Sermon for Sunday, November 13th, 2022 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
Old Testament reading:
[Deu 11:18-25 ESV] 18 “You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 19 You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 20 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, 21 that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth. 22 For if you will be careful to do all this commandment that I command you to do, loving the LORD your God, walking in all his ways, and holding fast to him, 23 then the LORD will drive out all these nations before you, and you will dispossess nations greater and mightier than you. 24 Every place on which the sole of your foot treads shall be yours. Your territory shall be from the wilderness to the Lebanon and from the River, the river Euphrates, to the western sea. 25 No one shall be able to stand against you. The LORD your God will lay the fear of you and the dread of you on all the land that you shall tread, as he promised you.
New Testament reading:
[Rom 8:31-39 ESV] 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
[Jhn 10:22-28 ESV] 22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
Text for the Sermon:
[Jos 10:1-15 ESV] 1 As soon as Adoni-zedek, king of Jerusalem, heard how Joshua had captured Ai and had devoted it to destruction, doing to Ai and its king as he had done to Jericho and its king, and how the inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel and were among them, 2 he feared greatly, because Gibeon was a great city, like one of the royal cities, and because it was greater than Ai, and all its men were warriors. 3 So Adoni-zedek king of Jerusalem sent to Hoham king of Hebron, to Piram king of Jarmuth, to Japhia king of Lachish, and to Debir king of Eglon, saying, 4 “Come up to me and help me, and let us strike Gibeon. For it has made peace with Joshua and with the people of Israel.” 5 Then the five kings of the Amorites, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, and the king of Eglon, gathered their forces and went up with all their armies and encamped against Gibeon and made war against it. 6 And the men of Gibeon sent to Joshua at the camp in Gilgal, saying, “Do not relax your hand from your servants. Come up to us quickly and save us and help us, for all the kings of the Amorites who dwell in the hill country are gathered against us.” 7 So Joshua went up from Gilgal, he and all the people of war with him, and all the mighty men of valor. 8 And the LORD said to Joshua, “Do not fear them, for I have given them into your hands. Not a man of them shall stand before you.” 9 So Joshua came upon them suddenly, having marched up all night from Gilgal. 10 And the LORD threw them into a panic before Israel, who struck them with a great blow at Gibeon and chased them by the way of the ascent of Beth-horon and struck them as far as Azekah and Makkedah. 11 And as they fled before Israel, while they were going down the ascent of Beth-horon, the LORD threw down large stones from heaven on them as far as Azekah, and they died. There were more who died because of the hailstones than the sons of Israel killed with the sword. 12 At that time Joshua spoke to the LORD in the day when the LORD gave the Amorites over to the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, “Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.” 13 And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies. Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in the midst of heaven and did not hurry to set for about a whole day. 14 There has been no day like it before or since, when the LORD heeded the voice of a man, for the LORD fought for Israel. 15 So Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, to the camp at Gilgal.
I. What has happened to Jerusalem?
What has happened to Jerusalem? It once was the residence of Melchizedek, the priest-king of the God. But now is run by Adoni-zedek. The priest-king Melchizedek was a type of Christ who himself was the greatest high priest and the king of kings. And his name meant “the king of righteousness.” And in the Book of Genesis we find that he is king of Salem, the king of peace, in the place that would be later known as Jerusalem. Psalm 76 equates “Salem” with “Zion” which is a mountain there in Jerusalem. So it is well thought that Salem and Jerusalem are one and the same.
And now in Jerusalem we find Adoni-zedek, meaning “the Lord is righteous.” But this Canaanite king was no believer in the God of Israel. Unlike the Gibeonites who have realized the inevitable in God’s plan and have joined the Israelites, this King of Jerusalem Adoni-Zedek continues the fight. He in fact leads not only the people of Jerusalem into battle, but convinces four other kings and their people into battle against Israel.
So what happened to Jerusalem, once the seat of Melchizedek? He lived say about 1900 BC, and now in Joshua’s conquest of the land takes place about 1400 BC, around 500 years later. So that is a long time interval. Twice the length of the history of our nation.
Unfortunately, there is no mention of the place between the Book of Genesis and the Book of Joshua. In fact, here is Joshua 10 is the first time in the Bible that the word “Jerusalem” (Yerushalayam) is found.
