Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Battles never unfold according to our plans. Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: In the midst of the battle, you find yourself saying, “The sun is hot; the day is not long enough; there’s circumstances here such as which we cannot possibly win this battle.” Do you stop and cry out to the Lord? Do you have the faith to say, “Lord, whatever it takes, You can do it”?

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, October 23, 2014.

We all need concentrated times of prayer when we get away and focus on the Lord, but there are probably times when your prayer is more like a field general calling in reinforcements while under fire. The danger comes when we don’t pray at all, trying to battle alone. Nancy will explain why this is so dangerous. She's continuing in the series "Lessons from the Life of Joshua (Part 11): Waging and Winning Spiritual Battles."

Nancy: In the last session we saw that Joshua and the Children of Israel failed to ask counsel from the Lord when it came to this matter of the Gibeonites who came and deceived them. They said, “We’ve come from afar; we want to make a covenant; we want to make a treaty with you.” We saw that the problem was that Joshua failed to ask counsel of the Lord.

Now, Joshua knew better. He had had a lot of experience at asking God counsel, and God had said, “I will lead you. I will be with you, but you’ve got to follow Me. You’ve got to look to Me.” It was a hard lesson, a heavy price, and it ended up making a costly mistake, and so it happens with us when we fail to seek the Lord. We do end up making costly mistakes, and we may end up in partnerships with the enemies of God.

So as we’re picking up here in Joshua chapter 9, let me just read where we left off in the last session, beginning in verse 14 of chapter 9,

So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the Lord. And Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them, to let them live, and the leaders of the congregation swore to them.

It’s interesting that in this chapter there’s no word from the Lord. You know why? Because they didn’t ask for it. I think sometimes in our lives when there’s no leading or word from the Lord, it’s because we’re not in His Word, we’re not asking Him to direct us. Not to seek counsel from the Lord is to trust in ourselves, to trust in our own wisdom, is to be self-sufficient, self-reliant, independent. It’s really the essence of pride. “I can figure this out.”

Alan Redpath has written a wonderful book on the book of Joshua, and he says, when it comes to this passage,

Never trust your own judgment. When common sense says that a course is right, lift your heart to God, for the path of faith and the path of blessing may be in a direction completely opposite to that which you call common sense. If you are called on to act, and you have not time to pray, don’t act. Dare to stand and wait on God, for none of them that wait on Him shall ever be ashamed. Don’t lean on your own understanding.1

Now, in this case, Israel did not ask counsel from the Lord. They ended up acting foolishly, and now they are stuck in a bad situation. So what are they to do? I want to pick up with that part of the story today, but let me introduce it by reading to you an email that I received a week or so ago from one of our listeners. It’s just an illustration, this could be representative of many other people and lives and decisions where we make a wrong choice and then end up in a bad situation. We wonder what it would do.This woman said:

For years now I feel as if I made a mistake in marrying the man I did.

Now whether she did or not, I can’t tell her. I don’t know the background, but she’s saying “I think I made a mistake. I married somebody I wasn’t supposed to marry.” A lot of women do that.

From time to time, I wonder how much better life would be if I had married my first love. It’s sad to say, but sometimes the thought of him [my first love] gives me a bit of happiness that I haven’t felt in years. [Now, she’s struggling.] What do I do?

I got an email in the last day or so from a woman who’s saying, “Should I leave my current husband and go back to my first husband, because,” she’s realizing now, “what I did was clearly against the Scripture in marrying the second man. I feel happy when I think of this first love, and I haven’t had happiness in my life in years. Doesn’t God want me to be happy?” You see how the human reasoning goes?

Well, let’s look at what happens here in the book of Joshua, chapter 9, beginning in verse 16:

At the end of three days after they had made a covenant with [the Gibeonites], they heard that they were their neighbors and that they lived among them.

Can you imagine Joshua just going, “Oh. Whoa. How did you deceive me? Oh you . . .” Just the remorse, the consternation, the chagrin he must have felt at that moment. “Why didn’t I ask God? Why did I move forward with this?”

The people of Israel set out and reached their cities [the Gibeonite cities] on the third day.

But the people of Israel did not attack them, because the leaders of the congregation had sworn to them by the LORD, the God of Israel. Then all the congregation murmured against the leaders. But all the leaders said to all the congregation, "We have sworn to them by the LORD, the God of Israel, and now we may not touch them.”

“Let them live, lest wrath be upon us, because of the oath that we swore to them.”

Joshua summoned them [the Gibeonites], and he said to them, "Why did you deceive us, saying, ‘We are very far from you,’ when you dwell among us?”

