Joshua 9:1 - 10:2
WALLS CAME DOWN:
(c) Copyright 2000 Rev. Bill Versteeg
This morning we continue our study of the Book of Joshua. We have found in the past that the core theme of this book is "entering into the inherited promises of God" and what it takes to enter into those promises.
Among the themes that we have discovered so far, we have found that entering into the promises requires faith in a scarlet cord - the blood of Christ, covenantal obedience, it involves taking down spiritual strongholds that occupy the land
Today, we discover that the Nation of Israel were not the only ones eager to inherit the promised land - lets read Joshua 9 - 10:1
9:1 Now when all the kings west of the Jordan heard about these things--those in the hill country, in the western foothills, and along the entire coast of the Great Sea as far as Lebanon (the kings of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites)-- they came together to make war against Joshua and Israel.
3 However, when the people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, they resorted to a ruse: They went as a delegation whose donkeys were loaded with worn-out sacks and old wineskins, cracked and mended. The men put worn and patched sandals on their feet and wore old clothes. All the bread of their food supply was dry and moldy. Then they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and the men of Israel, "We have come from a distant country; make a treaty with us."
7 The men of Israel said to the Hivites, "But perhaps you live near us. How then can we make a treaty with you?"
8 "We are your servants," they said to Joshua. But Joshua asked, "Who are you and where do you come from?"
9 They answered: "Your servants have come from a very distant country because of the fame of the LORD your God. For we have heard reports of him: all that he did in Egypt, and all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan--Sihon king of Heshbon, and Og king of Bashan, who reigned in Ashtaroth. And our elders and all those living in our country said to us, 'Take provisions for your journey; go and meet them and say to them, "We are your servants; make a treaty with us."' This bread of ours was warm when we packed it at home on the day we left to come to you. But now see how dry and moldy it is. And these wineskins that we filled were new, but see how cracked they are. And our clothes and sandals are worn out by the very long journey."
14 The men of Israel sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the LORD. Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath. Three days after they made the treaty with the Gibeonites, the Israelites heard that they were neighbors, living near them.
17 So the Israelites set out and on the third day came to their cities: Gibeon, Kephirah, Beeroth and Kiriath Jearim. But the Israelites did not attack them, because the leaders of the assembly had sworn an oath to them by the LORD, the God of Israel. The whole assembly grumbled against the leaders, but all the leaders answered, "We have given them our oath by the LORD, the God of Israel, and we cannot touch them now. This is what we will do to them: We will let them live, so that wrath will not fall on us for breaking the oath we swore to them." They continued, "Let them live, but let them be woodcutters and water carriers for the entire community." So the leaders' promise to them was kept.
22 Then Joshua summoned the Gibeonites and said, "Why did you deceive us by saying, 'We live a long way from you,' while actually you live near us? You are now under a curse: You will never cease to serve as woodcutters and water carriers for the house of my God."
24 They answered Joshua, "Your servants were clearly told how the LORD your God had commanded his servant Moses to give you the whole land and to wipe out all its inhabitants from before you. So we feared for our lives because of you, and that is why we did this. We are now in your hands. Do to us whatever seems good and right to you." So Joshua saved them from the Israelites, and they did not kill them. That day he made the Gibeonites woodcutters and water carriers for the community and for the altar of the LORD at the place the LORD would choose. And that is what they are to this day.
10:1 Now Adoni-Zedek king of Jerusalem heard that Joshua had taken Ai and totally destroyed it, doing to Ai and its king as he had done to Jericho and its king, and that the people of Gibeon had made a treaty of peace with Israel and were living near them. He and his people were very much alarmed at this, because Gibeon was an important city, like one of the royal cities; it was larger than Ai, and all its men were good fighters.
