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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:The Peril of Walking by Sight, Not Faith
Text:Joshua 9:1-27 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Faith Tested

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Selections from the Psalter Hymnal, 1976, unless otherwise noted:

30 (Red) - Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise                                                       

354 - Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross

359 (Red) - Be Thou My Vision

460 - Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me      

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Pastor Ted Gray
11/04/18 - p.m.
The Gibeonite Deception:
“The Peril of Walking by Sight, Not Faith”    
Joshua 9:1-27
Have you heard about school of hard knocks? The school of hard knocks, it is said, is the best teacher. In this chapter we see where even a godly leader like Joshua learned some lessons the hard way. 
The first hard lesson learned is that the world is deceptive; things are not always as they appear. The Gibeonites devised a masterful charade, everything from their wineskins to their sandals were old and worn. Even their bread was moldy. It seemed perfectly obvious that these people were from a distant land, just as they claimed. Who among Israel would have known that they were from just a short distance away? The worn sandals, cracked wineskins, the moldy bread and the smooth answers they gave to Joshua’s questions remind us that things are not always as they appear.
It has always been that way, even at the very dawn of history. Ask Eve if things are always the way they appear to be. She looked at the fruit hanging within hand’s reach on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The Scripture says, When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” (Gen. 3:6). But what appeared so good to Eve plunged all humanity into sin, into evil.
That is why it is so important to put 2 Corinthians 5:7 into practice: “We walk by faith, not by sight.” And 2 Corinthians 4:18: So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” And Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is the assurance of what we hope for and the certainty of what we do not see.”
Because things are not always as they appear, we must inquire of the Lord in everything. That is the second lesson Joshua and the Israelites learned the hard way. In verse 14 we read, “The men of Israel sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord.”
We have all relied on human wisdom when we should have been praying for divine guidance.  But in Joshua’s case it is especially surprising that he and the Israelites did not inquire of Lord. It is surprising because in Numbers 27, when Joshua was commissioned by Moses to succeed him as Israel’s leader, the Lord gave these instructions: “He (Joshua) shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall inquire for him by the judgment of the Urim before the Lord.” (Numbers 27:21)
The Urim, along with the Thummin, were used by the high priest to determine God’s will in any given situation. Many commentators believe that they were two stones, one light colored and the other dark. By casting the two stones, the high priest could determine God’s will. By casting the Urim and Thummin the high priest could get a direct answer from the Lord, either a “Yes” or a “No”.
There have been many times when you or I would have loved to have the Urim and Thummin in our pocket or purse! Haven’t you been in situations where you needed to know what the Lord would want you to do? Have there been times when you are at the crossroads in life and would like to know, without a doubt, which way to go?
Joshua had that knowledge at the fingertips of his high priest. If the Urim and Thummin had been cast, the Gibeonites would have been exposed as frauds. The treaty with them would not be made, and they would have been annihilated, for the Lord had given instructions not to make a treaty with any of the Canaanites. In Deuteronomy 7:1-2 the Lord gave this command: “You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them.”
Yet, unfortunately, Joshua and the Israelites sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord” (v. 14). And, unfortunately, we often follow Joshua’s example.  We think somehow that we can make our own judgment calls apart from the wisdom of God. When we make decisions without seeking the wisdom and guidance of God we are certain to fall. 
Proverbs 3:5-6 sets down the guidelines for every Joshua, for every Eve, for every one of us: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.”
The Accuracy of God’s Word
Through this incident we are also reminded that God’s Word is always accurate; it will never fail as our only rule of faith and practice. As a church we affirm the authority, inerrancy, and infallibility of the Holy Bible. But we need to be constantly reminded of the amazing, pin-point accuracy of the living Word of God.
One example of the accuracy of God’s Word is seen in the servitude of the Gibeonites to Israel. Verse 26 and 27 explain how “Joshua saved them from the Israelites, and they did not kill them. That day he made the Gibeonites woodcutters and water carriers for the assembly, to provide for the needs of the altar of the Lord at the place the Lord would choose. And that is what they are to this day.”
That servitude fulfills the prediction that the Lord made through Noah when he said to his son, Ham, who had laughed at Noah’s nakedness, “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants he will be to his brothers.”  That predication, made in Genesis 9:25, sees part of its fulfillment in this chapter, as we read in verse 22 and 23: 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 be released from service as woodcutters and water carriers for the house of my God.’”
