Victory Is A Gift of God
James R. Davis
The Old Testament does a marvelous job portraying spiritual battles through physical realities. Nowhere is this truth revealed more clearly than in Joshua 6:1-27. The battle of Jericho is no carnal war; it is rather a war between God and Satan. It had been forty years since the Hebrews had left Egypt. They had left Egypt under the powerful hand of God, as God brought the plagues upon Egypt. They had crossed the Red Sea as God divided the waters. They had wandered in the wilderness for forty years under the sustaining hand of God. God led them in a cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night. God had fed them with manna, they drank from a rock and their clothes did not wear out. Imagine wearing the same clothes for forty years, and they never become threadbare.
It was also during this period, since they left Egypt, that the first five books of the Bible were written. Israel has received God's laws and decrees, which reveal his nature, justice and mercy. Moses was writing these books to reveal the nature of the God that was leading them. Israel's God is unique; He is the God of the universe.
God is not only in the process of revealing himself to the Israelites, but he is revealing himself to the world and ultimately to us through these acts. The world is watching, they have been watching for forty years. Israel has witnessed the hand of God in a very personal way. The eyes of the world are on what God is doing with these Israelite slaves. God had brought Egypt, which was the most powerful nation in the ancient world, to her knees without the Hebrew slaves having to lift a sword in their own defense. You don't bring the most powerful nation in the world to its knees without the world knowing about it.
Canaan is Judged by God
As the spies come to spy out the land of Canaan, Rahab says to the spies before she hides them, "I know that the Lord has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone's courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below." (Joshua 2:8-11)
It is amazing that this harlot saw the God of heaven as the driving force behind all these miraculous physical realities. She didn't need to hear what God had said in the books that Moses had written; all she did was believe in what she saw. She saw that God was fighting Israel's battles and she knew Jericho had no chance of winning a war against the sovereign Lord of the universe, who was Lord of the heavens above and the earth below. She saw that it was a spiritual battle in a physical realm and she had no doubt as to whom was waging the war. It was God!
This explains the fear of the people that we see in Joshua 6:1: "Now Jericho was tightly shut up because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in." In Exodus 23:7 God had promised Israel, "I will send my terror before you, and will throw into confusion all the people against whom you shall come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you." In Joshua 1:5 God said to Joshua, "No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you nor forsake you."
We often think that God's destruction of Jericho and the land of Canaan seems harsh. But we notice that everyone in the city recognizes that God is leading Israel to victory. It wasn't that they didn't know God and didn't have a chance. Again, notice what Rahab says, "We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone's courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below." (Joshua 2:8-11) It is not that they don't know God, but only one chose to repent.
After the spies returned to camp, God dried up the Jordan River to allow the Israelites to cross over into Canaan. "Now when all the Amorite kings west of the Jordan and all the Canaanite kings along the coast heard how the LORD had dried up the Jordan before the Israelites until we had crossed over, their hearts melted and they no longer had the courage to face the Israelites." (Joshua 5:1) They know God, he has been revealed, and they refuse to obey.
Is the Lord with You?
Always remember that the greatest battles are initially won or lost in our minds before the battles ever began. Paul said, "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)
Forty years earlier, Israel stood on the border of the Promised Land at Kadesh-Barnea. All they had to do was "Go up and possess the land." They would not do so because ten of the twelve men Moses sent to spy out the land brought back negative reports and frightened the people with stories of giants.
"We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them" (Num 13:33).
"Joshua and Caleb . . . who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes and said to the entire Israelite assembly, "The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them." (Num 14:6-9 NIV).
"That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, "If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?" And they said to each other, ‘We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.’"(Num 14:1-4 NIV).
Initially, when Canaan was spied out, ten spies came back saying, "It can't be done!" and two spies came back saying, "The Lord has given us the land!" Both were right. The battle had already been either won or lost in their minds before the battle ever took place.
But victory is not simply dependent upon the power of positive thinking. It is dependent upon the presence and power of God. There is a spiritual principle that we must get fixed in our minds if we wish to have victory. Spiritual battles are fought in heaven.
