Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Book of Joshua Week 13: Meet Conflict Head On

I think most of us want to avoid conflict in our lives, right? I mean, life is so much easier without having arguments, hurt feelings, and inconvenient problems. You ever come home and you walk into a fight between two of your family members? Or ever go to work and there’s just a problem that is unresolved, and so the tension keeps building and building over days, weeks or months, and it makes going to work even harder?
Just before I came to Quartzsite over a decade ago, I was working on building the Elephant Bar restaurant in Stockton, California. It was an interesting job, with soffits, hanging ceilings, full height and short walls. Nothing that our company hadn’t done a thousand times before. But there was two parts of the job that was really hard. First, they wanted a dome ceiling, but the plans didn’t describe how that ceiling was to be built, so my dad and I took the whole course of the job to figure it out. The second part that made the job hard, was the superintendent. He was the stereotypical loud mouth, construction worker, that knew everything, but couldn’t explain to you how to do it, so he just walked off after telling you to get it right.
It was also on this job that I got my first taste of leadership on a job site. At the time, our company only employed four metal stud framers. My and and me, his friend and his friend’s son. Towards the end of the job, my dad and his friend took their wives on vacation, and left me, and my dad’s friend’s son for two weeks.
Growing up I had worked summers in construction, and at the time, I had worked for almost two years full-time. The friend’s son had been working about a year, but this was the first time we had been partnered up and left alone. And those two weeks felt like they would never end. Everyday the superintendent would come in and complain that the company left two apprentices on his job without supervision. He’d yell for a bit and then we wouldn’t see him for the rest of the day. It got to the point where I didn’t even answer him when he talked to me, because I thought I’d just lose it. And it made going to work even more of a chore than it had been.
But I didn’t lose my temper and my dad came back from his vacation. In those two weeks we had done enough work to finally bring us to our dreaded ceiling. Then one day I lost my cool. It happened while I was on the scissor lift tying to wire the metal “c” channel to make the round. The superintendent came in and and started telling my dad how it was unprofessional that the company left apprentices on the job site, and now they were letting one of the apprentices work on the hardest part of job.
That’s when I lost it, and from my perch, I slammed down the lifts down button and started berating the superintendent. All the man did was stop talking and walk away. The next day I approached him and apologized for my words and actions. But after that, the job site was a lot quieter, and the superintendent was a lot nicer to our company.
After I moved down here, my dad told me that he saw that same superintendent on another job site and the man asked about how I was doing. And to top it all off, when I was dealing with this whole situation, I was leading a small group about being a peacemaker.
The problem was, instead of addressing the conflict in a way that showed Christ to this man, I allowed my anger to build up and the conflict to get worse. Peace eventually came out of it, but only after I allowed myself to blow up. The truth is I don’t like to be in conflict, and so I have always try to avoid it. But I have found that the early I face conflict, the earlier peace comes into my life.

And it’s this idea of being willing to engage conflict early that brings us back to the book of Joshua, where we’ll be picking it up in chapter 14 verse 6. 

And as we return to the book of Joshua and get into chapter 14, let’s talk about where we’re at. Last week we talked about how God spoke to Joshua at the end of his life. God addressed concerns that Joshua might have had about being old, and about what would happen to the people of Israel after he died. God reminded Joshua that he would be with the people of Israel and wouldn’t leave him in the future. But on top of that, God had one last thing for Joshua to do. God instructed Joshua to divide up the land between the nine and a half tribes. And after Joshua did just that, Joshua looked on everything God had done, and proclaimed that God had fulfilled all that he had promised the nation of Israel.
And we noticed that even though the nation still had some work to do in clearing out the land, Joshua realized that God had been with them this time fulling what he said he would do, and Joshua now trusted that God would continue to fulfill his promise. So in Joshua’s mind, God had already accomplished all of his promises because God had been so faithful up to that point. And it’s that type of trust that we said we need, trust that keeps working even when our prayers haven’t been answered yet.

Now this week and in the weeks to come, we’re going to revisit three situations within the eight chapters we covered last week. And we’re going to see three different responses to Joshua’s dividing up of the land. 

So if you have your Bibles, let’s read the first response to Joshua dividing up the land of Canaan in chapter 14 verse 6 of the book of Joshua.

6 Now the people of Judah approached Joshua at Gilgal, and Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, “You know what the Lord said to Moses the man of God at Kadesh Barnea about you and me. 7 I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, 8 but my fellow Israelites who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt in fear. I, however, followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly. 9 So on that day Moses swore to me, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly.’
10 “Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the wilderness. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! 11 I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. 12 Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.”
13 Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance. 14 So Hebron has belonged to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite ever since, because he followed the Lord, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly. 15 (Hebron used to be called Kiriath Arba after Arba, who was the greatest man among the Anakites.)
Then the land had rest from war.

The central figure of this passage is Caleb. Let’s take a quick look at him, because like Joshua, he was an interesting man of God. First, listen to what God says of Caleb in Numbers 14:24, “But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.”
Did you catch that, Caleb had a different spirit than that of the other Israelites. Caleb had been one of twelve spies sent in by Moses to investigate the land of Canaan. He was about 40 years old at the time. When he came back, only two of the spies said that the people of Israel could defeat the people in the land. The other spy was Joshua. Whereas the other ten said it couldn’t be done, Joshua and Caleb were the only ones that believed God would lead them into victory. Therefore God allowed these two men to enter the promise land, when all the rest had died off.
So God specifically calls out Caleb from among the Israelites and says he has a different spirit and follows God wholeheartedly, because he trusts God more than others.
This is the man that we just read about. And what I find interesting is that when his name is brought up in the previous books, it’s always in connection with God bringing him into the promise land someday based on his trust of God. We don’t get much about him. We are not told of great battles he fights in. We are not told of his experiences with God. All we’re told is that he had this one moment of trust in God, and from that one moment, God saw fit to bring him into the promise land. And if we didn’t know anything else about Caleb, that could probably be enough. But what we just read about him in verses 6 through 15 gives us an insight into what God calls a different spirit.

Listen again to how he speaks to Joshua starting in verse 10, "Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the wilderness. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! 11 I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. 12 Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.”

Here’s a guy that, like Joshua, is getting to the end of his life, but he won’t let that stop him. Here’s a guy that knows about the Anakites with their large fortified cities, but he won’t let that stop him either. And the reason why he won’t let it stop him, is because he understands that God will be the one driving the enemies out. Caleb trusts God.

