Joshua, the Man & the Book #10 December 26, 2017

When the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ai, they also acted craftily and set out as envoys, and took worn-out sacks on their donkeys and wineskins worn-out, torn and mended, and worn-out and patched sandals on their feet and worn-out clothes on themselves; and all the bread of their porvision was cry and moldy.  They went to Joshua to the camp at Gilgal and said to him and to the men of Israel, “We have come from a far country; now therefore, make a covenant with us.” The men of Israel said to the Hivites, “Perhaps you are living within our land; how then shall we make a covenant with you?” But they said to Joshua, “We are your servants.” Then Joshua said to them, “Who are you and where do you come from?”  They said to him, “Your servants have come from a very far country because of the fame of the LORD your God; for we have heard the report of Him and all that He did in Egypt, and all that He did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon king of Heshbon and to Og, king of Bashan who was at Ashtaroth.  So our elders and all the inhabitants of our country spoke to us, saying, ‘Take provisions in your hand for the journey and go to meet them and say to them, ‘We are your servants; now then, make a covenant with us….So the men of Israel took some of their provisions and did not ask for the counsel of the LORD.  Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with the to let them live; and the leaders of the congregations swore an oath to them.  Joshua 9: 3-11, 14


These enemies of Israel came posing as friends to trick the Israelites into a false covenant.  The intent of their deception was to infiltrate the camp in order to overcome Joshua and the children of Israel and to destroy them.

Being hoodwinked by others is a miserable experience.  Perhaps you’ve been tricked or deceived by someone who appeared to have your best interest at heart.  Why do people do that?

People trick us for a variety of reasons.  Perhaps they want your possessions or money.  Perhaps they’re after your job or they want you to do something for their benefit.  Perhaps they deceive out of a real or imagined fear of you.  Whatever the motivation, someone who behaves this way has a dishonest motive.

Joshua and the elders of Israel fell into this trap because they acted impulsively without taking time to pray: “They did not ask counsel of the Lord” (9:14).  A wise person does not act impulsively regarding decisions that link people together – whether marriage, friendship or business dealings.  The wise consider the situation and ask the LORD for guidance.

Secondly, Joshua and the elders didn’t want to face another war.  Here we are speaking of a literal war between Israel and the Gibeonites.  However, there are other ‘wars’ we face such as disagreements or arguments that put family members at odds with each other.  Before the stinging word crosses our lips, it is wise and prudent to turn first to the LORD for help and wisdom in the situation, rather than react impulsively, only to make things worse. Who of us has not regretted an impulsive word that lingered in the memory of another for years, causing tension or distance?

Thirdly,  Joshua and the elders were afraid of the big coalition of six nations.  They forgot momentarily how the LORD had saved them over and over again when they walked in obedience to Him.  They looked at the circumstances instead looking to the LORD of the circumstances.

Fourthly, their faith failed them. They didn’t believe or follow God’s promise to fight with them to conquer all the land.

Finally, they believed a half-truth.  The Gibeonites said:

“We have heard of your fame . . . what God did in Egypt” (v. 9-10). TRUE.

“We are your servants” (v. 11).  TRUE

“God commanded you to destroy all the inhabitants” (v. 24). TRUE.

But the Gibeonites, who lived only 18 miles away, told five lies:

“We are from a far country” (v. 6). FALSE

“We came because of . . . your God” (v. 9).  FALSE

“Our bread was hot . . . now moldy” (v. 12).  FALSE

“Our wine new . . . now old and rent” (v. 13). FALSE

“Our garments were new . . . now old and worn” (v. 13). FALSE

Sadly, Joshua accepted their stale bread as a basis for peace. “The men of Israel took some of their provisions” (9:14).  He believed the ambassadors. “Joshua made peace with them” (9:15) because he forgot that Israel was specifically told by God NOT to make covenants with those nations.

