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<061001>JOSHUA 10:1-43 PEACEMAKING As its opening verse shows, the tenth of Joshua is closely connected with chapters 6, 8, and 9, and this needs to be duly heeded by us if we are to discover and appropriate the spiritual lessons which it has for the Lord’s people today--which should ever be one of our principal quests when reading God’s Word. In chapters 6 and 8, we have an account of Israel’s conquest of the cities of Jericho and Ai, but in the ninth something quite different is presented. Following the fighting at Ai there came a lull, and the capitulation of the Gibeonites unto Israel without any strenuous efforts on the part of the latter. It is often thus in the experience of Christians.
When they have been particularly active in engaging the enemy and a notable victory has been obtained, the Lord grants a brief season of rest and comparative quietness. Yet they are not to conclude therefrom that the hardest part of their conflict is now over, so that it is safe for them to relax a little. What we are about to ponder indicates the contrary, and warns us that Satan does not readily admit defeat. Not only was Israel’s warfare far from being ended, but a more determined and concerted resistance was to be encountered. Instead of having to meet the force of a single king, the massed armies of five of them had now to be defeated. The same thing appears in the history of our Savior: the farther His gracious ministry proceeded, the greater and fiercer the opposition reel with. Sufficient for the disciple to be as his Master.
Proceeding from the general to the particular, we observe that the opening verses of Joshua 10 confirm the typical application which we made of the concluding portion of the preceding chapter. At the close of our last we pointed out that what is there recorded of the Gibeonites adumbrated sinners surrendering themselves unto Christ, or, to use an expression which was freely employed by the Puritans, their “making peace with God.” More recently, some have taken decided exception to that expression. It is affirmed that the sinner can do nothing whatever to make peace with God, and that it is quite unnecessary for him to essay doing so, seeing that Christ has “made peace through the blood of His cross. But that is to confound things which differ, confusing what Christ purchased, and when the same is actually applied unto us. The question — and a most important one too — is, What does God require from the sinner in order for him to become a personal partaker of the benefits of that legal “peace” which Christ made with God? To which some make answer, Nothing but faith — simply believing that Christ has fully atoned for all our sins and relying upon the sufficiency of His sacrifice. But that is only half the answer, the second half, for it leaves out an essential requirement which must precede believing. “Repent ye, and believe the Gospel” ( Mark 1:15), “Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” ( Acts 20:21).
It is very clear from these passages that repentance is as necessary as faith.
Nay, we go farther, and declare that an impenitent heart is incapable of exercising a saving faith. Christ complained to Israel’s leaders, “Ye repented not afterward, that ye might believe in him” ( Matthew 21:32) — they responded not to the ministry of His forerunner because they had no realization of their sinful and lost condition. Those “dispensationalists” who state that repentance is required only of the Jews evince their ignorance of the most elementary truths of Scripture, for in “the great commission” Christ ordered His servants “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” ( Luke 24:47), and His apostle announced that God “now [in this Christian era!] commandeth all men everywhere to repent” ( Acts 17:30). Of course He does, for such a call is the pressing of His holy claims upon those who have ignored the same — who have disregarded His authority, slighted His law, and lived entirely to please themselves. It is because so little repentance has been preached that Christendom is now crowded with empty professors.
Repentance is a taking sides with God against myself. It is the laying aside of my awful enmity against Him. It is the privative side of conversion, for there must be a turning from something before there can be a turning unto God. Repentance consists of a holy horror and hatred of sin, a complete heart-forsaking of it, a sincere confessing of it unto God. True repentance is always accompanied by a deep longing and a genuine determination to abandon that coarse which is displeasing to God. It is impossible, in the very nature of the case, that a soul could seek God’s pardon with any honesty while he continued to defy Him and persist in what He forbids.
Thus, repentance is the sinner’s making his peace with God — the throwing down of the weapons of his rebellion, ceasing his warfare against Him. Nor is there anything in the least degree “legalistic” or meritorious about this, for repentance or making peace with God neither atones for our vile misconduct of the past nor moves God to be gracious unto us.
Repentance no more purchases salvation than does faith, yet the one is as indispensable as the other. The wicked is required to “forsake his way... and return unto the Lord” before He will have mercy upon him and abundantly pardon ( Isaiah 55:7, and cf. 1 Kings 8:47-50; Acts 3:19). “Now it came to pass, when Adonizedek king of Jerusalem had heard how Joshua had taken Ai, and had utterly destroyed it; as he had done to Jericho and her king, so he had done to Ai and her king; and how the inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel and were among them; that they feared greatly” ( Joshua 10:1,2).
Once more we would note the very varied effects upon different ones of what they had “heard” of Israel’s exploits, and how some of them attributed their successes unto Jehovah, while others did not so. Rahab ( Joshua 2:9-11) and the Gibeonites ( Joshua 9:9) were examples of the former, and the kings of Joshua 9:1, and this Adonizedek of the latter. The king of Jerusalem, despite his high-sounding name, gave God no place in his thoughts; yet he was thoroughly alarmed at Israel’s progress.
His fear was cumulative. He was rendered uneasy at the tidings of Jericho’s overthrow, still more so at the news of the destruction of Ai; but when he and his subjects learned of the Gibeonites having concluded a league of peace with Joshua, “they feared greatly” — most probably because he had counted on their considerable support in resisting these aggressors.
We would also attentively heed the Spirit’s emphasis here on the timemark: “It came to pass, when Adonizedek... heard.” There is nothing meaningless or superfluous in the Scriptures, and it is by noting such a detail as this that we often obtain the key which opens to us the spiritual significance of what follows. In this instance the immediate sequel was the banding together of four others with the king of Jerusalem against Gibeon, and in the light of the closing verses of chapter 9, the typical force of this is not difficult to perceive. It is when sinners renounce the service of their former master, and the friendship of the world, in order to make their peace with God and join interests with His people, that they must be prepared to encounter persecution from the ungodly. That is why the Saviour bade all would-be disciples of His to sit down first and “count the cost” ( Luke 14:28-33), and His servant warned believers, “Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you” ( 1 John 3:13). In Adonizedek’s determination to slay the Gibeonites we have adumbrated the inveterate enmity of the serpent against the Redeemer’s “seed” Previously, while Satan keepeth his palace, “his goods are in peace” ( Luke 11:21), but when he loses any of his captives, his rage against them knows no bounds.
Ere passing on let us ponder one other detail in our opening verse, namely Israel’s “utter destruction” of Jericho and Ai, for a most important lesson is inculcated by that adjective. In its application to the spiritual warfare of the Christian it tells us that we must be ruthlessly thorough in the work of mortification. No half measures are to be taken against the things which hinder the present possession Of our heritage. There must be no compromising with our lusts, no trifling with temptation, no flirting with the world. True, inward corruptions will strongly resist our onslaughts upon them, as the men of Ai did when Israel came against it. For a time the king of Ai had the better of the contest, so that Israel were dismayed; but they did not abandon the fight, instead they humbled themselves before the Lord, and He graciously undertook for them. Not that they were released from the discharge of their responsibilities, so that they could passively witness His operations on their behalf. No, indeed. They were required to perform their duty and employ different tactics. Accordingly, as they implicitly followed His instruction, the Lord prospered them and Ai was utterly destroyed”: in other words, complete victory was theirs.
But the overthrowing and destroying of Ai proved to be neither an easy nor a pleasant task to Israel, for in the course thereof they passed through both a humiliating and distressing experience. So it is in that work of unsparing mortification to which the Christian is called. Our Lord likened it unto the plucking out of a right eye and the cutting off of a right hand ( Matthew 5:29,30). By such language He intimated the difficulty and severity of the work He has assigned us. The “eye” represents that which is dearest to the natural man, and the “hand” what is the most useful to him.
The plucking out of the one and the cutting off of the other signify that we are to exercise the most rigorous denying of self, that however precious an idol or profitable any unrighteous course may be unto the carnal nature, they must be sacrificed for Christ’s sake. No matter how unwelcome it proves to the flesh, its lusts are not to be spared; for unless they be brought into subjection to God, the soul is gravely imperiled. By Divine grace this difficult task is not impossible. The “utter destruction” of Ai, then, is recorded both for our emulation and for our encouragement. Yet remember that, though a brief lull may follow such a victory, the surrender of our remaining enemies is not to be looked for; rather must we expect a yet more determined resistance from them, seeking to prevent any further spiritual advance by us. “They feared greatly, because Gibeon was a great city, as one of the royal cities, and because it was greater than Ai, and all the men thereof were mighty” (verse 2).
We believe the Holy Spirit’s design in giving us these particulars about the Gibeonites was at least threefold: to magnify the grace of God in subduing them unto Himself, to account for the subsequent actions of Adoni-zedek, and to cast light upon the typical significance of the sequel. In view of what we are here told about the Gibeonites, it is the more remarkable that they had not only made peaceful overtures unto Joshua, but had offered no demur at taking upon them the yoke of servitude and becoming hewers of wood and drawers of water unto Israel. Therein we should discern a people, hostile to Him by nature, “made willing” in the day of God’s power, and the might of His grace in bringing them to submit readily to the most exacting and pride-abasing terms. Such is the nature of the miracle of conversion in every case: the slaying of man’s awful enmity against God, the humbling of his haughty heart, the bending of his stubborn will, the bringing of hint to a complete surrender unto the lordship of Christ, making him an “obedient child” ( 1 Peter 1:14). “They feared greatly, because Gibeon was a great city, as one of the royal cities, and because it was greater than Ai, and all the men thereof were mighty” (verse 2). Gibeon was not only a formidable frontier town but also the capital of that section, and such a city and territory yielding so tamely to Israel much alarmed the king of Jerusalem. Not only had he lost what he probably counted upon as being a powerful ally, but he feared that other cities would follow suit, so that he now began to tremble for his own skin.
If so powerful a people had capitulated without striking a blow, who could be expected to take a resolute stand against Joshua and his men? Not only was he much alarmed, but greatly chagrined and incensed against the Gibeonites, and so resolved upon their destruction (verses 4, 5), which indicates the third design of the Spirit here. The “greater” the trophy which grace secures for Christ, the more “royal” his status, the fiercer will be the opposition which he meets with from his enemies. That is why those whom the Lord makes the ministers of His Gospel are the chief marks of Satan’s malice. But let them not be dismayed thereby. Not only is it a high honour to suffer for Christ’s sake, but the opposition a faithful preacher encounters is a good sign that God is using him to make inroads into the Devil’s kingdom. “Wherefore Adonizedek king of Jerusalem sent unto Hoham king of Hebron, and unto Piram king of Jarmuth, and unto Japhia king of Lachich. and unto Debit king of Eglon, saying, Come up unto me, and help me, that we may smite Gibeon: for it hath made peace with Joshua and with the children of Israel” (verses 3, 4).
It will be remembered that the Canaanitish kings whose territories lay farther to the north and the west had previously decided to federate themselves against Israel ( Joshua 9:2), and by this time would probably be engaged in mustering their forces for a combined assault upon them.
But the tidings of Gibeon’s alliance with Joshua so intimidated and enraged these five kings, whose cities were nearer the point which Israel had then reached, that they decided to anticipate the plan of their remoter fellows by falling upon Gibeon. It is likely that the king of Jerusalem reckoned upon Joshua having his hands so full in making his arrangements and deploying his forces to meet the impending attack of the northern anti western armies of the Canaanites that he would be unable to come to the relief of the Gibeonites. It therefore appeared to be a favorable opportunity and a safe venture for these five kings to fall upon those whom they regarded as their renegade countrymen; yet in so doing they but accelerated their own destruction.
Verse 2 opens by saving, “That they feared greatly,” yet the preceding verse mentions no one save the king of Jerusalem, and so we would expect it to read that “he feared greatly.” While it is likely that the plural number is designed to include his subjects, it is also highly probable that the “they” looks forward to the four kings mentioned in the next verse, and it intimates why they were willing to respond to Adonizedek’s call. Thus we behold again how widespread was the terror inspired by the news of Israel’s victories. Not only was this a further fulfillment of what the Lord had announced in Exodus 23:27, and Deuteronomy 11:25, but we may perceive therein a shadowing forth of what takes place under the proclamation of the Gospel. As we pointed out above, the hearing of what the mighty arm of Jehovah had wrought reacted very differently in them than in others. There was the same opportunity for rhose kings to make their peace with Joshua as the Gibeonites had. and their fatal refusal to do so supplies a solemn illustration of the fact that the Gospel is “the savor of life unto life” to those who believe and are saved, but” the savor of death unto death” to those who reject it and are lost ( 2 Corinthians 2:15,16).
Nor is fear sufficient to move a sinner to throw down the weapons of his warfare against God, as appears not only from the case before us, but also from that of Pharaoh and of Felix who “trembled” as he listened to Paul speaking on “judgment to come” ( Acts 24:25).
Not only was Adonizedek unwilling to humble himself and make peace with Joshua, but he was determined that none of his near neighbors should do so, and in his persuading them to follow his policy we have a sad instance of a strong character being able to influence others to evil. To be a personal transgressor is bad enough, but to be a ringleader in wickedness evinces a high degree of depravity and is doubly damnable. Adonizedek’s “Come up unto me, and help me” is to be understood in the light of “that we may smite Gibeon,” thereby signifying that it was a duty devolving equally upon all of them. At first one wonders what they thought would be gained by such a course: would it not be more prudent to husband their forces for self-defense when the army of Joshua should invade their section? Probably their purpose was to make an object lesson of Gibeon and thereby intimidate other cities from following their example. But the inspiring motive which prompted the prime mover is clearly seen in the ground of his appeal unto his fellows: “For it [Gibeon] hath made peace with Joshua and with Israel,” and as the closing words of verse 1 add, “and were among them.” Thus it was something more than an instinct of self- preservation which moved them to act, namely a malignant spirit against those who had united themselves with the people of God. Thereby they had alienated themselves from their original associates and evoked their wrath.
