The Book of Joshua

23. The Might of the Lord.

Joshua 10.

"Out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it He should smite the nations." — Rev. 19:15.

We now approach the great and decisive battle, which brings in the succession of victories, and the subjugation of the land, with the account of which the first part of the Book of Joshua closes.

The combination of the kings and nations against Israel, with which the ninth chapter opens, was successful where wiles were adopted, but was utterly broken where open war was the means employed. Finding that Gibeon had made terms with Israel, Adoni-zedec, the king of Jerusalem, summoned the king of Hebron and the adjoining kings to go up with him against that city, which at once called Joshua to its aid.

The king of Jerusalem, Adoni-zedec (the Lord of Righteousness), bore a similar title to his predecessor, Melchizedek (King of Righteousness), when Jerusalem (peaceful possession, or possession of peace) was called Salem (Peace). How the king of Righteousness, and king of Peace (Hebrews 7 and Genesis 14) waited on God's servant, Abraham, with the bread and the wine, we know. In those days the living God was honoured in Salem, and through all ages Melchizedek shines brightly as a type of Christ, the Priest and King. Hebron also, one of the earliest seats of civilization in Palestine, had its old associations in connection with the patriarchs. But now to Hebron comes the first call to fight against Israel. In the time, therefore, of the combination of the kings, the fear of the Most High had been shaken off by the nations of Canaan. The sun and the moon, Baal and Ashtaroth (Judges 2:13), were worshipped, their iniquity was full, their harvest had passed, their summer ended, and the wrath of God was about to fall upon them.

No foes are so bitter in their hatred of God as those who once recognized His Name. When Christianity was at first spread abroad, the Jews were its most determined opposers. The very truths they held, they turned as weapons against the gospel of the Son of God. They wrested the words of Moses and the prophets, and warred against God. The system of papal Rome's opposition to the truths of the Scriptures is greater than was that of pagan Rome; and in the coming day modern infidelity, developed into apostate Christendom, will prove itself the fiercest foe the word of God has ever had. In that approaching apostacy, "Lords of righteousness," bearing the good old titles and memories of faith in God long lost, ruling over their "possessions of peace," will be the moving powers of the opposition in Christendom to the Christ of God.

When the awful word of Jehovah demanding Israel to destroy the nations of Canaan is considered, the iniquity of the Amorites must ever be remembered. Their day had gone by; they were too wicked to be permitted to live.

Glancing through the Scriptures, and tracing God's ways in government with men, His judgments, long threatened, are seen coming at length upon the unrepentant. So it was with the men in Noah's days, after God had given them one hundred and twenty years in which to repent; their day had gone by; the flood came, and swept them all away. So it was with the tribes of Israel, who were warned by the prophets continually; but, though often reproved, they hardened themselves, and were swept into captivity, no man to this day knowing whither they are scattered. After the wicked hands of Judah had taken Christ and crucified and slain Him, messages from Himself, risen from the dead and ascended to heaven, were sent them, but they repented not. Hence the terrible word came at last to them, "Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive" (Acts 28:26); and the Jews remain in their wilful unbelief. Thus will it be in the coming day: the Gentiles, to whom now the word of God's salvation is sent, having become wise in their own conceits, and not continuing in His goodness, will be cut off (Rom. 11:17-25); and at last the wrath of God from heaven will be revealed against the men of apostate Christendom who obey not the gospel (2 Thess. 1:7-10).

The sudden and complete overthrow of the Amorites seemed to point to that day, and to the sudden destruction which shall come upon those who cry peace and safety, for "the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night" (1 Thess. 5:2). The mighty intervention of Jehovah, in casting down great hail-stones from heaven, seems a kind of indication of the time "when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God." Israel was but the sword of Jehovah: He Himself, in the great stones He cast down upon them, displayed His anger from heaven against the worshippers of demons and their pernicious ways.

Hence, in the day when Jehovah thus wrought in His majesty as "the Most High God, possessor of heaven and earth" — even as His priest Melchizedek had declared Him (Gen. 14:19) — both sun and moon obeyed the bidding of His servant, until the sinners of Canaan were destroyed. We have but to read God's word in the Book of Revelation to be aware that judgments more terrible and more wonderful are yet to fall upon this earth, and to learn that the Jews, who have turned their backs upon the Christ of God, and the professors in Christendom, who are already doing the same, shall, in the approaching day of the Lord, like these Amorites of old, be forced to drink Jehovah's cup of trembling. And, when the great day of His wrath is come, who shall be able to stand?