I see Caleb as one of those solid godly men that we look for when we’re looking for elders in this church. Not perfect men, but men who have a quiet and unflinching trust in what God is doing and going to do. Caleb is that quiet, solid, unflinching trusting man who follows God. We don’t hear much about him, but everything we know of him tells us that he was willing go where God would send him, and face down any conflict that was there.
And when I think what he could have said here, his words astound me even more. Caleb could have said, “Joshua bring the whole nation of Israel down to defeat these Anakites. They have big fortified cities and we’ll need every last man to run them out.”
But he didn’t, he knew the task that was before him, and he trusted that God would give his tribe the ability to overcome the mountainous odds that were against them.

Caleb saw the conflict, and instead of cowering in front of it, he stepped out in full faith to face it. And this is what seals the deal for me, the last seven words speak about the end results of Caleb’s trust, “Then the land had rest from war.”

Why did it have rest? Because Caleb trusted God with his age, Caleb trusted God with his people, and Caleb trusted God with the victory. And so Caleb faced the conflict, came away victorious, and there was peace.

This is what I’ve learned from Caleb, to have unwavering faith means when God calls us into conflict, we need to face it rather than try to avoid it.

I look back on that blow up I had with that superintendent. After I asked for forgiveness, the relationship I had with him changed, with him even asking how I was later on. As I read through Caleb’s story, the thought came to my mind, “Jeremiah, what if you had confronted the conflict before it blew up? Could you have shared the Gospel with that man who obviously needed it?”
It’s possible, but even when we mess up, God can still use it, because he works through our weakness. Just because a conflict is not handled well at the beginning, doesn’t mean the battle is lost, but rather we have an opportunity to bring it before God, and have his peace fill the conflict. 

So, as we walk away from Caleb’s story, let us learn to not be afraid of conflict, let us instead face it with the purpose of accomplishing God’s work through it. And when we do that, we can see the peace that God has in store for not only us, but the people, and land around us.
Even when we fail in dealing with conflict or allow it to go on longer than it should, let’s not get into this pit of beating ourselves up, but rather go to God, for his strength in dealing with it. As Caleb himself said, “…but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.”
God is the peace bringer, and when we rely on him to deal with our conflict that peace can come sooner.

So how do we confront conflict early, and overcome our desire to avoid it. 
First of course we need to go to God in prayer. Communication with God is always the cornerstone of forward movement in our lives. 
Second, we need to develop unwavering trust in God. We do this by doing as Caleb shows us in the passage. Caleb brought up what God had done in the past, and it made him confident for the future conflict. We need to do the same. We need to write down how God has helped us overcome other conflicts, and rejoice in those, because God can do it again. 
Finally, we need to go do it. The Anakites didn’t just walk away, but rather Caleb had to go fight them. We need to confront that person, we need to put up boundaries, or we need to walk whatever path to peace God shows us, confronting conflict on God’s time. Caleb waited until God allowed him to confront the conflict, and at the earliest moment he did just that.

This week I want to challenge you in one of two directions. First, if you have a conflict that you are dealing with right now in your life, stop running from it. Go to God in prayer, ask for the strength, words, and actions needed for you to confront the conflict. Ask that God would be moving to bring people closer to him in the conflict, and seek peace through it.
Second if you’re not dealing with conflict right now, you soon will be. Begin to prepare for that conflict by going to God and being of a different spirit like Caleb was. That means asking God to give you the pure focus on him so that you will not shy away from conflict when it comes.

And let us use conflict as a way to point others towards Jesus. Because the cross itself was the point of conflict, to which Jesus went willingly to bring us peace. Let us be carriers of the cross to people, so that they too can have the peace of Jesus in their lives. Amen.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Book of Joshua Week 12: Fulfilling Our Call While We Wait

Recently my family and I watched the movie Hook. If you don’t know it, it was a ‘90s Robin Williams film about Peter Pan growing up, having a family, his kids getting kidnapped by Captain Hook, and Pan going back to Neverland to get them back. As a father, Peter isn’t the greatest, he goes to his daughter’s school play, just to take a phone call in the middle of it. The next day he’s suppose to go to his son’s baseball game, but instead goest to an important meeting, so he skips the game, and sends someone to video tape it. 
The clash between Peter and his son comes once on the plane, and again right before the children get kidnapped. Peter tries to make amends for the conflict by giving his son his pocket watch. Later after Hook kidnaps the kids, he tries to make Peter’s son his own. Hook finally gets through to the son, by taking him to a place where they break clocks. If you didn’t know, Hook doesn’t like clocks, because of the crocodile that took his hand. When they arrive at the clock smashing building, Hook lays Peter’s pocket watch on a table and gives the son a hammer. The son begins to smash not only the pocket watch but a bunch of other clocks as well. All the while saying things like, you never keep any promises.
To Peter’s son, the promise his father made and broke, was the basis for why their relationship was in shambles. Again and again Peter made promises, saying earlier in the movie, “My word is my bond,” which his son immediately responds with, “Yeah, junk bond.”
And it’s this understanding that the fulfillment of a promise is something that each of us desires to have from people, and from God, that helps us to keep our faith strong, or lose it completely.
And it’s that focus on promise that brings us back to the book of Joshua today. So if you have your Bible, we’re going to be starting in the book of Joshua chapter 13 verse 1.

But as we get into Joshua 13:1, let’s catch up with where we’re at.

Last week we talked about how the overarching point of the book of Joshua is very simple, it’s to help us realize our need to follow God where leads. For Joshua, even though he was an older man, he still had to learn this one simple aspect of what it meant to trust God. In fact, we saw that once he internalized the words of encouragement that God had for him, and spoke them to the people of Israel, the whole book of Joshua changed in pace. In the first 10 chapters we get through three conquered cities, two by force and one by treaty. But once we get Joshua’s turning point in verse 25 of chapter 10, it only takes the book two and a half chapters to tell us that the Israelites conquered 29 kings.
This turn in pacing for the book, matches, Joshua’s own turn in how he perceived to follow God. Once Joshua learns this leasson, the victories come faster, and we’re left with the understanding that Joshua has learned his lesson, so we must as well. We too must learn the lesson of our need to follow God wherever he leads. A simple lesson, that can take any of us years to master.

And it’s with that quick recap that we can now jump into chapter 13, where we’re coming to an end to what God is doing through Joshua. Let’s pick it up in Joshua chapter 13 verse 1.