They answered Joshua, "Because it was told to your servants for a certainty that the LORD your God had commanded his servant Moses to give you all the land and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land from before you—so we feared greatly for our lives because of you and did this thing. And now, behold, we are in your hand. Whatever seems good and right in your sight to do to us, do it.”

So he did this to them and delivered them out of the hand of the people of Israel, and they did not kill them. But Joshua made them that day cutters of wood and drawers of water for the congregation and for the altar of the LORD, to this day (vv. 17–20, 22, 24–27).

So what happened here? Joshua said, “We have made a covenant. We made it foolishly. We didn’t seek the Lord, but we made it, and we’re going to keep it. Now,” he said, “there’s going to be consequences” and within the bounds of that covenant, they put the consequences on the Gibeonites that from that day, and for generations to come, they would always be servants of the people of God. They would do manual labor, household chores so to speak, for the house of the Lord, which at that point was in a tent.

Joshua said, “We’ve made a promise. We’ve made an oath, and we’re going to keep our word.”

Joshua knew that it would be wrong for him to add a second wrong to the first wrong by saying, “We will break this covenant.” In fact, the Israelites did keep this covenant for centuries. If you move ahead (and we won’t turn there right now), but 2 Samuel chapter 21 tells the story of the day when King Saul violated that covenant and reaped severe consequences. So God held the Children of Israel to hold their word on this for generations and centuries to come.

Once we’ve made a wrong or a foolish choice, we may have to live with the consequences for generations—the consequences of actions we have taken without seeking the counsel of the Lord.

Now, we’re going to see how God can redeem all that—and He can—but we’re still in a situation where we have to live with some of the consequences of those actions and those choices.

Psalm chapter 15 tells us that a godly person "swears to his own hurt and does not change" (v. 4). He gives his word, and his word is his promise.

So I would say to these two women I referenced earlier, who are married to men that they believe were not God’s right choice for them, “You’re now married to that man. That man now becomes God’s will for your life. You may have gotten into that marriage on an unbiblical basis. It may be a first marriage where you didn’t seek the Lord. You married a nonbeliever; you married out of the will of God; you married out from under the authority of your parents, but you’re in that situation now. You have made a covenant.”

That’s what marriage is. There’s a vow. There’s a covenant there. Yes, you married without seeking God’s counsel, and now you’re in a difficult marriage. God’s Word says, “Keep your vow. Swear to your own hurt, and do not change.” It doesn’t mean it will be easy, but it does mean it’s God’s will.

And you say, “Is there any other Scripture you can give for that?”

Well, 1 Corinthians chapter 7 says,

If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him (v. 13).

Don’t divorce him if he’s willing to stay, and it goes on to say in verse 16:

Wife, how do you know whether you will save your husband?

Now, you’re not going to save your husband, but the context here is that God will bring your husband to faith—potentially, perhaps—by your willingness to be faithful to this vow and to this covenant. Because in keeping that vow, you are demonstrating the heart of a covenant-keeping, faithful God. It may not be easy. It may be very hard. It will not be ideal. Sin messes up the world. It may be a choice, a situation that you’re in as a result of someone else’s foolishness. But you’re in this situation, and if there’s a vow, a covenant, involved, then you need to keep that covenant.

Now, this situation, in a sense, was irretrievable. They couldn’t go back and redo this decision, and in that sense, they lost the battle. There wasn’t an actual battle, but there was a failure here.

In God’s mercy and grace—thank God—you may lose the battle and still be able to win the war. There is still grace, and God is so gracious in His willingness to overrule many of the failures and the losses that have been caused by our foolishness. You see this over and over again in Scripture.

Now, we can’t expect God to do that. We don’t have a right for Him to do that. We cannot demand that God do that. But God in His mercy and grace frequently does turn our failures into an opportunity for God to be glorified and for us to be blessed.

As you come to Joshua chapter 10, verse 1, we see that there was some fallout from this Gibeonite situation. At first reading, it’s not going to seem like a blessing, or like God overruling positively, but it really did turn out to be.

As soon as Adoni-zedek, king of Jerusalem [Jerusalem is about five miles south of Gibeon, so it’s a near neighbor. As soon as this 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.

So this king panics. He’s been watching all this. He’s been hearing the reports. The security of Jerusalem is now threatened. First Jericho has fallen, then Ai and Bethel have been conquered, now Gibeon has surrendered to the Israelites by making this treaty.

The Israelites are moving closer to Jerusalem, and he realizes, “It’s just a matter of time, and we’re going to be history.” So he’s terrified, and he acts. He decides he’s going to unite the Canaanites in that southern portion of Canaan to ward off the Israelites.

