If God is For Us, Who Can be Against Us?

(Originally published November 28, 2016)

Last week (I’m a week behind) we read Joshua 10, which covers the battle in which Joshua asked the Lord to make the sun stand still, the five Amorite kings who were captured and executed, and the conquest of Southern Canaan.  That’s a lot to cover, so let’s dive right in!

We begin by reading that the Gibeonites’ treaty with the Israelites has indeed, as we expected, offended their neighbors.

“As soon as Adoni-zedek, king of Jerusalem, heard how Joshua had captured Ai and had devoted it to destruction, doing to Ai and its king as he had done to Jericho and its king, and how the inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel and were among them, he feared greatly, because Gibeon was a great city, like one of the royal cities, and because it was greater than Ai, and all its men were warriors.  So Adoni-zedek king of Jerusalem sent to Hoham king of Hebron, to Piram king of Jarmuth, to Japhia king of Lachish, and to Debir king of Eglon, saying, “Come up to me and help me, and let us strike Gibeon. For it has made peace with Joshua and with the people of Israel.”  Then the five kings of the Amorites, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, and the king of Eglon, gathered their forces and went up with all their armies and encamped against Gibeon and made war against it.”   (Joshua 10:1-5)

The Gibeonites, unarmed and surrounded, appeal to Joshua for help because of the covenant which they made with Israel.  Joshua promptly gathers his army, and with the approval and help of the Lord, sets out at once to rescue the Gibeonites.

“To desert those to whom life had been given, would have been at once unlawful, unjust, and inhumane. Nay, as their surrender had been consequent on the agreement, they were entitled to be defended against violence and injury. With justice, therefore, they implore the Israelites, under whose protection they were; and there is no hesitation on the part of Joshua, who judges it to be his duty to defend those whose submission he had agreed to accept. They had deceived him, it is true, but after the fraud had been detected, and they had confessed it, interposing some palliating circumstances, they had obtained pardon…. Equity and a sense of duty thus did not allow the Israelites to abandon the Gibeonites to their fate. Still, Joshua is entitled to praise for his promptitude in complying with the request, and sending assistance without delay. He is said to have marched during the whole night, and thus could not have proceeded with greater haste had the safety of the whole people been at stake.

The Lord,… had respect to the wretched Gibeonites when he did not allow them to remain destitute without the assistance of his people.” [Commentaries on The Book of Joshua, by John Calvin, Volume 4, Reprinted 2009 by Baker Books]

Reading further, we find that not only Joshua and his army fight for the Gibeonites, but the Lord also fights on their behalf.  This battle is an opportunity to defeat five kings at once, thus enabling the Israelites to acquire possession of more of the promised land.  While the army of Israel strikes the enemy with a great blow, chases them, and wields the sword against them, the Lord aids them in miraculous ways.  The Lord threw the enemy forces into a panic, rendering them helpless before the Israelites and causing them to flee.  Giant hail stones were hurled from the heavens and killed more of the enemy than were slain by the sword.  And then, at Joshua’s request, a miracle of cosmic scale: the sun stood still, lengthening the daylight and the opportunity to finish defeating the enemy in a single battle.

In their commentary on this passage, Keil and Delitzsch focus on the display of God’s power.

“This phenomenon, which resembled the terrible hail in Egypt (Exo. 9:24), was manifestly a miraculous occurrence produced by the omnipotent power of God, inasmuch as the hail-stones slew the enemy without injuring the Israelites, who were pursuing them. By this the Israelites were to be made to see that it was not their own power, but the supernatural help of their God, which had given them the victory; whilst the enemy discovered that it was not only the people of Israel, but the God of Israel, that had devoted them to destruction.” [Commentary on The Old Testament, C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Volume 2, by C. F. Keil, Hendrickson Publishers]

And from John Calvin’s commentary:

“Dearly beloved of heaven is he on whose side the elements are enlisted.”

John Calvin further expounds the significance of Joshua’s request that the sun stand still and God’s answering miracle.

“Joshua did not attempt to delay and check the course of the sun before he was well instructed as to the purpose of God…. Joshua besought God to grant what he desired, and on obtaining his request, became the free and magnanimous herald of an incredible miracle unlike any that had previously taken place. He never would have ventured in the presence of all to command the sun so confidently, if he had not been thoroughly conscious of his vocation. Had it been otherwise, he would have exposed himself to a base and shameful affront…. Here, too, the Lord gives a bright display of his singular favor toward his Church. As in kindness to the human race he divides the day from the night by the daily course of the sun, and constantly whirls the immense orb with indefatigable swiftness, so he was pleased that it should halt for a short time till the enemies of Israel were destroyed.” John Calvin

As we considered the efforts of the Israelites aided by the miracles of God, we were asked how this Old Testament battle helps us to understand the Christian life that we now live.  Once again, John Calvin connects these ideas for us rather well.

