There are some passages in the Bible which sometimes make us wonder why they are there.
They are hard to read, understand or remember.
But we need to know that if they are in the Bible, they are part of the word of God.
They are there for us to learn a lesson and to see a picture of Jesus Christ.
You will agree with me that Joshua 12 is an example of such a passage.
The subsequent chapters of the book of Joshua are also somewhat of a similar nature.
Joshua 12 is full of names.
Names that are difficult to pronounce.
So many names that it makes us wonder what the passage is meant to teach us.
Is it meant for us to choose a name for our new born children?
It may not be wise for you to name your son Amorite or your daughter Perizzite.
There are probably many better names that you can use.
And I don’t think the passage is teaching us the choice of names to be used.
I want to divide our meditation on Joshua 12 this morning into 2 parts:
Part 1 – verses 1 to 6
From these 6 verses, I want to highlight 2 key lessons:
1) The need to remember past mercies
2) The need to guard the unity of God’s people
Part 2 – verses 7 to 24
These verses teach us how and why we ought to itemise the goodness of God toward us.
Let us begin with part 1 – verses 1 to 6.
There are 2 pagan kings mentioned in verses 1 to 6.
King Sihon in verse 2 and King Og in verse 4.
King Sihon and King Og used to rule the land east of the River Jordan.
King Sihon ruled the southern part of that piece of land.
King Og ruled the northern part.
The story of their defeat was recorded in Numbers 21:21-25.
It was during the time of Moses, and not the time of Joshua, that these kings were defeated.
And Moses commented on this matter again in Deut 2:26 to 3:11.
Why is there a need for Joshua to raise this point again in Josh 12?
There are 2 possible reasons:
1) We must constantly remember the mercies of God.
New mercies must not drown the memory of former ones.
Under Joshua, the people had such significant victories in battle.
It is very easy to thank God for all these current victories.
It is even easier to dwell on their current mercies and forget past mercies.
Under Moses, 2 major kings were also defeated in the land east of the River Jordan.
We thank God that there was Joshua who led Israel to victory in the land of Canaan itself.
But we also thank God that there was Moses who led the victory in the land east of the River Jordan.
We must not just remember the mercies of God only in the times of Joshua.
We must also remember that God had been merciful even during the times of Moses.
And our God is a merciful God.
And we ought to always acknowledge His mercies throughout time.
Most of us can be quick to thank God for blessings showered upon now.
But we often forget the tough situations He led us through and how He gave us mercies even in those situations.
Let me tell you why this is so important.
In the 3rd century AD, there was a king by the name of Constantine.
Before he became King, the Christians were severely persecuted.
The Christians suffered tremendously.
But God remained merciful throughout that time to take care of His people.
Now, when Emperor Constantine came to the throne, the persecution stopped.
The Christians rejoiced over their liberation from persecution.
They were thankful for this blessing and the mercies of God.
There’s nothing wrong with this.
Who would not be thankful for such a great relief from the great trial of persecution?
But if you are thankful only for the liberated situation, you would be acting as if God was not merciful during the times of the persecution.
Because God was indeed also merciful during the times when they were being persecuted.
Now, when they forgot, complacency set in and they deteriorated in their faith.
Many people started wanting to be associated with the Christian faith because Emperor Constantine professed to be a believer.
The Psalmist says in Ps 119:70 “It is good that I was afflicted; that I may know the statutes of God.”
God’s mercy is felt greater when we are in affliction than when we are in good times.
Now, we live in comfortable times compared to what our forefathers have gone through.
We should be thankful for our current mercies.
But our hearts should be stirred to remember that God had always been merciful, even in tough times that have passed.
It is when we set our hearts to such a state, that we will learn to be content in whatever situation we are in.
It is in such a state that we learn to rejoice and grow in the faith.
So, here is record of victories even before the Israelites crossed the River Jordan.
It is also one to help the people will not forget past mercies and blessings even as they experienced new ones.
2) The second reason why Joshua penned these words is to “Guard the unity of God’s people”.
Now that the major wars were over, Israel now lives on both sides of the River Jordan.
There are 2 and a half tribes living east of the river Jordan.
The rest of the nation, more than 70% of Israel, will now live west of the River Jordan.
The geographical separation may make it difficult for them to meet often.
This is especially true because they don’t have cars, trains and planes at that time.
So, there may come a time when this majority of Israel (living west of the River Jordan) may forget that they have brothers living east of the River Jordan.
And they may knowingly or unknowingly exclude them from the circle of God’s people.
So the writer of Joshua carefully inserts this reminder into this part of the scriptures.
It is to remind them that God gave victories to Israel east of the Jordan too.
Don’t forget that Israel lives there as well.
And as a Church we also need this reminder.
None of our brethren should be regarded as “sub-flock” or just PRs and not citizens in the kingdom of God.
Whether they are rich or poor, physically well or disabled.
Whether they are Arminians, Methodists, Prebyterians or even Charismatics.
The fundamental test of a Christian is salvation by grace and faith in Jesus Christ.
And this faith must be manifested in a life of Christian graces and the fruit of the Spirit.
The Church is made up of people from all walks of life.
I get very disturbed to know that there are some Churches that are made up of people only from one strata of our society.
We must not let personality differences, economic abilities or circumstantial situations in life affect how we regard each other in Christ.
James 2:1-9 is very clear and direct about how we must guard against this.
Christian may also have differences in practices and interpretation of certain parts of the scriptures.
And I am of full conviction that the Bible is very “Calvinistic”.
