Sermons from Lone
Rock Bible Church
God Comes Through (Naturally!)
Not only were the Israelites living in an entirely new place, under brand new circumstances, with challenges they could never have predicted, they would be living with a God unlike any other! Heres what happens when God works through His people:
· Attack by kings (10:1-5)
· Rescue by Joshua (10:6-10)
· Overthrow by God (10:11-15)
Next to The Cat In the Hat, my favorite Dr. Seuss story has to be Horton Hatches the Egg. In my minds eye I can still see that huge elephant perched out on the end of that skinny tree and I still havent figured out how that tree held him up. Remember how that story goes? This irresponsible bird-lady creature convinced Horton that she would only be gone for a little while, and if he wouldnt mind sitting on her egg, she would really appreciate it.
Of course, Horton ended up sitting on that egg for a long, long time through all manner of weather conditions, and through all kinds of creatures stopping by asking Horton all kinds of questions. What are you doing? and Why are you doing it? and Why dont you just leave and turn that project back over to its rightful owner? And what did Horton say? I meant what I said and I said what I meant. An elephants faithful -- one hundred percent.
If you really study this closely, he said it not only to those who came by, but he said it to himself, reminding himself, that faithfulness was the virtue he was fleshing out.
In an attempt to theologize that, I think about God and all that the Bible tells us about the God of Heaven. Think of this: our God is unspeakably holy; absolutely, utterly in a class apart; an infinite number of classes apart. He is holy. Our God is all-powerful. He creates all things by the Word of His mouth. He holds all things in place, keeps everything moving, He knows everything. Not only does our God know everything that was, or that is, or that ever will be, our God is also fully aware of the possibilities of all of the above.
He knows everything, He is everywhere, He is righteous beyond our ability to understand righteousness. Imagine our God being so great and so wonderful and so loving and so capable -- all of that -- and faithful too. What if He were not? What if He, being the God of Majesty, the God of all knowledge and all power, chose not to come through? Guess where wed be. Toast!
What would we do if He were not faithful? And yet He is. These 15 verses in Joshua 10 demonstrate for us Gods faithfulness. Its a story of the first, and arguably the primary, military campaign that the children of Israel had to wage as they entered the Promised Land. They warred first in a southerly direction, and then in a northerly direction, until the land was subdued. The Bible does not give us every detail about every campaign, but we do understand that the children of Israel fought a number of battles throughout this entire crusade. There were pockets of resistance the tribes individually had to deal with.
Nevertheless, Joshua 10 stands alone as the premier campaign, the premier battle, in which God fought. Were going to explore that just a bit, and in exploring it, what I get out of this and what I want us to see is that the God of all ability keeps His promises. He can be counted on!
Attack by kings (10:1-5)
Well talk first of all about the attack by these kings. Remember, Joshua and the children of Israel have crossed the Jordan River, theyre in the promised land, theyve overwhelmed Jericho, theyve marched west, theyve overwhelmed Ai, theyve gone to Mount Nebo and Gerizim and are perched now in the most strategically significant spot they could be. Theyre in the central highlands. They can go either direction down the ridge route that runs the spine of the land. The last time we were in Joshua, remember that the Gibeonites had fooled Joshua and his people and let on as though they were from a distant country so Joshua had entered into a covenant with them in the name of the Lord. He had committed Gods people to the Gibeonites. They had made a covenant.
These five local cities, considerable cities, with their armies, have come together to fight against Gibeon because Gibeon had withdrawn and had identified itself with the children of Israel. Adoni-zedek thought, We have to nip this in the bud. If we dont stand up now, were going down, just like Jericho, just like Ai. So he rallied the neighboring forces. His rationale is easy for us to follow. After all, his city is a mere six miles from Gibeon. The Bible reminds us that Israel is a mighty force. They had overwhelmed the stronghold of Jericho by the hand of the Lord and the local people feared greatly.
Gibeon was no slouch either. The text says that all of their men were valiant warriors. There was a little bit of bitterness as well. The Gibeonites and three other smaller communities had left the local culture and identified with these foreigners, so there was some anger toward Gibeon and the other Hivites who had defected. The king understood that in an alliance there is strength. He knew that he as the king only of Jerusalem wouldnt be able to handle them, but if five of them got together, there would be better odds. Lets join up and go after them. Lets beat this thing before it beats us.
