Thursday, August 15, 2019

Book of Joshua Week 11: Joshua’s Turning Point

Most of us, if not all of us, have moments in life where we’ve come to a point that turns the course of our future. I’ve heard stories from several men in our church who have had this type of turning point, where as young men a judge gave them the ultimatum of going into the military or the jail. So far, no one has chosen jail, though some joke they should have. 
But these turning points that happen in our lives and change us so dramatically that we are never the same. My turning points have been in a courtroom, in the back of a van on the way to a baseball game, and at the alter. A Marriage, a funeral, a birth, and host of other experiences can be turning points in our lives. 

It’s these types of turning points that brings us back into the book of Joshua today, where we’ll be picking up from last week in chapter 10, starting in verse 1. As we get back into the book of Joshua let’s recap from what we’ve talked about already.

Really we need to know and focus on one thing: The purpose of the book of Joshua is to help us realize are need to follow God where he leads. We see this throughout the book up to this point. God calls Joshua to be strong and courageous. God calls the people of Israel to follow him into danger. God calls the people to be vulnerable in the land of their enemies. God calls them to walk across a flooded river as he parts it. God calls the people to march around a city without attacking it, until the walls fall. For most, these things could be seen as crazy. Go to a distant land where you don’t know the area, you have no allies, and approach the military conquest of that land by walking around. 
But we see that when the people do as God commands, they win. They walked across the Jordan River on dry ground. They were not attacked by their enemies when they were most vulnerable. They gained allies, and took down one of the great strongholds of the land. When the Israelite people followed God’s commands, they won. 
But then we see when they didn’t. People took things they shouldn’t, and they began to lose battles. But they repented, got back on track, and God gave them victory. 
Then they made a treaty without consulting God, and then they found out they were duped. And now, as we’ll see, that treaty leads them into a fight. 
But what we need to recognize is that when the people followed God’s commands, they won, and when they didn’t, it always led them to a bigger problem. 

With that in mind, let’s dive into chapter 10 of the book of Joshua, starting in verse 1.

1 Now Adoni-Zedek king of Jerusalem heard that Joshua had taken Ai and totally destroyed it, doing to Ai and its king as he had done to Jericho and its king, and that the people of Gibeon had made a treaty of peace with Israel and had become their allies. 2 He and his people were very much alarmed at this, because Gibeon was an important city, like one of the royal cities; it was larger than Ai, and all its men were good fighters. 3 So Adoni-Zedek king of Jerusalem appealed to Hoham king of Hebron, Piram king of Jarmuth, Japhia king of Lachish and Debir king of Eglon. 4 “Come up and help me attack Gibeon,” he said, “because it has made peace with Joshua and the Israelites.”
5 Then the five kings of the Amorites—the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish and Eglon—joined forces. They moved up with all their troops and took up positions against Gibeon and attacked it.
6 The Gibeonites then sent word to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal: “Do not abandon your servants. Come up to us quickly and save us! Help us, because all the Amorite kings from the hill country have joined forces against us.”

Let’s stop there. Last week we talked about how there was only two options for the people of Canaan at this point. Either they grouped together and fought the Israelites, or they tried to make peace. Most of the people groups decided to band together to fight, whereas, like we saw last week, the Gibeonites tried for peace. The Gibeonites ended up attaining peace through deceit, and though they became servants to the Israelites, they got what they wanted and now they were under the protection of the nation of Israel.  
Now because the city of Gibeon made this alliance with Israel, the other people of Canaan saw it as a betrayal. And they were going to destroy the city for that very reason. So here we are in a place where the nation of Israel has a choice, help or not. 
Now, this would be a way for the Israelites to get rid of this pesky peace treaty they had made under deceit. I mean, they weren’t suppose to make a treaty with any nation in Canaan, and they were tricked into it anyway, so why not let the other cities destroy Gibeon. I mean, good riddance right?

Let’s see what Joshua does in verse 7.

7 So Joshua marched up from Gilgal with his entire army, including all the best fighting men. 8 The Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them; I have given them into your hand. Not one of them will be able to withstand you.”

So Joshua doesn’t hesitate, but instead he again shows that he honors God, by fulfilling the requirements of the treaty he signed. In spite of what the Gibeonites had done, Joshua was going to keep his word. And so, he marches the army up to Gibeon for battle. Now what we need to notice here, is that Joshua is in communication with God on this point. Joshua doesn’t just go, but he gets the confirmation from God to do this. 
This a step in the right direction for Joshua, who we have seen twice in a row not get the okay from God. I guess you could say this is a, fool me once shame on me, fool me twice shame on you situation. First Joshua attacked the city of Ai without consulting God, and then he didn’t consult God when he made the treaty with the Gibeonites. But here we see him confirming with God that this is the right direction, and God saying yes do it.

Now, let’s get into the battle, and probably the third most know situation that happened with Joshua.

9 After an all-night march from Gilgal, Joshua took them by surprise. 10 The Lord threw them into confusion before Israel, so Joshua and the Israelites defeated them completely at Gibeon. Israel pursued them along the road going up to Beth Horon and cut them down all the way to Azekah and Makkedah. 11 As they fled before Israel on the road down from Beth Horon to Azekah, the Lord hurled large hailstones down on them, and more of them died from the hail than were killed by the swords of the Israelites.
12 On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel: “Sun, stand still over Gibeon, and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.”
13 So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar.
The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. 14 There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a human being. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel!
15 Then Joshua returned with all Israel to the camp at Gilgal.