DECLARATION OF WAR The typical teaching of the Old Testament is one of its most striking and blessed features. It not only demonstrates the Divine authorship thereof, by causing the shadows to outline so accurately the coming substance, but supplies valuable instruction for the student of the New. We are sometimes reminded that “In the Old Testament the New is contained, and in the New Testament the Old is explained,” but there is a danger lest we draw the inference that the latter has largely displaced the former. This is so far from being the case that the former casts considerable light on the latter, and supplies the keys which unlock many of its details. Rather are the two Testaments like the two eyes of our body — both necessary in order to complete vision, the one complementing the other. Not only are we largely dependent upon the prophets for an understanding of the predictions made by Christ and through His apostles, not only is there much in the historical books which supplies vivid illustrations and exemplifications of the practical teaching and precepts of the Epistles, but the ordinances and ceremonies of Judaism foreshadowed and help to open unto us many aspects of Gospel truth. We have sought to give prominence to this in our progress through the book of Joshua, showing that in numerous ways its central character prefigured the Lord Jesus, that Israel’s experiences in the conquest of Canaan adumbrated the Christian’s spiritual warfare, and that both solemn and precious evangelical pictures arc to be found therein.
During the past century there were those who rendered a valuable service unto Christendom by the stress they laid upon the importance and worth of the Old Testament types, and how that many incidents recorded in its historical books set forth “the way of salvation.” Yet it is much to be regretted that they were so partial in their selection, and that their emphases on certain particular aspects of the way of salvation were often so disproportionate. It is indeed blessed to point out how that Rahab was delivered from destruction and obtained a place among the people of God by the exercise of faith, and how that the Cities of Refuge are a blessed representation of that security which is to be found in Christ for those who are pursued by the Law; but it is equally striking to behold, and necessary to insist on if the balance of truth is to be preserved, that the Gibeonites making peace with Joshua provides just as real and striking a “Gospel picture” as do the former. There are some of the types which more especially magnify the grace of God; there are others which exemplify His holiness. In the one is displayed His benevolent overtures; in the other, the claims of His righteousness. Sometimes it is the freeness of the Divine mercy which is stressed, at others the responsibility of the sinner is pressed.
Those who have read critically our last six articles on the Gibeonites (Joshua 9) may have concluded that we were guilty of contradicting ourselves, for we began by viewing them as illustrating the character and conduct of empty professors and hypocrites applying for union with God’s people, yet ended by regarding them as types of repentant sinners coming to Christ and making their peace with God. It was not a case of our forgetting what we had first pointed out, nor is there anything inconsistent therewith in our latter remarks. There is a fullness in God’s Word which pertains not to the writings of men, and many and varied are the “applications” which may be legitimately made of a single passage in it. In Genesis 22. Isaac is first a type of Christ, in his subjection to his father’s will and his readiness to be offered in sacrifice; but later he is a figure of the sinner — the ram taking his place and dying in his stead! From Exodus 16 many striking comparisons can be drawn between the manna and Christ as the bread of life, yet in John 6 we find Him making some very definite contrasts between them. Some of the characters in Scripture portray both the unsaved and backslidden believers, nor is there anything incongruous in their so doing. So it is with the Gibeonites: they need to be regarded in two different relations, in accordance with the marked change in their early and later conduct.
We must distinguish between the Gibeonites as they were moved by Satan to act dishonestly and tempt Israel and as they were subsequently moved by the Holy Spirit to surrender unto Joshua and made willing to take his yoke upon them. In his natural condition the sinner is a hypocrite, and even when he is brought sincerely to seek after Christ not a little carnality is mingled with his efforts. There is a very marked difference to be observed between the wily conduct of the Gibeonites in Joshua 9:3-6, and their frankness and meekness in Joshua 9:24,25, and equally so should there be between the “applications” which the expositor makes of them. What follows in chapter 10 confirms the accommodation we made of the closing verses of chapter 9. No sooner had the Gibeonites made their peace with Joshua than the rage of the enemy was stirred against them. Thus it is in the experience of a saved sinner. If he be truly converted — gives Christ His rightful place in his heart and life, making a thorough break from the world — it is not long before he discovers that so far from his former companions congratulating him, or being ready to emulate him, they now turn against him and become antagonistic, persecuting him in some form or other, seeking to bring about his downfall rather than encourage him.
But we must take a yet closer look at those who opposed the Gibeonites.
Five kings of the Amorites combined together to destroy them: they were not only fellow Canaanites but close neighbours. Thus we regard them as something more than a figure of the Christian’s foes in general, namely a pointing more definitely to those whom, at first, he does not suspect of being inimical to him. When a young convert has broken from the ungodly he is more or less prepared for the enmity of the profane world, but not so of the professing world: rather does he expect that those who bear the name of Christ will he his friends. Alas, he has to discover (in principle at least, and often literally) that “a man’s enemies are the men of his own house” ( Micah 7:6) — quoted by our Savior in Matthew 10:36. This is yet another lesson that the Christian has to learn in connection with his spiritual warfare, and a particularly painful one it is. But sufficient for the disciple to be as his Master, for we are told of our Lord that “neither did His brethren believe in Him” ( John 7:5) and that His kinsmen regarded Him as crazy, saying “He is beside Himself” ( Mark 3:21); while it was one of His apostles who betrayed Him.
What has just been pointed out was clearly adumbrated by those who assailed the Gibeonites. First, as already remarked, they were near neighbors, fellow Canaanites. Second, they dwelt in the mountains ( Joshua 10:6), and it is ever to be borne in mind that there are no meaningless details in God’s Word. To inform us that these kings resided in the mountains is only another way of saying that they occupied high ground, that theirs was an elevated position. Sad to say, it is often those who hold a similar place in the religious realm who are the least friendly toward the Lord’s little ones. Desiring to have the pre-eminence, they are merciless unto any who refuse to be subject to them — as the Sanhedrin hounded Christ to death and forbade His ambassadors to preach in His name. The mountains are also a symbol of pride ( Isaiah 40:4) with which every Diotrephes is filled ( <640101> 3 John). Third, the same feature appears again in the high-sounding names of these kings ( Joshua 10:3), for Adonizedek, the prime mover, means “lord of righteousness”; Hoham, “Jah (God) protects”; Piram, “wild” or “fierce”; Japhia, “high” or “elevated”; Debit, “speaker” —suitable cognomens for pretentious professors!
Adonizedek, the king of Jerusalem, sent a message unto the four kings saying: “Come up unto me, and help me, that we may smite Gibeon” ( Joshua 10:4).
Very soon after the Gibeonites had entered into their friendly league with Israel they found the most powerful forces of southern Canaan arrayed against them. They had done them no wrong, but rather had shown their fellows the wisest and best course to adopt. Yet this was the very thing which the arch-conspirator most dreaded (verses 1, 2). Incidentally, we may note how, at that early date, Jerusalem exerted more or less of a dominating influence in the land of Palestine, for not only was it its king who took the lead in this movement, but his city was to be the gathering center for the others. Yet apparently he had not sufficient confidence in his own forces to act alone, so sought the cooperation of four of his fellows.
Had it been merely a matter of coming to his aid, it is to be doubted whether they would have responded, for they were more or less rivals.
Human nature and tribal bigotry being the same then as now, it would be self-interest which moved them to accede, and since Gibeon was “as one of the royal cities” (verse 2) they coveted a share of its spoils.
But let us observe next the ground of Adonizedek’s appeal unto his fellows: “for it hath made peace with Joshua and with the children of Israel” (verse 4). That which so incensed him was their union with the people of God. It is to be duly noted that this is the third time their “making peace” is mentioned ( Joshua 9:15; 10:1), and the setting in which the phrase occurs leaves us in no doubt as to its precise import. It connotes a change of relationship and the complete reversal of the old order of life. Spiritually speaking, it is our response to the Gospel call “be ye reconciled to God” ( 2 Corinthians 5:20) — cease your enmity against Him. The very expression occurs in “Let him take hold of My strength, that he may make peace with Me” ( Isaiah 27:5).
It is a complete surrendering of ourselves unto God. It is identical with conversion, which is a thorough right-about-face. Genuine repentance is always accompanied by reformation of conduct. The wicked must abandon his course of self-will and self-pleasing and “return unto the Lord” (from whom he departed in Adam’s apostasy) if his sins are to be pardoned ( Isaiah 55:7, and compare Proverbs 28:13).
The Scriptures are full of what is deliberately and fatally omitted from the false “evangelism” of our day, which blatantly announces that nothing is required from the sinner except faith in Christ. But an impenitent heart cannot savingly believe, nor is there any forgiveness for those who are determined to continue in a course of carnality and worldliness. “Put away the strange Gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the Lord God” ( Joshua 24:23) — idols must be abandoned before He can be loved and served. Repent ye therefore, and be converted is the Divine demand. Observe well what immediately follows: “that your sins may be blotted out” ( Acts 3:19.).
The same order occurs again in Mark 4:12: “Lest at any time they should  be converted, and  their sins should be forgiven them.” That is the order of human responsibility. “We... preach unto you that ye should  turn from these vanities  unto the living God” ( Acts 14:15).
Again, Paul declared that his business was to turn men “from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God” ( Acts 26:18), and note well that precedes “that they may receive forgiveness of sins.” Likewise must a Christian cast off the works of darkness” ere he can “put on the armor of light” ( Romans 13:12). “Therefore the five kings of the Amorites... gathered themselves together, and went up, they and all their hosts, and encamped before Gibeon, and made war against it” (verse 5).
That is set over against the “made peace” of the preceding verse, teaching us clearly that to make our peace with God signifies to cease fighting against Him. It also shows that, when we do so, those who are opposed to Him will turn against us, and that no matter how circumspectly we conduct ourselves. It is the desire of a Christian to live amicably with all men, but he soon has cause to say with the Psalmist, “I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war” ( <19C007> Psalm 120:7). The enemies of the Lord will not leave alone those who wear His yoke and are joined to His people. In uniting with Israel the Gibeonites had alienated themselves from their heathen neighbors. The four kings offered no objection to Adonizedek’s plan, but willingly made common cause in seeking the destruction of their fellows. What a sidelight that casts upon the character of the Canaanites!
How it serves to demonstrate their fitness to be the objects of Jehovah’s judgment! It is also to be noted that all of these five kings were Amorites, and these were the ancient enemies of God’s people ( Numbers 21:21-23).
In those days it was not the custom of an invading army to make an immediate attack upon a city, but rather to surround it and weaken its inhabitants by a process of starvation — cutting them off from all further supplies from without. Ancient cities were surrounded by high and thick walls and protected by powerful gates, and to make a direct assault at first would prove a costly undertaking. Accordingly we read that the hosts of these kings “encamped before Gibeon.” They were evidently quite sure of themselves and had no doubt of success. Probably they thought it unlikely that Joshua would go to the trouble of honoring his league with the Gibeonites, and, in any case, that the camp of Israel was too far distant for their fighting men to come up to the relief of the beseiged city; and therefore that the task would prove a simple one. But like many others before and since, they were to prove that “the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong” ( Ecclesiastes 9:11). Like Pharaoh of old, these kings had left the Lord out of their reckoning! And they too discovered that nothing more surely provokes Him against evil-doers and hastens their destruction than for them to make war against those who have entered into a covenant with Him.
But why should God permit this unprovoked attack? Why did He suffer the Gibeonites to be so menaced? Since they had made their peace with Him, why did He not cause the rest of the Canaanites to be at peace with them?
For a variety of reasons. First, to impress upon them their own origin.
It was naught but sovereign grace which made them differ from those who sought to slay them. It is a salutary exercise of heart for us to heed that Divine injunction, “look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged” ( Isaiah 51:1).
Such a look will remove pride from us; such a realization will keep us in our proper place — in the dust before God. The Gibeonites belonged to the same accursed race as these five kings, and it was only God’s distinguishing mercy which prevented them from sharing their doom. Seek to remember that, Christian reader, when you are being persecuted by the world, and ask yourself who it is that has delivered you from being among the persecutors!
Many other answers may be returned to our question as to why God permitted the Gibeonites to face such a situation. It was to test their faith and make it evident unto them whether or not they now regretted the radical step they had recently taken. Would they tell themselves what fools they had been to antagonize their former companions, or were they prepared to endure afflictions for the Lord’s sake? Those who heed Christ’s exhortation to first sit down and “count the cost” before enlisting under His banner will not “think it strange” when the fiery trial comes upon them. Again, it was to make them realize that they were living in a hostile world, as sheep in the midst of wolves. Sooner or later each believer is made to prove that unwelcome fact. “Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you” ( 1 John 3:13). It did your Master, and the more faithful you be to Him the more fellowship will you have with His sufferings. Again, this trial was designed to cast them back the more upon the Lord: to wean them from any hankering they had to maintain communion with those who were strangers to Him. Finally, it afforded an opportunity to prove God’s sufficiency: His compassion, fidelity. power.
And how did the Gibeonites react to the peril threatening them? They did not repudiate their alliance with Israel and apologize to Adonizedek for what he would regard as their perfidy. They did not put their trust in the strength of the city’s walls; nor did they, on the other hand, regard their predicament as hopeless, and despairingly await their end. Instead, “the men of Gibeon sent unto Joshua to the camp to Gilgal, saying, Slack not thy hand from thy servants; come up to us quickly, and save us, and help us: for all the kings of the Amorites that dwell in the mountains are gathered together against us” (verse 6).
