Greg Laurie - Overcoming or Overcome? (Israel At War)
Israel is at war and this is near the anniversary of the last time Israel was officially at war and what is known as "The Yom Kippur War," back in 1973 when she was attacked by Egypt, Syria, and others. But this was a different kind of war. Thousands of rockets reigned on Israel from multiple directions and Hamas gunmen invaded by land, sea, and sky and hundreds of people had been murdered and kidnapped and they were using what we might describe as Isis like methods because they specifically targeted young women, young children. And they launched massive indiscriminate rocket fire towards civilian population centers, as well as terrorist infiltration of cities and settlements close to the Gaza border.
They went literally home to home, door to door, looking for the young and for the elderly. Some of the women they took as hostages literally were survivors of the Holocaust. And when it's all said and done and this number tragically will only get larger, there are 600 dead, 2,000 wounded and this is simply without precedent causing Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, to say "We are now at war".
Who is Hamas? They're a terrorist organization funded by Iran, that's not a secret. In fact, a leader of Hamas, the PR person from Hamas came out and said, "Oh yes, this was funded by Iran". So this is something that's an established fact. And Iran is long stated their objective, which is to destroy Israel. In fact, an Iranian leader celebrated the attacks putting out this message. "We stand by the Palestinian fires until the liberation of Palestine in Jerusalem is completed". And Iran has also signaled that they are developing a nuclear weapon. In the past they have threatened in their own verbiage wipe Israel off the face of the map.
One leader of Iran said, quote, "Is it possible for us to witness a world without America and Zionism? But you at best know that this slogan and this goal are altogether attainable and surely can be achieved because the regime that is occupying Jerusalem must be wiped off the map". End quote. Interesting how it always comes back to Jerusalem. The Bible predicted thousands of years ago that the end time events would revolve around Jerusalem. Not Irvine, not Riverside, not San Francisco, not Los Angeles, not Moscow, not Paris, but Jerusalem. This tiny little city in this tiny sliver of land will play a key role in the events of the last days. It's the focal point of end times events.
It's amazing when you think about it because in Zechariah 12, God says, "I will make Jerusalem and Judah like an intoxicating drink to all the nearby nations that send their armies to besiege Jerusalem. On that day I'll make Jerusalem a heavy stone, a burden for the world. And none of the nations who try will be able to lift it". But here's where it gets interesting for students of Bible prophecy. The Bible tells us in the end times that Israel would be scattered and regathered, this has happened. You wanna talk about signs of the times, the super sign of the last days. And really the sign that sets the prophetic clock ticking is the regathering of the nation Israel into their homeland.
On the heels of the Holocaust, who would've ever thought that these Jewish people who lost 6 million of their people to the Nazis would somehow regather in their homeland? But it happened against all odds. And on May 14, 1948, Israel became a nation. I'm proud to say the United States was the first nation to acknowledge that. But God said she'll be regathered. And then the Lord said she would come under attack. And specifically in Ezekiel 37 and 38, the Bible speaks of the regathering of Israel and then it speaks of a large force from her north attacking her. That force is identified as Magog.
Who is Magog? Listen, no one can say with absolute certainty, but many Bible students and prophecy teachers believe it's modern day Russia. I think you can make a very good case for that. If you get on a map of the Middle East and look to the north of Israel, you will find Russia. Why would Russia ever want to invade Israel? Well, there's another thing the Bible says about Magog, if she is indeed Russia, and that one of her allies that will march with her is Persia. Persia is the ancient name for modern Iran. So the Bible predicted hundreds of years ago that this large force from the north of Israel would attack her after she was regathered and one of the allies that would attack Israel with mother Russia or Magog, whoever it is, would be Iran or Persia. And it's only recently that the Iranians and the Russians have developed a special connection.
Not once in the past 2,500 years has Russia formed a military alliance with Persia, Iran, but they have now signed a billion dollar deals to sell missiles to Iran and the Iranians have helped the Russians providing them with drones, weaponized drones to use in the Ukraine war. You probably heard about that. And prime Minister Netanyahu said of this, "Iran and Russia are very disturbing to us". Iran supplying Russia with drones, Russia helping Iran with nuclear weapons. The only way to stop Iran is with a credible military threat.
