Peace to you in the name of Christ Jesus, the Prince of Peace who reigns over the true city of peace, the new Jerusalem. (Isa.9:6, Gen.14:18, Heb.7:2, Isa.2:1-4)
In today’s passage we have the acquisition of peace by war. A sad thought. But clearly the truth of God’s word. The passage is Joshua chapter eleven. I will begin to read from verse one, may we sanctify God in our hearts as we hear the holy words of our holy God – read.
The confederacy against Israel. Joshua 11:1. Then it came about, when Jabin king of Hazor heard of it, that he sent to Jobab king of Madon and to the king of Shimron and to the king of Achshaph, 2 and to the kings who were of the north in the hill country, and in the Arabah– south of Chinneroth and in the lowland and on the heights of Dor on the west– 3 to the Canaanite on the east and on the west, and the Amorite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Jebusite in the hill country, and the Hivite at the foot of Hermon in the land of Mizpeh. 4 They came out, they and all their armies with them, as many people as the sand that is on the seashore, with very many horses and chariots. 5 So all of these kings having agreed to meet, came and encamped together at the waters of Merom, to fight against Israel.
The encouragement of Israel’s deliverer. Joshua 11:6. Then the LORD said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid because of them, for tomorrow at this time I will deliver all of them slain before Israel; you shall hamstring their horses and burn their chariots with fire.”
Israel’s deliverer defeats the kings. Joshua 11:7. So Joshua and all the people of war with him came upon them suddenly by the waters of Merom, and attacked them. 8 The LORD delivered them into the hand of Israel, so that they defeated them, and pursued them as far as Great Sidon and Misrephoth-maim and the valley of Mizpeh to the east; and they struck them until no survivor was left to them. 9 Joshua did to them as the LORD had told him; he hamstrung their horses and burned their chariots with fire.
Israel’s deliverer destroys the cities. Joshua 11:10. Then Joshua turned back at that time, and captured Hazor and struck its king with the sword; for Hazor formerly was the head of all these kingdoms. 11 They struck every person who was in it with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them; there was no one left who breathed. And he burned Hazor with fire. 12 Joshua captured all the cities of these kings, and all their kings, and he struck them with the edge of the sword, and utterly destroyed them; just as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded. 13 However, Israel did not burn any cities that stood on their mounds, except Hazor alone, which Joshua burned. 14 All the spoil of these cities and the cattle, the sons of Israel took as their plunder; but they struck every man with the edge of the sword, until they had destroyed them. They left no one who breathed. 15 Just as the LORD had commanded Moses his servant, so Moses commanded Joshua, and so Joshua did; he left nothing undone of all that the LORD had commanded Moses.
Israel’s deliverer subdues the land. Joshua 11:16. Thus Joshua took all that land: the hill country and all the Negev, all that land of Goshen, the lowland, the Arabah, the hill country of Israel and its lowland 17 from Mount Halak, that rises toward Seir, even as far as Baal-gad in the valley of Lebanon at the foot of Mount Hermon. And he captured all their kings and struck them down and put them to death. 18 Joshua waged war a long time with all these kings. 19 There was not a city which made peace with the sons of Israel except the Hivites living in Gibeon; they took them all in battle. 20 For it was of the LORD to harden their hearts, to meet Israel in battle in order that he might utterly destroy them, that they might receive no mercy, but that he might destroy them, just as the LORD had commanded Moses.
Israel’s deliverer destroys the giants. Joshua 11:21. Then Joshua came at that time and cut off the Anakim from the hill country, from Hebron, from Debir, from Anab and from all the hill country of Judah and from all the hill country of Israel. Joshua utterly destroyed them with their cities. 22 There were no Anakim left in the land of the sons of Israel; only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod some remained.
(See Gen.23:2, Josh.15:13-14, Dt.2:19-21, Dt.9:2, I Chron.20:6-8, 2 Sam.21:15-22 – Goliath. Nephalim and Anakim seem related. Progenitor: Anak, Num.13:22, 28, 33, Dt.9:2, Josh.21:11, Judges 1:20)
The victory of Israel’s deliverer. Joshua 11:23. So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the LORD had spoken to Moses, and Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. Thus, the land had rest from war.
Let’s ask God to help us understand this difficult passage, pray.
The difficulty of this passage.
Well, I just said that this passage is a difficult passage. What I mean is that it is difficult to accept or receive. We mentioned the other day that chapters six through twelve record the battles of Israel driving the Canaanites out of the Promised Land. War passages are hard to read. And if you think about them even a little deeply (which we should), they can be unsettling. Death is unsettling. This is meant to make us believe that the cause of death (sin) is even more unsettling.
