I suppose, like me, many of you have turned your hand to a little bit of decorating at some time or another. Maybe you decided it was about time that your living room was freshened up a bit and so you got your tins of paint, your emulsion for the ceiling and maybe the walls and your gloss for your skirting boards and door frames and architrave. And of course if you are going to use paint, your need paint brushes and rollers. There are of course all different sizes of brushes and rollers to be bought these days and the nature of the task will of course determine the size of brush or roller you will use. For example you wouldn’t use a half-inch brush to emulsion a wall or a ceiling, if you do, you need to get yourself a life. Similarly you wouldn’t take out a six or nine inch brush or roller to gloss a door frame or a skirting board. On large surface areas you are better using a roller or big brush, and on small surface areas a small brush.
By and large in our studies in Joshua thus far we have been using the small brush approach to the book. We have covered nine chapters and it has taken us 12 sermons and we have looked in some detail at several of those chapters. Well this evening we are going to lay down the small brush in favour of the roller as we begin to work our way through the remaining chapters of the book, taking fewer sermon strokes to cover more biblical surface area.
This evening I want to try to group together in one sermon the material we find in chapters 10-12. These chapters recount how the Children of Israel, having begun their campaign to take the land of Canaan with successes at Jericho and Ai, went on from those initial successes to enjoy great victories over their enemies both in the north and South of the country thereby gaining control of the land.
As we turn our thoughts to these chapters this evening I want you to notice with me in the first place
1) The Intensification of Enemy Opposition:
The opening verses of chapter 9, 10 and 11 make interesting reading. In each case the writer puts on record the fact that with each success Israel enjoyed there was a corresponding intensification of enemy opposition against her.
Look at 9/1,2 The things about which they had heard were Israel’s successful crossing of the River Jordan and her subsequent overthrow of Jericho and of Ai. This news not only alarmed them, it also moved them to take practical steps to ensure that no more of their territory was captured. And so they decided to form an alliance in order to put an end to this invasion campaign which the Israelites had started. Now these city states, over which each of these kings ruled, were, in normal circumstances far from friendly towards one another, in fact they were natural enemies. But now that they each felt under threat from the Israelistes they decided to come together and fight as allies against this foe which posed a very real threat to those little kingdoms, those little geographical areas over which each of them ruled. The king of the Amorites for example couldn’t just sit back and rest unconcerned if the Israelites attacked and defeated the area that was under the control of the Hittite king, because he knew only too well that once Israel had gained the victory in that area they would then turn to his own area and so on. And so in order that the status quo might be preserved, in order that Israel’s progress into their land would be halted they formed this alliance to fight against her. Thus enemy forces were brought together in what was to be an intensified campaign against Israel. The fact that Israel had suffered an initial defeat at Ai, no doubt gave these kings encouragement, “if they have been defeated before they can be defeated again, and together we will do our utmost to destroy them”
So even as Israel are, as it were basking in the sunshine of great victories and rededicating themselves to God and living under the authority of His Word and enjoying a time of great blessing, which of course is what is happening at the end of chapter 8 when the covenant is being renewed on Mount Ebal, the enemy was making plans for an intensified and all out campaign against her.
And the writer takes up this theme again in 10/1-5. As if, from their enemies point of view, it wasn’t bad enough that Israel had overthrown Jericho and Ai, now Gibeon, one of the larger cities of the land that was renowned for its military might, had defected to the other side and formed a peace treaty with these invaders. And so other kings of other city states are brought on board this enemy Alliance to fight against Israel.
And then when you turn to chapter 11 which records what happened after Joshua and Israel had overthrown the enemy alliance in the South, you discover that not only do the kings in the North form themselves into an alliance against Israel, but that this alliance is much broader, much more numerous, and it seems much stronger and better equipped militarily than the previous enemy alliance Israel faced. READ 11/1-5 Note those words at the end of v4 “a huge army as numerous as the sand on the seashore”
And as you read these little introductions to each of these chapters you notice that that the intensification of Enemy opposition which they describe follows hard on the heels of some victory Israel has experienced.
And you know brethren one of the times when we as God’s people are most likely to experience not just an attack from our enemy, the devil, but a powerful, intensified form of attack from him, is when we have had some form of spiritual victory in our life and have begun to make inroads into the territory he occupies and controls.