The result was catastrophic – it always is.  Three days later, Joshua and the elders learned the truth about these ‘ambassadors.’  They were liars and tricksters to whom Joshua had given his word on behalf of the nation.  Therefore Israel was bound to keep their part of the bargain.  The whole congregation grumbled against the leaders but Joshua and the elders refused to harm the Gibeonites because of the covenant they had made with them. Instead the Gibeonites became servants to Israel, the very thing they had falsely professed to be.


Joshua and the children of Israel learned a hard lesson in this situation.  Though they had been deceived and manipulated into a covenant, that did not give them license to break it.  To their credit, Joshua and the elders acted with integrity by keeping their part of the covenant and refusing to harm the Gibeonites.  To choose to do right when the other party has done wrong is never easy, but it is the RIGHT thing to do.

To avoid finding ourselves in such situations, let us remember what Joshua forgot.  Guard against impulsive decisions, seek the LORD’s direction before making decisions that form alliances and keep your word, even when it costs you to do so.




Joshua, the Man and the Book #9 December 19, 2017

In Joshua chapter 7 the children of Israel were defeated because of sin in the camp.  As we go on into chapter 8 this week, we are reminded that making up for lost ground is always difficult. For the football team that falls behind or the student who procrastinates too long, catching up is hard to do.  However, it is in those moments or situations that we are reminded that the Holy One of Israel is the God of second chances.

Then the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Take the whole army with you, and go up and attack Ai. For I have delivered into your hands the King of Ai, his people, his city and his land.  Joshua 8:1


The Israelites had sinned, and that sin lead to fear. The people were hesitant to continue their attempt to capture the Promised Land. Their failure led to their lack of confidence. God gave them His plan, which depended fully on their willingness to live by faith, not by fear. When previous failures provoke fear, anxiety and a loss of confidence to face future situations, it is faith that moves us on.  Like the little child learning to walk who falls down repeatedly, our failures are meant to propel us to future victories.  Faith knows that, faith gets up and faith goes on.

We can only imagine the disheartening effect of the failure at Ai. These people who had lived in the victory of Jericho were now tempted to wallow in the defeat at Ai. However, God told Joshua to take the entire army to Ai. Everyone was involved; no one was left out. They set the ambush and prepared to fake a retreat so that the people of Ai would be convinced that, once again, they were running scared. Isn’t it just like God to take us back to the place where we last failed in our obedience to Him in order to restore our confidence?  As the men of Ai pursued the fleeing army of Israel, hidden Israeli soldiers entered the city from behind and destroyed it completely. Ai was defeated, just as God had promised.

No defeat is greater than God’s ability to strengthen and equip us for the next challenge. Therefore it behooves us to look to Him and journey on rather than waste time bewailing our failures.  When failure occurs, God’s formula is: ‘Repent quickly, receive forgiveness, get up and press on.’

The Israelites then took the 30-mile walk to Shechem in the beautiful valley area of Israel between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim. We read in verses 30-31 that Joshua led the people of God in worship. They built an altar according to Moses’ specifications and offered sacrifices as a sign of their thankfulness to God for His victory.

It’s too easy, even tempting, to start celebrating after a victory and to forget Who is ultimately responsible. Ai was defeated not because of the cleverness of the children of Israel but because of God’s promise. By obeying His command, they were assured of victory.

Developing an attitude of gratitude is one of the best habits we can acquire in our walk with God.  Big victory or small – for everything, He is worthy of our thanks and our praise.

Besides offering a sacrifice, Joshua also pointed the people to God’s Word.  Verse 32 says that Joshua “copied on stones the law of Moses” and then read it to all of the people. While it is desirable and commendable that we should read from God’s Word every day, it is particularly important to do so when we are smarting from the sting of a failure.  Turning to the revealed Word of God renews our faith, strengthens our commitment and guards against self-pity, unwarranted depression and a debilitating self-loathing.  Nursing anger at ourselves for failure guarantees future failures!  Joshua rightly led the people to worship the LORD and to renew their minds by reviewing the Torah with them.

The real story of this chapter is not that Israel regained the city of Ai.  No, the real story is that the children of Israel renewed their faith and their commitment to their God.


