Joshua 9 – Preached at Ebenezer Church
We have been studying the book of Joshua and today we come to Joshua 9.
The incident in chapter 9 teaches us the need to be very wise in our Christian lives.
There are 4 key groups of characters in this chapter.
I want use our time to look at the behaviour of these 4 groups of people.
And may God help us to learn to be wise having seen their respective behaviour.
These 4 key groups of people in Joshua 9 are:
1) The Nations in Canaan
2) The Gibeonites
3) The Israelites; and
4) The Leaders of Israel
Let us first look at the nations in Canaan.
1) The Nations in Canaan
Verses 1-2 tell us that the nations in Canaan began to collaborate with each other.
These included the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.
Their survival was now being threatened.
They had a common enemy and that was Israel.
So they came together and formed a partnership.
Previously, they existed as separate nations.
They had their own cultures.
They had their own armies.
They had their own agendas.
But now, they will put their differences aside.
They would focus on their common attention and on weightier matters.
It is interesting to note how people of the world are so quick to be able to put aside their differences.
They know how to find their commonality on weightier matters.
I have seen the same happening in the business world.
There is this term called “co-opetition”.
We can be business competitors in a certain field.
But we can co-operate on a certain business opportunities for each other’s benefit.
That is how they came up the term co-opetition – co-operation and competition.
Most of the time, we should not be learning from the world.
But sometimes, sad to say, the people in the world put Christians to shame.
Sometimes people in the world are more willing to forgive each other when some Christians in the same Church cannot even tolerate each other.
I once saw an incident in a general Baptist Church.
They were having a members meeting.
The members were shouting at each other over certain decisions made in the Church.
It is a very sad thing to see in a Christian Church.
In Joshua 9, the nations in Canaan were quick to forget their differences.
Their priority was to go after their common enemy.
There is a great lesson for us here as Christians.
Our priority should be the glory of God.
Our priority should be to help each other overcome the devil, our common enemy.
Therefore, when there is no compromise of fundamental doctrine,
When there is no compromise of the conscience,
Are we just as quick to unite together as Christians?
Are we just as quick to deny ourselves of our pride for the sake of the Lord’s work?
It is always so sad to see Christians drifting apart over petty matters.
Worse still, sometimes maybe these matters could be settled if we could just swallow our own pride.
Friends, it is always easier to make such a comment when we are not in the situation.
But always remember to ask this question when you encounter such situations.
What would our Lord Jesus do if He faced that similar situation?
Would my response to the situation magnify the Lord and give Him glory?
Or would it give way to the devil and bring shame to the name of God?
May God help us when we encounter such matters.
2) The second group of people I want to bring your attention to are the Gibeonites
Most of the nations collaborated together to fight Israel.
But there was one nation that was not willing to go to war.
They decided to take a crafty way out of the situation.
They knew that they had no chance against Israel.
The lived right in the heart of Canaan.
They were so living so close to Israel that they could have been the next to be attacked.
Therefore, they started to do their homework.
And they came up with a scheme.
They knew that Israel was tasked to wipe out all the inhabitants of Canaan.
Jericho and Ai were already destroyed.
But in Deut 20:10-18, the Israelites were permitted to make peace with cities far from them.
Somehow, the Gibeonites got to know this.
Doesn’t it put Christians to shame sometimes when non-believers know our bibles better than us?
Anyway, the Gibeonites sent a small delegation to initiate this peace-making process.
This delegation pretended to be living very far away.
They dressed like they had traveled on a very long journey.
They brought food that was dried and worn out.
And when they talked, they related only Israel’s victories before they crossed the Jordan.
They made no mention about their recent victories against Jericho or Ai.
Why is this the case?
Because if they lived in a distant land, they won’t have the latest news.
They don’t have CNN or Channel News Asia at that time.
So, news would take time to travel to them.
And this made their testimony look very real.
Now, compare the confession of these Gibeonites with that of Rahab, Joshua 2.
You will find that both are just as credible.
Both appeared to be telling the truth.
Both expressed desire to be associated with Israel, the people of God.
But one of them is genuine and the other is not.
