God is right now in the process of waging war with evil. It’s a cosmic struggle. The question is not whether or not God is on my side but whether I am on God’s side. Whether this is expressed in relationship to ancient Israel or contemporary men and women, this question has perpetual relevance. E. John Hamlin refers to this as a “stereoscopic view” of God’s warfare. God fights for Israel as part of His battle against the powers of death and sin. He works for salvation in the whole world. The reverse can also be said, that God fights against Israel at the point that God’s people have joined forces of chaos and destruction and are no longer on the side of His new creation.
This continues to be the case. That’s why it’s so important that we bring ourselves into conformity with God’s will instead of trying to bring God into conformity with our will. We saw how, when Joshua enlisted God on his side without consulting God’s will, he both lost the battle with Ai and was deceived by Gibeon. We have thus far seen in
God normally uses human agents to do His work on earth. I am constantly amazed at this fact. Isn’t it surprising that the very God of the universe has chosen primarily to work through weak, sinful human beings such as you and me? He has entrusted His world to us. He has set natural laws in place. In the normal sequence of events, we live within those laws. However, He still reserves the right to be God. His resources are of a supernatural nature, and when He sees fit, in His sovereignty, He deploys those supernatural resources to accomplish the ends He wants, both through us and for us.
Now we move on in our study of Joshua,
However, I am prepared to take the historical events which happened over three thousand years ago and see fascinating, spiritual parallels with the Christian life as we live it today. God did not give us His written Word in order to make us knowledgeable historians of specific details in the life of obscure, ancient people. Those historical details are important, both for the people of God called Israel and for the people of God living now in the twentieth century, the new Israel.
It is important that we study how God worked in ancient times so as to discover how He now works in contemporary times. The experience of ancient Israel parallels the experience of the new Israel. Not only is it valid that we study this “holy history” for Holy-Spirit-guided insights into contemporary Christian living, it is imperative that we do this. Too many Christians have lost sight of that valuable spiritual truth because they have restricted themselves to the specific New Testament spiritual and ethical teachings of Jesus and Paul. They are missing the richness of the Old Testament revelation of how God has worked and continues to work in the life of His covenant people. Today we will look at four additional, contemporary teachings which come out of
I. Yours is a life of ongoing warfare.
We saw Joshua lead a sneak attack aided by the cover of darkness upon the five kings who were encamped against Gibeon. We observed them flee in panic both pursued by the swords of the Israelites and the hailstones or meteorites from heaven. The five kings observed their horrendous military defeat. Their soldiers retreated. They wanted to save their own necks so they hid themselves in a cave at Makkedah. Word of this came to Joshua. He gave the order that great stones be rolled against the mouth of the cave, with soldiers assigned to guard it while the rest of his soldiers pursued the enemy, completing the victory. He knew that he was engaged in an ongoing warfare. He was determined to press the advantage.
Frequent reference is made throughout the entire Bible to the ongoing warfare which marks the life of the people of God. You and I are not engaged in an occasional skirmish. Yours and mine is an ongoing struggle. Paul urges you and me, along with the young pastor Timothy, to “Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (
Too often I run into young Christians who define their relationship with Jesus Christ in simplistic terms. They assume that since they are now “born again” and have received Christ’s forgiveness that their problems will evaporate. They may have even discovered that the question isn’t whether God is on our side but whether we are on God’s side. They would quickly confess to being on God’s side. But they’ve missed one very important biblical teaching. It’s this. When you and I are on God’s side, we are now engaged with Him in this ongoing warfare with sin and Satan. God is up-front about this. We shouldn’t be surprised. We are instructed:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (
That’s pretty heavy teaching, isn’t it? Don’t you dare tell me you were never warned. The very fact that you are on God’s side makes you all the more subject to Satan’s attack. The more on God’s side you are, the more Satan hates you, the more he will try to seduce you with temptation. Look how hard he hit Jesus in the wilderness. Look how vicious he was in his attack upon godly Job. He went after his money. He went after the rest of his earthly possessions. He attacked Job’s children and wife. Finally, he attacked Job’s physical body and his emotional being. Don’t you dare tell me that there is no struggle to the Christian life. The greater extent to which you and I are on God’s side, the greater will be the struggle. Satan isn’t going to waste his energy on lukewarm, nominal Christians who are playing church. He’s got them right where he wants them as they “claim a form of godliness but deny the power thereof.” His onslaught will be against those who mean business.