1When Joshua had grown old, the Lord said to him, “You are now very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over.
2 “This is the land that remains: all the regions of the Philistines and Geshurites, 3 from the Shihor River on the east of Egypt to the territory of Ekron on the north, all of it counted as Canaanite though held by the five Philistine rulers in Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath and Ekron; the territory of the Avvites 4 on the south; all the land of the Canaanites, from Arah of the Sidonians as far as Aphek and the border of the Amorites; 5 the area of Byblos; and all Lebanon to the east, from Baal Gad below Mount Hermon to Lebo Hamath.
6 “As for all the inhabitants of the mountain regions from Lebanon to Misrephoth Maim, that is, all the Sidonians, I myself will drive them out before the Israelites. Be sure to allocate this land to Israel for an inheritance, as I have instructed you, 7 and divide it as an inheritance among the nine tribes and half of the tribe of Manasseh.”

Now I love the directness of God in this passage. “Well Joshua you’re old, and you didn’t get the job done.” That’s probably not exactly the emphasis, but just the idea that God doesn’t play games and is straight forward with the reality of the situation is great. Joshua is roughly about 95 years old at this point. He has spent the latter part of his life embroiled in securing the land that God had promised him. He has seen two miracles of crossing water on dry land. He has seen the presence of God as a cloud and a fire. He has seen his mentor communicate with God, and learned to do the same. He has seen both victory under God’s command, and loss, when he himself tried to take charge. 
Joshua has seen and done a lot in his lifetime, and yet the job isn’t done. God doesn’t hold back and sugarcoat the situation. He doesn’t tell Joshua, good job, you have accomplished everything. You are the greatest leader that has ever or will ever lead the nation of Israel. No, instead God is direct, there is still a lot to do to secure the land. And by telling Joshua this, God is telling him two things: 
First, when Joshua dies, God isn’t going to leave the people. In verse 6 God tells Joshua, "I myself will drive them out before the Israelites.” This statement is to assure Joshua that when he’s gone the nation will not be without a leader, because just like we saw back in chapter 5, and we’re reminded again and again, it is God who is fighting and winning these battles for Israel, and when Joshua is gone, God will continue to fulfill his role.  So it’s God’s assurance that Joshua doesn’t need to worry about what will happen after he dies.
Second, God is telling Joshua, there’s still something that he needs to do. God is letting Joshua know even though he’s old he still has a calling on his life, and it is Joshua that needs to be the one that divides the land up between the people. Why is that? Because Joshua is a beloved leader and it would be easier for him, rather than passing that responsibility off to the next leader. We saw at the beginning of Joshua’s career that he had a situation where the tribes that had already received land, and the tribes that were waiting for land, could have come into a situation where the two groups could have split up. God was with Joshua and, instead of splitting, the two groups joined forces and conquered a lot of Canaan. Therefore it would make sense that Joshua would be the one that would divide the land for the people, because he had a deep connection with them.
So even at the end of his life, there was still a lot to do, both in the long term and the short term. But God wanted Joshua to understand that he was going to be with him until the day he died, and that God would be with the Israelites long after Joshua’s death.

And so what happens? For the next eight and a half chapters, we get a very detailed look at all of the areas each tribe of Israel received for their inheritance. And I would encourage you to read these chapters to get a sense of the intentionality that goes into the dividing of the land. 

But for now, let’s fast forward to chapter 21 verse 43, where it reads,

43 So the Lord gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their ancestors, and they took possession of it and settled there. 44 The Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their ancestors. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the Lord gave all their enemies into their hands. 45 Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.

And here’s the key today. In summarizing all of the detailed information that the last eight and a half chapters gave us, we’re simply told that all of this detailed information was to let us know that God fulfilled his promise to Israel. 
This promised was originally given back in Genesis chapter 12 verse 1 where God says this to Abraham, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. 2 “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

Roughly 500 years later, after Abraham is called by God to leave his family home, God fulfills his promise. About 10 generations of Israel have come and gone, and now the promise of God is fulfilled. How many of us could stand to have a promise of God take this long to be fulfilled?
I don’t know about you, but if I don’t get an answer in a couple of minutes from when I pray, I start to get a little antsy. And when I don’t get a quick answer, I tend to either start to think of ways I can do it in my own strength, or I can get this pessimistic attitude that God doesn’t care.
Have you ever said something like this, “God I have this situation and I need you to move quick.” Then you wait a few minutes, maybe a day, and then say, “Well I guess God isn’t listening, so I’ll just take this action.”
I’ve don’t it more times that I can count. I ask God to do something, with my position, with finances, with my kids, and nothing immediately happens, so I get this idea in my head that I’ll have to do it on my own, because God doesn't care, isn’t interested, or whatever other fill-in the blank reason I don’t think God is moving quick enough.

But what if we had to wait 500 years for God’s answer? What if we had to wait until we were really old for God to move? What if we never got to see God’s plan fulfilled in our lifetime? What would we do?

Well I don't’ know about you, but I tend to let it affect my trust in God. Instead of trusting that he is working, I allow my insecurity about him to take over, and that’s when distrust arises, and my faith falters. And it’s there that I begin to struggle in knowing if God is even real. 
But what does God want us to do? What does he say to Joshua, “You’re old, and there’s a lot left, but you have your own responsibilities to fulfill."

And I think this is the key to building trust in God, while we’re waiting for his answer to prayer, we must keep doing the things God has already called us to. 

Abraham lived his life and saw one of God’s promises, that was his son Issac. Moses was leading his people to the promise land, but never got there. Joshua conquered a lot of Canaan, but there was still more left. Yet all of them kept doing what God called them to do in their lives, with the complete fulfillment of God’s promise still on the horizon.

God has given us a job already, are we fulfilling it? Are we doing what we have been called to first, and allowing that to be our focus and place of trust, or are we allowing our “give it to me now” attitudes to get in the way of that work?
We must do as God called Joshua to do, keep at it. Because even though God fulfilled his promise to the nation of Israel, at the same time there were still things to be done. 
God was upfront with it, but in it, God also reminded Joshua, “"I myself will drive them out before the Israelites.”

So as we are waiting for God to answer our prayers, let us continue to do the work that he has laid out for us. 

And what is that work? Simply to share the Gospel with people making disciples as we go about our lives. That means to simply invest in the people God has given us. This is why were talk about the “L” project here at the Alliance Church. Love, Lift, Locate, Life.
We’re called to Love God and share that love, by lifting God up in our daily worship, locating and meeting the needs God brings into our lives, all the while pointing people back to the life God has for them in Jesus.

This week I want to challenge you to make a list of all the prayer requests that you have been asking of God. Then make a second list of all the people God has brought into your life right now. Then for every prayer request you have, make it a point to share or invest into someone’s life this week with the Gospel. 
That’s hard, but a kind word, a redirection of a conversation, a helping hand is all that it takes to share the Gospel and build people up in the Lord.