“In the first slaughter the Lord exerted his own might, but used the swords of the people. Hence we infer that whenever he works by men, nothing is detracted from his glory, but whatever is done redounds to him alone. For when he employs the co-operation of men, he does not call in allies as a subsidiary force, or borrow anything from them; but as he is able to accomplish whatever he pleases by a mere nod, he uses men also as instruments to show that they are ruled by his hand and will. Meanwhile it is said with truth in either way, that the enemy were routed and crushed by God, or by the Israelites, inasmuch as God crushed them by the instrumentality of the Israelites.

And such is the power and privilege of the faith which Christ inspires, (Matthew 17:20; Luke 17:6) that mountains and seas are removed at its command. The more the godly feel their own emptiness, the more liberally does God transfer his power to them, and when faith is annexed to the word, he in it demonstrates his own power. In short, faith borrows the confidence of command from the word on which it is founded.  John Calvin (italics mine)

God commands and we obey, and our obedience often takes form in actions, actions which are motivated by our faith in the God who is working in, through, and for us.  This is the very lesson that Paul sought to drive home to the church at Philippi when he wrote to them the following:

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”  Philippians 2:12-13

We next looked at the account of the five Amorite kings who were captured and executed.  When the kings saw that their armies were losing they fled and hid in a cave, were discovered by Joshua’s men, were trapped in the cave until the fighting was finished, and then were humiliated and executed, after which their dead bodies were hung on trees until the evening.  The similarities and differences between the deaths of these five Amorite kings and Jesus were not only interesting, but illuminates the obedience, humility, and glory of our Savior.

The Amorite kings:

*Kings of the Amorites

*Anticipated their deaths while trapped in cave.

*Fled, hid, and were trapped to be executed.

*Execution delayed until the battle was finished.

*Guard set before the cave where they hid, alive.

*Rock rolled to enclose cave.

*Subjugated by their executioners.

*Executed before being hung on the trees.

*Hung on trees until evening then taken down and entombed in cave.

*Guilty; died for their own evil.

*Defeated by their enemies, as displayed by their death.

*Stayed dead.

Jesus Christ:

*King of kings

*Anticipated his death while praying in the garden, indeed, throughout his entire ministry- but especially in the garden of Gethsemane.

*Went where he knew he would be found after sending his betrayer, Judas, to bring the delegation to arrest him, and when arrested, went willingly.

*Rushed through a mock trial to execution as quickly as possible.

*Guard set before the tomb where he lay, dead.

*Rock rolled to enclose tomb.

*Mocked by his executioners.

*Died on the cross.

*Hung on cross until evening then taken down and buried in tomb.

*Innocent; died for others’ evil.

*Defeated his enemies by dying.

*ROSE AGAIN!  Lives and reigns in heaven!

We wrapped our lesson up with reminders of why the Israelites were commanded to devote to destruction everyone living in the cities they conquered.  The Lord had warned them in Deuteronomy.

“But in the cities of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes, but you shall devote them to complete destruction, the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, as the Lord your God has commanded, that they may not teach you to do according to all their abominable practices that they have done for their gods, and so you sin against the Lord your God.”  Deuteronomy 20:16-18

The risks and consequences of being lured into the worship of the false gods by the inhabitants of Canaan were dire enough, as Israel would learn soon, that the Canaanites must be wiped out entirely.  John Calvin helps is to see this command from a proper perspective.

“It was the will of God that all should be destroyed, and he had imposed the execution of this sentence on his people. Had he not stimulated them strongly to the performance of it, they might have found specious pretexts for giving pardon. But

a mercy which impairs the authority of God at the will of man, is detestable.

this whole history holds up to us as in a mirror, how, when the Lord is seated on his tribunal, all worldly splendor vanishes before him, and the glory of those who seemed to excel is turned by his judgment into the greatest disgrace.

Though, in our judgment at least, the children and many of the women also were without blame, let us remember that the judgment-seat of heaven is not subject to our laws…. In vain shall we murmur or make noisy complaint, that he has doomed the whole offspring of an accursed race to the same destruction; the potter will nevertheless have absolute power over his own vessels, or rather over his own clay.”  John Calvin (italics mine)

There are many things in Scripture which are puzzling, but many more which are abundantly clear.  Let us pray to understand more, and even when we don’t understand, to obey anyway.  Dear friends, may we seek to live lives of obedient gratitude to our Lord, who has given us life and new lives in Christ, in whom we have obtained an inheritance, to the praise of his glory.

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