It may be that we in our own personal spiritual lives have conquered some Ai or Adoni-Zedek, or some Libnah or Lachish. Some area of our life where the enemy was in control and from which we were determined by God’s power to drive him out. And having given ourselves to that spiritual battle, having clothed ourselves with the whole armour of God and engaged the enemy in the fight we gained the victory and now by God’s grace we have got control that area of our life. Well you can be sure that with a view to trying both to ensure that we don’t succeed in capturing any more territory, any other areas of our life that he controls, AND with a view to trying to regain control of those areas we have captured, Satan, the enemy of our soul, will intensify his campaign of opposition against us. And to that end he will use any and every combination of forces which he has at his disposal.
You see when you start to attack enemy territory you can be sure that the enemy will not give in without a fight. And if it turns out that you are actually seen to be gaining ground, to be actually taking some territory that the enemy once controlled then he will undoubtedly strengthen his hand and intensify his opposition against you. You may have gained the victory over one particular area of sin in your life, some Ai or other, but Satan will do his utmost to ensure that no other area of sin in your life is captured, no Libnah or Hebron is taken from his control.
Times of victory in the Christian life, times of spiritual progress, times of blessing are wonderful times but they are also potentially dangerous time; times when the enemy will be most likely to initiate an intensified campaign of opposition against us in a bid to at the very least hinder or halt altogether our progress and at best to drive us backwards and regain control of those areas we have conquered.
And of course that is true not only of our own personal lives it is true too of our family life. If you have attacked and captured areas of you family life which were formerly under the control of the Devil, then you can be sure that the enemy of your soul will be stirred up not only to strongly oppose you should you think of taking any other area of family life from him but also to try to regain control of the area from which he had been ousted. Maybe you have recently launched an attack upon and successfully conquered some enemy stronghold in your family life, let’s say the Eglon of your families television viewing, an area that had long been under the control of Satan. or maybe the Debir of your family finances over which Satan had the final say as to how they were allocated and spent, or the Jarmuth of daily family worship which was under the control of the devil to such an extent that for years he wouldn’t allow any regular pattern of family worship to be established. Satan no longer controls these areas of you family life. Well don’t be surprised if in the wake of such a victory you find yourself facing a powerful attack upon your family life by the evil one.
And the same principle holds true for congregational life. If a congregation begins to make inroads into Satan controlled territory and gains some noticeable victories along the way – maybe seeing sinners being saved, seeing the numbers attending Church each week increaseing, seeing friction and division giving way to harmony and unity, seeing genuine growth in grace on the part of many of its members, witnessing the beginnings of a tangible impact for spiritual good upon the local community and so on, you can be sure that Satan’s opposition will be directed against such a church. He will muster his forces together with a view to attacking that church in order that he might either destroy it or at least so disable it that it will not be in any shape to make any more progress into the territory he controls.
Under the leadership of Joshua, the people of God gave themselves to the great task of attacking and seeking to take control of land that was occupied by the enemy, in order that they might enjoy the covenant blessings God had promised them. And as they did so they met with an organised and ever increasingly intensified campaign of opposition from their enemies.
When, under the leadership of our Joshua, The Lord Jesus Christ, we begin to wage war against and attack enemy strongholds of sin in our life, we can expect all Hell to break loose against us.
The second thing I want you to notice with me from these chapters this evening is
2) The Overthrow Of Enemy Opposition:
These three chapters make great reading if you are an Israelite supporter. They record how Joshua and Israel successfully defeated the various alliances of enemy forces that they encountered both in the South of the land at Gibeon and then later in the North of the land at the waters of Merom. Now drawing on some of the details contained in these chapters in relation to the victories they achieved, I want you to notice that Israel’s overthrow of the enemy was
(i) In Accordance With the Word of God’s Promise
In Ch10 we read of Joshua setting out with his army with a view to engaging the enemy forces which were planning to attack Gibeon. Prior to the battle the Lord comes to Joshua with a tremendous word of encouragement in the form of a Promise – v8 “Do not be afraid of them I have given them into your hand. Not one of them will be able to withstand you.” Can you imagine what a morale booster this promise from God must have been for Joshua and his men? God comes to them and before they shoot one arrow before they throw one spear, before they draw out one sword, he promises them victory over their enemies. And going on God’s track record to date Joshua and his army had every reason to be confident that this promise that God had given them would be fulfilled. Hadn’t he promised to get them across the Jordan river (1/10) and fulfilled that promise. Hadn’t he promised to give them victory at Jericho (6/2) and fulfilled that promise; hadn’t he promised them success as Ai (8/1) and fulfilled that promise. And here He comes to them again with another promise of victory.
