Bible Studies in Book of Joshua
Joshua Chapter 9: Discernment and the deception of the Gibeonites
By Fraser Gordon
There are two scriptures I would like to look at before going into Joshua 9. One is 2 Corinthians 11:2-4. I really want to emphasize verse 3, because in our passage today we are going to be looking at one of the attempts of the enemy to hinder our going on to obtain all that God has for us.
2 Corinthians 11:2-4 I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. (3) But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. (4) For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.
The second scripture is Ephesians 6:10-13
Eph 6:10-13 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. (11) Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. (12) For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (13) Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
So again, in that passage Paul is saying “You are to put on these things so that you are able to stand against the wiles of the devil”. So whether we know it or not, we are in a battle. Whether you see it or whether you don't see it, the battle is going on. Whether you are experiencing it or not, the enemy is continually hindering us, or attempting to hinder us, from inheriting all that God actually has for us.
So when you look at the book of Joshua, it is all about walking in all that God has obtained for them. Do they obtain everything? No they don't. They get a lot of what God has for them but they never fully get everything, and it will be like that for us in our Christian experience. We have been given fullness in a risen Savior. Do we experience all of that fullness? The answer is “actually, no we don't.” Do we have the ability to experience all of that fullness? The answer is yes...but with our fallen humanity we only get glimpses a lot of the time but we are urged to keep pressing on to know all that God has for us.
So the last few things we have looked at are the fall of Jericho, and Satan's first real attempt to thwart the nation. That was with Achan when he coveted those treasures, do you remember that? That brought ruin upon the nation and they were defeated at the very next little city they tried to take. They didn't ask God about it, they didn't realize there was sin in the camp and they were defeated. Then they went through the whole process of going through the tribes to the family heads, and to individual households and down to Achan himself to know what had caused their defeat. God sees absolutely everything and in the end Achan was brought out and sin was cast out from the camp and then they could go forward again. So from there they go on and God once more gave them directions to take Ai and this time He gave them the booty. He actually said “you can take the treasures this time.” Unlike Jericho, where they were not allowed to touch anything, now they were allowed to take the spoils from Ai.
So now we get to chapter 9 and this is Satan's second attempt to hinder the nation from going forward.
The enemy has one common enemy – Israel
Jos 9:1-2 Now when all the kings west of the Jordan heard about these things--those in the hill country, in the western foothills, and along the entire coast of the Great Sea as far as Lebanon (the kings of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites)-- (2) they came together to make war against Joshua and Israel.
It is amazing how you can have nations that fight amongst each other but they all have one common enemy and that is Israel. It was the same then; they would all come together with one accord when it came to the nation of Israel. And it's the same today. You can have all of these Arab nations that are fighting among themselves, but they have got one common enemy and that is the Jewish race. They will always come together with one accord when it comes to the nation of Israel and their right to exist and their right to be in the land; nothing has changed.
So here you have two aspects of Satan's advancement. The first is straight out open war. He is pictured in the bible as a roaring lion and that is one aspect of his nature. A roaring lion is one who loves to persecute, to kill, maim and devour. What you see at the moment with ISIS is probably a really good picture of the roaring lion. I read some emails the other week and couldn't really read them without holding back the tears as to what is happening to the Christians in Iraq. The persecution and heartache for those families; the beheading of children because they will not renounce Christianity; it is out and out satanic. The second aspect of Satan which you see in the scriptures is his appearance as an angel of light. This is not so easy to recognize. It is deception and Ephesians talks about this and calls it “the wiles of the devil”. It is all about subtle, deceptive, and cunning ways. He came to Eve in this way; it is all designed to move you in a way that you think you are not going to go. This is his second mode of attack, and we fail many times. This chapter is talking about this kind of attack.
The subtle trickery of the Gibeonites
Jos 9:3-14 However, when the people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, (4) they resorted to a ruse: They went as a delegation whose donkeys were loaded with worn-out sacks and old wineskins, cracked and mended. (5) The men put worn and patched sandals on their feet and wore old clothes. All the bread of their food supply was dry and moldy. (6) Then they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and the men of Israel, "We have come from a distant country; make a treaty with us." (7) The men of Israel said to the Hivites, "But perhaps you live near us. How then can we make a treaty with you?" (8) We are your servants, they said to Joshua. But Joshua asked, "Who are you and where do you come from?" (9) They answered: "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, (10) 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. (11) And our elders and all those living in our country said to us, 'Take provisions for your journey; go and meet them and say to them, "We are your servants; make a treaty with us." ' (12) This bread of ours was warm when we packed it at home on the day we left to come to you. But now see how dry and moldy it is. (13) And these wineskins that we filled were new, but see how cracked they are. And our clothes and sandals are worn out by the very long journey." (14) The men of Israel sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the LORD.
