Do you practice "five kings in a cave" strategy? No, we're not talking about the strategy for winning a card game, and "Five Kings in a Cave" is not a new outdoor group game like "Capture the Flag" or "Paintball"! However, "five kings in a cave" does have to do with "war games"--war games in which all growing Christians are involved, whether they realize it or not. War games may actually be a misleading term because we're talking about real warfare--spiritual warfare, which is not a game! Practicing "five kings in a cave" strategy refers to the use of certain biblical principles for winning battles in spiritual warfare.
Divide and ConquerThe title "Five Kings in a Cave" comes from Joshua 10. In this chapter Joshua and the armies of Israel literally sealed five kings inside a cave as part of the overall strategy for conquering the land of Canaan. Under God's command, the first step in conquering Canaan was to divide the land by defeating the central cities of Jericho and Ai. Then the military plans called for a southern campaign and a northern campaign to complete the "divide and conquer" strategy. The enemy played right into General Joshua's hands when five kings of the major city-states in southern Canaan formed a coalition to fight against the Gibeonites, who had signed a mutual defense treaty with the Israelis. With God's intervention (including the amazing sun-standing-still miracle), Joshua not only successfully defended Gibeon, but defeated the armies of all five kings in one battle! The kings themselves thought that they could escape the Israeli war machine by hiding in a cave, but Joshua's intelligence branch was tipped off as to their location. Rather than delay his successful pursuit of the enemy, Joshua had the cave sealed off with large stones while the Israeli army chased the fleeing enemy troops.
When the defeated armies were thoroughly routed, Joshua dealt with the kings themselves. The five kings were brought out of the cave and Joshua had his chief military commanders place their feet on the necks of the kings--a symbolic gesture for complete subjugation in that day. Then Joshua killed the kings and hung them on five trees until evening so that all could see that the pagan enemies of God's people had been totally defeated. In the evening Joshua had the bodies of the five kings thrown into the very cave where they had tried to hide, and it became their grave.
Why All the Killing?Before we move on to the spiritual lessons from Joshua 10, we should discuss the question that is probably in everyone's mind. Why all the terrible slaughter in the book of Joshua? Why would God allow and--and even command--all this bloodshed? Deuteronomy 7:1-5 and 20:16-18 explain why God directed His people to kill the Canaanites. These passages (and others) clearly show that God did not want His people contaminated and polluted with the gross idolatry and immorality associated with the pagan nations of the land of Canaan. In fact, the army of Israel was God's "axe of judgment" for clearing the land of its idolatrous people and their immoral and evil practices. However, God was not unmerciful in His dealings with the Canaanites. In Genesis 15:13-16 God told Abraham that His people would remain in Egypt for four generations because "the wickedness of the Amorite [Canaanite] nations will not be ready for punishment until then." In other words, God was very patient in His dealings with the pagan Canaanite nations. For hundreds of years He waited for them to turn to the one true God. Faithful people like Abraham and Melchizedek and Job retained and proclaimed the truth of God. But, typical of mankind worldwide (then and today), the Canaanites would not turn back. They refused to respond to the proclamation of the true God. Now judgment time had come.
The military might of the Israeli army was the means God chose to "clean house" and judge the heathen Canaanite nations. Unfortunately, the various tribes of Israel did not do a thorough job of completely clearing the enemy from the Promised Land after the initial success of the Conquest. Thus the idolatrous and immoral practices of the pagan nations remained in the Land and gradually penetrated and contaminated God's own people. What a lesson for God's people today! Many Christians are not enjoying the "Land of Spiritual Blessings" that God has given us in Christ (Ephesians 1:3), and are not effective in spiritual warfare because too many of the world's principles and practices still remain in their lives (Ephesians 6:11-13).
Open Sins and Root SinsNow what about the lessons from the five kings in the cave? Recognize that all enemy activity in the book of Joshua represents some form of spiritual opposition in the life of the believer today, including our battles with the sins of the flesh. The strategy for spiritual warfare that seems to be illustrated here involves dealing effectively with the root sins in our hearts. As the five enemy armies had five kings backing them (even though the kings themselves were hidden), so the open sins in our lives grow from the hidden root sins in our lives. Think, for example, of the open and obvious sins of jealousy, criticism of others, gossip and even revenge. The hidden "king in the cave" behind these open sins is the root sin of pride. Consider the many open sins of cheating in financial matters as another example. The hidden "king in the cave" behind these open sins in the root sin of the love of money. As 1 Timothy 6:10 says, "the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil."
Pride and the love of money are only two of the many "hidden king sins" or root sins with which Christians must deal. The root sin of unbelief, for example, works itself out in many kinds of open sins, such as doubt and lack of faith. Maybe the most hidden root sin of all is the root sin of idolatry. We don't like to admit it, but when anything in our lives becomes more precious or important than God, the root sin of idolatry lies hidden in our hearts.
