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"The Defeated and the Conquerors" Joshua 12-14

The List of the Conquered

I am sure that when “the roll is called up yonder,” we shall listen with an unbearable weight of joy to the Lamb as he reads our names from his Book of Life. We shall listen with equal wonder when he reads the list of his conquered foes and philosophies. Joshua’s conquest of Canaan was his victory as much as more recent ones. He has always been the Mediator of the covenant, and as the Angel of the Lord, it was by no means beneath his majesty to slaughter his enemies. Nor are lists like this beneath him – he knows who are his (2 Tim. 2:19) and who he has defeated. Here is a list of 31 conquered kings of Canaan, in the order in which Joshua conquered them, beginning with Og and Sihon on the eastern side of the Jordan, then moving to Jericho and the southern campaign, and concluding with Hazor and the kings of the north. God keeps a careful account of his enemies as well as of his children. These battles and victories occurred in real history, for God created this world and made man in his image. He holds all men accountable to him and will judge those who rebel against him. Let us never doubt that the Lord knows his enemies and will deal with them in his own time and way. In his world, no one evades his penetrating gaze or gets away with their sins and crimes.

The Power and Faithfulness of God

This list serves another purpose. The monuments in the Jordan River and Gilgal are long since gone, but God’s word endures forever. This list of the conquered serves as a permanent monument to the Lord’s power and faithfulness. Israel later confessed that “they got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them, but your right hand, and your arm, and the light of your countenance, because you had favor unto them” (Ps. 44:3). Israel had to trust the Lord’s promise, pick up sword and shield, and march into battle. When they were faithful, they realized full well that they won because the Lord was fighting for them and keeping his promise. Even when miraculous hail did not fall upon their enemies or the sunlight extend, they knew the Lord was fighting for them. They did not forget that they were the children of those who disbelieved the Lord and perished in the wilderness. Who are we to conquer such mighty kings, armies, and cities? It was the Lord, they confessed. He had kept his promise. No one can stand before him. They had lost a battle in Ai due to their sins – so they knew they were very beatable, and by a very small army. It is the same with us. Our Savior does not use carnal weapons but the same weapons by which he overcame – the word of God, prayer, and obedience unto death. All our victories are immediately traceable to his power and faithfulness. We must abide in him and never forgets who wins the day – Jesus Christ our Lord.

Joshua Old but the Conquest Incomplete (13:1-14:5)

1 Now Joshua was old, advanced in years. And the LORD said to him: "You are old, advanced in years, and there remains very much land yet to be possessed. 2 "This is the land that yet remains…” (13:1-2a)

Much Land Remaining to be Possessed (13:1-6)

Few like to be told they are old. We tell ourselves that we are still young and have much time before us. We put off the most important moment of our existence until for most it is too late to do anything about it. We do not prepare for our deaths and are easily offended if someone suggests we are not as young or strong as we like to think. If Joshua was similar in age to Caleb, he was around 85. The Lord told him, “You are old.” How insulting! Time to die, Joshua. How sobering! Was the Lord rude to Joshua? No, the Lord is honest with us; he wants us to prepare to be with him. In Joshua’s case, although the unified powers in Canaan were defeated, there was much land and many smaller strongholds that still needed to be possessed. It would not be Joshua’s job to do the conquering. Perhaps he was relieved. One gets the sense that Caleb was the stronger of the two. Joshua was a faithful servant of Moses, and he did what the Lord commanded Moses. In the rebellion at Kadesh-Barnea, it was Caleb who silenced the grumbling and encouraged faith (Num. 13:30). Caleb is twice singled out as being spared from the judgment of that generation; the Lord even calls him “my servant” (Num. 14:24,30). This is not to diminish Joshua’s faithfulness or contributions. But perhaps Joshua, unlike Caleb, was ready to hand over his sword to younger men. What follows are the boundaries of the land remaining to be conquered – from the southern border at Egypt, to the border of Philistia on the west, and Mt. Hermon in the north. Pockets of Canaanites remained throughout the land. They must be conquered. Many were not conquered, and they caused great trouble later.