I am sure you noticed in verses 1 - 3 what happens on the heels of Israel's profound victory in the destruction of the walls of Jericho. No sooner had Israel celebrated its victory, no sooner had Israel been elated in what God can do - and there is backlash! Now all the nations - the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites), these peoples who attributed their well being to evil spiritual forces, now joined together to counter attack Israel. We have to remember that what occurred here is a physical instruction about the very real dynamics we face as Christians on the spiritual plane when we get involved in ministry.
You see there is a universal principle in any ministry that involves taking over what has been controlled by the spirits of this age, the forces of evil - and that principle is that Satan bites back. Call it backlash, call it retaliation, whatever you want, universally, when we enter into what God has promised us, on the heels of our victory comes turmoil. Backlash is a reality.
This is one of the reason why I so much covet your prayers throughout the week, and even especially on Sunday evening and Monday. I have said it before, I have PMS - Pastor's Monday Syndrom - that's when I am tired - that's when Satan bites back - and it is especially bad if the word of God on Sunday has come with spiritual anointing and power. If God uses you to set others free and open blind eyes, Satan strikes back, attacks any of our exposed weaknesses, vulnerabilities, sins, hits as hard as he can, sifts us like wheat. This is the reason why Paul told us not to put people who have been recently converted into positions of leadership (I Timothy 3: 6,7) because when the backlash comes, and Satan attacks them at their weaknesses, they will fall into disgrace in the devil's trap. People who lead need to know how to stand their ground in Christ, using the armour of Christ supplied. You do not put an untrained soldier on front lines.
When you minister and experience victory, expect the counter attack, prepare to take you stand, the fight is not over. This was obviously true for Joshua and the Israelites as it is true for us.
Notice though that among those peoples who were counter attacking, doing everything they could to prevent Israel from entering into the promises of God, there was also a group who had their hearts set on participating in the promises, the land flowing with milk and honey, no matter what it took. These were the Gibeonites. They had heard what Israel and their God had done to Sihon king of Heshbon, and Og king of Bashan, according to verse 24, they understood all to well that they too were destined for total annihilation - the fitting punishment of God upon their sin. Even though these men were good fighters (10:2), seeing what happened to Jericho and its walls, seeing the total destruction of Ai - they had done their research and they knew they were not good enough to fight the God of Israel.
In the light of a hopeless battle, fearing for their lives, they turned to the war weapon of deception, the whole intent of their deception was to convince the leaders of Israel that they were from a distant city. Again, these people had done their research. Apparently, they heard that according to the law of the Israelites (Deut 20:10-15), if they were from a distant city, they could make a treaty with Israel, and instead of being destroyed, they would be able to work for them. So the ruse to demonstrate that they were from a far away place was well planned.
They rode donkeys - long distance animals. They took sacks that were worn out - worn out in places where there was friction between the sack and the back of the donkey, old wine skins and were cracked and mended and leaky, worn and patched sandals, old clothing worn from hard travel, bread that was dry and mouldy in their sacks - all of this to make their story, that they were from a place far far away look credible. And then, on top of all this, they came to Joshua and his men with just the right words - 4 times they repeat that they are their servants, their vassals, the weaker of two parties in a political agreement of the time.
Joshua and his men investigate the evidence, without inquiring from the Lord, they come to the conclusion that they are from a place far away, they make a treaty of peace with them. Notice that Joshua is obedient to the Lord of God. He is leading with integrity, but in their situation, he fails to ask God, and he is deceived. A small flaw in Joshua's leadership is exposed. It isn't long before the deception is found out, the Gibeonites were supposed to be eliminated, now there is a treaty of peace - the whole nation of Israel rises up to grumble about his leadership. And you can well imagine their grumbling...
"How can they be so gullible....?"
"Achan and his family were put to death because he kept a garment and a few pieces of silver that were dedicated to destruction before the Lord, now Joshua lets people who are destined for destruction live, and because he is a leader, nothing happens to him - double standard."
"We ought to go kill the Gibeonites - the treaty of peace with them is void because it was made based on deception."
