Beware Of Pretenders
Stephen Caswell © 1999
Beware Of Pretenders
The Great Impostor
The artic polar bear feeds almost entirely on seal. To enjoy such a meal, he sometimes resorts to a cunning bit of trickery. If the hole in the ice through which the seal gets his food is not too far from the edge of open water, the bear will take a deep breath, slip underwater, and swim to the seal's fishing hole. He will then imitate a fish scratching lightly on the under side of the ice. When the seal hears this sound, he dives in for a quick supper, only to find himself caught in the huge, hungry embrace of his predator. The devil entices us in a similar way. He uses deception to gain a foothold. Then when we’ve succumbed to the temptation, he catches us in his trap.
Have you ever been told, watch out when things are going well? There is a lot of truth in this statement. It is when we are sailing along nicely that we let our guard down. Since we don’t have any problems to deal with, we are confident and self reliant. We don’t consult God about everything. We feel that we are handling things pretty well on our own. After all God is blessing us, isn’t He? Surely we are wiser now and can handle smaller decisions on our own, can’t we? Wrong! This is when the enemy strikes his hardest. Victory leaves us very vulnerable to pride and self sufficiency.
Israel faced this same danger. They had just won a tremendous victory against Ai and Bethel. After this Joshua lead them on a spiritual retreat to Mount Ebal. Surely they were ready for whatever came their way now, weren’t they? Joshua led Israel back to their camp at Gilgal.
The Enemies Response
Joshua 9:1-4 a And it came to pass, when all the kings which were on this side Jordan, in the hills, and in the valleys, and in all the coasts of the great sea over against Lebanon, the Hittite, and the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite, heard thereof; That they gathered themselves together, to fight with Joshua and with Israel, with one accord. And when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done unto Jericho and to Ai, They did work craftily,
After Israel’s victories at Jericho, Ai, and Bethel, the Canaanites responded in two different ways. The enemy doesn’t always work the same way. He can respond differently and launch more than one attack at a time.
1. Five nations formed an alliance to launch a direct attack on Israel. - War
2. One nation, the Gibeonites used a deceptive approach with Israel. - Peace
Good soldiers keep alert for both forms of attack. The attack by the large confederation is recorded in chapter 10, whilst chapter 9 deals with the deception of the Gibeonites.
I. The Deception Of Gibeon.
II. The Discovery Of Israel.
III. The Decision Of Israel.
Firstly The Deception Of Gibeon.
Joshua 9:3-4a And when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done unto Jericho and to Ai, They did work craftily,
We are told that the leaders of Gibeon worked craftily. Since outright conflict had failed for the inhabitants of Jericho, Ai and Bethel, they used stealth. If you can’t lick ‘em join ‘em.
1. Gibeon’s Request
Satan is referred to as being crafty or subtle in Genesis 3:1. He still uses this approach today. In fact he tends to be more subtle when attacking mature believers. How did the Gibeonites go about doing this? What was involved in this plan? They used three basic steps to secure a league or peace treaty with Israel.
a. They Spoke Falsehood.
9:4-6 They did work craftily, and went and made as if they had been ambassadors, and took old sacks upon their asses, and wine bottles, old, and rent, and bound up; And old shoes and clouted upon their feet, and old garments upon them; and all the bread of their provision was dry and mouldy. And they went to Joshua unto the camp at Gilgal, and said unto him, and to the men of Israel, We be come from a far country: now therefore make ye a league with us.
Firstly they told outright lies. They claimed to have come from a far away country to make a peace agreement with Israel. They pretended to be ambassadors on a mission of peace. They stuck to their story and told it convincingly even after they were questioned. It has been said that if you tell a lie often enough, people will believe it.
b. They Spoke Flattery
Joshua 9:9-11 And they said unto him, From a very far country your servants have come because of the name of the LORD thy God: for we have heard the fame of him, and all that he did in Egypt, And all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites, that were beyond Jordan, to Sihon king of Heshbon, and to Og king of Bashan, which was at Ashtaroth. Wherefore our elders and all the inhabitants of our country spake to us, saying, Take victuals with you for the journey, and go to meet them, and say unto them, We are your servants: therefore now make ye a league with us.
After they had been questioned regarding their country and nationality, they lied again. But this time the used flattery as well. They claimed to have come because of the great name of the Lord their God. They rightly accredited the events in Egypt and Canaan to the Lord. They said that they had heard of His fame and had come to make a league with Israel who served such a great God. They very wisely referred only to the destruction of Og and Sihon.
If they had spoken of Jericho and Ai they would have given themselves away since these were recent victories. They referred to themselves as Israel’s servants and acted humbly. This was all very flattering to people who worshipped the Lord. They were appealing to them on religious grounds. They certainly didn't act like the other Canaanites they had encountered.
c. They Showed False Evidence
Joshua 9:12-13 This our bread we took hot for our provision out of our houses on the day we came forth to go unto you; but now, behold, it is dry, and it is mouldy: And these bottles of wine, which we filled, were new; and, behold, they be rent: and these our garments and our shoes are become old by reason of the very long journey.