Either they had advance tidings of the impending attack, and in order to save time dispatched messengers unto Joshua, or the cordon which their enemies had thrown around the city was not so complete as to prevent some of their number issuing forth on their mission. Very blessed is it to behold their conduct on this occasion. They appealed to the one who had recently shown them mercy and spared their lives. They had full confidence in him, neither questioning his willingness to come to their aid nor doubting his ability to rescue them.
In appealing to Joshua for help they disavowed their self-sufficiency. So far from proudly entertaining the idea that they were capable themselves of repulsing the enemy, they looked to Joshua for deliverance. Though by nature all the men of Gibeon were “mighty” (verse 2), they relied not on their own skill and valour, but humbled themselves by applying elsewhere for assistance. Note this well, dear reader, if you would be victorious in the fight of faith. Recognize that the forces confronting you are far too formidable for your own wisdom and might. Take the place of dependence and look to the antitypical Joshua. It is in conscious weakness that our strength lies ( 2 Corinthians 12:10). There is no other way of becoming strong in the Lord and in the power of His might than by utterly discounting our own fancied competency. “To them that have no might He increaseth strength” ( Isaiah 40:29). On the other hand, woe is denounced on those who trust in chariots” ( Isaiah 31:1). Trust in the Lord and thou shalt not be confounded.
In the heyday of youth, “while the evil days come not” those words mean comparatively little unto us. As the sunshine of prosperity is enjoyed our minds do not dwell upon the shelter provided for the storm, Nevertheless, God has ordained that sooner or later each of His children will be devoutly thankful that such a verse is in His Word, and give them to prove experientially the verity and preciousness of it. Then it is, but only then, we discover that “trouble” is a blessing in disguise — as the dark clouds pour down showers which refresh the parched earth· It is true that trouble does not always issue in conscious and manifest blessing, but in such case the fault is ours. Many of the troubles which people impiously ascribe to “bad luck” or “misfortune are brought upon themselves by hurried decisions or foolish conduct· But if the Christian will place the blame where it belongs, confess to God the sinful failures which have occasioned his trouble, and beg Him graciously to sanctify the same unto him, his prayer will be answered, and he too will learn that the Divine Workman can bring good out of evil.
It is very blessed to observe the climacteric emphasis in Psalm 46:1.
And to make it still more emphatic and impressive “a very present help,” added the Psalmist — as Spurgeon expressed it, “more nearly present than the trouble itself.” For, mark it well, it is not merely that the Lord is a very present help in time of trouble” as so many misquote it, but “in trouble” itself. Thus His assistance may be counted upon with absolute certainty. He is a very present help in trouble to enable us to bear it, to sustain us under it, to comfort us in it, to bring us through it, yea, to sanctify the same unto us. Thus have His people, in all ages, abundantly proved. He was “a very present help in trouble” unto Jacob when He subdued the enmity of Laban and Esau, to Joseph in Egypt, to the widow of Zaraphath, to Daniel in the lions’ den. And He is the same today! No matter how cautiously we plan or discreetly we act, there is no escaping trouble in some form or other, for man is “born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward” ( Job 5:7). How can it be otherwise: myself a fallen and erring creature, dwelling in a world which lieth in the wicked one? But let not that fact sour or dismay you: rather use it for obtaining personal proof of the validity and value of the Divine assurances. Trouble is sent not to drive us from God, but to draw us to Him. Emulate the Psalmist: “In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord” ( Psalm 77:2) — not took matters into his own hands, seeking to put right what was wrong, for that ends in making bad matters worse. The believer’s duty and privilege is clear: to appropriate and plead that precious promise, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me” ( Psalm 50:15).
No, make the living God your recourse: count upon His loving-kindness and tender pity, bear in mind His mighty power and infinite resources, so that nothing is too hard for Him. Does the reader say, I have called upon the Lord again and again, but He has not removed my trouble or even mitigated it? Nor has He promised to do so. But in Psalm 1:15, He says, “I will deliver thee,” and is not that the same thing? No, certainly not; rather is it something much better. There is something worse, something to be far more dreaded, than “trouble,” namely the sinful way in which we are so prone to act while under it. The promise is “Call upon Me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee ” — not “from it,” but from thyself. Call upon Me humbly, trustfully, perseveringly, and I will “deliver thee” — from open rebellion against Me, from a suicide’s grave, from sinking into utter despair. But more, “and thou shalt glorify Me,” by meekly and patiently enduring what I have appointed thee, by leaning harder upon Me, and by thus improving the trouble. This is both our duty and privilege: “glorify ye the Lord in the fires” ( Isaiah 24:15). To glorify Him should ever be our aim, whether in health or on a bed of suffering. Let not the afflicted saint give way to self-pity and regard himself as “the victim of circumstances,” but seek grace to rise above and be victor over them. “Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart” ( Psalm 27:14).
Trouble is not always in consequence of our wrongdoing or injudicious conduct. So far from it, it may be caused by fidelity to Christ, thereby stirring up against us the enmity of Satan. Such was the case of the Gibeonites. A short time after they had made peace with Joshua, entered into a league with him, and he had appointed them to be servants “for the altar of the Lord,” five kings of the Amorites determined to destroy them, and “they and all their hosts... encamped before Gibeon, and made war against it” ( Joshua 10:5).
Whereupon we are told, “And the men of Gibeon sent unto Joshua to the camp to Gilgal, saying, slack not thy hand from thy servants; come up to us quickly, and save us, and help us: for all the kings of the Amorites that dwell in the mountains are gathered together against us” (verse 6).
Most commendable was such an action. In the hour of their need they turned unto the one who had so graciously spared their lives and entered into a covenant with them: they confided in his sympathy and counted upon his ability and willingness to come to their aid. Thus it is that Christians should ever do with the antitypical Joshua — “casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you” ( 1 Peter 5:7).
That appeal of the Gibeonites unto Joshua may be typically regarded as the prayer of believers unto the Lord. Considered thus, it contains valuable instruction for us.
First , observe the place which they took: “thy servants” they acknowledged themselves to be. Such language breathed a spirit of dependence, disowning any might or sufficiency of their own. This is what becomes us as we approach the mercy seat — taking the place of confessed weakness, coming as empty-handed beggars.
Second , they acquainted Joshua with the desperateness of their situation, spreading their case before him. Such is ever our privilege: to unburden our hearts unto Him who alone can afford us real relief.
Third , they made known their request: “save us, and help us.” Logically those clauses should be reversed, but a burdened and agitated heart pays little attention to its phrasing when dire calamity prompts the cry for deliverance.
Fourth , this appeal was couched in terms of urgency: “slack not thy hand... for all the kings of the Amorites... are gathered together against us.” That was not the language of dictation or of impatience, but a cry of distress, and an appeal unto the relation which now obtained between them and Joshua, for subservience is entitled to protection.
But there was one word in their appeal which perhaps some of our readers would deem unsuitable for use in a prayer unto God: “Come up quickly” begged the Gibeonites. Let God’s Word determine, for to it we must ever turn for instruction and guidance. Before referring thereto let us bear in mind that the situation in which those men were placed was no ordinary one, but rather were they in extremity, so that unless effectual help reached them promptly it would be too late. Thus we are not about to turn unto the Scriptures for something which will supply us with a general rule to direct us on all occasions, but rather to ascertain whether there are any prayers to God recorded therein which intimate that it is permissible for His people to employ the language of importunity when, to them, their case appears desperate. Undoubtedly there are, not only in a single passage but in many. “Bow down Thine ear to me: deliver me speedily” ( Psalm 31:2), cried David. And again, “Make haste to help me, O Lord my salvation” ( Psalm 38:22): he entreated that the help might not be long in coming. “But I am poor and needy: make haste unto me, O God” ( Psalm 70:5): a desperate case calls for timely aid.
God’s time is always the best time, yet when we are sorely pressed we may beg Him to act on our behalf without delay. “Hear me speedily, O Lord: my spirit faileth” ( <19E307> Psalm 143:7). When our case is critical we may plead its urgency. “O my God, make haste for my help” ( Psalm 71:12). Such a cry was evoked by the sore pressure of affliction, and it shows that if real necessity justifies it we may be urgent with God. though never out of wilfulness. At a time when the enemy had come in like a flood and the cause of God was languishing, and His people were in sore straits, we find that Asaph prayed. “Let Thy tender mercies speedily prevent [“meet”] us, for we are brought very low” ( Psalm 79:8): thus in dire distress it is permissible for us to ask for speed on God’s part.
What is still more pertinent to this particular point is the example of our Savior, for in the Messianic Psalms we find that He cried, “O Lord, My strength, haste Thee to help Me” ( Psalm 22:19, and cf. 40:13). “I am in trouble; hear Me speedily” ( Psalm 69:17). And again, “In the day when I call answer Me speedily” ( <19A202> Psalm 102:2). “So Joshua ascended from Gilgal, he, and all the people of war with him, and all the mighty men of valor” (verse 7).
Joshua did not send a messenger to the hard-pressed Gibeonites telling them that they must fight their own battles or proffer the excuse that his hands were already too full for him to intervene on their behalf. Nor did he raise an objection against the hard journey which such an undertaking would involve. Not thus would he mock those who were looking to him for deliverance. Instead, he responded promptly and readily to their pressing request. Therein we see again how blessedly Joshua prefigured the Savior. As we read through the four Gospels, we find that the Lord Jesus never failed to answer an appeal for help, whether that appeal came from Jew or Gentile, rich or poor, saint or sinner. He was just as willing to heal the servant of the Roman centurion as He was the mother-in-law of His apostle, and to grant the request of the poor leper as to raise Lazarus. Nor did He refuse to give an interview unto Nicodemus because he sought Him by night, or turn a deaf ear to the dying thief when He was experiencing the pains of crucifixion. And, my reader, He is the same today as He was yesterday: vastly different in the position He occupies, but unchanged in His readiness to succor the needy.
Though we are very familiar with what has just been pointed out, and freely acknowledge the preciousness of the same, yet every one of us needs to be reminded of it, especially when we are hard pressed. Not only are we ever prone to give way to an evil heart of unbelief, but when sore trouble comes upon us we are likely to be so occupied with it as almost to lose sight of our blessed Lord. One reason why He sends or permits the trouble is that we may be drawn closer to Him, and prove more fully His sufficiency to help us, no matter what straits we may be in. As He never turned a deaf ear to any cry of distress during the days of His flesh, nor refused to undertake for anyone who sought His help, neither will He do so now that lie is seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high. As He promptly delivered Peter when he cried, “Lord save me, I perish,” so will He still thrust forth His mighty hand and rescue any believer who, fearful that he may be drowned in a sea of troubles, calls upon Him for relief the Gibeonites did not appeal in vain to the captain of Israel in their emergency, nor will the Christian if he trustfully petitions the antitypical Joshua. “So Joshua ascended from Gilgal, he, and all the people of war with him, and all the mighty men of valor.” This shows that he had learned his lesson” or had profited from his previous failure ( Joshua 7:3-6), for now he employed at least the major part of his forces and accompanied them in person. We say “at least the major part of his forces.” for it is most unlikely that he would leave the camp, with all the women and children, entirely undefended. Thus this is probably one of the many instances in Scripture where the word “all is not to be taken absolutely, without qualification, but would here signify battalions of the men of war from all the tribes. Herein we see Joshua fulfilling his covenant engagement, for when those Gibeonites threw in their lot with the people of God they came under His protection — compare Ruth 2. And a courageous enterprise it was — very different from the former ones. On earlier occasions, at Jericho and at Ai, it was but a single enemy which he had to engage, but here it was the massed forces of no less than five kings which he had now to encounter, and they had the great advantage of being stationed in the heights unto which he must ascend. Typically, Joshua was here a figure of the good Shepherd going forth to rescue His imperiled sheep, and in the “all the people of war with him” we behold the plenitude of Christ’s resources ( Matthew 28:18). “And the Lord said unto Joshua, Fear them not: for I have delivered them into thine hand; there shall not a man of them stand before thee” (verse 8).
We are not told that Joshua “asked counsel of the Lord” on this occasion, nor is it at all likely that he did so. There is no need for any to inquire what be God’s will for him when his path of duty is clearly marked out before him, as was the case here. They having owned his dominion and submitted to his yoke, Joshua was now under definite obligation to go to the assistance of the Gibeonites — as the government is to safeguard its loyal subjects. Nevertheless it is more than probable that Joshua’s heart was lifted up to trod as he prepared for his arduous and dangerous undertaking, seeking wisdom from Him and making request for Him to grant him success m the same. Not only is this to be inferred from all that is recorded of the general tenor of his pious life but had Joshua now gone forth in a spirit of independence and self-sufficiency, we can scarcely conceive of the Holy One, under such circumstances, vouchsafing him such a word as this.
In appearing unto Joshua at this time the Lord intimated His approval of Israel’s sparing the lives of the Gibeonites ( Joshua 9:18-20) and of their venturing to deliver them from their enemies, and accordingly He gave him this message of encouragement and assurance. “Fear them not.” Very gracious was this. The Lord would have the heart of His servant in perfect peace from the outset, and thus be the better prepared for the forthcoming battle. Fear is due to unbelief, through being occupied with the puny might of those who are arrayed against us, instead of our faith being fixed upon the almightiness of the One who is for us. But the Lord did more than barely exhort His servant to banish from him the spirit of trepidation, giving him an all-sufficient reason why tranquility of mind should now possess him: “for I have delivered them into thine hand.” Thus, here too, we are taught that perfect peace of heart is the fruit of the mind is being stayed upon Jehovah. “I will trust, and not be afraid, for the Lord Jehovah is strength” ( Isaiah 12:2): the latter is ever the consequence of the former — when we resolve to make Him our confidence, none will affright us. In His “there shall not a man stand before thee” there was a renewing of the original promise which the Lord had made unto Joshua in Joshua 1:5. “God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God ( Psalm 62:11) — alas, most of us are so dull of hearing that the message has to be repeated much oftener than “twice” before we really believe it. “Joshua therefore came unto them suddenly, and went up from Gilgal all night” (verse 9).