The clarity of this passage.
Now I would argue that the passage is actually fairly clear. And to some degree easy to understand. Easy to understand if you are a Believer and therefore have true faith in God and in His word. (Eph.2:1-9, Jn.4:10, Rom.3:24, WSC 26)
Once you are subdued and reconciled to God then we do not balk at the painful parts of His word. We tremble. But we still believe. We receive the hard things as part of God’s truth. (WCF 14.2)
The deliverer of God’s people.
God is busy saving His people via His Deliverer. His Deliverer that comes out of Zion. (2 Sam.22:2, Ps.18:2, Ps.40:17, Rom.11:26)
Joshua is God’s chosen redeemer of God’s people. He is the warrior king leader of God’s people. He is God’s chosen man to bring God’s people into the Promised Land.
There are two main things that Joshua does for the people of God.
The deliverer administers justice.
He puts down all their enemies. He administers God’s justice to sinners. We see that applied by war.
The deliverer administers peace.
And thus, by doing so he procures the peace for the people of Israel. The Promised Land is a land of peace for the people of God.
All the enemies of God have been defeated. This is God’s mercy to vessels of mercy. (Rom.9:21-23) All war is over. Mercy is realized in everlasting peace.
In chapter ten we saw the defeat of the southern kings of Canaan.
Chapter eleven is the defeat of the northern kings of Canaan. (Josh.11:1-3)
The true deliverer of God’s people.
And this Joshua stands as a type of the ultimate or the true Joshua – Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 4:8. For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that. 9 So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. 10 For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. (WCF 7.5, 8.6)
Some of the ways that we see Joshua point forward to Christ. Things we see Joshua do imperfectly, but that Christ does them perfectly.
Joshua receives, proclaims and obeys the word of the Lord. (Josh.1:6-8) Jesus always does that which pleases His heavenly Father. Even completing the work on the Cross.
Joshua saves sinners, like Rahab. (Josh.6:22-25) In Christ’s blood every type of sinner finds forgiveness. (I Cor.6:9-11)
Joshua saves sinners, Jewish sinners and Gentile sinners, like the Gibeonites. Christ did this. We who were far off have been brought near. (Eph.2:12-21)
Joshua conquers all of the enemies of God’s people. (Josh.8, 10, 11) Christ satisfies the law and defeats the devil. (I Jn.3:8, Col.2:15, I Cor.15:55)
Joshua secures peace for the people in the Promised Land. Christ is preparing the heavenly Promised Land even now, where very soon all of the Israel of God will reside.
The justice of God.
Let’s say a few general words about the destruction of these various Gentile kings and Gentile people.
First, I am stressing the word Gentile only to denote that these people are not God’s people. (Eph.2:12-21) They are sinners still in their sin. They are sinners before an angry God. And God is angry with them Because He is holy and He hates sin. He hates all that is contrary to His holiness.
When we see all of these people die by the means of this war, this is God exacting the death penalty on sinners for their sin.
The Bible clearly says that the wages of sin is death. (Gen.2:16-17, Rom.6:23) The Bible clearly says the soul that sins must die. (Ezek.18:20-24)
This is how we understand what the Bible teaches on God’s punishment of sin.
WLC 152 What does every sin deserve at the hands of God? Every sin, even the least, being against the sovereignty,(1) goodness,(2) and holiness of God,(3) and against his righteous law,(4) deserves his wrath and curse,(5) both in this life,(6) and that which is to come;(7) and cannot be expiated but by the blood of Christ.(8) 1) James 2:10,11 (2) Exod. 20:1,2 (3) Hab. 1:13 (4) 1 John 3:4; Rom. 7:12 (5) Eph. 5:6; Gal. 3:10 (6) Lam. 3:39; Deut. 28:15 to end. (7) Matt. 25:41 (8) Heb. 9:22; 1 Pet. 1:18,19
Mostly we do not think in terms of God’s just hatred of sin or of His justice. And mostly-mostly we do not think in terms of God’s strict justice. That is to say, only justice and no extension of mercy. That is what we see God doing upon His enemies here. Only justice. No mercy.
Joshua 11:20. For it was of the LORD to harden their hearts, to meet Israel in battle in order that he might utterly destroy them, that they might receive no mercy, but that he might destroy them, just as the LORD had commanded Moses.
The day of divine justice.
