Brothers and Sisters,
I’d like to return to yesterday’s devotional and the account of Joshua leading Israel into the conquest of Canaan. You’ll recall that we heard then about one of God’s mighty acts in Joshua’s time, namely the drying up of the Jordan River as the Israelites walked across. That act had an immediate and devastating effect on Israel’s enemies. We read this in Joshua 5:1 (NASB):
Now it came about when all the kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan to the west, and all the kings of the Canaanites who were by the sea, heard how the LORD had dried up the waters of the Jordan before the sons of Israel until they crossed, that their hearts melted, and there was no spirit in them any longer because of the sons of Israel.
Israel’s enemies – God’s enemies – grew fearful and dispirited when they heard about God’s mighty act at the Jordan River. This was due in no small part to their prior knowledge of God’s work forty years earlier at the Red Sea with the Egyptians, and his work perhaps only months prior with the Amorite kings Sihon and Og (Joshua 2:8-11). Now, with the Jordan drying up before Israel, the kings of the Amorites and the Canaanites saw that same hand of the Lord moving against them. If you read the rest of Joshua, you’ll see how Israel is unstoppable (and unconquerable) when they walk in faithfulness after Yahweh according to his mighty acts.
What does this have to do with us? Well, much, but only one point of which I’ll touch on here. In yesterday’s devotional I likened the drying up of the Jordan to divine “child’s play” in comparison with God’s mighty act at the cross. Consider then this thought: If God’s mighty act at the Jordan caused the hearts of Israel’s enemies to melt and their spirits to fail, then what must the far greater act at the cross do to the church’s enemies? How must the cross affect the enemies who oppose Jesus’ followers? Let’s be clear here. When we say, “Enemies of the church,” we mean in particular Satan and his demons against whom we struggle. Paul makes that quite apparent in Ephesians 6. People may set themselves up as enemies of Christ, but we need not treat them as our own foes. We can treat them (indeed, we must treat them) as precious creatures created in God’s image whose rebellion against their loving Creator desperately needs to end. No, our struggle lies against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12b, NASB). So, what must God’s mighty act at the cross do to such enemies? The answer can only be that it does to them what God’s mighty act at the Jordan did to the pagan kings and peoples of Canaan. The cross must melt the hearts of our spiritual foes and cause their wicked spirit to quail in fear. In fact, it did (and does) that and more! Here’s how Paul puts it, speaking of what God did in and through Jesus’ death on the cross: When He [God] had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him [Jesus]” (Colossians 2:15). The words Paul uses here for “rulers” and “authorities” are the same terms that show up in Ephesians 6 when he speaks of demonic powers. At the cross, God not only disheartened Satan and his minions, he disarmed them.
So then, as followers of Jesus we battle a disheartened and disarmed enemy. Praise God! That doesn’t mean the battle isn’t and won’t be fierce. Satan and his demons can still punch. They can still deceive. They can still bite, and claw, and kick. But need that worry us? We have access to God’s sword, his written Word, a double-edged sword that can meet any assault and expose any lie (Hebrews 4:12). Like Israel of old, when we walk faithfully after Jesus according to God’s mighty acts, we are unbeatable. Such confidence leaves us no excuse to not carry the fight into every dark corner of the globe, into every darkened heart, until everywhere God’s kingdom reigns supreme in the day of Christ Jesus.
Take up your sword this week, attentive first to your own heart, and battle well.
Love in Christ,