This is our last outing into the book of Joshua. And i’m going to speak on this chapter for 15-20 mins and then give some time at the end for any of your questions or observations about the book as a whole - what has most struck you. So have a think as i’m speaking.
My real hope is that we’ll each return to these great stories to meditate on them from time to time because this is a vital and essential biblical book modelling for us as christians our discipleship; our taking hold of the eternal life and relationship with God that we both already have and await the full realisation of.
As we watch Israel struggle to overcome, by faith in God, their obstacles and opposition and enemies … as they step out in faith to take possession of their promised land … so we have a model for how we are to fight in our christian lives. the christian life is not a walk in the park, a holiday on the beach or mountaintop bliss…it’s a battle, a journey, a marathon, a war. Trusting in Jesus’ all sufficiency we grow up to be like him, we move forward to take hold of that which is ours.
In our passage this week, we encounter again the Gibeonites. We saw these guys last week - they were Canaanites, they were the enemy, and by deception BUT also because they had come to believe in and revere the God of Israel - they managed to broker a covenant with Israel - whereby Israel would protect them. This whole people group - the gibeonites- have been grafted by a covenant pledge and promise into the people of God. The King of Jerusalams that the Gibeonites have made peace with Israel - that’s actually a really good description actually of what it means to become a christian. It is to make peace with God and his people. Make peace by Repentance and Faith. Faith means you come to believe that you’re loved by God - that you were his enemy and destined to be crushed but Jesus came and was crushed for you. Faith in God’s love. But also repentance: turning around - you lay down your arms and permanently change your allegiance, you live your life now in obedience and worship of God. You make peace!
That’s what the Gibeonites had done. They are new christians brought in by God’s grace under the shadow of his wings but now here’s the thing … immediately they face persecution
immediately they must cry out to God
inorder to receive his help
Let’s look at those 3 things
- you will face persecution
The Gibeonites have been Christians a matter of days and immediately they learn the reality of Jesus’ promise to his disciples in John 15v18 "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.
you will face persecution.
Let’s look at what happened.
v1 Adoni Zedek, Canaanite King of Jerusalem is rattled. The conquests of Jericho and Ai and now the treaty with Gibeon which more than a great city was in fact - 9v17 - a confederation of cities - 4 cities - all of this means that a whole swathe of Canaan - a band through the middle separating North from South - has now come under the control of Israel. And so the Canaaan King of Jerusalem feared greatly v2
But this is not a godly fear that leads to repentance and peace. This is a rebellious fear that leads to persecution. v3 he seeks to build a coalition. 4 other Kings to strike not Israel but Gibeon because they’ve made peace with Israel and Israel’s God. Then v5 the five kings of the Amorites—the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish and Eglon—joined forces. They moved up with all their troops and took up positions against Gibeon and attacked it.
[Manchester Univ CU – week of events – present the gospel. One of the halls – tiny group of Christians – we decided we put up some posters to publicise the events – torn down. We did a rather naff piece of theatre in the canteen to advertise the events. Most people looked quite disinterested. But after we’d done it one young man came storming after us – his face was bright red, absolutely furious. ‘Who was responsible for that?” Me? I asked him what had offended him. He found it difficult to articulate. He ranted at me. He hated what we were doing. All I remember was his anger.. Turned out to be from the Church of England Chaplaincy.]
I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced that. Perhaps in the past you’ve experienced it in yourself? It’s not nice to be disliked, sidelined, looked upon with disdain, dealt with unjustly. I reckon we’d do anything to avoid it. maybe it might make us think we’ve done something wrong - and certainly there’s no merit in being persecuted for being judgemental or rude. more likely we are tempted to keep quiet about our faith because we don’t want to suffer the heat. But anyone who lives a godly life will be persecuted.
opposition towards Christians is often – inordinate – i mean they weren’t tearing down the posters of the chess club or the Islamic society.
Opposition towards Christians is often irrational – modern people often say Christianity it’s disproved and outdated. We now know such and such. And so we can ignore Christianity. But in practice opposition to Christians is far more heated and aggressive, scornful and in many many places around the globe it is violent. Being a christian can cost you your livelihood and in some circumstances your life.
If Christianity is so irrelevant – why oppose it so violently? Why bother?
And what is at the root of persecution and opposition to faith in our God?The answer I think that our text hints at is that faith in God is a threat that needs to be crushed because it itself is an assault on human pride. Pride is the reason that we hate Christ and his gospel.
Look again at the enemies of the Gibeonites.
They are their near neighbours, fellow canaanites, wider family. ready to kill them now they’ve become believers in God.
They were, v6 tells us the King’s of the hills, the mountains - a subtle reference not just to geography but also to character. Their elevated position. Kings of the high ground. Their made up names speak volumes about their self perception: Adoni zedek means Lord of Righteousness. Hoham - the God who protects; Piram - wild, fierce; Japhia - high and elevated; Debir - Speech, The speaker.
Near neighbours, Puffed up pride
It’s very sad to say that it is often those who have come to hold elevated positions in religious realms - our near neighbours - who are least friendly to God’s little ones. (My friend in the Manchester Univ chaplaincy) Desiring to have the pre-eminence religious people within our own christian wider community can be merciless towards any who refuse to be subject to them. Remember how Jesus’ greatest opponents were the religious authorities. They hounded him to death and they sought to silence his ambassdors, the apostles because he and they threatened their authority - their pride
Puffed up pride hates the gospel of God because the gospel is all about GRACE and grace completely undermines all human pride and human power.