That is just one prophecy among thousands that has come true with pin-point accuracy. Just in a brief study of Joshua we read of several prophecies being fulfilled. For example, after Israel destroyed Jericho, Joshua pronounced a solemn oath recorded in Joshua 6:26: “Cursed before the Lord is the man who undertakes to rebuild Jericho: At the cost of his firstborn son will he lay its foundations; at the cost of his youngest will he set up his gates.”
After many centuries had passed, we read in 1 Kings 16:34, In his days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho. He laid its foundation at the cost of Abiram his firstborn, and set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the LORD, which he spoke by Joshua the son of Nun.”
In chapter 7 we read how Achan was stoned to death in the Valley of Achor.  Achor means trouble.  But later on, in Hosea 2:15, the Lord promises that “The valley of Achor will become a door of hope.” And through Christ that promise has been fulfilled more times than we could ever number.  If you are a true believer, then it has been fulfilled in your life and mine because Jesus has promised, “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9).
But we should not be surprised at the pin-point accuracy of God’s Word. After all, 2 Corinthians 1:20 assures that: “No matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through Him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God.”
If we took our affirmation more seriously, that the Bible really is the “authoritative Word of God, our only rule for faith and practice”, how much more diligently and frequently would we read this Book of Promises, given to us by God to lead us, encourage us and guide us through our pilgrimage of life?
As we look at Joshua’s predicament - brought on by sampling the provisions without inquiring of the Lord - we see numerous repercussions. Joshua and his men sampled the provision of the Gibeonites without inquiring of the Lord, but verse 15 also described how  theymade a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath.”
When the people found out, they were furious with the leaders. Yet verse 18 and 19 describe how  …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.’”
If the leaders had not made an oath in God’s name they could have said to the Gibeonites: “This pledge is invalid because you lied to us.”  But now they were stuck: They had not sought the Lord’s guidance, but they used an oath in the Lord’s name to ratify the treaty with the Gibeonites.
At this point they realized that they had sinned by not seeking the Lord’s wisdom, but they weren’t going to sin more by going back on an oath made in the Lord’s name. Joshua and the other leaders realized that it is not a light thing to invoke the name of our God in an oath. 
It is permissible to take an oath in God’s name, as the Heidelberg Catechism points out in the answer to question 101: “But may we swear an oath in God's name if we do it reverently?” Answer: “Yes, when the government demands it, or when necessity requires it, in order to maintain and promote truth and trustworthiness for God's glory and our neighbor's good. Such oaths are approved in God's Word and were rightly used by Old and New Testament believers.”
But once we have made that oath in God’s name, we cannot back out of it. Ecclesiastes 5:4-5: “When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools, fulfill your vow. It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it.”
The sons of Saul, the Old Testament King of Israel, found that out. 2 Samuel 21:1-14 records how a famine came on Israel for three years because Saul tried to annihilate the Gibeonites, thus violating this covenant agreement made in an oath here in Joshua 9. The famine did not end until seven of Saul’s sons were slain – and they were killed because of the causal way that Saul had treated the oath made in God’s name to protect the Gibeonites.
It is indeed a serious thing to take an oath in God’s name. As Ecclesiastes 5:5 points out, “It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it.” 
A second application: Sins are forgiven, but the consequences remain. Joshua was a godly leader. His sin in not consulting the Lord was certainly forgiven, but as verse 27 points out, the consequences remained.  Every time Joshua saw the Gibeonites cutting wood and carrying water for the community, he was reminded that he had sampled the provisions but not consulted the Lord. He was forgiven, but he had to live with the consequences.
The same was true for David after he sinned with Bathsheba. David confessed his sin. In 2 Samuel 12:13 and 14 “David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ Nathan replied, ‘The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the Lord, the son born to you will die.’”
And that same truth - that while sins are forgiven, the consequences remain - still rings true. The immoral person is forgiven, but they may be infected with STD’s that remain for life. The drug addict is forgiven but he still may have the consequence of AIDS, hepatitis and reoccurring flashbacks. The convict comes to faith in Christ but still remains behind bars. This passage reminds us: Sins are freely forgiven, but the repercussions remain.
