29 Dec Hamstrung Horses and Chariots on Fire
Joshua, chapter 11, records a drastic command issued by God to Joshua. The order was given in the context of an impending battle. Jabin, the king of Hazor, heard how God had fought for Israel at the battle of Gibeon. If anyone wondered, the battle left no doubt as to whose side Heaven was on. In Joshua, chapter 10, the Scripture records that God cast the gathered coalition of the five kings into absolute chaos. Not only did He throw them into confusion, but He also lobbed large hailstones from heaven, crushing Israel’s enemies to the ground. The Bible tells us that more died from the attack God launched from the sky than died from the attack Israel launched with the sword.
If there was any remaining question about where God stood, one final sign silenced any vestiges of doubt. Seeing the day was passing and there was still much ground to be taken, Joshua prayed a bold and breathtaking prayer, “Sun stand still over Gibeon and moon over the valley of Aijalon” (Joshua 10:12). So impressed was God with such an audacious faith, He slowed the earth’s rotation to a crawl. The sun did not set that evening. In fact, it appeared to stand still for nearly a whole extra day. Never was there a day like that before or since.
These true accounts that proved God was enlisted in the army of Israel caused Jabin’s throne to rattle as he trembled in fear. Fear often causes men to do stupid things. When Jabin heard this news, rather than surrendering, he gathered the most incredible coalition of the day together to fight against Israel. Joshua 11:4 tells us that the multitude was as vast as the sand on the seashore. Interestingly, the Scripture doesn’t only note the number of men; it also reveals that accompanying this multitude of men was a vast number of horses and chariots.
It was in this context that God issued the order I have previously mentioned. Joshua 11:5-6 says, “And when all these kings had met together, they came and camped together at the waters of Merom to fight against Israel. But the LORD said to Joshua, ‘Do not be afraid because of them, for tomorrow about this time I will deliver all of them slain before Israel. You shall hamstring their horses and burn their chariots with fire.’”
We expect to hear God say things like, “Do not be afraid,” or, “I will deliver all of them slain before Israel.” Still, the end of verse six is somewhat suspicious and unexpected. Why was it necessary for Israel to hamstring the horses and burn the chariots? Doesn’t this seem like a waste of life and technology? The lightweight horse and chariot were the most advanced weapons of the day. However, that is likely exactly why they had to be destroyed.
Allow me to explain. Psalm 20:6-7 says, “Now I know that the LORD saves His anointed; He will answer him from His holy heaven with the saving strength of His right hand. Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the LORD our God.”
I think God commanded this seemingly drastic action because He did not want Israel to adopt and depend on enemy weapons to defend against enemy attacks or defeat enemy advances. Later in the book of Joshua, the tribe of Ephraim specifically complained that the inhabitants of the land had iron chariots (Joshua 17:16). Had Israel allowed the horses and chariots to survive, they would have been tempted to deploy them in both offensive and defensive maneuvers. They would have come to rely on human weapons rather than the power of God for victory.
There is always a great danger in God’s people learning to lean on anything but God to do the work of God! Therefore, God ordered Joshua to destroy the enemy’s weapons lest they utilize them and be defeated because of them. Israel’s power was not found in what she held in her hand but in the hand of the God that held her. This must cause the church to inquire, what have we added to our arsenal, or what have we adopted that we should have eradicated? Could it be we are hamstrung because we have not hamstrung?
It troubles me that the modern church is more consumed with technology than we are theology. There is no shortage of conferences on how to keep our horses healthy, nor is there a lack of books on keeping the wheels on our chariot clean and inflated. I fear that we have come to depend on fleshly weapons to fight spiritual battles. Rather than spending nights travailing in prayer, we purchase a new system or promote a new program. Instead of petitioning God to make the sun stand still, we invest in new lighting to keep anyone from recognizing how dark things have become.
Whatever happened to the gospel itself being the power of God unto salvation? How did we get so far off track that we began to depend more on iron chariots than we do hail from Heaven? Hail from Heaven knocks down towering horses, and a single word from God can drive chariot wheels deep into the mud. I fear that the church has become so invested in moving forward that she cannot see her need to go back.
I am not prohibiting the use of new technology or the study of better practices. These things can be used for the glory of God. However, they can never produce the glory of God. The glory of God is only revealed when the people of God humble themselves in His presence and obediently hamstring the horses they have been feeding and char the chariots they have been leading. I wonder what would happen if the church threw out all the substitutes she has used to hide her missing power? I wonder what would unfold if she repented of her pragmatism and shed what should have already been dead? I wonder what God would do if His people turned to Him and Him alone as her only hope of help and salvation? I think the answer would be a thing we call revival.
Joshua 11:9 records the only proper response to God’s command, “So Joshua did to them as the LORD had told him: he hamstrung their horses and burned their chariots with fire.” My prayer is that we always seek to be a people who depends more on God than we do the means and methods of men.
Pastor Benjamin Webb Crestwood Baptist Church