Since the beginning of time, soldiers have dug trenches to hunker down in while in the heat of battle. These trenches, also known as foxholes, have been the source of protection and shelter to many a fighting man.
They say the best friendships are formed inside of these trenches as men bond together simply trying to stay alive. Men talk, laugh, cry, sing, and fight together. However, it is the one activity that men do alone in the trenches that we need to discuss today. What is this activity? Prayer.
Many men have said they learned to pray in their foxholes. In the heat of battle, their natural response is to cry out to God for help, safety, and protection. The same needs to be true for a soldier in God’s army. When we are engaged in battle with an enemy that seeks to devour us, we need to cry out to God for help. Praying in the trenches needs to become a way of life for us. Without prayer, we stand wide open to the lies and attacks of our enemies. To understand this, we simply need to look at the events immediately after the Israelites defeated the city of Ai. As we do, we will see the devastating effects that not praying can have on a soldier in God’s army.
The Need for Trench Knees
We last left the nation of Israel standing victoriously before an altar built to God. Behind them lay the city of Ai, a smoldering heap which was completely defeated. A few miles back the road lay a pile of rubble which was formerly the grand walls of Jericho. To the onlookers around them, Israel seemed an unstoppable military machine. Action by the surrounding cities needed to be taken if they were to survive. As we look at Joshua 9, we see this is exactly what happens.
And it came to pass when all the kings who were on this side of the Jordan, in the hills and in the lowland and in all the coasts of the Great Sea toward Lebanon— the Hittite, the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite—heard about it, 2 that they gathered together to fight with Joshua and Israel with one accord.
The enemies of Israel were all gathering together to make a united stand against them. They knew what their chances of survival were alone. They saw what happened to Ai and Jericho. They felt their only chance was a massive, joint campaign to defeat Israel.
This is an important lesson for us to learn. Just like these cities, our demonic enemies are scared to death of us. They know we have the strength and blessing of God to utterly destroy them. They know if we gain too many victories, then nothing can stop us. They will attack us with everything they got in order to take away our mojo.
We're especially vulnerable after we overcome a defeat and gain a victory. When we are feeling great and invincible, they try and use this against us. We see this in the following verses.
But when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, 4 they worked craftily, and went and pretended to be ambassadors. And they took old sacks on their donkeys, old wineskins torn and mended, 5old and patched sandals on their feet, and old garments on themselves; and all the bread of their provision was dry and moldy. 6And they went to Joshua, to the camp at Gilgal, and said to him and to the men of Israel, “We have come from a far country; now therefore, make a covenant with us.”
Let's reset the stage here. We have Joshua and the victorious Israelites' on one side, and a massive army gathering on the other. Joshua's objective seemed clear. He had to fight and defeat the gathering army.
One of Joshua's neighbors, the city of Gibeon, saw an opportunity to save its own butt. They planned an elaborate ruse to take advantage of Israel's good feelings after the victory. They approached Joshua and both lied to Joshua and flattered him to keep from being defeated.
7Then the men of Israel said to the Hivites, “Perhaps you dwell among us; so how can we make a covenant with you?”8But they said to Joshua, “We are your servants.” And Joshua said to them, “Who are you, and where do you come from?”
9 So they said to him: “From a very far country your servants have come, because of the name of the Lord your God; for we have heard of His fame, and all that He did in Egypt, 10 and all that He did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan—to Sihon king of Heshbon, and Og king of Bashan, who was at Ashtaroth. 11 Therefore our elders and all the inhabitants of our country spoke to us, saying, ‘Take provisions with you for the journey, and go to meet them, and say to them, “We are your servants; now therefore, make a covenant with us.” ’ 12This bread of ours we took hot for our provision from our houses on the day we departed to come to you. But now look, it is dry and moldy. 13And these wineskins which we filled were new, and see, they are torn; and these our garments and our sandals have become old because of the very long journey.”
The men of Gibeon had thought of every angle. They only made mention of Israel’s early victories on the other side of the Jordan in order to make them think they began their trip well before Israel defeated Jericho. They flattered Joshua and his men. They flattered God and His Might. They patted Israel's ego. They tried to make them feel proud.
They went so far as to bring stale bread and broken canteens to make it appear they lived far away. They had a great, foolproof plan to save their own skins. However, they forgot one thing. They didn't realize that Joshua had the ability to talk to God and have God tell him if they were really legit. It was an oversight that would cost them their lives as soon as Joshua fell to his knees in prayer.
14Then the men of Israel took some of their provisions; but they did not ask counsel of the Lord. 15 So Joshua made peace with them, and made a covenant with them to let them live; and the rulers of the congregation swore to them.
Can you believe it? Joshua and his men never considered asking God what to do. Instead, they trusted their own instincts and knowledge. They made a treaty with the men and sent them on their way. It was an arrogant and presumptuous mistake that would end up biting Joshua in the butt.
And it happened at the end of three days, after they had made a covenant with them that they heard that they were their neighbors who dwelt near them. 17Then the children of Israel journeyed and came to their cities on the third day. Now their cities were Gibeon, Chephirah, Beeroth, and Kirjath Jearim. 18But the children of Israel did not attack them, because the rulers of the congregation had sworn to them by the Lord God of Israel. And the entire congregation complained against the rulers.
After three days, Joshua found out he had been duped. He had made a vow not kill the people of Gibeon. These enemies of Israel would not be destroyed. Joshua and Israel would never be free of this particular enemy. All they could do was try and subdue them.
