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Joshua 9: “The Scam”

Intro: The Bible is True…

Last week: The sin of Achan…we learned that :

    • Sin hurts more than just the sinner
    • Self-confidence, rather than God-confidence, can lead to defeat
    • Sooner or later, sin must be dealt with
    • Forgiveness of sin does not always equal elimination of consequences

This week: Joshua 9…THE SCAM OF THE GIBIONITES. But before we do, let me share what we missed in between. This can be found in chapter 8:

      • After the punishment of Achan and his family for bringing sin into the camp, the community of Israel is now consecrated and ready to be God’s army again.
      • The Lord tells Joshua not to be afraid or discouraged, instead go up and attack Ai because, “I have delivered into your hands the king of Ai, his people, and his land.”
      • He tells them that NOW they may take the spoils of war for themselves.
      • Joshua leads a great military attack against an otherwise impenetrable hilltop citadel. They lure all the fighting men out of the city while a group of soldiers attack the city and burn it down. When Ai fighters looked back to city ablaze, it was too late. They are now surrounded on all sides.
      • THEN, Joshua and Israel engage in a COVENANT RENEWAL SERVICE.
      • Joshua builds an altar to the Lord on Mount Ebal just like Moses had done. They offered sacrifices to God as an act of worship. Speaking of sacrifice…While Jesus was our great Sacrifice for our sins, we still offer ourselves as living sacrifices by the way we love God and love others, by the way we worship with all our hearts through giving and serving.
      • He then wrote on stones a copy of the Law of Moses in the presence of all the people. Joshua read all the words of the Law—the covenant, in their presence, which included blessings and curses.
      • Covenant Renewal Services are absolutely essential in the life of a follower of God. They remind us of WHO we are and WHOSE we are. They tell us what is expected of us a servants of the King and they remind us of what the King has done and continues to do for us as our Sovereign.
      • Remember, we celebrated a Covenant Renewal Service in January, and I hope we will do so this January as we prepare for another year of service to our Lord.

Now we turn to the story of the Gibionites found in Joshua 9. As we have been doing each week, we will read the entire story. I invite you to place yourself in the story as you listen. [READ JOSHUA 9]

Now that Israel had reaffirmed their commitment to the Lord, the kings in Canaan were getting ready to attack. They had heard about the defeat of Jericho and Ai and were not about to go down without a fight. But Israel’s greatest threat was not the confederation of Canaan’s armies; it was a group of men from Gibeon who were about to enter the camp and deceive Joshua.

It’s often after we have experienced great victory in our lives that we encounter some of our greatest temptations and challenges. I’ve observed that in the first year someone surrenders to Christ and is born again, most folks face great opposition from the enemy in different forms.

For instance, old friends with different worldviews and lifestyles can make a new convert feel awkward or even “wrong” for having become Christian. Sometimes old habits and sins—which are seen as contradictory to the Christian life—keep haunting a new believer.

New church plants have a season of great growth and excitement about expanding the kingdom of God, only to face opposition from other churches or from local city boards. The bottom line is this: when you are in the middle of God’s will, you are the center of the enemy’s bullseye.

Let’s see what lessons we can learn from Israel’s encounter with the Gibeonites:

1. Don’t expect the enemy to fight fair.
Had the Gibeonites not played dirty, there’s a pretty good chance Israel would have dealt with them as they did with Ai and Jericho. But they didn’t play by the rules. They assembled a group of men and equipped them in such a way that they looked like a delegation from a distant foreign city—a place they never disclosed to Joshua, I might add. It was a crafty “ruse”—as the Bible puts it—designed to trap the Israelites into a treaty of protection.

Many of us think that because we don’t fall prey to blatant tricks of the enemy that we are innocent of wrongdoing. We think that because we don’t blaspheme the Lord with cursing, or we don’t lie to our friends or cheat on our spouse, then we have defeated the enemy’s schemes.

C.S. Lewis was a masterful British novelist, poet, academic, lecturer, Christian apologist, and lay theologian. God used Lewis’s intellect to create at least two of the greatest Christian works of the 20th century: Mere Christianity, and The Screwtape Letters. I commend both to your reading.

Let me turn to The Screwtape Letters for a minute. In the opening of this fictional novel, Screwtape is a devil and he warns the reader that his version of events should not be taken as the truth. In the letters, Screwtape advises his nephew, Wormwood, on how best to tempt a British man, called only “the Patient,” into sin and, eventually, into Hell.

In the early letters, Screwtape advises Wormwood to make the Patient think that being Christian is an internal, spiritual thing rather than an external way of being in the world. Here’s one of the famous quotes from Screwtape to Wormwood : “Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts…Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape.”

Casting Crowns put out a great song about that several years ago called, Slow Fade. Here’s the chorus : It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away. It’s a slow fade when black and white are turned to gray. And thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid, when you give yourself away. People never crumble in a day. It’s a slow fade, it’s a slow fade

Let’s add Scripture to this lesson: 1 Peter 5:8-9 says, 8Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

Our spiritual enemy does not fight fair. He will exploit us where we are weakest. It is our responsibility to know our own blind spots. Others can help us see them. That’s one of the benefits of Life Groups, if we allow them to help us see where we are vulnerable.

