When you walk in covenant, you walk in the power and authority of the living God, but that is a derivative authority. It derives from where you are.
And that position is determined by your obedience.
This is borne out by Joshua 11. Here’s a snippet:
“Jabin king of Hazor … sent word to Jobab king of Madon, to the kings of Shimron and Akshaph, and to the northern kings who were in the mountains, in the Arabah south of Kinnereth, in the western foothills and in Naphoth Dor on the west; to the Canaanites in the east and west; to the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites and Jebusites in the hill country; and to the Hivites below Hermon in the region of Mizpah.They came out with all their troops and a large number of horses and chariots – a huge army, as numerous as the sand on the seashore. All these kings joined forces and made camp together at the Waters of Merom to fight against Israel. The Lord said to Joshua, ‘Do not be afraid of them, because by this time tomorrow I will hand all of them, slain, over to Israel. You are to hamstring their horses and burn their chariots.’” (Joshua 11)
God told Joshua two things to claim victory over his enemies: “You are to hamstring their horses and burn their chariots.” It seems a very odd demand. Why did God ask the Israelites to hamstring the horses and burn the chariots of the enemy? Why not use them in further military situations? Doesn’t that make sense?
Besides, they were allowed to collect the spoils of war at Ai, so why not now?
There are a few answers: God wanted Joshua to walk in obedience, to keep in relationship, and to keep his eye on his master (so to speak), like a dog (trusting, and ready, on the alert for his master’s signal).
But why would you do that? There is an underlying principle at stake, here. Continually, through the book of Joshua, God is insistent on one central question: “ On what does your confidence rest?” This principle underlies the demand and suggests something of great spiritual significance even for us today.
God did not want Israel to adapt the enemies’ war tactics and come to rely on horses and chariots. Their reliance had to be on God always. Remember the declaration in Psalm 20:7?: “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” If you trust in me, then why should you covet the big ideas of those who come against you? Why do you need their resources, if you have mine?
Years later, the prophet Isaiah (in Isaiah 2:6-8) describes the “Day of the Lord.” “There is no dearth of silver and gold and no end to the people’s treasures. The land is full of horses and chariots. Only one thing is missing from the land, and that is the fear of God.” This situation describes a people that has lost its dependence upon the God who called them into being. They have squandered their trust in the living God for “horses and chariots.”
And yet, in this passage of Joshua, the kings from the 14 regions who surrounded the Israelites under the leadership of Jabin, king of Hazor, had chariots and horses too (Joshua 11:4 ). Yet, they were routed because the Lord was not with them.
By Isaiah’s day, the lesson had been forgotten.
Lord, I am sometimes tempted to be dazzled by the display of power and resources that I see in the world around me. Help me to remember that my confidence must stay upon you, and not in any human resources.