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Sep 05, 2010

Really Listen!

Passage: Joshua 8:30-9:27

Series: Taking the Land

Category: Old Testament

Keywords: hearing, listening, the word of god, worship, altar, sacrifice, law, new covenant


Worship is always to be a priority for the people of God and the Word of God is always to be a priority in worship. In this text, the people of God learn again the importance of listening to the Word of God but haven't learned yet the importance of listening to the Spirit of God.


Really Listen!

September 5, 2010

Joshua 8:30-9:27


Intro:  Last summer, one of the backpacking trips I took with my sons and some friends was up into the Cabinet Mountain Range in western Montana.  We took off after church one Sunday, drove about 3 hours, parked the car and started our climb of about 5 miles.  Just as the sun was setting, we arrived at a couple of beautiful alpine lakes, Cedar Lakes, at about 6,000 ft. elevation.  With darkness fast approaching, we quickly set up our tents and got to cooking our dinner, gathering firewood for the evening and stringing up our “bear bag” with all our food so that any friendly black or grizzly bear wouldn’t be joining us inside our tents for the night. 

      As we crawled into our sleeping bags for the night, it took me a total of, oh, about 6.5 seconds to fall asleep.  I was beat!  (I know you may find that hard to believe with my massive physique but… J) 

      In those few seconds between consciousness and sleep, I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, isn’t it wonderfully quiet out here—no city noise, no city lights.  It’s SO calm.”) 

      The next morning I asked everyone how they slept.  To a man, everyone commented about how hard it was to fall asleep.  Was it because of the hard ground?  No.  Sore muscles?  Not really.  Fear of bears?  Well maybe…O.K., not really. 

      I was informed that it was because the crickets were SO loud!  “What crickets?” I asked.  “You didn’t hear the crickets?” they shouted back.  “You’ve got to be kidding.  They were SO loud it took forever to fall asleep.”  They were apparently stuffing bandanas in their ears and putting their sleeping bags over their heads in vain attempts to block out the wonderful sound of…crickets! J 


That’s when I had to face the fact of something that had been developing for several months.   For some time I’d been developing a constant ringing in my ears.  It’s still going on over a year later.  There’s even a technical term for it, I found out.  It’s called “Old-Geezer’s Hearing Loss Syndrome.”  Actually the name is tinnitus.  Anybody else here experienced that? 


Hearing really is a wonderful gift.  Loss of it is never a good sign.  Maybe that’s why Jesus put SO much emphasis when he taught warning the listeners, “He/she who has ears to hear, let him hear.”  And other times he would say, “Be careful how you listen.”

That’s one really BIG reason why gathering together regularly to hear the Word of God read and taught is really, really important. We come together to hear God’s voice.  We come here to concentrate and focus upon that whispering of the Holy Spirit that he so faithfully does when God’s Word is opened.  God’s voice is THE most important voice we need to hear every day.  And we have no more sure recording of His voice than this, his written Word.

ILL:  That reminds me of something I found in my dad’s Bible in preparation for his funeral last April. I came across that familiar saying he had written on one of the hundreds of pages of notes he had in his Bible.  It goes, “Either this book will keep you from sin…or sin will keep you from this book.” 

      It’s true.  The presence and power of the Word of God will either keep me from sin…or sin will keep me from this Word. 

Maybe that is why Joshua went out of his way to make sure that, right from the beginning of their time in the Promised Land, God’s people made the Word of God the foundation of their life.  Fresh off a big victory in the town of Ai, Joshua tells the people to make a 100-mile detour.  Rather than moving on to the next town and the next victory, Joshua calls the ramped-up, victory-prone nation to interrupt their invasion campaign to go and put first things first. 

Joshua 8:30, 31“Then Joshua built on Mount Ebal an altar to the Lord, the God of Israel, as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded the Israelites.”

