I. THAT GOD'S SOVEREIGNTY OVER NATURE IS SUBSERVIENT TO THE HIGHER PURPOSES OF HIS SPIRITUAL KINGDOM. We look through these outward incidents to the Divine end which they were all helping to work out. God was "forming a people for his praise." Giving them a local habitation, that they might the better conserve His truth and show forth His glory. He drove out the heathen before them, and planted them there that they might bear rich fruits of blessing to the world, that in them and in their seed all the earth might be blessed. Everything is to be looked at in the light of that moral purpose.
(1) The whole visible universe exists for spiritual ends the revelation of the invisible Divine beauty and order; the magnifying of the law of eternal righteousness. Its activity and its rest, its discords and its harmonies, its terror and its loveliness, all have a moral meaning and intent.
(2) The forces and laws of the universe are against those who are against God. You must be morally one with Him if you would have them befriend you. "The stars in their courses fight against Sisera." How terrible to think of some of the forms in which the Creator might, if He pleased, array the powers of nature against sinful men! His long-suffering beneficence is their only safeguard. "It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed" (Lamentations 3:22).
(3) The created universe attains its consummation only in the final spiritual triumph of the Redeemer. The groaning creation waits for the "manifestation of the sons of God." The glorious presence of the Lord will be "the restitution of all things." There will be "nothing to hurt or to destroy" in the "new heavens and the new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness."
II. THAT MAN IS AN EFFICIENT INSTRUMENT IN SERVING THE CAUSE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS JUST SO FAR AS HE HAS FAITH TO LAY HOLD ON THE SOVEREIGN POWER OF GOD. "There was no day like that before it or after it," not because there was anything singular, unparalleled, in God's "hearkening to the voice of a man." This was simply a conspicuous and noteworthy example of a universal law. "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man "has always" availed much." The resources of heaven wait upon it. Such prayer is
"A breath that fleets beyond this iron world, (1) Let the Church "stir itself up to lay hold on God." Its strength lies in faith and prayer. The Lord will never fail to "fight for Israel" when she is true to her high calling. The weapons of her warfare are mighty through Him. "God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early" (Psalm 46:5). This pledge of Divine protection and deliverance is given, not to ecclesiastical systems, which may have much that is of man rather than of God in their constitution, but to that Church which Christ has redeemed and chosen out of every land and nation to represent His own cause of truth and righteousness. When the Church goes forth in the energy of faith and prayer, its enemies flee before it. (2) Let the individual Christian recognise the true source of moral power. No emergency of life need be overwhelming to one who casts himself unreservedly on God. "If God be for us, who can be against us?" Move on steadily in the path of duty and fear not. In all conceivable times of difficulty and danger, of temptation and sorrow, Christ's answer to the cry of His faithful ones is the same - "My grace is sufficient for thee. My strength is made perfect in weakness." - W.
(1) Let the Church "stir itself up to lay hold on God." Its strength lies in faith and prayer. The Lord will never fail to "fight for Israel" when she is true to her high calling. The weapons of her warfare are mighty through Him. "God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early" (Psalm 46:5). This pledge of Divine protection and deliverance is given, not to ecclesiastical systems, which may have much that is of man rather than of God in their constitution, but to that Church which Christ has redeemed and chosen out of every land and nation to represent His own cause of truth and righteousness. When the Church goes forth in the energy of faith and prayer, its enemies flee before it.
(2) Let the individual Christian recognise the true source of moral power. No emergency of life need be overwhelming to one who casts himself unreservedly on God. "If God be for us, who can be against us?" Move on steadily in the path of duty and fear not. In all conceivable times of difficulty and danger, of temptation and sorrow, Christ's answer to the cry of His faithful ones is the same - "My grace is sufficient for thee. My strength is made perfect in weakness." - W.
Bring out those five kings.
