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JOSHUA, A MAN OF OBEDIENCE

Joshua 11:1-12:24
Key Verse: 11:15

In Joshua 10 Joshua conquered Southern cities in one campaign, and we could see Joshua’s shepherd heart and his faith in the Almighty Creator God and challenging spirit. We also could see his thorough and tireless fight for God’s complete victory. In chapter 11 Joshua defeats Northern kings. The battle in this chapter is not as spectacular as the battle in chapter 10. There are no grand events like the sun and the moon stopping and giant hailstones dropping from the sky. The description of this chapter is plain and more drawn to how Joshua obeyed the LORD’s direction and the LORD’s command to Moses. The LORD gave him the victory over all the kings in Palestine, and Joshua took the entire land as an inheritance.

First, Joshua’s obedience (1-15). Look at verses 1-4. “When Jabin king of Hazor heard of this, he sent word to Jobab king of Madon, to the kings of Shimron and Acshaph, and to the northern kings who were in the mountains, in the Arabah south of Kinnereth, in the western foothills and in Naphoth Dor on the west; to the Canaanites in the east and west; to the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites and Jebusites in the hill country; and to the Hivites below Hermon in the region of Mizpah. They came out with all their troops and a large number of horses and chariots—a huge army, as numerous as the sand on the seashore.” This is the largest scale of the enemies of Israel depicted in the book of Joshua and the battle is the last one written in this book. All these kings joined forces and made camp together at the Waters of Merom, to fight against Israel (5).

Most probably, at this time Joshua was wondering how he could fight against such a huge army that was equipped with a large number of horses and chariots. He was fearful. Then the LORD said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them, because by this time tomorrow I will hand all of them over to Israel, slain. You are to hamstring their horses and burn their chariots” (6). When we think of Joshua’s life, God gave him the words of promise at each critical time. When he had to take the leadership over Israel after Moses’ death, the LORD said, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (1:9). When he had to fight against Jericho, the first invincible fortress he confronted, the LORD said, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its kings and its fighting men. March around the city once with all the armed men…On the seventh day…have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse…” (6:2-6). When he had to fight again with Ai after the first failure, the LORD said, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Take the whole army with you, and go up and attack Ai. For I have delivered into your hands the king of Ai, his people, his city and his land…Set an ambush behind the city” (8:1-2). And when he had to fight against the five kings of the Amorites for the sake of Gibeonites, the LORD said, “Do not be afraid of them; I have given them into your hand. Not one of them will be able to withstand you” (10:8). At this fourth battle with the strongest opponent, the LORD said, “Do not be afraid of them, because by this time tomorrow I will hand all of them over to Israel, slain. You are to hamstring their horses and burn their chariots.” In this promise he set the time limit, “by this time tomorrow.” It would be exactly a 24 hour battle, no longer than that. In this way God gave Joshua the assurance of victory, yet with no strategy to treat the huge army. This shows that the battle is truly the LORD’s. One thing Joshua had to do was to hamstring their horses and burn their chariots.

Look at verses 7-9. “So Joshua and his whole army came against them suddenly at the Waters of Merom and attacked them, and the LORD gave them into the hand of Israel. They defeated them and pursued them all the way to Greater Sidon, to Misrephoth Maim, and to the Valley of Mizpah on the east, until no survivors were left. Joshua did to them as the LORD had directed: He hamstrung their horses and burned their chariots.” Here there is not special strategy and no mention of how God gave them into the hand of Israel. What is written here is that Joshua made a sudden attack, and when God gave them into the hand of Israel, they defeated them and pursued them. Yet, Joshua’s obedience to the LORD is stressed: “Joshua did to them as the LORD had directed: He hamstrung their horses and burned their chariots.” It must not been easy for Joshua to obey this direction. All the enemies were slain and the battle was finished. What would be the point of hamstringing their horses and burning their chariots? It seemed to be unnecessary, additionalhard work for the Israelites. Moreover the horses and chariots were expensive and rare. The Israelites did not have even one horse, not to mention a chariot at that time. If they had taken the horses and chariots, they could have very useful to the Israelites. We can imagine that God did not want them to depend on such excellent human devices but on him alone. Anyway, it must have been hard for Joshua to obey such a direction. And it could be God’s testing command. When Israel had to take Jericho, God gave them a clear direction not to take anything as plunder for all things would be devoted to the LORD. But Achan took a beautiful jacket made in Babylonia and silver and gold and hid them in the ground inside his tent (6:21). As a whole, the Israelites failed in obeying God’s command, though they could conquer the city of Jericho. As for Joshua and the Israelite this time would the second and last chance to obey God’s direction. What did Joshua do? Verse 9 says, “Joshua did to them as the LORD had directed: He hamstrung their horses and burned their chariots.” His obedience to the LORD was absolute, though he may not have understood the direction at that time. His obedience was evident and noteworthy.

God sent Saul the first king of Israel for a mission to attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belonged to them. But Saul spared everything that was good, the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat caves and lambs. He destroyed everything that was despised and weak (1 Sam 15:8-9). Saul thought he obeyed God. But God’s message to him through Samuel was, “Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king” (1 Sam 15:23). God could not use him as a king anymore. Jesus once went to a wedding in Cana. At the wedding reception, wine was lacking. Mary the mother of Jesus noticed this problem and made an environment for Jesus to work by saying to the servants there, “Do whatever he tells you.” Soon Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” To human eyes this command was nonsense, for the jars were used for washing hands and filling the jars would require tremendous labour by the alreadybusy servants. But the servants obeyed, filling the jars to the brim. Then the water changed into wine and thus Jesus’ first miraculous sign was done. The nameless servants could be a blessing to the wedding couple and all the guests through their obedience. We remember Mary’s obedience. When God told her through the angel Gabriel that she would be with a child before her marriage, she was greatly troubled. Humanly, she could not understand it. But she said, “I am the Lord’s servant; May it be to me as you have said,” entrusting her marriage to God completely. She was truly a woman of obedience and thus became a mother of Jesus.

