Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
© Charles A. Clough 1997
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 3: Disruptive Truths of God’s Kingdom
Chapter 5: Conquest and Settlement: The Disruptive Truth of Israel’s Holy War
Lesson 57 – Covenant Breaking at Sinai, High Ground, Reason for Holy War, Jericho
10 Apr 1997
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
We’re continuing to work through the time between Mt. Sinai and the grand kingdom of Israel, all through the conquest and settlement period. We’re going to review because this is background for understanding the conquest and settlement period. It’s a very misunderstood section of the Bible. You will hear critic after critic attack biblical Christianity because of the cruelty of God in the Old Testament. When they say those words, “the cruelty of God in the Old Testament” I will lay nine to one odds that they’re talking about the conquest and settlement. This is as controversial a section of the Bible as creation is. Both involve misunderstandings of the framework, and that’s why we have to keep going back and reviewing these basic truths until they just won’t depart from us. We have to have this repetitive teaching. This is why we have things like the Apostle’s Creed that nobody bothers with anymore; the Apostle’s Creed was a way of repeating truths that had to be repeated. Real training for this kind of activity in life is always a repetitive thing because you never learn it the first time around, usually we half-learn it and when we get in a jam we wade through that mess and then we walk on and get into another, and after the 108th time we finally learn a little bit about what’s happening. That’s the way we are, that’s God calls us sheep. So that’s why I want to review.
I’d like to throw up a question for discussion: What are the essential differences between the Bible and paganism regarding evil, suffering and death? What are some of the elements that we want to be sure we understand if we get into a discussion of soliloquy in our own soul over this issue, we have to remind ourselves, we’re made of flesh and apart from the regenerate and the indwelling Holy Spirit, we would be pretty good pagans ourselves. So it’s a struggle that starts in our own hearts and it’s a struggle that mushrooms out into our environment, our families, our community, classes, work place, etc. Think through think through this question because these issues come up again and again, and we could cite hundreds of passages of Scripture. It’s important to memorize Scripture. It’s important because the Holy Spirit uses memorized Scripture, but it’s also important to think through the big picture of where everything is coming from. Paganism and the Scripture are two completely different viewpoints, and they differ in a thousand ways, but at the core there are certain essentials, and that’s what we want to concentrate on, just on the core differences that is the cutting edge between faith and unbelief.
I’m not asking you to explain the whole issue, but does anyone want to throw out a piece of truth that comes to mind as you consider a question like that. [someone says something] The remarkable thing is that apart from the Bible evil has no boundaries. It is ONLY in the Bible that evil is bounded. That’s remarkable. Evil, suffering and death has a beginning in Scripture different from creation. If we had it at creation, then we’d have a problem. Back to the diagram, it’s this period that makes Christianity and the Bible revolutionary, that period of time between the time of creation and the origin of evil does not exist in any other group, any other thought system, anywhere else. It’s so terribly important because it shows that the physical universe that we live in could exist without death; that it could exist without sorrow, misery and suffering. It is not part and parcel of life to be involved in evil, suffering and death. That is an abnormality. It’s bracketed on this end because evil has a distinct beginning from the creature rebelling against a prior order that was there before the creature rebelled. And then it has an end in the sense that good and evil are separated, and they will be eternally separated. It’s that separation that forms the background for things like the conquest and settlement.
It’s that separation that’s the hard stuff that’s involved, ultimately, in the cross of Jesus Christ. The dilemma is how do you separate evil from evil doers? That’s the dilemma. How do you destroy evil without destroying evil doers; the way of salvation given in Scripture is God’s solution to that problem. By having us trust in a righteousness not of ourselves but external to ourselves, that is in Christ, and having Christ as a genuine creature who walked the face of the earth as a full human being as well as God, who therefore lived, as it were, in that zone. Think of it, Christ in His life was perfect, and He is the only man since Adam who was able to live His life inside that zone. So Jesus was unique. He did live and breathe the same air we breathe, walk the same planet earth that we walk, talked human language, and face temptation, but always remained in that bracket zone. He remained outside of the evil. And the only time that Christ ever came into personal contact with evil was during those dark hours on the cross. Then He came in contact with all of it. So the life of Christ in the four Gospels is a remarkable story. We have to be careful, we get used to pieces of that story that it becomes so familiar that we don’t see the power and the uniqueness and appreciate it. Familiarity breeds contempt, and as Christians we have to be careful we don’t begin to have a subtle religious contempt for the depth of the truths of Scripture.