This is why it is so important to both know that you are engaged in an ongoing warfare and to be armed for it. Paul writes:
Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, ‘having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace; besides all these, taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints… (
II. Yours is a spiritual battle to death with Christ as Victor.
Return with me to that Old Testament battle scene. Joshua did something that isn’t very pleasant to talk about. When his men returned from defeating the retreating armies, he ordered the stones to be rolled away from the mouth of the cave at Makkedah and for the five kings to be brought before him. They brought to him the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon. These kings were made to place their heads on the ground, and Joshua summoned his chief military men, giving them this fascinating order. “‘Come near, put your feet upon the necks of these kings'” (
Travel to the Middle East and observe the great Egyptian and Assyrian murals and sculptures. They are historic records of ancient wars. Frequently you will see the specific action recorded. It is the ancient symbol of victory. The conquering king or general places his foot on the neck of the defeated general or king. The court artists record that event for all passersby to see just who is on God’s side, is prophetically declaring to his military aides that God will continue to give them the victory as they are faithful to Him. He rearticulates to the people the promise earlier given to him.
References of this nature appear all through the Scriptures. In
What hope we, as believers in Jesus Christ, can take to the answers given to the deep, deep questions of each of our hearts. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (
Never forget that He who is in you is more powerful than he that is in the world.
Remember what victory entails. It involves putting to death the enemy. Don’t pity those five kings. But you say, “Wouldn’t humiliating them have been enough? Why did Joshua have to kill them and hang them on five trees and then throw their dead bodies back into the cave, rolling the stones back up against the cave? That’s awfully severe, isn’t it? Don’t forget that Hebrew word, herem. It appears sprinkled through this passage. It refers to that which is separated or banned from ordinary use or contact. These kings were herem. They were to be destroyed. Let’s not get sentimental about them. Was Hitler a pussycat? I doubt that you think he was. Neither was Adonizedek. These kings would have come back to conquer at some future date. And neither is Satan a pussycat. Even in modern times, Middle Eastern kings or dictators are assassinated and their bodies are placed in public display, as was King Faisal of Iraq in 1958, impaled in the city square of Baghdad along with his uncle who was prime minister. It tells the world who is in charge.
It was not enough to leave those five kings lurking in a cave. They must be slain. In a similar way, you and I are to put to death that sin that does so easily beset us. What sinister thoughts and actions do you have hidden in that cave? What are they, empowered by Satan, planning to do to you? Empowered by the Holy Spirit, rip the stones away from the front of that cave. Grab those demons by their throat. Crucify them in the Name of Jesus Christ, confessing your need of His forgiveness and your power to live with Christ as Victor in your life.
III. Yours is the privilege of having a spiritual home-base.
Remember Gilgal, the place where Joshua had set up those twelve stones of memory after the crossing of the Jordan? This was the place of circumcision before the battle of Jericho. It was home-base after the defeat and victory at Ai. It was where the Gibeonites had come to woo Joshua. It was a place from which the Israelites had moved forth to fight the battle. It tells us that after Joshua slew the five kings, he moved on Makkedah, Libnah, Lachish, Eglon, Hebron, and Debir, defeating the whole land, the hill country, and the Negev to the south, from the lowlands over the Mediterranean. Scripture says, “And Joshua took all these kings and their land at one time, because the Lord God of Israel fought for Israel. Then Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, to the camp at Gilgal” (
How exhausted these soldiers must have been. Every kind of warfare takes its toll. God pity the mercenary who has no great cause and is in it only for the money. God pity the soldier without a home. God pity the Christian without his Gilgal, a place to which he/she can retreat.
