The Book of Joshua Series
Conquering the Land
“Victory over Enemies”
So far, we have seen the conquest of the Promise Land focus on the central region of Canaan with the destruction of the cities of Jericho and Ai and the covenant of peace made with the four cities of the Gibeonites. These victories across the middle of Canaan effectively cut off the enemies in the north part of the country from those in the south. This gave Joshua a foothold to advance the conquest without worrying about reinforcements being sent from the other regions.
Details of the Conquest
The details of the conquest of the south and north are recorded in chapters ten, eleven, and twelve in the book of Joshua. As you read these chapters you are struck by the size and strength of the armies opposing Israel. In chapter ten we see five southern kings forming an alliance to attack Gibeon in an attempt to gain back the central region. (10.5) In chapter eleven we see an alliance of the northern kings forming a coalition of military forces that the Bible tells us numbered “the sand that is on the seashore with very many horses and chariots.” (11.4) And in chapter twelve we see the list of thirty-one kings that Joshua and the sons of Israel defeated in the total conquest of the Land. In short, the Holy Spirit spares no details in describing the size and strength of Israel’s enemies.
When you read the details of the battles against the southern and northern regions you will discover that the battles differ in some respects but there is one thing that both battles have in common. In both accounts we see that as soon as the size and strength of the enemy is described the Lord speaks to Joshua. In chapter ten after the armies of the five southern kings are poised to attack Gibeon the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not fear them, for I have given them into your hands; not one of them shall stand before you.” (10.8) In chapter eleven after the powerful armies of the northern kings are set to fight Israel the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid because of them, for tomorrow at this time I will deliver all of them slain before Israel.” (11.6a)
From these verses we learn two key lessons in our victory over enemies. First, we learn that one word from God is more powerful than all the armies of the world. Just as we see in the final battle in the book of Revelation the Lord comes with a sharp sword in His mouth, referencing the Word of God, and He smites the beast and the kings of the earth. (Rev.19.15) So here in the final conquest of the Land we see that the Word of the Lord is absolutely sufficient to defeat the enemy. Brothers and sisters, God’s Word is sufficient to defeat any enemy in your life. Secondly, these verses teach us that the Lord is a warrior who defends His people. Notice the Lord says, “for I have given them into your hands,” and “I will deliver all of them slain before Israel.” Brothers and sisters, “Some boast in chariots and some in horses, but we will boast in the name of the Lord, our God.” (Ps.20.7)
The Conquest of Southern Canaan
The Lord delivering the enemy into the hand of Israel is clearly seen in both the southern and northern conquests, but the southern conquest is where we see the Lord as a warrior who defends His people on center stage. Chapter ten begins, “Now it came about when Adoni-zedek king of Jerusalem heard that Joshua had captured Ai, and had utterly destroyed it (just as he had done to Jericho and its king, so he had done to Ai and its king), and that the inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel and were within their land, that he feared greatly, because Gibeon was a great city, like one of the royal cities, and because it was greater than Ai, and all its men were mighty. Therefore Adoni-zedek king of Jerusalem sent word to Hoham king of Hebron and to Piram king of Jarmuth and to Japhia king of Lachish and to Debir king of Eglon, saying, “Come up to me and help me, and let us attack Gibeon, for it has made peace with Joshua and with the sons of Israel.’” (10.1-4)
Adoni-zedek the king of Jerusalem had every reason to fear. Jericho and Ai had been utterly destroyed and now the mighty men of Gibeon were part of Israel. His only hope was to form an alliance with surrounding kings and go on the attack to gain back the cities of the Gibeonites. So, the five kings of southern Canaan gathered together their armies and camped close to Gibeon preparing to attack. Chapter ten continues, Then the men of Gibeon sent word to Joshua to the camp at Gilgal, saying, “Do not abandon your servants; come up to us quickly and save us and help us, for all the kings of the Amorites that live in the hill country have assembled against us.”So, Joshua went up from Gilgal, he and all the people of war with him and all the valiant warriors. (10.6-7)
The Lord Fought for Israel
Joshua responded to Gideon’s cry for help by marching all night and taking the armies of the five kings by surprise. (10.9) The march from Gilgal to Gibeon involved a climb of over three-thousand feet in elevation over a distance of about twenty miles. This was eight to ten hours of hard marching, all through the night. But what I want you to see is that even though Joshua and his valiant warriors are faithful “boots on the ground” the text attributes the Lord as the warrior who defends His people and gains the victory over the enemy.
