Summary: When you are really maturing in your Christian walk the enemy still has tricks up his sleeve: overwhelming numbers and your greatest fear. Learn how God overcomes both.
Joshua 11 recounts the final battles as Israel takes the northern cities. Do you know what a Hail Mary play is? It’s a thing in football where nothing else is working so the quarter back just tells everyone to go long and he lofts up the ball along with a "hail Mary" and hopes someone catches it. It is a last ditch effort, a last stand, a desperation move.
That’s where the Canaanites find themselves in Joshua 11. Joshua and Israel entered the land, destroyed Jericho and the rest of the southern cities. Then they turned their attention to northern Israel and the leaders of those cities realized the tide had turned and if things went as they were headed they would be destroyed.
So Jabin, king of the large city of Hazor, heard what had happened, he got everyone together in a huge army to overwhelm Israel. Now if they had done this from the beginning perhaps they might have had more success (not really since God was in charge). But perhaps they were a bit arrogant about their own abilities and underestimated the God they were really fighting.
At some point in your own battle for the victorious Christian life, the enemy will realize that he is about to lose influence over you. He lost your soul, and is now about to lose any ability to stop your effectiveness for the Lord. So his "hail Mary" play involves great numbers and great fears - both of which can be overcome when you are ready.
Verses 1 - 5
Even when you have victory, the enemy will not stop. He cannot stop waging war against the Christian. He is God’s sworn enemy and if you belong to God he is your sworn enemy. He keeps fighting even though he knows he is defeated and is going to everlasting punishment. Why is beyond me. All I can say is that it is his nature.
And the nature of the kings arrayed against Joshua was to destroy Israel. You’d think after all the battles they lost that these kings would surrender or make peace or something. But they were opposed to Israel and will not stop fighting even though they probably know they are fighting a losing battle because they want nothing to do with Israel or Israel’s God.
And you know, in the end, the people that go to hell will be those who want nothing to do with Jesus Christ. They will get their wish of eternal separation. We cannot save everyone. We share the gospel, live our lives as a testimony to His love, and leave the rest to God.
Here, you have the kings of the northern parts of the land coming together in "a great horde, in number like the sand that is on the seashore." If they enemy cannot win the battle he will try to intimidate God’s warriors.
But God promises total and sudden victory. Joshua wastes no time in attacking.
Verses 6 - 9
This is seemingly impossible. Josephus estimated that there were 300,000 infantry soldiers, plus 10,000 cavalry troops and 20,000 chariots. They met on a plain a few miles northwest of the Sea of Galilee. Joshua did not wait for the battle to come to him but went out head to head against the enemy.
There are times when we don’t wait for Satan’s attack to come to us either but proactively go out and fight against the powers of darkness. I would caution here that I don’t mean we should go looking for demons to pick a fight with. But when Satan has a stronghold in a place that will not respond to the gospel we need to wage war in the Spirit against him.
The chasing to Sidon was no small task. It’s interesting that God had them hamstring the horses and burn the chariots. The Canaanites used horses in their pagan religion, and perhaps God did not want Israel to get used to weapons of warfare outside of trusting in Yahweh so he had them burn the chariots as well.
Verses 10 - 15
Hazor was a huge city (200 acres compared to 8 in Jericho) and was very important militarily. Its king would call out the armies. So Joshua burns it in part to show that if Hazor could be burned, so could any city.
Notice that they plundered these cities. It was primarily Jericho that was to be totally devoted to God.
Over and over it says they obeyed God and God’s servant Moses. This will stand in stark contrast as Israel settles in the land, in part because of what happens near the end of this chapter.
Verses 16 - 20
Notice that no city wanted to make peace with Israel except the Gibeonites. Some people might call God unfair for hardening the hearts of the people so they’d fight. It might seem like God was stacking the deck. I don’t think so.