Strategy for Spiritual WarfareHow should growing Christians deal with root sins? In spiritual warfare, what strategies should we use to recognize, acknowledge and deal with the root sins that lurk behind the more obvious open sins? As illustrated by sealing up the five kings in the cave while the open enemies were hunted down and destroyed, we start by identifying the presence of sin in our lives. Root sins must be kept in check while we deal with the open sins. Root sins are not easily eliminated and must be dealt in the proper way before the Lord. As Joshua's army pursued and destroyed the enemy troops, we must do whatever it takes to hunt down and put an end to the open sins of criticism, gossip and taking revenge, and allow the Lord to deal with the root sin of pride in our hearts. In the same way, the obvious sins of not repaying debts, or overcharging customers, or "overlooking" income on our tax returns must be chased down and eliminated. But the root of our problem with money will never be really solved until we allow the Lord to deal with the "hidden king sin" of the love of money.
How we should deal with the root sins is further illustrated by the way Joshua dealt with the five kings when he had them brought out of the cave. Joshua is a wonderful picture of the Lord Jesus. As Joshua led God's people into the Promised Land, so the Lord leads His people into the land of spiritual blessings and spiritual battles. As Joshua called for the five kings to be brought out into the open, so the Lord Jesus wants us to acknowledge and bring out the hidden sins of our hearts before Him.
Unwilling BelieversAll too often Christians are unwilling to do this. They're willing to try to curb the open or obvious sins in order to create the appearance of godly living, but they're unwilling to bring the root sins of the heart before the Lord for elimination. They are content to live with the hidden "king sins" such as pride or the love of money still harbored in their hearts. They may make an effort--and even a great show--of renouncing the open sins in their lives while never truly asking the Lord to deal with the root sins. Unfortunately, if the condition of their hearts remains unchanged, all the open sins will eventually return.
Some Christians even refuse to admit that these root sins exist in their lives. They won't acknowledge that their lifestyles are characterized by materialism or pride. Because their minds are enculturated by this world's values and attitudes, they attempt to rationalize or excuse their open sins. These Christians often feel superior to believers who don't "have it made" in the areas of success or finances as they do--a key sign that the hidden root sins of pride and love of money are still there. Sadly, these Christians are willing to live out a life that is compromised by sin rather than letting the Lord revolutionize their lives by dealing with their sin and renewing their minds. Some Christians are so blinded by their biblical knowledge and "righteous living" that they are unable to see the pride and other root sins which are hidden in the recesses of their hearts. However, the world around them easily recognizes the hypocrisy of their self-righteous lifestyle.
The Place of DeathThe biblical solution to the problem of all root sins is to get to the point in our Christian life where we arewilling to let the Lord expose our hearts and deal with these sins. Let's not continue with a policy of compromise and peaceful coexistence with these root or "hidden king sins." As the five kings hidden in the cave were brought to Joshua's attention (v17), so we must be willing to acknowledge our hidden root sins and bring them to the Lord's attention. We must allow the Lord to shine the light of His Word into the inner recesses of our hearts, expose the root sins and clean them out. Can we say with David, "Search me, O God, and know my heart...see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 39:23-24)?
An additional spiritual picture is seen in Joshua having the leaders of the people put their feet on the necks of the enemy kings. This action reminds us of Romans 16:20 which says, "The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet." Just as He promised victory to the Israelites in Joshua 10:8, the Lord has promised victory to us as well! Satan will use every root sin, of course, as a tool to keep us defeated in the land of spiritual blessings that the Lord has given us. The Lord wants us to see these sins for what they really are, and put them in the place of death. (See Romans 6:11 and Colossians 3:5.)
The Lord Himself, like Joshua, dealt the death blow to our sinful selves and all the hidden sins in our hearts. "He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness" (1 Peter 2:24). But until we recognize this truth and appropriate it to the point of experience, the hidden sins of our hearts will still remain "alive and well." We must "walk by the Spirit" so that the hidden desires of the flesh are not carried out (Galatians 5:16).
Until we are with the Lord and have our new sinless bodies, the hidden root sins of our hearts will remain a potential problem. Unlike the kings of Joshua 10, root sins don't necessarily stay dead! Even when they have been identified and dealt with, they are still in the cave, and the possibility remains that they will again rear their ugly heads! Perhaps this spiritual truth is pictured in the fact that a new king had already "come to life" over Hebron as we see in verse 36.
What a blessing it is to realize that our Lord Jesus settled the whole problem of sin on the cross. All the root sins have been judged, and the Lord Himself has promised to help us deal decisively with those sins every day of our lives. The believer who has realized this truth can say with Paul, "I am crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). If we are determined to keep the root sins dead in the cave, we must realize and daily practice the truth that we have died and risen with Christ. Romans 6:11-12 says, "Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires." As we follow this principle for godly living, we will increasingly experience the wonderful promise of Romans 6:14: "Sin shall not be master over you."
Have Galatians 2:20 and Romans 6:14 become to us more than just great memory verses? Do they characterize our Christian lives and experience? Our answer to this question is evidence of whether the enemy kings are alive and well or remain dead in the cave!