Just like water, our human tendency is flow downhill, mentally and spiritually. We are so prone to look at the negative, to feed on the negative.  We need to be reminded constantly, in times of challenge and in times of victory, that our real strength and our true source of everything is God and God alone. That is why taking time to worship Him daily and to feed our spiritual life by reading and meditating on the Scriptures restores faith, empowers commitment and protects us from discouragement.


Hanukkah – December 13-21, 2017

At sundown this evening, Jews around the world will light the first Hanukkah candle to begin the eight day celebration of the Feast of Dedication.  The miracle that happened at the time of the Maccabbees and the prophetic implications of this festival are too often missed.  Therefore it is worth interrupting for this week our study of Joshua to take a look at what Hanukkah really means.


Isaiah 46:9-10 Remember the things long past, for I am God and there is no other; I am God and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying , ‘My purpose will be established and I will accomplish all My good pleasure.’ 

Very early in Genesis, we read of a man whose name is Enoch or in Hebrew, Chanoch.  His name means ‘Dedication’ and it is this same root that gives us the word Chanukkah.  Enoch, or Chanoch, lived a life of total dedication to God and at the appointed time, God ‘took him’, the Bible says.

Chanukkah is the feast of Dedication – the re-dedication of the Temple after its desecration by Antiochus, the Greek Emperor who made it his goal to bring all peoples of the ancient world into the worship of Zeus, the primary Greek god.  In other words, to create a one world religion.  Are you aware that there is a serious effort underway in our day to do exactly what Antiochus wanted to do?   There are religious/political leaders literally working together to forge a ‘one world religion’, a sign of the end of days.

The Jews of Antiochus’ day refused and their resistance was led by a man and his sons known as the Maccabbees.  Though they were small in number compared to the army of Antiochus, miraculously the Maccabbees won the battle.  After the defeat of the emperor’s troops, the Maccabbees went up to the temple which had been desecrated by the Greeks for Antiochus sacrificed a pig on the altar. As they trudged through the rubble, they found one small vial of pure oil for lighting the Menorah.  It was not enough to light the entire Menorah but enough for one branch.  And so, at a very dark hour in Jewish history, one small vial of oil served to encourage the survivors that Antiochus had not been able to extinguish completely the light of the God of Israel.  Miraculously that one vial – with oil enough for one day – continued to burn until the eighth day.

The number 8 in Scripture speaks of plentifullness, of regeneration; it is the number of new beginnings.  At the time of Noah’s flood, eight people survived to replenish the earth in its ‘new beginning’.  In I Samuel 8, the prophet Samuel visits the house of Jesse to anoint a new king for Israel.  Jesse presents seven sons to the prophet but none of them are the anointed of the Lord.  It is only when Jesse calls for his eighth son, David, that the Spirit of the Lord speaks to Samuel to ‘anoint this one’ as king.

We are all called to carry the light of God’s truth, His Word and His ways to others; to be an example of godly living to a confused and chaotic world.

This Chanukkah, may the light of the Holy One of Israel fill us anew and afresh and may we spread His light everywhere we go.

A Happy Chanukkah to all of you!

Joshua, the Man & the Book #8 December 5, 2017

Joshua 7 comes as a bit of a surprise.

The children of Israel under Joshua’s leadership have just witnessed the tremendous defeat of the city of Jericho and they are still basking in the glow of that great event. But, verse 1 tells us that God was upset with the people. Israel thought that everything was all right. They thought that they were standing on the edge of a great string of victories that would see them conquering the entire land of promise. Yet, what they didn’t know was that there was a problem in the camp. There was one in their midst who was causing a problem for the entire family of God.  Because of that, the nation was about to suffer a painful defeat.

