“That We Might Have Hope” (Rom. 15:4)
Joshua Chapters Ten Through Twenty-four
Joshua’s Victories And Last Days
On any list of successful generals of ancient times, you would be sure to find certain familiar names such as Alexander the Great, perhaps, and Julius Caesar.
But there is one name that you probably would not find on any such list, though it deserves to be on such a list more than any other. That is the name of Joshua, the son of Nun.
The book of Joshua records the successes of Israel under the command of Joshua, and it is a record unsurpassed in military history. As Israel entered Canaan, they did so with a series of stunning military victories. No enemy was able to prevail against them regardless of their numbers, regardless of their strength.
But there is a good reason for not listing Joshua with other great military commanders. He never claimed that his successes were due to his skill or bravery. He humbly confessed that he owed every victory to the help of the LORD.
Israel’s victory over the Amorites at Gibeon (Josh. 10) gives us a look at how decisively and completely the LORD routed every enemy that challenged Israel or stood in their way as they took possession of Canaan. After an all-night march Joshua and his men made a surprise attack on the five Amorite kings and their armies and defeated them.
But what was the key element in this victory? Was it the element of surprise? Was it the stamina and skill of the soldiers? No. This is the way the Bible records the victory: “So the LORD routed them before Israel.”
We read also that as the enemy armies fled before Israel “the LORD cast down large hailstones from heaven on them . . . There were more who died from the hailstones than the children of Israel killed with the sword.”
And–in that most remarkable happening in the history of warfare–the LORD caused the sun to stand still for an entire day to give the army of Israel time to finish the fight and win the victory.
There is no boasting in the book of Joshua such as you will find in secular histories of military campaigns. Rather, it is said that Joshua and Israel were successful because “the LORD fought for Israel.”
A Man Of Faith
Joshua was successful and Israel was blessed under his leadership because he was a man of faith. Joshua was a mighty hero because he believed God and took Him at His word.
Before Israel entered Canaan, Joshua had been one of the spies sent to bring back a report about the land. When the people heard about the size and strength of the tribes living there, they were ready to give up and go back to Egypt. But Joshua (together with Caleb) encouraged the people: “If the LORD delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us” (Num. 14:8). The LORD’s promise was enough for him. What the LORD had said He would also do, and no obstacle, no matter how large, would stand in the way.
Joshua was never left disappointed or ashamed for having believed God and for having urged all Israel to believe Him. The book of Joshua records this mighty vindication of his faith: “So the LORD gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it. The LORD gave them rest all around, according to all that he had sworn to their fathers. And not a man of all their enemies stood against them; the LORD delivered all their enemies into their hand. Not a word failed of any good thing which the LORD had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass” (Josh. 21:43-45).
Joshua did not take for granted the continued help and blessing of God. If Israel were to continue to enjoy God’s favor, they needed to continue in fellowship with Him, to believe Him and trust Him. He warned Israel that if they turned away from the LORD to serve other gods, the LORD would depart from them. He said: “When you have transgressed the covenant of the LORD your God, which He commanded you, and have gone and served other gods, and bowed down to them, then the anger of the LORD will burn against you, and you shall perish quickly from the good land which He has given you” (Josh. 23:16).
Israel was blessed under Joshua’s leadership, and the blessing outlived him. Near the end of the book of Joshua we read that “Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had known all the works of the LORD which He had done for Israel” (Josh. 24:31).
To truly appreciate Joshua and the history of his career as a fighter for Israel, we need to think of him in the light of another Joshua. It is no coincidence that our Savior was given the name Jesus which is the Greek form of the Hebrew Joshua. The Savior’s name was given to him in response to the command of the angel: “You shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins” (Mt. 1:21).
Jesus, like Joshua before Him, fought for His people and was successful.
But the victory of Jesus surpassed anything Joshua ever did. He defeated not just armies of mighty warriors, but Satan and his hosts. Jesus defeated not just a terrifying human enemy, but death itself. His weapons were not swords or spears. He won His victory by laying down His life as a sacrifice to God for the sins of the world. His victory wasn’t just for one nation at one time, but for all people and all times. His victory is for us all.
And as Joshua led Israel to rest in the promised land, so Jesus leads us to perfect rest in everlasting life.
–Pastor John Klatt