      Today we’re finishing up our time in the Old Testament for this year, specifically time in the book of Joshua. As we do, God wants to remind us of the importance of really hearing…really listening… to His voice in His Word.  When we began in Genesis last year, we were reminded of the importance really listening to God’s direction and voice has.  The story of Adam and Eve makes it abundantly clear that there is a steep price to be paid for failure to listen and obey God’s directions about life. 

      So as God’s people are entering into a new chapter of life with God in the Promised land here in Joshua 8, General Joshua makes it clear in both word and deed that worship of God and obedience to His word take precedence over everything else—over military campaigns, over settling the land, over everything! 

The Word of God tells us that Joshua took the people of God 100 miles out of their way to go to a place that Moses had commanded them to go to do something God wanted done. 

APP:  What’s the lesson for us?  Worship is not always convenient. Real worship almost always costs something, whether it is time or energy… or change of schedule and plans… or expenditure of money and resources. 

Worship of God means that when God calls, we answer

Worship of God means that, no matter how well life is roaring along or how possibly how devastating (ala Job) it has become, we interrupt the normal flow of life to place God 1st and foremost in our life…in every possible way. 

That’s what makes worship true worship:  we’re properly orienting our lives to God in a way that puts him first and everyone and everything else subservient to our Sovereign. 

So when the people of God got to Mount Ebal, Joshua built his first altar there. Joshua 8:31—“He built it according to what is written in the Book of the Law of Moses—an altar of uncut stones, on which no iron tool had been used.”

Altars are for one thing.  What is that?  (SACRIFICES in worship.)  But before we look at that issue, notice that Joshua was careful to build the altar in a particular way…the way God had commanded that it be built.

Listen to what was “written in the Book of the Law of Moses,” Deut. 27:1-8

1 Moses and the elders of Israel commanded the people: "Keep all these commands that I give you today. 2 When you have crossed the Jordan into the land the LORD your God is giving you, set up some large stones and coat them with plaster. 3 Write on them all the words of this law when you have crossed over to enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your fathers, promised you. 4 And when you have crossed the Jordan, set up these stones on Mount Ebal, as I command you today, and coat them with plaster. 5 Build there an altar to the LORD your God, an altar of stones. Do not use any iron tool upon them. 6 Build the altar of the LORD your God with fieldstones and offer burnt offerings on it to the LORD your God. 7 Sacrifice fellowship offerings there, eating them and rejoicing in the presence of the LORD your God. 8 And you shall write very clearly all the words of this law on these stones you have set up."

Anyone wondering WHY God gave such specific instructions about this altar?  Uncut stonesno iron tool should be used on it…coated with plaster on which were written “all the words of this law?”  God even told Moses the place it was to be done—on Mount Ebal

      If Jesus said that even the smallest letter and the “least stroke of the pen” (Mt. 5:18) of the Law of God would NOT pass away until they were fulfilled, then surely even these seemingly random instructions are anything but “random.”  Why would God prohibit the fashioning of an ornate altar?  After all, wasn’t this the most important place in all Israel—the place where they offered sacrifices that agreed with God that they were guilty of breaking this Law of God?  Of all places, should this have been decorated, ornate and artistic? 

      Isn’t it funny how we tend to want to focus in our worship upon the externals rather than seeing the deep symbolism that God has planted in the simple?  God didn’t want people to try and add their efforts, their beauty, their morality to worship. 

  • He simply wanted their hearts
  • He wanted worship of Him to be something everyone could do, regardless of class or education or status or age
  • He wanted everyone before him on level ground. 
  • And, I think, He was prefiguring the perfect altar that would one day be raised on another hill—Calvary.  That altar would be in the form of a cross—rough hewn timbers, the product of nature, simple, unadorned.  Upon it would be used the “iron tools” of that altar—the nails that pierced the flesh of Christ and marred the face of those timbers.

      And here on this altar at Mt. Ebal was to be inscribed the Law of God.  They were to cover the rocks with plaster and then etch in the plaster the very commands of God, the Law.  This was the very same Law that brought them a clear knowledge of their sinfulness.  This was the same Law that condemned them before a holy God. 