And that is what Judgment Day for the unbelieving will be – strict justice with no mercy. The law of God or the penalty for lawbreaking will be applied to the unbeliever strictly with no mitigation. (WCF 32, 33)
Jesus shows this with the rich unbelieving man cast into torments. The man asks for Lazarus to dip his finger in water to cool his tongue. And Christ says “no” there is an uncrossable divide, no mercy for those that receive eternal justice. That is the fate of all those that will not yield to Christ as He is presented to them in the Holy Scriptures. (Lk.16:23-31)
The Judge will be true, faithful, impartial, and without mercy. Stunning. Terrifying actually.
If God should mark our sins, then who could stand before Him? (Ps.130:3) The answer of course, is no one. That is why our only hope is the mercy of God and not the justice of God.
The evangelical useful of hearing of divine justice.
This is the benefit of hearing about God’s terrible justice, it drives us to find God’s mercy in God’s Christ. (Ga.3:16-29), WLC 95-97)
Divine justice is advancing for the unbeliever.
And what we see here in Joshua 11:1-5 is another futile Gentile alliance against the Lord and His people. This is meant to comfort God’s people and to warn God’s enemies.
The numbers of sinners do not thwart justice.
See Joshua 11:4-9.
Previously in Joshua chapter ten we had another alliance among unbelievers to fight against the Believers in the Lord. And that alliance also failed. (Josh.10:1-5)
And what is interesting here is that the providence of God does not permit all of the unbelievers to ally together all at once and face Israel. Physically and naturally speaking they would have been too powerful to conquer.
God is governing all His creatures and all their actions for the good of His people and the glory of His name. He governs even the malice of His enemies. Think of God restricting the malice of Satan against Job. (Job 1, 2) Think of Christ granting permission to Satan to sift Peter. But Christ prayed for Peter so that his faith would not fail. (Lk.22:31)
But what we are seeing here is that condemnation is advancing for the unbeliever. One set of unbelievers receives divine justice and then another and then another. Each subsequent defeat should have inspired the remaining unbelievers to repent and believe. But we see that it did not.
2 Peter 2:2. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; 3 and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. (Jude 1:1-25)
By this we learn that the unbelieving do not believe by their seeing or by experience. No. They are literally watching men, women and children sinners receive the divine wages for their sins and they remain in their unbelieving rebellion. Think of the rich man in hell in Luke sixteen. Even in hell he did not repent. (Lk.16:20-31)
The judgment of the unbeliever is just.
Just as the Bible says to Believers, look up your redemption or salvation draws near. (Lk.21:28-33, Rom.13:11, 2 Tim.4:8)
So too we can say, that the Bible says to the unbelievers, look up your condemnation draws near. (I Pt.4:7, 2 Thess.1:8) Oh how terrible unbelief and sin are.
Divine justice is overwhelming for the sinner.
Another thing that we learn is that the enemies of God and of His people are many and mighty. And God’s people are small in comparison.
Joshua 11:4. They came out, they and all their armies with them, as many people as the sand that is on the seashore, with very many horses and chariots.
If you were to reason by flesh and not by faith you would reason that the people of God would surely fail. The many and the mighty will always beat the few and the weak. Wolves always devour lambs. Unless of course, the divine Shepherd fights for His lambs.
Now Israel here in these military conquests and for us as Christians with our spiritual conquests we are not successful because we ourselves are mighty. In fact, the Israel of God physically in the world is small and weak in comparison with the worldling. (Dt.7:1-9, Jn.18:36, Rom.8:36)
But rather we are regularly told throughout these victories how Israel has been so successful.
Joshua 1:5. No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.
Joshua 10:14. The Lord fights for His people. The Lord put down all of His and all of our enemies because the Lord is the true King of Kings and Lord of Lord’s.
Joshua 11:6. Then the LORD said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid because of them, for tomorrow at this time I will deliver all of them slain before Israel; you shall hamstring their horses and burn their chariots with fire.”
God repeatedly tells Joshua to trust in the Lord and in the Lord’s might. God promises to save His people by destroying their enemies.
Listen to these passages that express this truth.
Exodus 15:1. Then Moses and the sons of Israel sang this song to the LORD, and said, “I will sing to the LORD, for He is highly exalted; The horse and its rider He has hurled into the sea. 2 “The LORD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation; This is my God, and I will praise Him; My father’s God, and I will extol Him. 3 “The LORD is a warrior; The LORD is His name. (2 Sam.22:8-15, Zeph.3:17)
Jeremiah 20:11. But the LORD is with me like a dread champion; Therefore my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. They will be utterly ashamed, because they have failed, With an everlasting disgrace that will not be forgotten. 12 Yet, O LORD of hosts, You who test the righteous, Who see the mind and the heart; Let me see Your vengeance on them; For to You I have set forth my cause. 13 Sing to the LORD, praise the LORD! For He has delivered the soul of the needy one From the hand of evildoers.