Evil is bounded here, and it’s going to be separated here. If you go to the idea there is no God whose Creator but just an impersonal continuum, and you have this. What are the two words that you noticed in parenthesis on those two views? Those two words are important, you want to remember them and always put them as sort of labels and tags on the two views: abnormal and normal. When you get called to the bedside of a loved one who is dying, and you look at them and see the horror of death, the word “abnormal” should spring into your heart, this is abnormal because the evil one, at that point in your life, when you see that kind of suffering, particularly if it’s a family member that’s close to you or a loved friend, the evil one will immediately slip the thought in, God is unfair to allow this, how dare God permit the death of this child, or how dare God permit the death of …. Or the suffering person, you can add anything you want to, how dare God permit it. Excuse me, but how did it start? We’ve got to keep coming back, how did it start? When you see somebody dying, ask yourself, where did that process get started? Was it there when the universe left God’s fingertips, is that what God said on the sixth day or seventh day, that all is good, very good. No, that wasn’t there then. So how did it get there? If you’ll just do that mental exercise, that’s how you deal with the shock of evil. I have met bitter believers that have stayed bitter for years because of suffering in their family because of this, and they bought hook, line and sinker the satanic line. And it’s all because the truth is not clear in their hearts. So this is not just a frivolous, theoretical picture, this is a root thing that goes back to a basic essential.
What we’ve done as we get into this conquest and settlement period, we’re still going through this element, we’ve gone through the Exodus, the salvation of the nation Israel, Mt. Sinai, the giving of the law to the nation Israel, and now this controversial period of time of the conquest. We dealt with the issue of holy war. On the notes on page 85 there’s a summary of all these, sort of a snapshot that I picked out from this entire period of time. The period of time we’re looking at is several centuries. It starts with Moses, 1440 BC, this is when the Exodus happened, and it goes all the way to about 1100 BC, up to the time, say, of Samuel, so you have the biblical books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, and Judges written in this period of time. That’s the period of Scripture that we’re talking about. We’re going to pick out little events along the way, and the first event we picked out was what was going on at the foot of Mt. Sinai when God gave the law. They were busy already involving themselves in idolatry.
If you look on the chart you’ll see there was a lesson that came out of that little snapshot. That was the necessity of a circumcised heart, not just physical circumcision but a circumcised heart, and that goes back to the truth that we studied when we went into the Mosaic Law, what was the difference between the law of Moses and the law of Hammurabi, or the law the Law of Moses and the Egyptian laws, or the Law of Moses and any other law? The feature that you notice when you read through the biblical law code vs. what you see when you read through the surrounding nations, the Gentile law codes, they all dealt with crime, that wasn’t the difference, the difference was the Mosaic law addressed the heart.
You don’t read in the Code of Hammurabi that “thou shalt worship the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy mind, with all thy soul.” That’s not in there. That’s not in our modern American law codes. That’s a feature, and when we read the Bible we want to remember, I hope some of you are learning as we have gone through these classes the technique that I’ve used. I’ve used this over and over. What’s my technique? I keep reading the Bible against the culture; I always set the two in opposition. Don’t just read the Bible, read the Bible and ask yourself how is this different from the world? If you keep asking yourself those questions it will lead you to see what these differences are, and then suddenly things begin to click. It’s just a technique to remember.
The law is addressed to the heart, therefore, obviously one of the first lessons we learn in this period is if the obedience doesn’t come out of the heart, forget it. The natural heart can’t obey anyway. So we found out in that section of Scripture that the people rebelled even while they were being told what to do. During that period of time the only thing that really saved them was the fact that Moses undertook a Christ-like ministry of making intercession for them, because God offered a deal to Moses, I’ll blow away the nation and we’ll start all over, you don’t like these people, look at them, they’re having a party down there while you’re up here with Me, so why don’t we just blow them away. But what did Moses do? Moses went back in the most masterful intercessory prayer, one of the greatest prayers in all of the Scripture, an intercessory prayer on behalf of the people. That prayer, of course, designed, engineered and administered through the Holy Spirit’s work in Moses life actually becomes a revelation of what Jesus Christ does for us.
Then we went to the next event, the declaration of holy war. We want to review something. You’ll see the application of the Christian life but first I want to make sure we are all familiar with these texts. We want to dwell on some of the details. Deuteronomy 20:16. Prior to verse 16, in verses 13, 14, 15, are the rules of engagement for cities outside the land. But in verse 16 it says, “Only in the cities of these peoples that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, you shall not leave alive anything that breathes.” Look at that sentence again. “You will not leave alive anything that breathes.” Verse 17, “But you shall destroy completely the Hittite, the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, as the LORD your God has commanded you.” Verse18, “In order that they may not teach you to do according to all their detestable things which they have done for their gods, so that you would sin against the LORD your God.” Notice why in verse 18, that goes back to this diagram, good and evil have got to be separated, and God is going to separate it. It may be very messy while He’s doing the separating, but they will be separated.
