By Asst Ps Lai Keet Keong
It would take at least 5 days of forced march for the Israelites to reach the Waters of Merom. One might wonder what went through the minds of the tired and exhausted troops as they track across the terrain. The last three battles were unforgettable. The battle of Jericho saw the enemy’s walls came tumbling down. The battle of Ai was tainted by a grave mistake. But God’s mercy redeemed them when the people repented. Then the battle at Gibeon saw one of the greatest miracles of all time. The sun stood still as Israel fought valiantly. What about the final battle at the Waters of Merom?
Here, Israel would face the northern Canaanite alliance, led by Jabin the wise. He was the ruler of Hazor, a fortified city. The alliance commanded a huge army of cavalries and chariots, fitted with spiked wheels, state-of-the-art technology, and seasoned fighters as numerous as sands on the seashore. Just then Joshua stood intrepidly before the Israelites and declared the words from God, which says, “Do not be afraid of them, because by this time tomorrow I will hand all of them over to Israel, slain.” (Joshua 11:6) The mobilization was swift and immediate. They were geared up to overrun the enemies and to complete the conquest of the promised land.
Just as every battle had lessons to be learnt, the final battle would contain some of the most valuable lessons Israelites need to learn that will guide them for the rest of their days.
1. Signs of Spiritual Maturity
Compared to the past three battles, the final battle proves to be the most difficult. That is because, there are no miracles this time. No hands of God to tear down the enemies’ defences. No pillars of fire to point them the way. The time for hand holding is over. Just the words of God that said, “Do not be afraid of them.”
My friends, when you find yourselves facing tougher challenges than before, do not be surprised. Sometimes this is a sign that you have grown! You have matured and are ready for greater things. This is God saying, “My child, I am entrusting you with more challenging tasks, because I have faith in you!” However, God will never leave you nor forsake you. Be assured that the more challenging the task is, the more God’s grace and strength will see you through.
2. Seal of Obedient Faith
Despite overwhelming odds, Joshua went ahead to attack the enemy stronger than them. He was not being presumptuous. Instead, this was a demonstration of obedient faith. Joshua acted on the vision and promise that God gave to them. God also commanded them to hamstring the enemies’ horses and burn their chariots. This is to teach the Israelites that they were not to depend on military superiority or their own wisdom. Their victory lies in obedience to God.
We see the same pattern in the account of the Gideon’s 300. Recall when Jesus sent the 72 disciples to preach the good news, they were instructed to depend on God alone for their sustenance. This does not mean that we do not work hard. What it does mean is we ought to rely on God to direct our decision and plans. Psalms 20:7 declared, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”
3. Song of Enduring Commitment
It was estimated that Israel took 7 years to complete the conquest of Canaan. The final victory was not achieved overnight. We do not overcome challenges simply because we work at it for a few months or pray for a few times. Often, God’s work requires perseverance and enduring commitment.
In the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Jamaican Usain Bolt broke the 100m Olympic record time in 9.69 seconds. A study was conducted, and gait analysis revealed that Bolt took merely 41 steps for the 100m instead of the usual 44 steps other athletes took. This meant that every leap Bolt made covered a distance of 2.44m! While most athletes can make a leap of 2.4 meters, but to do so continuously for more than 40 times required enduring commitment!
My dear friends, when you encounter increasing difficulties, sometimes there is no problem with the vision or your plans. They are signs of your spiritual growth. When that happens, do not be discouraged but walk in faith and obedience. Rely on God who called you for He is faithful indeed. By His grace, He will accomplish it. (1 Thessalonians 5:24) In addition, endure in your commitment! Do not give up and do not be disheartened. As a community of faith, we are here for one another. Let us unite our hearts and persevere for the long haul. The Lord will grant us the final victory.