Joshua 10: Daring

Barely a chapter after the Israelites had been fooled into allying themselves with the Gibeonites, that new alliance was causing problems. Having heard that his formidable neighbors to the north had essentially surrendered to the Israelites, and knowing that sooner or later, Israel would be coming for him and his people, Adoni-Zedek, king of Jerusalem, rounded up some allies of his own and launched a preemptive counterattack on the Gibeonite cities in hopes of distracting Joshua and co. and strengthening his own position.

At first, it appeared as though Adoni-Zedek and his friends were on the brink of success. They established fortified positions and attacked the Gibeonites, who went running to Joshua in Gilgal and begged for help. But then Joshua did something that I doubt very much Adoni-Zedek expected.

Joshua rallied his troops and marched overnight, attacking at dawn, and routing the Canaanite armies.

Joshua’s plan was risky. By marching overnight, he was able to be on scene several hours earlier than if he had waited for dawn, and he minimized the chance that Canaanite patrols would spot his advance. However, the march was more than fifteen miles long, all of which was uphill, and it was along winding, narrow, and often treacherous roads which snaked up through wadis and ravines. This march, then, was long, hard, and outright dangerous. And by the time Joshua and his troops arrived in the morning, they were no doubt exhausted, and quite possibly a little battered and bruised.

Adoni-Zedek’s forces, on the other hand, were just waking up from a good night’s sleep. They were rested and certainly not bruised and battered from a night on tough roads. Moreover, they were dug in and ready for a fight. Is the risk becoming clear yet?

Joshua’s plan was bold. In essence, he was launching a frontal assault on a formidable army in hardened combat positions. This was no small thing. Under ordinary circumstances, it would have been a long shot at best, but rather than utilize some sort of siege or other more reserved strategy, Joshua went straight for the proverbial jugular. If the plan was successful, it would be a quick and decisive victory. If it failed, it would be a quick, decisive, and spectacular failure.

Joshua’s plan was absolutely unprecedented. Simply put, armies didn’t move at night unless it was in panicked retreat. They certainly didn’t march fifteen miles uphill at night. And then there are vss 12-14, where Joshua prayed that the sun would stand still until the victory was complete, and God did exactly that. Yeah, there had never been any battle plan like this before. And there would never be any battle plan like it again.

Joshua’s plan was astoundingly blessed. It is not every day that you see things like “The Lord threw them into confusion before Israel” (vs 10) or “As they fled… the Lord hurled large hailstones down on them from the sky, and more of them died from the hailstones than were killed by the swords of the Israelites” (vs 11). And I can’t recall anywhere else where we have “The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day” (vs 13). Clearly, God was fighting with Joshua and Israel this day!

And Joshua’s plan was resoundingly successful. We see just how successful in verses like this: “So Joshua and the Israelites destroyed them completely – almost to a man” (vs 20), “Joshua struck and killed the kings and hung them on five trees” (vs 26), “He put the city and its king to the sword and totally destroyed everyone in it” (vs 28), and on and on.

So we have five observations about Joshua’s plan to engage the Canaanite kings. Five things that we can learn and apply to our own plans to engage our culture. Here they are:

Take risks. Whether you’re a poker player, entrepreneur, average Joe or pastor, this remains true. You will never gain anything if you don’t first risk something. The anything that we would gain could be money, influence, or converts for Jesus. And the something that we must first risk could range from money or time to a job, a friend, or even our very lives. Now, this is not a call for believers to take stupid risks, simply throwing things away with almost no chance of return. But it is a call for believers to risk something. And as you find out that God can and will take care of it, to risk even more. Simply put, we must take risks if we’re going to impact our world.

Be bold. Just as Joshua had to be willing to launch a frontal assault on the Canaanite forces dug in around Gibeon, if we’re going to make an impact on anything, we must not be afraid to take the proverbial bull by the horns. Is it the easiest route? Absolutely not! But often it is the only most effective route. That’s not to say that we can’t see changed lives or increases in ministries through the slow and steady approach – indeed, you could make a compelling argument that that was what God used at Jericho – but sometimes, you just have to go. Sometimes, you must make your mantra, “If you’re going to go, go.”

Don’t be afraid of the new. Change is inevitable. Sometimes, it’s for the worse, but often, it’s for the better. The thing is, change can’t happen unless someone is willing to do things differently than they were done before. Someone must be willing to plot that new course and blaze that new trail. Otherwise, we will be condemned to keep doing the same things we’ve always done. And, to borrow a quote from Rev. Tim Purcell (who I suspect borrowed it from someone else), “If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you should keep expecting what you’ve always got.” If you’re going to make an impact in anything, you must first be willing to do something that, quite frankly, may have never been done before.

Expect God. Before Joshua ever left Gilgal, the Lord told him that He was going along this time, and He was going to do something amazing. Joshua, of course, welcomed this revelation. But more than that, he counted on it. Before we engage in something new, we should make sure that it is in line with God’s will. And if it is in line with God’s will, then we should expect Him to do amazing things.

Don’t quit. This is important because, whether we’re getting our lunches handed to us or we’ve just accomplished what looks like a key milestone, it’s tempting to stop early. Here in Joshua 10, our hero had several opportunities to quit: when he received word of the initial attack, when the Israelites routed the Canaanites and hailstones rained down from heaven, when they captured Adoni-Zedek and his fellow kings, or even when the sun set on that absolutely unusual day. If they had quit at any one of these junctures, it’s tough to say how the chapter, or even the book, would have ended. Maybe there would have been nothing further? Maybe it would have ended with, “And Adoni-Zedek flanked Israel and drove them back into the Jordan.” At any rate, it would not have been as spectacular as it is. And that’s the thing. If we quit, we might not exactly be a failure. But we won’t be as spectacularly successful as God would have us be, either.

So there you have it. If you want to be a real success, here are five tips. Use them.

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