Deuteronomy 3:1-2, 21-22 - “Then we turned and went up the road to Bashan, and Og, king of Bashan, with all his people came out to meet us in battle at Edrei. 2 But the Lord said to me, ‘Do not fear him, for I have delivered him and all his people and his land into your hand; and you shall do to him just as you did to Sihon king of the Amorites, who lived at Heshbon.’ 21 I commanded Joshua at that time, saying, ‘Your eyes have seen all that the Lord your God has done to these two kings; so the Lord shall do to all the kingdoms into which you are about to cross. 22 Do not fear them, for the Lord your God is the one fighting for you.’
I can recall as a kid the arduous process of learning how to ride a bike. Like untold numbers of children, I too required "training wheels". The purpose of training wheels was to aid in preparation for what would follow: learning how to ride a bike. The day did come when my dad took off the training wheels. I'll admit, I fell several times, learning how to ride the bike. However, those scraped knees and bruises prepare me for the day of victory when I finally rode my bike without falling.
The Battle Before the Battles Leading To Victory
The Book of Joshua physically illustrates the spiritual, New Testament truth concerning the believer’s inheritance and identity in Jesus Christ (see Hebrews 3-4). The idea of the promised land (or "Canaanland") involves taking possession of the promises of God in the Christian life. Contrary to some older, well-meaning Christian songs, "Canaanland" is not illustrative of our going to Heaven in the sweet bye-and bye. Rather, the battles fought by the Israelites under the leadership of Moses and Joshua physically picture the Christian's progress in Godliness in the present world of the "nasty now-and-now".
Joshua and the second generation of Israelites out of Egypt were called of God to take ownership of some 300,000 square miles of land that was promised to their forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (see Genesis 12; 15; 17; 22; 24; 28; 31; 35). But before the conquest of Canaanland in Joshua could commence, there first was a major battle needing fought against two kingdoms. The Kingdoms of Bashan and Heshbon were the final barrier between the people of God and the promised land. Once those two kingdoms were diffused, the formal conquests we read about in the book of Joshua could get underway.
The above opening passages in Deuteronomy 3:1-2 and verse 21 summarize for us the Divine orchestration of this battle as a precursor to the Israelites' entryway into the promised land. Moses recollects of how he and the Israelites were making the journey to the eastern side of the Jordon known as the "plains of Moab", and the battles they faced (see Numbers 21:21-35). The map below depicts the setting for both the battle and Moses' recounting of such in Deuteronomy 3.
Moses was delivering a series of final sermons in what would be the final year of his life. The plains of Moab would be the final staging ground and point of entry into the military campaigns of Joshua and the Israelites in the Book of Joshua.
The point of rehearsing the geography and history of Moses, the Israelites and Joshua was not to bore readers. Rather, understanding the concrete historical realities in the Old Testament prepares us for the principles we find in discerning the spiritual realities of the Christian life in the New Testament. In this post, we will consider the process it takes to acquire what is promised by God. The big question of today's post is this: what must precede spiritual victory and progress for the Christian? Let’s explore!
Remember, God ordains to allow conflict, not to destroy us, but to work in us dependence upon Him.
What is remarkable about the accounts of ancient Israel is how much of what they experienced, and failed to achieve, was undertaken by Jesus and achieved. Whenever you read the opening sections of His public ministry in Matthew 4; Mark 1 and Luke 4, you find Jesus battling toe-to-toe with the Devil. This "pre-battle" was necessary, since in His humanity, Jesus needed to defeat the Evil One to demonstrate that unlike Adam and Israel before Him, Jesus alone could qualify as the Savior of souls.
Just as a championship team must first play all the other teams and learn lessons from defeats and smaller victories, so too do all of those on "Christ's winning team" have to experience the pre-requisites that are spelled out in this post. All that we find portrayed in the life of ancient Israel, under the leadership of Moses and then Joshua, foreshadows what Christ would come to do in destroying the Devil's works and providing the basis for Christian spiritual victory (see Hebrews 2:14ff and 1 John 3:8)
Thus, in Deuteronomy 2:24-25 we read -
‘Arise, set out, and pass through the valley of Arnon. Look! I have given Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land into your hand; begin to take possession and contend with him in battle. 25 This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you upon the peoples everywhere under the heavens, who, when they hear the report of you, will tremble and be in anguish because of you.’
God had a purpose for Moses and Israel waging this "pre-battle" with the kings Og and Sihon. The Israelites originally failed to enter into the promised land for fear of the giant clans they saw in the reconnaissance mission of Numbers 12-13. These giant clans were the remnants of the offspring resulting from the unholy physical unions sanctioned by fallen spirit beings that we read about in Genesis 6:1-4 and the tower of Babel incident in Genesis 11. The outcome of that failed mission involved 40 years of wandering in the desert. For the second generation of Israelites that we read of in Deuteronomy and Joshua, failure was not optional. They needed to see how God could use them to defeat the very thing that had crippled their parents in fear.
