“The LORD was with the people of Judah, and they took possession of the hill country. But they failed to drive out the people living in the plains because the people there had iron chariots.”Judges 1:19 ESV
January is for me a month to take stock of the past year and recalibrate for the new. And I find myself paying extra attention to models in Scripture who had territory to step into that they were intimidated by. Take for instance the Israelite tribes crossing the Jordan into the land of ‘milk and honey’.
The years of bondage in Egypt were behind them, and the years of trekking around in the desert wastelands. It was time to move into their new home! But it wasn’t that simple. There were people living there already– people whom God had determined to displace because of their detestable God-defying customs (Deut.18:9-14). God had given His people explicit instructions. No treaties were to be made. No exceptions. Yes, the nations were strong, stronger than Israel’s own resources, but God would be with them; He would go before them. This land was to be their inheritance but they would have to do some conquering and cleaning up to remove every trace of pagan idolatry. Then God would settle in with them; they would be at home in their own land at last–a People dearly loved, the apple of God’s eye, and His own precious inheritance!
I want to be at home like that–settled in my inheritance, living at rest with God at the helm, living by faith and done with personality struggles and perplexities of identity, knowing and fulfilling my calling without angst…at home in my inheritance. I take note that this didn’t happen for the Israelites in the straight-forward faithfully obedient way God intended.
The record shows that tribe after tribe defaulted to failure. Not only did they fail to drive out the enemy but they decided to keep them around as servants! (See Judges 1) And before long God’s beloved people had adopted pagan gods and were copying the odious practices of the people they were meant to disinherit. The book of Judges bears witness to the chaos that ensued. What had happened?!
It started with excuses.
“The hill country is not enough for us, and the Canaanites in the lowlands…have iron chariots–they are too strong for us!” (Joshua 17:16)Joshua 17:16
This was the complaint of Joseph’s descendants. The Joseph who had risen by God’s favor from being a lowly prisoner to riding in a chariot as co-regent with Pharaoh, that Joseph’s descendants were bemoaning their helplessness in the face of enemies with iron chariots…Where was their faith in God’s promises?
Joshua called their bluff and spurred them on to action:
“Since you are so large and strong, you will be given more than one portion. The forests of the hill country will be yours as well. Clear as much of the land as you wish and live there. And I am sure you can drive out the Canaanites from the valleys too, even though they are strong and have iron chariots.” (Joshua 17:18 NLT)Joshua 17:18 NLT
He left no room for their excuses or their faithless timidity. He challenged them:
“How long will you put off going in to take possession of the land, which the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given you?”Joshua 18:3
Good question. I turned 57 this month so the question is not lost on me. What conquests remain for me? What iron chariots to be defeated? I am not the picture of competence and maturity I once imagined I’d somehow just be by this stage of life. There’s nothing automatic about taking God at His Word and marching into all he intends for me. Faith is a battle with a real enemy. Fears of failure and disappointment lure me to settle short of destroying the ‘iron chariots’ that stand in the way of God’s good purposes for me…
I had a slow read through the first couple chapters of Judges just lately. This sad tale of “Failure to complete the conquest” depicts the disobedience that always accompanies unbelief and the subsequent powerlessness to withstand the enemy. But God is here too, assuring of His faithful love, warning, sending judges to the rescue and generally being all that a Shepherd has to be to stubborn sheep! Despite all this:
“They did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways.”Judges 2:19
Those words arrested my attention.
It’s one thing to launch a new year with new disciplines and good intentions but perhaps the most needful thing is to back-up and assess what habits need to be broken! Iron Chariots indeed. I suspect for me the conquest will be in the area of long-entrenched beliefs that simply are not valid.
I want 2019 to be a year of recognizing truth, taking God at His word and moving forward into a greater possession of my inheritance in Him.
There are iron chariots. There are strongholds. There are life-long patterns that need to be rooted out. There is an enemy of our souls who would see us deprived of enjoying the inheritance Jesus has bought for us.
For this He has given us His Spirit. For this He has given us Himself. And so we walk forward by faith…
I’ve been spurred on this week by many good words in Scripture. I offer them to you as together we go forward into a new year.
- “You shall not fear them, for it is the LORD your God who fights for you.” Deut.3:22
- For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith. I Jn.5:4 ESV
- In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one. Eph 6:16 ESV
- “No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; And every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD…Is. 54:17 NASB
- The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places: indeed I have a beautiful inheritance. Ps.16:5,6 ESV
- [May] the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory… give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe…Eph.1:17-19 ESV
What truths is God challenging you with these days? What are your ‘iron chariots’? Thanks for joining me here.