Not with Sword or Bow
Joshua 24:12
And I sent the hornet before you, which drove them out from before you, even the two kings of the Amorites; but not with your sword…

A very necessary reminder, applicable to both the hour of conflict and victory. Both seasons have their own dangers. There is no final conflict or victory in this life; only when death has finished our course should we be hopeless or exultant. Each contest is but a single event of a series, and the one, though leading to others, does not of necessity determine the character of them all. Defeat to-day does not mean defeat to-morrow, any more than success to-day means the same in the next encounter with the hidden powers of darkness. No man is safe on this side the grave. So for each, for all, these words may be for encouragement and direction. The cause of failure may be discovered, and the remedy be pointed out, or the way which shall lead to entire possession of the fulness of God's blessedness may be known, as each and all shall remember that "it is not by thy sword or thy bow."

I. LIFE'S CONFLICT MUST BE MET BY HUMAN EFFORT AND ENERGY. The promise of the land as an inheritance to the people of Israel is most distinct. Everywhere God said He would give it. Was there not some reason, then, in the expectation that they should have the land without any very special trouble? Is there so much to be wondered at in the disappointment of the spies when they saw they had to fight? One would have thought that the people would have walked in at one side while the inhabitants walked out at the other. God could have done it without the intervention of human effort at all. But this is not the point. What God did, as we learn from the history of this period, was, He used the sword and the bow of the people to secure to them the promise He had given to their fathers. And though no such stipulation is anywhere directly stated, yet universally we find that the human effort and skill are needful to the attainment of the gift of God. And it is just so with all that has to do with God. He has endowed us with certain powers which He calls upon us to exercise. When, then, on the one hand we sit down quietly and say, "God has promised and will perform — there is nothing for me to do," or when we refuse to do anything because of our great weakness, or when we fail to call upon our powers of mind and heart to rise against the inroads of our spiritual enemies, or quietly submit when we are taken captive in the snares of the devil, we are just putting ourselves outside the pale of the directions which God has given us. So, too, when we ask God to work for us, and make supplication to Him to remove trouble or give us light and peace, if we say, "God can and will work," and we do nothing ourselves, then we are forgetting this part of God's ways. It is not by longing, wishing, desiring, however ardent, that God fulfils His loving purposes towards us; but by prayer, girding up our minds, and resolute, undaunted courage, that we must meet our foe — "with thy sword and with thy bow." But what is the energy and activity here indicated? You will observe that God has not endowed man with any natural modes of offence or defence. The smallest insect is apparently better equipped for the dangers of its life than we are. But God has given man a stronger force than all. Will — moral force — the power of doing — are his; so that though unarmed he is more fully equipped against the multifarious dangers of his way. Nothing can assault him, but he can adopt such means as shall protect — such measures as shall totally defeat the foe. He has the sword and the bow. Moral dangers must be met by moral means, e.g., conscience must be kept clear, its voice must be listened to, and when heard the will must without hesitation obey. Spiritual blessings must be obtained by spiritual effort. God has promised them, He will give; but you must overcome the obstacles. Will you have the promise? then adopt the means needful. If you would scale the mountains, you look for a guide, and take provisions, and put on suitable dress. "Put on the whole armour of God." Just as the poor shipwrecked one lays hold of the floating spar for very life, so you must lay hold of God, and laying hold of Him, do what He tells you. Cannot! No such word ought to be used. "I can, I will!" these are your sword and bow, and if you would extract blessing out of everything it must be by their use, and only thus will you gain the end you desire. But then it must be "thy" sword and "thy" bow. There is a speciality here. It is the act of the individual, the perseverance of the man.

II. LIFE'S CONFLICT IS NOT WON BY THE HUMAN EFFORT AND ENERGY. The greatest effort cannot obtain the victory; the most stupendous energy cannot save from defeat. It is one thing to meet the foe, it is another thing to win the day. And so our text tells us that it is not by thy sword nor by thy bow. You must fight, but God gives the victory. It is not won by your fighting, but by God's aid. It is not secured by your prowess, but by God's strength. It is all God, not you.

(H. W. Butcher.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And I sent the hornet before you, which drave them out from before you, even the two kings of the Amorites; but not with thy sword, nor with thy bow.

WEB: I sent the hornet before you, which drove them out from before you, even the two kings of the Amorites; not with your sword, nor with your bow.

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