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JOSHUA’S SHEPHERD HEART; THE LORD’S VICTORTY

Joshua 10:1-10:43
Key Verse: 10:7,8

We again thank God who is holy and righteous and loving and merciful. He is willing to save any people who fear for their lives before him. May we fear him only and be able to do anything for the saving of lives. Today’s passage is magnificent and spectacular with the events of the sun and moon stopping and large hailstones dropping from the sky. What might be the main point of this passage? We can talk about many things. However, we cannot overlook one thing that the outstanding battle began when Joshua engaged in the battle for the Gibeonites. And the LORD blessed it immeasurably beyond human understanding.

First, Joshua’s heart for Gibeonites; the LORD’s fight for Israel (1-15). Look at verse 1. “Now Adoni-Zedek king of Jerusalem heard that Joshua had taken Ai and totally destroyed it, doing to Ai and its king as he had done to Jericho and its king, and that the people of Gibeon had made a treaty of peace with Israel and were living near them.” Jerusalem is an important name in the Bible written around 800 times. The city of Jerusalem later on became the City of David, Zion (2 Sam 5:7), where the temple of the LORD was built. In the New Testament we hear about the name, the church in Jerusalem (Acts 1:8) and the heavenly Jerusalem (Heb 12:22) or the new Jerusalem (Rev 21:2). Except in the case of Melchizedek king of Salem (Ge 14:18), this is the first time Jerusalem is referred to as king of Jerusalem. Adoni-Zedek seemed to be the head of the kings in that region. When he heard about Joshua’s total destroying on Ai and the Gibeonites’ treaty with Israel, he and his people were very much alarmed. Verse 2b says that Gibeon was an important city, like one of the royal cities; it was larger than Ai, and all its men were good fighters. At this what did he do? Look at verses 3,4. “So Adoni-Zedek king of Jerusalem appealed to Hoham king of Hebron, Piram king of Jarmuth, Japhia king of Lachish and Debir king of Eglon. ‘Come up and help me attack Gibeon,’ he said, ‘because it has made peace with Joshua and the Israelites.’” Adoni-Zedek was so desperate that he appealed to those inferior kings for help in urgency. Then the five kings of the Amorites—the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish and Eglon—joined forces. They moved up with all their troops and took up positions against Gibeon and attacked it (5). This is the kind of things that we have seen in world history, some nations’ joining forces to attack a certain country that was out of the joint.

Then what happened next? Look at verse 6. “The Gibeonites then sent word to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal: ‘Do not abandon your servants. Come up to us quickly and save us! Help us, because all the Amorite kings from the hill country have joined forces against us.” To what can we compare their earnest plea for help? They were like a helpless sheep before ferocious wolves. They could be devoured at any moment.

What could Joshua do in this situation? He could have said, “That was not part of our treaty. Moreover, you deceived us in making the treaty. Why don’t you just take care of yourself.” In fact Joshua could not reject such a petition of the Gibeonites. Yet, even though Joshua wanted to help the Gibeonites, the united forces seemed to be too strong for the Israelites to confront. So far the battle with one city like Jericho or Ai was hard enough for him to overcome. How would Joshua fight against the five kings joined together? It was beyond his capacity. He had never experienced such a fight. To help the needy Gibeonites was good. But the sacrifice to be made would be too much and the risk to be taken, too big. What did Joshua indeed do at this? Look at verse 7. “So Joshua marched up from Gilgal with his entire army, including all the best fighting men.” Wow! It is truly amazing. In his shepherd heart he wanted to take a same boat with them, perishing together or surviving together. He did not calculate anything. He wanted to invest everything, his entire army and all the best fighting men. Certainly, he believed that this was what God wanted him to do. He was willing to let his entire army march about 20km from Gilgal to Gibeon. We will see that in his heart there was fear for the formidable opponents. Nevertheless, he launched for the uncertain battle. Then God was very much pleased with his engagement and encouraged him and assured him of the compete victory, saying, “Do not be afraid of them; I have given them into your hand. Not one of them will be able to withstand you.” Joshua’s shepherd heart was great, so was God’s promise.

