Summary: Study deals with the fear of Ephraim and Manasseh when faced with iron chariots in their conquest of Canaan with applications to the Christian life.
A Bible Study by
Charles W. Holt
CHALLENGED BY CHARIOTS OF IRON(Part 3 of 3)
Scripture reading: Jeremiah 12:4
Scripture Text: Joshua 17:14-18
Joshua has gathered the tribal elders of Ephraim and Manasseh and made an impassioned plea to inspire their faith and hope. In light of the fact that Joshua is a picture of Jesus (see part 2 of this study), his speech takes on even more significance to us. Joshua’s hope, of course, is that they will rise to the challenge and go out full of hope and faith to possess their God-given possession. I hope, as we hear the clear tones of Joshua’s voice, we will discern the voice of Him who speaks such "gracious words" (Lk. 4:22) so as to cause us to "marvel" as it did those on the day Jesus visited the Synagogue in Nazareth. It is still the Law of he Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus that, "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Rom. 10:17).
Returning to our text, we read:
"You are a great people and have great power; . . . the mountain country shall be yours. Although it is wooded, you shall cut it down, and its farthest extent shall be yours; for you shall drive out the Canaanites, though they have iron chariots and are strong" (Joshua 17:17,18).
Joshua not only speaks in measured tones but also with measured phrases. See how he lays out the challenge that is strongly reinforced by words of faith. Everything he says is designed to inspire faith. We put ourselves into Joshua’s audience and with the eyes and ears of faith open, we will hear Jesus say to us:
1. You are a great people.
2. You have great power.
3. The mountain country shall be yours.
(a) Even though it is wooded, i.e., even though there are difficulties.
(b) You will "cut it down." Is he saying, "You will mow down the opposition?" I like to think so.
(c) Its farthest extent shall be yours. Don’t stop short of a full victory.
4. The valley shall be yours
(a) Even though the Canaanites are there, i.e., even though there are difficulties.
(b) Even though these difficulties are iron chariots.
No. 1 – You Are a Great People
We must understand this in two ways. First, as Joshua intends Ephraim and Manasseh to understand it. He says, "you are a great people," meaning, you are many; you are a large population, your families number into the thousands. To borrow a phrase: there is strength in numbers. He wants them to see that by shear numbers they outmatch their enemies.
While it is true that we, the redeemed, number into the millions worldwide, it is difficult for must of us to relate to this abstract number. It is nothing more than a blur of unrecognizable faces in far, far away places. It is a fact that this innumerable host of the redeemed, by their sheer numbers, has a powerful effect upon the moral, spiritual, and ethical underpinnings of a worldwide society. It id difficult for us, however, to do little more than mutter something about the Church (the redeemed worldwide) being the "light of the world, a city set on a hill that cannot be hidden, and the salt of the earth" (see Mt. 5:13,14). These lofty concepts are abstract terms in themselves unless and until we somehow change them into manageable pieces. We can do this, as we have often done, by saying, "My church (i.e., the one down the street or across town where I am a member, give my money, etc.) is the light, city, and salt to the world." Using "my church" reduces the equation from millions down to dozens. We can handle that concept. It will be even better, however, when we personalize these metaphors and say, "I (by my testimony for Christ) am the light of the world . . . salt . . . city that cannot be hid." There is no strain on the imagination to grasp that image.
Individually, then collectively, we are members of a great family. Though separated by geography, cultural diversities, and any number of other contrasts we are nevertheless all of one body. We are a great people!
"So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another" (Rm. 12:5 NKJV).
"For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made o drink into one Spirit . . . But now indeed there are many members, yet one body" (1 Cor. 12:13,20 NKJV).
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all" (Eph. 4:5,6 NKJV).