It is unfortunate.
Israel fell to the scheme of the Gibeonites.
They believed their testimony.
And they signed a treaty with them.
The treaty binds Israel not to attack the Gibeonites.
Three days after the treaty was signed, Israel discovered that they had been tricked.
But it was too late.
The treaty had already been entered into.
What has been promised and covenanted must be honoured.
Have you ever met people like the Gibeonites in this world?
I want to tell you that there are lots of such people in the world.
It could be one of those sneaky salesmen out to trick you for your money.
But let me tell you, it can even happen in a Church.
More than 20 years ago, I once had a Sunday School Student (this was before I was in Shalom Church).
For some reason, this student could not get along with the others in the class.
So she left the Church and went to FERC – First Evangelical Reformed Church.
She impressed the people there with her understanding of the reformed faith.
And then she appeared to have financial problems.
Many in FERC gave money to help her.
Then suddenly, she disappeared.
And the people in the Church discovered that what she had been telling them was all lies.
And some people in FERC actually called me to help hunt her down.
The rest is history.
Now, I want to just say that there are many people who are like the Gibeonites.
If you talk to the Gibeonites, they will tell you that they did nothing wrong.
They will say, “I have to lie so that I can avoid a war”.
What is wrong with that?
It is like the thief telling you, “I have to steal so that I can feed my family”.
What is wrong with that?
So everyone will have their own reasons for acting like the Gibeonites.
And we Christians are sheep amongst a whole field of wolves.
We need to be very wise to know how to conduct ourselves.
We need the wisdom of God to know how to survive.
To the children and young people in our midst, listen to me:
You will meet all kinds of people in your life ahead.
If you listen to the wrong people, you could end up with all kinds of problems.
Some of these problems can haunt you for life.
So never despise the advise of your parents and good teachers.
For they have met many more people like the Gibeonites than you.
They may even have been tricked before just like I have been tricked several times.
That is why they don’t want you to fall into the same trap.
So, do not ever be like the Gibeonites.
And be aware that there are many in the world who are like the Gibeonites.
3) Now, let us turn our attention to the 3rd group of people – the Israelites
The Israelites were all part of the process of making the treaty with the Gibeonites.
When they realized they were tricked, they were very angry.
They wanted to attack and destroy the Gibeonites immediately.
They knew they had signed a treaty with them.
But in their minds, they questioned the validity of the treaty.
“We were tricked into signing it”, they would say.
“The conditions were different when we signed it”.
“How could our leaders been so foolish to sign such a treaty?”
“Let us kill the Gibeonites for deceiving us into signing it.”
Well, all these are typical emotions that are often displayed after mistakes have been made.
But the fact remains: they have already signed the treaty.
Now, we make many mistakes in our lives.
There are 2 points that I want you to note here:
1) How can we avoid or reduce incidents of such mistakes? and
2) How do we handle the situation after we have made mistakes?
1) How do we avoid such mistakes?
Notice, that in the entire episode, the people failed to consult God before proceeding.
Verse 14: “And the men took of their provision, and asked not counsel at the mouth of Jehovah.”
Herein lies the danger for many of us when we make our daily decisions.
Very often we tell people who offer us advise, “hey, I know what I am doing”.
The greatest mistake is to think we know what we are doing.
We think we are in control of situations when we actually have no control at all.
We think we have control over our own lives when we actually don’t.
We think we have control over ourselves when we actually don’t.
And it is often in such situations that we succumb to sin and temptations.
And remember, there is nothing too small for us to consult the Lord in prayer.
If only Israel had consulted the Lord before they signed that treaty with the Gibeonites.
If only they were less confident of themselves.
Then we won’t find ourselves in tricky situations like these.
How do we avoid such mistakes?
Consult mature Christians when you have to make important decisions.
Consult the Lord in prayer with whatever you are doing in your life.
2) Secondly, how do we handle the situation after we have made mistakes?
Joshua 9:19 says “But all the princes said unto all the congregation, We have sworn unto them by Jehovah, the God of Israel: now therefore we may not touch them.”
