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Sunday, March 08, 2009

Matt's Messages "Surely the LORD Was Fighting For Israel!"

“Surely the LORD Was Fighting for Israel!”

Possessing the Promises: The Book of Joshua
March 8, 2009
Joshua 10:1-12:24

We’ve reached the middle section of the book of Joshua–the part that gives the story (in briefer fashion) of most of the battles of the conquering of Canaan.

It’s a section of victory–the victory that God has promised all along in this book.

The subtitle for our series of sermons on Joshua is: “Possessing the Promises”–that is, taking God’s promises at His Word and seeing them become a reality.

In this case, the promise that God was going to give them this land.

However, the people currently in the land would not give up the land without a fight.

The battle is about to be joined. The real fighting will begin in earnest.

However, this fighting won’t be like any other fighting because of a certain warrior that enters into the fray.

A warrior unlike any other. The LORD is His name.

The key verse to understand chapters 10 through 12 is chapter 10, verse 14. And it ends like this: “Surely the Lord Was Fighting for Israel!”

We’re going to see this truth again and again and again. And today, we want to see, think deeply about it, and apply it directly to our lives.

Do you remember last week at the beginning of chapter 9 that several kings had heard about Joshua and the Israelites and were banding together to attack them?

There is more like that here in chapter 10. In fact, there are 5 major kings who join an alliance against Israel. And they are all from the South. Chapter 10, verse 1.

“Now Adoni-Zedek king of Jerusalem heard that Joshua had taken Ai and totally destroyed it, doing to Ai and its king as he had done to Jericho and its king, and that the people of Gibeon had made a treaty of peace with Israel and were living near them. [That’s what happened last week in chapter 9.] He [King Adoni-Zedek] and his people were very much alarmed at this, because Gibeon was an important city, like one of the royal cities; it was larger than Ai, and all its men were good fighters. [They’re nervous. Israel seems too strong now that Gibeon is on board. But maybe Gibeon is their weakness now...] So Adoni-Zedek king of Jerusalem appealed to Hoham king of Hebron, Piram king of Jarmuth, Japhia king of Lachish and Debir king of Eglon. ‘Come up and help me attack Gibeon,’ he said, ‘because it has made peace with Joshua and the Israelites.’ Then the five kings of the Amorites–the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish and Eglon–joined forces. They moved up with all their troops and took up positions against Gibeon and attacked it.”

Is this going to be a big battle?

This is the biggest battle so far in the book!

So far, they’ve just taken on one city or people-group at a time.

Now it’s five against one, or two, if you count Gibeon.

Gibeon is attacked, and they are afraid that their peace treaty won’t hold. V.6

“The Gibeonites then sent word to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal: ‘Do not abandon your servants. Come up to us quickly and save us! Help us, because all the Amorite kings from the hill country have joined forces against us.’ [What do you think Joshua will do? Here’s his chance to get rid of Gibeon who tricked him last week. No. V.7] So Joshua marched up from Gilgal with his entire army, including all the best fighting men.”

Israel versus Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, Eglon.

What do you think are their chances of winning?

100%.

V.8 “The LORD said to Joshua, ‘Do not be afraid of them; I have given them into your hand. Not one of them will be able to withstand you.’”

The LORD is involved. And that makes the victory certain.

It doesn’t mean that Joshua doesn’t have to fight. In fact, believing God’s promise, they march all night to bring a surprise attack. V.9

“After an all-night march from Gilgal, Joshua took them by surprise. [And the LORD was there, too!] The LORD threw them into confusion before Israel, who defeated them in a great victory at Gibeon. Israel pursued them along the road going up to Beth Horon and cut them down all the way to Azekah and Makkedah. As they fled before Israel on the road down from Beth Horon to Azekah, the LORD hurled large hailstones down on them from the sky, and more of them died from the hailstones than were killed by the swords of the Israelites.”

Wow! This bigger, greater sized army is defeated in a great victory and as they ran away, the LORD begins His assault on them–with killer hailstones coming down from the sky–targeting Canaanites and (apparently) missing Israelites–so that more were killed by the hailstones than by the swords of the Israelites.

But, more than that happened this day. God also did another major miracle. V.12

“On the day the LORD gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the LORD in the presence of Israel: ‘O sun, stand still over Gibeon, O moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.’ So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar. The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day [!]. There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the LORD listened to a man. Surely the LORD was fighting for Israel!”

Wow! Now, that almost seems like an understatement!

Joshua prays.

And his prayer takes almost the form of a command to the sun and the moon.