We find later in Joshua 18 that Jerusalem is also called “Jebus” and it is where the Jebusites live. And in Judges we find that the Jebusites are not driven out of the land and so remained there in Israelite rule. Then in David’s time Jerusalem becomes the seat of his reign and continues to be the place from where later kings reign.
Well in all of these we can see that even a “holy” city like Jerusalem has its ups and down. In its heights under Melchizedek and under David it was a city that worshipped the Lord God. In its lowest periods it was ruled by Canaanites and by Romans and by Muslims; none of whom worshipped the True God.
II. The Defeat of the Allied Kings
Now in our account from Joshua the five kings—including Adoni-zedek of Jerusalem—have gathered for battle. And it is interesting that they are not attacking the Israelites but rather the Gibeonites! Apparently they think of their cousins as traitors and want to make an example out of them. An example not to make peace with Israel.
The armies of the five kings are encamped against the Gibeonites, but the Gibeonites get the word out to Israel that they need assistance.
We find now just how strong this covenant is that Joshua agreed to. Previously it was just in word, but now it is in deed. Joshua sends the mighty men of valor, the army of Israel, to the rescue of the Gibeonites. They march all night and surprise the armies of the five kings sending them into a panicked retreat. And the Israelites chop them down as they flee.
In their flight the enemy has to ascend over a mountain pass at Beth-horon and descend on the other side. And as they are descending, chased by the Israelites, the Lord God adds to their calamity, wiping them out with large hailstones. And, the text tells, more died from the hailstones than from the sword of the Israelites. That is, the victory is the Lord’s.
And we need to be clear, ALL of the deaths are because of the Lord. Directly in the case of the hail, indirectly in the case of the men of valor.
But the large hailstones are not the only miracle here. There are two. And both of them come from above. First is the hailstones then is the stopping of the Sun itself. These are physically above the people but also spiritually “from above” as they come from God.
III. The Sun Stopped in the Midst of Heaven
So we find that the Lord made the Sun to stand still. This presumably was to give more time for the destruction of the enemies of Israel.
And here has brought discussion among Biblical commentators and much doubt from liberal Christians and atheists alike.
A.W. Pink explains the history well saying this:
This is one of the favorite passages which infidels scoff at. Wise in their own conceits, they affirm that for such a thing to happen as is here recorded is contrary to science and philosophy. We do not propose to waste any time in replying to them. It was long ago pointed out by Bishop Watson, “The machine of the universe is in the hand of God, and He can stay the motion of any part, of of the whole, with less trouble than any of us can stop a watch.” – Pink, 282.
Indeed I don’t see why so much trouble has come from this passage. God, who made the world and everything in it, has no trouble making the Sun stand still, and no trouble doing it without disastrous effect on the earth or the people. The Lord our God is God even over physics. Newton and Einstein may observe the subject, but the Lord determines it and modifies it at His command.
There is an interesting note then in our text. Not a footnote, but an original comment from the author of the book of Joshua. About the event of the Sun standing still (and the moon too) he says “Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in the midst of heaven and did not hurry to set for about a whole day.”
WHAT is the Book of Jashar? Where is that in your Bible? Well indeed it is not there. Naturally the Hebrew people wrote more than just what we have in the Bible. And so there so-called “lost books” that the Scripture mention. The Book of Jashar or “the Book of the upright or just man” is one of these lost book known only from here and another reference in 2 Samuel 1:18.
Other books mentioned within the Bible include The Book of the Wars of the Lord, the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel and Chronicles of Kings of Judah, the Book of Shemaiah the Prophet and Visions of Iddo the Seer, among others.
But we must remember that the Lord put together the Bible as He saw fit, and that any of these lost books were lost for His good purposes and are not to be considered part of the Bible, even if someday they were to be found.
IV. What are Five Kings Against the One True God?
Well, back to the story.
So far we’ve seen the victory over one city-state at a time. But now, God takes out 5 nations with one storm of hailstones. Not two birds with one stone, but five nations with many stones.