Do you see them in a mode of desperation? They are, and so theyve allied, marched on Gibeon, laid it under siege, and the Gibeonites now are going to ask for help on the basis of promise. I find it very interesting that in all of the campaign -- and this campaign would cover several years time before its all done -- the only ones to capitulate, to surrender, to go over to the side of the Israelites, were the Gibeonites. The only ones who choose to leave their culture, their religion, and all that they had known, and their forefathers had known, were the Gibeonites. So they appeal to Joshua to come save them or they perish. And they knew they would.
We can expect to come under attack when we take a stand like that. Do you see whats going on here in principle? As Rahab had done in Jericho, so the Gibeonites did. They assessed the situation, they took a look at themselves, they took a look at their religion, at what life as they had known it had to offer them. They noticed what God was doing through His people, in this case the Israelites. They weighed it out and they said, Were on the wrong side. Were in the wrong place. We have to join up with the winning team.
And they did. They took a stand that placed them in peril. Any time someone will take a stand for the Lord theres definitely some vulnerability that goes with it. Martin Luther long ago identified three enemies of the believer. I think nothing has changed. The enemies Luther identified were the world, the flesh, and the devil.
The world -- those around me, my peers, perhaps family, friends, all the way out to society in general. What does the world think of the one who steps aside to align himself or herself in a meaningful way with the living God? They might call names, they might suspect, they might shun, they might ignore, they might persecute, but they will never, ever be friends.
In Isaac Watts hymn, Am I A Soldier of the Cross, one stanza particularly grabs me when he addresses the nations of the world and says,
there no foes for me to face?
Hes asking a rhetorical question. The answer, of course, is No!
The flesh, that pre-converted self, is
called the old man by Paul. The flesh doesnt die when we become a
Christian; its simply dealt a mortal blow. Theres some life left there if
indeed the flesh is fed. Paul, in Romans, says, Dont feed it. The flesh
urges us with whatever stimulus will make it feel better about itself and will distract it
from what Gods agenda may be. The flesh not only urges us to feed it but the flesh
is very good at rationalizing behavior that isnt pleasing to God. The flesh is alive
and the flesh, in this case, is not our friend.
Luther, thirdly, identified the devil. Regardless of what the Gallup polls say about how many people in our culture today believe there is a devil, it doesnt really matter. The fact that more and more people all the time are coming to believe, that there is no devil, simply indicates that hes more active than ever he was! The Bible says, The devil prowls about like a roaring lion. (1 Peter 5:8) The devil has tens of thousands of spirit forces, perhaps millions, we dont know.
We cannot know exactly where the devil or his agents are, or what they are up to, but this we do know, that his ploy tends not to be in jumping into our bodies or our brains. If were Christians, that territory is already owned by the One Who bought it with His Own blood. But the devil is pretty good at arranging circumstances, at laying out temptations and traps with the view in mind that we will fail, that we will bring discredit to our testimony, and disrepute to the Name of our God. Thats what he does. The devil knows how to play on the flesh and hes an excellent historian. Hes been around a long time. He knows what works and he uses it.
Gods people always have these enemies, and as we consider the challenge faced by the Gibeonites as theyre not necessarily directly dealing with the world, the flesh and the devil, they are militarily and they are politically and its a very real situation. What did they do? Well, they did what we ought to do. They asked for help.
Rescue by Joshua (10:6-10)
Lets look at the next five verses and the rescue that Joshua undergoes.
Interesting whats going here, from several angles. The first is this one: Frequently--we might say often; we might say most of the time--God uses His people to back up His promises. He did it here. We are encouraged to do as the Gibeonites did: ask for help.
Why is it that so frequently when Christian people get in a bind, we are slow to ask for help? Do we think, I can handle it? Or do we think we are more spiritual and say, Ill just let God handle it, while all the while, were circling the drain, perhaps at a faster and faster clip. God expects His people to be involved in His promises.
Its interesting how when the plea went out from the Gibeonites and they asked for help, Joshua knew that he had sworn an oath in the Name of the Lord that they would always protect these people. The cry came and Joshua mustered his forces; they got their stuff together in a hurry, they marched all night, probably 15 miles--a long, all-night march at considerable inconvenience and trouble. As they were moving, as they were underway, having already resolved to do or to be whatever they had to in order to salvage the situation, God spoke, Do not fear them, for I have given them into your hands.
Im the last one to say where God in His sovereign, direct power, will kick in and just deal with the situation, or when Gods people have to stand up and get involved. I dont always know, but I do know what God expects from you and me when the cry for help goes out.
We frequently balk at that point, if were in distress; weve all been there at times. We perhaps dont know when to ask for help. Sometimes we think we probably should but pride gets in the way. I can handle this, or I dont want anyone to know, or Im embarrassed. All that is pride, and that pride can delay, perhaps even thwart, Gods promised rescue.
