TODAY’S READING: Joshua 16–18
In missions, many breakthroughs are miraculous. God does it. God works unexpectedly to do something we could not do or something we never even considered. Missions, the advancement of God’s glory and gospel to all peoples of earth, does not always go easily. There are some places and peoples that still hold out against the invasion of God’s love and truth. And I’m sure Joshua could relate. In Joshua 16:10, it is recorded: “And they did not drive out the Canaanites who dwelt in Gezer; but the Canaanites dwell among the Ephraimites to this day.” There are some peoples and places of this earth as dark and lost now as they were hundreds of years ago. History and the biblical record tell us that Gezer was not overcome until Pharaoh (perhaps Siamun in 978–959 B. C.) conquered it and gave it to Solomon as a wedding present (1 Kings 9:16). If Joshua began the conquest of Canaan around 1400 B. C. as commonly thought, this means one stubborn little town held out for over 400 years.
Essentially, the people of God did not take Gezer. God gave it to them and God used an Egyptian Pharaoh as the giver. Over and again in missions there are breakthroughs by miracle. God’s people didn’t do anything. God just gifted through an unusual way or person. It is important that we do wise things in wise ways, yet wise and gritty action doesn’t automatically mean breakthrough. Sometimes we wait 400 years and then God grants a miracle.
In missions, many breakthroughs are at the hands of maidens. Zelophehad had no sons, but he did have magnificent daughters: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah (Josh. 17:3).
These daughters stood on the promises. They went to Joshua and reminded him that Moses promised an inheritance. These marvelous maidens remind us of Lillias Trotter, Lilian Trasher, Gladys Awlyard, Lottie Moon, and an army of other magnificent women who pioneered the gospel and carried the glory of God to distant peoples. Both single and married, the women of God have done as much—if not more—to take the gospel to the unreached than men have. To the shame of the church, there are still roughly seven missionary women to every missionary man. To the glory of God, missions has not faltered through the centuries because women stood and answered the missionary call regardless of what the men did.
Missions requires taking the forests and the mountains. In a delightful and penetrating exchange, the children of Joseph complain that their assignment is too small, but double-tongued (or perhaps weak-hearted) they don’t want the difficult assignment. In a play on words, they consider themselves a great people, and Joshua, perhaps with a twinkle in his eye, says, “If you are so great, go take the mountains” (see vv. 14–18). Jesus with a twinkle in His eye yet asks the strong and numerous churches: “How long will you neglect to go and possess the land” (18:3)? Or in another paraphrase: “If you’re such hot stuff, why have you done so little for My glory among unreached peoples?”
 The Chronological Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008. 246.