Joshua 11 – Preached at Ebenezer church on 31 Jan 2010
If you can recall, from Sep to Nov last year, we had a series of sermons on Joshua from chapters 1 to 10. In Joshua 9, we saw a group of Gibeonites deceiving Israel into signing a treaty with them.
The Israelites were very frustrated over that incident.
They were so unhappy that it resulted in them murmuring against their leaders.
At that time, they had no visibility into what would happen in the future.
So they did not know how God meant that unhappy incident for their good.
To make things worse, in Joshua 10, the Gibeonites were attacked by a group of Canaanite armies.
And Israel was obligated to go and rescue the Gibeonites because of the treaty they have signed.
It was like a thief, after robbing you got injured when running away and now you have to bring him to the hospital and even pay for his medical bills.
The Israelites at that time did not realise that it was God’s way of wiping out the southern Canaanite kingdoms.
As Joshua led the Isralites to rescue the Gibeonites , God’s power and glory were manifested.
He fought for the Israelites with hailstones dropped from heaven.
He answered Joshua’s request to have the sun keep still so that he had enough daylight hrs to wipe out his enemies
And through these combined incidents from Joshua 9-10, we saw that God worked all things for the good of Israel.
If only the Israelites, when facing the situation in Joshua 9, had a little more faith that they will eventually be vindicated, they would have had a happier experience at that point in their life.
But the reality is that they had no visibility of what would happen in Joshua 10 at that point in their life.
And they let their emotions take away their peace and happiness.
If only they had held on in faith, believing Rom 8:28, they could have avoided the unpleasant incident of murmuring against their leaders.
Well, we have come to the end of Jan 2010.
How has it been for all of you this year thus far?
Are you disheartened by many things that are happening in your life right now?
I want to encourage all of us that we must never let incidents that happen in any one chapt of our life bring us down.
Whatever your life situation may be, the important thing to do is to obey what God has revealed in the scriptures.
It is easy for us to be discouraged by current concerns and incidents.
Pray that the Holy Spirit will help you be strong and not allow these concerns to take away your peace.
Pray for strength to persevere and look ahead to what God work all things for your good.
And always remember that even with every Joshua chapter 10 that comes to pass in your life, there is a Joshua 11.
Today, we want to turn our attention to Joshua 11 where we see Joshua continuing his conquest.
There are 3 things I want to point out in this chapter:
1. I want us to see the principle of 2 Cor 12:10 where Paul says “…when I am weak, then I am strong” manifested here.
2. I want us to see the interaction between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility reflected in this chapter
3. I want us to be able to distinguish between “the Israel of God” versus “modern day Israel”
1. The principle of 2 Cor 12:10 “…When I am weak, then I am strong”
Here in chapter 11, Joshua was threatened by yet another group of armies.
His previous battle was waged mainly in the region south of the Sea of Galilee.
Now the threat is coming from the north.
The bible used 5 full verses in chapter 11 to provide a description of Joshua’s enemies.
Verse 4 tells us that the combined enemy had as many soldiers as the “sand on the sea shore”.
In other words, there were too many of them to be counted.
And the enemy was not just greater in numbers.
They were superior in the technology they used in warfare.
They had horses and chariots.
Compare this to the Israelite army.
This generation of Israelites grew up in the wilderness playing with sand.
If you sum up all these factors, the odds against Joshua were just overwhelming.
But it is always in such situations of impossibility that the glory of God is manifested.
God said to Moses in Deut 20:1
“When you go out to battle against your enemies and see horses and chariots plus an arm larger than yours, you must not be afraid of them; for Yahweh your God is with you, the One who brought you up from the land of Egypt.”
God already knew that the Israelites would encounter such a situation.
So He pre-empted Israel through Moses in Deut 20:1.
And He already knew exactly what situations we will all be facing in our Christian lives.
So through multiple scripture passages, He pre-empts us that our dependence must be upon Him and not ourselves.
You need to read His word, the Bible, otherwise you won’t know what He is pre-empting you in your life.
Friends, when your confidence is in your ability to get something done, most likely you will fail.
Even if you succeed, you will not have the same fulfilling experience as the man whose reliance is upon the Lord.
To those who have lots of confidence in yourself, beware that the Lord may bring about incidents in our lives to keep us humble.
It is therefore better that we stay humble than to be humbled.
Psalms 20:7 “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.”
The Apostle Paul says in 2 Cor 12:10 “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Who are you relying on when you go through life here on earth?
Who do you rely on to bring you to heaven?
As the economy turns around and as you make plans for your future, are you relying on your own wisdom to do so?
Are you relying on your own abilities?
Have you consulted the Lord in your decisions and plans?
Are you carefully discerning the leading of the Lord?
Proverbs 3:5-8 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not upon your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he shall direct your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; gear the Lord and depart from evil. It shall be health to your navel and marrow to your bones.