He’s praying, but he’s somehow directly his prayer towards the sun and the moon.

(Or perhaps, He’s praying and God is talking to the sun and the moon–the Hebrew could be understood to mean that.)

Regardless, Joshua is praying. And God answers.

He stops the in the middle of the sky and the moon in the middle of the sky.

I think we’re supposed to get the picture that the sun is in the East and the moon is hung in the West and neither goes anywhere for about a full day.

So that the Israel can keep fighting and fighting and fighting and their enemies not get away.

How did He do that?

I don’t know!

Did he stop the rotation of the Earth? Did He do a miracle with the light? Did He do a miracle with their perceptions of the day?

I don’t know. I do know that He is an all-powerful miracle-working God and if He says that He stopped the Sun and the Moon–that’s what happened.

Verse 14 says there has never been a day like it before or since...

But! Catch what he emphasizes! Not “there has never been a day like it when the sun stood still and the moon stopped.” No.

“There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the LORD listened to a man. Surely the LORD was fighting for Israel!”

See what the Bible emphasizes?

It emphasizes that the LORD was fighting for Israel.

And, here, His fighting came in the form of answered prayer.

Sit up and take notice, the author says, the LORD listened to a man.

King James: “The LORD hearkened unto the voice of a man.”

It’s almost like God “obeyed” here or “submitted” here.

Of course, He was under no obligation to do so. Not to Joshua. God is God and we are not.

But He did do what Joshua had asked–and that was ONE BIG ASK!

The LORD listened to a man.

You know what the application of that is, don’t you?!

#1. PRAY.

The LORD is fighting for YOU. So, pray.

You know that He is fighting for you, don’t you?

You are I are in a battle. The battle of our lives.

We have enemies: the World, the Flesh and the Devil.

And those are three bigger enemies than Joshua faced that day!

But we are not along in our battle.

Surely, the LORD is fighting for us.

And, in that battle, He calls us to pray.

In Ephesians chapter 6, the Apostle Paul tells us to put on the full armor of God so that we can take our stand against the devil’s schemes.

The Helmet of Salvation
The Breastplate of Righteousness
The Belt of Truth
The Shoes of Peace
The Shield of Faith
The Sword of the Spirit

And then what? Ephesians 6:18

Pray.

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”

Before, we’ve called it, “The Walkie-Talkie of Prayer.

It’s our greatest weapon in the battle of life.

Surely, the LORD is fighting for you, so pray.

Are you praying?

Do you have a time to pray every day? Do you an appointment with God? And are you keeping it?

Are you praying about your life’s battle?

Don’t limit your prayer life to praying for other people.

Pray for other people! But don’t stop there.

Pray for your own soul. Pray for your battle against the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Pray for your heart–pray for doing the right things–for living in righteous.

Confess your sins.
Adore God in worship.
Thank Him for what He’s done.

And ask Him to do big things for you and in you and through you.

Pray!

Because, believe it or, God listens to your voice.

God!

God listens to your voice. Pray.

Surely, the LORD was fighting for Israel! V.15

“Then Joshua returned with all Israel to the camp at Gilgal. Now the five kings (remember them from verses 1-5?) had fled and hidden in the cave at Makkedah. When Joshua was told that the five kings had been found hiding in the cave at Makkedah, he said, ‘Roll large rocks up to the mouth of the cave, and post some men there to guard it. [We’ll get back to them. ] But don't stop! Pursue your enemies, attack them from the rear and don't let them reach their cities, for the LORD your God has given them into your hand.’ So Joshua and the Israelites destroyed them completely–almost to a man–but the few who were left reached their fortified cities. The whole army then returned safely to Joshua in the camp at Makkedah, and no one uttered a word against the Israelites.”

They had won. No questions asked.

Now, it’s time to deal with the 5 Southern Kings. V.22

“Joshua said, ‘Open the mouth of the cave and bring those five kings out to me.’ So they brought the five kings out of the cave–the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish and Eglon. When they had brought these kings to Joshua, he summoned all the men of Israel and said to the army commanders who had come with him, ‘Come here and put your feet on the necks of these kings.’ [These wicked enemies of the LORD. These God-haters who attacked us. These evil men who wanted to destroy us. See what has happened to them.] So they came forward and placed their feet on their necks.”

What do you think Joshua is going to say now?

“We’re so great!

We are the champions!

Israel, Israel, Israel!”

No, in this moment of absolute victory–Joshua gives the glory to God and reminds the people that God will continue to fight for them. V.25

“Joshua said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Be strong and courageous. This is what the LORD will do to all the enemies you are going to fight.’”