Up to the fifteenth verse of the chapter before us, there is a brief account given of that great day of victory we have just considered; from the sixteenth verse to the end of the chapter incidents in Israel's conquest are related. The quotation from the Book of Jasher (the book of the upright) ends at the fifteenth verse, and records two great facts, both of which are again stated at the close of the chapter. The first great fact is this — "Jehovah fought for Israel," which explains the people's success. The second is this — "And Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, into the camp to Gilgal," which gives the key to the subjective state of Israel, showing that Jehovah could be with them in His might.

We now briefly glance at some of the incidents in the conquest. The power of the five kings was suddenly and completely broken. "Fear them not: for I have delivered them into thine hand; there shall not a man of them stand before thee," the Lord had said to Joshua, who, therefore, came upon them suddenly. Strong in the Lord and in the power of His might, Israel attacked the enemy, "and the Lord discomfited them before Israel." Faith in God gives unquenchable energy to God's people, and faith's victories are the result of God's people carrying out His purposes.

The confederate kings saw only the sword of Israel, but the Israelites wielded that sword at the word of Jehovah. God has work to be done. He communicates His purpose to His people, and, if acting in faith, they simply obey His word. God leads on His servants in the path of obedience, gives them encouraging promises, enables them to believe His faithful word in the face of every seeming impossibility, and then, in answer to their faith, crowns their obedience with complete success. Well may they say, "Thou hast wrought all our works in us." When Joshua bade the sun stand still, he was carrying out the purpose of God, whose power is almighty, and whose bidding both sun and moon obey. The idolaters might cry to the sun and the moon for help, to Baal and Ashtaroth; but Jehovah the Most High would show to His people that the powers of heaven are merely His servants.

The five kings fled and hid themselves in a cave, where Joshua kept them prisoners, while the judgment of Jehovah overtook their armies. The victory over the multitudes of Canaan was not to be used in a half-and-half kind of way. Success should be but the occasion of fresh effort. In their energy for the Lord, Israel pursued and slew until not a foe remained. Such is the spirit of true Christian warfare: the present vantage is made the base line for advance to further victory; every success, truly regarded, is but an incentive to further conquest.

After the people had returned safe and sound — in peace — to Makkedah, their temporary camp, Joshua ordered the five kings to be brought out, and bidding the captains of the men of war, which went with him, to put their feet on the necks of these kings, he expressed in the most emphatic way, the subjugation of the power of Canaan to the Lord's army. "These kings," these, chiefs, these rulers had to bow to Israel, and while Joshua fixed this fact upon Israel's mind, he reiterated the great exhortation which had been the moving spring of their energy: "Fear not, nor be dismayed, be strong and of good courage: for thus shall the Lord do to all your enemies against whom ye fight." A significant lesson to the Christian soldier lies here, who finds in his victories but the confirmation of the sure promises of his God, made at the commencement of the campaign, and also the anticipation of that final conquest of Satan which is near at hand, for "the God of peace shall bruise [or tread] Satan under your feet shortly." (Rom. 16:20.)

The kings conquered and slain, city after city fell rapidly as "the Lord delivered them" into Israel's hands, and thus the whole of the south country, hills, vales and springs, became their possession. "All these kings and their land did Joshua take at one time, because the Lord God of Israel fought for Israel." It was a very great conquest "at one time," and the consideration of it, can but stir soldiers of Christ to faith and zeal, and to act in implicit obedience to the Lord.

An instructive lesson is to be gathered from the second victory at Hebron (Joshua 10:23 and 36). The king of Hebron was one of the five who had been slain at Makkedah, but a fresh king had been set up in the city. This centre of government, with "all the cities thereof" and "all the souls therein," was now overthrown. In their rapid conquest, Israel had not had time to search out all the hiding-places of the fugitives, who therefore returned, and re-peopled and refortified old Hebron; hence it had to be reconquered. And in Christian warfare victory must be thorough. It is not enough to disperse and to scatter foes: the stronghold must be utterly destroyed. Spiritual foes, if baffled or even defeated, are not easily annihilated. Their lurking-places must be sought out, else the enemy recovers his strength and returns to the war with revived activity. No sitting still nor rest is lawful in this strife; spiritual energy and watchfulness need to be incessant, otherwise the wars will have to be fought over and over again.

The campaign over, Joshua and all Israel returned, to the camp at Gilgal. And Gilgal must ever be our camp, there is none other. Thither we must return after our victories. Makkedah may avail to witness the destruction of the power of the enemy, but Gilgal witnesses the judgment of self, the power of the cross of Christ on what we are.