If we read Joshua 10 and 11, we’ll find that they are quite similar in terms of content. Both describe how Joshua and the Israelites conquered many of the Canaanite kings and cities. Chapter 10 talks about the conquest of the southern region of Canaan, and chapter 11 the northern region. In both scenarios, various Gentile kings joined forces (10:3-5, 11:1-5), but God gave Joshua assurance of victory beforehand (10:8, 11:6).
Obviously not everything in these two chapters are the same. Aside from the synoptic differences of who and what and where, however, there is at least one key difference that stuck out to me which we can learn from. The difference is clearly apparent in the text, but because of how similarly the chapters are narrated, it can still be easy to overlook.
So Joshua conquered all the land: the mountain country and the South and the lowland and the wilderness slopes, and all their kings; he left none remaining, but utterly destroyed all that breathed, as the LORD God of Israel had commanded. And Joshua conquered them from Kadesh Barnea as far as Gaza, and all the country of Goshen, even as far as Gibeon. All these kings and their land Joshua took at one time, because the LORD God of Israel fought for Israel.
Thus Joshua took all this land: the mountain country, all the South, all the land of Goshen, the lowland, and the Jordan plain—the mountains of Israel and its lowlands, from Mount Halak and the ascent to Seir, even as far as Baal Gad in the Valley of Lebanon below Mount Hermon. He captured all their kings, and struck them down and killed them. Joshua made war a long time with all those kings.
The victories in the south in chapter 10 were accomplished “at one time,” namely in a short period of time. But in chapter 11, it tells us that in addition to the southern lands, the rest of Canaan took a long time to conquer. A parallel to our spiritual lives is easy to develop. Some battles are short, where we need only to rely on God for a moment to attain victory. Examples might include an exam that we need to do well on, a sickness/injury that we sustain, or a decline in business as a result of observing Sabbath. Others, however, are long, drawn out struggles that require a persevering reliance on God and resolve to fulfill His commandments. Examples here might include a personal weakness that we struggle to overcome, trying to convert a loved one to Christ, or building up a local church in unity and harmony. A biblical example that I’ve heard others mention is David. His confrontation with Goliath was brief, but he was on the run from Saul and others for much longer.
There are two main takeaways that come to mind.
First, we need to always remember that some struggles will be short and others long. As people we tend to be impatient, especially since technology is continually allowing us to do things faster and faster. We want our problems to be resolved quickly, and there’s an expectation for God to remove our obstacles at will. We want the best way to be the fastest way. Consequently, when things don’t pan out the way we wish, disappointment and bitterness start to creep in our hearts. These sentiments can cause our faith to become cynical and our love to grow colder. They may cause us to doubt God and question whether He really is with us or not. All because we are impatient. On the other hand, if we always keep in mind that some struggles will be long and drawn out, we will be less likely to feel such disappointment when something doesn’t work out the way we expect. We’ll understand that this is normal, and we will not allow our faith and love to be affected by setbacks. Our servitude remains pure.
Second, in the long struggles, we need to continue working tirelessly. There is a tendency to slack and lower our guard or standard during extended periods of work. The more time and energy we put into something, the less we are inclined to expend going forward. Arguably, we are more susceptible to compromise the longer we do something. But we see in Joshua chapters 10 and 11 that Joshua and the Israelites were always on the offensive, traveling far from their camp on foot to attack the other cities. They continued to fight every city, never trying to make peace with them (11:19-20), and thoroughly destroyed the inhabitants as God commanded Moses. Despite the length of time it took, Joshua “left nothing undone of all that the Lord had commanded Moses” (11:15).
Furthermore, sometimes in long struggles, we may not see God working as evidently. In chapter 10, the work of God was very clear; He sent hail stones on the enemy that killed more men than the Israelites killed (10:11), and at Joshua’s word, the day was extended so that the Israelites could continue pursuing the enemy, not allowing any to escape in the darkness (10:12-14). No such sign, however, was recorded in chapter 11. Despite this, Joshua and the Israelites were still able to persist in their resolve to thoroughly obey God’s commandments. The lack of a sign did not discourage them. Similarly, we should not allow ourselves to be discouraged either if it seems that God is not working with us.
The life of a Christian is full of spiritual warfare. We need to arm ourselves with the fact that some battles may be taxing but short, and others painfully long. And that regardless of the length of the struggle, we must strive to uphold our determination and resolve to obey God’s commandments without compromise. This is the attitude we need to maintain when conquering the sin in our lives, and in fulfilling the commission of the church.