Let us not become pessimistic in our trust in God, but rather let us allow God to move when he wants, and while we’re waiting, fulfill the calling he has brought us into. Amen.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Book of Joshua Week 11: Joshua’s Turning Point

Most of us, if not all of us, have moments in life where we’ve come to a point that turns the course of our future. I’ve heard stories from several men in our church who have had this type of turning point, where as young men a judge gave them the ultimatum of going into the military or the jail. So far, no one has chosen jail, though some joke they should have. 
But these turning points that happen in our lives and change us so dramatically that we are never the same. My turning points have been in a courtroom, in the back of a van on the way to a baseball game, and at the alter. A Marriage, a funeral, a birth, and host of other experiences can be turning points in our lives. 

It’s these types of turning points that brings us back into the book of Joshua today, where we’ll be picking up from last week in chapter 10, starting in verse 1. As we get back into the book of Joshua let’s recap from what we’ve talked about already.

Really we need to know and focus on one thing: The purpose of the book of Joshua is to help us realize are need to follow God where he leads. We see this throughout the book up to this point. God calls Joshua to be strong and courageous. God calls the people of Israel to follow him into danger. God calls the people to be vulnerable in the land of their enemies. God calls them to walk across a flooded river as he parts it. God calls the people to march around a city without attacking it, until the walls fall. For most, these things could be seen as crazy. Go to a distant land where you don’t know the area, you have no allies, and approach the military conquest of that land by walking around. 
But we see that when the people do as God commands, they win. They walked across the Jordan River on dry ground. They were not attacked by their enemies when they were most vulnerable. They gained allies, and took down one of the great strongholds of the land. When the Israelite people followed God’s commands, they won. 
But then we see when they didn’t. People took things they shouldn’t, and they began to lose battles. But they repented, got back on track, and God gave them victory. 
Then they made a treaty without consulting God, and then they found out they were duped. And now, as we’ll see, that treaty leads them into a fight. 
But what we need to recognize is that when the people followed God’s commands, they won, and when they didn’t, it always led them to a bigger problem. 

With that in mind, let’s dive into chapter 10 of the book of Joshua, starting in verse 1.

1 Now Adoni-Zedek king of Jerusalem heard that Joshua had taken Ai and totally destroyed it, doing to Ai and its king as he had done to Jericho and its king, and that the people of Gibeon had made a treaty of peace with Israel and had become their allies. 2 He and his people were very much alarmed at this, because Gibeon was an important city, like one of the royal cities; it was larger than Ai, and all its men were good fighters. 3 So Adoni-Zedek king of Jerusalem appealed to Hoham king of Hebron, Piram king of Jarmuth, Japhia king of Lachish and Debir king of Eglon. 4 “Come up and help me attack Gibeon,” he said, “because it has made peace with Joshua and the Israelites.”
5 Then 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.
6 The Gibeonites then sent word to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal: “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.”

Let’s stop there. Last week we talked about how there was only two options for the people of Canaan at this point. Either they grouped together and fought the Israelites, or they tried to make peace. Most of the people groups decided to band together to fight, whereas, like we saw last week, the Gibeonites tried for peace. The Gibeonites ended up attaining peace through deceit, and though they became servants to the Israelites, they got what they wanted and now they were under the protection of the nation of Israel.  
Now because the city of Gibeon made this alliance with Israel, the other people of Canaan saw it as a betrayal. And they were going to destroy the city for that very reason. So here we are in a place where the nation of Israel has a choice, help or not. 
Now, this would be a way for the Israelites to get rid of this pesky peace treaty they had made under deceit. I mean, they weren’t suppose to make a treaty with any nation in Canaan, and they were tricked into it anyway, so why not let the other cities destroy Gibeon. I mean, good riddance right?

Let’s see what Joshua does in verse 7.

7 So Joshua marched up from Gilgal with his entire army, including all the best fighting men. 8 The Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them; I have given them into your hand. Not one of them will be able to withstand you.”

So Joshua doesn’t hesitate, but instead he again shows that he honors God, by fulfilling the requirements of the treaty he signed. In spite of what the Gibeonites had done, Joshua was going to keep his word. And so, he marches the army up to Gibeon for battle. Now what we need to notice here, is that Joshua is in communication with God on this point. Joshua doesn’t just go, but he gets the confirmation from God to do this. 
This a step in the right direction for Joshua, who we have seen twice in a row not get the okay from God. I guess you could say this is a, fool me once shame on me, fool me twice shame on you situation. First Joshua attacked the city of Ai without consulting God, and then he didn’t consult God when he made the treaty with the Gibeonites. But here we see him confirming with God that this is the right direction, and God saying yes do it.

Now, let’s get into the battle, and probably the third most know situation that happened with Joshua.

9 After an all-night march from Gilgal, Joshua took them by surprise. 10 The Lord threw them 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 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!
15 Then Joshua returned with all Israel to the camp at Gilgal.

Here it is, the sun standing still. One of the things Joshua is most known for is he commanded the sun to stand still. And there are a lot of different hypothesis on what occurs here. There’s the eclipse hypothesis, where the sun was hidden so that the heat was off the soldiers. There’s the local refraction of rays hypothesis, where it was a local darkness, like that back in Exodus 10:21. There’s the language observation hypothesis, where it seemed to the soldiers that a battle that would take many days, only took one day to win.
My hypothesis? I believe that God supernaturally did something here that kept the sun from setting giving the Israelite army time to defeat their enemies. Because it’s not the only supernatural thing that happens in this passage.
First, how many armies can endure a march for 20 miles all night, then engage a rested enemy in battle, and then chase that enemy another ten miles to defeat them?
Then, as the Israelites are chasing this army, hailstones start pummeling their foes. I was in a freak hail storm one time walking home from school. I was heading up a hill, that would take me about fifteen to twenty minutes to climb. As I was beginning to walk up the hill, a hail storm came right at my face. I had a light weight jacket on, and by the time I climbed the hill, I was soaked, with nice little welts on me. But at least the sun was back. But the hailstones, that God fought with, killed the enemy and not the Israelites. 
To me, the whole battle was a miracle, with the Sun being a cherry on top. And the reason all of this worked, is because Joshua had sought God first, and it was God who was doing the fighting on Israel’s behalf. 

And as side note, if you’re wondering what the book of Jasher is, it is mentioned once in 2 Samuel 1:18 and might have been mentioned in Numbers 21:14. And is most likely a collection of Hebrew songs honoring Israel’s leaders.

But the one thing I want us to realize from this passage is, we have just seen a turning point in Joshua’s life. How do I know, because of what happens later on in verse 25. After Israel defeats the people that attack Gibeon, the five kings that started this campaign, flee. Eventually the Israelite army finds them and kills them pretty gruesomely. Then in verse 25 Joshua says this to the people, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Be strong and courageous. This is what the Lord will do to all the enemies you are going to fight.”