Note that God responds to Joshua’s prayer. Recall that in the last chapter Joshua and the leaders of Israel overlooked seeking the Lord’s counsel. Now they are sure to do so. They reach out to the Lord and the Lord hears their prayer. Well, the text doesn’t tell of us Joshua’s prayer, but it does tell us that the Lord said to him, “Do not fear them, for I have given them into your hands.” Communication with the Lord has certainly resumed.
In the next section of Joshua these five kings are put to death. And another pile of stones is set upon them and the victory is won.
With this victory most of Southern Canaan is now controlled by Israel. Suddenly they have a great hold on the holy land.
There is much yet to be conquered, but the Lord has won much land for the people of Israel.
Is is clear that the Lord is on their side. All of their success has come about because of the Lord.
No doubt we should admit the same. While I have sinned, the LORD has won the victory. Over sin, over Satan, and over the world.
And so we gladly say like the hymn writer, “We are on the Lord’s side, Savior, we are thine.”
We gladly say this because we are on the winning side. The Lord’s side is the winning side.
[Romans 8] “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” What great confidence that brings us.
The Lord fights for Israel. The Lord fights for us.
And so we should heed the call later in Exodus 32:26 – Whoever is for the Lord, come to me.
We can liken the conquest of Canaan to the conquest of sin in our lives. It is the Lord’s miraculous work. Sometimes he works apart from us and sometimes He works in us and through us. Sometimes a single enemy is defeated and sometimes multiple enemies at the same time. But in its totality our sanctification, like the conquering of Canaan, is a process that take times, not a victory made it one fell swoop. The mortification of sin and the growth in holiness requires the winning of many battles. But in each and every battle the Lord is on our side and He wins the victory.
Application: The Responsibility of the Mature in Faith
I want to focus on one particularly application this week. The Responsibility of the Mature in Faith.
Joshua and the elders of Israel have walked with the Lord their whole lives. The Gibeonites have just now come into the community of the people of God though a covenant with them. Yes, it was based on deceit, but it was a covenant nonetheless. And the Israelites upheld the covenant. When the Gibeonites called for help, the Israelites responded in great measure.
This reminds of Paul’s teaching in Titus chapter 2. Paul tells the mature Christians to train those who are young. Now his words literally are about age. The older Christian is to teach the younger Christian. But no doubt this also applies in maturity. The Christian who is more mature is the faith is to teach him who is less mature in the faith.
Now, few in the church will raise their hand and say “I am less mature in the faith.” “I need help.” Most perhaps will think “I know the ways of the Lord… let me teach.”
And indeed literal teaching is included in Paul’s letter to Titus. He says “Older women … are to teach what is good and so train the young women.”
But frequently our training, especially the training from the mature in faith, to the new “baby” Christian is done not as much through written lessons but through prudent actions.
For one, the mature Christian MUST be patient. The mature Christian remembers their immaturity. The mature Christian realized their own continuing immaturity.
Then, the mature Christian prays over all things.
And the mature Christian counsels the younger Christian, showing patience in their actions and trust in God.
We see the old believer – the Israelites – fighting to defend the new believers – the Gibeonites. So too much the mature Christian defend the new Christian from the trouble of the world. Divert them from evil and lead them towards the good.
Take off which is evil, put on that which is good.
I see with my 1-year old that he grabs some item that is dangerous to him. Taking it away from him is nearly impossible and will result in a fit. But replacing the dangerous item with a safe one brings success and leads him to safety.
So it is the that the mature Christian should patiently help the immature to part with sinful ways and embrace more fully the faith.
Our sanctification is progressive. And for that reason we find that many older Christian have great sanctification. Many of their former sinful ways have been conquered by the Holy Spirit working in them.
And even though as sanctification progresses we find more and more sin down in our heart, we can recognize it because the Lord has indeed brought us closer to him. And seeing ourselves next to the holy God ever more clearly we know that we are sinners. But the Lord has mortified more of the sins of mature Christians and He has won the battle and over that they may say “I am on the Lord’s side.”
And so I want to conclude with two statements on this idea.
1. Those who have more maturity in the faith, look out for those who are younger. Do it with humility and patience, prayer and love. And did I mention patience? 🙂
2. And two, let us all look to those of mature faith in our own training in righteousness. Let us learn from those who have learned from the Lord.
And whether mature or young in the faith, let us say “We are on the Lord’s side.”