The Eighth Sunday After Pentecost July 26, 2009
15, 358, 409, 262
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
So Joshua ascended from Gilgal, he and all the people of war with him, and all the mighty men of valor. And the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not fear them, for I have delivered them into your hand; not a man of them shall stand before you.” Joshua therefore came upon them suddenly, having marched all night from Gilgal. So the Lord routed them before Israel, killed them with a great slaughter at Gibeon, chased them along the road that goes to Beth Horon, and struck them down as far as Azekah and Makkedah. And it happened, as they fled before Israel and were on the descent of Beth Horon, that the Lord cast down large hailstones from heaven on them as far as Azekah, and they died. There were more who died from the hailstones than the children of Israel killed with the sword. Then Joshua spoke to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel: “Sun, stand still over Gibeon; And Moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.” So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the people had revenge upon their enemies. Is this not written in the Book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day. And there has been no day like that, before it or after it, that the Lord heeded the voice of a man; for the Lord fought for Israel. Then Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, to the camp at Gilgal.
Dear fellow-redeemed by Christ:
Often one player can mean the difference between winning and losing an athletic contest. A football team’s defensive line may be the best in the league, but if the quarterback cannot complete a pass it is unlikely they will win. A basketball team might score 80 points in a game, but if one player has 30 of those points it is clear that it would have been difficult for the team to win without that player. Having the one right person on your side can make all the difference.
When the nation of Israel entered Canaan under the leadership of Joshua, it meant everything for them that God was on their side. They could not have defeated their enemies the way they did if the LORD had not been fighting for them. Likewise for us, if we were alone in this life, if we had to face each obstacle, trouble, and enemy ourselves, we would fail. It is a blessing for us that we can say along with God’s people of old: SURELY THE LORD FIGHTS FOR US. I. He announces that He is on our side, and II. He goes to great lengths to fight for us
Word had spread throughout Canaan that the Israelites were coming. The walls had already fallen around Jericho and it was clear that the God of Israel had plans to give the land into the hand of Joshua and his army. The Gibeonites, who lived in Canaan, devised a plan to trick Israel into making a treaty of peace with them. They sent a delegation to Joshua and made it appear as though they were people who had journeyed from a far-off country. They put on worn out shoes and stuffed their bags full of moldy bread. They figured that Israel would make peace with them if they appeared as though they were not residents of Canaan. Joshua unwittingly made the treaty of peace only to find out three days later that he had been tricked.
Others in Canaan were fearful when they heard that Gibeon—a strong city on its own—had made peace with Israel—a nation which had already destroyed Jericho and Ai. Five rulers among the Amorites—the rulers of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon—decided to join forces and attack the Gibeonites.
As they faced the attack, the Gibeonites pleaded with Israel to help them on the basis of the treaty. Because he had sworn peace in the name of the Lord, Joshua would not go back on his word. So he mustered the army and went to fight the Amorites who had come up from the south.
Things certainly weren’t working out quite the way Joshua had anticipated. He had been tricked into defending a people he really hadn’t intended to defend. Would Israel be ready to fight? Would they be able to win the victory? Yes! For Israel had someone fighting for them that the Amorites did not have fighting for them and that One would make all the difference. “The Lord said to Joshua, “Do not fear them, for I have delivered them into your hand; not a man of them shall stand before you.” [v.8] The Lord God Himself announced that He was on the side of the Children of Israel. He would give the Amorites into their hands. He would be fighting for them.
These words of the Lord must have warmed the hearts of the Israelites and given courage to every soldier! God announced that He was on their side. These words must have given Joshua tremendous peace as he led the people into battle.
These words still give hope and peace to us in our daily lives. It gives us courage and strength when we hear God tell us that He is on our side—that He is fighting for us. We need to hear Him tell us that He is fighting for us because in weakness we don’t always believe it.
When a particular evil comes to us that we must face, we are tempted to think, “Lord, how could You let this happen? How could You let this great wicked trouble weigh down on my head! How could You make things so bad for me!” The stresses and pressures of our jobs, our families, and our day-to-day living can lead us to feel like the Lord just isn’t fighting for us anymore. We talk and act like we’re all alone, that we have to overcome the world ourselves because God won’t help.
But God announces that He is on our side. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans saying, “the Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16). The Lord has made us His own. He put His name on us in Baptism. He tells us that our sins are forgiven because of Jesus’ death on the cross. Later in the same chapter of Romans God says, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 NIV). And so we have the assurance that God is working on behalf of those who trust in His Son. God showed that He is for us when He sent His Son, Jesus, to pay the price for our sin when we could not pay it. God showed that He is for us when He then moved our hearts to believe and be confident in that Savior.