That’s our second application right there:

#2. BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS.

Stand firm.
Be brave.
Be gutsy.
Be dauntless.
Don’t be terrified.
Don’t be discouraged.

Just like what the LORD said to Joshua in chapter 1.

Now, Joshua is saying it to the people.

Be strong and courageous.

Why?

Because the LORD is fighting for you!

“This is what the LORD will do to all the enemies you are going to fight.”

Lanse Free Church, be strong and courageous!

I don’t know what all of you are facing.

But each of us has a daunting task (or set of tasks) ahead of us.

We are all on a mission in the midst of a battle.

And it’s tempting to just throw in the towel and walk away.

But that’s not for us. That’s not for Christ-followers.

We are called to believe and obey and fight in faith!

And be strong and courageous.

When we were in chapter 1 together, many of you told me that “be strong and courageous” was the very thing that you needed to hear.

I’ll bet it is again today. And it’s what God is saying to us right here, right now.

And He backs this up with this promise–He will fight for us.

‘This is what the LORD will do to all the enemies you are going to fight.”

The world? He’s overcome it. He’s going to bring a new world.
The flesh? He’s defeated it at the Cross.And He’ll give you the power to defeat sin your life.
The devil? He is condemned, and one day will end up in the lake of fire forever.

Death? The last enemy is death. And He has defeated it, too, at the Empty Tomb. And it will go with the Devil into the lake of fire and death will die itself.

1 Corinthians 15 says, “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he "has put everything under his feet."... When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.”

What do we have to fear? What?!

“Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Be strong and courageous!”

And that’s exactly what Israel did. V.26

“Then Joshua struck and killed the kings and hung them on five trees, and they were left hanging on the trees until evening. At sunset Joshua gave the order and they took them down from the trees and threw them into the cave where they had been hiding. At the mouth of the cave they placed large rocks, which are there to this day.”

Their hiding place became their tomb.

And then, in faith, Joshua started to systematically conquer the South part of the Promised Land. V.28

“That day Joshua took Makkedah. He put the city and its king to the sword and totally destroyed everyone in it. He left no survivors. And he did to the king of Makkedah as he had done to the king of Jericho. Then Joshua and all Israel with him moved on from Makkedah to Libnah and attacked it. The LORD also gave that city and its king into Israel's hand. The city and everyone in it Joshua put to the sword. He left no survivors there. And he did to its king as he had done to the king of Jericho. Then Joshua and all Israel with him moved on from Libnah to Lachish; he took up positions against it and attacked it. The LORD handed Lachish over to Israel, and Joshua took it on the second day. The city and everyone in it he put to the sword, just as he had done to Libnah. Meanwhile, Horam king of Gezer had come up to help Lachish, but Joshua defeated him and his army–until no survivors were left. Then Joshua and all Israel with him moved on from Lachish to Eglon; they took up positions against it and attacked it. They captured it that same day and put it to the sword and totally destroyed everyone in it, just as they had done to Lachish. Then Joshua and all Israel with him went up from Eglon to Hebron and attacked it. They took the city and put it to the sword, together with its king, its villages and everyone in it. They left no survivors. Just as at Eglon, they totally destroyed it and everyone in it. Then Joshua and all Israel with him turned around and attacked Debir. They took the city, its king and its villages, and put them to the sword. Everyone in it they totally destroyed. They left no survivors. They did to Debir and its king as they had done to Libnah and its king and to Hebron.”

One after another. Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom.

The South is conquered? Why? Surely the LORD was fighting for Israel. V.40

“So Joshua subdued the whole region, including the hill country, the Negev, the western foothills and the mountain slopes, together with all their kings. He left no survivors. He totally destroyed all who breathed, just as the LORD, the God of Israel, had commanded. Joshua subdued them from Kadesh Barnea to Gaza and from the whole region of Goshen to Gibeon. All these kings and their lands Joshua conquered in one campaign, because the LORD, the God of Israel, fought for Israel. Then Joshua returned with all Israel to the camp at Gilgal.”

Do you get the picture?

Now, the fuller picture is that some Canaanites still lived in the South.

There will be (and should be) mopping up to do in the South.

But the entire opposition of South Canaan has been wiped out, the Land is subdued and now belongs to Israel! Why? V.42 “Because the LORD, the God of Israel, fought for Israel.”

Be Strong and Courageous.

You know why we need that reminder? Because life can get hard and tougher.

Some of you are facing harder things now than you were back in January.