You might be thinking, “why is that significant? How is that a turning point? I mean we’ve heard a similar line spoken a couple of times in the book so far. First we see it in chapter 1 in the famous verse 9. We heard it again in chapter 1 by the people to Joshua in verse 18. So why is it so significant now?”
And the reason is, is simple. This is the first time Joshua as uttered the words in the book. Joshua himself has never spoke these words, it’s always someone else speaking them to him. 
But for the first time, Joshua has internalized God’s words of strength and courage. And we see that this changes everything. In 10 chapters we’re told the story of Joshua. The highs and the lows of his leadership. And at the end of chapter 10 we come to a point where Joshua has really only conquered two cities, Jericho and Ai, and has made a treaty with another, Gibeon. But then in the span of two and a half chapters afterwards we learn that Joshua has conquered 29 kings. Why don’t we learn about the details of each of these situations, like Jericho, Ai, and Gibeon? I mean, we know that the Bible has no problem giving us excruciating details. So why don’t we learn the details about these 29 kings? Instead of details, we get a repetition of Israel defeated this king, and did to them as they did to the previous king. And we get that same thing again and again throughout chapters 11 and 12. So why no details?
In reading the book of Joshua as a whole, I think we’re meant to understand that in these first few encounters, even though Joshua was older and a godly man, he still needed to learn to trust God fully. And it’s at this battle where the men fought on no sleep, the hail came down, and the sun stood still, that we see Joshua internalize that God is truly with him, and that he needs to follow closely God’s command. 

Joshua at the beginning of the book had a desire to know God, but there was a deeper experience that God wanted to take him to, and until Joshua was ready to have that turning point experience, we saw how it affected his life. We saw the defeats, and the victories. We saw the cycle of sin, repent, victory, that we talked about last week. But when Joshua internalized God’s words from the first chapter, we see a turning point in the book. We no longer need the deep details of the battles, because Joshua learned the lesson God had for him. From there it led Joshua to victory after victory. 
And that’s where God wants to get us. No matter how old or young we are, God has something for us to learn. That next step in our relationship with him, that next experience to take us deeper into connection with him, that next turning point. 
We can easily fall into the trap of thinking we’ve done enough. Enough Bible reading, enough prayer, enough church, enough giving, enough volunteering that we’ve come to the end. But the infinite God of the Bible, is calling us to a infinite understanding of him. A journey that takes us through this life, and into eternity. 

Great people of the faith all had turning points like Joshua had here. Joseph had it in the well (Genesis 37:1-36), Peter had it on the shore (John 21:15-19), and Paul had it on the road (Acts 9:1-19). God is calling us to a turning point also, the question is are we going to internalize what he has for us.

That’s the hard part. First we need to recognize what God is calling us deeper into, and then we have to let it sink in. We can’t get into major details here about either, but what I can share with you two realizations I’ve had that God has used to take me deeper.

First, I realized prayer has to become a conversation throughout the day and not a ceremonial monologue to God. For me, I start with praising in the morning, I talk throughout the day with an understanding that God is always listening, and try to pick up on what he is saying to me, and then I end with praises at night.
Second, I realized that the Bible needs to be read for quality rather than for quantity. Like I’ve alluded to in the past, I’ve read the book of Joshua about eight times in the last year. Which is what I’ve been starting to do. This way, the words of Scripture become internalized in my mind and heart, so that I learn more and more even after several readings of the same passages. Does this mean reading the whole of the Bible is bad? No, that just means you have to read it again and again and again. But my question is, are we reading it for the badge of accomplishment, or to know God on a deeper level.

I don’t know what deeper place God is wanting to take you, I just know that he is. The question is, are we going to allow God to take us there, so that the victories can come, or are we going to let the cycle of sin, repent, victory just run it’s course? 

This week I want to challenge you to take the passage, Joshua 10:1-15, and re-read it every day with this one prayer, “God give me a turning point in my relationship with you.”
God is calling each of us to a deeper relationship as we’ve see him do with Joshua, let us be the people that desire to learn the deeper lessons he has for us today. Amen

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Book of Joshua Week 10: The Pile Up and the Cycle

Several weeks ago we had our teen In-Town trip; that’s where the teens stayed at the church, do work projects in the community in the mornings, and put on a VBC in the afternoon. Thanks to our elders, we hired two of our adult leaders to watch the teens at night, so I could go home and get a little more rest. At least that was what was supposed to happen. I don’t know if it was Tuesday or Thursday that this happened, but at 1am in the morning on one of those nights, I get a call from our male leader that one of our boys kicked another boy extremely hard in the face.
At 1am in the morning, I was not happy to be woken up to deal with such a situation. And to tell you the truth, I was ready to bring down heaven upon the teen who did it. When I got to the church, I saw the boy who’s hurt sitting on the platform. I walked into the boys room where the perpetrator of the act was, and that’s when I learned, the two boys had been roughhousing and it got out of hand. I went from being angry at the one boy, to being indifferent to the plight of the other. I told the perpetrator something along the lines of, you need to knock it off or I’m taking you home, and then I went to the other boy, who I told I have no sympathy for you because he was participating in the roughhousing. Then I told him to put ice on his jaw, because he probably hyperextended it and there was nothing anyone could do for him, I know because it had happened to me. I told all of the boys to get in bed, and I was going home.
I was angry because it was 1am, which everyone should have been in bed and not messing around, and because I didn’t get the whole story. Once I did, everything was put into perspective, and I was no longer angry in the same way.
Getting the whole story before you make a decision is really important and that’s what brings us to the book of Joshua today. A situation where the whole story is unknown, and it gets the people into a bit of trouble.

So if you have your Bibles, we’re going to be in the book of Joshua chapter 9 starting in verse 1 this morning. And as we get back into the book of Joshua chapter 9, we need to recap what we’ve previously been talking about, because we’ve had a few weeks off. 
In the first 8 chapters of Joshua, we’ve seen a focus on God’s relationship with the nation of Israel and specifically their leader Joshua. God has done great things for them, like part a flooded river so they could walk on dry land and bring down impenetrable walls by having them walk around them. God also called them to deep trust by having them be vulnerable when he called them to be circumcised. This call to deep trust was to help them rely on God and not themselves for the victories that were about to happen. 
But even with all that God had done for the nation, we saw in chapters 7 and 8 that Joshua and the nation of Israel got ahead of themselves. They trusted their own strength and fell into sin. First by taking things that weren’t their’s from Jericho, and then fighting a battle that God hadn’t prepared them to fight.
That’s when we saw at the end of Joshua chapter 8, the nation of Israel repent and refocus themselves back on the reality that it is God who wins their victories for them.