In Ephesians chapter 1, Paul portrays God's power as God lifted Christ from the dead and sat him at his own right hand far above all powers. (Ephesians 1:18-23) It is in this context that Paul is praying that Christians might understand the power of God that is available for them to engage in spiritual battles. He compares this power to the power God used when he raised Jesus Christ from the dead. In Ephesians chapter 2 Paul portrays Christians as being lifted up to sit with Christ in those heavenly realms. (Ephesians 2:4-9) It is here that we learn that we rule with the sovereign God of the universe. He continues to rule the heavens above and the earth beneath. We must see our battle from heaven's viewpoint.
Satan wants us to believe the deadly deception that the Christian's spiritual battles are a wrestling match between the individual and Satan. He doesn't want you to figure God into the equation. Paul said, "I can do all things through Christ which strengthened me. (Philippians 4:13) Paul said that God is able to make the weakest stand. (Romans 14:1-4)
God will not allow us to be tempted above that which we can stand. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us . . . " (Ephesians 3:20)
The city of Jericho was taken by the power of God. I have always been taught that Joshua was a great military leader. But Joshua didn't take the city by some clever human military tactic. Great strategies are fine, but without God you will fail. As we come to Joshua 6 we may think, "What a silly way to fight a war." God says, "March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams' horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in." (Joshua 6:3-5)
Who has ever heard of such a thing? NO ONE!!! But it is a test of the mind and heart. Who will run in fear? Who will stand and fight? The victory has already been decided in heaven, but victory can only be claimed in our minds through faith. "By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days. By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient . . . (Hebrews 11:30-31)
Victorious Christians are those who believe that it is God who is waging the war. They are the ones who see God as they look beyond the realities of this physical world. They realize they must “. . . be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might." (Ephesians 6:10)
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
In Whom Do We Trust?
Faith is not valid simply because it is enthusiastic and intense. That’s a description of fanaticism. A fanatic is a person who has incredible faith, but the object of his/her faith may not be valid. Faith is only as valid as the faithfulness of the object.
Faith is only as good as its object. If my faith is rooted in myself, then my faith is only as strong as I am at my weakest point. It is like a chain that is only as strong as its weakest link.
I grew up on a farm and for entertainment we used to ice skate on the lakes and ponds in the winter when the water froze. You can have great faith in thick ice and you will be safe. You can have the same amount of faith in thin ice and you will meet disaster. All the faith in the world will not make thin ice safe to skate on. The object of faith must be valid.
Forty years earlier Moses told the Israelites that they would wander in the wilderness for forty years for not believing in God. After Moses pronounced the consequence of their unbelief, the Israelites got up the next morning and decided to take Canaan without God. "Early the next morning they went up toward the high hill country. 'We have sinned,' they said, 'We will go up to the place the LORD promised.' Then Moses said, "Do not go up, because the Lord is not with you." They decided to go anyway. Moses said, "Why are you disobeying the LORD’s command? This will not succeed! Do not go up, because the LORD is not with you. Your enemies will defeat you, for the Amalekites and Canaanites will face you there. Because you have turned away from the LORD, he will not be with you and you will fall by the sword."
"Nevertheless, in their presumption they went up toward the high hill country, though neither Moses nor the ark of the LORD’s covenant moved from the camp. Then the Amalekites and Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down and attacked them and beat them down all the way to Hormah" (Num 14:40-45 NIV).
Faith in God is not the same as faith in one's self. This time when the Israelites decided to go, they thought they could succeed without God. They were leaning on their faith in themselves. They no doubt thought they had the means to solve the problem. God did not bless their self-deceived plans. They were defeated.
Without God our problems become magnified. "We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes . . ." (Numbers 13:33). Without God we become grasshoppers. Isaiah said, "God sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers" (Isaiah 40:22). Too many times, we manage to turn God’s grasshoppers into giants.
Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you’" (Matthew 17:20 NIV). This verse reads like an extravagant statement, but there is no doubt as to what Jesus is saying. He is saying that nothing really important will ever be done without faith, but with faith we can accomplish things that otherwise would appear to be impossible.