Joshua’s position can be summarized like this: You may have tricked me, but I shall honour my word.
You may appear to have won; but I shall do what honours the Lord.
It may be a loss to me now if I choose to honour the Lord.
But who knows what good He may bring out of this entire situation?
Many times, we will be tempted to take things into our own hands.
We will justify to ourselves why we ought to do certain things as an appropriate response.
But restrain yourselves, my friends.
Always take the path of high moral ground which honours the Lord.
Any vengeance is for the Lord to take, not you.
Deu 32:43 Rejoice, O, nations, with His people; for He will avenge the blood of His servants, and will render vengeance to His foes and will be merciful to His land, to His people.
This is how you ought to handle the situation.
Not in the manner the Israelites reacted in anger and emotion.
4) Let us Now turn our attention to the 4th group of people – the leaders of Israel.
It was clear that a mistake had been made.
Joshua ought to have been wiser and not make a treaty with the Gibeonites.
Joshua ought to have consulted God before making such commitments.
The leaders of Israel ought to have provided the check and balance for the best decisions.
So, just how could such a mistake have been made?
Well, I think this mistake was made so that we can all learn from it.
And in 2 weeks time, God willing, when we come to Joshua 10, we will see the bigger of how God works all things together for the good of His people and His purposes even when this mistake had been made.
But for our purpose today, let us note that no matter how great a human leader can be, he will make mistakes.
That is why Christian leaders must spend even more time in prayer.
That is why I urge you to regularly keep our Church leaders in your prayers.
Representing the other leaders, I will tell you that we are under even more stress than anyone of you.
And we are just frail men like anyone of you.
So please regularly pray for us that we can persevere in the work of God for His glory.
I want you to notice how the leaders of Israel responded to the mistake they had made.
We have already seen how the Israelites behaved towards the mistake made by their leaders.
The Israelites were clearly upset.
The bible says in Joshua 9:18 that they murmured against their leaders.
If you were a leader in Israel, you must be very embarrassed that such a mistake was made.
You may even feel you have lost your moral authority to lead.
Now, the Israelites want to attack the Gibeonites, what do you do?
May be we should let them do it.
Then the people will understand that I feel just as sore and upset about being tricked.
Then they will feel that I am with them and I identify with them.
There was a man by the name of Aaron, the brother of Moses in the Book of Exodus in Ex 32.
Moses was on Mt Sinai meeting with God for a long time.
The people became impatient waiting for him to come down.
So they asked Aaron to make them an idol to worship.
Under pressure, Aaron succumbed to their request.
He made a golden calf and Israel started worshipping that idol that day.
But there was a man who did not succumb to that temptation.
And that man was Joshua and this is recorded for us in Ex 32:17.
Under the same pressure this time, Joshua stood firm on what he knew was right to do.
He had made a mistake in making a treaty with the Gibeonites.
He is now under pressure from the Israelites to attack them.
But he knows he had to honour the treaty that had been made.
He would be very unpopular if he did not allow them to attack the Gibeonites.
But his conscience would only be clear if he kept the treaty.
In the face of this pressure, Joshua stood firm on what he knew was the right thing to do.
Now, don’t think that this was an easy thing to do.
We are told that the Gibeonites served as woodcutters and water-drawers for Israel forever.
This meant that Joshua would be remembered of this mistake for the rest of his life.
But because his conscience is clear, he will probably have the peace of God in his heart.
Yes, he has made a mistake.
But he will not let any wrong emotion to lead him to make any further mistakes.
Joshua is an excellent example for us.
Like Joshua, sometimes the mistakes we make may also leave a scar on us forever.
Of course we must learn to avoid making such mistakes.
But if we have already made them, we must not let one mistake lead to another.
We need to address them and contain them.
Hence, I urge all of us to learn from the example of Joshua in how he handled a mistake he had made.
I have said a lot this morning. Let me quickly summarise.
We have looked at 4 key groups of people in Joshua 9.
1) The Nations in Canaan
2) The Gibeonites
3) The Israelites; and
4) The Leaders of Israel
May God help us to learn to be wise having seen their respective behaviour.