National Geographic once ran an article about the Alaskan Bull Moose. The males of the species battle for dominance during the fall breeding season, literally going head-to-head with antlers crunching together as they collide. Often the antlers, their only weapon, are broken. That ensures defeat. The heftiest moose, with the largest and strongest antlers, triumphs. Therefore, the battle fought in the fall is really won during the summer, when the moose eat continually. The one that consumes the best diet for growing antlers and gaining weight will be the heavyweight in the fight. Those that eat inadequately sport weaker antlers and less bulk. The Bull Moose has to learn the principle that strength for trials is best developed before it’s needed.
What is true for the Bull Moose is also true for us. Victory is not won during the battle. Victory is won during the preparation. If we want victory over the trials that will come our way, we must commit ourselves to holiness. Only then can we enjoy the protection and blessings that God promises.
In Joshua 5:1-15, Joshua learns four key principles about preparing for victory. He must recognize God’s providence, recommit himself to obey God’s plan, rejoice in God’s provision, and recognize God’s presence.
Recognize God’s Providence (1). The miracle of the parting of the Jordan River accomplished two key things. One is that the surrounding nations were completely intimidated. The second is that the enemy understood God was fighting for Israel. If we want victory, we must train our spiritual eyesight to see where God is already at work. Then we join him and participate in his plan.
Recommit yourself to obey God’s Plan (2-9). Israel now finds themselves between the flood swollen Jordan River and the city of Jericho. Rather than issue the order to attack, Joshua instructs the people to prepare themselves spiritually. In so doing, Joshua helps the people understand that they were facing a spiritual battle, not merely a physical one.
On the one hand, it seems odd that God would reinstitute the practice of circumcision at this point in time. If nothing else, Israel will be vulnerable while the men heal from the operation. On the other hand, since circumcision was the sign of the Abrahamic covenant, Israel needed to reaffirm their relationship with God before they could claim the covenant land. They also needed to be circumcised before they could celebrate the Passover.
Since the nature of our battle is spiritual, it requires that we not only prepare our bodies and minds, but that we prepare our hearts to obey.
Rejoice in God’s Provision (10-12). Now that they have reaffirmed their commitment to God, Israel could celebrate the Passover in their new home. God stopped providing their daily provision of manna and the people started living off the land.
Sometimes God provides through extraordinary means. Sometimes he provides through ordinary means. Sometimes he provides manna and sometimes he provides through the normal cycle of planting and harvesting. Either way, we need to discover that God’s grace is enough and we should give thanks.
Recognize God’s Presence (13-15). Feeling the lonely pressures of leadership, Joshua seemingly goes for a nighttime stroll near the city of Jericho. He encounters an unknown warrior and challenges him, “Friend or foe?” The warrior identifies himself as the Captain of the army of heaven.
Like Joshua, there are times when we ask, “Whose side is God on?” Instead, God asks us, “Whose side are you on?” Like Joshua, we need to learn to depend on God for success. We must come into his presence with humility and worship him. Only then do we discover that God is ready and willing to fight our battles for us.
Where do you need victory today? Are you dealing with a difficult boss? Are you facing opposition at school/home/work? Are you trying to share the gospel with a neighbor? Do you need strength in caring for a loved one?
Public victories are won in private. We must be spiritually prepared if we want to do God’s work effectively. We must commit ourselves to holiness if we want to enjoy God’s protection and blessings.
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on October 21, 2018. It is part of a series of sermons on the book of Joshua. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.