Be Strong and Courageous.

The same God who fought for Israel is fighting for you.

It got harder for Joshua.

You might think after chapter 10, that the kings in the North might have got a clue and took off beyond the borders of the Promised Land.

But, the LORD had hardened their hearts–it was time for them to be destroyed.

And they, in their wickedness banded together and even greater alliance in the North-an even greater army in the North to attack Israel. Look at chapter 11, verse 1.

“When Jabin king of Hazor heard of this, he sent word to Jobab king of Madon, to the kings of Shimron and Acshaph, and to the northern kings who were in the mountains, in the Arabah south of Kinnereth, in the western foothills and in Naphoth Dor on the west; to the Canaanites in the east and west; to the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites and Jebusites in the hill country; and to the Hivites below Hermon in the region of Mizpah. 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.”

Uh oh.

The greatest foe, the greatest army that Israel has ever faced.

It just gets harder! Tougher. More threatening.

Doesn’t it ever let up?

Is that how you are feeling right now about life in general? V.6

“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.’”

Be strong and courageous! Don’t look at the size of your enemy.

Look at the size of your ally!

And that’s what Joshua did. V.7

“So Joshua and his whole army came against them suddenly at the Waters of Merom and attacked them, and the LORD gave them into the hand of Israel. They defeated them and pursued them all the way to Greater Sidon, to Misrephoth Maim, and to the Valley of Mizpah on the east, until no survivors were left. [From the sand on the seashore–to no survivors left!] Joshua did to them as the LORD had directed: He hamstrung their horses and burned their chariots.

At that time Joshua turned back and captured Hazor and put its king to the sword. (Hazor had been the head of all these kingdoms.) Everyone in it they put to the sword. They totally destroyed them, not sparing anything that breathed, and he burned up Hazor itself. Joshua took all these royal cities and their kings and put them to the sword. He totally destroyed them, as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded. Yet Israel did not burn any of the cities built on their mounds–except Hazor, which Joshua burned. [No, they got to keep them.]

The Israelites carried off for themselves all the plunder and livestock of these cities, but all the people they put to the sword until they completely destroyed them, not sparing anyone that breathed. As the LORD commanded his servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua, and Joshua did it; he left nothing undone of all that the LORD commanded Moses.”

He was strong and courageous. And obedient. And undaunted.

And he kept on fighting and obey until it was all over. V.16

“So Joshua took this entire land: [the North, too, now] the hill country, all the Negev, the whole region of Goshen, the western foothills, the Arabah and the mountains of Israel with their foothills, from Mount Halak, which rises toward Seir, to Baal Gad in the Valley of Lebanon below Mount Hermon. He captured all their kings and struck them down, putting them to death. Joshua waged war against all these kings for a long time. [It took perseverance.] Except for the Hivites living in Gibeon, not one city made a treaty of peace with the Israelites, who took them all in battle. For it was the LORD himself who hardened their hearts to wage war against Israel, so that he might destroy them totally, exterminating them without mercy, as the LORD had commanded Moses.

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.”

Remember the Anakites? They were the people that the unfaithful spies had been so afraid of back in Numbers 13 and 14 that led to the Retreat of Unbelief.

Joshua and Caleb had said that they thought they could be defeated, but the other 10 spies had said no.

Well, here they are–defeated, too. V.22

“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.”

Here’s our third and last application this morning:

#3. TRUST AND REST IN GOD’S PROMISES.

That’s what Israel was doing.

They believed that God had promised them this land and that God would fight for them to give it to them.

And that’s exactly what He did. And for a time, at least, they had rest from war.

It wasn’t the final rest that God had for them. That rest is still to come, we find out in Hebrews chapter 4.

But they could trust and rest in the sure and certain promises of God.

Surely God was fighting for Israel!

That’s the point of chapter 12.

We’re not going to read it this morning. It’s a simple list of the kings that were defeated and the territory that Israel received.

From Sihon and Og on the West Side of the Jordan to 29 kings on the East side of the Jordan.

The LORD defeated them all. Verse 24 says, “Thirty one kings in all.”

We might be tempted to ignore this chapter. But it was very important.

It was proof that God always keeps His promises.

God fights for His people.

All of their enemies were defeated.

And so, will ours. He has promised it.

And we know that He will do it.

Because surely the LORD fought for us on the Cross.

When Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died on the Cross for us, He was defeating all of our enemies.

Decisively!

The World. The flesh. The devil. And even death were defeated that day.

He fought for us. And He still does.

We can trust and rest in Him.

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