Thursday, December 15, 2011

Partnering with God (Joshua 10)

Josh 10:9-14 After an all-night march from Gilgal, Joshua took them by surprise. The Lord threw them into confusion before Israel, who defeated them in a great victory at Gibeon. Israel pursued them along the road going up to Beth Horon and cut them down all the way to Azekah and Makkedah. As they fled before Israel on the road down from Beth Horon to Azekah, the Lord hurled large hailstones down on them from the sky, and more of them died from the hailstones than were killed by the swords of the Israelites. On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel: "O sun, stand still over Gibeon, O moon, over the Valley of Aijalon." So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar. The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a man. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel!
Josh 10:40-42 So Joshua subdued the whole region, including the hill country, the Negev, the western foothills and the mountain slopes, together with all their kings. He left no survivors. He totally destroyed all who breathed, just as the Lord, the God of Israel, had commanded. Joshua subdued them from Kadesh Barnea to Gaza and from the whole region of Goshen to Gibeon. All these kings and their lands Joshua conquered in one campaign, because the Lord, the God of Israel, fought for Israel.


Putting aside for the moment the difficult issue of what moderns would consider "ethnic cleansing" by Israel in the name of the Lord, we would like to focus on the principle of partnership with God in any endeavour. Note that Joshua's conquest against the Southern Kings is a purely military campaign and we do not need to spiritualize it in order to glean valuable spiritual and practical lessons from it.
The divine-human partnership can be understood in 3 dimensions:

1) Human responsibility ("After an all-night march from Gilgal, Joshua took them by surprise"): In any form of divine-human partnership - whether in the marketplace or in the ministry - the human responsibility cannot be ignored or overlooked. Joshua and his army had to do an all-night march, sweating it out in order to be in that place where they could take the enemy by surprise. Surprise is one of the most important element in conventional military strategy, and no military leader, Christian or otherwise, can ignore it. Just because God is with us does not mean we need to stop exercising practical and conventional wisdom. Even though we expect and believe God to work on our behalf, we still need wisdom, not just revelation, to get the job. In fact, Paul's prayer for the Ephesian church is that they might have the "Spirit of wisdom and revelation" (Eph 1:17).

Of course, there are some things that only God can do, but there are other things that we must do. As St. Augustine is often quoted to have famously said: "Without God, we cannot. Without us, God will not."

2) Divine participation ("The Lord threw them into confusion before Israel, who defeated them in a great victory at Gibeon"): As Joshua's army attacked the enemy, God worked in tandem with them to throw the enemies into confusion. The victory is the Lord's but He works as we work. If Joshua has not been in that place where his army was ready to pursue the enemy, God would not be able to act on their behalf to defeat the enemy. So in any divine-human partnership, God and man must work in tandem. It's not just "let go, and let God" but "let's go, and let God." Divine power is not an excuse for inaction on our part.

3) Supernatural intervention ("the Lord hurled large hailstones down on them from the sky, and more of them died from the hailstones than were killed by the swords of the Israelites"): The third dimension of the divine-human partnership is supernatural intervention. Even as we engage our own wisdom and experience to the task, we have to make room for divine intervention in unexpected and supernatural way. We need to believe that God's power will not only be active in us and through us but also for us. In other words, we expect divine intervention to take place in changing the situation in our favour. Divine participation is not limited to granting us wisdom and revelation to do the job but also direct  divine intervention to change the circumstances in our favour - whether in business,  ministry or relationship.

Lord, we thank You that You are Emmanuel, God with us! Thank You that You are our Senior Partner in every endeavour - whether in the marketplace or in ministry. Amen.

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