I. No OPPOSITION IS SO GREAT, NO ENEMIES SO MIGHTY, BUT THE FOLLOWERS OF THE LORD JESUS CAN OVERCOME THEM. In outward and bodily things, and at the hands of men, the people of God are ofttimes sorely tried. Over and over again they have been slain all the day, and accounted as sheep for the slaughter. The deep and mysterious providence of an all-wise God has suffered and ordered this. But inwardly, and as regards spiritual experience, is it not true that "We are more than conquerors through Him that loved us"? As believers in Jesus we are exposed to constant opposition of a spiritual kind. As soon as ever the Christian life really begins, so soon does conflict commence. But is it not a good thing to change slavery for freedom; and to feel the opposition and rage of Satan rather than to be bound in his destructive chains? Then again, the rebel flesh puts forth its power, resisting the will of God, and proving that the carnal mind is enmity against God. But have we not found deliverance? We have heard the precious assurance, "No weapon formed against thee shall prosper"; we have taken up the Christian's war-cry, "I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me"; we have doubtless sung the believer's song of triumph, "Thanks be to God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." Do I now speak to any soul in strong conflicts, and exposed to some sore temptation? Oh! poor tried and harassed one, look up, look up. Do not let the enemy engage all your attention: think of the mighty Friend who is standing by. Do not let the temptation quite swallow up your spirit; remember (1 Corinthians 10:13).
II. IT IS THE LORD JESUS WHO ACCOMPLISHES THIS GLORIOUS WORK FOR AND IN BEHALF OF HIS BELIEVING ONES. Mark the circumstances in detail which are narrated in the text, and see how conspicuous Joshua was throughout the whole transaction (vers. 22-26). Joshua called for all the men, summoned the host, then called out the captains, and bade them put their feet on the necks of the kings; then he encouraged his captains; then he executed the kings. The crowning speech, and crowning act, on that eventful day were his. Just so, it is only our heavenly Joshua who can make us conquerors, who can effect deliverance for us, who can enable us to set our feet upon the necks of those hosts, those temptations, those foes of whatsoever sort, which surround and assault us, and which, without His aid, are sure to be too many and too mighty for us to cope with and subdue.
1. In the help which we have received, or may now be enjoying, let us see the pledge of future victory.
2. It may be that some are in sore conflict and trial at this very time. Forget not who is able to save, even to the uttermost. The same Jesus who has strengthened thousands of conflicting souls and made them victorious is ready to help you.
(C. D. Marston, M. A.)
2. This scene also reminds us of the despairing flight of these kings. Finding that resistance was useless, they sought to escape by flight, but this proved also vain. The sinner cannot flee from the judgment of God. Many a man has been able to escape the just judgment of his fellows. It can never be so with the Divine justice. It rolls forth no empty thunders. Seeing all flight is vain, our only hope is instant and complete submission, if haply the Lord will have mercy on us and spare us for His name's sake.
3. The scene also speaks of their useless refuge. Their resistance was found to be utterly vain, therefore they had recourse to flight. But flight they found also unavailing, therefore they sought to hide, but this was also vain. By this new device they not only deceive themselves, they actually destroy themselves. Know that it is as vain to hide from God as to fly from Him. Yet the truth, "Thou God seest me," is one not easily learned. Often, as in the case of Hagar, it is only in the hour of dire extremity that the soul becomes truly conscious of the fact. Nothing is more common or more natural for fallen man than to hide from God. Even in childhood, if unwelcome thoughts of God obtruded themselves, how quickly did we learn to bury ourselves in the cave of other and more congenial thoughts and hopes. And as we grow older, and the heart gets more unsusceptible to spiritual realities, how easily can we hide in indifference. How natural it is to let slip everything that has been taught us of spiritual truth, to forget all warnings and admonitions, to become engrossed with the pleasures that lie around, and to forsake the good habits in which we had been trained. And not a few seek to shelter themselves in hypocrisy. The Church is the garden of God; and not a few are hiding from Him among the trees of His own garden. They come to the solemn assembly. They give of their substance to His work. They maintain propriety of conduct, and yet they know not God; yea, they are hiding from Him all the time, and by these very means. Others are hiding from God in business. From Monday morning till Saturday night they are engrossed in earthly cares, and even on the Lord's day their heads and hearts are more in their bank-books and ledgers than in their Bibles. But though men may for a few moments bury themselves in oblivion of God, they can never hide from Him. Soon the souls who thus hide will be dragged out to the bewildering light, to their shame and ruin. Have we, then, no hope? Is there no refuge for us? There is. We can never hide from God, but we can hide in God. "The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it and is safe."