Isaiah said, "Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain" (Isaiah 40:4-5). To the Jews the phrases, the raising of valleys and the lowering of mountains signified the removal of difficulties and the showing of the way around an obstacle. Jesus is saying that faith in God is the instrument God uses to remove all kinds of mountains of difficulties in our lives. Jesus is saying if you have the right kind of faith, every difficulty can be solved, and the hardest task can be accomplished.
Jesus says, "It is not so much the quantity of our faith, as the quality." Jesus says, "If you have faith like a mustard seed, that faith can remove mountains." The mustard seed was the tiniest of all the grains. Jesus is saying: "It really does not matter how much faith you have. If that faith is living, rooted, and centered in God, it can do things as impossible, unthinkable, and unbelievable as the moving of mountains."
We Can Realize God's Power in Spite of Past Failures
Too many times Satan gets Christians preoccupied with their failures, and then opportunity for growth can be delayed indefinitely. Too many Christians are trying to tiptoe to the graveyard without goofing up along the way. We tend to erect monuments to our failures and we spend the rest of our lives paying homage to them. God is really not concerned with where we are in life. Where I am at the moment is not as important as where am I going from where I stand. Will I allow God to lead me to him through faith in his promises?
You can't go back and correct all your mistakes and make a brand new start, but you can have a brand new start, from right where you stand. Rahab the prostitute said to the men who came to spy out the land, “. . . I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you" (Joshua 2:9). Sometimes unbelievers have more faith in God’s ability than Christians.
It doesn’t matter what kind of wilderness you find yourself in. God is willing to lead you out, if you are willing to repent and turn to God. In Joshua chapter 5, Joshua takes all the males and circumcises them. They had wandered in the wilderness for forty years and had overlooked circumcision for forty years. God tells Joshua to circumcise the males. When the males had been circumcised God said, "Today the reproach of Egypt has been rolled away." This shows God’s willingness to clean us of our past and allow us to see the dawn of a new day.
When I realize that this prostitute is found in the lineage of Christ, I understand God’s willingness to take sinners and give them victory.
"Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him" (Acts 10:34-35 KJV).
"The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9 KJV).
When Satan gets Christians preoccupied with their failures, the opportunity for growth can be delayed indefinitely. Paul wished to remove his circumstances. "To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NIV).
We view maturity and success as the lack of struggle in life rather than the process of struggling well. We tend to think that our circumstances make us what we are. It was Paul's difficult circumstances that made him the great apostle. Problems create situations in which we can grow. Problems call forth our courage and our wisdom; indeed, they create our courage and our wisdom. The things we want to avoid are the very things that nurture us and shape us into the persons we should be. Stress caused from difficulty keeps us on the cutting edge of wisdom.
People with faith in God see problems and failure as stepping-stones. Those without faith in God see problems and failure as tombstones. We are afraid of problems because we are afraid of failure. The Israelites fear of failure cost them forty years of their lives. The next time we find them facing the same "giants" they had learned their lessons. They turned them into grasshoppers. God is not as interested in our failures as He is interested in our responses to our failures.
Our problems are usually challenging us to walk where we have never walked before. How many times, when we try to face a problem, do we feel a little bit fearful, a little bit intimidated?
Many of us are like the Australian Bush Boy who received a new silver-plated boomerang, but he couldn't get rid of his old one.
We become victorious when we have faith in the work of God on our behalf. Today we must be impressed with the power of God that works through our faith. Paul said, "In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ. Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. (Col 2:11-12).
Faith in the operation of God—in the work of God that simply means we believe that God will do what he says. "By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land: but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days. By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient" (Heb 11:29-31.
"And what more shall I say? I do not have the time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised: who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword: whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies" (Heb 11:32-34).
Today God says, "I will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can stand" (1 Corinthians 10:13). God has provided a place of spiritual refuge where Satan is bound. He is already defeated. God is telling us, "Do what I tell you and you will be safe, you will have victory. Death will not prevail." (Matthew 16:18-19)
How to Realize the Presence and Power of God
We must realize that God's power is available today. This story is about us. We worship the same powerful God today. People in the Old Testament often looked to the stars as evidence of God's sovereign almighty power. Rahab declared that Jehovah was God of the heavens above and the earth below. She was recognizing God's sovereignty. But we look to Jesus as a testimony concerning God's sovereignty. And we realize that we are sitting in heavenly places with Christ Jesus.