So this holy war is a revelation of what that separating process looks like. It’s a piece, a chunk, it’s a mini example of what it’s going to look like when Jesus Christ returns. It’s not going to be very pretty when He returns, because He will, by force, take over the entire planet earth, by force! There will be no negotiations, no peaceful coexistence, no negotiations between the god of this world and the God from heaven. There will be an utter, total holy war. That’s necessary. If that doesn’t occur, then evil has no solution in biblical terms. What I want you to see, and we’ll repeat and repeat this, because later when we come to this business of living the Christian life and sanctification I don’t want you at that point to conclude, as we do so often in some of our Christian literature, that sanctification is just a social adjustment problem, it’s just living a moral life or something.
It’s a lot bigger than that, there are cosmic issues here; the whole question of evil is wrapped up with sanctification in the Christian life. If we’re wrong, if it’s not true that good and evil have to be separated, then there’s no hope. This is what’s so hard to grasp. If good and evil aren’t going to be separated, then they’re never going to be separated, and if they’re never going to be separated then evil is going to continue to exist. So the very fact that we have hope means we have pain, because the hope says that we’ve got to get rid of the evil, but getting rid of the evil is painful. You have to choose then, do we go through pain to get rid of the evil, and have peace ultimately, or do we put off getting rid of it and as long as we put off getting rid of it, what happens? We perpetuate it, and we continue to live in it, postpone it, postpone it, postpone it.
That’s what this is all about, holy war, and that’s why He says in verse 17, I want you to utterly destroy them, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Canaanite, and the Perizzite. Now here’s a question. Written inside here, occurring in that general portion of the Bible between Exodus and Judges, in this period there’s another book that was written in that time about something that seems utterly unrelated to holy war, written during the period of the Judges, was the book of Ruth. What do you suppose, just from what we’ve said now, why do you think the Holy Spirit included the book of Ruth in the middle of this bloody messy period of war? Ruth was a Gentile. What is the argument of the book of Ruth? Look carefully at verse 17; I will destroy the Hittite, the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite. By the way, there’s another woman who was involved in this period of time mentioned prominently in Scripture, Rahab. Was she included physically and genealogically in the people to be destroyed?
[someone asks a question] There were aliens living with Israel but their origin was of the people that are damned. This is a remarkable thing, this is what happens when you read little pieces of the Scripture and you don’t put it together. There’s a reason why the book of Ruth is included in the Canon of the Old Testament Scripture. It’s to balance out understanding. What could you conclude from verse 17 that is corrected, if you think about the book of Ruth and Rahab? [someone answers] Yes, the point here is that Ruth and Rahab believed, and once they believed they are judicially removed from the sentence and doom of verse 17, because verse 17 was put upon a people who have hardened their hearts, and the damnation comes because of the hardness of their hearts, but these two women are examples of individuals in damned cultures who took the same basic information that their neighbors had, and responded to it. So what do these two women’s lives become arguments against? If we didn’t have Ruth and the Rahab examples, what attack could we get criticized for.
As an unbeliever how could you construct an argument to get a dig at the Scriptures? [someone answers] Exactly, God would have been unfair because He just arbitrarily, without giving anybody a chance, He condemned them to damnation. But the balance is what do you do then about Ruth and Rahab, they grew up in that culture; their lives become a counter argument for the fact that if these gals did it anybody could do it. Look at the environment of Rahab, what kind of business she was in for generations. And yet this woman, Rahab, has an amazing story. Remember what she said to the spies that came to the brothel for some information? What did she let them know, as these spies are milling around, kind of listening at the bar, etc., that’s the place where you get information, and what did they pick up? Rahab spilled the beans about the mentality of the culture of the people of verse 17, and she knew their culture, believe me, she had lots of customers. All the guys were talking, so she knew what was going on, and what did she tell them? What did she reveal about the way the Canaanites were thinking, and had been thinking, because it was in Joshua’s day they sent the people in? She said for years we’ve quaked in our boots since we heard what your God did to the super power of Egypt. We have been sitting here terrified of you people. What were the Jews doing all during that period? They were afraid to go into the land. The people in the land are afraid they’re going to come in. So here you have the revelation by a woman who very well knew what was going on, they got the real scoop from Rahab; she knew what she was talking about. And what she becomes is a massive intelligence source for Joshua.