They backed up their lies with evidence. These ambassadors had old clothes and food that pointed to a long journey. Their story seemed to be genuine. There were no inconsistencies that stood out. Surely no one would go to such trouble just to make peace, would they? But before we go on I would like to look at Israel’s response to the ambassadors request.
2. Israel’s Response
a. They Spoke to the Ambassadors.
Joshua 9:7-8 And the men of Israel said unto the Hivites, Peradventure ye dwell among us; and how shall we make a league with you? And they said unto Joshua, We are thy servants. And Joshua said unto them, Who are ye? and from whence come ye?
Israel was suspicious of these ambassadors at first, and rightly so. They challenged them about being local citizens of the country. They even told them that they could not make a league with people who lived amongst them. Joshua also questioned them asking them of their nationality and country.
b. They Saw the Evidence.
Joshua 9:14 And the men took of their victuals, and asked not counsel at the mouth of the LORD. They examined the evidence that was put before them. They handled the old bread and wine. They looked over the clothes and sandals that they were wearing. They thought that all of this was consistent with their story.
c. They Didn’t Seek the Lord.
Joshua 9:14 And the men took of their victuals, and asked not counsel at the mouth of the LORD. In all of this they didn’t consider it necessary to consult the Lord. They believed they had worked it all out. It wasn’t necessary to bother the Lord with this little matter. Joshua was Moses’ aid when the Lord implemented the Urim and the Thummin for seeking God’s guidance. He should have sought God’s guidance in this! Proverbs 3:5-7 says: Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil. This is what Joshua should have done. How quickly they forgot their defeat at Ai. Do you make decisions in your life before you have sought God’s will?
d. They Swore an Oath.
Joshua 9:15 And Joshua made peace with them, and made a league with them, to let them live: and the princes of the congregation sware unto them.
After evaluating all the evidence Joshua and the princes made peace with them. They signed or ratified a peace treaty, allowing them to live. Israel swore an oath to them in the Lord’s name. The treaty they made was more than an agreement of peace. They promised to protect them as their vassals. This was probably like a suzerainty treaty common in those days. This can be seen in chapter 10 where they protect the Gibeonites from the Canaanites. Israel swore an oath to them in the Lord’s name. This was a solemn occasion. God takes vows seriously.
Ecclesiastes 5:4-6 When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay. Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands?
This brings us to our second point.
II. The Discovery Of Israel.
a. They Were People From Canaan
Joshua 9:16-21 And it came to pass at the end of three days after they had made a league with them, that they heard that they were their neighbours, and that they dwelt among them. And the children of Israel journeyed, and came unto their cities on the third day. Now their cities were Gibeon, and Chephirah, and Beeroth, and Kirjathjearim.
It didn’t take long for the truth to come out. Proverbs 12:19 The lip of truth shall be established for ever: but a lying tongue is but for a moment. After three days Israel found out that the Gibeonites were in fact their neighbours. They had been deceived by their ploy. They travelled to their cities which were only some 25 miles from Gilgal. If only they had done a little more research first. If only they hadn’t rushed into this agreement. Why didn’t they consult the Lord? But it was too late now to change the covenant. Decisions made in haste are rarely ever good ones. It is far wiser to check things out thoroughly, and pray first, before entering into agreements with unbelievers.
b. They Were Protected By Covenant
And the children of Israel smote them not, because the princes of the congregation had sworn unto them by the LORD God of Israel. And all the congregation murmured against the princes. But all the princes said unto all the congregation, We have sworn unto them by the LORD God of Israel: now therefore we may not touch them. This we will do to them; we will even let them live, lest wrath be upon us, because of the oath which we sware unto them. And the princes said unto them, Let them live; but let them be hewers of wood and drawers of water unto all the congregation; as the princes had promised them.
Israel didn’t kill them because of the covenant. Many of the people complained about this. Perhaps, they remembered God’s command not to make treaties with the people of the land. The Lord gave Israel specific commands regarding making peace treaties with other nations. They weren’t to make covenants with the people of Canaan lest they should go into idolatry.
Deuteronomy 7:2 When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou; And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them: Israel were commanded not to make a covenant with the people of Canaan. But they could with the nations outside their land.
Deut 20:10-11, 15 When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it. And it shall be, if it make thee answer of peace, and open unto thee, then it shall be, that all the people that is found therein shall be tributaries unto thee, and they shall serve thee. Thus shalt thou do unto all the cities which are very far off from thee, which are not of the cities of these nations.
It is easy for us to point the finger at Joshua and condemn him for not asking the Lord for guidance. But do you make decisions before praying about them? Do you move out before seeking God’s guidance? 2 Corinthians 6:14 applies to us today. Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? Are you considering a business partnership with an unbeliever? Are you considering a relationship with an unbeliever? May I encourage you to seek God’s guidance in all of these decisions. And when it comes to a marriage partner the Bible could not be any clearer. You must choose a believer.