What an incredible, cunning plan the Gibeonites had hatched to save their skin. They must have wondered if Israel was going to fall for this. So in verse 4 we read “They worked craftily and they pretended to be ambassadors.” How did they really approach Israel? In verse 9 it says they said “We have come from a very far country, because of the name of the Lord your God. We have heard of His fame and all that He did in Egypt” They came with flattery. That is the first thing I noticed when I looked at it. Beware of people who pretend to be believers saying “We have heard about this great God of yours that has done all these miracles. We have heard of His fame.” So they come and they are appealing to what you already know about God but in a flattering way and because of this you think they are on your side. However, remember that these are Canaanites in disguise. Way back, God had commanded that they were to drive out these people. Now, these same people have come up with an incredibly cunning plan, and you have got to give it to them for that, but the nation of Israel was to have no part with them.
So they come in with flattery. “We have heard of all your fame. We have heard of all that God did to those two kings.” Notice that they don't say they had heard about Jericho and Ai which were their neighbors. Had they said that it would have given away the fact that they didn't come from a far country. They talked about “on the other side of the Jordan” and not their neighbors. They talked to them as believers and they also came to them really as people in need, needs that had to be met. We need to think about these things carefully for they can be deceptive modes. People that you think are in the same camp as you, people that talk about the same God, but actually are not. People that have needs and come and try to join themselves to you in some way; this can be one of Satan’s deceptions.
Joshua 9:14 The men of Israel sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the LORD.
I am not sure what the Israelites took but they took some of their provisions. However, whatever it was they took they were completely sucked in and deceived. In verse 6 it says that the Gibeonites came to them at the camp Gilgal. I have been emphasizing the importance of Gilgal because it was there that everything was really made new to Israel. They came across the Jordan. They set up two monuments, one stood for death and one stood for resurrection. One monument in the river stood for them being buried in Christ. They get out the other side and there is a monument saying that they have come through death and into life. They have circumcision in Gilgal, a self -judgment of their ways. They start to partake of the good fruit of the land and manna ceased. So Gilgal was camp base for the nation. It is also the place for us as Christians to go back to because it is the centrality of the fact that we have died and have been buried and have risen in a risen Savior. That is where we always go back to. And this enemy came to them right in that place. They came to them right there. On thinking about that, I thought, you can be in the right place but you can still be deceived. You can be centered on the centrality of the cross, the risen Lord Jesus Christ but yet you can still be deceived. And why were they deceived? It says “because they did not ask counsel of the Lord.” They did not ask God about this new need that had presented itself to them. They were doing everything right except that they didn’t bring God into the scenario of what was happening to them. They had no discernment. There was no prayer. They had no counsel from God at all.
This is what I love about the Bible because you get all these great men of God like Joshua, but he has weaknesses and failings exactly the same as we do. He did many wonderful things but we have seen two blunders which he made. After Jericho he went off in self pride straight into the next battle without asking counsel and you have the same thing here, he should have asked counsel of God regarding what was presented to him but he doesn't. As the leader he is responsible really for not asking counsel. So he is deceived. There is no discernment from him. So how do we bring God into the things that are facing us? Proverbs 3 is a really well known verse.
Pro 3:5-7 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; (6) in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. (7) Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil.
When it comes to the wiles of the enemy we are actually not up to the task. This is why we need the word of God and close communion with God. Of all the gifts that are probably lacking today in the church, discernment is the first. It is the most neglected gift that is not often talked about, but it comes through communion with God and through prayer.
So here we see the lack of discernment within the nation. Everything happens really quickly here, they don't take time to stop and ask God. I have always wondered why, when things are presented to us, we are most often like them-- in too much of a hurry to make a decision! What Satan is trying to do here is to bring a nation into their midst which is not supposed to be there. He is trying to join Israel with the Gibeonites whom they were supposed to drive out. It pictures the world coming into the Christian’s experience, to be joined in union with you on your walk and to cause you to slip, to hinder, and to cause you difficulties. The world has now entered into the nation. In the same way we are also defeated due to lack of prayer and lack of discernment; Satan does come as an angel of light. In the Bible it mentions the foolish virgins; they looked pretty much like the wise ones. The tares look exactly the same as the wheat. The voice of the hireling sounds similar to the voice of the Shepherd. In the great book Pilgrims Progress, ‘Bypath Meadow’ ran right alongside the King's highway John Bunyan was right, the King's highway, or the true path, is there but there is always a path right next door. Our deceptive foe wants to bring about small alliances in our walk that cause us to be hindered.
