The One Left Standing
If you’re visiting with us, we’ve been in the book of Joshua for 9-10 weeks. Israel has been at war. They have come to the land that Abraham used to live in centuries earlier, the land that God promised them. This land is filled with other nations. Kings and cities dot the landscape. In Genesis 15:16, God told Abraham that his people will possess the land of Canaan but not yet because the “sin of the Amorites is not yet reached its full measure.” It speaks to the will and heart of the Amorites. They have no desire to recognize God, Yahweh, as King and bow under His rule.
Psalm 2 asks this question:“Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.’”
There is an ancient war going on. One that never makes the news. Nations and rulers take counsel together against the Lord. People seek to destroy the bonds and cords that would bind them to Yahweh, the High King and His eternal law that rules this planet. We see the rage of nations play out in persecution of those who follow Christ, in legalizing that which is evil and criminalizing that which is good. In making heroes out of those who are living evil lives and demonizing those who would seek to live righteous lives. People and nations fly into a rage against the Lord. People and nations plot the destruction of the Lord. Throw off righteousness. Throw off holiness. Burst the bonds of truth. This war is old.
It was the war the Amorites were in with God and it stretched on and on. 100 years. 200 years. 300 years. 400 years. 500 years. 600 years. Shaking their fists at Yahweh, The High King of Heaven. They even saw God coming to them for war and their rage grew. Their plotting increased. And then there came a day when the High King of Heaven came and declared war against not just the Amorites but all of the tribes and nations in Canaan that had raged and plotted against Him. The book of Joshua is that war. And today we are going to cover seven years of war, 18 battles, and 33 kings in one message. The map on the screen shows the conquered territory in red. You might think, but that’s not all the land. You’re right. That’s for later and other leaders. These aren’t all the battles Joshua fought but the ones that God let us know about. But more importantly today is a day where we are going to see the fury of the wrath of the High King. The author goes through great pains to make sure everyone knows it is the High King, Yahweh, who is fighting this war.
Last week in chapter 10 we saw five tribes from the southern part of the land band together to attack Israel. Israel marched all night and God threw the combined armies into a panic and it turned into a rout. Most of the enemy soldiers were killed by massive hailstones sent by God. A few survived and made it back to their cities. In verse 16 we find out that the five kings were all found in a cave where they trapped them until the fighting was over. Once the battle was over the Israelites army assembled and we’ll pick it up in verses 22-27. It’s one thing to believe in God but it’s an entirely different thing to believe God. To take Him at His word and go.
Joshua takes these commanders while their men are watching and demonstrates to the entire army for all to see and remember. It’s deliberate. It’s forceful. And then Joshua on behalf of the High King, Yahweh, takes the lives of these five kings. Verses 29-43 goes on to describe the conquest of the rest of the southern kingdom. The word that is repeated over and over again, eight times, is “struck.” Every city they came across they struck every person with the sword – every man, woman and child. And if there was a king, Joshua personally struck him with the sword. In summary of the southern campaign, it says this in verses 40-42. The destruction of every person was commanded by the Lord. Yahweh. The High King. And their ability to do this so quickly was because God was fighting. The High King after 600 years of defiance, rebellion, people raging against Him, people throwing off their bonds and cords that tied them to their true High King.
At this point you would think the Northern kings would do the math and realize that 14 or so kings and tribes later that maybe they should rethink this whole war against God thing. Israel is undefeated against every city, tribe, and king they have faced. Psalm 2 says, “He who sits in heaven laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury.” The Psalm goes on to say, “O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth.” But not these kings. That’s how deep the rage goes. That’s how deep the plotting goes. There’s got to be away around God. There’s got to be a weakness to God.
Chapter 11 starts out with the battlefield shifting to the northern kingdoms. A king named Jabin hears this and he plots and he rages and puts together perhaps one of the greatest armies summoned under his leadership. In verse 10 it says that Jabin and his royal city Hazor is the head of all these kingdoms he assembles. They bring all of their armies and all their military advantage with chariots and horses. God comes to Joshua and tells him this in verses 6-12. Notice the word struck again. Notice the involvement of God again. God gave them over. Of particular note is that Joshua burned Hazor. It was the royal city and therefore the seat of corruption, evil, and rebellion. Utter destruction was God’s judgment.
Why burn the chariots and hamstring the horses?