Now as we jump back into the book of Joshua at this point, let’s see how long that renewed focus on God lasts. Let’s start reading in chapter 9 verse 1 of the book of Joshua.

1 Now when all the kings west of the Jordan heard about these things—the kings in the hill country, in the western foothills, and along the entire coast of the Mediterranean Sea as far as Lebanon (the kings of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites)— 2 they came together to wage war against Joshua and Israel.
3 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 They put worn and patched sandals on their feet and wore old clothes. All the bread of their food supply was dry and moldy.

Stopping there, we see that God’s promise to Joshua in the first chapter of this book is being fulfilled. The nations in Canaan are fearful of Israel, and they respond in one of two ways. Either they decide to band together and prepare for the fight that’s to come, or they try to deceive Israel and make peace. The Gebeonites try peace, and they go about it very sneakily.
If we read ahead to verse 24 we find out that the Gibeonites had heard that the Israelite God told Joshua to destroy all the people of Canaan. And if we read ahead to verse 24, then we would have read verses 9 and 10, that the Gibeonites had also heard of what happen to the the kings Israel had defeated before and after they crossed the Jordan.
So in desperation, the Gibeonites come up with an idea to trick the people of Israel into making peace. They get their worst clothes, their worst sandals, and their worst supplies and they make a roughly 7 mile track from the city of Gibeon to the camp of the Israelites. And it’s there they try to trick the Israelites into making peace with them, something God had told the Israelite nation not to do way back in Deuteronomy 7. But let’s keep reading in verse 6 to see what happens.

6 Then they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and the Israelites, “We have come from a distant country; make a treaty with us.”
7 The Israelites said to the Hivites, “But perhaps you live near us, so how 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 Israelites sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord. 15 Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath.

So the trick worked. The Israelites believed the Gibeonites and a peace treaty was established. So, how long did it take for the Israelites to figure it out? Well, in verse 16 we’re told that it was three days. It took the leaders of Israel three days to figure out that they had been deceived and made a bad treaty. Why three days? Because that’s how long it took them to arrive at the Gibeonite city. 

Now when they arrived, what did the Israelites do? Did they attack, and break the treaty? Or did they honor it? Let’s pick up in verse 18.

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, 19 but all the leaders answered, “We have given them our oath by the Lord, the God of Israel, and we cannot touch them now.

So we see that Israelites honored their treaty with the Gibeonites. Even though, God had told them to not make any treaties, but rather to destroy the people of the land. 

We find out in the last verses of the chapter what the Israelites, and more specifically what Joshua did with the deceitful Gideonites. Verse 26 starts out reading, “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 assembly, to provide for the needs of the altar of the Lord at the place the Lord would choose. And that is what they are to this day.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t blame the Gibeonites for doing what they did. They knew they were going to be wiped out by the Israelites when they came. So they did what they thought was best, they took a gamble and tricked the Israelites. And in the end, it saved them from being wiped out. Now they did go into forced labour; felling trees and carrying water is hard work, but they were able to survive.

My issue isn’t with the Gibeonites, but rather it’s with the Israelites. The Gibeonites are not followers of God, and so they don’t have the same understanding of right living that the Israelites did. To me it’s another Rehab situation from back in chapter 2. So my issue isn’t with these non-followers of God deceiving; people far from God will do things like this. My issue, is with the nation of Israel, because they’ve taken their eyes of God again. See, in chapter 7 Joshua comes off the victory of Jericho and heads straight into a battle with the city of Ai. The Israelites are defeated because they didn’t find out if God was wanting them to proceed. And God wasn’t desiring that they move forward in their battles, because there was sin within the people that he wanted to take care of first. 
Joshua didn’t think of talking with God before the battle, and it ended in defeat. When Joshua does go to God, they take care of the sin, and eventually defeat the city of Ai. But here, we have another situation where Joshua doesn’t talk it over with God, but rather just goes for it. In fact we’re told exactly what happened. 
Verse 14 states, “14 The Israelites sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord.”

The deception worked, because even though the Israelites had renewed their focus on God at the end of chapter 8, they didn’t go to God and find out if the Gibeonites were telling the truth. The people didn’t ask God about these foreigners, and because the didn’t ask God they were duped. I love how this all plays out, because I’ve had this happen to me on several occasions. Let me paint this in a way that makes sense in the whole context.

The beginning of chapter 7, the Israelite nation is in sin. It’s like when I’ve had a blow up with my kids, or I yell at that guy driving 25 in a 45, or I’ve been thinking things I shouldn’t.

Then at the end of chapter 7, the Israelites address their sin. After I’ve had my blow up, I get to church, and I’m convicted of my sin as I worship God. I agree that my blow up, my actions, my thoughts were not right and I bring them before God that Sunday morning.
Then chapter 8, the Israelites win the battle at Ai and praise God, refocusing them. That next week, after I’ve repented of my sin and am back in a right relationship with God, I’m doing pretty good. I think before I blow up, I don’t let the guy driving 25 bother me, I get my thoughts where they should be. 

Then chapter 9, the Israelites get duped. At the end of my week, I’m tired and I watch that show I shouldn’t, I gossiped about someone, I say something that hurts someone else. Now I’m back in church that next Sunday repeating my repenting to God, and the cycle continues. 

I love these chapters, because they show a cycle that isn’t about the Israelites and the Gibeonites, but it's about me. I have victories, then I have failures, then I repent, then I have victories, and failures and the cycle repeats.

And it would be real easy to take an easy way out. The Israelites could have said, forget you Gibeonites, you tricked us into making a treaty, so now we’ll just destroy you. But instead they took the hard way, they recognized their mistake, took the Gibeonites to task, but they honored their end of the deal. And in doing so, they actually fulfilled a prophecy made back in Genesis 9. Noah said in verse 26 of chapter 9, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem.” 
The Gibeonites and all the people that Israel was now fighting were the descendants of Noah’s grandson Canaan. And here, the Gibeonites were now fulfilling that prophecy of being slaves of Shem’s decedents the Israelites. This slavery lasts all the way to the building of the second temple under Nehemiah (Nehemiah 3:7), that’s almost a 1,000 years of forced labor.