Those involved in ministries in Church, as you plan for the Church, are you relying on your own wisdom or are you relying on the Lord?
Now, we also note in verse 4 that Joshua was instructed to hamstring the horses of the enemies after he had defeated them.
What is the purpose and significance of this?
Very simply, it will render useless the horses that belonged to the enemies.
You see, there will be a great temptation for Israel to keep the horses.
There will be a great temptation to add them to their arsenal for use in future battles.
But if that happens, there will be more dependence on Military hardware, equipment and technology.
And there will be less dependence upon God.
Hence, we see God instructing the Israelites to hamstring the horses of the enemies.
The point here is this: there may be some things in our lives that will hinder our total dependence upon God.
Paul says: “..when I am weak, then I am strong”.
“Most gladly therefore I will rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” – 2 Cor 12:9
It is when we are weak that we learn to depend upon God even more.
And then the glory of God will be manifested in our lives.
And we are drawn closer to God as a result of these.
If God is bringing you through a humbling experience in your life right now, then thank God for it.
Use it to draw near to Him and seek His peace.
Thank God for it because otherwise you may be treading upon your own understanding and you will miss His blessings going forward.
May we be encouraged that “..when we are weak, then we are strong”.
The 2nd thing that I want you to see in Joshua 11 is the interaction betwn God’s sovereignty and Man’s responsibility.
In verse 6, God tells Joshua: “Be not afraid because of them: for tomorrow about this time will I deliver them up all slain before Israel…”
In other words, God had already ordained that the victory will go to Israel.
This is God’s will revealed and it was communicated to Joshua.
When Joshua heard that, he could have done either of the following 2 things:
1) He could have said, “thank you Lord.”
“Now, let me just sit here and see those hailstones that I saw in Joshua 10 dropping from heaven once again.”
2) Or he could have said, “thank you Lord for the assurance”.
I will put in my best effort in this battle.
I will wipe out the enemies just like you have instructed and decreed.
Joshua’s theology is based on the latter approach.
He took God’s decrees as an assurance of His presence when He obeyed God.
And he went into the battle prudently, yet with much confidence.
Confidence not in himself, but in the promise that God has made to him.
He performed his duty as a leader of Israel’s army and did not take anything for granted.
For example, in warfare, the element of surprise is very important in creating shock to the enemy.
In verse 7, we read that “Joshua came, and all the people of war with him, against them by the waters of Merom SUDDENLY….”
Joshua sprang a SUDDEN and surprised attack on his enemies.
We are told that the enemy forces camped by the “waters of Merom”.
Biblical studies have shown that this place Merom is about 4,000 feet above sea level.
Now, this is not the kind of terrain you would use for chariot warfare.
Chariots need large and flat open spaces to operate in.
The enemy was probably just using Merom to assemble and plan their strategy.
They would probably want to fight Israel in the plains below Merom.
That is where their chariots would be most effective.
But Joshua launched an attack on them suddenly.
It took them by surprise before they were ready.
Yes, Joshua already knew that he would win the battle against his enemies.
He could have proudly said “choose where you want to fight me; I will win anyway.”
But he refused to be complacent.
He fought them at a time and place where they just could not use their chariots.
He exercised responsibility.
He prudently executed his mission trusting in the revealed promise of God.
Friends, I hope you can see from this incident the interaction of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility.
The sovereignty of God is the heart of the Christian reformed faith.
We worship a sovereign God who has decreed everything that will take place from eternity.
And nothing that He has decreed can happen in any other way.
But if you think that God’s sovereignty means “que sera sera, whatever will be will be…” as the song goes, then you have totally misunderstood the doctrine altogether.
Some people think that the reformed faith is one that is rigid and fatalistic; they are wrong.
The reformed faith is the doctrine that the Bible teaches.
The reformed faith is full of the energy of God’s sovereignty.
God’s sovereignty is the Christian’s hope and assurance that God will never forsake them.
God has revealed that “He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy” – Romans 9:15
And in verse 20 of Joshua 11, we are told “For it was of Jehovah to harden their hearts so that they should come against Israel in battle, so that they might be destroyed, so that they might have no favor, but that He might destroy them, as Jehovah commanded Moses.”
God has reserved for himself His people called the elect whom He will bring to heaven.
This is already done and accomplished by Jesus Christ.
It is not for you to know who the elect are.
It is for you to obey the instruction of the great commission.
Because God has said that those whom He calls will respond to the gospel.
And this provides us with the energy and the confidence that God’s elect will hear the gospel message.
Otherwise all our efforts in preaching and evangelism will be futile.
Our responsibility is to obey the revealed will of God – to teach and preach the gospel.
It is not for us to start asking questions about “who the elect is and who is not”.
The God of the Bible is a sovereign God.
