Joshua 15-17: Courage!
April 7, 2020
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
The “allotments” continue—boundary lines specified with great detail indicating which parcels of land have been allotted to whom so that the record is kept for future generations, and so the tribes are motivated to “subdue” the land (18:1) and make it theirs. In the middle of this account there are some fascinating details. Caleb was obviously quite the character! Remember his great age (85 years old, 14:10) yet he successfully drives out the enemies without apparent difficulty or qualm (15:14).
What is more, he is not above a little competitive motivation! Offering his daughter as a trophy for the warrior who completed a particular victory (15:16) may seem a little… non-politically correct… but we read on to find that in all likelihood, his daughter colluded in this good-humored challenge. She was certainly not above going toe-to-toe with her dad and asking for further land for herself and her family—like father, like daughter.
The Caleb-fighting spirit is strong in this family. And the fight of faith: real confidence in God based on what God had specifically promised. May our families be filled with strong grandfathers, strong children and grandchildren, strong of faith men and women.
Some hesitation appears to begin to set in, though, from others in Israel (17:13). The people of Israel have grown “strong,” but they only put the Canaanites to forced labor, not utterly drive them out of the land. Perhaps they have grown tired of warfare? Perhaps prosperity, success and strength are beginning to have the typical result of breeding complacency? When we win victories in our faith, that is not the moment to rest on our laurels, but to continue to push forward. The fight of faith is a daily challenge. The devil does not rest once we have beaten him once. He comes back the next day for more. Stand firm in the faith and resist him today. However effective you were in ministry yesterday, you need today also to follow Jesus with ongoing perseverance.
Similarly, Joseph wants more than one allotment, and that is granted, but they begin to think they cannot drive out the Canaanites with their “chariots of iron” on the plain (17:16). Superior technology among the enemy is a problem for any army. Riding on cavalry against modern tanks is unlikely to be successful, and these “chariots of iron” were the battle tanks of the ancient world. A frightening new technology, against which what hope had they without out-of-date tech?
Interestingly, Joshua, in reminding the people that they have been promised victory and that God has given them the land, does not specifically allude to such promises. Instead, he points out that while they do not have “chariots of iron,” they do have one advantage over their foes: they are a very numerous people (17:17). Sometimes people need not theory, but the practical application of the biblical truth that they know they should believe, in order to be encouraged to do that which they know they should do. So here Joshua points out the well-tested truth historically that demographics trump most other movements. In the end, the population that grows is the population that wins. He is saying look to what God has given you.
What is more, he is obviously a savvy leader, turning their complaint back on them: they have said they are “numerous” people and therefore deserve more than one allotment. He says, well you are a “numerous” people and will get more than one allotment, and because you are (as you have just told me!) so numerous, you can go ahead and fight the Canaanites and win the land that God has promised you. It is a strange truth, but much leadership is giving courage to those around you to do what God has called them to do.
Joshua—himself having been told numerous times by God (and by Moses) to be of good courage—is now passing on the fruits of that lesson that he has learned. To quote a latter-day, great Christian leader: “The world has yet to see what God can do through one person fully devoted to him” (D.L. Moody). Honor God, and he will honor you. Serve him, and he will fulfill you with life abundant. Take your courage in both hands, and do what God has put before you to do for his glory this very day.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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