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Joshua 10:28-12:24: A Proper Perspective Print E-mail
Sunday, 23 March 2008

As we have seen in the text already, if you were to walk around the Promised Land after Israel had captured it, you would see numerous piles of rocks.  After crossing the Jordan, Joshua had the people set up stones of remembrance to teach the future generations about God drying up the waters (see 4:20ff).  After Israel dealt with the sin of Achan, they buried him under a pile of stones (see 7:26), seemingly to remind them of the great cost of disobedience.  When the people were finally able to defeat the city of Ai through Godís guidance and strength, we are told that Joshua buried the king of Ai under a great heap of stones (8:29).  Likewise, our passage closed last week with Joshua having large stones set before the mouth of the cave at Makkedah where he buried the five Amorite kings that fought against Israel.  The author of Joshua notes in these stories that the stones remained at least until the time of the writing of the book.  In other words, those who did not know the stories could literally walk around Israel asking the question: ĎWhy is that pile of stones there and that one there and that one there?í 1  Of course the answer that the book of Joshua teaches is that those stones are there because the Lord fights for His people and gives them victory over their enemies when they are faithful to His commands.

Our text this morning highlights some more of those victories that the Lord won for Israel.  For the most part, we are told in 10:28-43 of the conquering of southern Canaan and in 11:1-15 of the conquering of northern Canaan.  The rest of chapter 11 along with all of chapter 12 provide us a summary of all the kings and cities that Israel has been given by the Lord.  As we consider these victories in more detail, I want to point out two lessons that we can learn from them.

First, we learn that the Lord keeps His promise to give victory to His people.

In our text from last week, we noted that the story ends in the same way that it began, namely the Lord telling Israel that they would have victory over their enemies.  Throughout the book of Joshua we have seen the Lord make this promise to Israel.  When it seemed that maybe He had gone back on His promise with their initial defeat at Ai, Joshua is told of the sin of Achan and once it is dealt with we are told of Israelís victory over that city.  Last week we saw the Lord fighting for Israel as they kept their covenant with the Gibeonites and protected them from the five Amorite kings.  So then, what about this week?  How do we see the Lord keeping His promise this week?

First, we are told of Israelís victories in the south.  Again, 10:28-43 gives us these details, naming all the particular cities that Israel captured.  Look at verses 30-32.  Each of the accounts has different wordings, which speaks to the textís historicity.  Yet, in the cities of Libnah and Lachish the author tells us specifically that it was the Lord who gave these victories to Israel.  Look also at verse 42.  In summing up all of the victories in the south, the author points out that Joshua captured all these kings and their land at one time, because the Lord God of Israel fought for Israel.  Thus, all the credit and all of the glory belongs to the Lord for Israelís triumph in the southern part of Canaan.

Second, we are told of Israelís victories in the north.  As we saw last week with the Amorite kings, once the kings of the north hear about Israelís success, they decide to ban together and attack Israel.  The author gives us an interesting detail in 11:4.  Look at that verse with me.  Not only is this a great horde that is coming against Israel, but we are told that they had very many horses and chariots.  In other words, not only does the enemy outnumber Israel, but they have a serious advantage in equipment as well.  Once again we are given the impossible odds against Israel.  It seems that there is no way that they can win this battle.  Yet, the Lord will not be defeated by any army.  As His people obey Him, He will give them victory even in impossible odds.  Look at 11:6-9.  The Lord told Joshua not to fear but to fight because He was going to give the enemy over to them.  Joshua and the people obeyed and the Lord gave them victory.  It is interesting that the author notes that the Israelites did not keep the horses or the chariots.  Why not?  This highlights the fact that it is the Lord who will fight for Israel and give them victory.  They need not trust in horses and chariots but in the great name of God (see Psalm 20:7).

Third, we are told of Israelís victories in the summary section.  Look at verse 20.  After giving a list of the areas captured the author tells us that the Lord hardened the hearts of the people so that they would fight against Israel and not seek peace.  The language is similar to that given when the Lord hardens the Pharaohís heart in the book of Exodus.  As we have noted before, the Lord is judging the Canaanites for their repeated sin and rebellion.  Israelís victories were Canaanís judgments.  We are told specifically about the Anakim in verses 21-23.  These were the people that the spies were afraid of when they first spied out the land (see Numbers 13:28, 33).  The Lord had promised to give Israel victory over them as well (see Deuteronomy 9:1-3) and seemingly the author notes their defeat to demonstrate Godís faithfulness to His promise of victory.  All the enemies of Israel were being defeated just as the Lord had promised.  Thus, our first lesson is that the Lord keeps His promise to give victory to His people.