      It was because of this Law that they needed to offer sacrifices.  They had broken the law of God that flowed from God’s very nature.  And if they were to have relationship with God again, they needed to satisfy the demands of the Law—that sin always leads to death BUT that God has always provided a faith-based way to forgiveness and restoration.  In the O.T. it was simple faith in God’s command to believe in His mercy and grace represented in this sacrificial system.  In the N.T. and now it is that same simple faith BUT now in the final “sacrifice for sin”, the unjust death of Jesus Christ, God in human flesh, on the cross of Mt. Calvary. 

And how interesting that upon that cross the Law of God was completed, satisfied and ultimately nailed.  Listen to how the Apostle Paul speaks of it in Colossians 2:13-15.

      “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ.  He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.”

APP:  Every time we celebrate Communion, we agree with God again in faith.  Every time we take the bread and juice, we are, in essence, coming to the altar of God and agreeing with God that we have NO HOPE of relationship with him apart from the sacrifice of Jesus for us.  We are stating again our faith in the One and Only Lamb of God who ALONE can take away the sins of the whole world.  What we do today here, in this place, has a very close connection with what Joshua and the Israelites did 3,500 years ago at Mt. Ebal

Once that altar was built at Mt. Ebal, they were to offer certain sacrifices:  Joshua 8:31—“On it they offered to the Lord burnt offerings and sacrificed fellowship offerings.”

Burnt offerings =complete surrender to God (after sin offering)

Fellowship offerings = fellowship/right relationship with God

      And we know from Moses’ instruction in Deut. 27 that they were to “sacrifice fellowship offerings there, eating them and rejoicing in the presence of the Lord your God” (Deut 27:7).

Psalm 51:17—“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”

APPWorship is not only to be solemn; it is to also be celebratory.  It is to involve food, eating, drinking, enjoying fresh fellowship with God, right relationship with Him and with his people. That’s one reason why it IS important for us to come together regularly to BE the church.  It is simply wrong to say that you can worship God fully by just worshiping Him alone…in nature…or shopping at the mall…or holding a garage sale and trading this world’s junk when we should be rejoicing with the people of God in the riches we have in Christ. 

Well, let’s finish this section and then DO what it says to do.

Joshua 8:32-35—

32 There, in the presence of the Israelites, Joshua copied on stones the law of Moses, which he had written. 33 All Israel, aliens and citizens alike, with their elders, officials and judges, were standing on both sides of the ark of the covenant of the LORD, facing those who carried it—the priests, who were Levites. Half of the people stood in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of the LORD had formerly commanded when he gave instructions to bless the people of Israel. 34 Afterward, Joshua read all the words of the law—the blessings and the curses—just as it is written in the Book of the Law. 35 There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded that Joshua did not read to the whole assembly of Israel, including the women and children, and the aliens who lived among them.

  • Note:  Mount Gerizim is the very mountain the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4 tries to bring up to Jesus in her discussion of worship.  She tries to use it to deflect his convicting words about her sinful lifestyle away…with about as much success as I have when I try to run from the convicting work of the Holy Spirit in my life. J
  • The reading of “all the words of the law—the blessings and the curses” was done there at the altar that day with hundreds of thousands of people standing around—men, women and children. 

APP:  The reading and study of God’s Word MUST always be a central, integral and important part of our worship.  And in a culture where more and more people are functionally illiterate or non-readers, it is time that the reading of the Word of God grew in importance. 

      That’s why the Apostle Paul told his son in the faith, Timothy, in 1 Timothy 4:13, “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.”  If our worship ever neglects the reading and teaching of the word of God, our worship will be disastrously deficient. 

Have you been wondering why we have the seating configured like we do today?  It’s because I want us to experience just a microcosm of what the Israelites tasted that grand day at Mt. Ebal.  They probably spent hours reading and listening to the whole law of God.  I’m only asking you to spend a few minutes. 

