I sent the hornet ahead of you, and it drove out the two Amorite kings before you, but not by your own sword or bow.
I. THE FACT THAT ABRAHAM WAS ORIGINALLY A HEATHEN. He was not merely born and bred an idolater, as we might have gathered from the story of Bachel's teraphim, but was a pagan in exactly the same condition of belief as many in India or in China are today. Some, in later times especially, and indeed in all times, worshipped the true God, but employed an idol to assist their imagination of Him; that is, they simply sought ritualistic and sensuous aids to religious thought and feeling. But Abraham began life far lower down in the religious scale. His fathers served other gods; the deified powers of nature representing little more than the forces and tendencies of life. Primitive tradition had lost any brightness it ever had. The religious sentiment had lost that reverence and habit of attention which soon begins to perceive God and to feel that the God constantly appealing to it is one and the same. The worship of several deities is always a mark of a superstitious ingredient blending with faith. Terah's family were in this condition. They were not only idolaters but polytheists - without Bible or sacrament, promise, or law. Abraham was precisely in the same sort of spiritual circumstances, and had been taught the same sort of religious ideas, and trained in the same superstitions, as are found in all pagan lands today. Yet with advantages so slight, he became the spiritual father of the religious nation of antiquity - type of all saintliness, of everything bright in faith and unquestioning in obedience. There is some reason to suppose that a god of vengeance was one of those deities most reverently regarded by his people; and yet he finds and worships a God of love! He, like all of us, had Christ, the light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He, unlike most of us, followed the Christ light within him. Following the Divine light, it grew ever clearer, and his vision became stronger to perceive and his heart to follow it. Amongst a multitude of silent deities, One spoke to him through his conscience, with more and more of frequency, and, in the devotee in which He was obeyed, with more and more of clearness, both in the comforts He whispered and the commands He enjoined, till gradually he felt there was but one great God, who governed all, and should receive the homage of all; who was the friendly refuge as well as the omnipotent Creator of men. Gradually his life began to revolve around this unseen Centre, and the outward aspect and inward purpose of his life stood out in palpable difference from that of his fellows. Doubtless he preached his deep conviction, gathered about him some kindred spirits; perhaps had to endure persecution; till at last he got a strong impression borne in upon his conscience that his path of duty and of spiritual wisdom was to leave his native land and seek a new home for what was a new faith amongst men. His coming to Ur of the Chaldees, and then to Canaan, may be compared with the expedition of the Pilgrim fathers. Like them he sought "freedom to worship God," and like them founded a great nation in doing so. In any view of his character, his decision, his devotion, the clearness of his faith, the promptness of his obedience, are marvellous. But they become much more so when we mark the fact that Joshua here brings out, that Abraham began his career in heathen darkness - that the father of the faithful began life as a mere pagan. Observe -
II. SOME LESSONS OF THIS FACT. For evidently it has many. We can only suggest them.
(1) A little grace and a little light go a long way when well used. How little had Abraham to begin with! But, using what he had, it grew more, and was enough to do more for him than light a thousand times as clear does for some of us today. A man who has light upon his next step of duty has really an "abundance of revelation." Do not go in for being omniscient, postponing all obedience until you get light on all truth. Use your little light well whatever it is, and so you will get more.
(2) Obedience is the mode of self enlightenment. "If any man will do God's will, he shall know God's doctrine." So says Christ. Doing duty is the way of discovering truth. Since the creation of the world there has been no other. Take this.
(3) All the sacraments are means of grace, not conditions of salvation. The Church has always been tempted to exaggerate the helpful into the essential, until it says, "Extra ecclesiam, nulia salus." Paul, in the Epistle to the Romans, arguing with those who held the sacrament of circumcision essential to salvation, quotes Abraham as reaching all his spirituality and acceptance with God, "not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision," i.e, not by sacraments, but without them altogether. Sacraments are aids. The mercy that gave them to be such will, in the absence of them through error or inadvertence, use some other way of enriching and enlightening the obedient heart.
(4) However sunk in superstition the heathen may be, they are capable of religion. The difference between the Christian and the heathen in the matter of spiritual advantages is not a difference between having all and having nothing, but between having more and having less. They have the Christian inward light - movings of God's spirit, lessons of God's providence. God speaks to them, and "wakes their ear in the morning." They lack the testimony of God's saints, their examples, the revelation of God's highest law, a clear light on immortality; above all, the light which comes from the life and death of the Son of God - "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." This fuller light would multiply vastly the number of the devout amongst them, and give a higher character to their devotion. But they may be saved, as we are taught explicitly both by Peter and by Paul, by a Saviour they feel and follow, though they do not know the story of His love.
(5) The heathen being thus capable of religion, and our higher advantages being influential to produce it, we ought to extend to them the full light of the Saviour's glory. Our neglect of Christian missions grows from our despair of heathen men. We ought to think of the millions in heathen darkness as Abraham's brethren, and capable of appreciating and responding to all that is true and gracious. If we rightly reverence them, we should not eat our morsel of the bread of life alone, but should share it with them. Let us seek to extend the knowledge of the gospel of Christ, and we shall yet behold many an Abraham rising up in heathen lands. - G.
Not with thy sword, nor with thy bow.