The God of the Bible is a God whose decrees cannot be thwarted.
He is Sovereign and He does not change.
Today, you may wake up feeling like a Christian.
Tomorrow, you may wake up feeling down, discouraged and doubting.
But none of these will affect His election and sovereign will.
And it is because He is sovereign that we can have confidence that He will take us to heaven when we trust in Him.
And that is not dependent on your abilities.
It rests upon God’s decrees.
Dear Christians, remember this interaction between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility.
Your responsibility is to repent and believe in Jesus Christ for your sins to be forgiven.
It is not your prerogative to question God’s sovereignty.
It is your responsibility to obey and trust in the revealed will of God in the Bible.
Then you will find the energy and comfort of God’s sovereignty.
We come now to the 3rd and final point for today.
And that is the “Israel of God” versus “Modern day Israel”
I want to make this point today because of many things that have taken place in the middle-east recently.
Why is it impt for us to understand the difference between “Israel of the old testament” and “modern day Israel”?
There was once a US president who made this statement:
“If you forsake Israel – he was referring to the modern day nation of Israel, God will forsake you.”
He was obviously holding to a view that “Israel of the old testament” and “modern day Israel” are one and the same.
The implication is that no matter what modern day Israel does, we must be on their side.
This is obviously very dangerous.
And whenever Israel is discussed, all countries in the middle-east gets affected and vice-versa.
Now, I am not expressing any opinion regarding the US or the Iraq war that has taken place.
It is not correct for any preacher to use the pulpit to express any political opinion.
Instead, we should be praying for leaders in power, that they will exercise Godly discretion with the authority entrusted to them.
But the fact is that a lot of people are not clear with regard to how they should view the modern day nation of Israel.
In the book of Joshua, we see “old testament Israel” very successful in their military campaigns.
Interestingly, “Modern day Israel” has also been very successful in their military campaigns.
The “Israel of the old testament” was successful when God was with them.
Is modern day Israel successful also because God is with them?
Well, I want you to understand that “Modern day Israel” is no different from any other nation here on earth now.
The only differences and so called advantages that modern day Israel have are the following:
1) They understand the Hebrew language – which is the language of the old testament scriptures.
In this way, they can understand the original language of God’s word.
This is definitely an advantage over us who have to read the translated version of the bible.
2) They understand the Hebrew culture
In this way, they can easily understand the context, teachings and parables of the Lord because of their heritage.
3) They occupy a piece of land that is rich with biblical historical relics
And it is a piece of land that our Lord had trodden upon before.
But apart from these so-called advantages, modern day Israel is no different from any other nation today.
Modern day Israel must use these advantages that they have to draw near to God.
Modern day Israel must learn to understand that the scriptures that were written in their native language were part of a progressive revelation of God’s redemption plan for His people.
The Apostle Peter writes to the Christians in 1 Pet 2:9 and said “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
In the old testament, these titles “chosen people, royal priesthood, etc.” were only attributed to the nation of Israel.
But now, Peter is attributing them to all Christians.
That means that old testament Israel represented the Christian Church.
And this was all part of the progressive revelation of God presented in the form of types and symbols.
And the purpose of these types and symbols is so that we can easily understand the manner in which God saves.
Take the departure of Israel from Egypt for example.
We have already mentioned that old testament Israel represented the Christian Church.
Egypt represented a life of toil and labour in sin.
Just as Moses Israel out of Egypt (representing what Jesus would do for us), Jesus delivered us (who are part of the Christian Church) out of a life of toil and labour in sin.
So, Israel of the old testament is a representation of the Christian Church today.
God chose to reveal to us His salvation plan to us in this manner.
And just as Christians have to believe in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins, it is no different for any modern day Jew.
Paul says in Romans 9:6, “For they are not all Israel who are of Israel”.
But just as many modern day Jews have rejected Jesus, many people are also rejecting the gospel today.
The irony of it all is that the very existence of the modern day nation of Israel is testimony of the truth of the Bible.
Yet, many people are rejecting the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Are you one of them?
If you are one of those who have not professed faith today, I urged you not to delay any further.
We live in uncertain times and we won’t know when disaster may strike us.
There is definite urgency to believe in Jesus and be part of the kingdom of God.
Young people in our midst, listen to me.
You had the privilege of hearing the gospel and the bible taught to you.
This is like the advantage that many modern day Jews have.
But many of these Jews did not use that advantage for their own good.
What about you?
Never think that you have a great future ahead of you and therefore can decide on faith later on in life.
You may never come to faith and you may die a miserable person.
I have often asked you to pray for yourselves just as we keep praying for you.
Keep doing so and ask God to open your eyes and see your great need of Jesus.
May God save all of you and spare you in the day of judgement.
Let us close by singing hymn 293 “Guide me O Thou Great Jehovah”.