A third application is that God’s grace is always greater than our sin. We see that when we look at the motives of the Gibeonites. It appears as though the Gibeonites came to Joshua, not in saving faith, but only to have their temporal needs met. Recognizing the power of God’s people, they wanted to get what they could for their own protection and well-being. In that way they were, in a sense, fore-bearers of those who seek “the prosperity gospel”. One of the most popular segments of the visible church today is the mega-church message of “the prosperity gospel.”  The motive for coming to Jesus is focused on health, wealth and material blessings here and now.
We must have proper motives in seeking the Lord. We have to ask ourselves, “Do I seek the Lord with a true saving faith in His Son, the Messiah?  Or, “Do I seek the Lord for my own material good? For prosperity? Health? Protection?”
Many commentaries on Joshua compare the way Rahab came to the Lord and His people, and the way the Gibeonites came. They both had the same knowledge.  What the Gibeonites say in verse 9 and 10 is similar to what Rahab said back in chapter 2. The Gibeonites said: “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.”
But Rahab came to the Lord with faith that she would be received, forgiven, and adopted into His family through faith in the Messiah, even though she had been a prostitute. With sincere faith she had said to the spies, “Give me a sure sign that you that you will save alive my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.” And they had given this sure sign, “Tie a scarlet cord in your window...” (Josh 2:12, 18)
Rahab was received into Israel, not as a slave, a wood cutter or water carrier, but as one of the human ancestors of Jesus Christ. She is mentioned several times in the New Testament: In Matthew 1:5 Rahab is listed in the genealogy of Jesus. In James 2:25 she is cited as an example of faith proven genuine by its actions. And in Hebrews 11:31 she is listed as an example of faith: “By faith, the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.”
But this is where we see that God’s grace is far greater than our sin, not only for the prostitute Rahab, but also for the deceitful Gibeonites. It is clear from other passages that the Lord was gracious to the Gibeonites with spiritual blessings, as well as sparing their lives.
By God’s grace, they became assimilated in Israel and had an integral role in serving in the temple. Did you notice the role Joshua gave them? In Verse 23 he tells them they will never be released from service as woodcutters and water carriers for the house of my God.” And verse 27: But Joshua made them that day cutters of wood and drawers of water for the congregation and for the altar of the LORD. And that is what they are to this day.”
Some have pointed out that Psalm 84:10 could describe the work of the Gibeonites. There the Psalmist writes: For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.” To be a door keeper is to have a lowly position, yet what a blessing to have a place in God’s house!
It should be of great encouragement that we see God’s blessings on the Gibeonites: Their motives were not pure in seeking the Lord, but have our motives always been pure? They were under a curse. In verse 23 Joshua warned them, You are now under a curse.” But unless we have saving faith in Jesus Christ, we are also under a curse, the curse of sin. But Christ came and suffered and died for us, bearing the curse of our sin on the cross of Calvary.
All who believe in Him, despite their sins and shortcomings, their false motives, their reliance on their own wisdom at times when they should be seeking God’s direction - are given a place of service in God’s kingdom. All who believe in Christ with saving faith will reign with Him throughout all eternity. 
Joshua was a wonderful leader of Israel. In so many ways he is an excellent example for all of us. He is, like many others in the Old Testament, a type – a foreshadow – of Christ.  But he, like you and me, was also a frail and sometimes foolish sinner. His sin of sampling the provisions but not inquiring of the Lord is one that all of us have committed in many ways and instances.
But may we learn from Joshua’s life that this world is so very deceptive. Things are not always the way they appear to be. Because of that, may we always seek the Lord’s guidance, acknowledging Him in all our ways, trusting in His Son for our salvation with deep gratitude and joyful praise!  Amen. 
 Bulletin Outline:
The men of Israel sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord.
                                                                                                Joshua 9:14
                           The Gibeonite Deception:
              “The Peril of Walking by Sight, Not Faith”    
                                 Joshua 9:1-27
I.   The Gibeonite deception teaches us:
      1) The world is deceptive; things are not always as they appear
           (3-13; 2 Corinthians 4:18, 5:7; Hebrews 11:1)
      2) We must inquire of the Lord in all circumstances (14; Proverbs 3:5-6)
      3) God’s Word is always accurate; it will never fail as our only rule
          of faith and practice (23; Genesis 9:25-26; 2 Corinthians 1:20)
II. Repercussions:
      1) It is a serious thing to take an oath in God’s name (18-19;
           Ecclesiastes 5:4-5; Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 101)
      2) Sins are forgiven, but the consequences remain (27; 2 Samuel
      3) The Gibeonites and Rahab said similar things about the Lord (9-13;
           Josh. 2:8-13) but their motives differed (Prov. 16:2; Heb. 11:6, 31)
III. Application: God’s grace is always greater than our sin. The
      Gibeonites were assigned to be servants, but their service was in
      the house of the Lord (23, 27; Psalm 84:10)



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2018, Rev. Ted Gray

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