1.There’s no substitute for obedience to God’s Word. Note in verse 14 this direct, teaching statement by the narrator: The Israelites sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord. They did NOT inquire of the Lord. That was Joshua’s downfall in this situation. That was the downfall of all the elders of the 12 tribes. They did NOT inquire of the Lord.

Instead, Joshua and his leadership sampled the deceiving Gibeonites’s wares. They tasted the stale bread. They sipped the old wine from the old cracked wineskins. They asked good, salient questions of the delegation, but they did not ask ANY questions of the Lord! When the culprit of sin was being rooted out from among the twelve tribes, Joshua and his leaders asked God to point the man out.

But now, when faced with a new situation—a situation that seemed to be in direct contradiction of God’s plan to clean and consecrate the entire land of Canaan for the benefit of Israel—they did NOT inquire of the Lord.

How often we do this in our individual and corporate life. More often than not, WE make plans for OUR lives then ask God to BLESS them. Or, we create in our own minds a biblical worldview WITHOUT consulting the Word of God. In so doing, WE decide was is acceptable and unacceptable behavior in the life of the church. WE decide what are the boundaries for our lives:

Adultery, using God’s name in vain, murder…unacceptable!
Telling white lies, swearing by God’s name, holding grudges, getting even because they deserved it, tolerating sin in the church because we don’t want to seem judgmental…acceptable. NO BIG DEAL.

What would our lives look like if we INQUIRED OF THE LORD regarding our personal and corporate finances? What about how to handle that difficult person at work or on that committee? Where would this church be if we inquired of the Lord about our evangelistic outreach or global mission? What if we operated by God’s vision and PRO-vision rather than our own limited view of resources and vision?

Okay, time for another couple of Scriptures to back up this lesson: “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” (Psalm 119:105). In speaking about our defense against the wiles of the devil, the apostle Paul tells the church at Ephesus to put on the full armor of God. Listen to part of that battel gear: “Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph 6:17). And finally, the writer of Hebrews describes the word of God this way : For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account (Heb 4:12-13.

There is no substitute for obedience to God’s Word.

1.Don’t swear by the Lord. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. So, after inspecting their stuff and being satisfied that these “foreigners” were the “real deal,” Israel enters into a treaty with the Gibeonites. Verse 15 says this: “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 later the gig is up! They hear that these “foreigners” are actually neighbors! The city of Gibeon is only 25 miles from where Israel is camped at Gilgal and was on Joshua’s list of cities to destroy.

When the entire assembly of Israel discovered the blunder of their leaders (including Joshua), they were miffed! They grumbled against them, which means that they had a vote of no-confidence against them.

But the leaders DID do something noble. They didn’t make a bad situation worse. If they had said, “All’s fair in love and war,” and attacked Gibeon and the other neighboring cities, then they would have violated an oath they made in God’s name. To represent Christ in the world is a big deal. Folks watch us. They watch how we conduct our businesses…our church life…our households. Are we the ambassadors for Christ called for by the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:20?

When we live for Christ, we represent Him in the world, no matter what the situation. [Soccer Coach] Had the Israelites reneged on their oath, then—in essence—it would have been as if God reneged on his word. That would make God a liar and THAT is something God has never done!

I think this is why Jesus speaks about oaths in his Sermon on the Mount when He says, “All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one” (Matt. 5:37). His half-brother, James, puts it like this: Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear–not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned (James 5:12).

Swearing by anything or anyone puts at jeopardy our relationship with that thing or person, especially God. Let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no.” If you are living a life of integrity, that should be enough. If you are NOT, then swearing by anything else isn’t going to help much.

Finally, failure to follow God comes with a cost. Entering into a treaty with the Gibeonites came with a cost. First, it costs them the plunder they would have received from those now-protected cities.

Second, and much more importantly, it may cost them the temptation to assimilate some of the pagan religious practices with their Jewish faith. The reason God was using Israel as his punishing rod against the Canaanites was not only to exercise judgment upon them, but to cleans the Promised Land for the new inhabitants of Israel. Leaving pagan nations and practices in Canaan turned out to cause great trouble for Israel and ultimately led to their exile from the land.

Moses had given Israel stern warnings in Deut. 7 against compromising with the Canaanites. But now they had foolishly made a covenant with their enemy. We will see next week how quickly this foolish treaty caused Israel trouble and how God still gets glory from it. Failure to follow God comes with a cost.

CONCLUSION. Joshua and his associates teach us important lessons. We also learn that when we make mistakes, we need to admit it. But then use our mistakes to our advantage. In this case, Israel made the Gibeonites into water carriers and woodcutters for the whole assembly, providing for the needs of the altar of the Lord at the place the Lord would choose.

When we sin against God and find ourselves paying the consequence, we can whine and complain, or we can use the consequences to grow us up into the spiritual houses God can use. Admitting our faults is a sign of maturity. Using our circumstances to bring glory to God is a sign of holiness.

May we learn the lessons of Israel and the Gibeonites :

1. Don’t expect the enemy to fight fair.

2. There’s no substitute for obedience to God’s Word.

3. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Don’t swear by the Lord.

4. Failure to follow God comes with a cost.