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Mighty Warrior: R&R, A Tale Of Two Rest Stops

 

            I recently watched an episode of M.A.S.H. which featured two army doctors.  The fatigue of constantly treating the wounded had left them exhausted and in need of rest.  Their C.O. sent them off for a few days of R&R.  They were to go attend a couple lectures on the latest medical procedures.  The rest of the time they were to get some rest.  However, the two doctors decided to skip the lectures and spend their time drinking and womanizing.  As a result, they got no rest.

 

            Once they returned to their unit, they were faced with a complicated surgery.  Neither man had a clue what to do.  They were too tired and hung over to think straight.  They didn’t know how to treat the man.  Their C.O. was understandably upset.  The conference they had skipped would have taught them how to perform the procedure.  The rest would have given them the focus they needed.  The R&R was useless because the two men had wasted it. 

 

            In the last chapter, we saw that God gives us R&R from our spiritual war.  He allows us times of decreased warfare so we can strengthen our spiritual ability to fight.  However, we cannot be like these two doctors who wasted their R&R.  We must use this time to strengthen ourselves for the upcoming battles.  In this chapter, we need to look at what we should and shouldn’t do during our rest time.  We will see the correct attitude to have during R&R, and how we can come out of it ready for battle.

 

The Tale of Two Rest-Stops

 

            So far in this book, we have studied the book of Joshua one chapter at a time.  There have even been multiple chapters on a single chapter from Joshua.  However, in this chapter, we are going to look at 7 chapters at once. 

 

            You may be thinking you will need some R&R just from reading this chapter.  I assure you it won’t be that bad.  The 7 chapters are mostly paperwork.  It is about as interesting as reading the census’ in Numbers or the “Begets” in Matthew and Luke.  However, tucked away in this tumultuous detail, we get a glimpse of both how we should and shouldn’t act during periods of rest.  Although the good behavior comes first in the text, I want us to start with how not to respond.  This begins in Joshua 17.

 

Rest turned to Complacency

 

            The people of Israel had gone for quite some time without a battle.  During this time, they divided up the land they had conquered.  Each of the twelve tribes was given its share of the Promised Land.  However, not all of them were pleased with their portion.

 

            14 Then the children of Joseph spoke to Joshua, saying, “Why have you given us only one lot and one share to inherit, since we are  a great people, inasmuch as the Lord has blessed us until now?”

 

            The people of Joshua had grown to such a size that they didn’t fit on their land.  God had blessed them so much that they were about to burst.  Instead of dealing with the situation themselves, they complained to Joshua.  However, instead of pampering them, Joshua tells them to take care of the problem themselves.

 

            15 So Joshua answered them, “If you are a great people, then go up to the forest country and clear a place for yourself there in the land of the Perizzites and the giants, since the mountains of Ephraim are too confined for you.”

 

            This seemed like a reasonable solution.  Get out of the state of rest and conquer more land.  They needed to drive out more enemies to live more comfortably.  However, they preferred to stay in a place of rest.

 

            16 But the children of Joseph said, “The mountain country is not enough for us; and all the Canaanites who dwell in the land of the valley have chariots of iron, both those who are of Beth Shean and its towns and those who are  of the Valley of Jezreel.”

 

            The time of rest had made them complacent.  They had forgotten that God had the power to defeat the iron chariots.  They simply didn’t want to start fighting again.  They had gotten fat and lazy.  Warring was not on their agenda.  They wanted Joshua to fix it for them.  However, he refused.

 

            17And Joshua spoke to the house of Joseph—to Ephraim and Manasseh—saying, “You are a great people and have great power; you shall not have only one lot, 18 but the mountain country shall be yours. Although it is wooded, you shall cut it down, and its farthest extent shall be yours; for you shall drive out the Canaanites,  though they have iron chariots and are strong.”

 

            Joshua gave them a little tough love.  He encouraged them to fight.  He reminded them that God would help them.  However, the fighting was their responsibility.  More land was theirs for the taking.  Unfortunately, their complacency won out.

 

            16:10  And they did not drive out the Canaanites who dwelt in Gezer; but the Canaanites dwell among the Ephraimites to this day and have become forced laborers.

 

            17:12Yet  the children of Manasseh could not drive out the inhabitants of those cities, but the Canaanites were determined to dwell in that land.

 

            The people of Joseph didn’t destroy their enemies and gain more freedom in the Promised Land.   Instead, they tolerated them.  This was a sad state for a well-rested Israelite tribe to reach.  Unfortunately, they weren’t the only tribe to be complacent.

 

            18:1 Now the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh, and set up the tabernacle of meeting there. And the land was subdued before them. 2But there remained among the children of Israel seven tribes which had not yet received their inheritance.

