Theme: Discernment in the Midst of Opposition
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. - James 3:17
Introduction: In the first eight chapters of Joshua, we have seen Israel overwhelmingly triumph over cities and kingdoms in its conquest of Canaan...except for one time. In the last section of Joshua (Ch. 6-8) we discussed the great capture of Jericho. The Israelites were handed a victory over the mighty walls of Jericho because they listened to and obeyed what God had told them.
However, their obedience was short-lived. After the battle of Jericho, God had clearly designated the spoils of war as either a) things for complete destruction - people/animals that were unholy and displeased God, or b) things devoted to the Lord’s treasury - valuable items made of gold, silver, etc. But one man, Achan, decided to take some of those things for himself. This was a big no-no in terms of the spoils of battle because the valuable things were meant to be given to God as an offering and, therefore, a sign of trust for God to provide.
So while Israel was onto the next city in their conquest, Ai, God’s knowledge of Achan’s sin was not left back in Jericho. Ai, although smaller than Jericho, was the next city on the main route further into Canaan, making it a necessary place for Israel to capture. The punishment for the sin was that Israel would lose the first battle of the war against Ai. Basically, 3,0000 Israelites stormed the gates, but were forced to flee after being overwhelmed by the warriors of Ai. God had chosen to punish all of Israel because of one man’s sin, and the loss at the battle proved crushing to the moral of Israel and it’s leaders. Until this point, Israel had been undefeated. Although Israel ultimately defeated Ai by God’s power and will, the Canaanites learned that Israel could lose battles.
Queue the list of Canaanite nations who want to try to trick, overwhelm, and defeat Israel in their conquest. Our key passage tells the story of an interesting nation called Gibeon who deceives Israel into a treaty because Joshua and the elders do not seek God’s counsel in their decision first.
This week we will discuss the theme of discernment, particularly in the midst of opposition, as we live out our faith throughout all areas of our lives.
Key Passage: Joshua 9:3-16; 22-26
3 But when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ai, 4 they on their part acted with cunning and went and made ready provisions and took worn-out sacks for their donkeys, and wineskins, worn-out and torn and mended, 5 with worn-out, patched sandals on their feet, and worn-out clothes. And all their provisions were dry and crumbly. 6 And they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and to the men of Israel, “We have come from a distant country, so now make a covenant with us.” 7 But the men of Israel said to the Hivites, “Perhaps you live among us; then how can we make a covenant with you?” 8 They said to Joshua, “We are your servants.” And Joshua said to them, “Who are you? And where do you come from?” 9 They said to him, “From a very distant country your servants have come, because of the name of the LORD your God. For we have heard a report of him, and all that he did in Egypt, 10 and all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon the king of Heshbon, and to Og king of Bashan, who lived in Ashtaroth. 11 So our elders and all the inhabitants of our country said to us, ‘Take provisions in your hand for the journey and go to meet them and say to them, “We are your servants. Come now, make a covenant with us.”’ 12 Here is our bread. It was still warm when we took it from our houses as our food for the journey on the day we set out to come to you, but now, behold, it is dry and crumbly. 13 These wineskins were new when we filled them, and behold, they have burst. And these garments and sandals of ours are worn out from the very long journey.” 14 So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the LORD. 15 And Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them, to let them live, and the leaders of the congregation swore to them. 16 At the end of three days after they had made a covenant with them, they heard that they were their neighbors and that they lived among them.
22 Joshua summoned them, and he said to them, “Why did you deceive us, saying, ‘We are very far from you,’ when you dwell among us? 23 Now therefore you are cursed, and some of you shall never be anything but servants, cutters of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God.” 24 They answered Joshua, “Because it was told to your servants for a certainty that the LORD your God had commanded his servant Moses to give you all the land and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land from before you—so we feared greatly for our lives because of you and did this thing. 25 And now, behold, we are in your hand. Whatever seems good and right in your sight to do to us, do it.” 26 So he did this to them and delivered them out of the hand of the people of Israel, and they did not kill them. (ESV)
- What have been the most significant things about the story of Joshua so far?
- What are the key words and phrases that stand out to you in this passage, and why?
- Do you believe it was right for Joshua to trust the Gibeonites, or not?
- Given the Gibeonites’ deception, why do you think God lead Joshua to protect them?
- How do you know when you are experiencing a situation of deception? Do you have any examples?
- How do you define discernment?
- When facing any situation, there are a couple of responses. 1. To seek God. 2. To depend on your own senses. 3. To look to other people. Where in your life might you need to seek God first, rather than looking elsewhere?