The gates of Hell will not prevail against Christ’s church because of the power of the church, but rather because of the power of the Christ of the Church. (Zech.4:6, Mt.16:16)
The weapons of sinners do not thwart God.
V.6. Let me just say a word about the harming of the horses by hamstringing them. God told the people to let these war horses live but to make them unfit for war. That is the idea here.
The weapons of sinners are prohibited to God’s children.
Related to this, God wants Israel to destroy the chariots of these Gentile unbelievers.
God does not want His people to be tempted to trust in the power of their might or of their military might, but only and always to trust in the power and goodness of God. (Ps.20:7, Isa.30:1-5, Ps.146:3-7)
God is teaching His people, do not trust in Man only trust in God. Listen to this. (Prov.29:25)
Isaiah 8:11. For thus the LORD spoke to me with mighty power and instructed me not to walk in the way of this people, saying, 12 “You are not to say, ‘It is a conspiracy!’ In regard to all that this people call a conspiracy, And you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it. 13 “It is the LORD of hosts whom you should regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, And He shall be your dread. 14 “Then He shall become a sanctuary;
Zechariah 4:6. Then he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel saying, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts.
You see we need these regular reminders because even as the Believing people of God we still have the flesh nature. And or flesh is addicted to trusting in the flesh.
Our flesh is “intoxicated”, to use Calvin’s term, with outward pomp and power. Our flesh nature gets drunk with earthly power. And unless our faith is constantly fed and exercised (by battles) we would live by sight and not by faith. And so, dishonor the Lord and ourselves.
Divine justice is universal for the sinner.
Soldier killing solider is hard to bear.
However, once the Gentile armies were defeated by Israel then Israel would take their city and put all the non-military people to the sword. How incredibly harsh. Who could doubt this? And we can say this as true Believers in the Lord. We do not doubt the truthfulness of this. We are just stating that is terrible, it strikes terror into our hearts.
The notion is that all of these sinners, young and old, male and female, rich and poor, are devoted to destruction. Or as the text says, they are utterly destroyed. And this is at God’s command.
Joshua 10:40. Thus Joshua struck all the land, the hill country and the Negev and the lowland and the slopes and all their kings. He left no survivor, but he utterly destroyed all who breathed, just as the LORD, the God of Israel, had commanded.
Joshua 11:20. For it was of the LORD to harden their hearts, to meet Israel in battle in order that he might utterly destroy them, that they might receive no mercy, but that he might destroy them, just as the LORD had commanded Moses. (Dt.20:10-20, 7:1-7, Exodus 33:1-3, 34:1-16, 2 Cor.6:14-18)
The idea is that all that are sinners will die. And we see that all of the enemies of God, young and old, rich and poor, they are all sinners. Therefore, God’s justice is universal on all sinners. (Rom.3:8-19)
Look at the sovereignty of God here over all men.
And in context, over all sinful men. Remember these people are tokens or vessels of God’s wrath.
God does not intend to have mercy on them.
Joshua 11:20. And to that end, the Bible says that God hardened their heart so that He might destroy them. (I Pt.2:8, Rom.9:18, Exod.4:21, 7:3, 9:12, 10:1, 10:20, 10:27, 11:10, 14:4, 14:8, 14:17, Dt.2:30, Isa.63:17, Rom.11:7)
God gives the reprobate, the non-elect, over to his reprobate mind. (Rom.1:18-32, 2 Pt.2:17. See also WCF 5.6)
Romans 1:22. Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.
Romans 9:13. Just as it is written, “JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED.” 14 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! 15 For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH.” 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.
Oh, beloved this is what the better part of the church denies.
They say, God is love. Of course, God is love. (I Jn.4:1-12) God the Father loves sinners so much that He sent His Son to die for them. Whoever believes in Christ has passed from death to life. (Jn.3:16, 1:10-13, Col.1:13, Rom.5:1-10)
But whoever does not believe, the wrath of God abides upon him or her for their sins. (Jn.3:36)
You see Man forgets that God is holy. God is all ethical purity. He is all righteousness. He has no essential or ethical blemishes, no sins.
And God hates sin. God is just. He must punish sin. And He will. God has a day of vengeance. And this is the God of the Bible and no other. On that day, Jesus Christ meek and mild, will be a terrifying Judge to those that hated Him and loved their sin.
Hebrews 10:28. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY.” And again, “THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE.” 31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Hebrews 12:29. for our God is a consuming fire.