One example is what happened to the church under the Emperor Nero. The first century church flourished under attack from him. Yes, Satan's mode was persecution, but the church grew and it flourished. Then came Emperor Constantine, and the church became acceptable and popular with the world under his regime. The influence of the world came upon them with all its crazy religions and all that went with that. This was Satan’s second mode of attack.
So we have to be very careful about making alliances with people or our walk can be hindered. Covenants are made that later on turn out to be disastrous and it can take years for some people to recover. Never be in too much of a hurry when entering into marriage or a business opportunity. So here again in the problem as mentioned in verse 14 – they don't ask counsel of the Lord.
When the world enters in...
Jos 9:15-18 Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath. Three days after they made the treaty with the Gibeonites, the Israelites heard that they were neighbors, living near them. (17) So the Israelites set out and on the third day came to their cities: Gibeon, Kephirah, Beeroth and Kiriath Jearim. (18) But 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,
So the world is in among them and they have made a covenant with them. Nehemiah is a good picture of this when the enemies of Israel tried to stop him building the wall of Jerusalem, they used beguiling words to get him to stop. However he prayed to the Lord and he said ‘I discerned that they actually meant me harm, not good.” So he never went anywhere near them.
This was a rulers issue and Joshua was held accountable. After three days it was all brought out into the open as to who these people were. The nation with whom they have entered into a covenant with is a bad one and not who they thought them to be. The bible is just so consistent in its types. This is going to happen to Israel again. In the last days they are going to enter into a covenant with the anti-christ and midway through that covenant he is going to be revealed for who he is. And I thought things just keep happening in the same way until it all reaches its fullness. They are going to enter into a covenant and it will not be revealed until midway, (three and a half years into the 7 year covenant) that what they have actually done is tragic.
We will read on, because even though Satan has a way to hinder and bring us down God can actually use what is meant for harm to bring about good.
Jos 9:19-27 but all the leaders answered, "We have given them our oath by the LORD, the God of Israel, and we cannot touch them now. (20) This is what we will do to them: We will let them live, so that wrath will not fall on us for breaking the oath we swore to them." (21) They continued, "Let them live, but let them be woodcutters and water carriers for the entire community." So the leaders' promise to them was kept. (22) Then 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? (23) You are now under a curse: You will never cease to serve as woodcutters and water carriers for the house of my God." (24) They answered Joshua, "Your servants were clearly told how the LORD your God had commanded his servant Moses to give you the whole land and to wipe out all its inhabitants from before you. So we feared for our lives because of you, and that is why we did this. (25) We are now in your hands. Do to us whatever seems good and right to you." (26) So Joshua saved them from the Israelites, and they did not kill them. (27) That day he made the Gibeonites woodcutters and water carriers for the community and for the altar of the LORD at the place the LORD would choose. And that is what they are to this day.
The picture that I get here is that the Gibeonites were given a task to serve Israel. Verse 27 says “The Gibeonites were used for wood cutters and water carriers for the congregation and for the altar.” In other words they were used to be the means by which Israel could worship God. When I thought about that, I thought that many times you may enter into a wrong covenant, or join yourself to things you shouldn't join yourself to. Not always, but it is possible for God to use this to cause you to actually search after him. For the marriage that has gone wrong, it can be the very means by which you enter into a deeper relationship in prayer and in worship with the Father. The Gibeonites were there to serve Israel and to enable the nation pray and worship God. So God can turn things around so that the very thing that we shouldn't have done can actually cause us to come to Him. Yes, there are always consequences for the wrong decisions that we make but God can override those things and cause us to come before Him.
So the Gibeonites have wormed themselves into the mist of Israel, and there they had to stay. Israel could not do anything about it because the elders of Israel had sworn an oath before the God of Israel, so there were consequences.
Finally, I have also read that Gibeon was positioned in the center of Canaan; they actually caused the northern and the southern tribes to be isolated from each other. They lived right in the midst of Israel and caused the division between the north and the south later on. And that too is a picture of the results of the work of the enemy. Let us be on guard. Let us enquire of the Lord before making important decisions. Let us learn from the error of Joshua in this episode with the Gibeonites!