When they had brought these kings to Joshua, he summoned all the men of Israel and said to the army commanders who had come with him, “Come here and put your feet on the necks of these kings.” So they came forward and placed their feet on their necks. Joshua said to them, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Be strong and courageous. This is what the LORD will do to all the enemies you are going to fight.” Then Joshua struck and killed the kings and hung them on five trees, and they were left hanging on the trees until evening. Joshua 10:24.
The five kings were the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish and Eglon who, alarmed at the sweep of the Israelite conquest of the land under Joshua, had formed an alliance against him and were seeking to take the neighbouring large city of Gibeon which was under Joshua’s protection. As we read here, they failed. And Joshua wants his commanders and all the Israelites to be clear about this: that the enemies of God’s people will always fail; that, under God, his people are invincible. So Joshua does something that may offend our sensibilities but was (according to wall paintings and reliefs of Egypt and Assyria) common practice in those days when an enemy was vanquished — he has his commanders put their feet on the necks of the kings and then he executes them.
Joshua and Jesus are one and the same name in Hebrew … Yeshua … and it is important and instructive to read the book of Joshua with that in mind. The book’s key themes are victory and possession, and it is often regarded as the Old Testament counterpart of the epistle to the Ephesians which tells of the Christian inheritance of the “heavenly places” and of the spiritual warfare that is involved, under Jesus, in coming into that inheritance.
So in these few verses there is a great spiritual truth for me to grasp; and I find the clue to it in Psalm 110.1: “The LORD says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.'” Here is the same picture of feet on the necks of enemies, but here it is a reference to the victory of the Lord’s anointed, the coming king, the Messiah. And, a thousand years later, after Jesus has ascended into heaven (as it happens, yesterday was Ascension Day!) Peter recognises that those prophetic words of Psalm 110.1 have now been fulfilled. On the day of Pentecost, he tells the crowds: “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, ‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.'” Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2.32-36).
Here is the great truth — Jesus is now seated at the right hand of God and from there he reigns; and a day is coming when, says Paul, “he will hand over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” (1 Corinthians 15.24-26).
In the hope and promise of that conquest I am to live, but meanwhile I am to take Joshua’s words to heart: “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Be strong and courageous.” Or, as Paul puts it: “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:10-12).
Lord Jesus, help me to fight the good fight with all my might, knowing that you are my Strength and you my Right. Amen.