And of course, the unbelieving mind rises up in judgment against the Judge of heaven and earth. Fallen Man accuses God of wrongdoing, even barbarous wrongdoing. Fallen man accuses holy God of being a wicked mass-murderer. Fallen man says God is wrong. Fallen Man says God’s word is wicked. (Ezek.18:15-18, Isa.5:20)
That is fallen man beloved. That is why we have these passages. That is why we will have Judgment Day. Fallen man, who is three times wicked accuses God who is spotlessly holy of being wicked.
Think of it. Fallen man is so offended at the justice of God. In a very real way, their “offense” is a farce. Think of our country. We butcher babies by the millions for convenience sake and for the love of money. Our culture is rotten to the core with sexual immorality. Yet, murderers and adulterers are “offended” with God’s justice! Of course they are! The criminal hates the holy and righteous Judge.
Divine mercy is given – Divine peace is procured.
But what do we see by God making war against sinners? He procures peace for His children. This is peace out of war. This is peace by war. This is peace from war. Everlasting peace.
God makes good on His promise to Abraham and to his descendants. (Gen.12:7, Dt.30:3-5, Josh.14:15, Judges 3:11, 3:30, 5:31, Exod.33:2, 34:11, Dt.9:3)
Joshua 11:23. So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the LORD had spoken to Moses, and Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. Thus, the land had rest from war.
Joshua Jesus procures our inheritance – in the Promised Land. (Rom.8:17, I Pt.1:4, Ps.16:6, Rev.21:7)
Joshua Jesus procures our peace – in the Promised Land.
In that Land. We will beat our spears into plowshares. And man will study war not more. (Isa.2:4)
Everlasting peace will be upon our heads. (Isa.51:11, 26:3, Dt.33:27)
Even so Lord Jesus come quickly.
Divine Justice substituting. Let me first state one exception to this truth of strict sovereign divine justice for sinners.
Rahab and her family found mercy under the wings of the Lord. They were grafted into the people of God. God changed them from criminals to children, from strangers to citizens. (Josh.2)
Also, the Hivites that lived in Gibeon that sought a covenant of peace or of life with Joshua and were granted their lives and I believe were grafted into Israel as foretastes of the Gentile inclusion that would come in its fullest form with the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ – they received mercy and not justice. Justice for their sins was paid for by Another – even Joshua-Jesus. (Josh.9)
And I will say as well, that is what all the Believing Jews here represent; they are recipients of God’s mercy and not God’s justice. Or if I could put it another way, God provide for Another to satisfy His justice for their sins – this is mercy. The Innocent One dies in the guilty’s place.
Divine Justice advancing. Let’s say a few things about the people of God that He is using as His instruments of divine justice upon the sinner.
Exaltation is advancing for the Believer. The people of God have survived slavery. They have been sustained in the howling wasteland in their pilgrimage. And now we see that they are overcoming their enemies. They have successfully arrived at the Promised Land.
Notice the scheme is an estate of humiliation to exaltation, from slavery to ruling, something like that. Remember this is here to teach us the larger and eternal spiritual lessons of an estate of humiliation in this life and an estate of exaltation and glory in the heavenly Promised Land. (Heb.11)
Suffering now. Glory then. This is the path of our Lord Jesus. This is our path. It may be narrow and hard now, but it leads to a glorious promised land where the enemies of God shall be no more. (Rev.21:4, Isa.25:8, Isa.2:4)
Beloved, while I do emphasize the malice of those that oppose us, even the world, the flesh and the devil. I hope I do not want to give anyone the impression that the Believing people of God will be ashamed of following God. Or in some way humiliated for believing in Him and serving Him. (Isa.54:4, 45:17, Joel 2:26, Rom.10:11,
Our life in Christ is not one of defeat but one of victory. And I would add, as God counts defeat and as God’s counts victory. God’s thoughts and ways are infinitely higher (and different) than man’s. (Isa.55:8-9)
Listen how God through the prophet Isaiah expresses this hope to His beleaguered people in this world.
Isaiah 49:22. Thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I will lift up My hand to the nations And set up My standard to the peoples; And they will bring your sons in their bosom, And your daughters will be carried on their shoulders. 23 “Kings will be your guardians, And their princesses your nurses. They will bow down to you with their faces to the earth And lick the dust of your feet; And you will know that I am the LORD; Those who hopefully wait for Me will not be put to shame.
So, at the end of the pilgrimage is victory. And I would say, victory in the pilgrimage. Right now the world sits as a judge as it were lording it over the church. But in the final estate, in the true Promised Land, the Bible says that Believers in Christ will sit with Christ judging falling angels and fallen men, from all the nations. (I Cor.6:1-3, Rev.3:21)
The Israel of God will be victorious.