So he sends an urgent message to the kings of four other nearby cities, calling to them to form a coalition to take action against Gibeon. Now they didn’t go directly against Joshua. They said, “We’re going—the five kings in the southern coalition—are going to go against Gibeon, and we’re going to attack it and see if we can stir up the mix here so that Joshua won’t be so powerful in the land.”

Verse 4 of chapter 10, he says to these kings,

“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 (vv. 4–5).

This evoked a response on the part of the Gibeonites that the confederate southern kings were hoping for. The Gibeonites sent a messenger to Joshua in Gilgal and said, "Come to us quickly and save us" (v. 6). 

"We’ve made a treaty with you. We’ve made a covenant with you. We’re under attack. Come and save us." This was part of a treaty in those days. If you made a treaty with another people, then you were bound to help each other when you were in distress.

It’s interesting the wording they used here. “Come to us quickly and save us.” Joshua’s name means—do you remember from earlier on in this series?—Jehovah saves. God saves. “Live up to your name. Come and help us; save us.”

Now, what seems here to be a hopeless mess actually proved to be a strategic opportunity for Joshua and the Israelites. In God’s wisdom and in His providence, God was orchestrating all of this. Joshua had been, up to this point, picking off cities one at a time. First Jericho, then Ai, and Bethel, and the Gibeonites (they didn’t defeat it, but made a treaty with the Gibeonites).

Now there are five confederate armies gathered together in an open field against Gibeon, in an open field outside Gibeon, and what an opportunity to take down not one army but five at a time. God is helping them to take the land, to expedite the conquest of the land.

Now, as God had done previously, God assures Joshua in verse 8: “Do not fear them, for I have given them into your hands.”

That’s all Joshua needed. He was ready to move. Again, humanly speaking, he would have been fearful. He would have cause to be fearful, but he said, “All I need to know is that God is with me, and that God is going to win the victory in this battle.”

So Joshua took his army. He marched all night, in response to the plea from the Gibeonites, twenty-five miles from Gilgal, where the Israelites were camped out. This trek from Gilgal to Gibeon, this twenty-five-mile trek, is a steep uphill climb. He’s doing it in the night, under cover of darkness. It’s a steep uphill climb, going up to 4,000 feet. This is no easy trek, and remember that when the conquest started, Joshua was about ninety years old. So here he is, an older man, and he’s in the thick of this battle.

Now, he takes this army through the night; they march all night. Then in the morning they make a surprise attack on these confederate kings who were sitting in this field outside Gibeon. As the story unfolds, we see that the Lord intervened supernaturally. Remember, God had said, “I have given them into your hands”?

Joshua didn’t know the rest of the story. He couldn’t read what we’re about to read here. He couldn’t see how God was going to intervene, but by faith he trusted that God would do what He said He would do. We see now, as the story unfolds, that there was a whole string of miracles that God brought about to bring the defeat of this southern coalition of kings.

Verse 10: “And the Lord threw them into a panic [the five confederate kings] before Israel.” Who did this? The Lord did it—“who struck them with a great blow at Gibeon and chased them by the way of the ascent of Beth-horon and struck them as far as Azekah and Makkedah.”

So all of a sudden you have the Lord who has supernaturally intervened. We don’t how this happened, but all we know is now the enemy troops are in a state of utter disarray, in terror. They are disoriented. They are confused, and they are running for their lives. How did it happen? The Lord threw them into a panic. The Lord is the warrior. He is our Captain. He’s the Captain of the Lord’s hosts.

When we go into battle, whether it’s against our own flesh or against the enemies of God in this culture, false ways of thinking, etc., it’s God who is the one who is able to dismantle the enemy forces.

And as they fled before Israel, while they were going down the ascent of Beth-horon, the Lord threw down large stones from heaven on them as far as Azekah, and they died (v. 11).

These were hailstones. The Lord causes these hailstones to fall and to destroy the army as they’re fleeing.

“There were more who died because of the hailstones than the sons of Israel killed with the sword” (v. 11).

It’s a miracle. Now you say, “What’s so miraculous about that? There’s a storm that comes.” Well, how come it was the enemy troops who died under the hailstorm but not the troops of Israel? It’s a miracle. It’s God intervening. The Lord threw these stones down from heaven and crushed the enemy.

At that time Joshua spoke to the LORD in the day when the LORD gave the Amorites over to the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, "Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and moon, in the valley of Aijalon.”

And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies.

The sun stopped in the midst of heaven and did not hurry to set for about a whole day (vv. 12–13).