4. Here also we behold the utter degradation of these kings. It was far deeper than that of their subjects. As they were ringleaders in this revolt, their end was more terrible. They had to bow their necks under the feet of the children of Israel. This was a most significant act. It was a picture of the absolute subjection of all to the yoke of Israel. It was a pledge of the perfect conquest of the land, of the glorious ending of that work which had been so well begun. This also was written for our encouragement and instruction. All things must be brought into subjection to the true Joshua. They who follow Him are not overcome of evil, they are conquerors in the struggle against sin. However weak we may feel in ourselves, yet in His name we dare deal with the proudest and strongest sin that lurks in our hearts, as Joshua's captains did with these kings. That man cannot be following Christ who is not putting all spiritual foes under his feet from day to day. And we have here not only a picture of this daily and oft-repeated triumph over sin which Jesus gives His followers, but also a picture of that ultimate and complete victory over sin and Satan that shall be granted. There were other kings in Canaan besides these five kings, and they gave Joshua and his captains much trouble. Though the victory so far was real and glorious, it was by no means complete. They have faced and overcome these particular foes; but many more remain. Even so the Christian, though he should and must obtain the victory over all known sin, and keep it ever under foot, learns the longer that he lives that there arc other sins which he had not dreamt of lurking in the recesses of his heart. Therefore he lays count for a protracted war. Yet he does not go forward with a faint heart to face these new foes. Rather, encouraged by the victories already granted, he goes on with assurance of like triumph.
5. We must also draw attention to the miserable end of these kings. Here, as we stand over the dead bodies of these kings, we hear a voice proclaiming, "So perish the king's enemies." There are judgments of God against sin in the past history of the world. In the future history of the world these judgments will again be on the earth. Between the past and the future He has erected the Cross. That also is a centre of judgment. Yea, the judgment against sin on the Cross is far more perfect than either that judgment which goes before or follows after; for it is a judgment finished, a cup of condemnation drunk to the last drop, and that can be said of no other, past or future. Identified with that Victim, nailed with Him to that Cross, cursed in Him with all the curse due to sin, banished with that forsaken Victim in the great darkness, there is no condemnation, no judgment, to them that are in Christ Jesus.
6. In these conquests of Joshua we have a faint picture of the victories of Jesus. However numerous His enemies may be, they will be all scattered as chaff before the wind, as smoke before the hurricane. However mighty they may be, they will bite the dust in terror and dismay. However wise and noble, they will be crushed under His heel.
(A. B. Mackay.)
I. Here is the first — KING ANGER. What boy or girl is there who has not felt this king rising in his heart, and leading him on to unkind words and bad deeds. Kill the very first angry thought, and then it won't have time to grow into a great king to trouble you and all near you.
II. "But," says some child, "I'm not given to being angry. I have a very good temper. I'm not afraid of that king." Don't be too sure. He may turn up some time when you are not ready for him. And in any case I fear, from the way yon speak, that there is another king you will have to keep a very good look-out against — KING PRIDE. Do you know what he is? Some one gave a very good description of pride when he said that pride was a great big "I" and a very little "you." Some of you, I am sure, have read "Alice in Wonderland"; and you remember what happened to Alice when she ate the piece of cake marked, "Eat me." She found herself growing taller, and taller, and taller, until at length everything looked quite small beneath her. Now King Pride does for us all what the wonderful cake did for Mice. He puffs us up. He makes us very high and very great in our own sight. And the only way to deal with him is to do like Joshua's soldiers, and to take this king and put our foot upon his neck, and crush him to the ground.
