They came out with all their troops and a large number of horses and chariots–a huge army, as numerous as the sand on the seashore. All these kings joined forces and made camp together at the Waters of Merom, to fight against Israel. The LORD said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them, because by this time tomorrow I will hand all of them over to Israel, slain. You are to hamstring their horses and burn their chariots” (Joshua 11: 4-6, NIV).
Once they crossed over the Jordan, the occupation of Canaan required Israel to maintain battle positions. After Passover and circumcision, God appeared to Joshua with unique battle instructions and an emphatic outcome. Once Jericho fell, all the peoples in the vicinity freaked, for this nation warred with God on their side.
You will notice throughout Joshua, that this man warred by the direction and instruction of the Lord. He understood that cooperation with God ensured victory. It’s like the question, “if you knew you could not fail, what would you risk” was asked daily, as men risked their lives against immense odds and won repeatedly with the exception of Ai’s first skirmish which only failed due to Achan’s sin.
Joshua developed his battle strategies in close partnership with the Lord. From walking around Jericho and shouting on the seventh time and the seventh day, to requesting the sun and moon remain still until five nations and their kings were destroyed in a single day, to strategic ambushes on the ancient cities of Ai and Gibeah, Joshua’s warfare combined heavenly arsenary with earthly combat. In fact, when the five great kings assembled against Israel, it says more men died from the hailstones thrown down from heaven than from the sword! Talk about back up! This winning combination of Joshua’s faith and obedience and Heaven’s power established Israel as an undefeated presence in the ancient Middle East throughout his lifetime.
At that time Joshua went and destroyed the Anakites from the hill country: from Hebron, Debir and Anab, from all the hill country of Judah, and from all the hill country of Israel. Joshua totally destroyed them and their towns. No Anakites were left in Israelite territory; only in Gaza, Gath and Ashdod did any survive. 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.
No enemy was too big, too numerous, too fortified to stand up against the power of God and Joshua knew it. By the end of the Israelite takeover, thirty-one kingdoms had fallen. Carefully, Joshua modelled intimacy with God and obedience as his key to success, hopeful that the tribes would continue to invade and take back their Promise Land with expectancy and fear of the Lord.
In his farewell speech, Joshua, the warrior leader who had conquered thirty-one kings, and gave it as an inheritance to Israel at God’s command, simply urged his people to love God and obey Him:
But you are to hold fast to the LORD your God, as you have until now. “The LORD has driven out before you great and powerful nations; to this day no one has been able to withstand you. One of you routs a thousand, because the LORD your God fights for you, just as he promised. So be very careful to love the LORD your God (23:8-11).
Knowing this was his last speech, Joshua gave firm counsel to Israel: Choose God! It is surprising that a man with such an incredible success record ignored battle strategies, bypassed leadership skills and drilled down instead on the issues of the heart, begging Israel to just love God Almighty. Joshua urged Israel to consider their covenant with God, as a marriage, noting that just as a marriage thrives when both partners guard their hearts and love intentionally, so the privilege and prosperity of Israel would abound when they committed in word and deed to the God who has covenanted with them. Like a five point sermon, Joshua summed up his life before God with the following key points:
- Be very courageous to keep and do all that God has written in the Book of the Law of Moses
- Do not speak about, vow to or serve the gods of the pagan nations
- Hold fast to God and cleave in dependence upon Him
- Guard your heart and stay in love with Almighty God
- Don’t go back to the pagans to your ruin; instead go forward with God to your destiny.
These principles remain the same today. Regardless of success or failure in our daily life battles, God passionately desires our heart and wars on our behalf. Just as God described Himself as a jealous God in the Mosaic covenant, so God engages our hearts today, fiercely contending against anything that would keep us from fellowship and victory in the battle. Like the Israelites, we must choose God. Joshua, knowing his people, placed intimacy and obedience as non-negotiables in this awesome relationship we have with Almighty God and from that place, all things are greatly possible.
Let’s Pray: Lord Jesus, You died that we may live as children of God. We are not deserted in the desert but embraced by Father and set apart as priests and kings unto Almighty God. May we obey and love you God, with all our heart and soul and mind and body this day. Holy Spirit, lead us with your counsel and strategies to advance the Kingdom of God this day. May Your Kingdom come and Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven, Father. For Your Glory, we pray. Amen.
- Where have you seen victories in your life? Can you see God’s hand there? What did you do that set the events in motion? Was obedience to God a factor?
- Where have you seen defeat? Did your sin or someone else’s sin affect the outcome? Were you angry? At yourself, others, God or all of the above? How did it affect your heart?
- Why was Joshua so effective in his war campaigns? What can we learn about God’s posture to protect His kids from these battle stories?
- How do you build intimacy with God? Do you see a connection between obedience and relationship with Him? What do you do when you have disobeyed? Do you recognize God’s forgiveness or do you labour in self-defeat and guilt when you blow it?
- If you were to write a farewell speech, what would be the touchstones for your life? Where does God fit in your last hurrah?
Next Week’s Reading: Joshua 22 to Judges 7