And when having taken the southern part of the land Joshua turns his attention to the North, what do you discover – God comes again with another reassuring word of promise – 11/6 “do not be afraid of them because by this time tomorrow I will hand all of them over to Israel slain…” Humanly speaking Joshua had every reason to be afraid of his enemies as he approached the Waters of Merom – as we have seen they were a massive and a mean fighting force. But strong as the enemy undoubtedly was, Joshua had God’s promise of victory.
You know brethren God has given us ‘great and precious promises’ in His Word. Promises that should encourage us as we wage our personal spiritual warfare with those enemies that currently occupy territory in our own hearts and as we corporately as a church seek to engage the enemy in battle in our community and tear down his existing strongholds. We have the promise of our Lord’s abiding presence – I will never leave you nor forsake you, we have the promise of the Holy Spirit’s power to help us in our battle – ‘You will receive power’ Promises of victory over Satan – ‘Resist the devil and he will flee from you’ Promises of Christ’s Kingdom being extended ‘I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.’ Let us like Joshua and the COI be greatly encouraged by and fully confident in the promises of God’s Word.
But the overthrow of enemy opposition was not only in accordance with God’s promises it was also brought about
(ii) In Association With the Work of God’s People
Now what I mean by that is quite simply this. Although Joshua and the people had the sure word of God’s promise to rely upon, the promise that their enemies would be overthrown, that word of promise did not negate their responsibility to give themselves totally and wholeheartedly to the task of actually fighting their enemies. In other words the promise would only be fulfilled if God’s people played their part and fulfilled their responsibilities. They couldn’t reason – ‘well if God has said that he is going to hand these people over to us, if god has promised that by this time tomorrow all our enemies will be slain, then we don’t need to do anything, we can just stand back and see God working.’ Ralph Davis in his commentary takes this point up when he writes – “in  verse 6 God gives his sovereign assurance ‘I will hand all of them over to Israel slain’, in v7 Joshua and Israel blast into the enemy camp in a surprise attack…isnt the sequence significant? Divine sovereignty does not negate human activity but stimulates it”
Similarly in ch10. God has promised victory but the ordained means of achieving that victory is an all night march by Israel’s army and a surprise attack upon the enemy before daybreak. In other words God’s people had to work for the victory they had been promised.
And it’s worthwhile pointing out that the overall victory they achieved by which they gained control of the land and subdued their enemies did not take place overnight or in the space of a few days. In ch11/18 we are told that ‘Joshua waged war against all these kings for a long time” In fact it took Israel about seven years to get from chapter 4 to the end of chapter 11. How do we know that? Well, we know that Caleb was 40 when Israel because of their unbelief refused to go into the promised land when they first came to its borders under Moses’ leadership. We know that the wilderness wanderings lasted about 38 years which would make him 78 when he crossed the Jordan. And we know from 14/10 that he was 85 when the campaign of conquest was completed and the land was divided among the various tribes. 78 from 85 = 7years. They had to fight for many a day before they gained control of the land. Some of the individual battles didn’t take long, for example the battle of the Waters of Meron in ch11 was over in a day as was the battle at Gibeon. But whilst some battles didn’t take long the overall campaign to gain dominant control of the land lasted some seven years and even then as we see from the opening verses of ch13 there were still certain areas that had not been completely subdued. So although God had promised them victory over their enemies, that promise did not negate human activity and long and hard and persevering human activity at that. They had their part to play and they had to persevere and keep at the task
And it is the same for us brethren. If the enemies of our soul are to be overcome, if the sins in our life are to be subdued, If the strongholds of Satan are to be torn down, if the Kingdom of Christ is to be extended, then we are going to have to play our part in these different areas of spiritual warfare. Yes it’s true that God’s will for us is that we be made Holy; It is true that Sin shall not have dominion over us. We know that Jesus will build his Church and that his large and great dominion shall from sea to sea extend, But in order for such things to actually happen we have to actually engage in spiritual warfare. Some of our personal battles with sin might be won relatively easily and quickly. Perhaps some sinful practice will be easily overcome, some sinful attitude speedily reformed, some sinful desire quickly subdued. But other such battles will last longer and take more effort. The campaign is an ongoing campaign that requires dogged perseverance.