III. But we must pass on to our third king; and dangerous as were the first two, he is more dangerous still, for his name is KING FALSEHOOD. Have you ever told a lie, ever said what was not quite true to get your own way, or to save yourself from punishment? If you have, then you are letting King Falsehood reign over you, and a cruel, hard master you will soon find him to be. Determine at all costs to say nothing but what is strictly true. Once a great and good man was thrown into prison because he had written paper which displeased King Charles I. He was tried and condemned to death for what he had written; but the king sent messengers to him in prison to say that if he would only deny having written the paper and signed it, he would be set free. And how do you think he answered? "I did sign that paper. I could save my life by telling a lie, but I would rather a thousand times tell the truth, even though my life must be the cost." That was noble. Be like that hero, Algernon Sydney.
IV. Our fourth king need not detain us long — KING DISOBEDIENCE. He needs no explanation, but perhaps you will remember best about him if I tell you how he was once conquered by a brave English boy. Henry Havelock was his name, and at twelve o'clock one day his father left him on London Bridge, and told him to wait till he came back. One hour, two hours, three hours passed, and still the father did not come; but King Disobedience did. "Why wait any longer?" he whispered to Henry. "Your father has forgotten you, and will not expect you to remain. It is quite excusable to disobey him now after all these hours. You had better run home." But the boy would not consent. He had been told to wait till his father came, and like a soldier's son he drove the enemy back at every point. At seven o'clock that evening his wife asked General Havelock, "Where is Henry? I have not seen him all the afternoon." The General started up. "Oh," he said, "he's on London Bridge! I left him there at twelve o'clock, and told him to wait for me. In the hurry of business I quite forgot about him. But he's there still, I'm sure." And there indeed he was when his father went to fetch him. Seven long, weary hours he had waited, and fought King Disobedience. And hard though the battle had been he had won.
V. And now there remains only one king; but he is so big and so strong that I shall ask the printer to print his name in extra large letters — KING SELF. Have you ever heard two voices inside you; one saying, "Please yourself. Take your own way. Why should you think about other people?" And the other saying, "No, be generous; be kind. Give up what pleases yourself, and help others." I think you have, and I think you know which is the voice of King Self, and what a poor sort of a king he is to follow. He can make no one happy. Somehow the boy who is always trying to please himself is the boy who is never pleased at all. And then how uncomfortable he makes all round him. It was only because God had helped him that Joshua was able to defeat the five kings. And so shall we conquer if we fight in God's strength, not in our own. Kneel down to Him then, and ask Him to be with you, and to make you "more than conquerors" for Jesus' sake.
1. "The king of Jerusalem." That such a king should have been slain works violently in our memory and whole thought, for "Jerusalem" means peace — the city of peace, the restful city, the sabbatic metropolis, the home of rest. But is there not a false peace? The king of false peace must be slain. He has ruled over some of us too long.
2. "Hebron" means conjunction, joining, alliance. Is not the king of false fellowship to be killed? What concord hath Christ with Belial? God has always been against unholy alliances. Many a man He has, so to say, arrested with the words, Why this conjunction? What right have you to be here, pledging your character to sustain a known dishonesty?
3. And the king of Jarmuth. The word means high, that which is lifted up. And is not the king of false ambition to be slain and then hanged — to have contempt added to murder? Contempt is never so well expended as upon false ambition.
4. Then the king of Lachish. The word means hard to be captured, almost out of reach, or so defended that it will be almost impossible to get at the king. Is not the king of fancied security to be slain and hanged?
5. King of Eglon. The Word "Eglon" means pertaining to a calf, and may be taken as representing the whole system of false worship.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
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