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The Agony of Victory

A Sermon on the Typology of Joshua 10.10-27

by Mark Horne

Copyright © 1998, All rights reserved.

How to we get the victory? How does God give us victory? Joshua is given victory in our text and we can, if we interpret this story in the light of the rest of Scripture, discover how God gives us victory in our own lives over the world, the flesh, and the devil. Think of this as you read Joshua 10.10-27

Holy War! Jihad! The Crusades! These words are reasons many people give for viewing the historic Christian faith as a bad thing. Even though some of these associations don’t even come from Christianity, but from Islam, we can’t escape the offense they cause. Our Bible won’t let us escape. “What kind of God would command His people to invade a land and exterminate every living human, whether man, woman, or child?” The answer is that God is just and he will not let sin go unpunished forever. He decided that he could no longer endure the sins of the Canaanites, so He appointed the Israelites as the agents of His wrath.

But if we’re looking for an explanation for why the Bible gives us the details of so many battles and wars, then we need to say more than that. After all, the Bible could have summarized the conquest of Canaan in a single chapter. Instead, it records some of these battles for us to be read and preached in the Church until the Lord returns. Why? Why do we learn about these five kings and what happened to them?

We need to remember the context for our story, for all the stories in Joshua, and for the rest of the Bible. God gave Adam and Eve the whole world to be ruled by them as God’s representatives. But Adam and Eve gave over their dominion and themselves to Satan. They allied themselves to the serpent against God. The whole world was put in the grip of the one who Hebrews 2.14 tells us now had the power of death and was able to keep the human race enslaved because of the fear of death.

Instead of leaving mankind in their slavery, however, and judging man and Satan together forever, God promised victory. Genesis 3.15 gives us God’s promise that he will break the alliance between man and Satan, and defeat Satan through man, giving man victory instead of slavery. He says to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise Him on the heel.”

That is the ultimate conflict—between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. It is fulfilled in Christ, the seed of the woman, who according to 1 John 3.8, appeared that He might destroy the works of the Devil. But between Genesis and Jesus we see this conflict unfolded as it develops through history to culminate in Christ. God gives man victory over the devil and the kingdom of darkness so that he is no longer enslaved by it. That is, he gives his chosen ones victory over those who serve Satan and attempt to enslave God’s people. He gave Noah victory over the whole world when he was the only one left, trapped with his family in an evil generation. He gave Abraham victory over King Chederlaomer, when Lot was enslaved by that evil king. He gave Jacob victory over Laban, when Laban used deceit to enslave Jacob. He gave Moses victory over Egypt, when Pharaoh had caused Israel to groan under the yoke of slavery. In every case, a satanic power is defeated and God’s people are delivered from slavery.

We cannot live as slaves because God gives us victory.

We learn from Joshua’s defeat of the five kings not only that God gave them victory, but that he give us victory as well. Therefore:

We must fight for victory over the world, the flesh and the Devil. We will especially see this if we look at Joshua 10.24-25.

1. We must fight as Jesus fought. The first thing to understand is that Joshua’s victory is a type—a prophecy which God dramatized in this event—of the Christ’s defeat of Satan. Remember, Genesis 3.15 promises a head wound to the serpent and a heel wound to Christ. It isn’t hard to think of this as what would naturally result from someone stomping down on the head of a snake—just as Joshua has his leaders put their feet on the necks of these five kings. The war between the woman and the serpent, her seed and the serpent’s seed is continually set before us in the Old Testament through the image of the enemy’s head being caved in or the enemy being cast down under Christ’s feet or both. Consider:

1a.We see the war between the woman and the serpent in Judges 4.17ff and Judges 9.50ff. These are the only two times in the Bible when a woman slays the enemy of God’s people, and both times she “just happens” to do it by crushing his head.

1b. We see it in David’s killing of Goliath. David is the anointed one, a type of Christ. He gains victory over the giant by delivering a fatal blow to his head and then cutting it off.