Joshua suddenly realized that God had already psychologically defeated these people. These people had been defeated for an entire generation; they could have gone in 20-30 years ago, but they got psyched out by this struggle in the Christian life, and because of the struggle in the Christian I’m going to phase out, when in fact the powers and principalities are terrified because Jesus Christ has died and has risen again. They know that, they know it better than Rahab knew about the Canaanites. The principalities and power know that Jesus left this planet in His physical body in a resurrected body and now sits far above them on the high ground. They know that and they know it better than any one of us. But they would have us believe, through their insidious whisperings into our hearts that we’re the defeated ones; that we have to fear them because they control history, that our God is remote and not concerned with us, He doesn’t care for us in our daily living. But all the while they’re whispering those ideas into our hearts they know what’s going on up there.
So this is a picture of a larger cosmic scheme. This is why this period of the conquest is so dramatically important for your mental attitude in the Christian life of just renewing our minds. It gives us vivid pictures, easy to remember, children can remember these pictures, you don’t have to remember reams of theology, you just have to get your handle on three or four of these biblical stories and just imagine it in your mind, go through it, read the Scriptures, just soak in a couple of these things and you’ll find tremendous strength comes out of this, because it grounds you in life.
[someone asks a question] Yes, and that fear of the Lord that is there is a word that means respect for His authority. We talked about the Lordship on Mt. Sinai, it’s respect for His authority. In a perverted way that’s what’s wrong that’s happening in our own culture. If we may digress, what’s so seriously wrong in our own culture now is that the homes are so eroded and so weak that we have had an entire generation, basically, with many fine exceptions but by and large a generation arose in our society that has no clue as to what authority and respect mean. Not a clue! The sad thing is that in the end, who runs the universe? God does, and in the final analysis, remember the passage in Philippians, it’s kind of powerful and overwhelming when it says every knee shall bow to Jesus Christ, in heaven and in hell. The ones in hell have to be broken but they will bow.
So in the final analysis everybody is going to learn about authority. The only issue is how you are going to learn it. Are you going to learn it voluntarily in a benign environment or are you going to do it the nasty way, where you get your brains blown out.
I remember a boy that had a father that was a lawyer, he thought it was cute to get speeding tickets because his dad always got him off, his father thought he was doing good for his son doing all this for him, and what he was really doing was training the kid that you can do anything you want and you’ll never experience consequences. So he learned something from his father. One day he was racing, he had a motorcycle accident, after he scraped himself off the side of the car he disemboweled himself in the street, so did he learn about consequences of speeding? Yes, he learned, too bad he had to learn that way but he learned.
That’s what I’m saying, we either learn it nicely or we learn it in a nasty way. But if the universe is what it is, and the God of the Bible is the One who’s the Creator, then we’re all going to learn about authority. The tragedy is, the older you are in life before you learn it, the more painful it becomes. It’s like learning language, it’s a lot easier to learn language when you’re a little kid, children are pliable, they can learn. It becomes more difficult when you’re older. So this is why, in verse 18, what is God saying about people who inherently disobey His authority? They’re going to teach other people, it’s a cancer, it just spreads around.
What we’re seeing in this event of holy war, the Kadesh-Barnea event, these are all events on this line. We want to move on, page 81, most of us have heard about Jericho but there’s something about the Jericho passage that I want to show you. A little background from a military point of view of what’s going on here. You have a map of Israel, here’s the Sea of Galilee, here’s the Dead Sea, here’s the Mediterranean. They were going to come up in an attack from the south. By the time of Joshua they had fiddled around for forty years, and then they came in this way. In military warfare there are several principles that have to be followed for victory. One of them is you have to command the high ground, because you can shoot down. In Israel there’s mountains that run down like this, that’s the high ground in Israel. Whoever controls the high ground controls the land. This is why Israel is putting settlements in the eastern part of the land, because the Israeli army, for years, has always had to fight off the low ground, and they’ve taken casualties trying to fight up. If you go to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv you realize why it says going up to Jerusalem, because you go up to the high ground of Jerusalem. There’s plaque after plaque on that road of Jewish boys that died in 1948 fighting their way up that road; many soldiers died on that road to get to the high ground.
Joshua is coming in from the east, and he has to capture the high ground. If you follow the campaigns in the Bible, his plan is to secure high ground just west of this entry point, then he’s going to move north, and he’s going to move south along the high ground, a classic military tactic. Spiritual application: Where is Jesus Christ in His resurrection body, relative to Satan? He’s on the high ground. The gateway to the high ground across this valley was guarded by a city called Jericho. That was the fortress that was the gate, so that gate had to be breached in order to get the army onto the high ground. Joshua knows that, he’s getting his soldiers to come up to that point.