Think about Pilgrims Progress, fairly early on in the account, how it is that Christian is going through the slew of despond, slips and falls in, and what does he cry out for? Help! Who shows up in the allegory? Whats his name? Help shows up. Christian, the pilgrim, knew to cry out.
God backs up His promises. He does that two ways and sometimes, as I mentioned, Im not always sure where one ends and the other picks up. God backs up His promises by human means sometimes, and sometimes by direct, divine action.
Look what Joshua does. The cry comes and Joshua is in camp, way down below sea level at Gilgal, and these folks are nearly three thousand feet above sea level at Gibeon. The cry comes and these people appeal to Joshua on the basis of the covenant that they had. We do not see Joshua saying, Oh, I wonder how God is going to take care of this? or, Well, brothers, well pray for you; we sure hope you escape the hand of those five kings. Lets all pray together.
He doesnt do that. He understands the covenant; he understands the character of God; he understands that the will of God is that the covenant be honored. He gets up, straps on his armor, musters his troops, and says, Lets go. We have a hill to climb. And they climb. He did not presume on the covenant, and the Bible is very clear that we shouldnt either.
To get convicted, lets go to James 2:14.
Ill pray for you. Im not sure what else we can do. Sometimes, by the way, that is all you can do, but when the means are at hand, you step in and be the Body of Christ. God expects as much. There are occasions in the Book of Galatians where the Apostle touches down on really key principles. One of them is in Galations 5:13, 14.
He says, when it comes to Christian freedom, that what your freedom really amounts to is an opportunity to love one another. Through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word. What is your obligation as part of the covenant family of God? You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Thats what the Christian life in a social sense is reduced to. Paul hits that principal well in Galatians chapter 6, verse 2. He says, Bear one anothers burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ, that says, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Thats what its all about.
God normally meets the needs of His people through His people. For example, somebody might be lonely. Somebody might be sad, or ill, or broke, or discouraged for some reason, or trapped in some sort of bondage of the flesh, or ignorant, or even lost. All of these are opportunities for Gods people to step in.
Joshua didnt sit down there at Gilgal and say, Well, I hope it all turns out ok, or Heres a phone number you can call, although at times thats all we can do. Joshua got up and moved. The Bible teaches that all Christians are in the ministry. Where there are needs, God expects His people to rise to meet them as they become known, and to minister to people in the strength and with the provision that God provides.
Paul says at the end of his letter to
the Galatians these words, in chapter 6:10, While
we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, but he adds, and
especially to those who are of the household of faith. To those with whom you
are in the same family; those with whom you share common ground in the Name of Jesus; especially
them, he says. Its the nature of the church.
Maybe sometimes we dont remember what the nature of the church is and every time it crosses my mind, I go back to Acts chapter 9, where the rogue Saul (before he was the Apostle Paul), is chasing down the church and locking them up and putting them in jail. Hes on his way to Damascus; Jesus gets his attention from heaven in a pretty profound way, and says, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? Thats My representative body youre working against and Im taking it personally, God says.
If we are, as the Bible tells us, in the Body of Christ, then we are His and we are inhabited, and animated, and empowered by His Spirit, and we move out in accordance with His Word because we are His blood-bought saints. How else will the living Savior meet the needs of people who are in duress except through His Body? How else? The government? Just good-feeling folks? Not likely.
When God works through His people, Hes not only working through His people, Hes empowering, Hes reminding, Hes convicting, Hes motivating His people. How? By His own Spirit to provide His resources. Its not your time; its His time, because youre His. Thats how it all works. Its how God deals with people in this world. We will in all likelihood wait a long time for an angel to show up and do it for us. He lays it before us. Look what happens in this fascinating episode long ago in ancient Palestine.
Overthrow by God (10:11-15)
It says in Joshua 10:10, that a great slaughter is going to happen. These five kings and their alliance are in trouble. Verse 11:
By the way, the book of Jashar is also referred to in I Samuel. Its simply a collection of poems of victory in the Hebrew culture. They recorded it here and elsewhere. Its sort of like what Paul does a couple times in the New Testament; hell refer to secular poetry to help make his point. Thats all theyre doing here.
A blue ribbon miracle that God did on that particular day. Sometimes, you see, God directly intervenes; sometimes He just steps in and makes things happen. We can just envision that in our minds eye -- hoards of soldiers, many fleeing, many pursuing. Those who are fleeing, running headlong into a hailstorm the likes of which theyve never seen and theyre dropping all around. Gods people are in pursuit.