1c. Not only did David do this in his own life, but he prophesied that Christ would crush the head of Satan and thereby win back the world from him. Turn with me to Psalm 110 and look at verse 6. The NIV translates the third line, “crushing the rulers of the whole earth” and the NASB reads “He will shatter the chief men over a broad country.” But the original word is singular and it is literally “head.” David is prophesying about Jesus in the language of Genesis 3.15 that He will be victorious by crushing the head.

1d. This brings us to the first verse of this Psalm where David utters the words much repeated in the New Testament: “The LORD says to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.'” Archeologists have dug up pictures from the ancient world where a king or a god is shown victoriously sitting on a throne with his enemies under his feet—either their corpses or their weapons or else their bowed heads.

1e. In 1 Kings 5.3 Solomon describes the victory given to David as putting His enemies “under the soles of his feet.”

In our passage Joshua is acting like the greater Joshua, Jesus Christ. In the Gospels, Jesus binds the strong man, Satan, so He can plunder Satan’s house by casting out demons. He sees Satan fall like lightning from Heaven. And, according to John 12.31, He casts out the Devil by His work on the cross. Our passage is reminding us of all these things.

2. Because Jesus fought we must figh. This victory is not for Jesus alone but also for His people. Just as Joshua has his chiefs put their feet on the necks of the five kings and promises them future victories, so Jesus shares his victory with us, so that we can benefit from it in our lives. Jesus’ past victory is a promise for our future.

2a. Listen to the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 16.20: “the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” The promise of Genesis 3.15 applies to the lives of believers. We get to see slavery replaced by victory in our own lives.

2b. Apostle John says in his first epistle, chapter two verse 13, “I am writing to you young men because you have “overcome” the Evil One.” And if they have overcome the Evil One, then how much more have they overcome his followers. We find that in 1 John 4.4, where he declares to his readers that they are from God and have overcome the false prophets around them because “Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”

2c. And, of course, we remember the classic passage Ephesians 6.11-12: “Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not with blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly places.”

So when we read about Joshua allowing his captains to put their feet on the necks of their enemies, we need to realize there is more going on than an ancient battle with a few rulers in a small region in the Middle East. We’re reading about victory over the Devil, over sin, and over everything associated with it.

So how do we appropriate this truth in our own lives?

The first thing we do is steel our minds against the popular and perverse idea that Satan is alive and well on planet earth. Satan is obviously exerting a great deal of influence right now, but much of that influence is exerted precisely because Christians have bought into this unbiblical notion. When you’re driving to work and hear it on the radio, change the station. The reason why we can be confident of victory in our war with the Devil, is precisely because Christ has gone before us and defeated our enemy. If Satan were alive and well, then Jesus would still be dead.

This also means we must never give up the battles we face with Satan, sin, and death—with the world, the flesh, and the devil. We all face discouragements both in the culture war and the war within, in the workplace, in our families, and in our own selves. In fact, probably the enemy who causes us the most damage, is the one we meet when we look in the mirror. But we must never give up. God promises us victory. Not easy victory. Not instantaneous victory. Just victory. It is a matter of faith. Do we believe that Jesus won such a victory that our own victory is guaranteed? We must continue to fight.

When I was a young boy, I lived in Liberia, West Africa, where my parents were missionaries. Now, in the whole continent of Africa, I was told, there are three species of snake, in which deadly poison is lacking. Only one of those species was known to inhabit the regions of Liberia. So the reigning philosophy was hit it with a big stick first and ask questions later. I had the pleasure of seeing several serpent slayings. One thing I remember is that the fight almost always lasted longer than the life of the snake. People would stand there whacking for all they were worth at the head of the thing with a shovel or branch or cutlass or anything else that was long enough, and when they smashed it, they would keep whacking at it all the more. You see, once the head was crushed the creature would go into death throes and start violently twisting and convulsing. It’s possible it could even still strike. So the brave serpent slayer, under the influence, I think, of a great deal of adrenaline, would just keep raising the shovel over his head, and coming down on the snakes head over and over again—all the while, of course, standing on the balls of his feet and stretching as far as he could to keep himself out of reach. And even after it was obvious that the snake was no longer a threat, he might still smash it a few more times just for good measure. Overkill was not a problem with a snake.