Every religion and philosophy, apart from Christianity, says that getting to God is something You can do. You have problems but there are things you can do to sort it out.
Christianity says. You can never make it. Without help You are lost. Christianity says All you deserve, all you can achieve is God’s eternal rejection. Because of your sin. And there’s nothing you can do to save yourself.
So it is has to be done for you. Jesus Christ came down. He stood in your shoes and suffered for you the rejection of God which you deserve. So that you could step into his shoes and enjoy the welcome with God that he deserves. He does it all. It’s all about Jesus. It’s all done by him. Grace. There’s nothing you or I can do except receive it, trust him.
And of course that is an offence to our pride.
If you’re proud of your performance - the idea that grace is the only way is utterly offensive. Our whole way of life, based around ourselves, is threatened by Grace. That’s the reason for hostility. We either fight against God or we are given the humility to lay down our pride and receive the grace of his love.
You will face persecution.
2. You must cry for help
We’ve learnt much about prayer from the book of Joshua. God wants us to know the joy, peace, security of knowing him. he wants to draw us into a life of relationship, a life of prayer.
We’ve said from this book, that when the sun is shining in our lives we don’t tend to pray. We are proud people. We like to cope on our own. Do it ourselves. We miss out on the grace and joy that could be ours. And so God allows the rain. God allows hardships. God uses the opposition of the world and our struggles to cause us to have to turn to him.Often he has to bring us to the end of ourselves inorder that we might finally look to him and cry out to him.
God shapes the difficulties of life to fall upon our lives inorder that we might prove our faith, find our faith to be genuine. How do i know that i am really God’s child? i know because when the trouble really hits i don’t turn from him i do turn to him and he shows himself to be present and real.
See the Gibeonites - we might have thought that they were just chancers. They’d seen the threat of Israel and so they’d sought a treaty with them. Now the big threat was the combined forces of the 5 hill top Kings. Might you not expect Gibeon to just bow the knee apologise to Adoni - Zedek and turn coat again, throw in their lot with the strongest team still in thr tournament? Perhaps that’s what Adoni - Zedek assumed Gibeon would do.
But Gibeon does not change allegiance. Gibeon does not crumble in the face of violent pressure. Gibeon remains faithful to her new God.
Gibeon cries out for help v6 “Do not abandon your servants. Come up to us quickly and save us! Help us, because all the Amorite kings from the hill country have joined forces against us.”
One of the greatest evidences for myself that i really do love God, that he has me. Is that when under serious pressure to buckle and walk away from God to another place that is very attractive - i choose God, i choose God. Don’t you. Because deep down you believe. Your faith is proved. You cry for help.
Notice also that Gibeon which was a strong coalition in itself, with mighty warriors does not trust in her own strength. Gibeon does not get proud and think that they can do this alone. We can be so like that. Do everything but pray. Try everything else first. Our pride.
But this battle is not one that we can fight. We must cry out for help always. Quickly.
Cry for help. honestly, openly. God hears. And he knows exactly the timing of the response that is needed.
In this case with his Gibeonite children the response is immediate and dramatic.
Joshua takes the entire army v7
Joshua is reassured by God v8
Joshua marches through the entire night and immediately enters the battle v9
There’s no reservations. There’s no, oh this is just the Gibeonites, the new boys, why bother with them, they’re not the real deal, they deceived us into helping them, and here they are are again asking for help.
Ever feel you’re a Gibeonite? Just a slightly annoying Christian, not a very good Christian, not very deserving of help, not the real deal, perhaps i’m not a christian. Perhaps i can’t ask for help. God’s not interested in me.
Look at this. Look at this. Look at what Gibeonites get
Immediately. Joshua takes the whole army, commissioned by God, marches through the night, straight into your battle. This is Jesus towards you.
You must cry out for help
3. Surely the Lord himself fights for us!
God is our refuge and our strength. A very present help in times of trouble. Therefore we shall not fear. Psalm 46.
Look at how it is God who miraculously fights for us. fights our battles. The Lord our warrior.
10 The Lord threw [his enemies] into confusion before Israel, so Joshua and the Israelites defeated them completely at Gibeon. Israel pursued them along the road going up to Beth Horon and cut them down all the way to Azekah and Makkedah. 11 As they fled before Israel on the road down from Beth Horon to Azekah, the Lord hurled large hailstones down on them, and more of them died from the hail than were killed by the swords of the Israelites.
12 On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel:
“Sun, stand still over Gibeon,
and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.”
13 So the sun stood still,
and the moon stopped,
till the nation avenged itself on[b] its enemies,
as it is written in the Book of Jashar.
The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. 14 There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a human being. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel!
I think this is hugely reassuring. God doesn’t hear our prayers and then out source his response to other agencies. He doesn’t commission G4S to organise his people’s security. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel. Surely the Lord is fighting for Gabriel. Surely The Lord himself fights for us.
Have you ever been persecuted for being a Christian? What form did it take? How did it feel? What did it make you think?
Would it be a good thing if you had never been persecuted for your fath?
Why according to Joshua 10 might it be that God’s people are persecuted?
What might stop you crying out for help to God?
Why must you cry for help immediately?
Where do you need the Lord to fight your battles for you at the moment?