The pressure was on for Joshua and the leaders of Israel to go back on their word. They had made an oath, a covenant before the Lord, now the question would be - even in the wake of human failure - are they going to be faithful to the agreements they had made - especially since the reputation of the Lord, this was a covenant with the Lord, depended on it?
Because the Lord's reputation was at stake, Joshua and the leaders of Israel kept the covenant, for the sake of the name of the Lord, they maintained their integrity in leadership, even though it was very expensive in terms of their relationship with the people.
The Gibeonites, having been found out are confronted by Joshua. The Gibeonites knew without a doubt, having been found out, their lives were forfeit. But notice their attitude in verse 25 - We are now in your hands. Do to us whatever seems good and right to you."
Here the Gibeonites completely submit to Israel and their God, even to their death without a fight, and Joshua grants them to be wood cutters and water carriers, slaves in hard labour in Israel serving where they would be needed, cutting wood for the altar of God, carrying water for the many ways things needed to be cleaned in the tabernacle.
Notice though, what happened to the Gibeonites in their future. Over the years this menial activity on behalf of worship gradually led to a place of religious honour for the Gibeonites in the nation of Israel. When the land was divided at the end of Joshua, Gibeon was one of the cities that was given to the line of Aaron. It became the special place where God was, 100 year later, David put the tabernacle at Gibeon. There the priests served. There the Ark stood. The Gibeonites became people of Israel totally dedicated to the Lord and his house. Nehemiah gave them the honorary title of Nethinim, the Given ones, given to assist the priesthood in ministry. They helped to build the walls of Jerusalem after captivity. Throughout this era of the Old Testament, we hear of Israel fighting the Canaanites who lived in the land. Not once in scripture do we hear of a Gibeonite defecting back to his own people and forsaking the God of Israel. The Gibeonites, by deception entered into the blessings of God.
How does this Old Testament story apply to us.
First of all it tells us something about our amazing God. He is a God who takes us where we are, and out of his incredible love for us, recieves us and moves us toward further growth.
Certainly, these Gibeonites had only one motive when they deceived Israel - to survive. Certainly, they had no original intention to live for Israel's God. But by deception they entered, and by the disciplining nurturing hand of God, they became a very special part of his chosen people, fully inheriting their place in the promises of God.
God takes us where we are. I have heard repeately stories of individuals who did confession of faith where they were young, they said publically that they trusted in Jesus - but looking back, they must admit they were doing it because it was the thing to do, because their friends were doing it. That they had a real living personal faith - hardly - they deceived the elders, they got in by deception. I love those stories - because God in his grace works the process of miracles in lives. They may have started with a level of deception, but God brings them, by being in the house of God to a living faith, where Jesus is real, and their commitment strong.
God deals with us where we are, his love understands that the journey to faith is one of many steps, often small steps, often steps that lack integrity. Today to, we need to realize that. Young people, the most common response that I hear to the invitation to do confession of faith is "I am not ready yet." They story tells you, God gives you room to grow. If you belong to Jesus, confess him, God in his love for you will give you time, and space and whatever is needed to grow into him, into commitment, into faith that is unshakable. If you have to, deceive your way into the kingdom, humble yourself before God, God will take care of the details.
There is a second point that we need to notice.
Remember, these Gibeonites were part of a group of people who had filled up their cup of sin, so to speak, they were fittingly destined for destruction. In Idol worship, they had sacrificed their children. They had done unspeakable things and the wrath of God was upon them.
But they humbled themselves before God. And God gives grace and forgiveness to the humble. In time, God lifted them up among his people. This tells us very simply, no matter what we have done, when we come to God humbly, God comes to us gracefully, forgivingly, accepting us whereever we are.
This is so true for us as we look at others also. I think that sometimes we look at others and think they are lost causes, their deeds so evil, the characters so marred by sin, their lives such a soap opera that somehow we feel that they are hopeless, worthy of Judgement - like the Gibeonites.
God loves sinners. He loved the Gibeonites so much he let them deceive their way into his eternal kingdom. He wants our neighbours to come in to.
(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.