 

            3Then Joshua said to the children of Israel:  “How long will you neglect to go and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers has given you?

 

            In total, eight of the tribes did not totally possess their territory.  They enjoyed the rest from war too much.  They never roused themselves to begin again.  Fortunately, they had a strong leader who was willing to kick them in the rear to motivate them. 

 

            We need to make sure our brief rest from war does not keep us from gaining full freedom.  We can’t let our hearts get complacent and content.   Instead, we need to use this time of rest to get ready for the next battle.  Luckily, we have a man who shows us how to act during our time of R&R.  His story is found in Chapter 14.  We met him earlier in this book.  He now re-emerges to show us what God wants us to do during our time of rest.  He is one of my favorite men in the Bible.  Who is he?  He is none other than the legendary Caleb.

 

The Heart of a Rested Hero

 

            Caleb’s story is found a few chapters before the narrative of the seven complacent tribes.  Caleb, one of the men of Judah, didn’t wait around for Joshua to point out his land.  He took the bull by the horns and approached Joshua. 

 

            14:6 Then the children of Judah came to Joshua in Gilgal. And Caleb the son of Jephunneh the  Kenizzite said to him: “You know  the word which the Lord said to Moses the man of God concerning you and me in Kadesh Barnea. 7I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord  sent me from Kadesh Barnea to spy out the land, and I brought back word to him as it was in my heart. 8Nevertheless  my brethren who went up with me made the heart of the people melt, but I wholly  followed the Lord my God. 9So Moses swore on that day, saying,  ‘Surely the land  where your foot has trodden shall be your inheritance and your children’s forever, because you have wholly followed the Lord my God.’

 

            Joshua and Caleb were old war buddies.  They were the only two men from Israel’s slavery days in Egypt who were allowed to enter the Promised Land.  However, they had to wait over 40 years until all the other Israelites died. 

 

            Caleb didn’t waste any of this time of rest.  He didn’t allow himself to get complacent.  He made sure that, when the time came, he was ready to enter into full possession of God’s promises.  As we continue on, we will learn from Caleb’s example three things we can do to stay battle ready.

 

1.  We must keep ourselves in fighting condition.

 

            The first thing Caleb did was ensure that he was physically able to fight his enemies.

 

            10And now, behold, the Lord has kept me  alive,  as He said, these forty-five years, ever since the Lord spoke this word to Moses while Israel wandered in the wilderness; and now, here I am this day, eighty-five years old. 11 As yet I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me;

 

            That is quite a statement this 85 year-old man makes!   He had kept himself in shape.  He ate right, he exercised, and he stayed active.  Whatever fighting ability he had then he still had now.  He did this by staying active and fit.  He still felt that he was a lean, mean, fighting machine.  We need to do the same.

 

            Like Paul says, we need to stay prepared both in season and out of season.  We have to stay strong and battle ready even during times of rest.  However, we aren’t striving for a physical fitness. We need to stay spiritually fit. We have to continue to grow spiritually.  We need to strengthen our relationship with God.  We need to spend time in prayer.  We need to gain Biblical knowledge.  We need to become strong in the Lord.  We cannot become spiritual complacent.  Instead, we must grow deeper roots with God.  Then, when the battle comes, we will be spiritually fit to fight.

 

2.  We must stay enthused about the battle. 

 

             Even though Caleb had to wait about 50 years until he got to fight his enemies, he never lost the desire to destroy them and break free.

 

            I am just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. (NIV, verse 11b)

 

            I looked up the word “vigorous” to find out it meant “to be full of vigor”.  That’s a big help!  Then I looked up vigor and found that it means “active strength or force, intensity, energy”.

 

            Caleb says he was as vigorous now as he was some forty years ago.  He still felt the same intense desire to destroy his enemies.  His energy and strength was focused on staying ready to fight and defeat them when the time came.  He was as excited about doing battle during his time of rest as he was when in active duty 40 years earlier.

 

            We need to keep the same level of intensity during our time of rest from spiritual war.  We cannot feel relief that we don’t have to fight.  We need to understand that this is a temporary rest and there will be more fighting after we gain strength.  Our desire to destroy our enemies and live in God’s freedom and promises must increase during our times of rest.   This ties in with our third reason.

 

3.  We must turn our hatred into passion to destroy our enemies.

 

            While Caleb had kept himself physically fit and mentally enthused, he did something that was equally important.  He allowed his hatred of his enemies to burn inside of him.

 

            12Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the Lord spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how  the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fortified.  It may be that the Lord will be with me, and  I shall be able to drive them out as the Lord said.”