      But in many ways we are reenacting their faith by enacting our own faith. 

  • We, too, are before an altar—the Table of the Lord. 
  • We, too, are affirming a Covenant with God—the New Covenant of grace purchased for us by the death of Jesus Christ upon the cross. 
  • We, too, are here to be reminded by the hearing of the Word of God what brings blessings to us as God’s people and what brings his discipline. 

So take the next few minutes before we share in Communion to listen to the Word of the Lord. 

Various Readings (by different readers in the service).

Here are some of the Scriptures Joshua read to the Israelites that day.

Deuteronomy 27:1-8

1 Moses and the elders of Israel commanded the people: "Keep all these commands that I give you today. 2 When you have crossed the Jordan into the land the LORD your God is giving you, set up some large stones and coat them with plaster. 3 Write on them all the words of this law when you have crossed over to enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your fathers, promised you. 4 And when you have crossed the Jordan, set up these stones on Mount Ebal, as I command you today, and coat them with plaster. 5 Build there an altar to the LORD your God, an altar of stones. Do not use any iron tool upon them. 6 Build the altar of the LORD your God with fieldstones and offer burnt offerings on it to the LORD your God. 7 Sacrifice fellowship offerings there, eating them and rejoicing in the presence of the LORD your God. 8 And you shall write very clearly all the words of this law on these stones you have set up."

  • Deuteronomy 27:9-26 (Invite the congregation to participate in the “Amen” parts.)

9 Then Moses and the priests, who are Levites, said to all Israel, "Be silent, O Israel, and listen! You have now become the people of the LORD your God. 10 Obey the LORD your God and follow his commands and decrees that I give you today."

 11 On the same day Moses commanded the people:

 12 When you have crossed the Jordan, these tribes shall stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people: Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph and Benjamin. 13 And these tribes shall stand on Mount Ebal to pronounce curses: Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan and Naphtali.

 14 The Levites shall recite to all the people of Israel in a loud voice:

 15 "Cursed is the man who carves an image or casts an idol—a thing detestable to the LORD, the work of the craftsman's hands—and sets it up in secret."
       Then all the people shall say, "Amen!"

 16 "Cursed is the man who dishonors his father or his mother."
       Then all the people shall say, "Amen!"

 17 "Cursed is the man who moves his neighbor's boundary stone."
       Then all the people shall say, "Amen!"

 18 "Cursed is the man who leads the blind astray on the road."
       Then all the people shall say, "Amen!"

 19 "Cursed is the man who withholds justice from the alien, the fatherless or the widow."
       Then all the people shall say, "Amen!"

 20 "Cursed is the man who sleeps with his father's wife, for he dishonors his father's bed."
       Then all the people shall say, "Amen!"

 21 "Cursed is the man who has sexual relations with any animal."
       Then all the people shall say, "Amen!"

 22 "Cursed is the man who sleeps with his sister, the daughter of his father or the daughter of his mother."
       Then all the people shall say, "Amen!"

 23 "Cursed is the man who sleeps with his mother-in-law."
       Then all the people shall say, "Amen!"

 24 "Cursed is the man who kills his neighbor secretly."
       Then all the people shall say, "Amen!"

 25 "Cursed is the man who accepts a bribe to kill an innocent person."
       Then all the people shall say, "Amen!"

 26 "Cursed is the man who does not uphold the words of this law by carrying them out."
       Then all the people shall say, "Amen!"

  • Deuteronomy 28:1-14

 1 If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. 2 All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the LORD your God:

 3 You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country.

 4 The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.

 5 Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed.

 6 You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out.

 7 The LORD will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction but flee from you in seven.

 8 The LORD will send a blessing on your barns and on everything you put your hand to. The LORD your God will bless you in the land he is giving you.

