During World War 2, the U.S. was engaged in battle with both Germany and Japan. There was great fear that fighting on two separate fronts would cause our troops to be stretched too thin, causing fatigue and low morale among the ranks. Once Germany surrendered, many soldiers arrived home from Europe only to be redeployed to Japan. While these men were tired from the battles in Germany, their C.O.’s knew that they still had the strength to do battle on another front. The men would get a brief time of R&R, and then be shipped back to the trenches. Once we finally forced the Japanese to surrender, these brave, yet tired, soldiers got a chance to enjoy peace and a break from war.
A good commanding officer always knows how far he can push his men. He can get the most out of them without totally exhausting them. We serve such a C.O. He understands how tired we get, yet He knows the necessity not to relax before the enemy is defeated. As we return to our study of Joshua, we will see why God makes us continue to fight even after we obtain victories. As we do, we will receive the desire to continue on no matter what until our enemies are defeated. We will realize that partial victory is not the goal. We will settle for nothing less than totally possessing God’s promises.
The War of Horses
So far, we have seen Joshua and Israel take possession of the undefeatable city of Jericho. Next they overcame defeat and possessed Ai. After that, they gained the high ground by subduing Gibeon. This action revealed a co-op of enemies whose daunting size and strength could not stand up against God’s miraculous fighting. Israel now owned the entire mountain region in the land of Canaan. However, complete possession of God’s promised land was unattainable until they went into the low country. As we turn to Joshua 11, we see that God pushed Israel to fight the enemies in this territory despite the fact that they were much stronger and well equipped than the exhausted, battle fatigued Israelites.
And it came to pass, when Jabin king of Hazor heard these things, that he sent to Jobab king of Madon, to the king of Shimron, to the king of Achshaph, 2 and to the kings who were from the north, in the mountains, in the plain south of Chinneroth, in the lowland, and in the heights of Dor on the west, 3 to the Canaanites in the east and in the west, the Amorite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Jebusite in the mountains, and the Hivite below Hermon in the land of Mizpah. 4 So they went out, they and all their armies with them, as many people as the sand that is on the seashore in multitude, with very many horses and chariots. 5And when all these kings had met together, they came and camped together at the waters of Merom to fight against Israel.
Israel was about to face it’s most daunting enemy yet. For the past seven years, they had fought nations of equal strength and weaponry in hand-to-hand combat in the rugged hill country. Now they faced an army which was made up of enemies in the flat-lands. They were innumerable. Not only that, but these soldiers were stronger and better equipped. They had horses and chariots. Joshua and his men had swords. It would be like one of our soldiers going to fight against tanks using a six shooter. Victory seemed impossible, especially to the battle fatigued Israelites. However, it is in impossible situations that God does His best work.
6but the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid because of them, for tomorrow about this time I will deliver all of them slain before Israel. You shall hamstring their horses and burn their chariots with fire.”
God promised Joshua total victory. Not only that, but He said he would destroy the weapons used against Israel. What a promise! It must have given Joshua the strength and encouragement he needed, because he took instant action.
7So Joshua and all the people of war with him came against them suddenly by the waters of Merom, and they attacked them. 8And the Lord delivered them into the hand of Israel, who defeated them and chased them to Greater Sidon, to the Brook Misrephoth, and to the Valley of Mizpah eastward; they attacked them until they left none of them remaining. 9So Joshua did to them as the Lord had told him: he hamstrung their horses and burned their chariots with fire.
Once again, God did what He promised. Joshua and his men were able to defeat this massive army. They destroyed the weapons and fighting machines. Victory was won and the land was conquered.
You may be thinking, “Great story, Jamie. God came though and defeated the enemy. However, we already got that message. Why do we have to go through it again?”
I perfectly understand this point of view. However, I do feel it is important to keep going through. Let me explain why.
I have come to realize that, while victory is promised, it does get tiring to always be fighting our enemies. We will eventually come to a place where we feel like we gained enough victories. We won’t want to fight anymore. While this is an understandable place to reach, it is also a dangerous place.
We fight an enemy that will never, ever give up. They know their final destination. They have nothing to lose in the long run and everything to gain now. The more victories they gain the more power they receive in Satan’s kingdom. This is why our enemy never gives up. We must know this and avoid becoming complacent. As we continue on, we will see four reasons why we must continue to fight.
1. Continuing to fight removes sin, making us holy.
10Joshua turned back at that time and took Hazor, and struck its king with the sword; for Hazor was formerly the head of all those kingdoms. 11And they struck all the people who were in it with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them. There was none left breathing. Then he burned Hazor with fire.
Joshua fought until all the enemies were destroyed. Israel could now dwell in their land without fear of the Canaanites corrupting them. When we completely destroy our enemies, we get a step closer to a holier life. The sinful pattern that the enemy used to gain control is exposed. We can see our sinful behavior and begin living a different way. If we lose interest and don’t defeat all of our enemies, we won’t become as holy as is possible.
