The Gibeonite Deception: Facing the Consequences of Our Choices

The story of the Gibeonites in Joshua 9 raises for Israel again the issue of how to deal with the people in the land. The people in the land are devoted to destruction. But there is Rahab and her family who are saved by faith in Yahweh. Now we have the Gibeonites who are saved by Israel’s oath to them.

The question is more than merely the presence of foreigners in Israel.1 The question really is the concern for covenant  faithfulness with regards to the people of the land.2 In this thematic sense, Josh 8 is connected with Josh. 9. Josh. 8 speaks of renewing the covenant, while Josh. 9 deals with applying the terms of the covenant to people devoted to destruction.

Deut. 20:16-18 states that the Canaanites, including the Hivites or Gibeonites, are devoted for destruction. But the Gibeonites  fooled the Israelites into believing that they were not people of  the land. So the leaders of Israel made an oath that they will not destroy them. When the Israelite leaders discovered the Gibeonite deception, they could no longer destroy them because of their oath. Thus, their decision compromised their faithfulness to the covenant.

As we study this chapter, I hope and pray that we will learn that life’s choices carry with it life’s consequences. The choices we make bring either good or evil to our lives. The grace of God saves us from our bad choices. But we shall still reap what we sow.

We learn three important lessons from Israel’s choices in the Gibeonite deception. . . . more

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Back to the Covenant: Making God the Center of Our Lives

How do the people of God make God the center of their lives? That is the question that the writer of Joshua answers in Josh. 8:30-35.

In Josh. 8, we see how Yahweh gave Israel victory over Ai. The victory occurs after Israel’s repentance over the Achan incident. Yet after a momentous battle, the writer of Joshua interrupts the narrative by introducing a solemn ceremony—a ceremony of covenant renewal. Joshua gathers all Israel in a solemn assembly of covenant affirmation. The focus of the service is the Law of Moses—Israel’s covenant with God.

Why does the writer of Joshua include this ceremony? In Josh. 7, we learn that Israel transgressed the covenant by stealing the devoted things—the things devoted to God for destruction. The issue is that the people of God have transgressed the Law of God. A covenant-disobeying people cannot possess the land.

We now rephrase our question: How do a covenant-disobeying people of God make God the center of their lives? A disobedient Israel renews her relationship with God by renewing her covenant with God according to God’s directions.1 That is what we have here in vv. 31-35. The people of Israel go to the place where God tells them to go—in the green valley of Shechem between two mountains—Mt. Ebal to the north and Mt. Gerizim to the south. There, they offer sacrifices, listen to the reading of the Mosaic Law, and affirm their obedience to God by obeying the covenant. This act of covenant renewal restores Israel’s identity as the people of God. . . . more

Return to Ai: Exercising Dependence on God

Josh. 10:42 tells us that Israel won the victory over the kings of the land because Yahweh fought for Israel. Yahweh fought for Israel whenever Israel depended on Yahweh. But when Israel did not depend on Yahweh, Israel was defeated. When Israel  obeyed Yahweh, she won over Jericho. But when Israel stole the devoted things, Israel was defeated by Ai.

Hence, the key to victory for Israel is dependence on God. The real enemy of Israel then, is not Jericho, Ai, or the Canaanites. The real enemy is sin. Yahweh told Joshua that Israel cannot stand before her enemies because of sin (Josh. 7:12).

So it is with our lives. We live defeated Christian lives when we give in to sin in self confidence. We live victorious, blessed lives when we obey God in total dependence. Therefore, what matters is not how successful you are in life, but how obedient you are to the will of God in your life.

In our text today, Josh. 8 shows us the blessing of dependence on God. In Josh. 7:26, the LORD turned from His anger at  Israel when she turned from her sin of keeping the devoted things through the death of Achan. The gloom of defeat in Josh. 7 shifts to the joy of victory in Josh. 8. The writer moves from the anger of God against Israel in Josh. 7 to the blessing of God to Israel in Josh. 8.