First , we should observe that the assurance which the Lord had just given Joshua was not perverted by him into an excuse for slackness on his part, but very much the reverse. Instead of reasoning that since victory was certain there was no need to exert himself and his men unduly, rather were they thereby stimulated to self-sacrificing effort. He did not wait until the morning before starting out on the hard and hazardous mountain climb, but, setting aside his own comfort, journeyed all through the night.
Second , therein we behold the merciful response which he made unto the urgent request of the Gibeonites, “Come up to us quickly, and save us.” He delayed not, but promptly hastened to their relief. As Matthew Henry pointed out, “If one of the tribes of Israel had been in danger, he could not have shown more care and zeal for its relief than here for Gibeon, remembering then, as in other cases, that there must be one law for the stranger that was proselytized, as for him that was born in the land.
Third , he came upon the one “suddenly,” when they were least expecting it, probably before day had broken and ere they had made their dispositions and taken their places, thereby throwing them into instant confusion and consternation. “And the Lord discomfited them before Israel, and slew them with a great slaughter at Gibeon, and chased them along the way that goeth up to Beth-horon, and smote them to Azekah, and unto Makkedah (verse 10).
If more of the servants and soldiers of Christ were willing to lose a night’s sleep in His cause, particularly in efforts to help their distressed brethren, we should oftener behold the Lord baring His mighty arm, showing Himself strong on their behalf. Observe how jealous the Holy Spirit ever is in guarding the Divine glory! Joshua was unquestionably an able strategist and those under him were “mighty men of valor,” and no doubt they acquitted themselves well on this occasion; yet that also was of God, and therefore the honors must be ascribed unto Him. Not only spiritual gifts, but physical powers, natural aptitudes, mental endowments, military skill and success, are all bestowed upon men by their Maker — “what hast thou that thou hast not received?” This is not sufficiently recognized by us: if it were, there would be less of idolatrous hero worship.
MIRACLES The spiritual ignorance and skepticism of the day in which we are living calls for a clear and unhesitating setting forth of the teaching of God’s Word upon this subject. It is the duty of every preacher and Sabbath- School teacher to bring before the rising generation what Holy Writ reveals thereon. Without any drawing upon the imagination, yet by the use of vivid and picturesque language, it is one which can be made deeply interesting to the young. Broadly speaking, the miracles of the Bible are of two kinds or classes: manifest and supernatural judgments of God upon the wicked; gracious and mighty interpositions of God on behalf of His people. Of the former we may instance the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by fire from heaven: of the latter, the opening of a way through the Red Sea so that Israel passed through dry-shod.
Briefly, we would define a miracle as a supernatural event brought about by a special act of Divine providence, an extraordinary display of God’s power. It is an event occurring in the natural world, which is apparent to the senses and of such a nature that it can be rationally attributed only to the immediate act of God. As a special and more obvious interposition of God, a miracle differs from His common or ordinary providences.
The objection made by infidels against miracles, that they are contrary to nature and its established order, is quite pointless, for it entirely leaves out of consideration the fact that they are due to the direct intervention of One who is superior to those laws and can alter the mode of their operation whenever it pleases Him. The various ways and means by which God governs the universe demonstrate both His freedom and His sovereignty.
Matter is ruled by forms, bodies by souls, inferior bodies by celestial, the visible world by invisible angels, angels and souls immediately by God. Nor do the same things always keep the same track or follow the same course.
In Moses’ time the flowing sea stood up as a wall and the flinty rock flowed as a river. In Joshua’s day the glorious sun was halted in his race and remained quite stationary for a whole day. In Elijah’s life the iron swam, and in Daniel’s the fire did not burn. During Christ’s ministry there were numerous excesses of nature, actings by prerogative, displays of the Divine glory. Such variety in the motions of nature exhibits the perfect freedom and superintendence of nature’s Lord.
Whatever philosophical difficulties miracles may present to unbelief, the explanation which the Bible gives of them is far more rational and satisfactory than any that human wisdom can supply. The theories and hypotheses advanced by atheists are incredible and irrational, for they are at once un-philosophical and unscientific. But once the living God be postulated as their Author, One who is eternal and almighty, infinite in wisdom and goodness, supernatural works are to be expected. To say that miracles are “impossible” is absurd and the acme of arrogance, for the one who makes such an assertion virtually assumes himself to be possessed of omniscience — endowed with all knowledge. To deny that they exist is, if possible, still worse, for it is a deliberate closing of the eyes to that which confronts us on every side. Creation is a miracle, for it immeasurably transcends the capabilities and even the understanding of the natural man.
The combined wit and resources of all physicists and scientists in the world could not create so much as a single blade of grass. No wonder the Lord asks puny man, “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding” ( Job 38:4).
The sustentation and preservation of creation is a miracle. None but the One who gave them being could provide for and maintain such an innumerable multitude of creatures. Even if the wise of this world were able to bring into existence a blade of grass, they could not keep it alive a single day if deprived of the soil, and denied the water and sunshine which God provides. The regulation of the created system is a miracle. Man may tamper with the clocks in his “daylight-saving” schemes, but he cannot make the sun rise an hour earlier or set an hour later. He may sinfully fret and fume at the weather, but he can no more alter or modify it by any of his devices than he can change the tides of the sea. Providence is a continuous miracle, supplying the needs of not only a billion human beings, but myriads of animals, the birds of the air and the denizens of the deep. “Thou openest Thine hand, they are filled with good. Thou hidest Thy face, they are troubled” ( <19A428> Psalm 104:28,29) — so dependent is the world on its Maker’s bounty. Man may attempt to “ration,” but when God calls for a famine he is helpless before it.
Strictly speaking, a miracle is something more than an unusual occurrence or mysterious prodigy, for the effects of the electric telegraph had been such unto those who lived a thousand years ago, but today they are explainable by natural laws. Contrariwise, the more fully a real miracle be comprehended the more evident it is that such a phenomenal effect is above all the powers of nature, and must be attributed to an immediate act of God’s intervention. Nor are we justified in regarding such interventions as anarchical infractions of nature’s order, but rather as the interposition of the Divine will, directing events unto the outworking of His purpose, every miracle being wrought in strict accord with His decrees. As the Westminster Confession so admirably expresses it, “God in His ordinary providence maketh use of means, yet is free to work without [ Hosea 1:7], above [ Romans 4:19], and against [ 2 Kings 6:6; Daniel 3:27] them at His pleasure.” It must not be thought that the Creator has brought into existence a system or instituted such laws as tie His own hands. No, “Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did He in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places” ( <19D506> Psalm 135:6).
Great care needs to be taken how we employ such expressions as “nature” and “the laws of nature,” for they were coined by those who had no knowledge of or faith in the living God, and are commonly used by men who would exclude the thought of God’s immediate presence and power in the universe. But the Scriptures teach us to see the hand of God operating directly in all that is attributed to “natural causes” by the skeptics. The Christian rejects the idea that the universe is naught but a vast machine which works involuntarily, necessarily and uniformly. Instead he acknowledges a present God in providence as well as creation. As he admires the flowers which spring from the tiny seeds, renewing the original grace and beauty of the parent plant, he traces the immediate influence of the Creator, as truly and as much as in making Aaron’s rod to bud ( Numbers 17:8). Nor is the vegetating of the seed any less a Divine work and marvel because it is multiplied by millions and repeated year by year for successive ages. What unbelief terms “the course of nature” is but the agency of God. He is operating on the right hand and on the left, constantly maintaining and directing all things, though men discern Him not. Without Him “not a sparrow falls to the ground.”
That the so-called “laws of nature” are being continually modified in their action by the intervention of Divine will appears plainly in the marked differences in the weather from year to year. Though Lewis be situated so far to the west, this writer has witnessed snow lying on the ground during July! That is, of course, very exceptional, but it illustrates what has just been said, as do also the frequent falsifications of the “weather prophets,” even of those who claim that it “runs in cycles.” The same thing is exhibited in the longevity of different individuals: not only do no two centenarians give the same recipe for the attaining of old age, but many of them have been of frail physique and delicate constitution, and if naught but physical properties and laws determine the event, then the strongest should live the longest and the weakest die early. The material world abounds in such exceptions. “Cut off a snail’s head and’ it will grow out again; cut off a crab’s head, but it will not grow out again. Cut off a crab’s claw and it will grow out again, but cut off a dog’s leg and it will not grow out again” (Roget: Physiology).
Why such marked variations in the seasons? Why such disparity in the health and mentality of members of the same family? Why those differences in the operation of the very same properties and laws of animal substance? “It is as easy for God to turn nature out of its settled course as it was to place it in the station it holds and the course it runs” (Charnock).
Verily, “He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased” ( <19B503> Psalm 115:3).
Rightly did R. Haldane argue, “To affirm that a suspension or alteration of the laws of nature is impossible is to confer on them the attribute of Deity, and to declare they are supreme; and having no superior, precludes the existence of God as well as miracles, or it represents Him as subordinate to His own laws” (Evidence and Authority of Revelation, Volume 1).
We say again that what is called the course of nature” is nothing but the direct agency of God, the exercise of His will, wisdom and power. “Nature” would cease to move were its Maker to withdraw His energy from it. It can no more operate of itself than it could produce itself. Those laws by which God usually conducts the government of the material creation were originally adjusted by Him, are now preserved by His power and are deviated from whenever He pleases. “And it came to pass, as they fled from before Israel and were in the going down to Beth-horon, that the Lord cast down great stones from heaven upon them unto Azekah, and they died: they were more which died with hailstones than they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword” ( Joshua 10:11).
It will be recalled that when the Gibeonites made their peace with Joshua and entered into a league with him, five kings of the Amorites gathered their armies together and made war upon their capital. They sent to Joshua an urgent appeal for help, which he answered at once by marching at the head of his men through the night. Coming upon the Canaanites unexpectedly, and probably before they had made their dispositions and appointed sentries, they threw them into consternation. Moreover, “the Lord discomfited them before Israel, and slew them with a great slaughter,” thereby signifying His approval of Israel’s sparing the lives of the Gibeonites by now giving them the most glorious victory in all their wars. As the remaining Amorites fled the Lord employed against them the artillery of heaven, which demonstrates how hopeless is the case of those who have Him for their enemy.
In casting down the great stones of hail upon the Amorites we may observe what a variety of means God uses in executing His will. In overwhelming the antediluvian world He employed a deluge of rain; in the destruction of Sodom, fire from heaven; in the overthrow of Pharaoh and his hosts at the Red Sea, by removing the wheels of their chariots and drowning them.
Therein we behold His sovereignty exemplified, as it is too in ministering unto His people. This was not the first time God made the hail a messenger of judgment, for He did so in the seventh plague upon Egypt ( Exodus 9:22-26). Many of the premillenarians believe that “hail” will be one of the weapons again used by God in His judgments on the earth ( Revelation 16:21). This awful visitation on the Canaanites had been foretold: “Hast thou seen the treasures of the hail, which I have reserved... against the day of battle and war?” ( Job 38:22,23) — Job was probably written before Joseph’s birth.
There are three things which were singular and striking about the hail in Joshua 10. First, its great size: second, its force and efficacy — being like bullets from a machine gun, slaying men outright. Occasionally, we have read of hail of unusual dimensions, which did great damage to crops and cattle, but not of it effecting such wholesale slaughter of human beings as on this occasion. Third, its discrimination — none of the Israelites being killed! This is the feature which most evidently evinced the miraculous nature of this hail. Though Joshua’s men must have been in close combat with the Canaanites and more or less mixed up with them as they pursued them, none of the deadly missiles fell on God’s people. This was even more remarkable than what occurred under the seventh plague, for whereas the Lord then sent it throughout all the land of Egypt, none fell in Goshen ( Exodus 9:26); but here it fell all round the Israelites, yet without one of them being harmed — illustrating that word, “A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee” ( Psalm 91:7).
There is probably an allusion to this miracle and others of a similar nature in Psalm 18:13,14, both passages speaking of “The Lord discomfited them... and chased them,” and mentioning the hail. There was no escaping His wrath. Hopeless is the plight of all who provoke Him. When the appointed hour of His vengeance arrives, none can deliver himself. Thus will it be with everyone who mocks Him and persecutes His people. They shall discover, to their eternal undoing, that it is “a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” That more died from the hailstones than Israel slew with the sword made good God’s word unto Joshua, “Thine eyes have seen all that the Lord your God hath done unto these two kings: so shall the Lord do unto all the kingdoms whither thou passest Ye shall not fear them: for the Lord your God He shall fight for you” ( Deuteronomy 3:21,22).
The opening verses of Psalm 44 supply a striking and blessed commentary upon what has been before us. “We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what work Thou didst in their days, in the times of old. How Thou didst drive out the heathen with Thy hand, and plantedst them; how Thou didst afflict the people, and cast them out. For they got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them: but Thy right hand, and Thine arm, and the light of Thy countenance, because Thou hadst a favor unto them.” This was a Godhonoring acknowledgment. Canaan was His gift unto Israel, and He put them in possession of it. Their warriors, indeed, were not inactive, but it was the light of His countenance which inspired them with valor. God was the Conqueror of Canaan. Without His power working in and for them, all their efforts had been in vain. By employing the artillery of heaven against the five kings the Lord made this the more evident.
And what is the application which we are to make of the same?
First , give unto the Lord the honor which is due to Him, and freely ascribe our victories unto Him. Whatever success be ours, it is wholly due to the might and goodness of God. Without His blessing all our endeavors would be useless.
