Thursday, September 4, 2014

God Fights For and Chastens His People (Joshua 23:3, 9-13)

Joshua 23

King James Version (KJV)

And ye have seen all that the Lord your God hath done unto all these nations because of you; for the Lord your God is he that hath fought for you. ...
For the Lord hath driven out from before you great nations and strong: but as for you, no man hath been able to stand before you unto this day.
10 One man of you shall chase a thousand: for the Lord your God, he it is that fighteth for you, as he hath promised you.
11 Take good heed therefore unto yourselves, that ye love the Lord your God.
12 Else if ye do in any wise go back, and cleave unto the remnant of these nations, even these that remain among you, and shall make marriages with them, and go in unto them, and they to you:
13 Know for a certainty that the Lord your God will no more drive out any of these nations from before you; but they shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off this good land which the Lord your God hath given you.


When God is on a nation's side, the odds are insignificant; if God so wills, one man can chase down a thousand. This is because God has all power, and He controls all things, including things on this earth. While it is often the case that numerical advantage has its benefits, it is not always the case; strength in numbers is not the ultimate advantagebut God's strength is. 

As the book of Hebrews says,
And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions. Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. (Hebrews 11:32-34)

David, of course, slew the mighty giant Goliath by the power of God, Who delivered Goliath into David's hand (1 Samuel 17:49-51). As David says before slaying Goliath:
Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. 
This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. 
And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord's, and he will give you into our hands. (1 Samuel 17:45b-47)
Gideon and his mere 300 men set to flight the host of Midian after God turned the swords of the Midianites against one another (Judges 7:18-22). Then there is Samsonwho, after the Spirit of God came upon him, became a one-man army who slew a thousand Philistines with simply the jawbone of an ass (Judges 15:14, 15). 

The great military commander Oliver Cromwell understood this great truth that Godnot numbersis the ultimate military advantage. Writing about Cromwell and the English Civil Wars, Cromwellian scholar Blair Worden states:
Repeatedly after his victories Cromwell urged parliament to 'give God all the glory' for them. Repeatedly he lamented man's tendency to attribute military success not to the Lord himself but to his 'weak instrument', a sin which robbed God of the 'glory' and 'praise' which were his due.[1] 'God is not enough owned' in parliament's victories, complained Cromwell in 1645; 'we look too much to men and visible helps: this hath much hindered our success'.[2] Man's vanity and ingratitude in triumph might incite the Lord to limit, even to withdraw, his favour. Jeremiah 17:5, 'Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord', was a favourite text of Puritan and Cromwellian politics. It was God that gave courage and skill to his troops, who were helpless without him. It was God who pierced the enemy's counsels, God who 'infatuated' the royalists and hardened their hearts and lulled them into overconfidence. During the siege of York in 1644, parliamentarians, though invited to be grateful to God for giving their forces there, 'as a meanes', a numerical advantage, were simultaneously warned to 'put not confidence' in it, an error that would 'provoke God'.[3] Sometimes the Lord pointedly placed his forces at an initial disadvantage, in numbers or in the site of battle. After the victory at Preston in 1648, Cromwell requested the Commons to reflect on 'the disparity of forces on both sides; that so you may see, and all the world acknowledge, the great hand of God in this business'.[4] The triumphs of 'our armies' in that year, achieved against all the odds, persuaded John Owen that 'their work was done in heaven before they began it. ... The work might have been done by children, though he was pleased to employ such worthy instruments. They see, I doubt not, their own nothingness in his all-sufficiency.'[5] Soldiers who won after staring defeat in the face liked to observe that 'our extremity was God's opportunity to magnify his power'.[6] Dunbar, where triumph was snatched from defeat, prompted a spate of such reflections. The Lord, exclaimed the minister Sidrach Simpson to Cromwell, 
hath stepped out of heaven to raise those who were even as dead, and to judge his adversaries ... he is a God mighty in battell, in wisedome going beyond the subtility of man ... he hath by a few, weake, weaned ones, that the mighty might not glory in their might, but in himself alone. ... You were before too many, too vigorous when you smote your adversaries. Till you had felt all that the colde earth, and want of provisions in a strange countrey, could doe to you (wherein [the enemy] so much trusted for a conquest) it was not tyme for God to put to his hand.[7]
Cromwell's intimate ally Oliver St John agreed: God had delayed the battle until the enemy, 'relying uppon and bosting in the arme of flesh, [had become too] confident ... therefore hath the Lord soe ordered the busines, that wee may see it was not our owne sword, nor our owne bow, but his right hand, and his holy arme that hath gotten us the victory.[8]
However, disobedience can easily lead to the chastisement of God's people at the hand of other nations. For instance, in Judges 2 we read:
And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim:
And they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the Lord to anger.
And they forsook the Lord, and served Baal and Ashtaroth.
And the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel, and he delivered them into the hands of spoilers that spoiled them, and he sold them into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies.
Whithersoever they went out, the hand of the Lord was against them for evil, as the Lord had said, and as the Lord had sworn unto them: and they were greatly distressed. (Judges 2:11-15)