But we must not relegate brethren in another denomination to any lesser position in the faith.
If and should that ever happen, we may be letting ourselves fall into the sin of pride.
And God will deal with us if that happens.
And this can be a real danger for us who uphold the reformed faith.
We must guard against it and not let it happen at all.
Now, for those who are more theologically inclined, I want to point out yet another observation in this record.
In types and symbols, Moses was often represented as the one who gave the Law.
In contrast, Joshua was the one who led them into the land of Canaan.
In manner of spiritual representation, the law has given God’s spiritual Israel (ie. the Christians) worldly blessing and hope of good things to come.
But Jesus Christ, our true Joshua, provided for all the children of promise, spiritual blessings and the heavenly Canaan.
This is how we see Christ in this passage.
And we ought always to see Christ in the scriptures.
I hope you follow what I am saying.
It is meant for those of you who are seeking more spiritual meat and not just milk alone.
Please talk to me later if you do not understand what I have just mentioned.
We come now to part 2 of our study today: verses 7 to 24.
These verses teach us how and why we ought to itemise the mercies of God.
On the surface, reading this passage is tedious and monotonous.
“The king of Hormah, one”.
“The king of Arad, one.”
“The king of Libnah, one”…and so on.
What do these mean to Israel and what does this mean to us in this 21st century?
Well, we know that God gave Abraham a promise in Gen 15:18-21.
He will give this piece of land called Canaan to Abraham’s descendents, Israel.
Now, this is a good piece of land.
God always gives good things to His people.
How do we know it is good?
Well, 31 kings chose to build their kingdoms in that land.
And the names of these kings are listed in Joshua 12.
These 31 kings did not choose to live somewhere else.
The fact is that the rest of the land in the middle-east is mainly desert.
These 31 kings chose to live in Canaan because it was good – filled with milk and honey.
And God wanted to give this land to His people Israel.
What God wants to give His people is always good.
Let me tell you that our heavenly Canaan is better than anything you can ever dream of.
It is far better than this land called Canaan which the Israelites were to inherit.
So, don’t miss out on your heavenly Canaan.
Seek the Lord early in your life here on earth; believe in the Lord Jesus Christ to secure a place in the heavenly Canaan.
Now, for Israel to get the land of Canaan as an inheritance, they had to wage a war.
They had to fight and defeat those 31 kings who were living there.
It will not be an easy task.
There will be some who will die in the battles.
And the war was indeed a long drawn one as we had read in Joshua 11:18.
But God had promised that Israel will get that piece of land.
And God was certainly able to fulfil what He had promised.
We read this clearly in Rom 4:21.
If you were Joshua and you had to defeat each of those 31 kings one at a time, it would indeed be very stressful.
You won’t know whether you would be the one who will die or get injured in the next battle.
Imagine the kind of stress and uncertainty on the hearts of the families of those who went to war.
So, looking back, what a great relief it was when the war was over.
As they itemised each of those 31 kings that were defeated, it brings forth a song in their hearts – “Great is Thy faithfulness”.
It reminds them of every individual battle that they went through one at a time.
And how God spared their lives one battle at a time to fulfill His promise to give them Canaan.
Friends, let this be an encouragement to our hearts.
Our lives are but 3 score years and 10.
These 3 score years and 10 are a long spiritual war.
A long spiritual war that is full of battles you have to take on one at a time on your way to your heavenly Canaan.
The one thing you must remember when you take on these battles is this:
Your life is a pilgrimage.
The battles you face may appear daunting and sometimes you just feel so overwhelmed.
But it is the destination that counts.
In challenging situations, you must pull yourself together.
You must look beyond these battles you are facing.
You must remember that there is eternal glory waiting for you in heaven if you are a Christian.
The challenges you are facing now are nothing compared to the glory you will have in heaven.
This is where we must apply truth to overcome our emotions.
What do I mean by that?
Whenever we face a situation in life, very often, it is emotion that controls our feelings.
When you encounter a happy situation, you feel like you are on top of the world.
Emotionally, you are charged up and you wish your life will be longer.
Longer so that you can enjoy more of these situations.
But when you encounter a sad or difficult situation, you hope the world will end soon.
You start wondering what life is about and you get discouraged.
And you start putting on a long face.
But think about this.
What has changed?
It is your situation, your emotion, your mood and your feelings.
The world has not changed – it continues to be in sin and waywardness.
God has not changed – He continues to be holy and sovereign.
He has already known that this situation you are in will come to pass.
Because He had ordained that it will come to pass.
And He knows how you will feel in that situation.
And He knows exactly what your response will be.
Because He is God.
And this is the truth that matters.
And you must let this truth overcome your emotion.
Because our emotions will go like a see-saw.
Sometimes, we can wake up in the morning just feeling very down.
Other days, you wake up feeling very great about life.
And we may not even understand what has happened.
But if you let truth rule your life, you can maintain that constancy in your outlook.
You can face a tough situation remembering that it is just one of those battles that Joshua fought.
And you can glorify God in that battle and not get weighed down by it.
Let me now draw our meditation to a close with a simple summary.
The conquests recorded in chapter 12 serve as a fore-shadow of the coming of God’s ultimate victory.
Rev 11:15 “The kingdom of this world (will) become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever”.
The victory achieved over Sihon, Og and the 31 kings is both a preview and a pledge of that time.
They are meant to encourage His people in every time and age.
They are meant to make us long for that grand finale when we will be in heaven forever with our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus is coming again soon.
Are you looking forward to it?
May we all be ready when He comes.