We are in Joshua 9 this morning – and quick review – we’ve seen a lot of amazing things happen so far. We saw the rushing white water rapids of the Jordan river split in half; we saw the walls of Jericho come tumbling down; and we saw Israel defeat Jericho & Ai – with the incredible help of their God.
It’s a joy.
But imagine you are not a Christian living in North Raleigh years removed from these events.
Imagine you live in Canaan and hear about these attacks.
Not so exciting.
One of the nations – the nation of Gibeon – heard about Israel’s miracles streak and decided to do something about it. Before we look at their plan and see how Israel handles it; let us pray: Strengthen us this morning by the truth, O God. Your word is truth. Open our eyes to see what YOU want us to see. Open our ears to hear what YOU want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what YOU would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Gibeonite’s Deception
When the people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, they resorted to a ruse. To help us be understand the ruse – Israel was not supposed to make a treaty with anyone in the Promised Land. Why? (1) God wanted to give the entire Promised Land to the people of Israel. (2) God wanted to protect them from the false god worship that was prevalent among the Canaanites.
Gibeon understood that, so they make a plan: Trick Israel into thinking that they aren’t from Canaan. Here’s the plan:
It says they went and grabbed worn out sacks and old wineskins, cracked and mended. A sack is a sack. Not hard to interpret. But a wineskin is a bit less familiar. It was literally the skin of an animal, sewn up to hold wine. When it was new it was plump. It was fresh. It held the wine with no problem. But the Gibeonites go and grab the wineskins that have been in Uncle Joe’s basement for the past 7 years. They’re old, dusty, and are starting to leak.
Why visit Joshua with the worn-out wineskins and old sacks? Remember – they are going to tell Joshua that they are from far away. If their stuff looked new, it wouldn’t look like they were from far away. They were travelled in the desert for a long time.
So, they bring the old stuff. Hoping that the little drip of wine coming off through the broken wineskin will be enough to convince Israel they are legit.
But just in case…
They put worn and patched sandals on their feet and wore old clothes. This is literally walking the extra mile. Because when your shoes start to develop holes in them – they are not all that comfortable. You get rocks in them, sand in them, prickers in them. It’s uncomfortable.
I can almost picture one of them saying, “It hurts. I’m getting blisters. I don’t like the way it feels. The sand is scorching my feet. Can I take it off?”
Well that depends:
Do you value your life?
Wear the shoes.
(3) Gross Food.
This is where they go all in. Because they must have searched through the garbage to put together the meals for the trip. All the bread of their food supply was dry and moldy. The idea? They want Joshua to think they baked the bread weeks ago – but the journey was long. The journey was hard – the journey was arduous – and they didn’t have Air Tight Ziploc Bags – so the bread went stale.
Which is a travesty! Ever been on a long trip and somewhere along the trip – someone forgets to fully seal the Doritos before they put them back into the snack bag? It’s a travesty! Nacho Cheese goodness now tasting like cardboard – (I still eat them) – but still…
They are going all in on this ruse. Even willing to waste a perfectly good road snack.
(4) The Script.
Then there’s the script. Check out verse 6. It says, “We have come from a distant country; make a treaty with us.” It’s interesting. Joshua and the Israelites don’t buy the story at first. “Perhaps you live near us, so how can we make a treaty with you? Where are you from?” (v.7-8)
Listen to their response. We come from a very distant country. They don’t give a name. They don’t mention the place. They don’t even make up name. Just – “It’s very far away. I’m sure you haven’t heard of it. We won’t burden you with such trite details. Just know it’s very far – and it definitely is not—in any way – a part of the Promised Land.”
In fact – and this is sneaky – listen to their reasoning: We have heard about your God – all that he did in Egypt and all that he did to Sihon and Og.
Both of which are amazing stories of God’s might.
Both of which are stories of God’s might that happened decades ago.
Both of which are stories of God’s might that didn’t happen in Canaan.