With God’s encouragement and his sure promise, Joshua marched all night from Gilgal. After an all-night he took them by surprise. In the ancient times the battle was done in day time. The battle in night time was unthinkable. But Joshua made a surprising attack through all-night march. He did what he could do to help the helpless Gibeonites. Then the LORD did the rest. Look at verses 10,11. “The LORD threw them into confusion before Israel, who defeated them in a great victory at Gibeon. Israel pursued them along the road going up to Beth Horon and cut them down all the way to Azekah and Makkedah. As they fled before Israel on the road down from Beth Horon to Azekah, the LORD hurled large hailstones down on them from the sky, and more of them died from the hailstones than were killed by the swords of the Israelites.” What a sight! It is interesting that in Revelation (16:21) huge hailstones fell from sky, each weighing about a hundred pounds. Probably, here also a large hailstone was that heavy to kill the one who was hit by one drop. We wonder how the hailstones targeted only non-Israelites. It was more powerful than any aircraft force. It was truly the LORD’s fighting for his people.

A more amazing thing comes. Look at verse 12. “On the day the LORD gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the LORD in the presence of Israel: ‘O sun, stand still over Gibeon, O moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.’” After the hailstones rained down from the sky, the sun and the moon appeared. Then Joshua commanded, “O sun, stand still...you moon too.” It was because he wanted to fight the battle to the end and render a complete victory to the LORD. At this command, the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on (triumphed over) its enemies. How could such a thing happen? Hebrews 11:3 says that the universe was formed at God’s command. When God said, “Sun, come into being,” the sun began to exist and shine. When Jesus said to the wild waves in the stormy sea, “Quiet! Be still,” the wind died down and it was completely calm (Mk 4:39). Nature is willing to obey, if the command is for the glory of God. Joshua did with faith what no human being could imagine for the complete victory and glory of God. The author commented in verses 13b and 14. “The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the LORD listened to a man. Surely the LORD was fighting for Israel!” It is true that the battle is the LORD’s (1 Sam 17:47), and he fights for his people through their faith. We see that God immeasurably blessed Joshua’s shepherd heart for the Gibeonites and his faith in the Almighty Creator God.

Joshua’s heart for the Gibeonites and his involvement in the fierce battle with his entire army and all the best fighting men reminds us of what God did for us. We were totally helpless under the power of sin and death. But God invested his best, not sparing his own Son. The LORD God sent his Son into this world and let him die on the cross as a ransom sacrifice. Hebrews 2:14,15 says, “…by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” When Jesus gave his life for sinners to the point of death, God raised him from the dead and he became a true and eternal victor of life. We can also think about Abraham. When he heard that his nephew Lot became a captive, although Lot had been selfish and hurt him very much, Abraham immediately engaged in the war with united powerful kings of that time. It was also too risky an engagement for Abraham, who had but 318 men to fight against such powerful forces. Yet, he did so without calculation, making a night attack. Then God gave him a great victory enabling him to rescue Lot (Gen 13). On one occasion, during the night St. Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us’” (Acts 16:9). Accepting it as God’s leading, he went to Macedonia with a shepherd heart to help such Macedonians. God richly blessed his heart and decision. His going to Macedonia was the beginning of the Europe evangelization and civilization. When we think of Joshua, we usually have his image as a fighting and conquering general. But here we see his image not only as such a general but as a compassionate shepherd. We also see in this Israel the picture of a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, which God intended for Israel to be from the beginning of its formation. A kingdom of priests and a holy nation should have a shepherd heart for the people of the world one by one and fight a spiritual fight for them with faith in the LORD Almighty who fights for his people and gives them victories beyond their imagination. This is the reason Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Do you truly love me more than these?...Feed my lambs,” (Jn 21:15) and to his disciples, “…Go and make disciples of all nations…” (Mt 28:19) May God help us to grow as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