In Joshua 5:13 we have a strange conversation. What’s going on here? Why in the middle of this invasion of the high ground and at this fortress city do we have this conversation? Why is that conversation the way it is? Joshua 5:13-14, “Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand, and Joshua went to him and said to him, ‘Are you for us or for our adversaries?’  And he said, ‘No, rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the LORD.’ And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, “What has my lord to say to his servant?’  And the captain of the LORD’s host said to Joshua, ‘Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.’ And Joshua did so.” Who is that? That’s the preincarnate Jesus Christ. There’s an Old Testament Theophany of the angel of Jehovah who shows up often as a man. But what’s striking about the conversation.
First, notice verse 13, Joshua is like a sentry on duty, he has soldiers over here and he sees somebody over here and he challenges the authority, there’s only two principles at war, whose side are you on. The question we want to play with in our heads a little bit is why did Jesus answer Joshua the way He did? Can you think of why He said that? He could have said, well, I’m on your side. Why instead did Jesus say that “I come as the captain of the host of the LORD,” in verse 14? He does not answer the interrogation question of Joshua. Now Joshua is the commander, he is the captain of the armies of the Lord. The Israeli soldier’s uniforms have the Hebrew letters that are translated IDF, which basically means Israel’s Defense Forces, but in Hebrew it says “the hosts of the land of Israel,” that’s the same Hebrew word. The word “hosts” means ranking, it means military groups. We get too religiously confined when we hear host, we think of the host of the Lord, the angels of the Lord and that kind of thing, but actually the word “host” is a military term and it means a group, a regiment, divisions, and this is why the angels are said to be in hosts because the angels apparently have military rank, they’re organized into sub organizations with ranking structures in them.
Can anyone guess what is going on in verses 13-14, why that particular conversation? How do we explain that funny response that Joshua gets? [someone answers] Yes, the question in verse 13, remember we said don’t answer loaded questions, like how many times did you beat your wife last week, because no matter how you answer it you’ve incriminated yourself because you’ve already bought into the structure behind the question. There are some questions we ought not to answer. We redefine the question and then we answer the redefined question. That’s what’s so wrong with a lot of the public school examinations, where they force Christian kids to answer some stupid question that’s already loaded against the Christian position. Imagine in verse 13, [Clough raises his voice] Are you for us or are you for them? Who’s in authority? Joshua is. The issue then immediately in verse 14 becomes who is outranking who in this issue. What Jesus Christ in preincarnate form says is that I have the rank over the armies of Israel, you serve Me, so I don’t answer to your interrogation, you’re a nice guy, good general and all that, but I don’t answer to you, you answer to Me. Isn’t it striking that as this war begins one of the fundamental points that is made right in the text, we haven’t even got to the battle of Jericho yet, but what question is solved right up front—WHO is in authority around here? And it’s Jesus Christ who is in authority, not Joshua.
After that grand question is settled, then we go into the tactics, and then He gives Joshua the most bizarre set of instructions that an army has ever seen. You know the story, going around Jericho. What in Joshua 6:16 I want you to look at a verb tense. When you study the Bible one of the things that you always want to ask yourself is the tense of the main verb. Is it past, present or future? Look at the verb in verse 16, “And it came to pass at the seventh time” they walked around Jericho, “when the priests blew the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, ‘Shout! For the LORD” for Jehovah or Yahweh, “has given you the city.” What tense verb is used? Past tense! Had they been given the city yet? Not historically, not temporally, but the reason that verb is past tense is because in the mind of God it’s been done, so it’s just a mopping up operation from here on out, the main thing has been done, I’ve given it to you. Joshua recognizes that because he’s submissive to the authority and the whole thing just unravels on the Jericho people, all because, starting from the Commander in Chief in 5:14 there is a submission to the authority of Jesus Christ. And then the whole thing just ripples down through.
We learn out of that something that’s very interesting. God gave a test at this point, because this is their first battle, they’re going to have many battles along this high ground, we’ll study some of them but this is the first battle they face in this generation. The other battles were when Moses was living and Joshua was a young man, now Moses is dead, Joshua is an older man, Joshua is now in charge and this is his first battle. So it’s very important that these believers understand what it is to do spiritual warfare in such a dramatic way that the lessons picked up won’t be bad habits picked up. When you get victory in war sometimes you learn the wrong lesson.
I’m afraid that we in America have learned the wrong lesson; in Desert Storm it wasn’t even a contest, it was such a clear overwhelming victory, but the sad thing most people don’t realize is everything was perfect. We’ve never had a case that somebody was so stupid as to try to start a war and give us 6 months training time right in the environment. We could do all the training we needed, for six months guys could do nothing but drill, drill, practice airplane runs, practice tank runs, etc. until they were so tired of practicing they wanted the war to get it over with. We were in a desert environment and the electro optical smart weapons work great in a desert environment; they don’t work great in a European environment where there are clouds, smoke and rain. So everything worked fine and we can get a very arrogant attitude, oh, we could do that again. No we can’t, now we don’t even have an army left, we are not the 10th largest army in the world, ten other nations have larger at this point than the U.S. does. That’s where we’ve come.
