Summary: We are in a spiritual war right now. Joshua’s words to Israel just before he died will give us the basic "Rules of Engagement" for winning this war with the devil.


By Pastor Jim May

Joshua 23:2-13

The Old Testament contains examples and stories that have a very real meaning to life right now. I have heard a number of people say that they don’t like to read the Old Testament or that it simply confuses them. I find those ancient texts to be some of the richest spiritual wells that we can draw from. The Bible says that all of the things that happened to Israel throughout the Old Testament are there for our example that we may learn from them and not make the same mistakes.

Edmund Burke, a British statesman and philosopher in the latter part of the 18th Century said these words that are so profound, “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it."

Mankind has never learned from history and we have seen the mistakes of mankind repeated time and again. Sadly, Christians often fall into this same trap. So many people simply forget the lessons of the past, and in so doing, they are destined to have to face the same trials and tests again.

Wouldn’t it be far better to learn the first time and not have to repeat the test?

Will Rogers’, the great American philosopher from Oklahoma Indian Territory, was once quoted as saying: "The trouble with using experience as your guide is that sometimes the final exam comes first, then the lesson."

Have you every experienced that? Why does it seem that I fail the test first and then the Lord begins to teach me through the failure? I am convinced it happens that way simply because we fail to even recognize that a lesson is there to learn until after God gets our attention through the failure.

An old business associate of mine, Dexter Yager, once made this statement, “Experience is the best teacher, especially if you can learn from the experiences of other people first.”


I remember the days of my infantry service in the U. S. Army at Fort Polk, Louisiana and in Vietnam. One of the things that I remember so vividly is how you are supposed to get through a minefield once you discover that you are already into it. Of course the best thing to do is not enter it at all, but sadly you don’t always have that option. You can’t afford to make mistakes because the first may well be your last.

So how do you get to the other side, or how do you get back to safety when you’re in a minefield? The answer is to walk in the same footprints that you made coming in, or in the footsteps of the ones who have made it out.

Some Christians are bound and determined to make their own way. They take the verse where we are told to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” to the extreme and they refuse to listen and learn from what the Word of God is trying to tell them.

They don’t learn from the mistakes of Israel, in fact, they don’t even read about Israel’s troubles most of the time. Either we can learn from Israel’s examples or, by default, we are destined to repeat those mistakes and pay the same consequences in the end that Israel had to pay. The price they have paid, and are still paying, for not heeding the Word of God is very high indeed. It is almost unimaginable that people today, especially people who are supposed to love the Lord Jesus Christ and know His Word, would continue to walk in the same rebellious paths that Israel walked and face the judgment of God for sin.

This has to be the “height of insanity”! What is insanity? It’s to keep doing the same things over and over again and expect different results. If we want to change the results of what we do, then we have to change what we do! Doesn’t that make sense?

You and I must keep in mind that we are constantly in a spiritual war. Every day when you open your eyes, you better remember that today is another day that I have to fight the devil and win. Never forget that Satan has his own Rules of Engagement. His rules are simple, “steal, kill and destroy” with no holds barred.

We can’t afford to let our guard down. We can’t afford to forget about the warfare, not even for one minute, or that may be the last minute we will ever have.

In Vietnam we had our “Rules of Engagement”. Don’t shoot unless the enemy shoots first, and most of the time, you must wait until he breaches the perimeter wire. You can’t chase the enemy into his safe havens across the border and you have to give every suspected civilian the benefit of the doubt if you don’t want to spend the next 20 years in a military prison. Our “Rules of Engagement” cost us dearly. We stayed involved in a war, losing over 58,000 soldiers that we could have and should have won in less than a year with a lot fewer casualties.

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