So how do you stop something like this? Literally there are hostages from Israel, old women, little children, young women and soldiers as well because these civilians were actually targeted in this attack. How do you deal with this? It's very tricky. Let's just say for the sake of a point that Israel decided to strike out at Iran specifically because they're funding all of this. What would that produce? Well, it could produce a conflict we read about in Ezekiel where suddenly, because the Bible says that Magog will come against her will. The Bible describes hooks in her jaws pulling her forward. Almost as though Magog is coming in reluctantly along with her ally Persia or Iran. I'm not saying this is gonna lead to the Ezekiel 37, 38 scenario, but I'm saying it's very interesting.
If you get up in the morning and read this headline, "Russia attacks Israel", fasten your seatbelt. You're seeing Bible prophecy fulfilled in your lifetime in real time before your very eyes. So what should we do in light of all of this? Jesus said, "When you see these things begin to happen, freak out because you're dead in the water". Well, he didn't say that, did he? He said, "When you see these things begin to happen, look up because your redemption is drawing near". That's what we need to be doing, looking up. So I'm gonna ask you to join me in prayer right now because the Bible tells us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. And we wanna pray that they arrive at some kind of peace. We wanna pray that this horrific terrorism stops and that they're able to get their hostages back. But that is not gonna replace the hundreds of lives that were lost in this unprecedented attack. Let's pray.
Father, you've told us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and we do that right now. Lord, these are your people, the Jewish people that you've regathered in the land according to what your Word predicted. And now, Lord, we see them under attack, and you've described them as the apple of your eye. And you've said that you will bless those that bless them and curse those that curse them. We pray for your protective hand to be on the nation of Israel, give wisdom to her leaders, help them to get back their hostages, help this insanity to stop and to intervene in that part of our world right now. We specifically focus our prayers on that and as your Word tells us, we do pray for the peace of Jerusalem and we ask all of this in Jesus's name, amen.
So it just so happens we're in the book of Joshua and we're looking at the story of how Israel came into that land in the first place. The land that God had given them. Make no mistake about it. God has given to the Jewish people, the land of Israel and he is given to them Jerusalem as their capital. But here now in the book of Joshua, the wilderness wanderings have come to an end, that first generation that doubted God are not entering into the Promised Land, but their children are. They're poised now to enter into Canaan's land, the land flowing with milk and honey, The Promised Land, modern day Israel.
And so that's where we pick this story up. And this is something that speaks to us because we might wonder, why do we have such a place given in the Word of God, giving us a record of the military victories and sometime defeats of the Israeli army and the conquest of Canaan? Answer, because we too are at war, we're in a spiritual battle. The moment you become a Christian you enter into this war. It's not a choice of winning or it's not a choice of being in the war, not being in the war. It's just a choice of winning or losing, gaining ground or losing ground, being overcome or overcoming. It's really up to us. It's been said, the Christian life or conversion rather, has made our hearts a battlefield. And the Christian life is not a playground, it is indeed a battleground. Why? Because the devil doesn't want you to follow Christ.
So the moment you put your faith in him, he's going to oppose you, he's going to tempt you, he's going to harass you, he's gonna try to pull you away from this commitment that you have made. But thankfully, God won't give us more than we can handle. Because 1 Corinthians 10:13 promises that when the temptations come our way, there's always a way of escape that we may be able to bear it but the battle will indeed rage on in life. How did Satan even become Satan? Why would a loving God create someone as horrible as the devil? Answer, he didn't. The Lord created a magnificent spirit being, an angelic creature known as Lucifer, the son of the Morning. But Lucifer rebelled against God. You know it's interesting, the Bible never tells us how old Lucifer was when he did rebel against God. I figure he was around 16 years old. It was teenage rebellion. The Lord told him to submit and worship and Lucifer said, "Whatever".
I heard one comedian make this statement, quote, "I believe teenagers are God's revenge on mankind". He said, "I think one day the good Lord looked down on creation and said, 'Let's see how they like it to create someone in their own image who denies their existence.'" Good point. So we don't know anything about that of course, but the devil rebels against God and he took one third of the angels with him. Those fallen angels are now what we would call demons. And what is the purpose of demons? It seems to be twofold. They wanna hinder the purposes of God and extend the power of Satan. So we're in a war. And when you're in a spiritual war, you need to put on spiritual armor.
