The headlines exploded from the front page of every newspaper in the country. “THE WAR IS OVER!” June 28, 1919, the “war to end all wars” came to an end. Our troops began their long journey home, families were reunited, there was peace, and “no-man’s land” lay silent. The world rested.
The headlines exploded from the front page of every newspaper in the country. “THE WAR IS OVER!” The first announcement came in May 1945 the next in August 1945 – VE Day and VJ Day respectively. The world rested, again.
The headlines exploded from the front page of every newspaper in the country. “THE WAR IS OVER!” The date was July 17, 1953. The place was a small peninsula in East Asia called Korea and again the world rested.
Wars are terrible things. Though there are times when they are necessary to put an end to tyranny they are still terrible. When the wars are over the headlines share a most welcome expression of joy, peace, calm.
By the story of Joshua 11 the Israelites had been fighting for five years. Battles brought fear and death and discouragement as well as excitement and victory. Then the day came, “Then the land had rest from war.” (Joshua 11:23). Can you imagine what that must have been like for these people? For many their journey toward this day began forty-five years earlier as they left Egypt, free and heading to a home they had never seen. During that time they experienced the miraculous provision of the God and the deprivation that came because of their sin and rebellion against that same God. Their homes for two generations had been mobile and their journey often in circles.
Five years earlier Joshua led God’s people across the Jordan River and the conquest began. For five years their days remained uncertain and their future unclear. Then the final battle came. It took place in the northern region of the territory called Canaan. They were above the Sea of Galilee near the city of Hazor. The campaign would consist of one-day battle. The enemy “went out with all their armies—a multitude as numerous as the sand on the seashore—along with a vast number of horses and chariots. All these kings joined forces; they came together and camped at the waters of Merom to attack Israel.” (vv.4-5)
The next day it was over. The coalition of northern kings was decimated. The conquest ended as it had begun five years prior. Hazor was razed, totally destroyed; even the people were “struck down everyone in it with the sword, completely destroying them; he left no one alive.” (v.11) Unlike that first battle, in which Jericho was destroyed, there were no more battles to be fought. The war was over. The land rested. In a word: Peace.
What a word that word is. It is powerful. It is tranquil. It is so welcomed in nations torn by war. It is desired and longed for, and ironically fought hard for and when it comes few words can take the place of the word peace.
In Joshua 11:23 the writer expressed their peace by writing, “The land was at rest.” It is the picture of the cessation of turmoil, work, or wearisome activity. The Hebrew word describes that which is quiet, tranquil, being at peace, quiet rest, being still, being undisturbed. What descriptive words that attempt to describe something that is hard to describe and better experienced.
Chapter and verse markings in the Bible are really helpful. However, they are also an artificial division. How tempting is it to read a couple of verses or stop at the end of the chapter? But often when this happens you can miss something – like the impact of those closing words of Joshua 11. Try this, read Joshua chapters 1-11 in one sitting. Then when you come to the words that end the conquest note how you feel.
Now, here’s the point behind the previous 600 words that may have sounded a bit like rambling. The story of the conquest (Joshua 1-11) is a picture of life. Even when, like Joshua, you follow the Lord, meditate on His word day and night, and carefully obey all that you find in it (1:8) conflict will still follow; and that conflict might just last a while. But remember, if also like Joshua you place your trust in the Lord you will find rest. You will know true peace.
There is a big difference between the rest and peace of Joshua 11:23 and that which Christ offers people. It would not be long after Joshua passed from the scene that the Israelites would find themselves once again at war and all the unrest that comes with it. Not so the peace of Christ, it lasts. Hours before Jesus went to the cross where he bought your peace, He said. “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Your heart must not be troubled or fearful.” Jesus could say that knowing what lay ahead for His men. In all that was coming He knew they could still rest in His peace.
What battles are you facing? How is the war going? Is it like the headlines that opened this study? Does it seem as though your peace keeps coming and going? Know this, the peace that Jesus offers you, the price of which He paid with His life, is a peace that will not go away even in the midst of your lingering battles. You see, Christ’s peace is not based on a fragile treaty put together by men, but an unbreakable promise given by God. To know His peace you must know Jesus. He must be both Lord and Christ to you.
Even though it is cliché nonetheless it is still true: No Jesus, no peace. Know Jesus, know peace. The battles are real and so is Jesus. Know Him and He will give you rest.