Judges 3 describes how God strengthened Eglon, king of Moab against Israel:
And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord: and the Lord strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the Lord.
And he gathered unto him the children of Ammon and Amalek, and went and smote Israel, and possessed the city of palm trees. (Judges 3:12, 13)

After the South was defeated in the War Between the States, Robert Lewis Dabney said that "A righteous God, for our sins towards Him, has permitted us to be overthrown by our enemies and His."[9] 

During the War Between the States, James H. Thornwell submitted a paper in December 1861 to the first General Assembly of the Southern Presbyterian Church at Augusta, Georgia, to petition the Congress of the Confederate States of America to recognize in its constitution Jesus Christ as the highest political authority. 

But while the Confederate Constitution acknowledged God, it would never specifically acknowledge the name of Jesus Christ. And, while only God knows the reason why He didn't grant the South victory, perhaps it was for this reason; a refusal to "Kiss the Son," per Psalm 2. As Thornwell's paper states:
God is the ruler among the nations; and the people who refuse Him their allegiance shall be broken with a rod of iron, or dashed in pieces like a potter's vessel. Our republic will perish like the Pagan republics of Greece and Rome, unless we baptize it into the name of Christ. "Be wise now, therefore, 0 ye kings; be instructed, ye judges of the earth; kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little."[10] [editor's note: from Psalm 2:10, 12a; verse 11 is omitted]


[1] W. C. Abbott, ed., Writings and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell, 4 vols (Cambridge, MA: 1937-47), i. 360, 365, 505-6, ii. 38, 124-5, 127, 143, 144, 160, 171, 235, 261, 262, 325, 330, 377, iii. 54, 71, iv. 871. Cited in Blair Worden, God's Instruments: Political Conduct in the England of Oliver Cromwell (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2012, 2013), 40.
[2] Abbott, Writings and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell, i. 340. Cited Worden, God's Instruments, 40.
[3] The Scottish Dove 17 May 1644, 246. Cited in Worden, God's Instruments, 41.
[4] Abbott, i. 637-8. Cited in Worden, God's Instruments, 41.
[5] W. H. Goold, ed., The Works of John Owen, 24 vols (1850-5), viii. 97-8. Cited in Worden, God's Instruments, 41.
[6] The Parliamentary or Constitutional History of England, 24 vols (1752-63) ('Old Parliamentary History'), xiii. 286. Cited in Worden, God's Instruments, 41.
[7] Cited in Worden, God's Instruments, 41.
[8] Cited in Ibid.
[9] Robert Lewis Dabney, 
A Defence of Virginia: And Through Her, of the South, in Recent and Pending Contests Against the Sectional Party (NY: E. J. Hale & Son, 1867), 356.
Dr. James H. Thornwell, "Relation of the State to Christ," Christian Nation, 19 February 1902, 3.