"I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way." (Ephesians 1:18-23)
"But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-- it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:4-9)
We may never be in such a battle as Joshua was engaged in, but we are engaged in a spiritual battle that is just as fierce as any battle ever waged.
Most of us don't need more knowledge we need the spirit of Christ. Today we fight the world with the spirit of Jesus Christ. We don't need to pray for easier lives, we need to pray for better hearts and minds. God is in the business of changing hearts. "The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases" (Proverbs 21:1). Do you remember how God changed Nebuchadnezzar's heart into a heart of a beast?
Too many attempt to fight spiritual battles with carnal weapons today. Worldly attitudes and hearts are carnal weapons. We must arm ourselves with the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:1-5).
We must realize that we are not working alone. It is nice to be able to believe in ourselves. It is great for others to believe in us. But the greatest thing of all is that God believes in each of us giving us reason to believe in ourselves. The greatest failure we make is to assume we are limited in what we can accomplish by the measure of our own resources and strength.
God's presence and power are realized as we follow God's directives. To enjoy God's presence and power it must be done God's way.
Then the LORD said to Joshua, "See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams' horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets.
When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in."
Jericho's defeat should give us encouragement to trust and obey God's instructions, no matter how impossible our situation appears to be.
God's presence and power are realized as we give the glory to God.
"The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the LORD. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent. But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it. All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the LORD and must go into his treasury."
All the spoil of the battle of Jericho was to be devoted to the house of God. That was how they gave glory to God for the victory God had given them. God had fought the battle and it was God who brought victory. Obeying God after the battle is over is just as crucial as obeying God in the heat of battle. Achan had taken of the spoils of Jericho. To take of those spoils was to take some of the glory for oneself.
After Israel's victory in Jericho, Israel marched against Ai with all the confidence that anyone would ever want. They went to spy out the city of Ai and the spies came back and saying, "Not all the people will have to go up against Ai. Send two or three thousand men to take it and do not weary all the people, for only a few men are there." (Joshua 7:3) So they sent a couple of thousand of men and they came back defeated. God said, "I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction." (7:12)
We lose God's presence when we begin to think that we are invincible. When you are engaged in war, it is easy to get a couple of victories under our belts and begin to think that we're invincible. "So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!" (1 Corinthians 10:12) It is then that we are sure to fail. Initially, when the spies came back from Ai, they said, "This is a piece of cake compared to Jericho. All we need is a couple of thousand troops." They came back defeated because someone had taken the glory that belonged to God. When we think that we are invincible, it is as if we are taking the glory for ourselves. It is then that we enter the battle alone. And it will surely be a losing battle, as long as we fight it in our own strength. That is why Paul admonishes us to be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might. (Ephesians 6:10)
When we fail to have faith in what God says he will do, we return to wander in the wilderness of sin until we have faith to cross the Jordan River. It may be difficult for some to understand. But do what God says, and believe that he will do his part. The Israelites initially failed to understand what God would do for them.
Bible Study Questions
How does the Old Testament portray spiritual battles through physical realities?
Who is watching as God leads the Hebrews out of Egypt?
What does Rahab say about Israel’s God? (Joshua 2:8-11)
Why are the people in Jericho so fearful? (Joshua 6:1) What had God promised in Exodus 23:7; Joshua 1:5?
How does this explain our spiritual position in our modern world?
How are spiritual battles fought in our mind? (2 Corinthians 10:3-5) How are spiritual battles fought in heaven?
God had proclaimed victory for the Israelites before they left Egypt, what necessary for them to claim the victory?
Who are fighting against in our spiritual struggles?
Is it our faith or the object of our faith that makes us successful?
How do magnify our problems when we take our eyes off God?
What happens when we become preoccupied with our past failures? How does Rahab serve as an example of God’s view of our past failures?
How does Colossians 2:11-12 explain the Christians victory over sin?
11 In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. NIVhttp://www.gate.net/~jrdavis/sermon.htm