Hope and Help for When You’re Weary from the Battle
We all face battles. Battles of many kinds in different seasons for different reasons. So did the Israelites. As they were about to enter the Promised Land, more than milk and honey were awaiting them.
They were promised war.
Ever feel that way? Hope is on the horizon because when we have Jesus, we know that wonderful promises await us. But a promised future doesn't always change our current reality.
We. Have. Battles.
God conquered the Israelite's foes. So much so they had to make a list, and a long one at that!
"Here begins a catalog of the conquered…." Joshua 12:1 The Voice
God's offers to conquer our foes as well, whatever they may look like.
When we look at the context of Joshua 12:1it is a summary of all the battles God waged and won on behalf of His people. This catalog of the conquered is listed in Chapter twelve.
If we want to experience the same thing, we need to back up a bit. All the way to Joshua, chapter five. The heading reads "Circumcision at Gilgal."
What does that have to do with us? This event occurred before their first battle across the Jordan. The mighty, well-walled city of Jericho was before them.
He didn't tell them to ramp up their workouts and defense training.
He didn't call them to develop a plan of attack.
No, the best preparation they could make was surrendering and recognizing their complete helplessness.
The Israelites were now comprised of a new generation. The Israelite boys born in the desert had not been circumcised. How easy it would have been for these young warriors to give full expression to their testosterone as they launched their first battle.
God knew they needed a different kind of strength. The kind that comes from knowing that He has us. He is for us. He Himself will do the fighting.
I imagine as those young warriors lay there, barely able to move; it was the perfect opportunity to reflect and recognize just how small and helpless they were.
God's timing was perfect. He wanted His people to have the greatest advantage possible in warfare. The confidence that comes in knowing we are not responsible for the victory. He is.
Believe it or not, Scripture contains numerous references to circumcision that apply to you and me.
Deuteronomy 30:6 from the NIV says this: "The Lord, your God, will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live."
The Message version says it this way:
"God, your God, will cut away the thick calluses on your heart and your children's hearts, freeing you to love God, your God, with your whole heart and soul and live, really live."
I can't help but think that the circumcision that comes BEFORE the conquest of battles is crucial because without it… we have nothing but EMPTY victories to show for it.
We've all experienced an empty victory at one time or another.
We go back and peruse the Christmas picture. Our heart pinches because even though we "pulled off the perfect gathering," we remember… that was the Christmas we'd had a major tiff with our spouse, teenage son, or you name it. The victory was hollow because the relationship was shallow.
The graduation that we smiled at, and even though we were sincere in our congratulations, the milestone was a bit empty because celebratory memories were equally matched by relational discord.
Each of us could likely recall something that should have been a conquest but fell short because the most important piece was missing… the relationships that mattered most.
A catalog of the conquered means nothing if we can't look back and see our Heavenly Father's fingerprints all over it.
On the contrary, it means EVERYTHING when we can look back and say… He did it. He was there. He helped us. He made it happen.
All those things that were conquered now mean something extraordinary because we went through them with uncalloused, circumcised hearts. Hearts that walked in tandem with His.
With circumcised hearts, we are now ready for battle.
Each battle we face will be different. Some may require not saying a word. For example, when God instructed the Israelites to march around Jericho, He had Joshua tell His people to keep quiet:
"Don't shout. In fact, don't even speak–– not so much as a whisper until you hear me say, Shout! –– then shout away!" Joshua 6:10
And then, they were told to walk in circles. Ever felt that way?
"Lord, I'm biting my tongue. This battle I'm facing leaves me feeling like I'm walking in circles. What gives?!"
Two powerful things were at play for the Israelites during that silence and during those repetitive, circular steps.
The first is that in the silence, the people were forced to listen. Sometimes that's what I need. I get so busy talking my way into a solution I haven't bothered to see what God would say. Silence is a gift we give to ourselves.
The second thing that happened is that those steady, repeated steps accomplished something after all. Onlookers took notice. How could they not? The daily walk instilled respect… even fear, in the others. It was clear. These people possessed a power they could not see.
Scholars don't know this, but some have said that the repeated steps worked to shake the foundation of Jericho's walls. This can be true for us as well. When we consistently walk out our faith and trust God to fight for us…foundations begin to tremble.
The rebellious teen can't help but notice.
The wayward spouse senses something different.
The belligerent boss knows you possess something that makes them curious.
This much we know. Even if it feels as though we've been walking in circles for a long time waiting for walls to fall… they WILL fall. In His way. In His time. They will fall.
And then there are the times we face a battle, and much to our surprise, God doesn't want us to do a thing.
There is NO-THING that we can do to conquer this particular thing.
And so we are still. No walking in circles. No talking. No cues for when to shout. We do nothing.
And yet… We. Are. Doing. EVERYTHING.
It is in this place that we come full circle. The place of circumcision. The place where our hearts are still and all we can do is ponder the glory of God.
Confess our helplessness.
Pray for the needs we see, for ourselves, and for others.
God has allowed me to see just how little I have to with "battles won."
May we not forget that there will be victory in Him and Him alone. How sweet it will be to see the catalog of all HE has conquered in our lives.