Valentines Day / LTC Event - It’s the season for valentines, love, and romance, so let’s talk about war.
We are continuing a series called “All In”—looking at men and women throughout biblical history who demonstrated a kind of wholehearted, all-in engagement with God. Today we are going to look at the man commanding the army in the battle we just read about (Ex 17:8-16): Joshua.
We are in a battle, and we are called to engage. It’s not a flesh and blood battle, of course; but, the fact that it is spiritual does not make it less real or less deadly or less necessary… just less obvious.
battle with sin/temptation, injustices that calls for brave action, defending the faith while Christianity is under assault, things worth fighting for: marriage, hearts and minds of our kids, the lost
I believe God would have us grow more engaged with battles that matter (with truth and grace). It may be the case that we are sometimes disengaged. I wonder also if sometimes we are going to battle for God instead of with God.
Let’s Talk About Joshua
Let’s Talk About Joshua
Joshua is one of three people in the Bible described as “wholly following the LORD” (King David, Joshua, and Caleb). We get this description of Joshua and Caleb in Numbers 32 when Moses shares God’s own words about these two men who were ready to cross into the land of giants.
‘Surely none of the men who came up out of Egypt, from twenty years old and upward, shall see the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, because they have not wholly followed me, none except Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua the son of Nun, for they have wholly followed the Lord.’
Joshua (and Caleb too) was a man with great confidence in God, confidence that gave him courage to fight uphill battles as God directed him, even when everyone else was ready to retreat. His name is fitting: Hoshea (salvation) changed to Joshua (God is salvation).
His First Battle
His First Battle
I have not been a soldier on a battle field, but I can imagine that you never forget your first one. Exodus 17 is our first introduction to Joshua, and it is also the first battle God’s people face after leaving Egypt. They are traveling through the wilderness and and were passing though a place called Rephidim. They had faced hunger and thirst and seen God’s provision in both. Now they would face a violent attack, and again see God provide deliverance.
Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.”
Moses gives more detail later in Deut. 25
“Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you came out of Egypt, how he attacked you on the way when you were faint and weary, and cut off your tail, those who were lagging behind you, and he did not fear God.
While God’s people were minding their own business, weak and wearied from desert traveling, the Amelekites launched an unprovoked attack from the rear, picking off the stragglers—the old, sick, weak, and struggling. It was a brutal and repulsive act, characteristic of Amalekite hostility that we read about in later stories (helping us understand God’s judgment against them in verses 14-16).
Moses gives Joshua the task of putting together an army to go out and fight the next morning. Moses explains that he will stand on top of the hill with the “staff of God” in his hand. The same staff that he had just struck the rock with, making water flow in the wilderness (17:5ff). The same staff that he had lifted up over the Red Sea to divide it so that the people could escape the Egyptian army (14:16).
So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword.
Staff and sword. Divine sovereignty and human responsibility. God and man working together. Joshua’s part in the battle is not insignificant, nor the courage and effort of the men, but victory depends upon the Lord.
And Moses built an altar and called the name of it, The Lord Is My Banner,
Banner - what is lifted up by a pole, flag or some other symbol, a signal of your cause and your confidence. This same language was equated with the raised hand of God elsewhere (Isa 49:22). What will be remembered from this battle is not the might of Joshua but the hand of God.
I think it is significant that this event is the one that God tells Moses to write down and recite in the ears of Joshua. He will need this memory for all the battles the Lord will call him to fight.
We can’t live all-in for God without going all-in with God.
There is another scene in Joshua’s life, just a little while later, which demonstrates why he was so courageous and successful on the battlefield.
Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.
Joshua “wholly followed the LORD.” He was God’s man on the battlefield (engaged for him) and in the tent (engaged with God). He was was attentive to God’s presence and power on and off the battlefield.
God has much work for us. He wants us to speak up and act in bold ways, live work for justice, for faith, for mercy, for truth, for the gospel… for God. But I’m afraid at times we underestimate the importance of meeting him in the tent.
Gary Haugen, left his position as the senior trial attorney for the DOJ to start the International Justice Mission (IJM), the largest international anti-slavery organization in the world, an “agency that secures justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation, and other forms of violent oppression” (R.H. Barton, 130).
There are 40+ million slaves globally. That’s more than ever in human history. It is a multi-billion dollar industry which preys on the poor and weak. 1 in 4 victims of forced-labor is a child. (www.ijm.org)
IJM is going to battle for justice, for God.
I recently read about Gary Haugen describing something he sensed in himself and his team: “prayerless striving rather than expectant abiding”
“Let’s make sure we never go through a day without praying.” - G. Haugen
Now, each day as an an organization they have 8:30 Stillness and 11:00 prayer. One is a time to pray together as a team about the these battles worth fighting. The other is a half-hour of quiet abiding in God’s presence.
Consider how God is calling you to the battlefield. Be active and engaged in battles that matter. But don’t neglect to spend time with him. Be God’s man/woman, wholly his, on the battlefield and in the secrecy of your prayer closet. Make a habit of prayer, silence, listening— “tent time” with God.
Do you feel a burden about something or frustration about progress, ask others to pray for you. Joshua needed Moses. Moses needed Aaron and Hur. We all need others.
Joshua prefigures Jesus. Even their names correspond—Jesus being the Greek form of the Hebrew Joshua (God is salvation). In Jesus we see God and man in the same Person. We see the power of God and the courage of man taking on enemies Satan, Sin, and Death—and he came out victorious for all humankind.