Today, we want to focus our attention on Joshua 11:16-23.
Amongst many things that we can learn from this passage, there are 3 things that I want to point out:
1) The war against the Canaanites lasted a very long time.
2) The danger of the hardening of the heart
3) The Needlessness of our fears
1) The war against the Canaanites lasted a very long time
Joshua 11:18 tells us that “Joshua made war a long time with all those kings”.
This statement is placed here to remind us that the records in Joshua are highly condensed.
It may take you 20 min to read Joshua 10 & 11.
But we are told that “Joshua made war a long time with those kings”.
The conquest led by Joshua was a long, gruelling and demanding process.
What we read in Joshua are only the highlights of the events that God wanted us to take note of.
And the fact that this war will be long was already set as an expectation in the minds of the Israelites.
God told them in Ex 23:29-30:
I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the wild beast multiply against you. Little by Little, I will drive them out.”
So, you see, the war was certainly longer than 1 year in duration.
This was again emphasized in Deut 7:22
“And the LORD your God will put out those nations before you little by little: you may not consume them at once, let the beasts of the field increase upon you”.
Now, God was certainly with them as they go about their conquest little by little.
And the conquest was in such a manner that required His people to have endurance and tenacity.
And this remains as an example and pattern for us even till today.
We are soldiers in the spiritual army of Jesus Christ.
God’s power is still at work in us today.
Phil 2:13 tell us “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do his good pleasure.”
And this does not take place in quick flashes.
It may take place over a long period of time.
And this calls for our perseverance over time.
The problem with us is that we live in an age where we want everything instantly.
We want quick returns on our investments.
We want the economic recovery to happen quickly.
We have a very short-term view of things.
In my drama school, I often have parents who ask me how soon before they can see their children speaking out confidently.
It worries me sometimes that even our children, when they have some money, they will want to spend it quickly.
But we must never run into the sin of imposing such demands of “instant response” upon God.
The Bible tells us in 2 Pet 3:8 “..with the Lord one day is a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”
Our calling on earth is to live a Christian pilgrimage.
A pilgrimage in terms of a life-long spiritual process of Christian sanctification.
You may struggle for years in a trial.
The thorn in your flesh may still continue.
But you are required to persevere in the strife for holiness.
And when it comes to prayer, we must continue to pray even when answers to our prayers don’t appear to be forthcoming.
It is like when the Israelites cried out to God when they were suffering in Egypt.
God had heard their prayers.
But it was only 40 years later when it came to pass that Moses was ready to be their leader.
I remember the time when we were in Shalom Church.
We were praying for a full time minister.
For many years, different brothers had to take turns to preach and teach.
Has God heard our prayers at that time?
I am confident He had.
This is the assurance we have from the Bible.
But it was only many years later before Pastor Enyi went into full time ministry.
So, we see here that just as Joshua made war a long time with those kings in Canaan, our trials, our struggles and even our perseverance in prayer may involve a long process of time.
It was a long war, but Joshua did not stop.
He must have been tired battle after battle.
He must have experienced battle fatigue.
But he did not stop.
He may have had to rest, but he continued his battles after that.
So here is our encouragement and our impetus to persevere in our trials and strive for holiness.
Here is our encouragement to persevere even though our trials may seem to last a very long time.
We must persevere and not lose heart.
Remember that God’s ways are not our ways.
So, God’s timing is not our timing.
We need to persevere in our obedience and faithfulness to Him.
So, may God encourage us in our perseverance as we wage our long spiritual war here on earth.
2) Our 2nd point for today is “The danger of the hardening of the heart”
Joshua 11:20 “For it was of the Lord to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that he might destroy them utterly, and that they might be no more.”
This is the doctrine of what we call the judicial hardening of the heart.
Gen 15:16 tell us”….for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full”.
The Amorites were one of the groups of people who lived in Canaan.
And at that time, God was still patient with them, giving them a chance to repent.
But they did not use their opportunity well.
They did not turn from their sinful practices and lifestyle.
They did they give up their idols.
So now, their days of grace were over.
God was going to send the Israelites to destroy them.
It is not because the Israelites were any holier.
It was just because the Israelites were the instruments God used to execute the judgement.
In the same way, God used the Assyrians to execute judgement upon the Israelites who sinned against God subsequently.
So it was a case of what we read in Rom 1:24, 26, 28 where it was put as – “God gave them up…”
In the same way, Pharaoh was also given a chance to submit to God.
He was given ample opportunities to do so from Ex 4 to Ex 14, but he didn’t.
Ten different plagues were sent to demonstrate to Pharaoh the sovereignty of God.
Each time a miracle took place, Pharaoh became more and more determined to be defiant.
And so we have what Theologians call the “judicial hardening of the heart”.
God hardened the heart of Pharaoh so that he could not repent any more.