In vs. 2-3 of chapter 7, Israel is a confident people. They looked at Ai and felt like that little town would be no problem for such a great army, but their confidence was misplaced. Israel did not realize it, but they were living through one of the most dangerous times of life. You see, the time just after a great spiritual victory is a dangerous time. Often, like Israel, we will be over confident and believe that we can handle any battle that comes our way.When we have that attitude, we are vulnerable to suffer our greatest defeats.  Why? Because we are trusting in ‘OUR’ achievement, rather than in the grace of God.

When Israel, without consulting the LORD, set out to conquer Ai they suffered a terrible defeat and 36 of their number were killed. Shock waves went through the camp. How could this happen?


Joshua, as commander, takes responsibility and goes before the LORD in prayer with a broken heart, v. 6. However, he also displays a hint of anger and accusation against the Lord.  Joshua is about to learn that prayer is the correct recourse in a time of trouble, but that prayer will avail nothing until sin has been dealt with, Psalm 66:18! Joshua wonders why Israel was powerless in the battle. He learns that the answer wasn’t to blame God, or to dispute His will. The answer was within their own camp.

When our decisions bring unpleasant consequences, it is not the time to play the ‘blame game’.  It is also not the time to accuse God of anything. We need to look within and see where the problem is.  When there is a lack of power in my life, the problem is not with God, nor is it with others, the problem is always with me!

While Joshua and Israel try to figure out what is going on, God in Heaven already knows and tells Joshua all about it.

The answer is quite simple: there is sin in the camp of Israel.

The LORD makes Joshua to understand that this sin that is hindering His power and is the cause of their defeat. Further, the LORD gives Joshua instructions on how to discover the guilty party. In these words to Joshua, God gives us some insights into sin, insights worthy of our attention.

1. God knows about our sins – vs. 11 (Proverbs 15:3)

2. God hates our sins – vs. 11 (Proverbs 6:6-19)

3. God has a plan for our sins – vs. 14-15  (Psalm 32:5)

4. Sin affects those around us – vs. 11-12

5. Sin must be dealt with; it cannot be ignored. vs. 13

Essentially, God makes clear to Joshua: Either you deal with the sin in the camp or I will. Either way, sin must be confronted.

God knew who was guilty so why didn’t He just tell Joshua who they were looking for? In my opinion, He was giving Achan time to repent and to confess his sins voluntarily. In any case, Achan was identified as the culprit.

In verse 19, Joshua speaks to Achan with love in his heart. He knows that Achan is condemned, but Joshua still cares for this man who brought so much trouble to Israel. In the next verses, Achan finally confesses his sin but grudgingly. Don’t believe for a second that Achan truly repented! He, like some others in the Bible, only confessed his sin after he got caught, when it was impossible to hide it any longer!

God’s way is for His people to throw the covers off their sins and tell God the truth that He already knows. He blesses the person who handles sin the Biblical way. However, the person who tries to hide his sins will never prosper, but will face God in judgment.  Our sins will be exposed in one way or another. You can confess them sincerely and be forgiven, or you will be forced to confess them when you face the LORD in Judgment. Either way, you will confess your sins.  Far better to be a quick repenter like David, than an unwilling repenter like Achan.

The following verses give us the sad conclusion to this tragic tale. Achan and all that he had were taken out and stoned to death by the people of Israel. It didn’t have to end this way! However, these verses demonstrate the horrible end of all sinners who refuse to repent.


No human being is perfect or sinless.  But God in His great mercy and loving kindness, before we were ever born, had already made provision for us to return to Him after sinning: REPENTANCE.  And what is repentance? It is the decision – made sincerely – to approach the Holy One of Israel with humility to acknowledge what we have done wrong and to ask for His forgiveness.  It is coming to Him with no pretense, no hypocrisy, no mental excuses or rationalizations regarding what we have done, but to simply acknowledge the truth: I have sinned, I sincerely regret having offended You, My God, You, who have blessed me with so many blessings. I ask for Your mercy and forgiveness.

Knowing from His written Word that He is faithful to forgive us when we repent, we then thank Him for that forgiveness and pray for grace to refrain from repeating that sin again.

If Achan had only taken this course of action, his entire family would have been spared.

A sobering thought…