But if the Israelites just killed the Gibeonites off, they would now have committed two sins. First, not listening to God in the first place, and two, backing off of their word. A sin to cover up another sin isn’t the way to go.
But that’s what we tend try to do a lot of the time isn’t it? Instead of dealing with the sin we know we have, we try to cover it up, which in and of itself is a sin. And if we continue doing that, that pile of sin and cover ups just gets bigger and bigger and bigger. And it can get so big that we come to a point where we feel so overwhelmed by the pile and the cover up, that everything falls apart. 

The harder way, is to repent of our sin, which leads us into the cycle of victory, sin, repent, victory, sin, repent. But if we move into a place where we’re on this cycle, we’re actually in a better place to experience God.

Now God desires us to get past the pile up, and even past the cycle, and eventually into a place where there is minute by minute victory.

But where do we start?

If we’re in the pile up, I have one word, repent. We have to recognize our sin. We need to bring it before God and lay all out. We need to bring it to the person we’ve sinned against and be apologetic and humble. The pile up ends, when we stop adding on to it and be honest with what we’re doing. Repenting stops the pile on, and opens us up to the moving of the Holy Spirit.

That leads us to the cycle. If we’re in the cycle, I have two words for you Bible and prayer. We have to get into God’s word with a prayer of change. Something like,  “Father, work your Holy Spirit in me, and change me into the image of your Son, by getting rid of the sin I allow to control me.” When we pray prayers like this, then we need to get into God’s word and allow Scripture to permeate our minds and actions. One of the best Scriptures I think we can read for the cycle is Psalm 51. The Psalm of David, who himself was on the cycle. As we pray and read the Bible, the cycle of victory, sin, and repent will change. But we need to remember, no matter how many times we seem to get back on the cycle, do not get discouraged. The more we recognize our sin, the more we repent, the closer we are to the end of the cycle. 

So how do we get to the minute by minute victory and never get back on the cycle? I don’t think, on this side of heaven, that it’s 100% possible, but what I do know is that the cycle can get to a point of longer victories, less sin, and deeper repentance. I love to tell the story of the old teacher and the young student.
A young student attending a Christian college came up to his professor one day and said, “I have never seen you sin, what is your secret?” The professor said, “When I was a young man about your age, I asked God to work out of me all the sins that people could see. When God had worked those sins out of me, I asked him to work out of me all the sins that my family could see. When that happened, I asked God to work out all the sins that only I saw, and that’s where I am today. So I sin every day, you just won’t see it.”

To me this is where God wants to take us, a place of deeper connection with him, that moves away from the pile on of sin upon sin, and into a cycle that has at the heart of it a desire for a deeper relationship with God. A relationship that is honest about our sin, and willing to have God change us, and take it away.

So let us seek to learn from the Israelites, to be honest about where we sin, and to bring it before God, that he will cleanse us from all our sins and that we may see his victories everyday of our lives.

My challenge for us today is to take the first step of repentance. No matter if your piling up sin, or you’re in the cycle, let us go to God with an open and honest heart confessing where we have failed, and asking for the Holy Spirit to move in our lives, that when we leave here today we will experience greater victories, less sin, and deeper repentance.
Let us take communion today with repentance on our lips, our eyes fixed on Jesus as our Forgiver, and victory on the horizon. Amen.

Book of Joshua Week 9: God’s Judgment is Just

So in raising our kids, Marika and I have tended to fall onto opposite sides of discipline. She is the compassionate one, and I am the disciplinarian. Marika tends tries to be calm and get the kids to talk through their feelings. Recently she started this thing that her mom used to do called polar bear alert. It’s where when someone says something and you take offense to it, you say polar bear alert, and then you’re suppose to freeze the thought and ask a series of questions to make sure that you’re not taking the person’s words wrongly, and out of context. But when all the talk fails, I’m called in to bring the discipline. Now, we both try to help the kids talk things out, and we both do discipline, but there comes a time when talking has run it’s course and physical correction has to be enforced. Once the physical discipline has been utilized and the situation has been handled, we return to a compassionate resolve. 

But it’s this idea of a getting to a place where physical discipline is needed that brings us to where we’re at in our study of Joshua today. Last week we talked through three chapters of the book of Joshua and I challenged you read through the entire three chapters, because through them, we are presented with several situations that need to be covered.

One of the biggest questions that gets asked of the Old Testament is why is it so different from the New Testament? If someone were to take a quick read through the books of Genesis to Malachi, people tend to walk away from it thinking, “Man, the God of the Old Testament is a jerk. He kills people, sends people into war, and just seems to be a narcissistic mean guy.” 
Then when people have a quick read of the New Testament, they see Jesus as this loving guru that is all about compassion and not wanting people to be hurt. This cursory understanding of the Old and New Testaments is why in early Christianity there was a group called the gnostics that believed that each of these Testaments were actually about two different gods.
If fact, now a days there are Christians that either want a full separation between the two Testaments. With some Christians saying that we should only follow the Old, or on the other hand, we should only follow the New. 
The reality is, when you read through it and understand what’s being said, it’s actually not two testaments, but one complete story about God and humanity.

But then the question arises how then do we reconcile God’s wrath in the Old Testament and his love in the New? 
Because if you read through chapter 6-8 of the book of Joshua, you would have come upon passages like this from chapter 6 verse 21, “They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.”
Did you catch that? The whole city was destroyed. The young and the old men were killed. The old women and young women were killed. All the animals were killed. Why would God command, yet alone, allow such a horrific act to happen? When in the New Testament Jesus says things like this in Matthew 5:43-44, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”

How are these two messages compatible? Well, that’s what we’re going to set out to accomplish to. How can a loving God, call for the destruction of an entire people like the Canaanites?

As we dive in, we’re going to be looking at a lot of Scripture and historical evidence. So hold onto your Bibles, we’re going to be moving pretty fast.

First, let’s look at what God says to the Israelite people before they enter into the land of Canaan. The book of Deuteronomy is the last book Moses writes, and in chapter 9, God speaks to stop any idea that the Israelite people have about them being worthy of the land. Deuteronomy 9 starting in verse 3 reads, “3 But be assured today that the Lord your God is the one who goes across ahead of you like a devouring fire. He will destroy them; he will subdue them before you. And you will drive them out and annihilate them quickly, as the Lord has promised you. 4 After the Lord your God has driven them out before you, do not say to yourself, ‘The Lord has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.’ No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is going to drive them out before you. 5 It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the Lord your God will drive them out before you, to accomplish what he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

The reality is, the Israelites did not deserve this land; instead, God is using the Israelites as a judgment on the people. If fact God says that this is a fulfillment of a promised judgment that he spoke to Abraham. That promised judgment happened in Genesis 15, verse 13-16. 
“13 Then the Lord said to him, ‘Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. 15 You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16 In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”