You can learn the wrong lesson. God doesn’t want them to learn the wrong lesson, so at Jericho He gives them a lesson in military tactics that He wants them to carry up here, so regardless of what the strategies are, whatever the weapons are on down through this high ground campaign to the north, and high ground campaign to the south, they’re going to have different battles, but He wants them to remember something up here, because this is where the battle stops, this is where the [blank spot] … we have a gun, the practice bang, it works and the guy drops dead, we did it. So there’s a subtle thing that begins to happen, oh, cause/effect, this is just pushing buttons, no problem, I don’t have to rely on God to push buttons. So we get so enamored with ordinary cause/effect that it masks our dependency on the Lord. From time to time God asks us to do some stupid things, and this is what so scary because sometimes in the Christian life He does, He asks you to do stupid things. But if I do this it won’t cause that—just do this; but, but, but, it won’t do that—just DO THIS!
So what He has them do is this inane walking around the city. Can you imagine their army? If you were a dramatist you could have a ball, videos showing these guys on the walls of Jericho, ha-ha, look at these clowns out there, and watching them do this ceremony. Except for the seventh time they weren’t laughing. So the lesson, bottom of page 81, and this is where I point out that so many of the classic Christian devotional writers go back to this strange section of the Bible, this Old Testament period of the conquest, for their spiritual lessons to the Christian life. Thomas Scott, an old writer, very classical, says: “When the Lord effects His purposes by such means and instruments as we deem adequate, our views are apt to terminate upon them, and to overlook Him ‘who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will.’ To obviate this propensity, the Lord sometimes deviates from the common tract and works by methods or instruments which in themselves appear not at all suited to produce the intended effect; nay, sometimes have no real connection with it.” I think we can see that at this point God has taught their army a lesson.
Now we come to the next event, and the next event is their defeat at Ai. If you turn to page 82 in the notes we’ll go through some of the highlights of that, because next time we want to get into the longest day and the other events. They learned a lesson…or did they? The book of Joshua has a structure it. I give you that structure on page 82, and if we were teaching Joshua verse by verse we’d see the structure. Notice the three steps. (1) “Yahweh said,” and I give a whole bunch of verses, in other words, every time a major event happens in the book of Joshua it has this form to it, “Yahweh says.” The second thing is, “and Joshua did,” notice the verses I give you. Yahweh said, 3:7-8; Joshua did, 3:9-13. Yahweh said, 4:15; Joshua did, 4:4-7, 17-18, see what I’m doing, I’m just showing you that every event has this form to it, “Yahweh said, Joshua did,” and “the people did.” The author is the Holy Spirit and when He writes Scripture this way He intends it to teach us something. He’s teaching us a pattern of how he works. God said, Joshua did and the people did! What is interesting if you do a vocabulary search you’ll notice that in chapter 7 the pattern is broken, Yahweh doesn’t say, Joshua doesn’t do, and the armies are defeated.
The very grammar of Joshua 7 doesn’t follow the grammar of the other chapters. That tells us there’s something terribly wrong at Ai. Ai is one of the cities up on this high ground, here’s Ai west of Jericho. It was important that they conquer Ai. We know what happened; there was a man who had taken booty, the sin of Achan. They weren’t supposed to take booty. Why do you suppose armies classically took booty? By the U.S. can at least go down in history as the fact that when we conquered peoples we did not rape them of all their resources, we gave it back to them ten-fold; at least we can have that as a pleasant picture and we can be proud of that as Americans. But why historically do you think armies took booty? To pay their soldiers. They had to have income, war costs money; they had to pay their soldiers, they had to have food, they had to make up for personnel losses, and they had to have some money. What does that imply? If the Hebrew army marches into this land and acts like a pagan army and takes booty, what are they confessing? What would that policy show? That God doesn’t supply their needs. See the spiritual lessons in all this. That’s why the heathen read this section of Scripture and they get all bent out of shape because all they see is the battle. They haven’t got the spiritual eyes to see the details of what’s going on in the text.