As you read verses ten through fourteen of chapter ten you discover that this was a day like no other. As a matter of fact, the author of Joshua records that “there was no day like it before of after it.” (10.14a) What did the Lord do to make this day so special? Well, He cast the enemy into confusion by creating a noisy disturbance. (10.10) As the enemy fled, the Lord threw large hailstones on them to the point that the Bible records that more died from the hailstones than those killed by the sword. (10.11) And in response to Joshua prayerful request the Lord caused the sun to stand still allowing Joshua and his army the time needed to accomplish a complete victory over the enemy before darkness fell. (10.12-13) This entire section of Scripture attributes the victory over the five kings of southern Canaan and their armies to the Lord. He is the victor. He is a warrior who is ferocious in defending His people. As Joshua recorded, “For the Lord fought for Israel.” (10.14b)
As the enemy fled, chapter ten tells us that the five kings hid themselves in a cave to hide from Joshua’s army and to avoid getting stuck by the hailstones. When they were discovered Joshua commanded a large stone to be rolled in front of the mouth of the cave and assigned men to stand guard. After victory was achieved Joshua commanded the mouth of the cave to be opened and for the five kings to be brought to him. Joshua calls for the war chiefs to put their feet on the necks of the five kings and Joshua struck them down. Joshua said to the people, “Do not fear or be dismayed! Be strong and courageous, for thus the Lord
will do to all your enemies with whom you fight.” (10.16-27)
We must be cautious in trying to apply everything in the conquest of the Land directly to Christians today. But we can certainly see aspects from these chapters that do apply to us as we seek victory over the enemies in our lives.
The Enemy is Sizable and Strong
First, we need to understand that the enemy is sizable and strong. The Apostle Peter tells us that our adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (IPt.5.8) This is very strong language. We have an enemy who is our adversary and not our friend. Peter says that our enemy prowls around like a roaring lion. Not a kitten but a loin seeking to devour you. That doesn’t sound pleasant. Brothers and sisters, we shouldn’t behave like “Tiger King” thinking that the enemy is some harmless pet we can play with. Jesus told us the enemy comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. (Jn.10.10) We should not underestimate our enemy or his intentions. As we saw today’s text the enemies of Israel feared greatly; but like our spiritual enemies, they did not retreat but instead they launched an even more bold attack. So as God’s people we must be of sober spirit and be on alert because our enemy is sizable and strong.
The Word of the Lord has Great Power to Defeat the Enemy
But we also see that the Word of the Lord has great power to defeat the enemy. As we see in Jesus’ temptation experience every temptation can destroyed by the Word of God. “It is written.” “It is written.” “It is written.” (Mt.4.1-11) Brothers and sisters, the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword and we should use it to defeat the enemy in our lives. (Heb.4.13; Eph.6.17)
As Adopted Children of God We Should Cry Out to the Lord for Help
But when the enemy is poised to attack and we feel threatened, we should act like the Gibeonites and cry out for help. Remember, the men of Gibeon sent word to Joshua to the camp at Gilgal, saying, “Do not abandon your servants; come up to us quickly and save us and help us, for all the kings of the Amorites that live in the hill country have assembled against us.” (10.6) The Gibeonites knew that Joshua was the source of rescue from the enemy’s attack. And we see that Joshua honors the covenant he made with the Gibeonites. Joshua not only kept the vow made to the Gibeonites, but he kept it with great energy and dedication. He sent his best into this battle to defend Gibeon.