Second, Joshua’s thorough dealing with the enemies (16-29). Look at verses16-19. “Now the five kings had fled and hidden in the cave at Makkedah. When Joshua was told that the five kings had been found hiding in the cave at Makkedah, he said, ‘Roll large rocks up to the mouth of the cave, and post some men there to guard it. But don’t stop! Pursue your enemies, attack them from the rear and don’t let them reach their cities, for the LORD your God has given them into your hand.’” Joshua knew what had to be done at each due time. Now was not the time to treat the kings hiding in the cave, but the time to pursue the running-away enemies. So Joshua let the five kings be locked in the cave, and he and the Israelites pursued and destroyed the fleeing enemies completely. When the pursuit was done, he dealt with the kings. Look at verses 22-24. “Joshua said, ‘Open the mouth of the cave and bring those five kings out to me.’ So they brought the five kings out of the cave—the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish and Eglon. When they had brought these kings to Joshua, he summoned all the men of Israel and said to the army commanders who had come with him, ‘Come here and put your feet on the necks of these kings.’ So they came forward and placed their feet on their necks.’” This may seem too cruel! But this should be our attitude toward the enemy Satan, if we know how crafty and cruel Satan is. We need such spiritual anger, because the enemy is seeking every opportunity to attack and devour any of God’s children like a roaring lion (1 Pe 5:8). We should claim Jesus’ victory over Satan won through his death and resurrection. Paul prayed for the church in Rome, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Ro 16:20). There are many enemies of the gospel, who present another way of salvation without repentance of sin. They do not acknowledge the holy God who hates sin and also Satan who destroys mankind through sweet temptations of sins and various human ideas. St. Paul had a spiritual anger toward such enemies of the cross, and said, “Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame” (Ph 3:18,19).

When the army commanders placed their feet on the necks of the five kings, Joshua said to them, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Be strong and courageous. This is what the LORD will do to all the enemies you are going to fight.” Then Joshua struck and killed the kings and hung them on five trees, and they were left hanging on the trees until evening. Deuteronomy 21:23 says, “…anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse.” The five kings hanging on the trees were the display of God’s curse and judgment upon them. And all God’s enemies should be treated like that. God wants his people to have a sense of victory in the spiritual fight as well as spiritual anger.

Look at verse 27. “At sunset Joshua gave the order and they took them down from the trees and threw them into the cave where they had been hiding. At the mouth of the cave they placed large rocks, which are there to this day.” Those who were hanging on the trees as God’s curse would not be there overnight but be buried the same day, because the land of God’s promise had not to be desecrated by that (Dt 21:23). So the kings were taken down at sunset and thrown in the cave with large rocks placed at the mouth of the cave. In this way Joshua dealt with the enemy kings thoroughly, teaching his people to be strong and courageous toward any enemies.

At this we are reminded of Jesus, who was cursed in our place and hang on a tree and died and was buried in a cave. A big stone was placed in front of the entrance to the tomb and Roman guards were posted there. Humanly speaking, there was no way for him to rise from the dead and come out of the tomb. But amazingly he did. He rose again from the dead, defeating the power of death and all evil. In this Jesus we have enough reason to be strong and courageous to fight any power of the world for the gospel.

In verses 28-43, Joshua took Makkedah, Libnah, Lachish, Eglon, Hebron, and Debir, moving on 5 times. He totally destroyed everyone in each city leaving no survivors. Verses 40-42 says, “So Joshua subdued the whole region, including the hill country, the Negev, the western foothills and the mountain slopes, together with all their kings. He left no survivors. He totally destroyed all who breathed, just as the LORD, the God of Israel, had commanded. Joshua subdued them from Kadesh Barnea to Gaza and from the whole region of Goshen to Gibeon. All these kings and their lands Joshua conquered in one campaign, because the LORD, the God of Israel, fought for Israel.” Romans 8:31 says, “…If God is for us, who can be against us?” When God was for Apostle Paul and the early Christians, even Rome could not be against them. Rather Rome was conquered by the gospel of Jesus Christ. When the LORD fought for Israel, the Southern cities were conquered through Joshua’s one campaign.

In this study we learn Joshua’s shepherd heart for the people of Gibeon and his faith in the Almighty God and the LORD’s fight and victory for Israel. May God help each of us to be a compassionate shepherd and a courageous and triumphant soldier of Christ.

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