 

            Caleb had an intense passion to attack this mountain territory.  He wanted it.  He demanded the right to fight this particular enemy.  The intensity of his passion begs the question, “Why did he have to have this particular piece of land?  What fueled this intense desire?”

 

            I think the answer to this question will surprise you.  Caleb’s passion was fueled by an intense hatred of his enemies.  To understand this, we must look at the passage again.

 

            12Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the Lord spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how  the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fortified.  It may be that the Lord will be with me, and  I shall be able to drive them out as the Lord said.”

 

            Caleb tells Joshua that he wants to fight these people because they were the Anakites.   Also notice the usage of the words “You heard in that day.”  In order to know what day and who the Anakites were, we have to go back almost 50 years to the day that Joshua, Caleb, and the other ten spies gave their report to Moses. 

 

            The ten rebellious spies said that Israel could not possibly defeat the enemies because of the humongous people of Anak.  This enemy caused fear in Israel which resulted in the people rebelling against God.  Because of this event, Caleb was forced to wander in the desert for 40 years.

 

             I believe Caleb hated the evil action that resulted because of this event.  He used this hatred as motivation to stay prepared for battle.  Forty years later, this enemy faced its judgment, and Caleb made sure that no one got to fight them but him.

 

            Like Caleb, we need to hate our enemies and the affects they have on our lives.  Some will say it is wrong to feel hatred.  I disagree.  Hatred can be a positive emotion if it fuels a passion to destroy our enemies and gain freedom.  Hatred is sin when it is accompanied with bitterness and unforgiveness.  However, when it is a hatred of evil, it is a positive feeling. 

 

            Hatred of evil is what drove Jesus to passionately drive the moneychangers out of the temple.  The Bible even says that God hates evil behavior.  It is okay for us to hate our spiritual enemies.  It is normal to hate the destructive forces that lead us to sin.  We should despise them for the pain and sorrow they cause in our lives.  This hatred needs to fuel a passion inside of us to destroy these enemies.  I know it has for me.

 

            I have inherited many generational sins from my father such as abuse, anger, and deceit.  I learned these behaviors from being around my dad.  Over the years, I have begun to see how devastating and hurtful these enemies are.  At first, I hated my dad, but through much prayer and counseling, I have learned how to forgive him.  However, I still to this day hate these behavioral patterns.

 

            This hatred fuels a burning desire inside of me to destroy these enemies so they can never influence me again.  Hating my dad was sinful, but hating the behavior was right.  The hatred keeps me on the attack, even in times of rest.  Caleb felt the same way, and, when given the chance, he leapt out of his R&R and began to fight.

 

            “It may be that the Lord will be with me, and  I shall be able to drive them out as the Lord said.”

 

            13And Joshua blessed him,  and gave Hebron to Caleb the son of Jephunneh as an inheritance. 14  Hebron therefore became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite to this day, because he  wholly followed the Lord God of Israel. 15And  the name of Hebron formerly was Kirjath Arba (Arba was the greatest man among the Anakim).  Then the land had rest from war.

 

            Because Caleb never allowed himself to grow complacent, he was able to conquer his land.  As a result, we read that he once again got a rest from war.  Do you know what Caleb did during this new time of rest?  He made plans on how to conquer more land for his daughter and future son-in-law (Joshua 15:13-20). 

 

            This is the heart of a godly warrior.  He never got complacent.  He always stayed prepared to fight, and when the opportunity presented itself, he defeated his enemies. 

 

            This is the heart I long to possess.  I have decided to follow Caleb’s example and use any times of rest to prepare for future battles.  R&R is not going to make me complacent.  I will use the time to grow stronger in God.  I will keep vigorous for the battle, and I will let my hatred for my enemies fuel my passion to fight.  I have made my decisions.  How about you?

 

Decision Time

 

            If God were to bless you with a time of R&R, how will you respond?  Will you get comfortable and complacent like the first seven tribes, or will you use the time to prepare for the next battle?  Will you increase your spiritual strength by reading God’s Word, praying, and educating yourself?  Will you dread having to get active again, or will you enthusiastically jump back into the fray?  Will you hate the thought of fighting again, or will you hate the way your enemies have devastated your life?  Will this hatred fuel anger and bitterness, or will it fuel a passionate desire to be free of your enemies once and for all?  The rest time will come.  The question is, “How will you respond to it?”

  

  War Drills

 

1.         During times of rest, make sure you still spend time reading the Bible and praying.  Also, educate yourself through books, study guides, and commentaries.

 

2.         Examine your heart.  Is there any hatred inside of you?  If so, is it a sinful hatred that needs to be dealt with?  Begin the process of removing the hate and forgiving the person.  Then use the hate as fuel to destroy your enemies.

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