The idea of the booth isn’t just theft, that’s trivial, it’s not a fact issue, it’s a faith issue! These guys aren’t trusting the Lord to supply their need; we’ve got to get some extra goodies while we’re at it. And God says no, you’re not going to get any goodies, if I allow you to get goodies you’re going to start the next battle you go into, half the army is going to be looting. And then after that you’ve learned a lesson that I don’t supply your need, you can supply your own need, and when you get to that you’ve already compromised your whole spiritual life, so I’m not going to let you do that. So this is why we have the lesson of Ai. And this is why on page 82, “This pattern is missing 7:1-5. Clearly, the Holy Spirit is warning us through the Ai event that it matters more to God that we obey Him from the heart than that we mind the externals. Without private obedience, public appearances are mere pseudo-obedience. God will not honor ‘faking’ it with superficial and phony social re while our hearts rebel against Him.” That’s the lesson at Ai.
It’s so easy because there’s pressure, there’s social pressure, we generate it ourselves, there’s social pressure to behave certain ways. I’m not saying that that’s wrong but here we are, going through life and there are other people out here watching, and we feel pressure, we feel pressure that we have to act certain ways, peer pressure. Everybody out of Jr. High knows that. And the problem with it is that if we learn to respond to that as the motive, all we’re doing is we’ve created a pseudo-identity outside here, we’re projecting what we want people to be pleased with onto them, and we’re not dealing with this. And that’s what God wants to deal with. So the Christian life, in this sense, if we look at these Old Testament lessons it’s in one sense very relaxing because God wants us to be “us.” He knows all about our sin, He died for it so He knows all about our crud, so there’s no reason to be phony because He knows all about that, so we can be honest with Him. That doesn’t mean spill our guts to everybody, but it does mean that the Bible places the emphasis upon our relationship with Him, and what other people think; well let them think what they want to think. That’s the issue there.
In Ai they went through all the motions, had the army in place, went through all the military tactics, but what did they forget? What God said to their heart, and they paid a price, and they were defeated.
Next week we’ll deal the day at Aijalon and if you want to read ahead, that’s Joshua 9-10, and then skip to Judges 1-2. Those are the sections for next time, and after that we’ll get how this all ties together in a coherent picture for sanctification in the Christian life.
… like he works today and the answer is no. I was trying to answer the question, I can’t remember the verse, it’s in the Gospel of John, but Jesus made it very clear one day when this question came up about the Holy Spirit, it’s probably somewhere in John 14 because that’s when He was expounding the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. He said He has been with you, but now He will be in you. He uses two distinct prepositions, so prior to Pentecost the Holy Spirit had a kind of ministry; after Pentecost entirely different. That’s why we get into this question, are we going to get into dispensational distinctions. Some people wondered what a dispensational distinction is and I said we’d get to that, but this is the kind of thing that’s involved in those dispensational distinctions that God has certain ways He works in different ages of history. Right now we’re looking at how He works politically in a theocracy with Israel. He doesn’t work that way in the Church. In the Church it’s a different story, and the reason is because the Church is not a theocracy, the Church is independent believers in many nations, many national cultures. Israel was all one culture, so there are differences. There were certain laws, civil laws that had to be followed. God doesn’t give civil laws to the Church, what He gives us is wisdom so that hopefully if we have any influence socially we can reconstruct our society somewhat after the pattern of Scripture.
For example, God doesn’t have a covenant with the United States. He had a covenant with Israel but He’s not in contract to the United States. I’ll tell you one verse that we are fond of quoting and we really quote it out of context, particularly in the fall elections. 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn form their wicked says, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” If you look in context, that’s not talking to the Church. Now I understand, the principle is praying for your country, and that’s 1 Timothy 2, so the principle really isn’t wrong, but that verse is not addressed to the United States of America. That is a verse, the people in that verse refers to the nation Israel, and in the context of that verse it’s talking about the contractual obligations of the cursings and the blessings in the Deuteronomic code. That’s the context. Another example of that, Jesus in the Lord’s prayer says we shall pray “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” and we refer to that, but remember the Church didn’t exist when Jesus prayed that prayer, and the kingdom, if we were believers, Jewish believers and we were sitting here and He said something like that, do you know what would come to our mind. Not the Church, when He said “Thy kingdom, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” we would think of the literal political millennial kingdom coming to pass, because we wouldn’t know anything else, that’s the word kingdom to us as Jews living at that time period.
So “Thy kingdom come” in the Lord’s Prayer is a prayer to accelerate the force of history to get to this period when good will be separated from evil. We can pray that same principle, it’s just that there are nuances to these things, and to get back to the original question, the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament worked in ways different than He does in the New Testament. Some ways that He worked differently are physical. The Holy Spirit worked with carpenters, the same words “the Spirit came upon” so and so, you look at when they were building the ark, it says the Holy Spirit came upon the carpenters and they sawed the wood and hammered the nails. Wait a minute, that’s a funny ministry of the Holy Spirit. Was it? What were they building? They were building a sacred piece of furniture that had to be perfectly constructed to mirror the ministry of Jesus Christ. So yes, the Holy Spirit came upon those carpenters. It just shows you the ramifications of what the Holy Spirit can do, He can get construction work done, He can do all kinds of things, but His ministries back then were different.