I’d like us to study two things—the Return of Blessing and Renewal of Victory. . . more

Joshua’s Sandals and Jericho: Experiencing the Holiness of God

In Josh. 1 and 6, we learned that the Law is the key to the land. Obedience to the Law is the means for possession of the land. The reason is that God wants the undivided devotion of His people. The test of devotion is obedience to the Law. In Josh. 5, the people of Israel expressed their devotion to Yahweh by the act of circumcision and celebration of the Passover.

In Josh. 5:13-6:27, we see the same emphasis on the same theme of devotion. But this time, it is devotion to the requirements of the holiness of God in the Law.

The conquest of Jericho begins with the arrival of the divine commander. The story begins with a God-initiated encounter between the commander of the LORD’s army and Joshua, the commander of Israel’s army. The commander of the LORD’s army tells Joshua to take off his sandals, for the place he is standing is holy. The  emphasis in our text is on the holiness of God.1 Joshua must  realize that the battle begins with a holy God. Hence, Israel’s devotion to God’s holiness is the key to victory.

Likewise, if we expect God to fight for us, we must ponder the holiness of God. If you will be victorious in Christian living, you must be holy as God is holy. If you will inherit the land, you must reflect the holiness of God in your life.

Our text shows us how this theme is played out in the conquest of Jericho. I’d like us to note two things that call for our devotion to the holiness of God. . . . more

A Circumcision of the Heart

In Josh. 4, the LORD tells Joshua to remember the miracle of the cutting of the waters of the Jordan, by setting up memorial stones. In Josh. 5, the LORD tells Joshua to prepare the people for battle, by circumcising the men of Israel.

Now you might think it strange that Yahweh would give such a commandment. Josh. 5:1 tells us that when the Amorite kings and Canaanite kings heard of the crossing of Israel over a dried-up Jordan River, their hearts melted. Isn’t it the right time to invade the land when its people are afraid?

No, because Israel shall possess the land spiritually, not militarily. In the call of  Joshua, Yahweh did not give Joshua a military handbook on possessing the land. Instead, Yahweh gave Joshua the spiritual handbook—the Law of Moses. Yahweh told Joshua to meditate on the Law daily, and to obey it thoroughly. The reason is that the LORD is going to give the land according to the Law of Moses. Israel shall possess the land according
to the Law of Moses. The Law is the key to the land. In other words, their obedience to God’s Law is the key to their inheritance of the land. It means that the things of God are critical to possession of the land. . . . more

When Your Children Ask You: The Purpose of the Miraculous Parting of the Jordan

In Josh. 3, we learned that the miracle of the waters in the Jordan is not about the faith of Israel, but about the presence and power of the God of Israel.

In Josh. 4:2, Yahweh commands Joshua to take twelve men from the twelve tribes of Israel—one from each tribe. Each man shall take a stone from where the priests stood in the Jordan. They were to use the stones to set up a memorial, a monument. The stones were to be a marker of the miracle of the waters of the Jordan. In v. 6, Joshua says that when their children will ask what the stones mean, they shall tell them how Yahweh cut off the waters in the Jordan. In v. 21, Joshua again says  essentially the same thing. Thus, Joshua stresses the meaning of the memorial stones for future generations.

But what is the purpose of the miraculous cutting off of the Jordan River? The answer is in the text. In Joshua 4, the author of Joshua indicates a two-fold purpose: the exaltation of Joshua as Israel’s leader after Moses, and the exaltation of Yahweh as the only mighty God.

In this sermon, I want to stress the two-fold theological purpose of the miracle. . . more

The Miraculous Parting of the Jordan: Knowing God

The crossing of the Jordan is a pivotal event in the history of Israel. The crossing of the Red Sea transferred Israel from slavery to freedom. The crossing of the Jordan transformed Israel from a wandering group of tribes to a landed nation.1

There is an old Hiligaynon [local dialect] children’s song about the crossing of the Jordan. It says, “Didto sa tabok sang Jordan, magakita-ay kita nga tanan. Didto sa tabok sang Jordan,  magakita-ay kita nga tanan. Didto.” [There at the other side of Jordan, we will see each other. There at the other side of Jordan, we will see each other. There!]