The Land Distributed before It Was Conquered (13:7-14:5): Pledge and Motivation

Joshua must leave nothing undone. His part in the actual fighting may be finished, but he has a last responsibility to fulfill before he dies. He must divide the land to the tribes by lot. Reuben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh already have their distribution on the other side of the Jordan River. The remaining land must now be distributed. There must be no quarrel about this. The Lord will give his people the land he wants them to have, by their tribes, and by the casting of lots, “which causes contentions to cease” (Prov. 18:18). Joshua is the last connection to Moses, and the last man with sufficient authority and respect to command the entire nation. Not until Saul, almost five centuries later, will Israel again be unified under one leader. But what did it mean to parcel out the land before it was conquered? Was this not presumption? First, by dividing the land by lots, the Lord was revealing his sovereignty over his land. Specific allotments were by his appointment. This should silence complaining. Second, the pre-victory distribution was the Lord’s pledge that they would actually conquer the land – like a king dividing the spoils before the war is won! How glorious for the Lord to promise crowns to us before we gain them, saying in effect, the victory is yours! And third, it was therefore a motivation – this is your land, Judah – go conquer it. And yours, Isaachar – go conquer it. Each tribe fighting in the Lord’s strength would be able to dispossess the Canaanites in their individual portions – if they were faithful and diligent to obey the Lord.

Caleb the Faithful (14:6-15)

6 Then the children of Judah came to Joshua in Gilgal. And Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him: "You know the word which the LORD said to Moses the man of God concerning you and me in Kadesh Barnea. 7 "I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh Barnea to spy out the land, and I brought back word to him as it was in my heart. 8 "Nevertheless my brethren who went up with me made the heart of the people melt, but I wholly followed the LORD my God. 9 "So Moses swore on that day, saying, 'Surely the land where your foot has trodden shall be your inheritance and your children's forever, because you have wholly followed the LORD my God.' 10 "And now, behold, the LORD has kept me alive, as He said, these forty-five years, ever since the LORD spoke this word to Moses while Israel wandered in the wilderness; and now, here I am this day, eighty-five years old. 11 "As yet I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in. 12 "Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the LORD spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fortified. It may be that the LORD will be with me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the LORD said." 13 And Joshua blessed him, and gave Hebron to Caleb the son of Jephunneh as an inheritance. 14 Hebron therefore became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite to this day, because he wholly followed the LORD God of Israel. 15 And the name of Hebron formerly was Kirjath Arba (Arba was the greatest man among the Anakim). Then the land had rest from war.

I Wholly Followed the Lord my God (vv. 6-9)

In the middle of this distribution, leaders from the tribe of Judah, led by Caleb, the son of Jephunneh, came to Joshua with a request. He did not approach Joshua with undue familiarity, although they had served together through many hardships for many years. Caleb reminded Joshua of Moses’ promise at Kadesh-Barnea (v. 6). He was only forty years old then, but his faithfulness was rewarded. Against the ten faithless spies, Caleb encouraged faith in God’s promise and obedience to go up and possess the land. But the people’s hearts were melted with fear by the majority report of unbelief – as we often see happens in the church today – it is the end of the world! We must alter the gospel to survive! The old gospel will not be accepted! And thus unbelief breeds disobedience and rebellion against the Lord, which provokes him to wrath and brings suffering to his church, even the faithful, until the Lord has chastened us and purged the unbelief from our hearts. But Caleb’s heart – “he wholly followed the Lord.” He did not assess the giants of the land with the eye of man but with the eye of faith – the bigger they are, the harder he makes them to fall. Faith teaches us to judge the biggest and scariest men as puny dwarves before the majesty of faithfulness of God. Because Caleb’s heart wholly followed the Lord, he was promised the land that he saw would one day be his (Num. 13:22; 14:24).

Scripture teaches “be sure your sins will find you out” (Num. 32:33). We also learn here that the Lord never forgets a service done for him. He will forgive and forget our sins; he will forever remember obedience. It had been 45 years since Caleb’s stand for the Lord and against the rebellion of his age. An entire generation had died, and perhaps most would have forgotten Caleb – had not his deed been recorded by Moses in Numbers! But Caleb did not forget the privilege he had of serving that Lord on that fateful day and what the Lord had promised to him. But all of his present glory is because Caleb wholly followed the Lord. He closed his eyes to the whining, unbelieving multitudes. Like Stephen, he saw the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. He interpreted life by the promises and faithfulness of God, not by the supposed strength of God’s enemies. And he did not veer off the narrow path. Old Caleb shows us the way to overcome in our generation, not sulkily or fretful, wishing we had lived in some other time and that our present trials were less. No, it is a privilege to follow the Lord, when all the tides are flowing in the direction of rebellion, for him to give us a united heart devoted to following him is incredible grace. Obedience is also our safety – do not miss this. Caleb (and Joshua) was the only one who survived God’s judgment. He survived because he wholly obeyed the Lord. “The eye of the Lord is upon those that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy” (Ps. 33:18). “But to this man will I look, even to him that is of a poor and contrite spirit, and who trembles at my word” (Isa. 66:2).

