Joshua 14:1-5; 17:14-18
"What can we do when we are faced with impassable barriers?
We need more room in which to grow, to find security, and there are forces which hem us in,
halt our progress, and bar the way."
This complaint is evident even today.
But it was said by a section of the Hebrew people as they attempted to possess the Land of Canaan.
It occurs in Joshua 17, that book which may be described as this six volume in the epic story
of the Promised Land.
Joshua is continuing the work beyond the death of Moses, and despite his courageous and wise leadership
tremendous obstacles confront him.
He had been as fair as he could be in the divisions of the new country as he was able,
but one important group, the Josephites were unhappy with their allotment.
The Highland country had been assigned to them, but they needed and wanted more.
The land that appeal to them was held by unyielding enemies.
They turned to Joshua, their commander, and said,
"Why have you allotted us only one part of our inheritance, when we are a large clan
since the Eternal has been prospering us?" (Moffat)
To their question Joshua replied, "If you are a great clan, go up to the forest and clear the land
for yourselves there
Since the highlands of Ephraim are too small for you."
And the children of Joseph said, "The highlands are not large enough for us,
and all the Canaanites who live in the valley country have iron chariots."
The complaint may reflect a grumbling and envious reference to their brothers who have been given
the rich lands on either side of the Jordan River.
Comparison with the lot of others is a frequent cause of discontent.
Nevertheless, there was justice to their complaint.
Wandering these many years on an arduous and exhausting journey, their resources seemed
hopelessly unequal to entrenched enemies equipped with iron chariots.
They knew what they wanted, and what they must have to make anything of life in this new country,
but there were the "iron chariots in the road."
They had given up trying, and things had not turned out as they expected.
Surely they had a right to expect some better inheritance.
As for the opposition, they were willing to have that one battle, then go ahead with their lives.
But this prospect of constant conflict with stubborn enemies with apparently invulnerable armor was too much.
They demanded something easier, and something more in line with the lush meadowlands
that others had been given.
Did they not have an excellent record and a praise-worthy reputation?
How modern this is today.
These mountainous areas so densely wooded by problems, and so difficult to climb and clear are not enough.
The valley is where security and prosperity and peace lie beckoning, but cannot be possessed
for that are too many iron chariots in the road.
We can see this when a person's personal conquest of an adverse circumstance seems unavailing.
Self-pity is succeeded by sullen rebelliousness.
"God," we demand, "why should I have to skimp along like this with so many others
are enjoying green pastures and refreshing waters?"
Among the most burdened people today are those who once had comfort, luxury, position, and power,
but who now find their circumstances so radically altered that life as they once lived it is no longer possible.
I once knew a CEO of a large company who had made a lot of money and had several houses and a lot of land.
Times changed and those opportunities were no longer there.
One day this man said to me, "It hurts me so much for I am no longer able to give the large amounts of money
I gave to the church."
This man would probably tell you that hill-climbing is not good enough.
The valleys are not good enough to take up residence, and I am barred by the economic chariots of iron..
This man who had it all now had very little.
Physical disability or limitation is another iron chariot to many people.
Many have to walk with pain or weakness.
Their daily round is filled with overcoming or sublimating their natural taste.
They must struggle along against odds which seem unfair.
They would be saying, "Give us some peaceful and lush valley, and we shall demonstrate our qualities
and show some genuine success!"
Some iron chariots may be those of temptation to which some are prone to succumb
always giving in because of some temperamental weakness, or some combination of unfortunate qualities
in our physical or mental make-up.
They have struggled, and again and again have overcome, but this business of fighting day after day
just to stay afloat is exhausting.
We can almost hear them saying, "Lord, lead us into some sheltered valley where insidious temptation
In the case of this discouraged and disgruntled company of followers, Joshua saw what at first
must have seemed a cruel and mocking solution.
He reminded them, "You are a great people."
And you can see the men looking at one another privately as if to say,
"The old man realizes it at last; now for something good!"
But then Joshua adds: "You are a great people, and since your present assignment of the hill country
of Ephraim is to circumscribe for you, the hill country of Gilead shall be yours,
and though it is a forest you shall clear it and hold it to its full extent.
For you shall drive out the Canaanites, though they have some iron chariots, and though they be strong."