The same is true in respect of winning souls for Christ. We know that God has his elect and Chosen people. We know that he will save each and every one of them. We know that not one of Christ’s sheep shall be lost. We know that Christ will build his Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. But the knowledge of these things and the absolute certainty of the salvation of every elect soul does not negate our responsibility to be personally involved in some form of outreach work. We cannot reason from the certainty of God’s decree of election that we don’t need to be engaged in a pro-active persevering programme of evangelistic activity any more than the COI could reason, ‘God has promised us victory over these enemies therefore we don’t need to fight against them. It was only as they gave themselves to the task that was before them that the promise was fulfilled. And it is only as we give ourselves to the work that is before us, the work of communicating the gospel to those around us that people will be saved. This was the point Paul was making in Romans 10 – ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved…how can the believe in the one of whom they have not heard. And how can they hear without someone preaching to them…’ God in his Sovereign grace has decreed the salvation f the elect, he has decreed that sinners will be saved, but he has also decreed that one of the means by which they will be saved will be the communicating of the good news of the gospel to them by those who have already been redeemed. In other words the salvation of sinners is something that God has chosen to accomplish in association with the work of God’s people. The sure and certain fulfilment of God’s purposes does not negate the need for human activity.
The overthrow of Israel’s enemies was not only in accordance with the Word of God’s Promise and in Association with the Work of God’s People it was also
(iii) In Dependence Upon The Provision of God’s Power
It is true that Joshua and the people had work to do, that they had to actually engage the enemy in battle, but in doing so they were not depending merely on their own strength to overcome the enemy. Rather they were looking to and dependant upon God’s power. And as you read through these chapters time and time again your attention is drawn to the fact that not only were the people at work, but God’s power was also at work. We see the power of god at work on behalf of his people for example in the hailstorm of ch10v11 and the summary statement in the following verse reads ‘The Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel’ We see the Power of God at work on behalf of his people in the mighty miracle he performed in answer to Joshua’s prayer in 10/12,13. There is some disagreement among scholars as to whether this was a prayer for an extension of daylight or an extension of darkness, but leaving that question aside the main point of that part of the narrative is to impress upon us just how powerful God is, showing us that even the Sun and Moon and the very rotation of the earth are subject to his control. Many today question the historicity of this event claiming that it is a scientific impossibility. But brethren if we deny this miracle we have to deny not only the other miracles in the Bible and the very creation narrative itself, but going n from that we have to also say that the Bible is full of errors, it is therefore not God-breathed, infallible and inerrant, and hence not a book that can be completely relied upon. If that is the case then we might as well throw it away and all go home. But brethren God is not hemmed in by the scientific laws and natural working of the created order he himself made. If he chooses to work outside of those laws which in his purpose are normally fixed and unchanging he can do so and in faith we believe has done so many times. And what we have in Joshua 10/12ff is one such occasion where the Omnipotence of God was exercised and demonstrated. And this power was being exercised for the benefit of His people. Thus at the end of v14 you have the statement – ‘Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel’ Israel’s victory was rooted in and dependant upon the provision of God’s Power. Then when you go to v30 you read of the overthrow of Libnah – “The Lord gave that city and its king into Israel’s hand” The same is said of the next city in v32. The same refrain appears in 11/8 “The Lord gave them into the hand of Israel” God’s people were not on their own in the battle, nor were they fighting in their own strength. They were relying upon the Power of God.
And you know as we engage in our spiritual warfare, personal warfare against sin in our own life, or corporate warfare as a Church seeking to tear down the strongholds of Satan in society around us we are to look to and to be dependant upon God’s power working in us and through us.
The enemies Israel had to face were formidable. Every battle they won brought them that little bit closer to securing control of the land and hence that little bit nearer the enjoyment of their inheritance. But every victory also brought about an intensification of opposition against them from the enemies who still occupied the land. However encouraged by God’s promises, and depending upon God’s power the people of God gave themselves to the task that lay before them and by diligent and persevering effort they gained the victory.
May God grant us such victory in our spiritual warfare.