Jesus, the believer and the necessity of a Divinely orchestrated process prior to spiritual victory
God clearly ordained that Jesus combat Satan in the wilderness. Although the Person of the Son, touching His Divine nature, was truly God, nevertheless, touching his humanity, the Son underwent the process He would expect of His followers in depending upon the heavenly Father. Dear believer, for spiritual victory to occur and progression in the things of God to take place, we too must learn what precedes spiritual victory. We have this process given to us by God to put the past behind us and to press onward to what He has before us (see Philippians 3:14; Hebrews 12:1). To make greater Christian progress, we learn the following principles from this incredible episode in Deuteronomy 3 and other passages.
1. Conflict with the enemy. Deuteronomy 3:1-2; 11-12
Whenever we read through these portions in Deuteronomy, the book of Joshua or most every narrative in the Old Testament, we find incredible concrete illustrations of New Testament truths. God ordained these "pre-battles" to remind his people that in their process of taking possession of His promises to them, the obtaining of such an inheritance would not come without a fight. Ephesians 6:10-12 speaks to this point -
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places."
I'm sure any of us would prefer not to have conflict - whether it be societal, spiritual or relational. Whenever we read the New Testament Gospel records, we see Jesus having multiple conflicts with Satan and his parasite kingdom. Why didn't Jesus wipe Satan and his dark kingdom out of existence? In ways that often boggle the mind, God has morally sufficient reasons for permitting conflict. As we look at what these texts teach us of conflict and its place in progressing the Christian life, we can note the following:
a. Conflict strengthens dependency. Deut. 8:3 & Mt 4:4; 2 Cor. 12:9
b. Conflict certifies identity.
As David was fleeing from Saul, he received the following encouragement from a woman who would later become his wife, Abigail, in 1 Samuel 25:28b “for the Lord will certainly make for my lord an enduring house, because my lord is fighting the battles of the Lord, and evil will not be found in you all your days.”
c. Conflict clarifies priorities. Eph 6:10-12
Taking up the spiritual armor causes us to see that the invisible priorities of faith are above the urgency of material possessions, acquiring of wealth and such.
d. Conflict prepares one for greater service.
Whenever David faced Goliath in battle, that engagement was preceded by Providentially arranged conflicts between David and various wild animals in his shepherding days. Notice what David states in 1 Samuel 17:37
"And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear , He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine….”.
So we can see that conflict precedes spiritual victory. But now notice what else necessarily precedes obtaining a "spiritual win"...
2. Certain word from God. Deuteronomy 3:18-22
In the midst of spiritual battle, the child of God comes to cling hold of God's word. In daily meditation on the Word of God, the Christ-follower learns to discern whenever the Spirit of God is speaking to him or her. In other words, a certain word from God emerges from the written Word of God that gives strength for the journey. Learning how to discern the Holy Spirit's voice through His word is a vital skill to have once entering into the progression of the Christian life. What truths attend this "certain word"?
a. Importance of a certain word.
Proverb 25:11 "Like apples of gold in settings of silver Is a word spoken in right circumstances."
b. Source of a certain word.
Jesus says the following about Himself in John 10:10
"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."
The source of God's certain word is none other than God Himself. In the lyrics of an old hymn, "Wonderful words of life", we find this thought poignantly expressed:
“sing them over again to me, wonderful words of life; let me more of their beauty see, wonderful words of life. Words of life and beauty, teach me faith and duty, beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life”.
So in receiving a certain word of God in the season before spiritual victory, we learn of its importance and its source. Now notice thirdly how such a certain words from God affects the Christian....
c. Effects of a certain word.
The Apostle Paul prays for God to affect His readers by the Word in Ephesians 3:16-19 -
"that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God."
So what must precede any major spiritual victory in the progress of the Christian life. We've noted conflict and a certain word from God. Now notice one last detail...
3. Courage to obtain victory. Deuteronomy 3:23-29
If you and I don't experience the acquisition of courage in the "pre-battle" before the main battle that leads to victory, we will find our faith wither in the process of advancing in the things of God. Joshua's book opens up with God urging Him to "be strong and courageous". Courage is faith's backbone to trust God. Only when we have faced the prospect of failure and learned to overcome the fear of it can we then taste the sweet fruit of victory. Note what we learn about courage as prerequisite to the obtaining of spiritual victory...
a. Source of Courage.
The Apostle Paul reminds us in 2 Timothy 1:7 "For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline." All Christians received the indwelling Holy Spirit from the moment of saving faith (John 14:16-17; 1 Corinthians 2:10-13; 3:6; 6:19-20; 12:12-13). The indwelling ministry of the Holy Spirit includes imparting of courage in the those times when we need such a virtue in face of certain fear.
b. Supplies for courage.
Note the following promises from the Book of Hebrews 13:5b, 6 and 8 -
“Never will I leave you nor forsake you; 6 so that we confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?”,8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.
In today's post, we looked at what must precede spiritual victory. In other words, to progress in the Christian life, there is that requisite process God takes us through to get us ready for the increasing demands of maturing in the the things of God. Here is what we learned:
1. There must needs be conflict.
2. There must needs be a certain word.
3. There must needs be courage.