What a melodramatic ending to a victorious conquest? Joshua 21:43-44 records the conclusion of all the nation’s struggle to possess the Promised Land.
And the Lord gave unto Israel all the land which he sware to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein. And the Lord gave them rest round about, according to all that he sware unto their fathers: and there stood not a man of all their enemies before them; the Lord delivered all their enemies into their hand. There failed not ought of any good thing which the Lord had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass.
It is vital for Christians to realize the nature of rest. Israel had rest after faithful obedience to God’s detailed instructions. In order to follow those instructions, they meditated day and night upon the Word. They had rest after a fierce struggle. They were not handed the land and all its bounty simply by crossing the Jordan River. The victorious path must be lined with…victory! A victory means you have faced the enemy. Too many Christians are soft. Like C. T. Studd described in his booklet entitled The Chocolate Soldier:
Every true Christian is a soldier—of Christ—a hero “par excellence!” Braver than the bravest—scorning the soft seductions of peace and her oft-repeated warnings against hardship, disease, danger, and death, whom he counts among his bosom friends. The otherwise Christian is a chocolate Christian! Dissolving in water and melting at the smell of fire. “Sweeties” they are! Bonbons, lollipops! Living their lives on a glass dish or in a cardboard box, each clad in his soft clothing, a little frilled white paper to preserve his dear little delicate constitution.
“Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24).
The most haunting verse in Joshua 9 is verse fourteen. It is easy for us to expect more from Joshua, Eleazer, and the elders of Israel than we expect from ourselves. Only a few days earlier, they demolished Jericho according to the word of the Captain of the Lord’s Host. They were successful when they followed the word of the Lord.
Then Ai was a startling upset. Thirty-six men were killed! Joshua had seen these people face disappointment before and it was not a pretty thing. Their parents wanted to stone Moses and return to Egypt. Would they repeat the bad behavior? Joshua turns to God and learns of sin in the camp. After Achan’s treachery was punished, God gave Joshua instructions to defeat Ai. Would you be surprised to know they won the victory? They were successful when they followed the word of the Lord.
As a caravan rides into the camp feigning to be distant travelers, you would think Joshua would take a trip to the Tabernacle to seek God’s counsel. However, he does not and instead presumptuously makes peace with them! “And the men took of their victuals, and asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord” (Joshua 9:14). They were duped when they refused to follow the word of the Lord.
Several years later, the time of the judges was characterized by a lack of seeking God’s will. “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). It appears to be their nature to lean more upon their own ideas than search God’s infinite wisdom. Hundreds of years later, not much has changed when Isaiah writes:
“Woe to the rebellious children, saith the Lord, That take counsel, but not of me; And that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit, That they may add sin to sin: That walk to go down into Egypt, And have not asked at my mouth; To strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, And to trust in the shadow of Egypt” (Isaiah 30:1-2)!
Apparently, human nature chooses to ignore God’s counsel, and over time the children and grandchildren become less interested in seeking His will in their lives. God’s wisdom is not elusive. It is easy to be intreated. “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy” (James 3:17). God is not at fault for man’s tendency to ignore his wisdom. If you ignore wisdom, then, in contrast, you choose foolishness. Choose today to follow the instruction of the wisest counsel given to us on earth.
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; And lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, And he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
In a jewelers world, you can gawk at so many fine specimens. It is incredible to consider how the natural formation of gemstones and pearls is purely God’s created system at work. The pearl, for instance, is the product of irritation, pressure, and polishing. After such a process, you will find splendid beauty. The most exquisite rating system for pearls comes from Japan and they are classified as Grade AAA. They are dense, spherical, and pristine with hardly any flaw.
The Israelites are going to experience a process of irritation, pressure, and polishing until they are transformed into an invaluable work of God. The book of Joshua chronicles the struggle they endured to possess the Promised Land. In order to have “good success” God encouraged Joshua and the people with three facts. These facts would guarantee their success. First, they acted on God’s promises. The same promise God gave Moses would apply to Joshua, the successor. “Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses” (Joshua 1:3). In order to advance, they needed to act in faith. Some theologians have given this book the theme “Victory by faith.” This is very important in your life. Victory is not typically achieved by inactivity. When we are aligned with God’s promises, we are moving forward according to His promises. God’s promises are not only to be comforting but commanding. You will read James’ instruction, “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works” (James 2:18). For Israel, faith meant stepping into the Jordan river and watching God reign the waters back. Faith meant circling the walls of Jericho. Only feet of faith traffic the path of God’s promises.
Second, they were assured of God’s presence. Someone was once questioned why they took such a risk to work in difficult ministry. They responded, “It is never a risk when God has called you.” Every day you are plagued by many questions of “what if.” Your perspective on life leads you to prepare for the worst case scenario or celebrate the potential success. The substance of your faith is found in the presence of your God. Even today, Christian, you advance for the cause of Christ in the security of God’s unwavering presence. “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20).
Third, they were armed with God’s power. Sprinkled throughout the first several chapters of Joshua you will find several references to God fighting on behalf of the Israelites. After the spies returned from Jericho, their evaluation was “Truly the Lord hath delivered into our hands all the land; for even all the inhabitants of the country do faint because of us” (Joshua 2:24). They had not yet crossed Jordan or set themselves in an array, but the hearts of the people melted. Clearly, God’s powerful intervention on their behalf was the harbinger of things to come.
How important is your faith? Without faith, you will never experience victory or enjoy God’s presence. God has told us how we can please Him. “Without faith it is impossible to please him” (Hebrews 11:6). What grade or quality is your faith?