“Not By the Arm of the Flesh, but by God” Joshua 10:1-15
Although the events we are about to study took place many centuries ago, there are some vital lessons that we must learn from this divine record of the conquest of the Promised Land. We have lived with Joshua through the early days of this campaign. We listened as the LORD Himself encouraged Joshua preparing him for the threatening task of taking over the leadership of God’s people when Moses died. Through the Word of God we were there when the Children of Israel miraculously crossed a swelling Jordan on dry land, marched around the walls of Jericho when they fell, learned tough lessons at Ai, and fought through their way through the conquest of the south. Now we come to the Northern Campaign.
As He did with the Southern kingdoms, the LORD arranged for all the opponents to gather together to fight Israel at one time. In this way, they would be defeated all at once. There are two lessons for us to learn here. First, we must grasp the enormity of the challenge. Second, we need to learn some lessons about the importance of God’s promises.
Sometimes the inspired writer of Scripture wants to make an impression on our minds as well as informing us of the truth. Do we get a mental image of the situation that Joshua and the Children of Israel faced when we read these verses? “And it came to pass, when Jabin king of Hazor heard these things, that he sent to Jobab king of Madon, to the king of Shimron, to the king of Achshaph, and to the kings who were from the north, in the mountains, in the plain south of Chinneroth, in the lowland, and in the heights of Dor on the west, to the Canaanites in the east and in the west, the Amorite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Jebusite in the mountains, and the Hivite below Hermon in the land of Mizpah. So they went out, they and all their armies with them, as many people as the sand that is on the seashore in multitude, with very many horses and chariots. And when all these kings had met together, they came and camped together at the waters of Merom to fight against Israel” (Joshua 11:1–5).
This echoes the poor report brought back by the spies forty years before when Israel was at Kadesh Barnea. “Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large; moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the South; the Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the mountains; and the Canaanites dwell by the sea and along the banks of the Jordan” (Numbers 13:28–29).
The very nations that they fought here were the insurmountable opposition the Children of Israel thought they could not overcome in taking the land the first time around. They were facing this opposition with the same promises of God and they would win.
For the sake of the argument let us assume that we are the odds makers in the Las Vegas of their time. Who would we say is the favorite in this battle? Israel is physically outnumbered. This is a horde of experienced and well supplied warriors. The opposition has the latest technology. They have chariots and horses. Israel has none. The battle will take place on the home territory of the enemy. They have a home field advantage. So far the armies of the North have everything going for them — everything except two things. Israel has God’s promise and God’s omnipotent right arm.
When we face problems do we look at our situation this way? When we consider our resources, do we consider God in the calculation? How real is God’s omnipotent right arm to us?
Once we can see and feel the impossibility of the situation, we are ready to learn some lessons about God’s promises. “But the LORD said to Joshua, ‘Do not be afraid because of them, for tomorrow about this time I will deliver all of them slain before Israel. You shall hamstring their horses and burn their chariots with fire.’ So Joshua and all the people of war with him came against them suddenly by the waters of Merom, and they attacked them” (Joshua 11:6–7).
As soon as Joshua learns that this huge army is coming, the LORD gives him an unequivocal promise. The LORD would deliver this foe into their hands. When Joshua received this promise, how do you think he acted? Many today would say, “Hey, just let go and let God. Isn’t that what God’s promises are all about?”
We think this way because we do not understand how God works. They think that God’s promise cancels human action. It does not. It should give us the confidence to act. Notice what Joshua did. Because of God’s promise, Joshua by faith launched a bold surprise attack on the overwhelming force in their own home territory. The result was a total rout because of God’s great help. “So Joshua and all the people of war with him came against them suddenly by the waters of Merom, and they attacked them. And the LORD delivered them into the hand of Israel, who defeated them and chased them to Greater Sidon, to the Brook Misrephoth, and to the Valley of Mizpah eastward; they attacked them until they left none of them remaining” (Joshua 11:7–8).
God does not give His promises to make us lazy, but to give us confidence to work together with Him to accomplish His will and to glorify Him. God’s telling us that some will respond to the Gospel does not mean we should sit and let Him save them. We need to labor together with Him to win them to Christ!
Because Joshua believed the promise of God, he did what he did in Joshua 11:9 “So Joshua did to them as the LORD had told him: he hamstrung their horses and burned their chariots with fire.” This strikes us as strategically foolish. Did the LORD command this action because the children of Israel were not able to learn to use chariots (the modern technological marvel of the day)? God understands that we will trust in horses and chariots we can see more readily than we trust in the God Whom we can’t see.
Has God ever hamstrung some horses for you and me? Have we had things that we lean on instead of God and He has taken them away so that we learn to rely on Him by faith? It is no fun when God takes away the things we so easily depend upon. Still, until the spiritual training wheels are gone, we cannot really learn how to ride the bike.