Summary: If you want to find rest from the struggle in your own life, trust the Lord, obey the Lord, and wait on the Lord.
A man was standing in the water when he asked a friend on the shore, “Are there any alligators in this river?”
The man on shore said, “No, not a single one,” but his friend in the water was not convinced. So the man in the water asked again, “Are you sure there are no alligators? Because if there are no alligators, what are those gray forms I see?”
The man on the shore said, “Don’t worry. There are no alligators in the water. Those gray forms are just the sharks that have chased the alligators away.” (Bible Illustrator #999-1000, 2/1987.21)
Life is like that sometimes. You get rid of one problem when another takes it place. It’s like you’ve traded alligators for sharks.
And you wonder: Will I ever get any rest from the struggle? Will I ever gain complete victory over the enemy in my life? Will I ever find any peace? Well, the good news is yes! You can get rest from the struggle. And if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Joshua 11, Joshua 11, where we see how Joshua finally got rest for his people in their conquest of the Promised Land.
Joshua 11:1-5 When Jabin, king of Hazor, heard of this, he sent to Jobab king of Madon, and to the king of Shimron, and to the king of Achshaph, and to the kings who were in the northern hill country, and in the Arabah south of Chinneroth, and in the lowland, and in Naphoth-dor on the west, to the Canaanites in the east and the west, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, and the Jebusites in the hill country, and the Hivites under Hermon in the land of Mizpah. And they came out with all their troops, a great horde, in number like the sand that is on the seashore, with very many horses and chariots. And all these kings joined their forces and came and encamped together at the waters of Merom to fight against Israel. (ESV)
When the kings in the north heard that Joshua had completely conquered all the kings in the south, they gathered their armies together to fight against Israel. Verse 4 describes those armies as “a great horde,” which Josephus, a 1st Century historian, detailed as 300,000 foot-soldiers, 10,000 cavalry-men, and 20,000 chariot riders.
This was a vast army with the latest in military technology at the time. Military strategists estimate that a solder on horseback is worth dozens of foot soldiers on the ground. Joshua has just traded alligators for sharks, the armies of the south for the armies of the north, and their gray forms are lurking on the horizon. That’s when God shows up as He usually does when the problems seem overwhelming.
Joshua 11:6-7 And the LORD said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them, for tomorrow at this time I will give over all of them, slain, to Israel. You shall hamstring their horses and burn their chariots with fire.” So Joshua and all his warriors came suddenly against them by the waters of Merom and fell upon them. (ESV)
With God’s assurance ringing in his ears, Joshua did not wait for the enemy to come to him. He went after the enemy, who was camped by the waters of Merom, a few miles northwest of the Sea of Galilee. It was a 5-day journey, but Joshua made the journey and attacked right away!
Joshua 11:8-9 And the LORD gave them into the hand of Israel, who struck them and chased them as far as Great Sidon and Misrephoth-maim, and eastward as far as the Valley of Mizpeh. And they struck them until he left none remaining. And Joshua did to them just as the LORD said to him: he hamstrung their horses and burned their chariots with fire. (ESV)
Joshua killed every enemy soldier. He crippled their horses and burned their chariots just like God had asked him to do.
However, that doesn’t make a lot of sense. Joshua could have used those horses and chariots in future battles to great advantage. Why would God ask Him to make them useless? It’s because God wants His people to depend on Him, not on horses and chariots, not on the latest technologies, and not on their own devices and schemes.
400 years later, King David is going to proclaim, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God” (Psalm 20:7). And 300 years after that, the prophet Isaiah will warn God’s wayward people, “Woe to those who… rely on horses, who trust in chariots… but do not look to the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 31:1).
God wants His people to look to Him when they’re in trouble. That’s what He asked Joshua to do, and that’s what He asks you to do, as well. If you want to find rest from the struggle in your own life, don’t trust your own devices. Instead…