Notice – these men ignore the miracles that would have happened by them: the crossing of Jordan River, the wall of Jericho and the battle at Ai. That would give them away! It would prove that they must be locals because how else would they know about these local events which happened within the last month. Remember – Joshua did not have his own Twitter handle yet and there weren’t any Vines of the walls tumbling to the ground.
Besides—the Gibeonites do not let the Israelites ponder it for all that long. They switch gears:
Touch the holes in my shoes.
Look at the moldy bread.
Smell the gross wine.
Do you remember Wil E. Coyote? He would order those Roadrunner catching kits from Acme. One of those was a refrigerator strapped to his back with a fast-acting ice maker that shot the ice in front of him allowing him to ski after the Roadrunner and catch him.
It didn’t work.
The plan from the people of Gibeon similar.
It's seems silly.
It won’t work.
II. Israel’s Terrible Detective Work
But as outrageous as this ruse is, it’s not as outrageous as the Israelite response. Look at their detective work skills: The Israelites sampled their provisions… Think about that: They ate the moldy bread. They ignored the maggots.
But they did not inquire of the Lord.
Which is especially terrible considering what God had just done.
Remember what happened in chapter 7? It was the caper of the stolen goods. The account of Achan stealing some silver and gold – and it causing Israel to fail at Ai. It was quite the detective story – trying to find the few pieces of gold among the hundreds of thousands of tents of the millions of Israelites. It was an impossible task.
But God did it.
He showed them exactly who did it.
He gave them the truth.
After God did that, why in the world didn’t they ask God for help on this one?
Instead: “But they did not inquire of the Lord.”
I wonder how often that would appear in our lives.
I wonder how often I’ve decided what my plans are for the weekend and I think, and I plan and at the end of the week, the caption underneath my Instagram photo should read: But he did not inquire of the Lord…
Whether it’s what to do for the weekend, which boyfriend to choose, which doctor to go with, how to react to the coworker, which job to get, or whatever…
How often is the tagline on our exploits: But he did not inquire of the Lord…
Or how often do we look to Facebook for the answer…
Or a horoscope…
Or a magic 8 ball…
Or my friend…
Or type into Google “What to do in this particular instance” and read a 5-step article on Wiki-How-To…
Or think and ponder and come to a conclusion myself. And at the end of the day the decision is made… But he did not inquire of the Lord.
TRUTH: Not inquiring of God is foolish.
God knows all things.
God knows the best things.
God loves you more than all things.
God loves you better than any other advice giver out there.
We should listen to him.
If you haven’t, listen to Him right here:
III. The Truth Revealed
Because look at the result of not inquiring from God. Three days after they made the treaty with the Gibeonites, the Israelites heard that they were neighbors, living near them.
They approach the Gibeonites: What gives!?! How could you trick us?
The Gibeonite’s response is simple: We feared you. We feared your God. We didn’t want to die – so we signed the treaty. Do with us as you wish.
And now the leadership is in a tough spot.
God had told them to completely, destroy every nation in the Promised Land.
But God had also told them to keep their oaths – one of which they just made to NOT destroy the Gibeonites.
What should they do?
The rest of the Israelites are getting testy…How could you leaders have done this?
So, they respond:
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 God’s wrath will not fall on us for breaking the oath we swore to them. (v.19-20)
In other words:
We are representing God.
We have given his Word.
And in His Word he tells us that His Word is never broken.
That’s a huge truth for Israel, too! Because it means:
Even if Israel had sinned, God would not break his promise to win them the Promised Land.
Even if Gibeon had sinned, God would not break his promise to keep them safe, too.
Even if all them all had sinned, God would not break his promise to send his Messiah.
No matter how hard it got.
Because keeping your word can be hard.
There’s unexpected expenses, a meeting you forgot, health issues that prevent it or even distance.
But nothing’s too hard for God.
There is no harder time for anyone to keep their Word than God about 2000 years ago. He had promised to send a Savior. He had promised to be that Savior. He had come to earth, live 33 perfect years and was ready for the final part of his promise.