In these actions, we see a model of how people of faith, when threatened, cry out to the Lord Jesus. And we see in Joshua’s actions the way the Lord protects His people and fights for them. Like the Gibeonites we have been adopted into God’s family and have all the privileges of the sons of God. Because we are sons and daughters of God we cry out, “Abba! Father” whenever we feel threatened. (Gal.4.6; Rom.8.15)
The Lord is a Warrior who Defends His People
Yes, the Lord is a warrior who defends His people. As Moses sang at the deliverance from Pharoah and his mighty army, “The Lord is a warrior; The Lord is His name.” (Ex.15.3) As the Prophet Isaiah proclaimed, “The Lord will go forth like a warrior, He will arouse His zeal like a man of war. He will utter a shout, yes, He will raise a war cry. He will prevail against His enemies. (Is.42.13) Yes, the Lord Jesus has conquered all of His and our enemies. Thanks be to God!
The Lord Puts All Things Under His Feet
The Lord Jesus Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet and gave Him as head over all things to the church. (Eph.1.20-22) That’s you and me! Just like Joshua called for the war chiefs to put their feet on the necks of the five kings and Joshua struck them down, so the Lord Jesus calls us to know that He has placed all things under His feet so that we would be victorious over the enemy. Just as the Lord promised in the Garden to crush Satan’s head. To destroy the enemy. So, the true Joshua, the Lord Jesus Christ has, disarmed the principalities and powers, making a public display of them,
through His triumph on the cross. (Col.2.15) Brothers and sisters, “Do not fear or be dismayed! Be strong and courageous, for thus the Lord will do to all your enemies with whom you fight.” (10.16-27)
This morning we have come to the halfway point in the book of Joshua. The first twelve chapters of Joshua dealt with the conquest of the Land and the next twelve chapters will deal with the tribes receiving the inheritance of the Land. As we read the first twelve chapters, we encountered words like “take,” “destroy,” and “struck” as Joshua and his army obeyed the Lord’s command that the cities of Canaan were to be “devoted to destruction.” Only Rahab, her family, and the Gibeonites were spared because of their faith in the one true God. Rahab, her household, and the Gibeonites were once outside of the covenant promises of God but now, those who were formerly far off were brought near being adopted into the family of God. (Eph.3.13) And by being part of the covenant community Rahab and the Gibeonites shared in the inheritance of the Land.
Now as the conquest comes to an end, a new word is introduced, “inheritance.” In the last twelve chapters of Joshua this word, “inheritance,” will occur fifty times. If you do the math that means the word “inheritance” will be used about four times in every remaining chapter. I think the Holy Spirit wants to get our attention.
Joshua chapter eleven and verse twenty-three serves as a hinge that turns from the conquest of Canaan to the distribution of the land to the twelve tribes. It reads, “So, Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the Lord had spoken to Moses, and Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. Thus, the land had rest from war.” (11.23)
As we have journeyed through the book of Joshua, we have often considered how Joshua foreshadows the greater Joshua, the Lord Jesus Christ, and this is the case again today. Jesus in His earthly ministry follows the course of Joshua by doing battle against the powers of darkness by being obedient to God and His Word. Jesus utterly destroyed the enemy not with the sword, but with the Word of God and humble obedience to the Father. And the Good News is that His faithful obedience to the Father Christ utterly destroyed the enemy and has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.Like Rahab and the Gibeonites God has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Col.2.15; 1.12-14) Praise be the God!
Transition to the Table
As we transition to the Lord’s Table this morning, I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know the riches of Christ’s inheritance to God’s people. I pray that you would know the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. (Eph.1.18-19)
As we prepare our hearts to receive the Lord’s Supper, we need to confess that the Lord Jesus Christ has defeated the enemy. The Lord has slayed the evil one by the Word of His power. Due to His abundant mercy those who were once not a people, are now the people of God. Those who had not received mercy have now received mercy so that we can cry to Him for help. And the Lord will not abandon us but will be faithful to come to our rescue. Brothers and sisters, the Lord has put all things under His feet so that we can live by faith knowing He has conquered all things so that we might obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you. (IPt.1.4)