And the LORD said unto Joshua, Be not afraid because of them: for to morrow about this time will I deliver them up all slain before Israel: thou shalt hough their horses, and burn their chariots with fire (Josh 11:6).
I spent a long time in the military. During that time, fortunately, I did not have a lot of experience in war. One time, however, I parachuted into combat with my military unit into Panama. Since we jumped from airplanes we were not able to bring a lot of heavy equipment with us. As a result, we had very few vehicles to travel in once we got on the ground.
To rectify that situation, we had to “steal” cars that were already there. We had soldiers who knew how to “hot wire” cars (I never asked them how they learned that skill!). That is how we got around in the country. (By the way, the civilians whose cars we used were reimbursed by the US government after the combat was over.)
As you can imagine, the cars that were left behind by the Panamanians were a big help for us. I don’t know what we would have done without them.
Because of that experience, I was very surprised when I read a passage in Joshua 11. The nation of Israel had come into the Promised land to conquer it. They had cut the country in two, by entering at the middle of it. That was a very good militarily strategic thing to do. They then took charge of the southern part of the country. Then they attacked the northern part.
When they went to combat in the north they ran into a large number of kings and soldiers who opposed them. In addition, they had “vehicles” that they had not encountered before. The enemy had horses and chariots.
I feel fairly confident that the soldiers in the nation of Israel had fear when they saw those things. In addition, the commanders were wishing that they themselves had such help in the battles they were facing.
But the Lord told the Jews that they did not need to be afraid of their enemy even though the enemy appeared much stronger they the Jews were. The Lord told them that they were going to defeat all of their enemy.
I also feel pretty confident that when the Jews were told that they thought how great it would be to get a hold of those horses and chariots. After all, there was still a lot of battles to be fought and they would come in very handy in those future battles.
But then the Lord tells them to “hough” (hamstring them in a way that would not allow them to run fast and were therefore useless in battle) and burn the chariots. With my limited experience in the military, that just didn’t make sense to me. Those horses and chariots were have been able to put to good use by the Jews, just like the cars in Panama were for us.
It only takes a moment of reflection to figure out why the Lord told them to do these things. The Lord wanted the Jews to trust in Him for their victories, not horses or chariots. He was more than able to bring them these victories. They didn’t need what they thought they needed.
It doesn’t take much thought to see how this applies to us. It is natural for us to thank that we could do so much more for the Lord if we had greater resources. Just think what we could do for the Lord if we won the lottery and had all that money to use in service to Him! Just think how much more we could do if we had more PhDs on our side, if we were able to teach in big seminaries, or if we had some really famous people or professional athletes on our side to attract more people, especially young people. We could really do some great work of the Lord.
But we don’t need what we think we need. If we are faithful to the Lord, He is all we need to do what He requires of us. The Jews did just find in conquering the Promised Land without those horses and chariots.