Now these are the kings of the land whom Joshua and the sons of Israel defeated beyond the Jordan toward the west, from Baal-gad in the valley of Lebanon even as far as Mount Halak, which rises toward Seir; and Joshua gave it to the tribes of Israel as a possession according to their divisions, in the hill country, in the lowland, in the Arabah, on the slopes, and in the wilderness, and in the Negev; the Hittite, the Amorite and the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite … in all, thirty-one kings.
Chapter 12 is a recounting of the victories of the conquest of the Promised Land. This recounting is in summary form, which makes sense as the detail is included earlier in the book and in other books. The first 6 verses summarize the victories led by Moses before the Israelites crossed the Jordan. Verses 7-24 — this morning’s passage — summarize the victories won under Joshua’s command.
What caught my attention is the number of kings defeated. I am no numerologist and cannot say whether or not 31 has any special significance in its own right, but it is the number of days in the longest months on the calendar. It is almost as if God is saying that there is victory to be won every day. And the next chapter begins with God telling an old Joshua that there is still a lot of land left to conquer. No matter how much victory is in my past, there are still more victories yet to be won.
The Promised Land is viewed metaphorically in many ways. The way that I view it, the Promised Land is my self. What I want to conquer and have dominion over is my own mind and heart and all … in short, my self. To take possession of my self, control must be wrested from various little despots like wrong ways of thinking and sins over which I am not yet victorious. And there always seems to be some other petty tyrant in my life doing its level best to ruin all the good work that God has already accomplished.
July has, for me, gotten off to a rocky start. It is not that there has been much defeat, but rather that there have been a few seemingly small victories. God already conquered a Jericho in my life in the form of anger. He has conquered many other areas, as well. But there are still giants in the land and there are still little tyrants in my heart and mind waging war with God and with me. They will be defeated, but I am glad of the reminder that there are always the victories whose stories are told and the victories that only really show up in summarized fashion. Some are worth recounting in their entirety. Others deserve only a footnote. But all are victories and worthy of some note.
Father, thank You that the victories are Yours and therefore the battles are also Yours. Please continue to lead me through the battles in my life to take possession of my Promised Land: me.