God has a will, a design, an agenda, a program, and God, the God Almighty, will see it through. Theres a reason that when Jesus taught His disciples to pray, the core of that prayer regarding our relationship with the Lord is, Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. That is not just an overworked platitude of prayer that weve heard too many times. Thats what God is doing! Its what Hes been doing, what Hes continuing to do. May your will be done. May your kingdom come. Gods kingdom means Gods people in Gods place under Gods rule. Whats going on here? God is getting His people into His place under His rule. His kingdom is coming. God is going to make it happen. Hes seeing to it.
Now clearly the forces of Israel are mustered, and theyre running, theyre sweating, theyre breathing hard and they have their swords out. Whos giving them the ability to do that? The same One Whos sending the hailstones. God is working through; God is making this happen, whether Hes motivating the hearts and animating the limbs or sending the hail. God is making it happen because He is building His kingdom.
From the standpoint of history, God
particularly wanted this victory in this place at this time for several reasons. The first
one is this -- to keep His covenant promise to Gibeon. The Gibeonites were sworn on oath
in the Name of the Lord that they would be under the protective umbrella of Israel. God
keeps His promises. Gibeon cries for help. Thats family now; theyre in the
body now. Joshua had to go, and away they
When an oath is sworn in the Name of the Lord, thats weighty stuff. When David and Charmaine had their wedding a couple weeks back and they pledged their trust to one another, they did it not in their names, but in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. When we swear an oath or we sign a contract, we have to invoke a name of a power greater than our own to hold us accountable to what were doing. Thats what Joshua did. Joshua didnt say, OK, well swear an oath in the name of Joshua and the sons of Israel. No, we swear an oath in the name of one greater; this would be God of heaven. God is honoring that oath and He is intending to keep his covenant promise to Gibeon.
The second reason is, lets not forget that the cup of the Amorites in their iniquity is now full, and from where they are, the point of the Israelites being in the land is to be Gods instrument of judgment upon them. Their time is up and now the military hoards of Israel are Gods sword and theyre going to take them down in the sense of national judgment.
The third reason is that God intended to get His armies into the southern part of Canaan and this is a good way to do it. How are they getting there? Theyre chasing those people who are headed south. Theyll have more battles once they get down in there, but now the wedge is driven in the land. Theyve gone in and now theyre moving south and that was Gods design as far as military strategy is concerned.
Fourth, the Israelites are learning a tremendous lesson in faith. Theyre watching those hailstones. Can you imagine hailstones that would take out an army? The children of Israel are watching this and theyre saying to themselves, as they have a moment to catch their breath and gather their thoughts, Im sure glad Hes on my side! Or rather, Im on His! Im sure glad Im on the right side, judging by those hailstones!
So God is building faith in the Israelites and at the same time Hes demonstrating to all those Amorites that this is Who theyre up against. This is sort of an evangelistic issue with God, in a rough sort of way. This is Who I am. Youd best be afraid. Theres a reason the people of Jericho were afraid. Youd best be afraid too, because here I come!
Psalm 2 says, Kiss the Son. Bow to the Son while you still can. Do homage to the Son lest He become angry and you perish in the way. God had His earthly reasons for doing what He did. The miracles are there. God smites them with confusion. God sends the hailstones. God suspends the laws of nature for a time. How did He do that? We dont know. If He created it and sustains it, He can certainly suspend it for a day. And He did.
This had to have been a morning battle because it said they could still see the moon in the sky. Thats only available in the morning. The battle was pitched all day long and on into the night and on into the next day.
God stepped in. Lets pause for just a second and think about what only God can do in our lives. Only God can do what He did here. In our lives we have friends, family, people we know and trust who can help us make decisions, big decisions. Im thinking in terms of career, education, relationships, and its good for us to get wisdom, to ask. People around us can help with that, but only God can open and close the doors along lifes journey.
Both happen and God is over both. We can be sad, discouraged, down. Our friends, people can offer us words of comfort, can come into our lives, can come alongside us and be a source of comfort, but only God can put peace in our hearts. Where one leaves off, the other picks up and Im not sure always where that blend is.
Only God can deal with the heart. We can do external things, but God does heart changes. Some things only God can do. He promises that He will do them. He stands behind His promises. He proves His loyalty and His love by giving us the greatest gift He could and that was His Son.
He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? (Rom.8:32)
He is worthy to be trusted. God will help His people; He will honor His covenant through other people perhaps, directly perhaps, but He promises to do it in this life and on into the next
© Jim Carlson 2004, Lone Rock Bible Church, Stevensville Montana, USA