This brings us to our final point. III. The Decision Of Israel.
a. He Condemned The Deception
What would Joshua do? Israel had made a covenant. But Gibeon had deceived them. Joshua took a couple of steps to deal with this situation. He could not break the peace covenant. But he could punish the Gibeonites for their deception! Joshua 9:22: And Joshua called for them, and he spake unto them, saying, Wherefore have ye beguiled us, saying, We are very far from you; when ye dwell among us?
Joshua condemned their deception. He asked them why they had done it mainly as a rebuke. He knew they were seeking to save themselves from death. Joshua rebuked them for their lies and deception even though he allowed them to live. Joshua would keep the covenant because God takes covenants very seriously. Even when they don’t work out, we must keep our vows.
Be True To Your Word
Shortly before his death, the Duke of Burgundy was presiding over the Cabinet Council of France. A proposal was made that would violate an existing treaty but would secure important advantages for the country. Many “ good ” reasons were offered to justify this action. The Duke listened in silence. When all had spoken, he closed the conference without giving approval. Placing his hand on a copy of the original agreement, he said with firmness in his voice, “ gentlemen, we have a treaty! ”
Breaking A Covenant
God's people have a responsibility to remain true to their word, so that the Lord is glorified. Those who murmured, probably thought that because the Gibeonites had lied, the covenant was not binding. But the princes of Israel were right in not killing them. They had given their word to let them live. They had sworn an oath in Gods’ name. To break such an agreement would bring the Lord’s name into disrepute. His wrath would fall upon them. This in fact happened in the days of David and Saul.
2 Samuel 21:1-2 Then there was a famine in the days of David three years, year after year; and David enquired of the LORD. And the LORD answered, It is for Saul, and for his bloody house, because he slew the Gibeonites. And the king called the Gibeonites, and said unto them; (now the Gibeonites were not of the children of Israel, but of the remnant of the Amorites; and the children of Israel had sworn unto them: and Saul sought to slay them in his zeal to the children of Israel and Judah.)
b. He Cursed The Nation
Joshua 9:23-27 Now therefore ye are cursed, and there shall none of you be freed from being bondmen, and hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God. And they answered Joshua, and said, Because it was certainly told thy servants, how that the LORD thy God commanded his servant Moses to give you all the land, and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land from before you, therefore we were sore afraid of our lives because of you, and have done this thing. And now, behold, we are in thine hand: as it seems good and right unto thee to do unto us, do. And so did he unto them, and delivered them out of the hand of the children of Israel, that they slew them not. And Joshua made them that day hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation, and for the altar of the LORD, even unto this day, in the place which he should choose.
They Became Israel’s Slaves
Joshua announced the punishment that had been decided upon by the elders. The Gibeonites would become Israel’s slaves. I am sure that the people of Gibeon didn’t reckon on this. They hoped to save their lives and keep their freedom. But instead they would serve Israel. Joshua called them cursed. He told them that they would serve the Israelites. And in particular they would sere in the Lord’s house. They would do the menial tasks of drawing water and cutting wood for the temple services. By doing this Israel ruled over the Gibeonites and kept them from wickedness. Gibeon never lead Israel into idolatry like the other nations did.
But They Became God’s People
Although this curse might seem a harsh punishment placed upon the Gibeonites it was overturned by God into a blessing. Because Gibeon served in the temple of the Lord, they came to know Him. They were kept from idolatry and evil. They could find His salvation. Eventually the Gibeonites were absorbed into Israel. They became a part of God’s people. What started as a curse God turned into a blessing. Today God can still overrule our mistakes and failures and turn them into blessing. If we will seek His forgiveness and seek to put things right He can turn tragedy into triumph.
This should not encourage us to go out and wilfully sin. But it does give us hope when we do make wrong choices. God’s providence is a comfort to us.
From Loss To Gain
The book In His Steps may have earned less money for its author than any best seller in history. Charles M. Sheldon wrote it in 1896, and it was first published by a religious weekly magazine. The magazine’s publisher failed to meet copyright regulations, so Sheldon lost legal ownership of the book. Scores of other publishers then sold millions of copies, and the author couldn’t claim any royalties. Forty years after Charles Sheldon lost his book, he said, “ I am very thankful that owing to the defective copyright, the book has had a larger reading on account of the great number of publishers. ”
I. The Deception Of Gibeon.
Beware the enemies attack. Sometimes he will make an all out assault. He will declare war and there is nothing subtle about it. But look out for his deceptive methods as well. He may come in peace and seek to gain a foothold through a relationship with unbelievers. Pray first before entering into partnerships in business, friendships or marriage.
II. The Discovery Of Israel.
Israel found out too late to get out of the covenant. Once we have made a covenant God expects us to honour our word. Israel had to stand by the covenant that she made. God expects us to keep our word too. This includes marriage or business.
III. The Decision Of Israel.
If you have made a bad decision, all is not lost. Can I encourage you to turn it over to the Lord and allow Him to help in the situation. You will need to confess any sin. You may have to make restitution. But when you do God can overrule and bring blessing out of it. Look for God’s providence in your life. Turn your sins and failures over to Him. He loves to bless.
Ephesians 3:20-21 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.