Many believe that the crossing of the Jordan symbolizes the crossing of the Christian believer from death into eternal life. But Joshua 3 does not say that crossing the Jordan means death and Canaan means heaven. The bloody wars in the land of Canaan make it more like hell than heaven.

My intent in this sermon is to show you what the miraculous crossing of the Jordan teaches us. Let’s look at some clues in Joshua 3 and 4. Josh. 3:3 says, “the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God.” Verse 10—“the living God is among you.” Verse 13—“the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth.” Then in Josh. 4:23-24, “the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord.”

What the miracle in the crossing tells us is not so much about the faith of Israel, but about the presence and power of Yahweh, the God of Israel. The story of the crossing then tells us what we should know about Yahweh, the God of Israel and why we should fear Him.

The writers of Joshua note three things about Yahweh in the story of the crossing. . .  more

The Pleasure of Grace Amid the Pain of Justice

Many sermons have focused on the faith of Rahab for good reason. Rahab’s faith is an important theme in the NT. The NT cites Rahab’s act of saving the two spies in Joshua 2 as a demonstration of true faith and obedience to God (Heb. 11:31; Jas. 2:25).

Yet my purpose in this sermon is not to show how the NT interprets Rahab’s faith, but how Rahab’s faith fits the framework of Joshua. Have you asked why the story of Rahab is included in the beginning of the campaign to possess the land? There is a theological reason for that. In Josh. 1:8, Yahweh commanded Joshua to obey the Book of the Law. That Book of the Law calls for “the ban”—the destruction of all Canaanites, to stop their idolatrous influence over Israel (Deut. 20:10-18). In short, every man, woman, and child in the land shall be terminated.

My intent in this sermon therefore is to show the most probable theological reason for the inclusion of the story of Rahab in Joshua 2—to address the theological question of how Israel shall execute the ban—the destruction of all Canaanites.1 . . . more

The Call to Battle: What It Takes to Possess the Land

The call of Joshua to the people of Israel is a call to battle. A key word is the verb, “possess” (Heb. yarash), in Josh. 1:11, which means, in the context of Joshua, “take possession of, esp. by force”1; or “occupy, seize” in the qal stem.2 The book of Joshua is about the struggle of Israel to possess the land. The call to possess the land is the call to occupy the land by force from the nations that live in it (Deut. 2:12, 21, 22, 24, 31; 4:47; 6:18).

How did Joshua call Israel to battle? How did Israel respond? In this study, we shall learn that in order to possess the land, we must fight for it. You cannot possess the land without struggling for it.

I’d like you to note two things in Joshua 1:10-18—Joshua’s Call to the People of Israel and the People’s Commitment to Joshua. . .more

The Call of Joshua: Finding Your Success in God Alone

In Num. 13, Israel were standing at the southern border of the promised land. But they feared the people of the land. They wanted to go back to the comforts of Egypt. They fell into unbelief and rebellion against Yahweh. Thus, God judged Israel, making her wander in the wilderness for forty years. A whole generation of Israelites died there, without ever seeing the land.

Fast forward to Joshua 1 where Israel is now under the leadership of Joshua. They are now camped on the east bank of the Jordan river. The land of promise is located on the western side of the Jordan. These Israelites are the new generation—the sons and daughters of their parents who rejected God’s promise.

The question is—Will they persevere until they possess the land? How will they win the battles?

To some degree, you and I are like these Israelites. You have come from a state of unbelief to a state of faith in Christ. Since the day you trusted Christ as Savior, you embarked on a spiritual journey with God to your promised land—your inheritance in Christ. You are bound to inherit all the blessings of Christ when He comes again (Eph. 1).

Yet the question is—Will you persevere in the journey? How will you win the battles along the way? We shall learn the key to our success in Joshua 1 in the call of Joshua. The call of Joshua is also a call for every Christian to find your success and victory in God alone. . . . more