(Joshua 12:24) You ever feel like there is no end to the struggle. Even worse is when you get over one battle only to face another then another then another. The battles are relentless.
There’s a beautiful, natural wonder nestled in the mountains of southwest Virginia. It’s called Sand Cave. It is an awe-inspiring sight that is better scene than described. The grotto is a place that all should see but few do. The reason? The trek to the cave is at the very least a challenge. Halfway into the hike “challenge” becomes a very weak word. It’s not a long way from the parking lot to Sand Cave; less than five miles. But it’s what makes up those miles that make the journey such a trial of a trail. The first half of the hike is a constant uphill drag. Even when the path seems to flatten out there is always a bit of incline. When you finally reach the ridge and start your descent to the cave it is steep and the rocks strewn over the path are loose, making footing tricky. Sand Cave is fairly hidden at the bottom of a ravine but when you drop down the last steep decline the site explodes before you and you catch yourself just staring. The struggle was worth the trial. At least until you begin your ascent back to the top of the ridge and descent to the parking lot.
By now you may be wondering how this story connects to the title and text of this lesson. Simply put, the trek to Sand Cave and the verses of Joshua 12 are both the embodiment the word relentless. Let’s catch the connection.
It is a temptation to come to Joshua 12 and quickly pass over its content. On the surface it appears to be a simple recitation of the names of kings who, to no avail, fought against the Israelites. The list can even get a bit monotonous: “…the king of Jericho, one; the king of Ai, which is next to Bethel, one; the king of Jerusalem, one; the king of Hebron, one; the king of Jarmuth, one; the king of Lachish, one; the king of Eglon, one; the king of Gezer, one;…” (12:101-2) The challenge is to look pass the obvious and seek out the lesson. The obvious is it is a list of defeated kings. For five years, from the time Joshua led the people across the Jordan River to the conclusion of the last battle at Hazor, the Israelites battled king after king. More accurately, the Israelites joined God in the battles.
Who wouldn’t want to jump over this passage to one with more exciting, teachable moments? Seems like a better use of one’s time. But the serious Bible student knows that God had a purpose for everything He placed in His Word. There were so many stories He could have placed in Joshua. Remember they fought battles for five years and there’s a long list of battles in chapter twelve.
Instead of stories, God gave us a list. Why? This is where Joshua 12 intersects with the Sand Cave. Like the constant grind of the hike, the Israelites faced a unrelenting string of battles. Joshua 12 closes with, “thirty-one kings in all.” When hiking to and from Sand Cave one looks at the next incline thinking, “Here we go again. Is there ever any relief?” How God’s people must have thought the same thing each time they saw a walled city on the horizon or a cloud of dust rising in the distance…the sure sign of an approaching army. Climbing the mountains and fighting the battles, both relentless obstacles.
But there is a factor that must be added to the battles in Joshua that is not necessarily part of a recreational hike to a big, sand-filled cave. The Israelites did not face their enemies alone. As a matter of fact, they faced-down the kings like a child hiding behind their daddy. A common motif which resonated during the conquest of the land was, “and God fought the battle.” Time and again the enemy advanced only to quickly retreat as they ran headlong into the Commander of the army of the Lord (Joshua 5:14). This is not to say the God was carrying a sword and leading a charge, that job was given to Joshua. Rather, God was the power enabling the Israelites to face, fight, and defeat thirty-one kings.
Here in lies the lesson of the list. Just as God’s people in the days of Joshua faced the persistent onslaught of the enemy, God’s people today face the same thing. Satan is relentless. And just as God’s people in the days of Joshua stood firm by God’s power, God’s people today can do the same. The factor added to the battles of Joshua’s day is the same dynamic that allows Christians to be more than conquerors – God empowers His people for battle. As a matter of fact, God often fights the battles as we stand protected behind Him.
In a moment you will finish reading this. When you do what battle will you return to facing? Maybe you’re in your quiet and safe place, between conflicts; but you know that the next skirmish is waiting for you to emerge. You’re wondering if you want to face another fight or to just give in and surrender to defeat. Know this, just as the battles are relentless so is the love and power of Jesus Christ. You are not facing the battle alone for He has promised to be with you always, all the way to the end.
The Promise Land and Sand Cave have one more thing in common; they are both worth the struggle. So if you ever wander down US 52 through Ewing, Virginia and see a sign for Sand Cave take part of a day, venture in, and see what God once did. But for now, take the time to venture into the stories of Joshua and see what God is still doing.