Second , recognize and own His sovereign grace to be the fount from which proceed all His actings on our behalf; “because thou hadst a favor unto them.”
Third , make known to our children the miracle-working power of God, especially what He has wrought for us. Fourth, count upon Him undertaking for us: He is the same almighty God and Savior now as then!
Thou art my sovereign Lord, my sure Defense against all enemies, my allsufficient Redeemer. Intervene on my behalf, confound my foes, grant me the victory. Thou hast but to speak and it is done, to “command” and it standest fast. “And the Lord discomfited them before Israel, and slew them with a great slaughter” ( Joshua 10:10).
Therein we behold a solemn exemplification of Christ’s utterances in Matthew 18:6, “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones that believe in Me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”
Jehovah had previously acted in accordance with that principle in connection with Egypt, for it was because Pharaoh oppressed and afflicted the Hebrews so sorely that his land and people were visited by the ten great plagues. And now the five kings of Canaan had provoked the Most High by their assault upon Gibeon (verses 4, 5), for its inhabitants had made peace with Joshua and with the children of Israel, entering into a league with them, and thereby coming under the Lord’s protection. As pointed out in a previous article, the Gibeonites are to be regarded as young converts, and in seeking their destruction the Amorites had affronted God Himself, for as the prophet assured His people, “he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of His eye” ( Zechariah 2:8, and cf. Acts 9:1,4).
Many of those Amorites had fallen beneath the sword of Israel, but a still greater number died under the great hailstones which the Lord cast upon them from heaven (verse 11). In whatever direction they fled the vengeance of God overtook them, for as Isaiah 28:21, informs us, the Lord acted in “wrath” with them.
A great number of the Canaanites had fallen, but the remnant of their armies continued in flight. Joshua was reluctant that complete victory should be prevented by failing daylight, and though he and his men had marched all through the preceding night (verse 9) in hastening to the relief of the sorely menaced Gibeonites, so that he could spring a surprise attack upon their invaders, and though they had been engaged in fighting and pursuing the retreating foe over the mountain passes, yet he was loath to call a halt before his task was completed. We therefore behold him, next, supplementing his self-sacrificing diligence by a remarkable display of faith: “he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon” (verse 12).
From the natural standpoint that appears like the act of a madman, and even from a spiritual aspect it seems to be the height of presumption. Yet it was neither the one nor the other: rather was it the exercise of full confidence in a miracle-working God. Faith must not be judged by the standards of carnal reason.
But, it may be asked, must not faith have something solid to rest upon, some word of God’s to lay hold of and direct it? Generally, yes; but not necessarily something specific in every instance. For example, when David committed his fearful sin in connection with Uriah, no provision was made for such a case, nor had he any promise from God which he could plead.
What then did he do? Psalm 51 reforms us. He cast himself upon the known character of his God. No sacrifice was appointed under the law for murderers, and therefore the guilty one here acknowledged, “Thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it” (verse 16). What then? “According unto the multitude of Thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions” (verse 1) was his plea. And Psalm 32:5, shows it prevailed! Again, when Daniel was cast into the lions den, so far as the Scripture informs us he had no definite word from God of deliverance, yet he was delivered and that “because he believed in his God” ( Joshua 6:23) — without any specific promise to appropriate to his case, Daniel’s faith confided in the power and sufficiency of his God to extricate him from his perilous position; and the Lord did not confound him. Of course not! It is always safe to trust Him.
In the present instance there is little room for doubt that Joshua had an extraordinary impulse or impression made on his heart by the Holy Spirit, for that alone will satisfactorily account for so pious a man asking God to do this unprecedented thing, as it alone explains why He granted such an unheard-of request. It may be objected that nothing is here said of Joshua making any request. Neither are we told in 1 Kings 17 that Elijah made request of the Lord that there should be a drought, yet James 5:17, informs us that he did: “he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.” But further, let it be duly noted, we are reformed that “Then spake Joshua to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel” (verse 12).
Surely that confirms the thought expressed at the opening of this paragraph, that Joshua acted here in response to an extraordinary impulse from above, as was not infrequently the case with eminent servants of God during the Old Testament era. “Then spake Joshua to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon, and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon.” The two things, it will be noted, are here joined together, and their order intimates their relationship. The inspired record here is too brief to justify dogmatic assertions. To us it appears that Joshua asked God’s permission so to command the sun, or that while he communed with Him he received corn mission to do so. As Matthew Henry pointed out, “The prayer had not been granted by the Divine power, if it had not been dictated by the Divine grace. God wrought this faith in him and then said ‘According to thy faith,’ and to the prayer of faith ‘be it unto thee.’ It cannot be imagined, however, that such a thing as this should have entered into his mind if God had not put it there. A man would have a thousand projects in his head for the completing of the victory, before he would have thought of desiring the sun to stand still; but even in the Old Testament saints ‘the Spirit made intercession according to the will of God.’ What God will give, He inclines the hearts of His praying people to ask, and for what He will do, He will be inquired of ( Ezekiel 36:37).”
Not only was Joshua’s ordering of the sun to stand still a glorious exhibition of his faith and implicit confidence in God, but it also manifested his zeal in the service of God. This appears more plainly if we bear in mind what has already received our notice, namely that he had engaged in a tiring uphill march all through the previous night, and then had been employed in fighting from early dawn till late that day, for the terms of this double command to the celestial luminaries intimate that the sun was then near the hour of its setting, and the moon of rising. Yet instead of now welcoming a respite, and an opportunity to rest himself and his men, his heart longed for the prolongation of the hours of daylight, so that he might complete his task and utterly exterminate the enemy. How blessedly he here typed out the One who declared by the Spirit of prophecy “the zeal of Thine house hath eaten me up” ( Psalm 69:9)! In its practical application unto ourselves this detail makes it evident that there must be unwearied efforts put forth by us in our spiritual warfare and that we are not to rest satisfied with partial victories, but must continue fighting until complete success is ours. No doubt Joshua and his men found “they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength” ( Isaiah 40:31), and so shall we, if we do likewise. “He said in the sight of all Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon.”
To express himself thus before all his army evinced how strong was the assurance of his faith. Joshua was not afraid that the Lord would put him to confusion before the people. Confident that God had inspired his cry, he doubted not that it would be answered. It was to the Almighty, the creator of the sun and moon, that he looked, and with Him all things are possible.
Doubtless, he counted too on Jehovah’s special favor unto His covenant people. Moreover, He had said; “I have delivered them into thine hand” (verse 8), and therefore the remaining Amorites must not be allowed the opportunity of escaping under the shelter of nightfall. Looking higher: what anointed eye can fail to see in his action here a striking adumbration of Christ as the miracle-worker, who, by His many wonders and signs, gave proof that He was not only the promised Messiah, but none other than God, manifest in flesh. How vividly does Joshua’s staving the planets in their courses remind us of that One who had such command over the elements that His disciples marveled saying, “What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him!” ( Matthew 8:27). “And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies” (verse 13).
This is one of the favorite passages which infidels scoff at. Wise in their own conceits, they affirm that for such a thing to happen as is here recorded is contrary to science and philosophy. We do not propose to waste any time in replying to them. It was long ago pointed out by Bishop Watson, “The machine of the universe is in the hand of God, and He can stay the motion of any part, or of the whole, with less trouble than any of us can stop a watch.” If a human engineer can slow the speed of an express train by putting on the brake, and bring it to a complete standstill by cutting off the steam, what cannot the Divine engineer do with any ponderous body which He has Himself set in motion. The sun is but an instrument, made by God to perform His good pleasure. That He is in no wise dependent upon or limited by it is clear from the fact that light existed and the earth was clothed with vegetation before the sun was made (Gen. 1.)! By the miracles of Joshua 10:13, and Isaiah 38:8, the Most High demonstrated that the daily rising and setting of the sun is not from a blind instinct of nature, and that He controls its course: “which commandeth the sun, and it riseth not” ( Job 9:7). “And the sun stood still.” Here, as in many other passages, we are taught that the Lord God has a superintendence over all the creatures of His hand.
He sends forth His imperious commands not only unto angels and men ( Daniel 4:35), but to the birds of the air ( 1 Kings 17:4) and to the wild beasts ( Daniel 6:22), yea, to inanimate things. He issues His edicts to the clouds and to the light of the sun and they promptly submit and obey. He addresses the light as though it were a rational creature: He commands it not to shine and it shines not. The host of heaven, as well as the inhabitants of the earth, are entirely at His disposal. The whole course of nature moves or stands still at the mere will of its Maker. As the sun stood still at His word through Joshua, so at His fiat it went backward in the days of Hezekiah ( Isaiah 38:8), and it is by His orders that the same sun, at any time, withdraws its genial beams and is muffled up with dark vapors. “With clouds He covereth the light; and commandeth it not to shine by the cloud that cometh bewixt” ( Job 36:32).
Those who profess to believe in an omnipotent God do but betray their crass folly when they attempt to reason, and conclude that He either cannot or does not exercise His power in other ways than those known to our very limited experience. It is true that the sun rises and proceeds in a natural course, yet only by Divine commission. Though nothing in nature be more constant than the rising of the sun, God can suspend its motion whenever He likes. He who at first commanded it to rise can easily countermand it.
What is swifter in motion than the sun? All creatures upon earth are but slugs in comparison; the eagle of the air but a snail. Yet God can stop it instantly. When He sends forth His prohibition it cannot stir a foot till He removes that prohibition. It shone not for three days upon Egypt ( Exodus 10:22). Since He can stop the sun from shining what cannot He do! Great indeed is God’s power: equally great is His goodness, which causes the sun to shine upon the evil and unthankful when it is in His power to withhold it. How little is that realized by the world! O that men would praise the Lord for His goodness and for His wonderful works unto the children of men.
Nothing is more “natural” than the succession of the four seasons; nevertheless, there is so great diversity and such marked inequality between summer and summer and winter and winter (even in the same part of the earth) that it is obvious to all enlightened minds that each is controlled and regulated by a new and particular providence of God. It was indeed wonderful that when a blind beggar cried, “Son of David, have mercy on me,” Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called,” and healed him ( Mark 10:48,49). Behold there “the Sun of righteousness” stayed in His course by the appeal of a poor sinner! There are some who think the action of Joshua in this amazing incident foreshadowed Christ at His second coming when He saves Israel, appealing to Zechariah 14:7: that in the day of the Lord’s battle with the nations “it shall come to pass that at evening time it shall be light,” upon which, at present, this writer has no definite opinion, either pro or con; having learned from long experience to be very chary of prophetical speculations. Sufficient for him to know that whatever the Lord has purposed, promised, or threatened concerning His future dealings with the earth will certainly come to pass.
Rather would we dwell upon the practical message which this miracle has for us today. The Christian’s confidence in the Lord ought to be greatly strengthened by a pondering of the same. Though God no longer halts the sun in its course, yet He does many remarkable things in answer to the believing supplications of His people. When George Muller was crossing the Atlantic to fulfill an important preaching engagement, his ship. was delayed by a dense fog off the coast of Newfoundland. Said he to the captain,” I have never yet been late for an appointment: let us go to prayer.” The fog lifted almost immediately and the ship arrived in port on time! When entering our train from Chicago to Pittsburgh (April 1931) we encountered a Christian lady in distress. The porter had wrongly put her into an express, which would carry her hundreds of miles beyond her destination; and the ticket collector informed her that there was no possibility of the train halting at her village. The writer and his wife reminded her that nothing is too hard for God. We had special prayer, and were able to assure her that the Lord would stop the train. Some hours later she was told to get ready, and it stopped for a few seconds. Some of our readers in Pennsylvania will recall this incident, for they saw the letter of thanks which Mrs. Pink received, telling of how the experience had brought her to trust more fully in a miracle-working God. “And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher”? (verse 13).
The book of Jasher is generally thought to be the same as “the book of the wars of the Lord” mentioned in Numbers 21:14. A further reference is made to it in 2 Samuel 1:18. Apparently it was a book in which were chronicled outstanding events in the fighting of Israel. The fact that this miracle was recorded in such a book during the lifetime of Joshua not only indicates the deep impression which this phenomenon had made upon the minds of the people but attests its verity. As at a later date Israel sang, “Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands,” so they would recite this memorable deed of Joshua’s which had an effect upon the whole frame of nature, producing an alteration therein. What is still more important, this miracle is referred to in the inspired writings of the prophets: “The sun and moon stood still in their habitation” ( Habakkuk 3:11).
Remarkable as was this event, it by no means stands entirely alone in a class by itself. We have already alluded to Exodus 10:22, and Isaiah 38:8, and would further compare the statement that “the stars in their courses fought against Sisera” ( Judges 5:20), and also the star which miraculously moved and led the wise men from the East to the house where the infant Savior then was (Matthew 2.). But let us also point out the mystical interpretation which may be legitimately made of what has been before us. As God controls the movements of the sun, causing it to shine brightly or to be overcast with dark clouds, so it is with spiritual light. Those parts of Africa and Asia upon which the Sun of righteousness shone so blessedly during the first three centuries of this Christian era have since been under the black dominion of Mohammedanism, and such lands as Italy and Spain, which were favored with the glorious light of the Gospel in the days of Paul, have long languished under the darkness of popery. On the other hand, heathen lands are now being evangelized. God orders spiritual light and darkness as truly as the natural.
