War Before Rest.
“So Joshua took control of the entire land, just as the LORD had instructed Moses. He gave it to the people of Israel as their special possession, dividing the land among the tribes. So the land finally had rest from war.“ – Joshua 11:23 NLT
The Promised Land turned out to be one tough place. The original spies were right. It was a land filled with formidable enemies. From the first day Joshua and the people had set foot in the land, it had been one conflict after another. God had given them a miraculous victory over Jericho, but then it had become one war after another. They had been routed at Ai, then turned around and returned the favor after having purged the sin from their camp. Next, a group of Amorite nations form a coalition against the cit of Gibeon, because they had made a covenant with Israel. Joshua is forced to defend the city because of the treaty he had made with them. God miraculously destroys the armies of the coalition and then Joshua and his forces destroy their cities in a clean-up operation. The move from city to city, destroying everything and everyone. In spite of the Lord’s presence, this would have been a wearying endeavor. They were having to march across vast amounts of land to accomplish their task. But Joshua and the people were able to capture all the kings and their cities because the Lord, the God of Israel, was fighting for them (Joshua 10:42).
But their victories led to more battles. The kings of the northern cities of Canaan heard about Israel’s conquests and formed a coalition against them. And the size of their combined armies was massive. “All these kings responded by mobilizing their warriors and uniting to fight against Israel. Their combined armies, along with a vast array of horses and chariots, covered the landscape like the sand on the seashore” (Joshua 11:4 NLT). The Jewish historian, Josephus said that the northern armies had 300,000 infantry, 10,000 cavalry, and 20,000 chariots. That’s some army! Yet we are told, “the LORD gave them victory over their enemies. The Israelites chased them as far as Great Sidon and Misrephoth–maim, and eastward into the valley of Mizpah, until not one enemy warrior was left alive” (Joshua 11:8 NLT). Joshua went on to capture every city within the enemy coalition, destroying, burning, and plundering them. Joshua and his forces march throughout the land, from city to city, fighting and taking the land into their possession. It wasn’t just handed to them. Yes, God was involved and performed significant miracles to make their job easier, but the people of God still had to do their part. They even went on to destroy the Anakim, the giants who had terrorized the spies more than 40 years earlier (Numbers 33). Joshua and the people conquered the entire land and its inhabitants. In doing so, they were being obedient to the call of God to Moses. But it required hard work and determination. We are told that “Joshua waged war a long time with all these kings” (Joshua 11:18 NASB). We tend to read these condensed versions of these stories and lose the significance of the energy and effort expended in order for victory to be accomplished. Taking the Promised Land had turned out to be hard work. Even dangerous at times.
But all their effort turned out for the best. Their obedience resulted in rest. Because they had done what God had commanded them to do, “the land had rest from war” (Joshua 11:23 NASB). There was a time when the battles ceased and the people could rest. Their efforts were rewarded with rest. The fighting stopped and they could enjoy the fruits of their labor – without fear of attack. So what does this have to do with you and me? Well, we have to realize that we too are in a battle. We live in the midst of a spiritual war where the enemy is attacking constantly, trying to destroy us every chance he gets. John 10:10 records the words of Jesus warning us that the enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy. Satan is out to annihilate us. We, like the Israelites, are invading his land. He wants to stop the advancement of God’s people and His kingdom. And he will do everything in his power to make that happen.
But we want rest. We want peace. We want to enjoy ourselves and have fun. We have lost sight of the reality of the spiritual war in which we find ourselves. This is NOT heaven. We do have God presence and power available to us, but we are also under attack. Which is why we are encouraged to put on arm ourselves for battle. It is why we are admonished to fight. Paul encouraged Timothy to “fight well in the Lord’s battles” (1 Timothy 1:18 NLT). Paul reminds us that, “We use God’s mighty weapons, not mere worldly weapons, to knock down the Devil’s strongholds. With these weapons we break down every proud argument that keeps people from knowing God. With these weapons we conquer their rebellious ideas, and we teach them to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5 NLT). He also warns us to “Stay alert, stand firm in the faith, show courage, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13 NET). Why? Because we are at war. We live in difficult days. This is no time for the feint-hearted. We fight for the Lord. We are part of His army and represent His kingdom on this earth. We are part of His invasion force, taking back what rightfully belongs to God. We have a job to do. Rest will come. But first we must do the work He has called us to do.
Father, forgive me for wanting rest before I’ve even fought the good fight. I have a peacetime mentality in a time of war and nothing could be more dangerous. The enemy tries to convince me that there is no war. He wants to make peace with me like the Gibeonites did with Joshua. He attempts to deceive and delude me. Open my eyes to the reality of the war being waged all around me. Give me the strength I need to fight the good fight of faith. You’ve promised me rest, but that does not mean I don’t have to fight and do my part. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men