God's Word Tested and Proven
Admittedly these chapters and the most of those to follow do not lend themselves readily to expository preaching. Yet we would not forget that “All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable;” so we may be sure that these portions were written for our admonition and have in them precious lessons we cannot afford to pass over lightly.
In the opening verses of Joshua 11, we read of the second, and, as it turned out, the last great coalition of Canaanite nations that Joshua and the Lord’s host had to face before they could take possession of their promised inheritance. This time it was a confederation headed by Jabin, king of Hazor, and with him were associated Jobab, king of Madon, and the kings or sheiks who held authority over the tribes on the north of the mountains of Palestine and in the great plains south of Chinneroth, that is, the sea of Galilee. The Canaanites who dwelt in the east and on the west, and the remnants of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites and Hivites also sent their quotas. It was a formidable host indeed, but Joshua went out to meet them strong in the Lord and the power of His might; and the result is given us in verses 6 to 9:
“And the Lord said unto Joshua, Be not afraid because of them: for tomorrow about this time will I deliver them up all slain before Israel: thou shalt hough their horses, and burn their chariots with fire. So Joshua came, and all the people of war with him, against them by the waters of Merom suddenly; and they fell upon them. And the Lord delivered them into the hand of Israel, who smote them, and chased them unto great Zidon, and unto Misrephothmaim, and unto the valley of Mizpeh eastward; and they smote them, until they left them none remaining. And Joshua did unto them as the Lord bade him: he houghed their horses, and burnt their chariots with fire.”
Hazor was the metropolis of that entire section, it would seem, and having defeated its king and his allies, we read that “Joshua at that time turned back, and took Hazor, and smote the king thereof with the sword: for Hazor beforetime was the head of all those kingdoms. And they smote all the souls that were therein with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them: there was not any left to breathe: and he burnt Hazor with fire.”
Only as we realize something of the unspeakable vile character of these wretched people can we understand why God ordered their utter extermination. He had borne with them until the cup of their iniquity was full to overflowing; then, in His righteousness as the Moral Governor of the universe, He decreed their destruction. Joshua was His instrument in carrying out this judgment and he did his work faithfully, as we are told in verses 15 to 20. God’s love had given the Canaanites many years in which to repent, had there been on their part any desire to be delivered from their manifold iniquities. Instead of that they had sunk deeper and deeper into the pit of corruption and vileness until there was no remedy. The very mercy of God had but hardened them in their sins; so judgment had to be meted out according to their works.
Some of the ancient inhabitants of the land, the Anakim, a race of men of giant stature, who had been driven back into the mountains by those who came in later, were also destroyed, except for a small remnant who dwelt in the Philistine cities, some of whom were slain by David and his associates in after years.
We read in verse 23: “So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the Lord said unto Moses; and Joshua gave it for an inheritance unto Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. And the land rested from war.”
Thus God’s word had been tested and proven. He had kept every promise He made when He first commissioned Joshua to go over the Jordan and take possession of the land; He had assured him that He would destroy the enemies before Israel and that if they kept His law and acted in accordance with His commands they would never know defeat! And so it had come to pass.
The twelfth chapter gives us a list of the many kings who had fallen before Israel’s triumphant march, from the day that they met the Amorites and the king of Bashan on the eastern side of the Jordan and of the lake of Chinneroth until the last of the cities of Canaan had submitted to them. The lands of Sihon and of Og had been allotted already to the tribes of Reuben and Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh. The territories of the kings on the west of the Jordan were now to be divided among the other nine and a half tribes. Of this the following chapters treat in detail.
Joshua’s victories illustrate the Christian’s triumph over the unseen hosts of evil who, acting under the leadership of Satan, the god and prince of this world, would seek to hinder believers from possessing practically that which God has given them in Christ Jesus.
Many of us are defeated, when we ought to be victors, because of unjudged sin in our lives, or because of sloth and lethargy which hinder our laying hold of that for which God has laid hold of us. Blessed it is, if, like the Apostle Paul, we recognize the importance of pressing on toward the mark for the prize of the calling of God on high in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14, literal rendering). When God has promised to lead us on from victory to victory if we but cleave to Him with purpose of heart, it is the greatest folly to hold back and to fear lest we may not be able to overcome in the day of adversity. We may well take to heart the admonition of Philippians 3:15 and 16: “Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.” Let us hold fast what God has revealed to us already and go forward in dependence upon His Holy Spirit to appropriate the precious things into which we have not yet entered.
We often sing contentedly:
“There are depths of love that I cannot know,
Till I cross the narrow sea;
There are heights of joy that I may not reach
Till I rest in peace with Thee.”
While this is true, and there will ever be more to enter into and enjoy than we can possibly know on Earth, yet we should not settle down contented to make no further progress because God has led us on into the enjoyment of some measure of His truth.
A dear brother used often to suggest that this verse be changed so that we should sing:
“There are depths of love that I yet may know
Ere I cross the narrow sea;
There are heights of joy that I yet may reach
Ere I rest in peace with Thee.”
This is surely true. We should ever be moving on from one victory to another, proving anew from day to day the faithfulness of our gracious God and the trustworthiness of His promises!