What most impresses us in connection with this miracle is the clear demonstration which it affords of the supremacy of God and His absolute control of all creatures. There was no power in Joshua nor any extraordinary dispensation committed him to exert such an influence upon the whole frame of nature as to produce so great an alteration therein. No, it is clear that he had a Divine warranty to speak that which he knew Jehovah Himself was about to effect. He first addressed himself to Him in prayer, then received assurance from Him, and then at his word the heavenly bodies remained stationary for many hours. Therein we behold how the living God is both the alpha and omega, the first cause and the last end, the wise contriver and the sure moderator of everything, to His own glory, according to the counsel of His own will. Thus will faith perceive the wisdom, goodness and power of God in every event. Anything short of that is virtual atheism, which gives God no place in His dominion over the world. Writing on Joshua 10:13, John Gill said, “How this is to be reconciled with the Copernican system or that with this, I shall not inquire.” Wise man not to pretend to understand what has not been Divinely revealed. Wiser still in refusing to allow the theorizings of a Prussian astronomer to cast doubt on what He has made known, or to suggest an interpretation which “harmonizes” the same with the hypothesis of “science falsely so called” ( 1 Timothy 6:20).
Therein demonstration was made of the absolute supremacy and invincible might of Jehovah. Three great miracles were wrought that day by the Lord on behalf of his people, for they are explainable by naught but Divine causation.
First , there had been the great hailstones that God had cast down from heaven, and which were remarkable for their magnitude, their efficacy and their discrimination — more of the Amorites dying from them than by the sword of Israel, and so directed that none of the latter were even injured by them.
Third , the staying of the moon in her course, for it is to be noted that Joshua (as the type of Christ) had addressed her directly: “Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon, and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon” (verse 12) — evidently he did not believe that the two bodies acted so automatically m conjunction that it was unnecessary to give distinct command unto the latter, for in such case he would have spoken only to the sun. It was therefore a different and additional miracle that the moon also “stayed,” as is further evident by the Holy Spirit’s separate mention of each in verse 13.
It is exceedingly solemn to observe that these extraordinary displays of God’s power were judgments upon the Canaanites, and that like the great deluge in the days of Noah, the destruction of the cities of the plain by fire from heaven, and the fearful plagues upon Egypt, the miracles of Joshua were interpositions of Jehovah for the express purpose of destroying the wicked. This presents to us an aspect of the Divine character which, in the vast majority of pulpits, has been deliberately ignored and suppressed for the past fifty years, until the Deity of Holy Writ is now, even in Christendom, “the unknown God.” Those miracles make it clearly evident that God’s holiness is as real as His grace, His justice as His mercy, His wrath as His love; and they require to be given equal prominence in the preaching of those who profess to be His ministers. They were so by the Divine Preacher: neither prophet nor apostle spoke so plainly or so frequently as did Christ upon the fearful portion awaiting the lost: such expressions as “the wrath of God,” the “damnation of hell,” “the furnace of fire [where] there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth,” the “worm that dieth not and the fire that is not quenched,” were upon His lips much oftener than “the love of God.”
It is the lamentable and patent dishonesty of so many pulpits during the past two or three generations that is so largely responsible for the moral corruption of our nation today. Of old the Lord complained of those in Israel “whose lips should keep knowledge,” that “ye have not kept My ways, but have been partial in the Law” ( Malachi 2:9), and thus has history repeated itself. Instead of declaring “all the counsel of God” ( Acts 20:27), unfaithful men dwelt only on those portions of the Truth which made for their own popularity, deliberately omitting whatever would be unpalatable to their unregenerate hearers. Such a one-sided portrayal was made of the Divine character that the Most High was not held in awe; the moral law was relegated unto the Jews, so that sin became to be regarded lightly; and the soothing opiate that God loves everybody took away all fear of the wrath to come. Thousands of thinking men forsook such an effeminate ministry, and those who continued under it were lulled soundly asleep. The children of the former, for the most part, grew up entirely godless; while those of the latter believed in a “god” which is the figment of a sickly sentimentality. And, my reader, where there is no reverence of God and respect for His Law, there will never be genuine regard for human law.
In consequence of such widespread perfidy on the part of the “churches,” and the disastrous effects thereof upon the community, an insulted and incensed God is now dealing with Christendom, not in grace, but in judgment! Never was an error so plainly exposed as “Dispensationalism” has been during our lifetime. So far from the “silent heaven” of Sir Robert Anderson and his school, the heavens have been thundering loudly. Instead of this Christian era differing from all previous ones, by an exemption from open displays of God’s anger, it has been, and still is, marked by such with increasing frequency and severity. True, the Day of Salvation has not yet expired, the way of deliverance from the everlasting burning is still available for every individual who accepts the free offer of the Gospel; nevertheless, God has a controversy with those who have slighted His authority and ignored the claims of His righteousness. It is an obvious fact that His judgments have fallen the heaviest upon those parts of the earth which have enjoyed the most spiritual light but deliberately closed their eyes to it. He has ceased using the “still small voice” of winsomeness, and has been speaking loudly in the earthquake and the fire (1 Kings 19). “And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the Lord hearkened unto the voice of a man: for the Lord fought for Israel” (verse 14).
Those words supply definite confirmation of our remarks upon verse 12, that these miracles were wrought by God in answer to the supplication of His servant — he had at first addressed himself unto the Lord in private, and then, in the hearing of Israel, to the luminaries of heaven. Therein we behold the amazing condescension of the Most High, that he deigns not only to listen to the voice of His creatures, but also to respond to their appeals. It should be pointed out that, as so often in Scripture, the language of this verse is relative and not absolute — both before and since then God has often listened to the voice of man, but not to the extent of altering the movement of the whole planetary system. In this extraordinary instance we may perceive how, once more, the Lord made good His promise to Joshua, in Joshua 3:7, and, as the man whom He delighted to honor, further “magnified him in the sight of all Israel.” The final clause of the verse tells us why Jehovah so acted on this occasion — to make it still more evident that He was the Captain of Israel’s armies, and that when He laid bare His mighty arm none of their enemies could stand before Him.
These supernatural phenomena must have made a deep impression upon the surrounding nations, especially those given to the study of astronomy. “And Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, unto the camp to Gilgal” (verse 15).
This verse is by no means free of difficulty, for in view of what is recorded in verses 17-20 it would appear that both Joshua and his men remained for some time in the vicinity of Gibeon; while verse 21 is still more definite — “and all the people returned to the camp to Joshua at Makkedah.”
Moreover, as Scott pointed out, “It is most unlikely that Joshua would march his army twenty or thirty miles in the midst of victory” — especially after marching all the previous night and being so strenuously engaged that supernaturally prolonged day. The absence of the word “Then” at the beginning of the verse precludes the necessity of our understanding it to mean that they returned immediately unto “the camp to Gilgal”; and since identically the same statement is made in verse 43, we regard this in verse 15 as being said by way of anticipation and not as something then accomplished. Ultimately they returned there: to acquaint the congregation with their victory, to render public thanks to God, and to resume and complete their preparations for the northern campaign ( Joshua 11:1-7).
Note well the “all Israel with him,” which was yet another miracle — not one had been killed by the hail or slain by the Canaanites! “But these five kings fled, and hid themselves in a cave at Makkedah” (verse 16).
These were the same kings mentioned in verse 3, who had determined upon the destruction of Gibeon. That very morning they had proudly stood at the head of their armies, only to see them utterly routed and almost annihilated, not only by the sword of Israel but also by the artillery of heaven. The tables had indeed been turned with a vengeance, as the opening “But” of the verse is designed to emphasize. Instead of seeking to rally the remnants of their armies and leading their men in a final stand, they were panic-stricken, and ignominiously took to their heels in an attempt to preserve their own lives. They must have realized that more than human forces were arrayed against them, and, filled with terror, they sought to escape the avenger. Doubtless they cherished the hope that the darkness which was due would aid their escape, and they must have been utterly dismayed by the supernatural prolongation of the daylight. They had travelled quite a distance from Gibeon, but the relentless chase of those who sought their death still continued (verse 10).
The “cave” incidents recorded in the Scriptures are of considerable variety.
The first one noticed was the place of unmentionable degradation on the part of Lot and his daughters after their merciful deliverance from Sodom ( Genesis 19:30-38). The next is where Abraham honourably purchased the field of Ephron, wherein was a cave which became the burial place of his wife Sarah ( Genesis 23:17,19), as another was the temporary sepulcher of Lazarus ( John 11:38) — not so the Savior’s, whose holy body was laid in a new tomb “hewn out in the rock” ( Matthew 27:60).
In the cave of Adullam, David and his loyal followers found asylum from the murderous designs of Saul. At a later date another cave provided shelter for fifty of the Lord’s prophets, when Obadiah hid them from the wicked Jezebel ( 1 Kings 18:4), to which allusion is made in Hebrews 11:38. The final reference is in Revelation 6 when in the great day of the Lamb’s wrath — of which Joshua 10 provided a faint adumbration, for in that day too the heavenly bodies shall be affected — the kings of the earth and the great men shall hide themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains, and shall say unto them, “Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb” (verses 12-17). “And it was told Joshua, saying, The five kings are found hid in a cave at Makkedah” (verse 17).
We may perhaps connect this verse with the fifteenth, and understand by its language simply that Joshua had planned to return at once unto Gibeon.
Before actually carrying out his design, apparently, he determined to make sure that vengeance had been executed upon the ringleaders of the unprovoked attack upon Gibeon. The fact that Joshua was here told that these kings were “found” suggests that he had given instructions to make search, and ascertain whether the five kings were among those captured, or if their corpses could be identified upon the field of battle. Whether it was some of his own men who had succeeded in locating the fugitives, and now acquainted Joshua with their hiding place, or Canaanitish traitors who had observed their taking refuge in this cave, and desired to ingratiate themselves with Joshua by turning “informers,” we know not the bare fact alone is stated: their attempt at concealment had failed. It is to be borne in mind that they were endeavoring to escape not only the sword of Israel, but the vengeance of God — for “the Lord fought for Israel” (verse 14) and concealment from Him was impossible. “And Joshua said, Roll great stones upon the mouth of the cave, and Set men by it for to keep them” (verse 18).
Observe the collectedness of Israel’s leader even in the heat of battle.
Instead of being elated and excited by the tidings he had just received, or perturbed because it conflicted with his intention of returning forthwith to Gibeon, he calmly gave orders which would effectively prevent the escape of the kings, securing them in the cave until such time as would be convenient for them to be brought before him and dealt with as they deserved, for the next two verses indicate that information had also just been received that Israel’s task on this occasion had not yet been completed. “The kings escaped the hailstones and the sword, only to be reserved to a more ignominious death; for the cave in which they took shelter became first their prison and then their grave” (T.
Very similar was this to the case of Pharaoh, who survived the ten plagues upon the land of Egypt, that he might be a greater and more notable memorial of God’s wrath and power. Both instances supply illustrations of that solemn declaration, “The Lord knoweth how... to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished” ( 2 Peter 2:9). “And stay ye not, but pursue after your enemies, and smite the hindmost of them; suffer them not to enter into their cities: for the Lord your God hath delivered them into your hand” (verse 19).
When directing the battle against the King of Ai it appears that Joshua stood on some eminence where he could be seen by his men and from which he issued his orders ( Joshua 8:18,26). But on this occasion they were in a mountainous section of Canaan where the terrain was much more broken, which precluded such a policy. It is clear from verse 10 that after the principal engagement the Amorites fled in several directions. Possibly the main body of those who took to their heels had been slain, and Joshua concluded that the death-dealing hail had accounted for the remainder, and had therefore commenced preparations for the return to their headquarters.
But the information he had recently received caused him to change his plans, and to issue the above order. His “stay ye not” implies that there had been a pause, and he now gave this word to stimulate his men unto a final effort. Well as they had done, and weary as they might be, this was no time to relax or to sit down congratulating one another.
Note the argument made use of by Joshua as he here encouraged those under him to redouble their efforts and finish the work required of them: “for the Lord your God hath delivered them into your hand.” It may well be that they were reluctant to act so ruthlessly, and that there was some doubt in their mind about pursuing so merciless a policy. Having completely defeated them in battle, and seen a still greater number killed by the hailstones, should not the remaining survivors be shown clemency? But neither Joshua nor those under him were free to please themselves in this matter: “when the Lord thy God shall deliver them before thee, thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor show mercy unto them” ( Deuteronomy 7:2 — repeated in verses 16-23). That Divine command was a general and not a universal one, being limited as to time (“when”) and qualified by Deuteronomy 20:10,11. On each occasion the task of Israel’s army was to be regulated by that Divine mandate. That it must be so in this instance was made unmistakably clear by Jehovah’s words to Joshua in verse 8, “I have delivered them into thine hand,” and therefore they must slay the Amorites without pity or respite. “And it came to pass, when Joshua and the children of Israel had made an end of slaying them with a very great slaughter, till they were consumed, that the rest which remained of them entered into fenced cities” (verse 20).
The closing words of this verse make it clear that, notwithstanding the extremely heavy losses which the Amorites had sustained, some of them succeeded in making good their escape. That some of them would do so was intimated by Joshua’s “smite the hindmost” in the preceding verse. It was too late then to round them all up: only the laggards in the rear could be overtaken. So it is in the spiritual warfare of the Christian: even after his greatest victories, some of his enemies still survive. In view of God’s dealings with Israel we need not be surprised at this, for at a later date He told them: “I also will not henceforth drive out any from before them of the nations which Joshua left when he died: that through them I may prove Israel, whether they will keep the way of the Lord to walk therein, as their fathers did keep it, or not” ( Judges 2:21,22). “And all the people returned to the camp to Joshua at Makkedah in peace: none moved his tongue against any of the children of Israel” (verse 21).
