Thoroughly Equipped: Remember the Grave

Today’s reading includes Joshua 9:3-10:43, Luke 16:19-17:10, Psalm 83:1-18, Proverbs 13:4.

Today’s reading had lots of interesting parts.  We could talk of the people of Gibeon and how they tricked the Israelites.  We could talk of how the Israelites failed to consult God and only relied on their own observations.  We could talk about how the Israelites kept their word to the men of Gibeon, even when it was painful to do so—and God honored them for it.  God gave them victory over the Amorites and miraculously stopped the sun’s progression.  I love how that story was summed up:

There has never been a day like this one before or since, when the Lord answered such a prayer.  Surely the Lord fought for Israel that day!

                                                                                    Joshua 10:14

Up until that point in the journey of God’s people there had never been a day like that one.  But there was a day to come that would even be better–more amazing, more miraculous.  And what happened next was a reflection of that most glorious day to come.

Joshua found out that the five kings of their enemies had escaped and were hiding in a cave at Makkedah.  When Joshua found out, he issued this command:

“Cover the opening of the cave with large rocks and place guards at the entrance to keep the kings inside.”  Later, Joshua commanded that the stones be removed from the mouth of the cave.

22 Then Joshua said, “Remove the rocks covering the opening of the cave, and bring the five kings to me.” 23 So they brought the five kings out of the cave—the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon. 24 When they brought them out, Joshua told the commanders of his army, “Come and put your feet on the kings’ necks.” And they did as they were told.

25 “Don’t ever be afraid or discouraged,” Joshua told his men. “Be strong and courageous, for the Lord is going to do this to all of your enemies.” 26 Then Joshua killed each of the five kings and impaled them on five sharpened poles, where they hung until evening.

                                                                                    Joshua 10:22-26

This passage is a profound mirror image of what was to come.  I say mirror image because even though the reflection is the same, some of the elements are backward.  First, we have a cave with kings inside.  Next, we have stones covering the cave, forming a human graveyard.  The soldiers guarded the entrance for extra assurance of their victory over these kings.  Then, comes the command to roll away the stones and out comes the kings, alive and well.  Only their life would soon be taken from them by a holy one.  He crushes their neck and head with their feet and then hang them on a pole where they hung until evening.  As gruesome as this sounds, it was a righteous judgement for those cultural times.

Fast forward to the darkest and greatest day in history.  God allowed Jesus, the Righteous One, to carry the sins for an unrighteous people.  He hung on a tree and had to be removed before nightfall.  In doing this, He fulfilled the first prophesy of the coming Savior.

14 Then the Lord God said to the serpent,

“Because you have done this, you are cursed
    more than all animals, domestic and wild.
You will crawl on your belly,
    groveling in the dust as long as you live.
15 And I will cause hostility between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and her offspring.
He will strike[b] your head,
    and you will strike his heel.”

Genesis 3:14-15

At the cross, Jesus stomped the head of Satan, defeating his kingship forever.  For three days, he was in the grave.  This was a cave with a large rock put at the entrance, with soldiers guarding the entrance.  When He entered that cave, that grave, He was literally unrighteous.  It hurts my heart to write that.  But He was not unrighteous with His own sin, He was unrighteous with mine.  When He rose again, He was once again reinstate to perfect righteousness.  He had shaken off my sin and defeated it forever.  He did not have to wait for a righteous one to roll away the stone, the great King inside who had defeated every other unrighteous king, rolled away the stone Himself when He rose again from the dead.  The Righteous One who carried our sins so that we could stand in His righteousness, is no longer in the cave.  The King of King has rolled away the stone, stomped Satan’s headship, and offered us life eternal.

Today is Good Friday.  When I was younger, I couldn’t understand why they called it good.  But now I get it.  This passage in Joshua was a reflection of what would come.  It was a hopeful preview.  But we have already seen and experienced the feature story.  It has already happened.  In our glancing back, we know the end of the story.  We know that it is Good Friday, because that was not the end of the story.  It may be Friday, but Sunday is coming!  Indeed, that glorious Resurrection has already come and we can rejoice that our King is the King of all kings and the Lord of all Lords.  Remember the grave today.  Let’s grieve for what He had to go through, what He had to endure for us.  But let’s not grieve as those who have no hope.  We know the end of the story.  We are recipients of that glorious ending.  Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, the One who was and is and is to come!

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