Alive and Strong to Serve the Lord (vv. 10-11)

“The Lord has kept me alive these forty-five years” – thirty-eight in the wilderness after the rebellion at Kadesh-Barnea and seven more during the present conquest of Canaan. Caleb did not talk of special drinks or vitamins or exercise regimens. As a man of faith, he knew that the Lord uses means, but he did not give those means any inherent power – the Lord has kept me alive. He kept me alive because he made a promise to me. All those years of needless wandering in the wilderness, the Lord was with me, and his promise sustained me. And I am as strong today as I was forty-five years ago! Joshua was wearing out, but Caleb was ready to fight! Even David wore out, but not Caleb, at least not yet. God’s promise sustained him. We shall not wear out a minute before our work is done and the Lord’s promises to us specifically are fulfilled. Caleb did not congratulate himself or see his strength as an end in itself. Our days would be more satisfying if we did not make long life an end itself but an opportunity to serve the Lord. There is no point in living a long time to take up space or to avoid death or to seek earthly pleasures. But if we want to live long to follow the Lord and tell the coming generation of his great faithfulness, that is a goal worthy striving for and a promise worth attaining (Ps. 71:18; 145:4).

Give Me Anakim Mountain (vv. 12-14)

Caleb asked for his inheritance in the mountain where the giants lived, the cities he first saw forty-five years earlier. He wanted to take them then, in the days of his youth, but God’s people turned back in fear. He had been itching to slay these giants for half a century, and now he wanted their fortresses to be his inheritance. He will drive out the giants, not because of his strength, but “the Lord will be with me.” Caleb’s faith was the source of his strength, and his strength depended upon the Lord’s promises. What a rebuke to our retirement plans! If we are going to cease one line of work, we ought to continue and expand our service to the Lord. Increasing age ought to be marked by increasing conviction of the Lord’s presence in our lives – that he is the reason we are strong and able to overcome. This is much clearer for us, for our strength is inseparable from union with Christ by the indwelling Spirit (Eph. 1:19-20; 3:16-17). We should never doubt that we are strong in the Lord and that he is our strength. We should attempt more, not less for Christ. Believing his promises, we shall do valiantly for the cause of Christ! And thus, Joshua deeded this mountain to Caleb for an inheritance. He knew it was in good hands, for Caleb trusted in the hands of the faithful God.

Hebron Conquered and Given to the Lord (v. 15; 20:7)

The region was known as Hebron after Caleb conquered it. Previously it was called Kirjath-arba, the city of Arba, likely a famous or the foremost giant who then lived in the area. From Joshua 20:7, we learned that Hebron was designated a Levitical city of refuge. It would seem that after conquering the area, Caleb dedicated the city to the Lord rather than retain it for his own use. Caleb’s descendants continued to live in the area, and they enjoyed the ministry of the Levites that lived in Hebron, the main city. From Caleb’s example – all that we do and gain in this should be dedicated to the Lord’s use. We should not waste our money on earthly pleasures and extravagances. The goal of life is not possessions and trophies but to undertake much for Christ. When he crowns our labors, we give the crowns back to him. When our children are godly, we praise him. When our income increases, we give more and praise him. When we are healthy, we serve him more. Let Caleb inspire us to strain every nerve, use every gift, and improve every opportunity to serve our Lord.

More Than Conquerors in Christ: ACT Accordingly

Armed with God’s Weapons (Eph. 6:10-18)

The list of the conquered would not exist unless Israel had marched forward to battle in faith. If we would win for Christ, we must fight for him. The distribution of the land by lots before it was possessed assumed that Israel was able to conquer the land in the Lord’s strength. Caleb’s faith was not bluster – he went out and conquered Hebron. In each of these instances and what follows, the Lord is teaching us – for these things were written for our example (1 Cor. 10:11) – that we must take up his armor and fight his enemies. We do not fight first with the sword, for our Savior did not come and send forth his gospel to destroy men’s lives but to save them. But, they must be conquered, or discipled (Matt. 28:18-20). And since the head of Christ’s enemies is the devil (Eph. 2:2), and since he is defeated already by Christ and his word (John 12:29-31; Heb. 2:14; 1 John 3:8), we must meet him head-on with God’s armor firmly attached. This is one of the main lessons for the New Testament church from Israel’s conquest of Canaan. Canaanites are defeated by faith in the promises of God, dependence upon the strength of God, and obedience to the Word of God.