That “all the people returned to the camp” shows that none of the Israelites had been slain by the enemy. So it is spiritually. Whatever buffetings the believer endures, none of his graces can be destroyed by Satan. That the men of Israel returned to the camp to Joshua in peace shows how the saint should conduct himself when he has been granted success over his foes, namely, seek and enjoy communion with the antitypical Joshua. That none moved his tongue against them demonstrates how fully the fear of God had fallen upon the Canaanites: so awed were they that none dared to curse their victors, or utter a word of reproach against them.
Let us remind the reader once more that Israel’s conquest and occupation of the land of Canaan present to us a typical picture of the Christian’s warfare and present enjoyment of his spiritual inheritance. That warfare is many-sided, and constitutes one of the principal parts of the “service” in which the Lord requires His people to be engaged, and which renders all their other actions unacceptable unto Him while it be disregarded. Alas that we are living in a day of such gross darkness and crass ignorance that comparatively few, even in Christendom, have any scriptural concept of the kind of enemies which the saint is called upon to conquer, or the nature of that work in which he ought to abound. The worst of his foes is neither the world nor the Devil, but rather “the flesh.” It is not external temptations but inward lusts that constitute his gravest menace and greatest danger. It is the subduing of those “fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” ( Peter 2:11), the resisting of his inbred corruptions, which the believer is to be constantly occupied with, for while they be neglected all his other efforts to please God are in vain. “From whence come wars and fightings among you [Christians]? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?” ( James 4:1).
It is the mortification of their lusts and the cultivation of their graces which is the lifelong task that God has set before His children. The greater part of the New Testament consists of the epistles, which are addressed directly to the saints, and they will be searched in vain for any exhortation which bids them preach to others, engage in evangelistic activities, or do “personal work.” On the other hand, those epistles will be found to abound in such injunctions as, “Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.... Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light” ( Romans 6:13, 13:12), “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” ( 2 Corinthians 7:1), “That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” ( Ephesians 4:22-24), “Be diligent that ye may be found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless” ( 2 Peter 3:14). There is the scriptural answer to the oft-raised question, What can I do for the Lord in return for all He has done for me? How can I best express my gratitude for His wondrous mercy? By keeping “thy heart with all diligence” ( Proverbs 4:23), for true godliness is not so much a thing of the head, or of the hand, but of the heart. Therein lies the “sphere of his service.” There he will discover more than enough to keep him diligently engaged the remainder of his days: to transform a barren wilderness, or rather a neglected field ( Proverbs 24:30,31), into a garden for his Master to delight in; to root out the weeds and burn up the thorns and thistles, and to replace them with fragrant flowers and luscious fruits; for only then will he be able to say, “Let my Beloved come into His garden, and eat His pleasant fruits” ( Song of Solomon 4:16).
But alas, pride and the restless energy of the flesh cause him to be occupied with the gardens (souls) of his fellows, instead of working out his own salvation with fear and trembling. It is much easier to preach unto others than to gain the mastery over sinful self. It is greatly to be feared that many a Christian has cause to say, “They made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept” ( Song of Solomon 1:6). “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth: fornication. uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness” ( Colossians 3:5).
Here is the duty enjoined, the great task assigned. The tense of the verb expresses continued action, that which is to be our daily concernment and practice, and not merely by fits and starts. The evil lusts here named are termed “members” because indwelling sin is compared with an organism — “the old man” ( Ephesians 4:22), “the body of this death” ( Romans 7:24). In addition to our natural bodies, there is a body of corruption, which wholly compasses the soul — “the body of the sins of the flesh” ( Colossians 2:11). “Your members which are upon the earth” is added to prevent our supposing that the reference is to a mortifying of our physical bodies, for external macerations are of no avail. It is our depraved nature which uses these lusts, as the natural body does its members. Sin is very much alive in the Christian, for the flesh or evil nature is ever opposing the spirit ( Galatians 5:17), and he is called upon to employ no half measures in resisting the same. Corrupt propensities are to be dealt with unsparingly, sinful desires sternly denied, evil thoughts rejected with abhorrence.
Dangerous enemies are not to be handled gently, and sin is to be shown no mercy, but is to be so striven against that we earnestly seek to slay it. “Mortify” means put to death, destroy. Extinguish all lustings after earthly and carnal things which are opposed to the spiritual anti heavenly life which we have in and from Christ. Yet the term is not to be understood absolutely, in the sense of slaying so as to deprive of the being of sin; but rather to render it useless. In Romans 4:19, we read of Abraham that “he considered not his own body now dead,” yet it was not so absolutely; but its natural vigor was greatly abated. Hence Hebrews 11:12, speaks of his being “as good as dead.” As Owen well expressed it, “To mortify signifies a continued act, in taking away the power and force of anything, until it ceases to be dead unto some certain ends or purposes.” The flesh cannot be subdued without our doing violence to its affections, and the figurative expression of “mortifying” is used to denote the painfulness and troublesomeness of the task. But however unpleasant the duty, we only make more pain for ourselves it be neglected. Neglect weakens and wastes indwelling grace, for it is impossible for sin and grace to be strong in the soul at the same time.
Now it is this aspect of our spiritual warfare which is in view in Joshua 10:17-27. In the slaying of those five kings we have shadowed forth the Christian’s obligation to mortify his lusts and render impotent the sin which indwells him. There are several respects in which those kings typed out the believer’s corruptions.
Second , they sought to slay the Gibeonites, who were a figure of young converts: in like manner, the flesh is hostile to the spirit.
Fifth , they were then rendered helpless by Joshua’s orders (verse 18), as our passions are when Christ rebukes them and bids them be still.
In the preceding articles on Joshua 10 we have already covered, from the historical standpoint, the first five of the above points, and we must now consider more distinctly their typical significance ere turning to the final ones. The great work of mortification in which God calls His people to engage consists of a constant endeavor to subdue the ragings of indwelling sin, in order that they may serve and glorify Him. Sin is an active principle, ever inclining us to evil — “warring against’ the new nature ( Romans 7:23), hindering us from that which is good, drawing off the heart from holy duties or distracting us in them; and therefore it is to be steadfastly resisted. Complete exemption from its power is not attainable in this life, but its influence over us may be greatly diminished. Mortification is to be extended unto every internal disposition which is evil, as well as unto our external acts, refusing to hearken to their solicitation and denying them that food on which they could feed ( Romans 13:14), vigorously opposing them as water is cast upon fire. We are to aim at extirpating not only those gross sins which are condemned by men, but even those which are condoned and admired by the world.
When the five kings had met with a summary defeat at Gibeon, they “fled, and hid themselves in a cave” ( Joshua 10:16). Similar is the experience of the believer when the Lord has granted him a notable victory or a blessed season of revival in his soul: his heart rests sweetly on Christ and inward peace is now his portion. Nevertheless, though quiet, his enemies have not ceased to be, and therefore he needs to make close inspection within, and deal with what will again cause him trouble if it be left to itself.
Thus we are told that Joshua was informed, “The five kings are found hid in a cave” (verse 17), which implies that a diligent search had been made for them. Israel’s leader then gave orders for great stones to be rolled upon the mouth of the cave, and men set before it “for to keep them” (verse 18).
Such is our responsibility: to use every means appointed by God for the subduing and suppression of our lusts, and preventing their breaking forth into renewed activity. Said the apostle, “I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection” ( 1 Corinthians 9:27). Said the Psalmist, “I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep Thy Word” ( <19B9101> Psalm 119:101). “Then said Joshua, Open the mouth of the cave, and bring out those five kings unto me out of the cave. And they did so, and brought forth those five kings unto him out of the cave: the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, and the king of Eglon” ( Joshua 10:22,23).
The opening word of those verses is both important and significant, for it not only indicates the connection between them and verse 21, but also serves to intimate and introduce a prophetic picture of things to come.
Second , “all the people returned to the camp to Joshua at Makkedah” (verse 21) — a blessed foreshadowing of the entire Church being gathered around the antitypical Joshua after their warfare is accomplished.
Third , “none moved his tongue against any of the children of Israel” (verse 21): in like manner will the supremacy of Christ and His redeemed be recognized and owned in the great day to come ( 1 Corinthians 6:2,3, Revelation 2:26).
Fourth , Joshua did not personally fetch these kings out of their hiding place, but called upon others to bring them before him: so before Christ “shall be gathered all nations” ( Matthew 25:32) — by “the holy angels” of verse 31, the “reapers” of Matthew 13:30.
Those kings had thought more of their own skins than of the welfare of their men. They had fled for their lives and sought refuge from their pursuers. But in vain — impossible to evade the vengeance of God. Their place of concealment was soon discovered, and at the time which best suited Joshua they were brought before him and dealt with as they deserved — those who foment war rarely escape the worst of its consequences. No further respite was allowed them: these kings, who had determined the destruction of the peaceful Gibeonites, must now appear before Israel’s commander. Awful and solemn moment was that: an illustration of what shall take place at the final assize, when the wicked will have to stand before and be judged by the great Joshua. They who made lies their refuge shall then be exposed. They who sought shelter in a nominal profession and mingled with the people of God shall then be openly discovered. None can be concealed from the eyes of Omniscience, none escape His tribunal. “Thine hand shall find out all Thine enemies” ( Psalm 21:8), and then will they prove what a fearful thing it is to “fall into the hands of” the One they opposed.
In Joshua’s requiring the kings to be brought before him, the Christian is taught that he must (in prayer) bring all his foes — be they inward lustings or outward temptations — to the Savior, for it is not by his own strength he can vanquish them. Next, “Joshua called for all the men of Israel, and said unto the captains of the men of war which went with him, Come near, put your feet upon the necks of these kings.” And we are told, “They came near and put their feet upon the necks of them” (verse 24). Very striking is this, and most important the spiritual instruction contained therein. Being dealt with in this manner betokened that these kings were in complete subjugation unto the people of God. And that is the attitude which faith is to take unto all its enemies, regarding them as foes already defeated — not by himself, but by his victorious Head; and, as a member of His body, sharing therein. Christ has gloriously prevailed over sin and Satan, and it is the Christian’s privilege to appropriate the same unto himself. Has not God promised him, “Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet” ( Psalm 91:13)?
What we have just said ought to be the constant and uniform experience of the believer. That it is not so is due in part to his failure to plead daily the promise of Psalm 91:13, and count upon the Lord making it good more fully unto him. God has “put all things under His [Christ’s] feet” ( Ephesians 1:22), which is explained by, “Thou hast put all things in subjection under His feet ( Hebrews 2:8); and by Joshua’s bidding his captains place their feet upon the necks of these defeated kings we are thereby shown that our Savior would have His people bring into subjection their spiritual enemies and share in His triumph over them. He would have them plead before God the efficacy of His sacrifice, and beg Him to grant them a deeper acquaintance experientially of its cleansing virtues. Is it not written, “they overcame him [the Devil] by the blood of the Lamb” ( Revelation 12:11)? And so shall we, if we trust in its sufficiency — not only to put away our sins from before God, but also to enable us to prevail over them in our present warfare. Christ has made believers “kings and priests unto God” ( Revelation 1:6), then let them earnestly seek grace to act as such, having dominion over themselves, ruling their spirit ( Proverbs 16:32; 1 Corinthians 6:12). “And Joshua said unto them, 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” (verse 25).
The juxtaposition of those two things should be carefully noted, the second one intimating that the first statement is made for the express purpose of quickening us to fight the good fight of faith. The issue of that fight is not left in the slightest doubt. The members of Christ’s body must be partakers of the victory of their Head. In emphasizing the prediction of Genesis 3:15, too little attention has been given to the promise of Romans 16:20. Christians have to do with a foe that was completely defeated at the cross, for through death Christ annulled him who had the power of death ( Hebrews 2:14) and spoiled principalities and powers, triumphing over them ( Colossians 2:15). Those consolatory declarations are made to encourage us to resist the Devil, regarding him as a foe already conquered, as one who has no claims upon us, as one whom at the close God will tread under our feet; and the extent to which we appropriate “the [available] grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” will be the measure in which we shall tread him underfoot now. “And afterward Joshua smote them, and slew them, and hanged them on five trees: and they were hanging upon the trees until the evening. And it came to pass at the time of the going down of the sun, that Joshua commanded and they took them down off the trees, and cast them into the cave wherein they had been hid, and laid great stones in the cave’s mouth, which remain until this very day” (verses 26, 27).
The mightiest of those who have rebelled against God and persecuted His people will yet be treated with the utmost ignominy and summary judgment. Hanging them upon trees demonstrated that they were accursed of God ( Galatians 3:13). “Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished.
Their wisest counsels prove a snare to entangle them, their most valiant and vigorous exertions expose their weakness and end in disgrace and dismay, their choicest blessings are changed into a curse and their secret retreats become their prisons or their graves!
Kings and mighty captains, who are disobedient to God, will at last be treated as arch-rebels, to be distinguished only by the deepest infamy and heaviest vengeance; and all the Israel of God will join the triumph of the Captain of their salvation in trampling upon the necks of their proudest opposers, exclaiming, ‘So let all Thine enemies perish, O Lord’ (cf. <19E906> Psalm 149:6-9)” (Thomas Scott).
CHALLENGED One or two details m the closing verses of chapter 10 which lack of space prevented a consideration of in our last issue, must be noticed here.
First , it is blessed to observe that all which is recorded from verse onwards manifests how fully the faith expressed by Joshua in verse 25 was vindicated. There he had encouraged the captains of his men of war, for as they placed their feet upon the necks of the five conquered kings of the Amorites, he boldly said unto them, “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.” What implicit confidence in the living God did he there display! There is nothing in the context to show that Israel’s leader had received a recent assurance from his Master to that effect: rather do we consider that his heart was resting upon that word he had long ago received through Moses — “Thine eyes have seen all that the Lord your God hath done unto these two kings [namely Og king of Bashan, and Sihon of the Amorites, who opposed Israel in the wilderness and were overthrown]: so shall the Lord do unto all the kingdoms whither thou passest” ( Deuteronomy 3:21).