But it got hard.
He was abandoned by his friends, arrested, beaten, nailed to a across, slowly suffocated, all with the sins of the world on his back and God the Father’s wrath against him!
Having the hellfire wrath of God against you? Nothing sounds more difficult.
But Jesus did it.
He kept his Word
And he keeps his Word.
And in his Word, he declares you forgiven.
Don’t take my word for it. Inquire of His Word yourself:
Colossians 1:14 -- In Jesus we have the forgiveness of sins.
Ephesians 1:7 -- In Jesus we have…the forgiveness of sins.
1 John 2:2 – Your sins have been forgiven…on account of his name.
Acts 13:38 Through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed.
IV. How to Inquire?
Since you have been forgiven, God wants you to be confident. To inquire of him.
But how to you do that? A few things to keep in mind:
In the Old Testament, the Israelites had this special thing called Urim and Thummim. It’s a strange word without a translation because it spoke to very special items that the Israelites would use to inquire of God. Not a lot is known about these items – other than that they were items of chance. It sounds a bit like picking the shortest straw to find the answer – except that God had given them these items and told the Israelites to use them to find answers.
You don’t have to wait for archaeologist to find the Urim and Thummim.
God has given you prayer.
Prayer is a conversation with God.
And God loves you.
So, ask him for anything.
For help figuring out your health.
For help figuring out if that relationship is for you.
For help figuring out where to go on vacation.
For help figuring out how to handle that coworker.
From the big to the small – God has no limits on prayer. He simply tells you to pray to him. Inquire of him. If it’s important to you, it’s important to God.
(2) Listen to His Clear Word
Because there’s this idea out there that after we pray, we just kind of listen. As if you might here God’s voice in the wind and he’ll tell you what to do – or he’ll give you a good feeling and that’ll tell you what to do. (Unless you mistake an old burrito feeling for God’s voice.)
There’s a simpler place to look for God’s voice.
There’s a clearer place to look for God’s voice.
Do examine God’s Word when you are making a decision.
For instance, if I’m at Kroger and a guy cuts in front of me in line when I get distracted by the latest National Inquirer Headline – and I’m trying to figure out how to react and I wonder “Should I punch this guy in the face?” I look in God’s Word. God’s Word says, “Love one another.”
I have my answer: Don’t punch him.
Simply put –
If God’s Word says do it; do it.
If God’s Word says don’t do it; don’t do it.
(3) Seek His Will
But what about the neutral zone? You know the neutral zone in hockey. It’s the area that’s neither on one team’s side or another’s. The spiritual neutral zone is neither on the commanded side nor the forbidden side.
Like what kind of jelly to put on my peanut butter sandwich.
Neither commanded nor forbidden.
I can eat strawberry.
I can eat grape.
I can eat apricot.
But even in the area of the neutral zone – remember God’s Word.
God wants us to love him.
God wants us to love each other.
Suddenly, that affects my jelly choice.
I might remember that my wife doesn’t like the smell of grape jelly on my breath, so I don’t pick that.
I remember that my kid likes strawberry and there’s only a spoonful left so I don’t pick that.
I remember that apricot is the healthiest – which allows me to keep the body God has given me in good shape so that I can go and share his Word and give him the glory – so I pick that.
That’s just one scenario. Whether the decision is big or small – seek God’s Will! Inquire of God.
Because God speaks the truth.
Here’s where it gets really interesting. In the final verse it says, “Joshua made the Gibeonites woodcutters and watercarriers.” Servants. If you go backwards in Scripture all the way to Genesis 9 – Noah (the guy with the ark) tells his son Canaan who is the patriarch for the Canaanites that he will one day serve his brother Shem – the patriarch of the Israelites.
Here – it comes true.
They don’t die. They live. It’s better to be a servant in God’s house than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
God has made the same promise to you.
The truth is you will one day be in his Promised Land.
Don’t believe Him? Inquire about it. He’ll gladly tell you again. Amen.