And Ephesians 6 tells us this, "Put on all of God's armor so you will be able to stand firm against the strategies of the devil for we're not fighting against flesh and blood enemies, but against rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in the dark world, against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God's armor so you will be able to resist the attack of the enemy in the day of evil". Here's the thing, the devil usually comes to us in the realm of our mind and imagination. He comes and says, "Take it out for a spin, take this free sample, try this thought on for size. Of 'course, you would never act on this thought, but take a trip to Fantasy Island and just pretend you would do it".
Because he knows that's the first step to actually doing it. And that's how he's gonna come to you, that's how he's often going to tempt you. 2 Corinthians 11:3 says, "I'm afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your mind should somehow be led astray from your sincere devotion to Christ". So in your mind, the hardest part of the spiritual battle is winning the battle of the mind. The Bible says in Proverbs 23:7, "As a man thinks, so is he". Because the thought can then give way to action. That's why we must guard our minds.
Joshua chapter 6 starting in verse 1. I'm reading from the New Living Translation. "Now the gates of Jericho were tightly shut because the people were afraid of the Israelites. No one was allowed to go out or in. And the Lord said to Joshua, 'I have given you Jericho, the king, and all of its mighty warriors. Your entire army is to march around the city once a day for six days. Seven priests will walk ahead of the Ark, each carrying a ram's horn. On the seventh day you are to march around the city seven times and then the priests blow their horns. And when the people hear the priests give long blasts on the horns, then you give a mighty shout and the walls of the city will collapse and then you can just charge right into the city".
Do you think God ever just tries to mess with their minds a little bit? I mean, what kind of a battle plan is this? It's God's battle plan. And this was the kind of a thing where if God didn't come through, they were in big trouble. It reminds us of the story of Gideon. Here's Gideon who God chooses to lead Israel into battle against their enemies, the Midianites that have been oppressing them.
First of all, Gideon's army wasn't that large but the Lord said, "Your army's too big. Say to your soldiers, 'If you're fearful and afraid, go home.'" And most of his army went home. He's left with 300 men. Now he's vastly outnumbered. And the Lord says, "Here's the battle plan, here's how you will defeat the Midianites. I want you all to get a little torch, you know, light the flame, put a clay pot around it then you run down this hill and you scream 'The sword of the Lord and of Gideon' and you crack the pot open and they see the flame and they'll all die".
Crack the pot open, I think I'm a crackpot if I do this. And that's exactly what they did, and the Midianites were so freaked out and disoriented. They thought they were already under attack and they attacked each other and that's how the battle was won. But the Lord often does things like this. He uses human weakness to display his strength. To us it might seem random, but there's a method to the madness, if you will, because it's not madness at all, it's just God's way of keeping us looking to him.
Are you in a situation where there's no way out but God? In other words, if God doesn't come through for you, there's no way out for you. If you are, understand God specializes in taking circumstances like that and using them for his glory. God had them walk around Jericho so they would see how much they needed him. They walked around that city, in total 13 times. That's a lot of time to look at your obstacle. "Whoa, look at those walls, look at those soldiers up there. This is a big problem". They went around it again, and again, and again. And sometimes we have to realize that our problem is so big we can't solve it on our own. It's like if God doesn't come through, I'm in trouble. Just take the Christian life.
The Christian life is not hard, it's impossible, isn't it? It's impossible to be a Christian without the help of God, without the work of the Holy Spirit. But Jesus said, "Apart from me, you can do nothing". But then the Apostle Paul said, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me". So yes, it's impossible through human effort, but it's entirely possible with the help of God's Holy Spirit changing you each and every day. But sometimes God will allow us to look at our big problems, so we'll see that our God is even bigger. And maybe you're facing a big problem right now, something you've tried to overcome. It's a broken marriage and your marriage is hanging by a thread and the thread is on fire.
Maybe it's an addiction to gambling, to drugs, to pornography, to alcohol, to Hostess' Ding Dongs, I don't know, whatever it is, something. You've tried to conquer it, you've tried to beat it, you've tried to overcome it and it takes you down again, and again, and again. It's time for you to call out to God and say, "God, I can't do it on my own. Help me". Have you done that yet? Bring your problem to God. That's what Israel had to do. It was too big for them in their own strength. You wonder what the inhabitants of Jericho were thinking about all of this. Was this a joke to him? To them rather? I mean they knew the Jew's God was powerful because they locked the city up.
