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Throttling the Enemy

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Scripture Reading:  Joshua 10:16-28; Matthew 27:57-28:10

Title:  Throttling Sin and Death

Just before the passage that we are looking at this morning, five kings from neighboring nations had joined up to destryon Israel and its allies.  But God makes the sun stand still in the sky long enough for Joshua and Israel to send the enemy armies scattering.  And that’s where we come to our passage.

Read Joshua 10:16-28

          What would your first impression of the Bible be if this was the only passage out of Scripture that you’ve read.

BARBARIC!  Look at the brutal actions Joshua takes.  Put huge stones in front of the cave of these enemy kings.  Pursue the enemy.  Verse 20 says they kill them almost to the very last man.  Then they come back to the cave where these kings are loked away, and the commanders of the army put their feet on their necks.  Then Joshua curses the enemy, kills the kings.  Hangs each one on their own tree.  Then the bodies are tossed back into the cave that the kings went into first to save their life.

          What in the world could a passage like this be teaching us?  Why in the world would a pastor come when Easter and lilies and the promise of the Resurrection are so fresh yet, why would focus on a gruesome passage like this?

          The reason is simple.  Hear this or you won’t get the rest of the point of what we are talking about this morning.  The battle that is going on in the book of Joshua, ought to be just like the battle that is going on in your lives, and in our soul. 

Are you serious?

Absolutely.  The Battle, the chase the courageous warriors, it’s the same sort of battle that ought to be going on in our lives.

          Let me explain.  Before Jesus Christ came into the world, God was working his plan through the people of Israel.  He promised them a stretch of land between the Nile river in Egypt, and the Euphrates river in Iraq.  God promised that would be their land to live in forever.  God promised.  And when God promises something, it is going to happen.

          That means in Old Testament times, anyone who stood in the way of God’s People having the promised land was an enemy of the creator of the universe.

          IN the New Testament generation that includes us, there is still a war, but the enemy looks different.  Ephesians 6:12 tells us “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.”

          We are in a spiritual war that is either kill or be killed.  Satan uses his weapons of sin and temptation to destroy people, to keep them from having eternal life which is promised to us just like the promised land was for Israel.  Our enemies, the enemies of the creator of the universe are using sin and discouragement and distrust to conquer us and keep us from the promised eternity with God.

          Each person here knows what I am talking about.  Is it Pride?  Is it Anger and a short temper?  Is it laziness?  Is it all out rebellion against God?  I don’t know.  Only you know where the Devil picks his battles for your soul.  We all struggle against the powers of darkness and sin.

          What kind of help can a passage like the one we are looking at today offer for our battle against sin and the devil.  That’s where we need to look at the connection between our passage and what happens throughout the Weekend of Good Friday and Easter.

 

        Let me create a list for you of similarities.  Do these sound like fair comparisons?

Verse 17.  Kings in a cave.

Verse 18 Rocks rolled in front of the cave.

Verse 18 again.  Guards posted at the grave.

Matthew 27:59 says, “59Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away.  Then in verse 65 Pilate says, “65“Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” 66So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.

I would say that sounds remarkably similar. 

          There are more similarities that are so baffling, they could only have been orchestrated by God.  Verse 26 says, “26Then Joshua struck and killed the kings and hung them on five trees, and they were left hanging on the trees until evening.

          This is all pretty brutal in our modern ears.  We wonder why Joshua, a man of God, would be so brutal.  Perhaps it was, but it Joshua is simply following God’s instructions for those who oppose the rule of the God of the universe and kept Israel from the promised land. 

Deuteronomy 21:22-23 says, “22If a man guilty of a capital offense is put to death and his body is hung on a tree, 23you must not leave his body on the tree overnight. Be sure to bury him that same day, because anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse. You must not desecrate the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.”  Hanging the bodies of these kings were the way to show that God was cursing them.  He is making sure that nothing spoils the good promised land.

