Text: Joshua 11
Proposition: The battle always and only belongs to the Lord, our effectiveness is only an expression of us realizing the depths that we depend on Him.
Introduction: Oxymoron’s, these are words or phrases that seem self contradictory, like obvious secret, partial silence, seriously funny, absolutely unsure or anxious patient. Even the word oxymoron is an oxymoron, the prefix ‘oxy’ means ‘sharp’ and the suffix ‘moron’ means ‘dull’ or ‘understated’. Perhaps oxymoron’s are something we just grow up with and don’t realize it, like the way little boys when their playing say, “Let’s go get then men” and men when their playing say, “Let’s go get them boys”. Sometimes the way we live our lives is like that, we either live for the future or live in the past, sometimes both at once. Even in our relationship with God we tend to miss the moment, asking for things that are yet to be and regretting things that have been as we miss what lies in between. I wonder if that is what dependence on God is really all about, this moment depending on Him, this day depending on Who He is and what He seeks to do through our lives. I’d like to call this sermon, Dependence Day, a way to constantly visit and be almost surprised as we learn to depend on God again. That’s what Joshua 11 is all about, the taking over of the land of Canaan, Israel’s Dependence Day, turn with me to Joshua 11 .
I. Effective Strategies That God Uses In Your Life Will Draw Enemy Fire.
Joshua has just led Israel on a successful campaign over five Amorite kings in the southern regions of Canaan. (show map of Southern campaign) They have destroyed armies and taken over cities and God has been the One who enabled them and even fought for them in miraculous ways. As they now regroup in Gilgal and wait God’s next direction their success has drawn the attention of an even greater enemy to the north. In a matter of months Israel will be drawn into the fight of their lives because of the success of what God has done in and through them. I suppose that what this underlines for us is a spiritual truth that we tend to dismiss… we are in a spiritual battle. The advances we make in growing spiritually, in reaching people for Christ, in exposing darkness will be sweet victories but they will also invite counter attack. Some might say then that we should stop doing good so that we don’t invite struggle but your enemy is not that charitable. Satan’s aim is not to leave you alone if you leave him alone, his aim is to destroy you. This battle has no Switzerland, it doesn’t have peace treaties. If you are moving forward in faith, growing as a Christian, then the battle will come to you. You’ve taken ground and the enemy wants it back, it’s as simple as that. When spiritual battle happens we will feel uncertainty, frustration and even fear. Joshua did. So God tells Joshua not to be afraid, even though the number of the enemy was like the sand on the sea shore, even though they had chariots and weapons of steel. Don’t be afraid because God will fight for you, which means it’s Dependence Day, apart from God we’re finished. The Lord tells Joshua that tomorrow, about this time, this particular battle will be won. What a difference a day makes when God is in it! Know that the effective strategies that God uses in your life will draw enemy fire and ready yourself today. Re read Ephesians 6, ask yourself what it means to put on these pieces of defensive armour, what does it mean to take up the offensive weapon of the sword of the Spirit. Ready yourself for the battle is surely coming.
II. Dependence Means Both Reliance on God and Hard Work On Our Part.
The strange thing about depending on God is that He wants us to trust Him more than we trust ourselves. That’s why there is this strange command before the battle starts. “You shall hamstring their horses and burn their chariots with fire.” War horses and chariots are what I’d call a military advantage and yet God says that when the victory comes, and it will as they depend completely on Him, they are not to use the enemy’s weapons. What’s the principle that God is introducing here? I think it can only be that when success comes take safe guards not to trust in your own capabilities and forsake dependence on God. Once the horses were ham strung and the chariots burnt there was no going back. If the command had been to stable the horses and store the chariots the temptation to resort to the power they represented would erode dependence on God. If the battle belongs to the Lord then the reliance of the people must be upon God first. Then comes the other half of the coin, our hard work. (show slide of Northern campaign) Joshua and the army of Israel move up to Merom and then north to Seir then back to Hazor, they pursue the enemy to their strongholds and then to their cities of refuge, to the hiding places in the mountains. Each man, each troop, each company, each tribe, they were all doing what they could to defeat the forces of the enemy, depending on God each step of the way. Sometimes what you do in the Lord can seem as though it’s just you, sometimes a church can seem a small force for good in the greater community but as we depend on God He ties it all together. The soldiers who fought in Guam in the South Pacific during the Second World war must have thought many times that this was a hopeless battle. They must have felt completely disconnected from what was happening in North Africa or Italy or France, yet it was all one war. The hard work is not giving in to the feelings that what you do doesn’t matter, that your portion of the battle is either hopeless or meaningless. It’s not, God sees the whole war, earthly and heavenly, physically and spiritually, individually and as a church. Rely upon Him and do the hard work, don’t give in to the belief that you are all alone.
III. Dependence on the Lord Will Always Be More a Heart Thing Than a Head Thing.
There’s a well known verse in Proverbs 3:5,6 that goes, “Trust in the Lord with all your ______ and lean not unto your own understanding, in all you ways acknowledge Him and he shall direct your paths.” The missing word is heart, and it says the heart trumps the head when it comes to trusting God. The heart is all about passion, desire, commitment, integrity, hope, faith and love. The head is where reason, logic and knowledge prevail and there is most certainly a need for that but heart is what it will take to depend on God. There is this statement in verse 20 as it describes why no other city sought to make peace with Israel other than Gibeon. “For it was of the Lord to harden their hearts that they should come against Israel in battle, that He might utterly destroy them and that they might receive no mercy…”. So what does it mean that God hardened their hearts to the point that they brought destruction upon themselves? What it implies is that at one point their hearts weren’t hardened, at one point they were soft towards hearing the truth about God. In Romans 1:18 and on it says, “ For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them… Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator…”. When people suppress the truth about who God, when constantly turn their back against what has been shown to them, when they refuse to hear the way God draws them to Himself then there comes a point when God lets them have what they so desperately want…uncleanness, lust, dishonor and lies. It is this process of God letting people go into further self deception that is what hardens their hearts. It is not an action initiated by God, it’s an action that they initiated and persisted in and their hearts became hardened. The opposite of this is also true, the example that comes to mind is when God calls David, ‘a man after my own heart’. What is it that the heart of God is interested in, what does the heart of God seek? However you answer that the answer points us to the way our hearts are drawn to God. I think the heart of God yearns for truth to be known. I think the heart of God yearns for that which resists sin, which seeks righteousness even the righteousness of Jesus Christ. I think the heart of God seeks people who will worship Him in Spirit and in truth. I think the heart of God seeks those who are desperate for Him, because apart from Him there is no other way to forgiveness of sin and the covering of His righteousness. Dependence Day is all about having a heart for God, a heart that is willing to hear God, a heart that is humble and able to be shaped by Him, a heart that is soft because a soft heart is desperate for God.
Of all the gifts
I know our loving Father brings
The answered prayers,
Protection from all things unseen,
The peace within your heart,
The small, simplistic things.
That cry from deep within your soul
Will bring the greatest joy of all.
He hears the anguish in your call.
The sweetest gift
There is of all
When there is no place else to run
But to His grace,
To fall upon your knees
And seek His gentle face ...
There is no fear He does not know
No wound He cannot bind
The sweetest gift of all I know
Brings you to your Father's throne.
And be assured you're not alone.
In your darkest times of need
His light illuminates all things.
Come to Him broken and be healed
With His shed blood you have been sealed.
Find comfort in His love so real
And know ...
The sweetest gift of all
-, Susan L. Condrey.