Here it is, the sun standing still. One of the things Joshua is most known for is he commanded the sun to stand still. And there are a lot of different hypothesis on what occurs here. There’s the eclipse hypothesis, where the sun was hidden so that the heat was off the soldiers. There’s the local refraction of rays hypothesis, where it was a local darkness, like that back in Exodus 10:21. There’s the language observation hypothesis, where it seemed to the soldiers that a battle that would take many days, only took one day to win.
My hypothesis? I believe that God supernaturally did something here that kept the sun from setting giving the Israelite army time to defeat their enemies. Because it’s not the only supernatural thing that happens in this passage.
First, how many armies can endure a march for 20 miles all night, then engage a rested enemy in battle, and then chase that enemy another ten miles to defeat them?
Then, as the Israelites are chasing this army, hailstones start pummeling their foes. I was in a freak hail storm one time walking home from school. I was heading up a hill, that would take me about fifteen to twenty minutes to climb. As I was beginning to walk up the hill, a hail storm came right at my face. I had a light weight jacket on, and by the time I climbed the hill, I was soaked, with nice little welts on me. But at least the sun was back. But the hailstones, that God fought with, killed the enemy and not the Israelites. 
To me, the whole battle was a miracle, with the Sun being a cherry on top. And the reason all of this worked, is because Joshua had sought God first, and it was God who was doing the fighting on Israel’s behalf. 

And as side note, if you’re wondering what the book of Jasher is, it is mentioned once in 2 Samuel 1:18 and might have been mentioned in Numbers 21:14. And is most likely a collection of Hebrew songs honoring Israel’s leaders.

But the one thing I want us to realize from this passage is, we have just seen a turning point in Joshua’s life. How do I know, because of what happens later on in verse 25. After Israel defeats the people that attack Gibeon, the five kings that started this campaign, flee. Eventually the Israelite army finds them and kills them pretty gruesomely. Then in verse 25 Joshua says this to the people, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Be strong and courageous. This is what the Lord will do to all the enemies you are going to fight.”

You might be thinking, “why is that significant? How is that a turning point? I mean we’ve heard a similar line spoken a couple of times in the book so far. First we see it in chapter 1 in the famous verse 9. We heard it again in chapter 1 by the people to Joshua in verse 18. So why is it so significant now?”
And the reason is, is simple. This is the first time Joshua as uttered the words in the book. Joshua himself has never spoke these words, it’s always someone else speaking them to him. 
But for the first time, Joshua has internalized God’s words of strength and courage. And we see that this changes everything. In 10 chapters we’re told the story of Joshua. The highs and the lows of his leadership. And at the end of chapter 10 we come to a point where Joshua has really only conquered two cities, Jericho and Ai, and has made a treaty with another, Gibeon. But then in the span of two and a half chapters afterwards we learn that Joshua has conquered 29 kings. Why don’t we learn about the details of each of these situations, like Jericho, Ai, and Gibeon? I mean, we know that the Bible has no problem giving us excruciating details. So why don’t we learn the details about these 29 kings? Instead of details, we get a repetition of Israel defeated this king, and did to them as they did to the previous king. And we get that same thing again and again throughout chapters 11 and 12. So why no details?
In reading the book of Joshua as a whole, I think we’re meant to understand that in these first few encounters, even though Joshua was older and a godly man, he still needed to learn to trust God fully. And it’s at this battle where the men fought on no sleep, the hail came down, and the sun stood still, that we see Joshua internalize that God is truly with him, and that he needs to follow closely God’s command. 

Joshua at the beginning of the book had a desire to know God, but there was a deeper experience that God wanted to take him to, and until Joshua was ready to have that turning point experience, we saw how it affected his life. We saw the defeats, and the victories. We saw the cycle of sin, repent, victory, that we talked about last week. But when Joshua internalized God’s words from the first chapter, we see a turning point in the book. We no longer need the deep details of the battles, because Joshua learned the lesson God had for him. From there it led Joshua to victory after victory. 
And that’s where God wants to get us. No matter how old or young we are, God has something for us to learn. That next step in our relationship with him, that next experience to take us deeper into connection with him, that next turning point. 
We can easily fall into the trap of thinking we’ve done enough. Enough Bible reading, enough prayer, enough church, enough giving, enough volunteering that we’ve come to the end. But the infinite God of the Bible, is calling us to a infinite understanding of him. A journey that takes us through this life, and into eternity. 

Great people of the faith all had turning points like Joshua had here. Joseph had it in the well (Genesis 37:1-36), Peter had it on the shore (John 21:15-19), and Paul had it on the road (Acts 9:1-19). God is calling us to a turning point also, the question is are we going to internalize what he has for us.

That’s the hard part. First we need to recognize what God is calling us deeper into, and then we have to let it sink in. We can’t get into major details here about either, but what I can share with you two realizations I’ve had that God has used to take me deeper.

First, I realized prayer has to become a conversation throughout the day and not a ceremonial monologue to God. For me, I start with praising in the morning, I talk throughout the day with an understanding that God is always listening, and try to pick up on what he is saying to me, and then I end with praises at night.
Second, I realized that the Bible needs to be read for quality rather than for quantity. Like I’ve alluded to in the past, I’ve read the book of Joshua about eight times in the last year. Which is what I’ve been starting to do. This way, the words of Scripture become internalized in my mind and heart, so that I learn more and more even after several readings of the same passages. Does this mean reading the whole of the Bible is bad? No, that just means you have to read it again and again and again. But my question is, are we reading it for the badge of accomplishment, or to know God on a deeper level.

I don’t know what deeper place God is wanting to take you, I just know that he is. The question is, are we going to allow God to take us there, so that the victories can come, or are we going to let the cycle of sin, repent, victory just run it’s course? 

This week I want to challenge you to take the passage, Joshua 10:1-15, and re-read it every day with this one prayer, “God give me a turning point in my relationship with you.”
God is calling each of us to a deeper relationship as we’ve see him do with Joshua, let us be the people that desire to learn the deeper lessons he has for us today. Amen

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