And that’s how we should be. We need to keep on fighting against the world the flesh and the devil. The whole of history from the time of Christ to the present and until the Resurrection of the dead, is the age of dealing with the death throes of the serpent. Let’s keep fighting.


We must keep fighting but how should we fight? Unlike Joshua in Canaan, we don’t usually have a military enemy to defeat on the field of battle. We wrestle not with blood and flesh. So how do we gain victory?

If we look for the example of Christ in our passage, beyond how it is portrayed in Joshua, I think we can see that

We must fight for victory by humbling ourselves as servants.

1. We must humble ourselves as servants because Jesus humbled himself as a servant. We find this especially in verses 26 and 27, if we ask ourselves this question: Why should Joshua and the Israelites get to put their feet on the necks of the Canaanite kings?

1a. Keep in mind, these are many of the same people who, merely months earlier, had committed adultery and idolatry with the Midianite women in Numbers 25. Shouldn’t they be the ones with their necks underneath God’s foot? Shouldn’t we be crushed underfoot?

1b. Furthermore, according to Deuteronomy 21.23 people killed and hung on trees are accursed by God. That is certainly why Joshua did it to those five kings. But in Galatians 3.13, the Apostle Paul makes a great deal of the fact that anyone who is hung up on a tree is under God’s curse, because that is the means by which Jesus suffered under the curse in our place.

The thing to keep in mind is that the Bible does not give us details for no reason. Every bit of Scripture is inspired by God and is useful. I recently got to view a movie called Gattica that, while it was not a Christian movie, was probably the most beautiful and well-crafted movie I have ever seen. It was that good because every scene, ever detail of every scene, every jot and tittle of the script was there to contribute to the message of the movie. The protagonist wanted to be the first astronaut to Saturn and his love interest happened to be named after the discoverer of one of the rings of Saturn. The movie was about whether or not one’s genetic makeup determined one’s chances for survival, so we see competition between two brothers happening several times in the ocean—where life supposedly began according to modern scientific mythology. Furthermore, every time you saw these swimming competitions you always saw lots and lots of seaweed, just to make sure you got the point about life from the ocean. And then another character appeared in the movies who happened to have been an Olympic silver medal swimmer who was tormented because he had been genetically-engineered to win the gold. All of this was purposefully arranged by the director. There have been lots of movies which showed scenes of ocean swimming, but in none of them did the director make sure that seaweed prominently appeared on camera. It wasn’t included because it didn’t matter to the meaning of the movie.

Now, God is the director of history and the author of the Scriptures. There are many details which he has not bothered to record for us and many that he has. And God is wiser than any movie director or scriptwriter. Every jot and tittle in the stories of the Bible has meaning. The Holy Spirit does not waste His breath.

1c. So when Jesus is being arrested in Matthew 26.53, and tells Peter, “[D]o you think I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal twelve legions of angels?” we’re supposed to contrast that with the first Joshua who commanded the heavenly bodies to stay in place so that he could finish killing his enemies. Remember, the LORD Himself threw down huge rocks from the heavens on those who were fighting against Joshua. And we are explicitly told in verse 14: “there was no day like that before or after it, when the LORD listened to the voice of a man; for the LORD fought for Israel.” But thousands of years later, the Lord is again ready to listen to the voice of the Son of Man and send help from heaven against His enemies. But this second Man is not using that power; rather he is becoming a slave to his enemies.

2d. And when we read in the Gospels about how Jesus is called a king, mocked, given a crown of thorns, and then after he dies put in a cave with a big heavy stone placed over the opening, we’re supposed to be reminded of some other kings who were disposed of in a cave with a stone placed over the opening. You see, not only is Jesus prophesied and prefigured by the heroes of the Bible, but by the villains. Jesus was the perfect covenant-keeper, but he died the death of the most wicked covenant-breaker. He died the death of one cursed by God on a tree. He suffered the fate of a Canaanite who was forsaken by God Himself.