Then all the rulers said to the entire congregation, “We have sworn to them by the Lord God of Israel; now therefore, we may not touch them. 20This we will do to them: We will let them live, lest wrath be upon us because of the oath which we swore to them.” 21And the rulers said to them, “Let them live, but let them be woodcutters and water carriers for all the congregation, as the rulers had promised them.”
22Then Joshua called for them, and he spoke to them, saying, “Why have you deceived us, saying, ‘We are very far from you,’ when you dwell near us? 23Now therefore, you are cursed, and none of you shall be freed from being slaves—woodcutters and water carriers for the house of my God.”
Joshua announced their fate to a people of Gibeon. Because Israel had made a vow using God’s name, the men of Gibeon would not die. They would instead serve the people of Israel as forced labor. The people of Gibeon respond as you would expect.
24 So they answered Joshua and said, “Because your servants were clearly told that the Lord your God commanded His servant Moses to give you all the land, and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land from before you; therefore we were very much afraid for our lives because of you, and have done this thing. 25And now, here we are, in your hands; do with us as it seems good and right to do to us.” 26So he did to them, and delivered them out of the hand of the children of Israel, so that they did not kill them. 27And that day Joshua made them woodcutters and water carriers for the congregation and for the altar of the Lord, in the place which He would choose, even to this day.
They didn’t care. They lived another day. They were not destroyed by Israel. They were content to live out their days alive in the Israelite’s camp. Israel was forced to endure their presence because they failed to ask their Commanding Officer what He wanted them to do. Complete deliverance was not possible because Joshua and his men didn’t hit their knees in the trenches. We need to be careful to not make the same mistake.
Our enemies, the demonic oppressors in our lives, know we have the power to defeat them. They know their final fate is defeat and an eternity in the abyss. The longer they stay near us, the longer they delay their judgment. They will lie, deceive, trick, and connive us in order to stay undetected and out of the abyss. This is why we need to stay in prayer before God.
Prayer is one of our greatest weapons in the war on the dark kingdom. Through prayer, we receive words of truth from God. He alone can shine the spotlight on our enemies. Only He can speak truth to combat their lies. He has the knowledge we need to discern and uncover the enemies in our lives. This can only happen through prayer. Trust me, I know of what I speak. As a matter of fact, I had an experience recently where the only way to discern an attack of the enemy was to hit the deck and get God’s outlook on the situation.
Getting On Our Knees to Fight like a Man
I was born with a neurological disease that affects my feet. It has been a problem my whole life. One summer a few years ago, I attended a service at a summer retreat. During the service, a woman came up to me and told me that God had told her I had a generational disease that affected my feet. She said God would heal them and the disease would stop with me. It would not be passed on to another generation. After the service, I never saw the woman again. I wouldn't be able to pick her out of the crowd if I tried.
Years later, God miraculously healed one of my feet. It is now normal. The healing was confirmed by doctors. It was healed. However, I still had one bad foot. It is not healed, but God has promised me that He will heal it. All I have to do is trust and obey Him.
This past summer, a situation presented itself when I was offered a shoe orthotic to help my bad foot. It seemed like a good thing. However, the deeper I got into making a decision, the less peace I felt. The Pedorthist started telling me that my good foot wasn't really healed. He said it was only in remission. Then he said my feet could never be healed and would continually get worse.
I was faced with a decision. Would I believe the woman at the retreat who said God would heal me, or should I believe this trained professional who sincerely wanted to help me? I didn't know what to do. Was God opening this door, or was the enemy trying to get me off track? The only thing I knew to do was hit the floor and ask God.
I got on my face before God in prayer. Normally, I pray sitting up or laying down because of physical problems. However, on rare occasions such as this, I endure the pain and lay prostrate on my face before God. When I am face down on the floor, I mean business.
I spent several hours on my face for days. I've eventually realized it was a trap from the enemy to get me off track with God. I decided I would believe God's promise. I would trust that the healed foot would stay healed, and I would keep following God as He eventually completed the healing of my other foot.
I have come to realize that I need to seek God's will about every decision I face. I can no longer make snap decisions based on my own thoughts. I have enemies who will try to use any and all situations to try and trap me. They want me out of God's will so they can enter me and regain the control they have lost. I need God's wisdom to know what His will is and what are traps.
We need to seek God in prayer about everything. Joshua didn't and he was never free of this enemy from Gibeon. I know I don't want this to happen to me. I want complete freedom. I hope you feel the same way.
We live in a fast-paced world which places a low priority on time spent in prayer. I know I struggle to take time alone in prayer. However, this chapter is a stark warning about the cost of not seeking God's will in prayer. Lack of prayer can keep us bound and unable to defeat our enemies. It makes us susceptible to the lies of our enemy. It is a high price to pay for such a small sacrifice of time. Yet it is a decision we all must make for ourselves.
Will you set aside time each day to stay in contact with your C.O.? Will you seek His Will and direction for each decision you face in life? Will you daily pray for the discerning of spirits so that you can detect when something is demonic and not from God? Will you allow God to speak to you, giving you direction and guidance? I've made my decisions. What will you decide? Will you get on your knees in the trenches and fight like a man? Decide today.
1. Daily ask God for spiritual discernments so you can detect Satan, his lies, and his traps.
2. Began asking God about each decision you face.