2. Continuing to fight shows our level of obedience.
12 So all the cities of those kings, and all their kings, Joshua took and struck with the edge of the sword. He utterly destroyed them, as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded. 13But as for the cities that stood on their mounds, Israel burned none of them, except Hazor only, which Joshua burned. 14And all the spoil of these cities and the livestock, the children of Israel took as booty for themselves; but they struck every man with the edge of the sword until they had destroyed them, and they left none breathing. 15 As the Lord had commanded Moses his servant, so Moses commanded Joshua, and so Joshua did. He left nothing undone of all that the Lord had commanded Moses.
Joshua was given orders at the beginning of the campaign. He knew exactly what God wanted him to do. We read here that he obeyed God fully. Complete obedience wouldn’t have been possible if Joshua had been content to own only the mountain region. He had to defeat all of his enemies in order to be totally obedient.
I know in my life there have been enemies I have not wanted to fight. Let’s face it; dealing with many of these enemies requires us to deal with painful memories. There have been times when I was tired of the pain. I was tired of seeing how much of a mess I was. I didn’t want to face anything else. I felt I had fought enough enemies. I was content with the progress I had made. I didn’t want to face anymore. I was done! However, God had other ideas.
He made me deal with the painful areas. I had to face the awful wreck I was. I had to choose to be obedient to His Will. I had to decide if I loved Him enough to put aside my desires and feelings and face what He wanted me to see. While it was agonizing going through it at the time, in the long run I was glad I obeyed. I entered a deeper level of freedom because I obeyed God and continued to fight. It was what happened to me, it happened to Joshua, and it will happen to you if you are obedient and destroy your enemies.
3. Continuing to fight allows God’s master plan to be accomplished.
16 Thus Joshua took all this land: the mountain country, all the South, all the land of Goshen, the lowland, and the Jordan plain—the mountains of Israel and its lowlands, 17 from Mount Halak and the ascent to Seir, even as far as Baal Gad in the Valley of Lebanon below Mount Hermon. He captured all their kings, and struck them down and killed them. 18Joshua made war a long time with all those kings. 19There was not a city that made peace with the children of Israel, except the Hivites, the inhabitants of Gibeon. All the others they took in battle. 20For it was of the Lord to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that He might utterly destroy them, and that they might receive no mercy, but that He might destroy them, as the Lord had commanded Moses.
This passage is quite clear. God caused the enemies of Israel to attack so that Israel would destroy them. It was God’s way of passing judgment on a pagan and idolatrous people. If Israel had been content to stay in the mountain territory, then God’s plan to judge the sins of the Canaanites would not have been carried out. The same is true for us.
In the last chapter, we discussed the need to command our demonic enemies into the abyss for all eternity. This is part of God’s judgment on the fallen and rebellious angels. If we fail to destroy our enemies, we will never get to the point where God’s plan of judgment happens. Instead of being placed in the abyss now, these enemies will be free to continue influencing us and others around us. This causes greater sin in our lives. It delays their judgment longer than is necessary. By submitting to God and fighting until the end, we help complete God’s master battleplan. This brings us to reason four, which is one of the best of the group.
4. Continuing to fight allows there to be peace.
As is true in the natural realm, we must have war if there is to be peace. We see this in the conclusion of Joshua 11.
21And at that time Joshua came and cut off the Anakim from the mountains: from Hebron, from Debir, from Anab, from all the mountains of Judah, and from all the mountains of Israel; Joshua utterly destroyed them with their cities. 22None of the Anakim was left in the land of the children of Israel; they remained only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod.
23So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the Lord had said to Moses; and Joshua gave it as an inheritance to Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. Then the land rested from war.
I love that last sentence. Once Joshua and the Israelites had defeated all the enemies that God had exposed so far, they could take possession of their land and enter a period of peace. They were given a rest from war.
We serve a merciful and loving God. While He does push us to fight our enemies more than we think is possible, He never makes us fight longer than He knows is possible. He will not push us to a point where we lose because of exhaustion. He will bend us so we grow deeper roots in Him and trust in Him for deliverance, but He will never push so far as to break us. He will give us rest. True peace can only be found after we defeat the enemies God wants us to defeat. Only then can we fully enjoy God’s promises for our lives.
We must be willing to keep fighting. We must face all the enemies God exposes. By doing so, we will remove sin from our lives, develop an attitude of obedience toward God, ensure God’s will is carried out, and gain a sense of peace in our lives. The question is, “Will you continue to fight?”
We have already discussed the struggle I had making these decisions, yet they are decisions that have to be made. Will we fight our enemies until they are completely destroyed, or will we settle for partial victory? Will we obey God’s commands to fight, or will we give into our own state of complacency? Will we say, “I already dealt with areas of sin”, or will we realize that there still areas of sin to defeat? Will we trust in God to give us the victory even when we don’t feel we can achieve it? Will we allow God to us to carry out His plan of judgment on the demonic world? I have been honest about my struggle and my ultimate decision. Now you, too, need to decide.
1. We have just faced some serious questions. Take time alone and make your choice. If you choose to continue on, then daily ask God to strengthen you and equip you for the battles He has for you.