          This should bring us to better appreciate what Christ was doing for us on the cross.  As he hung there on that tree, he wasn’t just being killed.  He was actually being cursed by God.  He doesn’t scream, “My God why have you forsaken me” because he was afraid of dying.  He screams out because God has abandoned him.  God cursed Jesus, his own son.  God is not going to spoil eternal life by allowing anything that has even the slightest hint of sin on it into eternal life with him.  That disqualifies us from heaven and leaves us to be cursed and suffer hell.  But Jesus Christ hung on the cross instead.  The one who was perfect and had no reason to be cursed, suffered the curse for us.  He hung on a tree to purify us.  TO make it so we can overcome sin and death and hell.  He did it all so we can move into our promised land, the new creation with God.

          So before nightfall they take the bodies off the trees and burry them, just like the do on Good Friday with Jesus.  To have them on the tree over night becomes a disgrace to God.  So the bodies of the kings are laid in a cave and stones are rolled in front of them.

          Those similarites bring us to understand even more about what happened as Christ died on the cross for us on good Friday. 

          But if we back up again in the passage, it will give us a vivid picture of how we have the victory over sin and temptataion and death and hell throught Christ’s coming out of the cave, the tomb. 

          In the passage in Joshua we find kind of the opposite Easter story.  The stones are rolled away and the evil powers are brought out of the cave alive.  On Easter, we celebrate that Jesus, the Good King, the Son of God comes out of the grave and won the victory.  The coming out of the cave for these evil kings is the antiEaster story, but the message of the story in Joshua and Christ’s resurrection are the same.

          Listen to what happens in verse 24.  “24When they had brought these kings to Joshua, he summoned all the men of Israel and said to the army commanders who had come with him, “Come here and put your feet on the necks of these kings.” So they came forward and placed their feet on their necks.”

          The kings are subjected to one of the most degrading insults of that day.  To be touched by the bottom of a persons foot in that day was so humiliating.  These dark forces for the enemy are humiliated.  The are completely powerless.  They have nothing to hope for.  They can do nothing.  They are conquered.  The good guys have ended their influence in the world.

          When Christ has gone into the grave, his enemies think they have put an end to his influence in the world.  They think he is powerless.  They feel like they have their feet pressed completely on the neck of Christ.  He is done. 

          They didn’t realize when the stone was rolled away and Christ stepped out of the cave that Easter Sunday, that Jesus was the one who had won the victory.  He’s the one who now his foot on the neck of the devil.  He’s has his foot on the neck of sin.  Sin doesn’t rule over us.  Christ rules sin.  We rule over sin. 

          And the message of Easter, the GRAVE no longer has a hold on him.  The grave, death, that takes our loved ones and leaves us upset and angry and absolutely destroyed.  The message of Easter hope is that Christ has his foot on the neck of the grave.  Christ rose again.  He’s the one throttling his enemies.  He has sin by the neck saying, you will not take my people.  And he has the grave by the neck saying.  You may have them for now, but the final resurrection is coming where the grave will give back the dead.

 

          That makes Easter a victory for us as well.  We can take what Joshua says to the commanders of his army in verse 25 and make them for us from Christ.  “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.  Be strong and courageous.”

          The enemy is powerless, defeated.  When Christ rises from the dead, he calls us over.  He says to you and me, “your enemy was sin.  Your enemy was death and the grave.  But come here.  We have won the victory.  You put your foot on the throat of sin. Put your foot on the throat of death.

          People, so often we live like we are slaves to sin.  We live like we are captured by living in the same patterns of brokenness that we always have been in.  Its time for us to be strong and courageous.  Christ’s death and resurrection won the victory.  It’s a done deal, so find that sin in your life.  Pursue it and destroy it through the Holy Spirit.  Jesus Lives.  We have won.

          Claim the victory of Christ over death as well.  We can grieve.  We can mourn.  Death is not the way life is supposed to be.  But as you weep, let God make you strong and courageous.  Let him encourage you that your loved one who died in Christ won had their foot on the throat of death. 

Some of us here may be called home to eternity with Christ before we celebrate another Easter in this life, but like the words of that wonderful song, Abide With Me, “Where is death’s sting?  Where grave thy victory?  I triumph still if thou abide with me.”

          Congregation.  Christ won.  And we win through him.  Shall we be strong and courageous in him?  And all God’s people say.  AMEN

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