There’s been lots of discussion and lots of speculation about exactly what happened here. The fact is, we don’t know exactly what God did here. It’s possible that God stopped or slowed down the rotation of the earth to give more daylight hours for the battle, and there are those who believe that’s what happened.

Others suggest that the miracle that took place here was actually some sort of eclipse. The fact is, we don’t know exactly what God did, but we do know that it was God. We know that He miraculously intervened on their behalf, and we know that we don’t have to come up with naturalistic answers as to how this could have all come about. God did it, and He gave the victory this day in response to the prayer of Joshua.

Now, interestingly, the sun and the moon were among the major deities the Canaanites worshiped. So when Joshua prayed—he didn’t pray to the sun and the moon as the Canaanites would do—he prayed to Jehovah, the God of heaven and earth. When Joshua prayed, the Canaanite gods, the sun and the moon, were forced to obey.

Don’t you imagine that must have been unsettling to the Canaanites, perhaps even terrifying as they saw the power of this Jehovah God that they could not see, and they did not know? They would have been forced to acknowledge that there was a deity here who was more powerful than all of their gods.

Verse 14: “There has been no day like it before or since, when the Lord obeyed the voice of a man, for the Lord fought for Israel.”

As I’ve meditated on this passage, you just see the incredible, supernatural power of God. Could I say, the power of prayer. In the midst of the battle, you find yourself saying, “The sun is hot; the day is not long enough; there’s circumstances here such as which we cannot possibly win this battle.” Do you stop and cry out to the Lord? Do you have the faith to say, “Lord, whatever it takes, You can do it.”? and to appeal to the Lord. I wonder how many miracles we never see happen because we didn’t ask God, because we didn’t cry out to Him to intervene.

Now, it wasn’t Joshua who won the victory. It wasn’t Joshua’s prayer that won the victory. It was God who fought for Israel, but God responds to the prayers of His people. It doesn’t always happen that dramatically. In fact, the Scripture says there has never been a day before and there’s not been a day like it since when the Lord did it quite that way, but God is still God.

He is still the God of heaven and earth, and He wants to act and move on behalf of His children and to show Himself powerful in the eyes of His enemies, if we will cry out to Him, move forward in faith, and then let God be the one who fights the battle and wins the victory.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been pointing us to the God who can do anything, and, as we’ve just heard, He isn’t limited by the path of the sun or the strength of an army. He isn’t intimidated by the threats that frighten us, either.

Your heart can be at peace because of God’s power. That’s true in any danger and in any storm. This is so important, we want to remind you of this truth through all of 2015. Remind you of it every day, in fact. I hope you’ll get a copy of the 2015 Revive Our Hearts wall calendar. The theme is “Peace in the Storm.” Each month, you’ll read a thought from Nancy or a friend of the ministry like Mary Kasisan or Joni Eareckson Tada. Each of their quotes revolves around maintaining your peace in the middle of a storm. Timothy Botts has taken these encouraging quotes and illustrated them in his unique artwork that will enhance your home.

We’ll send you the “Peace in the Storm” wall calendar as our way of thanking you for your donation of any size to Revive Our Hearts. Ask for it when you call 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Do you ever find it easier to start a project than to finish it? You’re full of excitement and energy at the beginning but start to lose momentum at the end. As he began his military command, Joshua fought some exciting, dramatic battles, but as the years progressed, stamina was required to finish the job he’d been called to tackle.

Nancy: There are no short-cuts. We cannot have the inheritance we are called to possess without going through some battles. In commentator says it this way, "God gave them title to the territory, but they had to possess it by marching in every part."

God has given us an inheritance in Christ. Every spiritual blessing is ours in Christ, according to Ephesians chapter 1, but we have to strive and labor and wrestle with our enemies—Satan, and our flesh, and this world's system—we have to strive to take possession of that which God has given us.

I think this comes something as a surprise to a lot of young believers. Maybe it is because of the way we have preached the gospel in the last several generations—if you are having a hard life, come to Jesus and things will be good and you'll be happy and wealthy. This is not the gospel of Scripture. The gospel of Scripture is take up your cross, follow Jesus, come and die. It's a call to be a soldier. It's a call to warfare. We want heaven; we want sanctification; we want the crown; we want the joy; we want the fullness; but we don't want to go through the process to get there.

As we read the account of Joshua, we see that they had to take possession of the land by going in and fighting for it. 

Leslie: God's strength for your battles—tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

1Alan Redpath, Victorious Christian Living: Studies in the Book of Joshua (Grand Rapids: Revell, 1955, 1993), 142-143.

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