For us, this means that our lives must be cinched up, held together, with the belt of God’s truth. There is no victory and no moral power over sin and Satan unless we are ruled by God’s holy word. We must be continually renewed by his Scriptures, guided by their wisdom, submissive to their commands, and nourished by their promises – all from the Lord. Then, with our Savior’s gospel shoes upon our feet, we must move forward in faith, going everywhere preaching the word (Acts 8:4). Our Captain has not shod us with political or moralistic shoes, not humanitarian or worldly wise shoes – we have on gospel shoes, because our course is set out for us and the ground under our feet secured as we speak his gospel. And our protection requires a godly life, signified by the breastplate of righteousness, for we will not be a bold and consecrated witness for Christ unless we are obedient to him, as he was to his Father’s law (Ps. 40:8-9; Luke 6:46; John 15:9-11). And what hope do we have of victory – the “helmet of the hope of salvation” – confident in the Lord’s great salvation, the sufficiency of his power, and the kindness of his heart toward us. This means that we must trust him, for Satan will fires missiles of malice and reproach at us. Faith is therefore our shield, not that we muster up sufficient faith to fight off the devil, but because we have God’s promise that his truth is a sufficient shield. Satan cannot defeat the Bible – which is the reason he is always attacking it, undermining our confidence in it, and raising up wolves to frighten us away from it. Instead, let us use it as our sword to parry his lies and thrust the truth into the souls of men by speaking it. This armor cannot be defeated. Learning to use it and actually using it is the way we are strong in the Lord.

Consecrated to Our Master (John 21:15-17)

The generation after Joshua and Caleb did well enough, but their grandchildren lost faith and hope in the Lord. They did not press the fight against the Canaanites but learned to live peaceably with them and followed their ways. Unlike Caleb their grandfather, their hearts did not wholly follow the Lord. If we are to do our part in our Savior’s glorious conquest, we must set an example of complete consecration to the Lord. This means warm, honest, personal devotion to Jesus Christ, and unashamed, open love for him. As he asked Peter, “Do you love me?” This question must stay with us daily, each hour – am I loving my Master? I am washing the feet of the One who washed me with his blood? Is my life a witness to his grace, my work a testimony to his strength? Am I seeking him, loving him, speaking of him, obeying him, trusting him, worshipping him? Is he my life, or an appendix to my life? Am I living my life, or is Christ ruling my life and living through me (Gal. 2:20)? These are vital questions, for there is no conquering in Christ unless we are consecrated to him (Phil. 3:8-14). I challenge us to hear the Lord ask us, “Do you love me?” Are you afraid of these times and what the future holds, or do you love me? Do you fear man’s opinion, or do you love me? Do we love Jesus Christ? If so, we shall obey him, and nothing will make us more satisfied than to serve him (John 14:15).

Trusting in His Power by the Spirit (Eph. 1:19; 3:16-17)

Do not miss the main lesson of Caleb’s life. The Lord kept him alive; the Lord will be with me. The Lord made Caleb strong, and Caleb knew it. He knew that “the Lord is my strength.” It is a lesson we easily forget, and we have had 3,500 years since Caleb to learn it! If we trust the Lord as our strength, we bathe all we do in prayer – all our work, our family responsibilities, congregational duties, even our recreations – Lord, I am yours, do with me what you will. This must be our constant prayer. I am your servant. I have no strength but what you give to me. Live your life of grace and truth through me. Show the glory of your love through me. Strengthen me by your Holy Spirit so that I can wear your armor and love you, resist the devil, and obey you. Strengthen me to believe your promises, especially in this “crooked and perverse generation.” Strengthen me to deny myself, when self is the great idol of the age. Strengthen me to draw no attention to myself, when many grow rich flaunting themselves before the lustful eyes of dead souls. Lord, be my strength when the beast of statism heats his furnace seven times hotter than usual, or tries to buy my compliance with his food, or assaults my purity with his technology. Lord, you are my strength and salvation. Ask him to be your strength. Ask him to give you his Spirit (Luke 6:11). The Spirit binds you to Christ and from him you draw more than enough grace to resist the devil and overcome the world. The greater Joshua is among us, and he cannot be defeated.

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