It’s a great question. Back in Deuteronomy 20:1 it says, “When you go out to war against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and an army larger than your own, you shall not be afraid of them, for the Lord your God is with you, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” God warned this moment would happen. Human thinking would say, “Keep them all! Up grade your military!” But God says destroy the chariots and hamstring the horses. Why? Psalm 20:7 has the best answer. “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” It goes to the heart of the issue. God wanted them not to just to believe in Him but to believe Him. So much so that they would go to war with less military power and upgrades knowing that they had more in God. He was all they had and He was all they needed.
But the big surprise is in verses19-20 at the end of all these battles that the author let us know something we never knew. Here is the only theological explanation given for Joshua 1-11 and why these kings all kept fighting and it’s a reference back to Genesis and that the Amorites sin was not complete: God hardened their hearts so that they would be destroyed. God made it impossible for them to surrender. I would imagine for some of us this creates all kinds of issues. How is this fair? It comes off like God is manipulating these kings and just simply wants to kill them all. Like the kings really had no choice in the matter.
1. I did a lot of reading on this but a lot of what I’m about to say came from Robert Hubbard and his thoughts on this in the Joshua commentary he wrote. The first step to understanding this is to stop and go back up a verse and ask, “Why is there an exception?” Verse 19 says that they sought peace. So if there is an exception why was there an exception? Was this the only exception? No, Rahab, was spared from destruction even though her whole city was destroyed. Again another exception. God spared a woman and a city and king. What these exceptions have in common is a heart that recognized Yahweh as the High King. They had a limited understanding of Him but their belief in Yahweh was very real and in wisdom as Psalm 2 says, “They served Him in fear.” These people were part of the nations that were to be killed but God had mercy. It’s important to understand that God longs to give exceptions.
2. The second step to understanding this is to see if there is another passage in the Bible where this occurs. The most famous passage about God hardening someone’s heart is found in Exodus. It’s the story of Pharaoh and his refusal to let the Israelites go. Eighteen different times in 10 chapters Pharaoh’s heart is hardened. About half of the time God hardens Pharaoh’s heart and the other half Pharaoh hardens his heart. There’s a few in there that are passive an unclear who caused it. The issue in Exodus is whether Pharaoh would yield to God, the High King, and let God’s people go. Or would he rage and plot against God? It’s at the burning bush that God tells Moses in Exodus 3, “But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand.” Before this all began God knew Pharaoh would not do it. At this point, God was not overriding Pharaoh’s heart or will. Pharaoh long before had set his will on keeping the Israelites as slaves. When God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, God essentially was saying, “Fine, you can have your way and because you still rage and plot against me you will not turn away from it.” This is a life direction of raging and plotting against God to which God seals their direction and irreversibly gives them exactly what they have chosen.
And so enter the southern and northern kings, there was no way they were going to bow before Israel and their God. It was centuries of raging and plotting against Yahweh, the High King. They refused to make peace. They each thought they would be the one that could somehow defeat Yahweh – the High king. And the time had come for judgment and God sealed their direction of rage and plotting irreversibly and gave them what they had consistently chosen their whole life – war with God. And after all their raging and plotting they were completely destroyed. And their royal cities totally and completely destroyed.
There are two things that are added at the end as a punctuation. In verse 21 it says that they almost wiped out a nation called the Anakim. The Anakim were the ones that the spies saw and called giants and the main reason they talked Israel out of attacking 47 years earlier. It’s like this footnote, “Remember those Giants? Yep, even the giants.”
The second is chapter 12. It’s the list of the conquered kings. Make no mistake, this is all about kings and who is the real King. This list is the royal list. It’s capitol cities and kings conquered. 33 kings and their capitol cities. This right here ends for the rest of the book any more battles. All of these kings against THE One King. Verses 1-6 are the two kings that Moses conquered and their territories. Verses 7-24 talk about the kings that Joshua conquered. The first couple of verses lay out the geography and the different nations they conquered and then in verse 9 it starts with a list. I like the way the NIV has this laid out because it looks like a ledger. Let’s read it. All of these nations against one nation. Is there any doubt who THE One King left standing is? In seven years this is what Yahweh, High King of All did. No matter how intense the rage or the crafty and bold the plot or size of nation or power and control of a king or people no one can stand against The One King! No one. Absolutely no one.
There is an ancient war going on.
The first half of this book is about judgement. Plain and simple. In our day and time Nations still rage against God and tragically it seems our nation has joined so many other nations. People still plot against God. We see people seek to destroy the bonds or cords to Christ our King. But make no mistake, “Everyone must appear before the judgment seat of Christ.”
Nations rage and people plot against Yahweh. Seek peace with God before it is too late.