Second, we learn that the Lord expects obedience from His people.

We have noted over the last few weeks that the Lord does not promise victory and then expect His people to sit around and do nothing.  No, He expects them to obey and fight, which is what they do.  The author records their obedience in the southern campaign in 10:40.  Look at that verse with me.  The Lord commanded Joshua to devote the inhabitants of the land to destruction and Joshua obeyed.  We also see their obedience in the northern campaign as well.  Look at 11:9.  Joshua did what the Lord had commanded him to do to the horses and chariots of the armies in the north.  Look at 11:12.  After taking the coalition from the north, the text tells us that Joshua captured the city of Hazor, apparently one of the more prominent cities in the land.  Then we are told in verse 12 that Joshua was obedient to the commands of the Lord that came through Moses.  We see this again in verse 15.  Look at that with me.  Thus, Joshua obeyed the Lord in capturing the cities of the north.  In the summary section we are once again told of Joshuaís obedience.  Look at 11:20 and 23.  Joshua obeyed the Lord and did all that He commanded.

In all of this we learn the connection between obedience to Godís commands and victory over our enemies.  The Lord promised Israel victory if they would obey and He promises us the same.  Yet, what command are we to obey?  The New Testament answer to this question is the command to repent of our sins and believe in Christ.  When we hear the glorious good news of Jesusí sacrifice for our sins at Calvary, then we are to turn from following our own path of rebellion against God and submit to following after Christ all our days.  As with Israel, we can only obey through Godís grace and strength, which He promises to provide for His Church.  What happens if we disobey and refuse to submit?  We will pay the greatest price for such rebellion, namely eternity in Hell.  Thus, we need to learn the importance of obedience to the Lord through faith in His Son.

To illustrate this further, think back to the beginning of the sermon and all those piles of rocks that Israel left behind.  Were those rocks a good or a bad thing?  I mean, when a person saw them, were they to rejoice at Godís victory or shudder at His judgment?  The answer to these questions depends upon your perspective.  For the Canaanites, they were obvious reminders of the horrible judgment of the Lord.  In fact they were to be reminders to all of Godís enemies that He will win in the end. 

You cannot afford to lie to yourself and think that you will get away with your rebellion.  No, the Lord will judge His enemies.  Yet, for the Israelites, these stones were obvious reminders of His great victory.  They were reminders of the story of Joshua and his obedience.  They were reminders of Godís protection and provision for the people of Israel.  They were reminders that the Lord fights for His people and He always wins.  Chapter 12 tells of all the kings and cities and land that Israel conquered.  From their perspective it is a great story of the Lord fighting for His people.  Yet, from the perspective of the Canaanites, it is a story of serious judgment.  Thus, it all depends upon your perspective: the enemies of God will shudder and the people of God will rejoice.

Today is the day that Christians set aside to remember the resurrection of Christ.  The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, took on flesh, lived a perfect life, and died on the cross in our place to atone for our sins.  Yet, how do we know that God the Father accepted such a sacrifice for our sins?  We know because three days later, Jesus rose from the dead.  Paul tells us that Jesus was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification (Romans 4:25).  Thus, when the Gospel writers tell us about the stone that was rolled away, you understand why we get so excited.  That stone tells Christians that they have been justified, that sin no longer is their master, that they have life in Christ and a hope to be raised with Him on the final Day.  Indeed, the stone that was rolled away is a call for Godís people, the Church, to rejoice in the victory that He has given them over sin, Satan, and death. 

Yet, what about those who are not Christians?  What does the resurrection of Christ mean to them?  Some would say, ĎWell, of course it doesnít mean anything to them.í  In one sense, that may be true, but in another sense, the resurrection of Christ has meaning for them as well.  It should be a grave reminder (no pun intended) that God always wins.  He cannot be defeated and will triumph over all of His enemies.  That rolled away stone should tell them that if they do not repent of their sins and follow Christ, then they will be found on the wrong side come judgment Day.  The same stone that calls for Godís people to rejoice will call for His enemies to shudder.

Thus, I plead with you to repent of your sins and follow Christ.  The good news is that your sin and rebellion can be forgiven because of the glorious death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.  Do not delay.  Do not think that there is any other way.  Repent and believe.  Take up your cross and follow after the risen Lord with all that you are.  May the stone that was rolled away on the day of His resurrection be a cause for great rejoicing and celebration in your life.  Amen.

1 This idea of walking around seeing piles of stones is taken from Mark Deverís sermon on the whole book of Joshua, which can be heard here: www.chbcaudio.org/2002/05/12/the-conquest-the-message-of-joshua/.

~ William Marshall ~

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