The reason why Joshua could put his foot on the necks of the Canaanite kings, was because the King of kings came down from heaven to be cast down underfoot in our place. The reason why we get victory is because Christ became a slave for us and our salvation—our victory.

Now, you might think that self-sacrifice is something done by Christ alone that has nothing to do with us, but that is not what the Bible teaches us. Though Christ’s sacrifice is unique and once-for-all, it is also an example for us—our path to victory.

2. Because Jesus humbled himself as a servant, we must humble ourselves as servants.

2a. We see this in Matthew 20.25 where Jesus tells His disciples: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many.”

2b. We see this in Colossians 1.24 where the Apostle Paul writes: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body (which is the Church) in filling up that which is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.” Obviously this does not mean that Paul’s suffering add to Christ’s merit. But Christ died to present a perfect Church to the Father and that has not yet been accomplished. It is our privilege in union with Christ to be used by God to bring the Church closer to that Final Day of eschatological glory through self-sacrifice.

2c. We see this in Philippians 2 where Paul writes: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not look out for your own personal interests but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in you which is also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God has highly exalted Him.” Our path to victory is to humble ourselves even to death.

2d. When the Apostle John sees a vision of Satan being cast out of heaven, it is interesting what he tells us brought about his downfall. In Revelation 12.11 we read that the saints “overcame” Satan “because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even to death.”

2e. Finally, let’s consider Paul again, in his words to the Galatians in chapter 5 verse 13: “you were called to freedom, brethren,” that is to deliverance and victory; “only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”

Are we willing to be humble? Are we willing to be servants? You see, when we read about Joshua putting his foot on the necks of his enemies, we can’t simply assume that the Bible is teaching us to have the same attitude in our own conflicts with the world the flesh and the Devil. The Bible doesn’t hesitate to use that terminology of warfare and victory, but it applies it to humble service, self-sacrifice, and love.

I remember last semester a fellow seminary student gave a testimonial about the trials of finding a call when the clock is ticking to graduation and you need a place to go. He talked about the temptation he felt to view himself as competing with the other students who were his brothers in the Lord. He mentioned that he was sitting in the library one day with his stuff out on a table, including a piece of paper with the phone number of a job possibility. In all innocence, a friend came up and asked him how he was doing, and his reflex act as to cover the paper. The pressure he was feeling is probably even more common in other vocations. We are tempted to put ourselves forward and put others down because that seems the only way to get ahead. The Gentiles lord it over one another but Jesus calls us to a different path to victory.

And it is the same in other areas of life. In the ways we combat the forces of darkness in the public arena it is all too easy to forget that servanthood and suffering are the path to victory. It works for Satan’s followers to be obnoxious and rude. And I remember a time when I was rather unapologetic about being rude right back. But I didn’t learn Christ in that way. We have to believe that the only way to victory is Jesus’ way. It is the way of humility and service.

In our families it is all too easy to feel like unless we whip everyone else into shape, we aren’t doing our job. But that is not the way that Christ runs His family.

Most importantly, we must practice this in the Church. It is love, self-giving, and tolerance that perpetuates the Church. Without that, we simply bite and devour one another.


The stone rolled over the cave holding the bodies of the five kings is “there to this day” according to our text. But that’s not what happened when the King of kings was laid in His tomb. They not only rolled a stone over it, but they sealed it. It didn’t matter. Because Christ had submitted Himself to the humiliation of death on a cross, God highly exalted Him and us with Him. Because His victory is behind us, we have reason to believe and a basis to hope for victory ahead of us.

So let us never live as slaves to sin and Satan, but let us strive for victory by living as slaves to God and to one another.

Copyright © 1998, All rights reserved.

1 Comment »

  1. So much needed!

    Thanks brother!

    Comment by Joe — April 26, 2015 @ 5:06 pm

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