 9 The LORD will establish you as his holy people, as he promised you on oath, if you keep the commands of the LORD your God and walk in his ways. 10 Then all the peoples on earth will see that you are called by the name of the LORD, and they will fear you. 11 The LORD will grant you abundant prosperity—in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your ground—in the land he swore to your forefathers to give you.

 12 The LORD will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. 13 The LORD will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the LORD your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom. 14 Do not turn aside from any of the commands I give you today, to the right or to the left, following other gods and serving them.

  • Deuteronomy 29:9-15

 9 Carefully follow the terms of this covenant, so that you may prosper in everything you do. 10 All of you are standing today in the presence of the LORD your God—your leaders and chief men, your elders and officials, and all the other men of Israel, 11 together with your children and your wives, and the aliens living in your camps who chop your wood and carry your water. 12 You are standing here in order to enter into a covenant with the LORD your God, a covenant the LORD is making with you this day and sealing with an oath, 13 to confirm you this day as his people, that he may be your God as he promised you and as he swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 14 I am making this covenant, with its oath, not only with you 15 who are standing here with us today in the presence of the LORD our God but also with those who are not here today.


  • Deut. 30:11-16

11 Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12 It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, "Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?" 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, "Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?" 14 No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.

 15 See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. 16 For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.


  • Deuteronomy 5:6-21

6 "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

 7 "You shall have no other gods before me.

 8 "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.

9 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 10 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

 11 "You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

 12 "Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor the alien within your gates, so that your manservant and maidservant may rest, as you do. 15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.

 16 "Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you.

 17 "You shall not murder.

 18 "You shall not commit adultery.

 19 "You shall not steal.

 20 "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

 21 "You shall not covet your neighbor's wife. You shall not set your desire on your neighbor's house or land, his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor."

  • Jeremiah 31:31-34

31 "The time is coming," declares the LORD,
       "when I will make a new covenant
       with the house of Israel
       and with the house of Judah.

 32 It will not be like the covenant
       I made with their forefathers
       when I took them by the hand
       to lead them out of Egypt,
       because they broke my covenant,
       though I was a husband to them,"
       declares the LORD.

 33 "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel
       after that time," declares the LORD.
       "I will put my law in their minds
       and write it on their hearts.
       I will be their God,
       and they will be my people.

 34 No longer will a man teach his neighbor,
       or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,'
       because they will all know me,
       from the least of them to the greatest,"
       declares the LORD.
       "For I will forgive their wickedness
       and will remember their sins no more."

  • Hosea 10:1-2, 8, 12

1 Israel was a spreading vine;
       he brought forth fruit for himself.
       As his fruit increased,
       he built more altars;
       as his land prospered,
       he adorned his sacred stones.

 2 Their heart is deceitful,
       and now they must bear their guilt.
       The LORD will demolish their altars
       and destroy their sacred stones.

8 The high places of wickedness will be destroyed—
       it is the sin of Israel.
       Thorns and thistles will grow up
       and cover their altars.
       Then they will say to the mountains, "Cover us!"
       and to the hills, "Fall on us!"

12 Sow for yourselves righteousness,
       reap the fruit of unfailing love,
       and break up your unplowed ground;
       for it is time to seek the LORD,
       until he comes
       and showers righteousness on you.

  • Luke 22:14-20

14When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15And he said to them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God."

 17After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, "Take this and divide it among you. 18For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes."

 19And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me."

 20In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.

  • I Corinthians 11:23-32

23For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." 25In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." 26For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

 27Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 29For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 31But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. 32When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.

  • Colossians 1:21-23

21Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven….

PRAYER for Communion

PART 2—Joshua 9

      We are ending our study of Joshua this year with the story found in Joshua 9.  It’s a pretty simple and short story with a pretty clear implication. 

      The story goes like this.  Most of the kings west of the Jordan heard about Israel’s successes and miracles.  So, instead of suing for peace or deciding to put their faith in the God of Israel, they gathered for war.  All, that is, except one group of people, the Gibeonites.  These folks, we’re told, lived about 3 days travel from where Israel now was. 