Look at verses 10-11. “At that time Joshua turned back and captured Hazor and put its king to the sword. (Hazor had been the head of all these kingdoms.) Everyone in it they put to the sword. They totally destroyed them, not sparing anything that breathed, and he burned up Hazor itself.” When God gave him victory, Joshua and his people totally destroyed Hazor, even turning back.

Now we see further description of Joshua’s obedience. Look verse 12. “Joshua took all these royal cities and their kings and put them to the sword. He totally destroyed them, as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded.” Here we see another aspect of Joshua’s obedience. Moses had passed away and now he was taking the leadership over the Israel, obtaining many victories. So it could have been written, “as the LORD had commanded” and it would have been okay. But it is written, “…as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded.” It clearly shows that what he did was his obedience to Moses’ command, which was obviously his obedience to God. What beautiful and humble obedience it is! Humbleness and obedience always go together.

The description of Joshua’s obedience continues. Look at verse 13-15. “Yet Israel did not burn any of the cities built on their mounds—except Hazor, which Joshua burned. The Israelites carried off for themselves all the plunder and livestock of these cities, but all the people they put to the sword until they completely destroyed them, not sparing anyone that breathed. As the LORD commanded his servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua, and Joshua did it; he left nothing undone of all that the LORD commanded Moses.” I think verse 15 can be one of the most beautiful verses in the Bible, and the key verse of Joshua. How beautiful it is that God’s command to Moses did not stop even after Moses’ death, but was carried out unto completion through Joshua. This verse does not say that Joshua left nothing undone of all that the LORD commanded him. No. It says, “Joshua left nothing undone of all that the LORD commanded Moses.” It showed that he was truly humble and obedient. In chapter 10 when Joshua commanded the sun to stand still and the moon to stop and it happened according to his command, his faith was remarkable and sky high. He seemed to be the greatest man of faith, greater than anyone else on the face of the earth. But right after this fantastic chapter, what is written in this chapter is his complete obedience to all the commands of Moses, which was the expression of his obedience to the LORD. In verse 9 it is written, “Joshua did to them as the LORD had directed.” In regard to God’s direction to him and his doing it was written one time. But regarding God’s command to Moses it was written repeatedly four times (12, 15, 20, 23). He was truly a man of humbleness and a man of obedience.

Joshua was not a perfect man. He had failed in conquering Ai. He also did not inquire of the LORD and unwittingly made a treaty with the Gibeonites. Yet, we cannot deny that he was truly a man of humbleness and obedience. It is interesting to observe how Joshua was introduced in the book of Joshua. It began with Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide (1:1). Then he was described just as Joshua or Joshua son of Nun, while Moses, the servant of the LORD.” And then at the end of this chapter he was finally portrayed as the servant of the LORD (24:9). We can say that he grew from Moses’ aide to a servant of the LORD through his humble attitude and obedience.

In this Joshua we see an image of Jesus. When Jesus was twelve years old, he went to the temple in Jerusalem with his parents. There he had a wonderful experience listening to the teachers and asking them questions for three days. He knew that he had to be in his heavenly Father’s house being concerned about his Father’s business. After experiencing some extraordinary, he was obedient to his parents when he came back home (Lk 2:46-51). Apostle Paul described the humbleness of Jesus in this: “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant…he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Ph 2:5-8). Through Jesus’ obedience salvation has come to each of us. In this grace may we grow to be men and women of obedience and so each be true blessings to many others.

Second, Joshua’s completing his mission (11:15-12:24). Look at verse 15 again. “…Joshua did it; he left nothing undone of all that the LORD commanded Moses.” Joshua was a man of obedience, and also a man of completing his mission. His mission was different from that of Moses. Moses’ mission was to lead the Israelites right up to the land of God’s promise. Joshua’s mission was to fight and fight to the end and take the land. Look at verses 16-17. “So Joshua took this entire land: the hill country, all the Negev, the whole region of Goshen, the western foothills, the Arabah and the mountains of Israel with their foothills, from Mount Halak, which rises toward Seir, to Baal Gad in the Valley of Lebanon below Mount Hermon.” This is a vast land. Then the summary of his fighting is written in verse 17b and 18. “He captured all their kings and struck them down, putting them to death. Joshua waged war against all these kings for a long time.” To fight for a long time is not easy for anyone. But Joshua completed it. Look at verse 23 says, “So Joshua took the entire land, just as the LORD had directed Moses, and he gave it as an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal divisions. Then the land had rest from war.” Once again it is written, “So Joshua took the entire land.” Through completing his mission he could take the entire land, and his people Israel could have an inheritance. Then the land had rest from war. The names of the kings, 31 kings, Joshua had defeated were written in chapter 12. His battle was concrete and his victory was accomplished by one battle after another.

Our God is the God of completion. He completed his creating work and then rested. Genesis 2:2 says, “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.” Apostle Paul said at the time of his imminent death, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7). On the cross our Lord Jesus said, “It is finished.” May we also be able to complete God’s given mission very personally. For this we may form the habit of completing one task after another. We pray that we may accomplish 30 1:1 goal with the spirit of completion.

Thank God for helping us to study this passage. May God establish his people here to be men and women of obedience and mission- completion like Joshua in this generation.

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