Another example, exciting example in the book of Judges is His ministry with Samson. Samson is one of my favorite characters out of the Bible. I’ve never seen him portrayed correctly. They always picture him as some sort of playboy. The Scripture doesn’t tell us much what Samson looked like, but Samson’s whole role in his life was to be a goon that started wars. It’s very interesting, he was called to be a trouble maker, and the Holy Spirit worked in his life to make him a troublemaker. The point was that the Jews in that part of the book of Judges were amalgamating dangerously, they had settled down and began to peacefully coexist with the Philistines, they became passive to the Philistines. Even Samson, morally and spiritually, and this is the point I want to make about the ministry in Samson’s life, the Holy Spirit’s ministry in Samson’s life was not on a high plain.
Samson wasn’t on a high spiritual plain for sure, but the Holy Spirit’s ministry in his life was in a different sense, that that man had to do certain things in his life, whether he was spiritual or not, and that’s hard for us because the Holy Spirit is so aligned in our heads in the way He works with us in the New Testament, His work is so embedded with us in our spiritual understanding it’s hard for us to conceive of Him working in a goon, in somebody that really the Holy Spirit’s work isn’t so much in his heart as it’s through his body and through the circumstances, through the providences in his life. He’s a rebel from the time he’s a teenager, he goes and tells his parents who he’s going to marry, explicit commandments in the Scripture not to intermarry with the culture, for good reasons, and he goes ahead and does it anyway. His parents don’t like it, he could care less about his parents, he just does what he wants to.
That’s the whole story of his life, I do what I want to, including his very last moment, when he gets in that magnificent scene where he’s had his eyes punched out and he’s suddenly released and they’re going to mock him, and to his dying breath he’s going to do it his way. And he will get vengeance upon them but the Lord works through his own vengeance, because remember he gets in this temple of Dagon and they’re going to make fun of this Hebrew prophet and he puts his arms around the pillars, and he says God, let me get my revenge for my eyes, and he pulls down the thing and destroys himself and all of them, and destroys the whole temple. In other words, the Holy Spirit did work in his life, the Holy Spirit was with Samson, but you can’t argue from that that everything about his life was admirable and a work of the Holy Spirit like we think of a work of the Holy Spirit. That’s the subtlety in the Old Testament. You’ve got to watch it when you see the Holy Spirit working in the Old Testament, don’t read the New Testament into those passages. Let those passages speak to yourself, just relax, don’t try to impose anything on them, just learn what it is the Holy Spirit’s doing there.
Question asked: Clough answers: Yes, very much so, even as a carpenter. The whole idea of this sacred piece of furniture, the ark, was to bring honor to Jesus Christ. And historically what has happened in the last 200 years of the church, that’s one of the problems with charismatic theology, that people’s hearts have been yearning for a deeper relationship with the Lord, unquestionable, and many believers who want to have a deeper relationship with the Lord are attracted to that, but what happens is that it becomes inward, it becomes subjective, it’s how you feel, and somehow the work of the Spirit is always translated into an internal feeling. That’s not what you get in Scripture. But it gets this way, and then finally what ultimately happens in many of these circles is that the manifestations of the Holy Spirit become famous unto themselves. The New Testament balance in the Trinity, it’s always this way, it’s the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit, one man taught me when I was a young Christian and I’ve always remembered this, if you can think of God the Father as the planner, God the Son as the actor, and the Holy Spirit as the back stage technician. The back stage technician isn’t interested in honor, he wants to make the actors and actresses on stage look good, that’s what he does, he handles the lights, he handles the curtains, he handles the sound effects, that’s what he does. He handles the background stuff to make Christ look neat, so that’s the balance. So whenever you see these things, the thing to think to yourself is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in balance, and the balance that you look for is that Christ always honors the Father, points to Him, but the Father Himself is not usually seen, it’s the Second Person of the Trinity that’s the center of our attention and occupation. Through Him He points us to the Father, but the One who is behind us, pushing us and opening our eyes and opening our hearts is the Holy Spirit, but He doesn’t glorify Himself, He glorifies Christ. In the Old Testament He did that, He honored Christ by honoring the typology, the furniture, the practices, the sacrifices, that’s all honoring what Christ wanted to have honored about Himself in the Old Testament.