There can be no doubt that that promise became the “sheet anchor” of Joshua when he came to be elevated to the position of commander-in-chief of Israel’s forces. He had “mixed faith” with the same ( Hebrews 4:2) and it became the stay of his soul until his arduous and dangerous task had been completed. He had already received more than one definite “earnest” of the Lord’s making good that word: Jericho and Ai had fallen before them, and the five kings of the Amorites had been utterly routed. But much heavier fighting now lay before them. They had barely made a beginning, and far more yet remained to be accomplished. But Joshua had no doubts, no fear of the outcome. His trust was in the Lord of hosts, and he was not afraid to commit himself before others. Fully assured of the Divine fidelity, he boldly avowed his confidence therein before and unto his brethren.
The confident language of those who are well acquainted with the Lord is an inspiration to those of their brethren of less experience. They who have proved the Lord’s goodness should give free expression thereto that others may be confirmed in their trust of a faithful God. Thus it was here with Joshua. “And the Lord delivered Lachish into the hand of Israel, which took it on the second day” ( Joshua 10:32).
That detail marks a difference from the other Canaanitish towns captured by them. Libnah (verse 30), Eglon (35), Hebron (37) and Debir (39) were apparently mastered in a single attack; but not so Lachish. Spiritually, that teaches the Christian that some of his lusts are more powerful than others, and require a longer and more determined effort on his part to subdue them. And, too, an initial failure to enter into possession of a particular portion of our inheritance must not deter us from making a second effort to do so. Ellicott pointed out that it appears from other scriptures too that Lachish was a fortress of considerable strength. When Sennacherib king of Assyria “came up against all the fenced cities of Judah” ( 2 Kings 18:13), although he personally “laid siege against Lachish, and all his power with him” ( 2 Chronicles 32:9), yet he had to abandon his attempt to reduce it ( 2 Kings 19:7,8). At a later date, when Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judah in the reign of its last king, Lachish was one of the two places which were the last to be conquered: “for these defensed cities remained of the cities of Judah” ( Jeremiah 34:7).
Our reason for here calling attention to the above historical fact is twofold.
First , because it supplies a striking illustration of the Divine inspiration of the Bible from its minute accuracy and consistency. Those three passages, though lying so far apart, agree in showing that Lachish was a city of considerable strength and one which was more than ordinarily difficult to capture. It is one of innumerable evidences of the authenticity or genuineness of Holy Writ, which by silent testimony bears witness to its perfect harmony. This argument, drawn from unmistakable coincidence without design, will have greater weight with those best qualified to weigh evidence. In the mouths of three independent witnesses (Joshua, the writer of 2 Chronicles and Jeremiah) the truth of what they wrote is hereby established, for their separate allusions unto Lachish are unstudied and without collusion, yet are they thoroughly consistent and concordant.
Second , because by comparing Joshua 10:32, with those latter passages we learn that Israel succeeded where such mighty warriors as Sennacherib and Nebuchadnezzar failed, which teaches the valuable lesson that under God His people are able to achieve what the natural man cannot! “And all these kings and their land did Joshua take at one time, because the Lord God of Israel fought for Israel” ( Joshua 10:42).
Another indication of the Divine authorship of the Bible are those words.
There is no magnifying of the human instrument, no paying homage to a national hero, but, instead, a placing of the glory, where it rightfully belongs. This is but one of a score of similar passages m which we may perceive the Holy Spirit’s jealousy of the Divine honor, wherein Israel’s successes are attributed unto Jehovah’s showing Himself strong in their behalf. This He does in a variety of ways, for when the Lord fights for His people He fights against their enemies. In the case of Pharaoh and his army, He filled them with a spirit of madness, so that they rushed headlong to their destruction; in others, He instilled a spirit of fear so that they fled when no man pursued them ( 2 Kings 7:6,7), and then is made good that word, “The flight shall perish from the swift... and he that is courageous among the mighty shall flee away naked in that day, saith the Lord” ( Amos 2:14-16).
A true humility in Christ’s servants today will recognize and readily acknowledge the same principle when their labors are made to prosper. “And Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, unto the camp to Gilgal” (verse 43), which seems to intimate that during the lengthy campaign in which they had been engaged none of the Hebrews were slain, but that their complete force returned safe and sound to their headquarters. It is not without reason that the Holy Spirit mentions by name the place where their camp was situated, for it points at least three most important and valuable lessons for us.
First , Gilgal was, spiritually speaking, the place of self-judgment and conscious weakness (see our Joshua articles 27 and 28), for it was there that the Israelites were circumcised ( Joshua 4:19; 5:2, 3), and that should ever be the place unto which the Christian has recourse after his victories, for only as he preserves a sense of his own nothingness will his strength be maintained.
Second , Gilgal was the place of Divine fellowship: “the children of Israel encamped in Gilgal, and kept the Passover” ( Joshua 5:10): only as communion with God is maintained may we count upon Him granting us further success in the light of faith.
We would fain believe that when Joshua and all his men returned to Gilgal that, before acquainting their families with the details of how graciously and wondrously the Lord had wrought for them in their battles, they first offered sacrifices of thanksgiving unto Him, and rendered public praise for the notable successes which He had vouchsafed them. The least they could do was to acknowledge Him who was the Bestower of their conquests.
And the same is true of us, my readers: the only fitting way in which we can celebrate our spiritual triumphs is to give the whole of the glory of them unto their Author, as that is likewise the best preparative for the further fighting which lies before us. We are diligent and earnest in making supplication unto the Lord when we are hard pressed by the foe, and we should be equally explicit and fervent before Him when He has granted us deliverance. He requires us to make known our requests with thanksgiving ( Philippians 4:6), and it is more and more our conviction that one chief reason why so many of our requests are refused is that we fail to appreciate sufficiently those He has granted. God will not set a premium upon ingratitude.
But even though the Christian returns to the place of self-abasement after his victories, enters into sweet communion with the Lord and duly acknowledges His favors, he must not expect that henceforth all will be plain sailing for him. It was not so with Joshua and Israel, for the very next thing we read after their return to Gilgal is, “And it came to pass, when Jabin king of Hazor had heard those things, that he sent to Joab king of Madon, and to the king of Shimron, and to the king of Achshaph.... And they went out, they and all their hosts with them, much people, even as the sand that is upon the sea shore in multitude, with horses and chariots very many. And when all these kings were met together, they came and pitched together at the waters of Merom, to fight against Israel” ( Joshua 11:1-5)!
Here is a throwing down of the gauntlet with a vengeance. Hitherto the Canaanites had acted on the defensive, for it was Israel who assaulted Jericho and Ai, and the attack of the five kings had not been against Joshua, but the Gibeonites; but now they took the offensive, fiercely challenging Israel’s right to remain in Canaan.
There is an old saying that “Any fool can make money, but it takes a wise man to keep it.” Certainly it requires much diligence and care for the Christian to retain what he has acquired spiritually, to maintain the progress he has made, to consolidate that portion of his heritage which he has entered into, for the great enemy of souls will strive hard to deprive him thereof. He challenged our first parents in Eden while in their sinless condition, for it was abject misery unto him to see them happy. This principle runs all through Genesis. When God prospered Abraham in Canaan and his flocks and herds increased, such strife arose between his herdsmen and Lot’s that they could no longer dwell together in peace.
Later, the Philistines filled with earth the wells which his servants had dug ( Genesis 26:15), and when Isaac’s men dug new ones the men of Gerar objected, challenging their right to the same, and striving with them ( Genesis 26:20,21). When Jehovah made known His purpose that Rebekah’s elder son should serve the younger, she had the effrontery to contest His decision ( Genesis 25:23; 27:6, etc.). When by means of dreams it was made known that the rest of his brethren should be subservient to Joseph and pay him homage, they determined to prevent the fulfillment thereof.
Even Joseph challenged the desire of his dying father to bestow his principal blessing upon Ephraim ( Genesis 48:17). When the Hebrews were peacefully settled in Goshen “there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph” ( Exodus 1:8), who was jealous of and fiercely assailed them. And all these things have been recorded for our instruction, to teach us to expect that attempts will be made to dispossess us of our rightful portion. Yea, we find that Satan blatantly and impiously assaulted the Holy One, challenging Him to supply proof of His deity — since you be the Son of God, “command that these stones be made bread.” So too during His public ministry: again and again he stirred up the priests and Pharisees to demand by what authority He did this and that. Such opposition is epitomized in the parable of the wheat and tares: no sooner had Christ sown the good seed in the field than His right thereto was challenged by Satan’s sowing darnel therein.
The Devil sought to rob the apostles of their portion, as is clear from the words of Christ: “Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat” ( Luke 22:31) — His use of the plural pronoun shows that more than Simon was involved. How long was it after Pentecost before the enemy stirred up Saul of Tarsus to persecute the primitive Christians and encompassed the death of Stephen? No sooner had Peter been Divinely sent unto Cornelius and a blessed work of grace commenced among the Gentiles, than there was determined opposition and an attempt made to bring the same to an end by denying Peter’s rights to evangelize the Gentiles. The Book of Acts records instance after instance of attacks made upon the peace and prosperity of one church after another. What force do all the above examples give to our need of taking heed of that exhortation “hold fast that which is good” ( 1 Thessalonians 5:21), for the flesh, the world and the Devil will combine in seeking to get us to relinquish the same. Because of the corruptions of our hearts, the temptations of Satan, the allurements of the world, we are in real danger of letting go what is more precious than rubies. Having bought the Truth, we must resolutely see to it that we “sell it not” ( Proverbs 23:23).
It is not without good reason that the Lord has bidden His people to “hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering” ( Hebrews 10:23), and never was it more imperative that they attended to that injunction. We must, despite all opposition and persecution, continue in and press forward along that narrow way which leads unto life, for only he that endures unto the end shall be saved. No matter how fiercely you be assailed, surrender not your ground, but steadfastly maintain your profession. That “hold fast” presupposes inducements to compromise and renounce. It signifies the putting forth of our utmost endeavors to remain steadfast. “Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown” ( Revelation 3:11).
Adhere firmly thereto in faith and with a good conscience: never was it more needful to do so. The character of these times demands unfailing loyalty and unswerving devotion to Christ and to all He has committed to us. “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain” ( 1 Corinthians 9:24) — it is not the start but the end which determines the fitness to wear the crown.
Thus it will be seen, once again, that the passage before us contains lessons of deep importance for the Christian, particularly regarding his spiritual warfare and present enjoyment of his heritage. The children of Israel had made quite a little progress in their conquest of Canaan, but now they were very seriously challenged as to their occupancy. A most formidable attempt was being made to dispossess them, yea, utterly to vanquish them. In chapter 10 only live kings united in their attack upon Gibeon, but here there was a federation of all the remaining kings of Palestine. The vastness of the forces deployed by them appears in “even as the sand that is on the sea shore,” and with them were “horses and chariots very many” (verse 4).
Ah, my reader, Satan will not readily admit defeat! He did not in connection with Job, but renewed his assault again and again. “When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return.... Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first” ( Matthew 12:43-45)!
The believer must be prepared for such challenges being made to him, for if Satan opposed our invulnerable Head it is not to be expected that he will leave alone the vulnerable members of His mystical body; and though at the command of Christ he departed from Him, it was only “for a season.” So it is with us. We may be enabled by grace so to resist the Devil that he will flee from us ( James 4:7), yet we may be sure that it will not be long before he returns and resumes the conflict. Nor are his efforts confined to individual saints: he assaults their assemblies too, as the New Testament and all ecclesiastical history of this Christian era shows--how many churches’ candles have been put out by him because of lack of watchfulness on their part, or through failure to take a firm stand against him! That word of the apostle to the church officers at Ephesus needs to be laid to heart by all holding a similar position today: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.... Therefore watch” ( Acts 20:28-31).
These paragraphs are not being written merely to fill up space, but in the endeavor to supply young believers with a timely warning, to put them on their guard against the onsets of their adversary. To be forewarned is to be forearmed, and though we may not be ignorant of Satan’s devices, yet all of us need to be frequently reminded of them. At no one point does he more often assail than in seeking to take from us what is ours. In Matthew 13:19, our Lord solemnly pointed out that the wicked one is able to catch away that which was sown in the heart, yet the fault is our own if we suffer him to do so. He will endeavor to rob us of some Divine promise which we are trying to rest upon, by denying our personal title to the same. He will challenge our warrant to some particularly helpful portion of the minister’s sermon, saying that it pertains not to us. He will call into question our right to peace of conscience and joy of heart. He will oppose us when reading the Word or engaged in prayer. In short, we must expect to be challenged by him at every point, and seek grace steadfastly to resist him.
In concluding this article let us take note that Joshua 11 opens with the word “And,” which intimates that this formidable federation of the Canaanites took the field against Israel while they were at Gilgal ( Joshua 10:43), which is one reason why we have entitled this meditation “Challenged.” There is nothing which more enrages Satan than to behold the saints taking the place of conscious weakness before the Lord, or enjoying blessed communion with God as they feast with Him upon the Lamb; yet there is never a time when it is so certain that he will meet with no success as he attempts to vent his enmity against them, for it is impossible for him to injure any who “dwelleth in the secret place of the most High,” for of such it is declared, he “shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty,” and therefore can he confidently affirm “I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and fortress: my God; in Him will I trust.” For the promise to him is “Surely He shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler” ( Psalm 91:1-3).
Those who live a life of fellowship with God are assured of His protection, and may therefore preserve a holy serenity of mind, assured that He will repel their foes and defend them. Nevertheless, as Scott pertinently pointed out, “The believer must never put off his armor, or expect durable peace, till he closes his eves in death.”