Thus Joshua took all that land: the hill country and all the Negev, all that land of Goshen, the lowland, the Arabah, the hill country of Israel and its lowland from Mount Halak, that rises toward Seir, even as far as Baal-gad in the valley of Lebanon at the foot of Mount Hermon. And he captured all their kings and struck them down and put them to death. Joshua waged war a long time with all these kings. There was not a city which made peace with the sons of Israel except the Hivites living in Gibeon; they took them all in battle. For it was of the LORD to harden their hearts, to meet Israel in battle in order that he might utterly destroy them, that they might receive no mercy, but that he might destroy them, just as the LORD had commanded Moses. Then Joshua came at that time and cut off the Anakim from the hill country, from Hebron, from Debir, from Anab and from all the hill country of Judah and from all the hill country of Israel. Joshua utterly destroyed them with their cities. There were no Anakim left in the land of the sons of Israel; only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod some remained. So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the LORD had spoken to Moses, and Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. Thus the land had rest from war. Joshua 11:16-23
There are three key phrases in this passage:
1. Verse 18: Joshua waged war a long time with these kings.
2. Verse 20: For it was of the Lord to harden their hearts,
3. Verse 23: Thus the land had rest from war.
Those three phrases become our outline this morning:
1. Battles and struggles take time.
2. God had a purpose for the battles.
3. Through battles comes rest.
Battles or struggles take time: Joshua waged war a long time with all these kings
We live in a time where we can have it all now. Stories start and stop in a 30 minute sitcom, or a two-hour movie. Great truths are communicated in 140 characters, and we are trained in sound bytes and video clips. If our computers take more than 10 seconds to load, we get frustrated.
We want things now and we want them quickly, but some things take time. Developing relationships takes time, building character takes time, godliness takes time. These things take time because character and godliness are made of time, experiences, and endurance. Endurance is forged in the furnace of difficulty over a period of time, and it is the very struggles we wish to avoid that produce the fruit of righteousness in our lives. The Bible tells us that Jesus learned obedience through trials:
Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. Hebrews 5:8
We don’t know much about His childhood, but we do know about the temptations He experienced at the beginning of His ministry. Satan tempted Him to turn rocks into bread – a temptation for Jesus to feed Himself, and feed all the starving of the world. Satan was tempting Jesus to avoid the suffering to come, and to take the easier way.
Yet Jesus grew as a man as He was tested. The times of testing prepared Him for a life of rejection, for the struggle in the garden, and for the greatest act of love and grace: the cross. For the moment, discipline is not joyful, but if we respond correctly, it will reap righteousness in our lives.
Joshua waged war a long time, and during those battles, there was real blood, sweat, struggles, and challenges. The battles required real faith, even though they knew God had given them the victory and the promise that He would protect them. Like Israel, all of us are in some type of battle where we need to exercise faith.
In Verse 21, we read that Israel faced the Anakim. The Anakim were giants, and the very reason that Israel did not enter the land 40 years before. When Israel first reached Canaan, they saw that the land was amazing and filled with milk and honey, but they were overwhelmed by the giants in the land – those were the Anakim. Israel still had to meet and defeat those foes; they could not take the land or receive the promises of God without facing the Anakim.
We also can’t receive the promises of God without engaging in the battle. The Israelites saw the goodness of God but did not fully experience it because of disobedience. As God uses the circumstances in our lives to sanctity us (Romans 8:28-29), the process is sometimes long and painful even though He has given us the victory. Ultimately, we are more than conquerors:
For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 2 Corinthians 4:6-10
I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:23-27
In these passages, Paul outlines the necessity of endurance and perseverance. There will be struggles, but we must be disciplined, like an athlete preparing for competition or a solider for war. Lack of discipline and perseverance leads to destruction, but it does not have to be that way. Christ in us shines through us, and in these broken jars of clay we have this treasure: the living Christ. Battles and struggles take time, but God has equipped us with the power of Jesus.
God has a purpose for the battles: For it was of the LORD to harden their hearts, to meet Israel in battle in order that he might utterly destroy them.
God had a purpose for the battles, and that purpose was to accomplish His will. God’s desire was for Israel to know Him, trust Him, and be dependent on Him. The battles were a constant reminder of His faithfulness and power; a reminder that He was a God who would fulfill each and every one of His promises to Israel. Our battles and our struggles are also for our strengthening:
In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:6-9
Through various trials, our faith is strengthened. We don’t rejoice about going through trials, but we do rejoice over what God will do in and through us in the midst of trials. Sometimes our trials or difficult circumstances are something God is using in the lives of others – we don’t always see how God is working in the lives of our friends, children, spouses, or coworkers as they observe us in our battles. Even when we don’t see clearly, God has a purpose and a plan, and He’s executing His plan perfectly in our lives.
“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16
But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. 1 Peter 3:14-16
Through battles comes rest: Thus the land had rest from war.
Israel ended up with peace through the battles, but rest did not come without confrontation and skirmishes, even though they had accomplished the mission. Israel found rest by believing in the promises of God and continuing to trust in the mighty hand of God. Our rest comes through the person and work of Jesus. We are made right in Him, we are no longer under wrath, we are adopted, we are coheirs with Christ, and we are sons and daughters of the King. In Jesus we find rest, and He gives us the strength to endure:
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3
Christ endured the cross so that we can endure, and He invites us to come to Him:
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
Whatever your battle or struggle is today, the call of Jesus is the same: to come to Him, and to find rest in Him.