God is on our side, there’s no doubt about it. And “if God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).
It gives us confidence and peace of mind to know that God is with us and not against us. It makes us glad to know that even though we are sinners He forgives us and fights for us; that He will use even the hard things for our good to strengthen and help us on our journey to Heaven. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10 NIV).
Surely the Lord fights for us!
Not only does the Lord fight for us, He goes to great lengths to do so. He doesn’t just fight for us “a little bit.” He can do big things which makes the difference between us winning or losing our battles.
Look again at Joshua and the Israelites. See in this Bible story everything that God did for them. Look at the extremes to which He went to fight for them.
First, the Lord threw the enemy into confusion before Israel, “who defeated them in a great victory at Gibeon. Israel pursued them along the road going up to Beth Horon and cut them down all the way to Azekah and Makkedah.” [v.10 NIV] This must have been quite a sight! The Bible says God “confused” the Amorites. The word suggests that the five kings of the Amorites were thrown into some kind of terror or panic when they arrived on the scene to wage their war. God Himself brought this confusion upon them and that made it easy for the army of Israel to chase the Amorites back and force them to retreat.
But that was not enough. God did more. And it happened, as they fled before Israel and were on the descent of Beth Horon, that the Lord cast down large hailstones from heaven on them as far as Azekah, and they died. There were more who died from the hailstones than the children of Israel killed with the sword. [v.11] The Lord opened up the heavens and brought down deadly chunks of ice, but only upon the enemy. So powerful was God's hailstorm that it accomplished more than the army did with its swords! There was no doubt as to who was winning the victory!
Finally, God performed one of the most famous miracles recorded for us in the Old Testament. Joshua prayed that God would cause the sun to remain in the sky so that there would be enough daylight for the Amorites to be completely defeated and not be able to escape under cover of darkness. The Lord chose to give Joshua the very thing he had asked and “the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the people had revenge upon their enemies…the sun stood still in the midst of heaven and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day.” [v.13] Think about that…for the sake of the Children of Israel God literally “moved heaven and earth.” He caused the sun to stop in its tracks for nearly a full day so the Amorites could not escape the swords of Israel.
God performed three miracles in a row on behalf of the Israelites. The last miracle is so spectacular that it is hard to imagine! For who can stop the sun? Who can take the earth and stop it in it’s orbit? None of us, that is for sure—only the One who created the orbit in the first place. Only the One who created the principles of physics can overrule them when and where He will.
Three miracles—do you think the Lord was serious about fighting for His people? What does this teach you about Him? It teaches you that He will go to great lengths to fight for you. He will “pull out all the stops.” He won’t hold back anything against the enemy, but will defeat what needs to be defeated and He will do whatever it takes.
You don’t fight the Amorites every day, but you surely fight the Devil. He comes after you time after time with temptations to sin. He wants to take you with him to his own final destruction. But your God has gone to great lengths to fight him for you.
God has thrown the Devil into confusion by taking away his power over you. When a Christian says “no” to sin out of love for the Lord Jesus, Satan panics. He is terror-stricken when he hears Jesus say to you, “Your sins are forgiven,” because he knows that is the sentence that defeats all of his plans for you.
God beats down Satan every day. Like the hailstorm that beat back the Amorites you can shower the Devil with the arrows of God’s holy Word. When sin tries to overtake you, you can fight back with the sword of the Spirit (cf. Ephesians 6:17), using the Scriptures to guide your fight against wickedness and evil, helping you to avoid it and overcome it.
And the Lord can defeat the Devil’s plots even by moving heaven and earth. Satan loves it when this fallen world makes life hard on us. By “making the sun stand still,” so to speak, God preserves us by intervening in the events of history with His all-powerful hand. We don’t know how many times we have been saved from disaster because God caused something to happen or not to happen for our benefit. How many drunk drivers, for example, has the Lord kept from crossing the centerline and hitting us head-on?—possibly a good many. God can and does keep evil away from us altogether when He decides that method of protection is the best for us.
Look at the great lengths to which the Lord goes to fight for you against the Devil and all evil things. We pray, “deliver us from evil” and that is exactly what God does. He stops at nothing in this fight. If it takes a miracle to accomplish what He wants to accomplish, He will do it. If He has to override the very forces of nature, He will do it.
What great means He employed in your behalf, after all, when He told His very own dear Son Jesus to put on a crown of thorns and a purple robe and walk to the cross and carry on His shoulders your guilt, your punishment so you could go to Heaven! Is there anything God will not do?
Surely the Lord fights for us! Amen!
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.