In Heb 10:26-27, we are told, “If we sin wilfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgement, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.”
Beware that we do not let this process of “judicial hardening of the heart” happen to us.
When God, through different experiences, show us our sin, repent immediately.
Don’t take it for granted that you will have another chance.
If you are harbouring some sin and you are hearing this warning now, God is still gracious to you.
You have another opportunity to repent.
But don’t assume that you may have yet another chance.
It may not happen and you may be doomed.
Many of you have heard the gospel being preached and God speaks to you in many ways.
But if you refuse to listen and deliberately avoid the matter, a slow process of hardening may well be taking place in your heart.
There may come a day where you just can’t repent anymore because your heart has been so hardened.
Friends and young people in our midst, do not let this happen to you.
You have heard the gospel offer many many times.
As long as you still have an opportunity to hear the gospel, there is an opportunity to repent.
The only appropriate response we have is repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.
If you still cannot understand the gospel, then the least response you can have is a crying out to God “Help Lord! Open my eyes”.
If there is no such response, I really fear that your hearts may become hardened over time.
And there may remain no opportunity for repentance.
Hebrews 4:7 “Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.”
Proverbs 29:1 “He who is often rebuked and hardens his neck, will suddenly be destroyed and that without remedy”.
Friends, do not let judicial hardening of the heart set in on you.
3) Our third and final point is “The Needlessness of our fears”
In Joshua 11:21-22, the Anakims were specifically mentioned as a group of Canaanites defeated by the Israelites.
The Anakims probably mean nothing to you.
And mentioning them does not make you nervous at all.
Why? Because you have never seen them before.
Who were these people called the Anakims?
We are told that they were the giants of the land of Canaan.
Forty years ago, 12 spies were sent to spy out the land of Canaan.
They came back and reported that there were giants there.
Ten of them were so afraid of these giants.
So afraid that they influenced the whole nation of Israel to tremble and lose heart.
And because of that, they murmured against God.
From Num 13, Deut 1 and Deut 9, we are told that these giants who made the 10 spies lose heart were the Anakims.
So there is a great significance when the Anakims are mentioned here in Num 11:21-22.
And it is mentioned that Israel had victory against the Anakims.
Looking back, it is now clear that the fear of the Anakims as reported by the 10 spies was groundless.
By faith and obedience, the Israelites have now conquered their once great fear.
By faith and obedience, they could have likewise conquered these Anakims many years ago.
And it was a needless fear that costs them 40 years in the wilderness.
When God is with you, even the greatest giants are subject to His hand.
God is certainly able to help us overcome the greatest fears in our lives.
But when God is not with you, even a puny little obstacle will become your greatest hurdle.
In the book, the “Pilgrim’s progress”, John Bunyan described Christian approaching Palace Beautiful.
Christian was trying to rest a while at this place called “Palace Beautiful”.
To do that, he had to walk down a very narrow passage.
And on that narrow passage, Christian saw 2 lions in the way.
John Bunyan put it this way:
The lions were chained, but Christian did not see their chains.
And this is often true of us as well.
We fear because we do not see the chains of the lions in our path.
Christ Jesus our Lord sits at the right hand of the throne of God.
He has power and dominion over all things.
And all things are placed under His feet – Eph 1:20-22.
This means that all power attempting to destroy us is chained.
But very often, we don’t see the chains.
We tend to only see the lions.
As a result, we get ourselves weighed down in depression.
Just like the Israelites when they first heard of the Anakims.
But here in Num 11:21-22, God has demonstrated to them that by faith, they were able to overcome.
The ability of these “chained lions” to affect us is limited to what God would allow them to do.
So, with faith and obedience to God, all our enemies can be brought down before us.
Friends, whatever situation you are in right now, remember that the lions in your life are chained.
The energy that you have given to fear is probably better utilised in faith and obedience to God.
Let me summarise our meditation for today.
If you are experiencing some trial in your life right now, remember this:
1) The war that Joshua waged against the Canaanites was not a short one.
Our moulding into the image of Christ is not a short process.
It is a life-long process of Christian obedience and walking in holiness.
It requires perseverance and patience.
Our trials may not just come and go.
They may remain as a thorn in our flesh to keep us humble and walking close to the Lord.
2) Do not harden your hearts when God calls you to repentance.
God speaks to us through His word.
When you hear him, do not harden your heart.
Jesus welcomes every soul that turns from sin and whoever seeks Him in faith.
The opportunity to repent remains there.
But beware the danger of the hardening of your heart.
This can happen if you take all such opportunities to repent for granted.
So do not delay putting your faith in Jesus Christ any longer.
3) Most of our fears in life are needless
Most of the lions that we meet along our way are chained down.
The ability of these chained lions to affect us is limited to what God would allow them to do.
So, dear Christians, be encouraged today.
Let us pray.