Do you have a Gilgal to which you periodically return? I do. I’ve had one in just about every community in which I have served, a place of quietness, a place in which I can be alone with God, my own private place.
But Gilgal is more than a private place. It also has community significance. It is a sanctuary where the people of God are gathered. We hear the Word of God. Ours is not an individualistic campaign. We have colleagues in the fight. We are the Church. We reconnoiter to share our war stories. As the conquest was carried on, each of the individual tribes could have spun off when their land was captured according to allocation of the land in the Pentateuchal record. No, they stayed together. They came back to Gilgal.
There they not only found rest and energy for the future battles they would wage unselfishly together. They also strategized. They had moved into the midsection of the land, then conquered the south. Now they would move northward. Gilgal was a place of rest, of energy, and strategy.
The British expositor, Alan Redpath, makes a fascinating parallel between Gilgal and Calvary. He writes:
May I remind you of the great words of New Testament truth and salvation which have their roots deeply imbedded in Gilgal. Here they are; refresh your memory. It was a place of remembrance, where all of God’s people together went down unto death; it was a place of resurrection, where they cast off the carnal existence of the wilderness; it was a place of restoration, where they came again into fellowship with the Lord. It was the place of realization, where they began to taste of the strong food of the land; it was the place of revelation, where they met their Captain with a drawn sword.
The Christian life has its own roots firmly imbedded in Calvary, the place where we died with Jesus and rose with Him, where we have deliberately renounced carnality and have entered into a living fellowship with our Lord, where we have begun to take the strong food of His Word and to realize every moment of our lives that the Captain of the Lord’s host is with us.
IV. Yours is a responsibility of completing the conquest.
Do you get tired? I do. The Israelites, as they moved northward, ran into tough resistance. The people of the northern cities also were organized. Jabin, the king of Hazor, gathered together a great alliance. These kings were determined to crush Joshua. These kings had horses and chariots and came out by numbers like sand upon the seashore (
Are you ready to throw in the towel? Don’t. Hang in there. You will prevail. Not because you are tough but because you are on God’s side. Listen to this fascinating statement attributed to Napoleon: “Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself founded empires, but upon what did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ alone founded his kingdom upon love, and that this day millions of men would die for him.”
Don’t give up too soon. A friend of mine in the ministry was literally deserted by his wife for another man. Seven years she alienated herself from him. Two of those years he slept in the same bed with her. She never let him touch her sexually. He had every reason to find another woman. In the midst of his terrible pain, he endeavored to learn lessons of adaptability and faithfulness. He received a letter for Corrie ten Boom who had heard the torture he was experiencing. In it she told how he was covered by God’s wings. “When you are covered by God’s wings, it can get pretty dark.” Those words brought hope. Why? Because God was faithful. Not only that: because he never gave up, he was more than a conquerer through Christ who strengthened him.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking the last few weeks about my own life and ministry in our church. Last week I read a biography by Harold Lindsell on Dr. Harold Ockenga, minister for years of the Park Street Congregational Church in Boston and founder of Fuller Theological Seminary and president of Gordon-Conwell Divinity School. The biography was written in 1951 when Ockenga was approximately my age. Lindsell observed that if Ockenga continued to live he had another twenty years or so of ministry ahead of him. He noted that his path had been marked by incalculable difficulty and opposition along many fronts. He noted Ockenga was endeavoring to wear the armor described by the Apostle Paul. Then Lindsell noted that this armor makes no provision nor protection for one’s back. It protects only he who faces the enemy.
I don’t know where you are, but I do know that both you and I are called to a deepening commitment to Jesus Christ, to a greater understanding. We are engaged in warfare. Ours is a spiritual battle to death. We have the privilege of the church as a home-base, our Gilgal. We have the responsibility to complete the spiritual warfare in which we are engaged on God’s side. Someday we will stand before Christ the Victor who will look us in the eyes and say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter into thy eternal rest.”
This sermon preached by John A. Huffman, Jr., March 3, 1985. Copyright 1985, John A. Huffman, Jr.
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