We don't want those people coming in here. And as they marched around again and again, seven times, eight times, nine times, ten times, thirteen times in total, they may have wondered, why do these people do this? Why do they live the way that they live? Why do they walk the way they walk? Nonbelievers look at us and wonder the same thing. Why do you Christians do what you do? Why are you the way that you are? It doesn't make any sense to me. But then they might also ask, "How is it that you were able to come through that problem with such joy? How is it that you have a marriage that's lasted so long? How did you raise some amazing kids? That's not even possible".
Oh, it's possible. And they wonder. But it's even worse when nonbelievers say, "Why aren't you the way that you should be"? Have you ever been corrected by a nonbeliever? That's really humbling. When a nonbeliever will say, "Aren't you a Christian"? And will say, "Why yes, I am. See how big my Bible is and it's green". "Why"? "I don't know, but it is". "So you're Christian, why do you lose your temper all the time? Why are you getting drunk? I thought Christians weren't supposed to do that". "Well, you know, let me just shut up". They're right, you're wrong.
So here are the Israelites marching around and listen to this, the Canaanites could have believed and been spared but they refused. God would've forgiven them. God forgave Nineveh of their sins, sending Jonah to preach to them. God would've forgiven Sodom and Gomorrah if they repented, he was looking just for a few righteous people there. God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, the Bible says. God didn't wanna judge these people. They could have believed. They'd heard all about Israel, their reputation preceded them.
Forty years ago, they crossed the Red Sea, they knew about that. They knew that God fed the Israelites with manna and led them with a cloud by day and a fire by night and more recently, they knew that they had crossed the Jordan River. They knew they were coming their way and now they're marching around their city. Sounds to me like a good time to repent. 'Cause they sealed up the gates knowing the danger, but they didn't believe. And so they faced the judgment that ultimately came upon them.
These were extremely wicked people. These were people that sacrificed their children to their false gods, and they watched them march around again, and again, and again. They shouldn't have opposed God's people. It's a bad idea to attack God's people. Nations of the world have learned this the hard way. Those that have raised their hand against the Jewish people against the nation, Israel. Look at the nations that have done it. Egypt, Rome, more recently, Germany, and soon Iran. God's made a promise where he says to Abraham, "I bless those that bless you and curse those that curse you". That's why it's always a good idea to support the nation of Israel.
Point number five, they overcame their enemy by faith, not by feeling. They overcame their enemy by faith, not by feeling, giving commentary on the battle of Jericho. Hebrews 11:30 says, "By faith, the walls of Jericho fell down after they were surrounded for seven days. By faith. Israel had to march by faith not by their emotions". Faith doesn't believe God can do it, faith believes that God will do it. Faith sees invisible things. Faith doesn't just see what's there, it sees what could be there because according to Hebrews 11, "Faith is a substance of things hoped for, it's the evidence of things not seen".
But it's not just faith, it's also patience. Because Hebrews 6:12 says, "Have you become lazy, but instead through faith and patience, you will inherit what God has promised". We need patience. Sometimes God doesn't come through for us as quickly as we want him to, but we need to keep having faith and we need to have patience for the work that he is going to do. Because listen, you might be at the verge of quitting, you might say, "I've given up in this marriage and nothing can be done". Really? Well, we have irreconcilable differences. May I very politely say, shut up.
The point is, you don't dissolve a marriage when you have a disagreement, you work through it, you learn to forgive, you learn to resolve your conflict, but people will give up so quickly. "Oh, I've given up. I've given up on my child, they'll never come back to the Lord". Won't they? Keep praying for them. "I've given up on this ministry, I've tried, it just hasn't happened the way I wanted it to". Hang in there because the moment you're ready to quit, may be the moment right before the miracle happens. It be coming, it might be right around the corner.
Galatians 6:9 says, "Don't be tired of doing what's right. But after a while, you'll reap a harvest of blessing if you don't get discouraged and give up". So they blow their trumpets, they give out their shout, and what happens? The walls of Jericho collapse and a mighty heap and Israel goes in and they conquer their enemies. Loud shouts, blasting trumpets. Remind you of anything else? The Bible speaks of an event that will come often referred to as the rapture of the church.
In 1 Thessalonians 4, it says, "The Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first and we which are alive and remaining shall be caught up together with them in the air. And so shall we ever be with the Lord". Listen, one day this world system, this wicked culture will collapse. The Jericho's, if you will, will fall and the Word of God will prevail.