I. LIFE'S CONFLICT MUST BE MET BY HUMAN EFFORT AND ENERGY. The promise of the land as an inheritance to the people of Israel is most distinct. Everywhere God said He would give it. Was there not some reason, then, in the expectation that they should have the land without any very special trouble? Is there so much to be wondered at in the disappointment of the spies when they saw they had to fight? One would have thought that the people would have walked in at one side while the inhabitants walked out at the other. God could have done it without the intervention of human effort at all. But this is not the point. What God did, as we learn from the history of this period, was, He used the sword and the bow of the people to secure to them the promise He had given to their fathers. And though no such stipulation is anywhere directly stated, yet universally we find that the human effort and skill are needful to the attainment of the gift of God. And it is just so with all that has to do with God. He has endowed us with certain powers which He calls upon us to exercise. When, then, on the one hand we sit down quietly and say, "God has promised and will perform — there is nothing for me to do," or when we refuse to do anything because of our great weakness, or when we fail to call upon our powers of mind and heart to rise against the inroads of our spiritual enemies, or quietly submit when we are taken captive in the snares of the devil, we are just putting ourselves outside the pale of the directions which God has given us. So, too, when we ask God to work for us, and make supplication to Him to remove trouble or give us light and peace, if we say, "God can and will work," and we do nothing ourselves, then we are forgetting this part of God's ways. It is not by longing, wishing, desiring, however ardent, that God fulfils His loving purposes towards us; but by prayer, girding up our minds, and resolute, undaunted courage, that we must meet our foe — "with thy sword and with thy bow." But what is the energy and activity here indicated? You will observe that God has not endowed man with any natural modes of offence or defence. The smallest insect is apparently better equipped for the dangers of its life than we are. But God has given man a stronger force than all. Will — moral force — the power of doing — are his; so that though unarmed he is more fully equipped against the multifarious dangers of his way. Nothing can assault him, but he can adopt such means as shall protect — such measures as shall totally defeat the foe. He has the sword and the bow. Moral dangers must be met by moral means, e.g., conscience must be kept clear, its voice must be listened to, and when heard the will must without hesitation obey. Spiritual blessings must be obtained by spiritual effort. God has promised them, He will give; but you must overcome the obstacles. Will you have the promise? then adopt the means needful. If you would scale the mountains, you look for a guide, and take provisions, and put on suitable dress. "Put on the whole armour of God." Just as the poor shipwrecked one lays hold of the floating spar for very life, so you must lay hold of God, and laying hold of Him, do what He tells you. Cannot! No such word ought to be used. "I can, I will!" these are your sword and bow, and if you would extract blessing out of everything it must be by their use, and only thus will you gain the end you desire. But then it must be "thy" sword and "thy" bow. There is a speciality here. It is the act of the individual, the perseverance of the man.
II. LIFE'S CONFLICT IS NOT WON BY THE HUMAN EFFORT AND ENERGY. The greatest effort cannot obtain the victory; the most stupendous energy cannot save from defeat. It is one thing to meet the foe, it is another thing to win the day. And so our text tells us that it is not by thy sword nor by thy bow. You must fight, but God gives the victory. It is not won by your fighting, but by God's aid. It is not secured by your prowess, but by God's strength. It is all God, not you.
(H. W. Butcher.)
PeopleAaron, Amorites, Balaam, Balak, Beor, Canaanites, Egyptians, Eleazar, Esau, Girgashite, Girgashites, Hamor, Hittites, Hivite, Hivites, Isaac, Israelites, Jacob, Jebusites, Joseph, Joshua, Nachor, Nahor, Nun, Perizzites, Phinehas, Seir, Serah, Terah, Zippor
PlacesCanaan, Egypt, Euphrates River, Gaash, Gibeah, Jericho, Jordan River, Moab, Red Sea, Seir, Shechem, Timnath-serah
TopicsAhead, Amorite, Amorites, Bow, Casteth, Drave, Driving, Drove, Hornet, Kings, Presence, Sword
Outline1. Joshua assembles the tribes at Shechem
2. A brief history of God's benefits from Terah
14. He renews the covenant between them and God
26. A stone the witness of the covenant
29. Joshua's age, death, and burial
32. Joseph's bones are buried
33. Eleazar dies
Dictionary of Bible ThemesJoshua 24:12
LibraryFebruary the Tenth Registering a Verdict
"The Lord our God will we serve, and His voice will we obey." --JOSHUA xxiv. 22-28. Here was a definite decision. Our peril is that we spend our life in wavering and we never decide. We are like a jury which is always hearing evidence and never gives a verdict. We do much thinking, but we never make up our minds. We let our eyes wander over many things, but we make no choice. Life has no crisis, no culmination. Now people who never decide spend their days in hoping to do so. But this kind of life …
John Henry Jowett—My Daily Meditation for the Circling Year
A Summary of Israel's Faithlessness and God's Patience
Jesus Sets Out from Judæa for Galilee.
Meditations for Household Piety.
The Promise to the Patriarchs.
Sovereignty and Human Responsibility
And for Your Fearlessness against them Hold this Sure Sign -- Whenever There Is...
Covenanting Performed in Former Ages with Approbation from Above.
The First Commandment
Moses and his Writings
"The Carnal Mind is Enmity against God for it is not Subject to the Law of God, Neither Indeed Can Be. So Then they that Are
Gen. xxxi. 11
Manner of Covenanting.
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