Did you hear the groans from the Josephities as they heard that?
But Joshua was right.
He was never so surely an instrument of the divine will of God as when he told them that.
We think of mountains as an impregnable defense, as a barrier; but a nation and individuals have moved
forward into places of achievement only as it has conquered the mountains.
Faith climbs to the top of the mountains.
Faith transcends the topography.
Courage breaks through the iron chariots in the road.
What was it that Isaiah heard God saying?
It was, "I will make all my valleys a way."
And when the apostle Paul heard from Timothy about the difficulties he was experiencing,
he did not write from prison, "Well, I have had a hard time of it, and I sincerely hope
that you are to have an easier time."
He said: "Timothy, take your share of hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ."
That blows off trumpets in our souls when we are quite sure it is no use trying to push ahead.
Your iron chariots may be adversity.
But remember so many great people who never argued about enduring hardness,
but discovered ways of enduring it and using it magnificently.
Sir Walter Scott had a paralyzed brain and a paralyzing burden of debt.
Mark Twain had his financial failure.
A man named Ralph Connor after World War II faced the loss of his entire fortune,
and he started at middle life to build it up again without bitterness toward the one who had destroyed it.
There are unnamed numbers of those -- some even here who made a way through the mountains
with gallant and encouraging character.
Sickness may block your path.
Sir Arthur Sullivan, a great musical conductor, is remembered for many and vigorous melodies,
but for 28 years he suffered with excruciating pain.
He never stopped trying!
He never said that unless he was transferred into a valley of health and comfort that he would just give up.
He did not?
The pain drove him to creative work.
Often, we are told, he conducted the operas only by a sheer force of will, and then, collapsing afterward.
By the grace of God and the courage that God can give, a person can drive out the Canaanites;
even though they have iron chariots, and they are so strong.
I read of a man who came into the occupational therapy department of one of the great hospitals.
He was cruelly handicapped by an advanced kind of arthritis which made it impossible for him
to practice his chosen profession of dentistry.
There were lines of iron chariots across every road he faced.
But he discovered a new talent.
He learned to draw.
He sold the pictures he learned to draw despite his crippled hands.
He learned enough to start up a modest business.
He was standing on a mountaintop though he climbed up there on crutches.
He has one complaint that he shared with his former nurse and teacher:
"The days are not long enough; there is so much that is so interesting and wonderful to do."
Some Gethsemane maybe your mountain.
Some great sorrow may be iron chariots in your road.
I read of the experience of Josephine Butler.
She came home one night to find her only daughter rushing out to greet her, only to fall
over the banisters below to her death.
She might have said, "I'll draw the curtains on my house of life."
But she did something else.
She went out and mothered countless little orphan girls, who would have been deprived of a mothers love
had she not conquered the iron chariots in her road.
Every heart knows it's bitterness.
You have a mountain to climb, and there are iron chariots in the road.
There is One greater than Joshua who stands beside you, and His name is Jesus.
He is the God of our salvation.
The summits are hard to reach.
But once you are there, you rise above the troubles which had seemed so overwhelming.
From a high hill the Lord looks down upon the iron chariots which encompasses the lives of men,
and He will speak to any disheartened soul this morning.
"The mountains shall be there, and the valley, for thou shall drive out your Canaanites
though they have iron chariots, and though they be strong."
Beyond is the land of the heart's desire.
Keep on climbing!
Iron chariots may be ahead of us, but keep faith in God, and keep on climbing.
"I've had many tears and sorrows,
I've had questions for tomorrow,
there's been times I didn't know right from wrong.
But in every situation,
God gave me blessed consulation,
that my trials come to only make me strong.
I've been to lots of places,
I've seen a lot of faces,
there's been times I felt so all alone.
But in my lonely hours,
yes, those precious lonely hours,
Jesus lets me know that I was His own
I thank God for the mountains,
and I thank Him for the valleys,
I thank Him for the storms He brought me through.
For if I'd never had a problem,
I wouldn't know God could solve them,
I'd never know what faith in God could do
Through it all,
through it all,
I've learned to trust in Jesus,
I've learned to trust in God.
Through it all,
through it all,
I've learned to depend upon His Word."
By Andrae Crouch
Sermon adapted from several sources by Dr. Harold L. White