      Rather than fight, they chose to switch.  They also chose to deceive the Israelites into believing that they were a people from a very distant place.  It was a pretty elaborate deception, a really good ruse to get Israel to do what God had commanded them not to do, namely try and coexist with the pagan nations then inhabiting the Promised Land. 

      The deception worked like this.

  • They sent a delegation that dressed in ragged, worn cloths and then claimed they had been new cloths when they left on the trip.
  • The packed moldy bread and then claimed that it had been “hot out of the oven” when they had left their hometown. 
  • They donned worn-out and patched sandals and then claimed they had bought them new for the journey when they left home. 
  • They loaded their donkeys with mostly empty but totally worn and cracked saddle bags along with old wineskins claiming that they had all been fresh and new when they had set out on this journey. 

What they asked for was a treaty.  They would be the Israelites’ servants in return for a promise from Joshua and the national leaders of Israel not to annihilate them. 

      According to Joshua 9:7, the Israelites even suspected a ruse.  But the text simply gives us a one-line description of what went wrong with the people of God in 9:14.

      “The men of Israel sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord.  Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath.”

Well, as you might guess, about 3 days later, the truth came out.  The Gibeonites were actually close neighbors to them. 

As you can imagine, the people of God were not particularly happy with this new turn of events.  The nation started carping against their leaders for having saddled them with a bad treaty.  But rather than claim that the treaty was null and void due to the framework of deception in which it had been crafted, Joshua and the leaders did what few military and political leaders of any era have done:  they held fast to their word, kept their commitments and paid the price for their failed leadership openly and honestly. 

      “We have given them our oath by the Lord, the God of Israel, and we cannot touch them now.  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.”  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.”  (Joshua 9:18-21)

Not only were these leaders men of their word.  When, in chapter 10, the Gibeonites are attacked by the other surrounding kings, the leaders and people of Israel run to their rescue. They suit up for battle and wade into the fight in order to keep their word and promise. 

There are TWO very clear spiritual truths for us to walk away with from this story today.

1.)     It’s very possible to spend a lot of time listening to the reading or explanation of the Word of God and then turn around and immediately forget to ASK for God’s direction for whatever the need is that follows.  Just because we’ve read the Word of God in our devotions in the morning is no guarantee that we will have God’s wisdom for some decision we must make that day IF we don’t stop long enough to “enquire of the Lord” about the matter.   Just because we listen to a radio preacher on the way to school or work doesn’t mean God will speak to us about that day’s decisions unless we ask him to…unless we “inquire of the Lord” and take time to wait for his reply.  Listening to the voice of God must happen both with God’s Word and with his Spirit. 

2.)    When we give our word, when we take an oath, especially when we do so in the name of the Triune God and before others who know us to be the people of God, we MUST keep our word!  We must keep it even when it costs us… especially when it costs us.  Promise-keeping is one of the characteristics of the God we serve.  And if we are to ever really become like Him in our character, then we will have to learn to both make promises and keep them, even if it costs us dearly. 

  1. Couples, remember this when you are tempted to throw in the towel on your marriage.  The pain of God’s discipline for being a vow-breaker is far worse than the pain of keeping your vows in difficult circumstances but remaining under God’s hand of blessing. 
  2. Students, remember this when you sign class agreements, when you take on college loans, when you are tempted to speak endearing words to someone your heart is all a-pitter-patter over.  Don’t say as a child of God things you will not carry through with even when doing so will cost you dearly and you don’t want to.
  3. Children, this is why telling truth to your parents and teachers and everyone else is SO important.  When we lie or just fail to carry through with our word as God’s children, we give a bad witness to the kind of God we serve AND we invite God’s judgment and discipline. 
  4. Businessmen and women—the same.

But when we become people of our word…and God’s Word… the world will finally see the promise-keeping nature of our God.