see and touch their statue gods. Today, few people still worship statues, but non-believers make a similar ridicule of Christians. "You pray to some invisible God," they think while they trust in more tangible things like science, reason, money, a job, power, and politics. And some people are afraid to put their faith in an invisible God because it would irrational to trust something you cannot see instead of more tangible things.
Perhaps the battle is something more specific: an illness or chronic disease, a career change, a new stage of life for you or someone you love. Perhaps change is coming in your life and the fear is palpable. But I want to encourage you: Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For [if you have faith in Him] the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Step out onto the battlefield and trust God to fight the battle for you and you will be victorious.