God tells Abraham that for four hundred years the Israelite nation will be in a foreign land, we know that to be Egypt. Then God will punish that nation, which is the story of the first fifteen chapters of the book of Exodus. Now we’re in the time of verse 16. Abraham’s descendants are back in the land of Canaan, and they are fulfilling the promised judgment on the people there. Why at this time with Joshua and not back with Abraham? 
Well the answer is simple, God was having compassion on the people and giving them enough time to turn from their wickedness and be saved. God gave them over four-hundred years to turn away from their sin, and they still didn’t, now it’s time for God’s judgment. 
So he’s using the nation of Israel as a judgment on the people of Canaan. Which is a common process of judgment that God uses, and to which the Israelites are not immune.
In fact several hundred years later, the prophet Jeremiah in his 25th chapter says this to the Israelite people, “8 Therefore the Lord Almighty says this: ‘Because you have not listened to my words, 9 I will summon all the peoples of the north and my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants and against all the surrounding nations. I will completely destroy them and make them an object of horror and scorn, and an everlasting ruin. 10 I will banish from them the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, the sound of millstones and the light of the lamp. 11 This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years.
12 “‘But when the seventy years are fulfilled, I will punish the king of Babylon and his nation, the land of the Babylonians, for their guilt,’ declares the Lord, ‘and will make it desolate forever. 13 I will bring on that land all the things I have spoken against it, all that are written in this book and prophesied by Jeremiah against all the nations. 14 They themselves will be enslaved by many nations and great kings; I will repay them according to their deeds and the work of their hands.’”

God used other nations to judge Israel’s sin, and he will eventually use other nations to judge the sins of the nations that he used to judge Israel.

So the taking of the Canaanite land is not because God has a special place for the Israelites, but rather the Canaanites’ must answer for their sins. And the judgment was that they would be destroyed. Now destruction throughout the Old Testament was two-fold: There was destruction of a person’s life, i.e. death, and destruction of society. Both happen to the Canaanites.
But what possibly could the Canaanites have done that would warrant such an utter destruction?

Let me give you three of the highlights: 

The first reason for judgment is Idolatry. Now idolatry is, “…the paying of divine honor to any created thing or the ascription of divine power to natural agencies (https://www.theopedia.com/Idolatry).” In other words, worshiping gods, who are not the God of the Bible and saying what is his power is actually another entirety’s power. This could be done in the ancient sense like worshiping the Canaanite god Ba’al, or in the modern sense of following horoscopes. 
Now this might now seem like a big deal, but in reality it is. Take for example what Canaanite mythology says about their gods. The god El was the creator of all things, but his son Ba’al overthrew him. This emasculated El, and he was eventually seen as a coward. El is the common name for god in the ancient mid east. The God fo the Bible is called Elohim, El Shaddia, El Roi. This story of Ba’al overthrowing El, sounds a lot like the schemes of Satan, trying to overthrow the God of the Bible.
Satan perverting our focus off the God of creation, and onto the creation itself. In fact scholarship in this area, says that right around the time of Abraham is when El was usurped as the main focal point of Canaanite worship. Could the Canaanites have been worshiping the God of the Bible, yet turned away from worshiping him? Possibly. And when the true God is pushed aside, and we begin to worship other gods or powers, sin no longer has a restraint in our lives. This is what leads us to the next reason for God’s judgment of the Canaanite people. This is why God the first three commandments of the ten commandments have to do with worshiping only God.

The second reason for judgment is sexual sins. Now here we might learn somethings that might make us uncomfortable, and you might think to yourself why are we talking about this in church? Well, we need to understand the depth of sin that is going on, to understand the response of God.
There are four areas of sexual sins that are prominent in the Canaanite culture. First there’s adultery. Now this is common among all middle eastern cultures. Priests and priestess would have sex with individuals and in orgies as part of rituals to the Canaanite gods. For the general populous, adultery for men was seen as permissible, while adultery for women was illegal.
Then there was a blending of the sexes, or in modern terminology, sex changes. Here’s a excerpt from an ancient text called “Erra and Ishum IV”,  “Even Uruk, the dwelling of Anu and Ishtar, city of prostitutes, courtesans, and call-girls, Whom Ishtar deprive of husbands and kept in her power: Sutean men and women hurl their abuse; They rouse Wanna, the party-boys and festival people Who changed their masculinity into femininity to make the people of Ishtar revere her.” Men were trying to become like women for the worship of their gods and the evangelization of other people.
Next is incest. In Canaanite mythology, Ba’al had sex with both his mother and his daughter. Now in early Canaanite culture, which corresponds to the usurping of El, incest was a crime pushable by death, but after El’s usurpation, is was decriminalized to a mere fine.
Finally, the last sexual sin was bestiality. In Hittite Law #199 it reads, “If anyone has intercourse with a pig or a dog, he shall die. If a man has intercourse with a horse or a mule, there is no punishment.” But again, like incest, these acts were decriminalized by the time Joshua and the Israelites came to Canaan. And it was because animals that have been sexual with people will continue to seek that sexual interaction that they too were killed.
This is why if you read chapter 18 of the book of Leviticus God talks so specifically about what sexual conduct the Israelites need to avoid.
But, we’re not done yet, because there is a least one more reason for God’s judgment, and that is child sacrifice. In a ritual performed for the Canaanites’ underworld god Molek, the people would sacrifice children, both their own and from conquered people, up to the age of four years old. The ritual would be in front of a bull-headed statue, who’s belly was a lit furnace, and who’s hands were outstretched for the child. Musical instruments were played to drown out the cries of the child as they were placed in the arms of the statue and burned alive. 
This is why in Leviticus 18:21 God tells the Israelites, “Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molek, for you must not profane the name of your God. I am the Lord.”
Here are three examples of the sin of the Canaanite people, and to me just the sacrificing of children would be enough to call a judgment on anyone. 
And we might agree that the men and women who committed these sins against God need to be judged, but what about the children?

And I have to say this is the hardest part to talk about. Because none of us what to see children die. None of us want to see them killed in any circumstance. And yet, God called for their deaths as well. So why would that be okay?
I cannot speak to every situation, but I do believe a simple question needs to be asked, “At what age is it okay to judge a child?” Should a child be kept from judgment at the age of twelve? If so, is it okay to have a thirteen year old die in judgment? How about fourteen, or fifteen year old?  
The reality is, we don’t want to see anyone die. And the reality is, God’s judgment is just. It’s just, in that he does not kill for the pleasure of killing. Rather, his judgment is slow, hence the reason it took several hundred years before he judge the Canaanites. If God just wanted to kill things, he would have done it back with Abraham. But no, God gave the Canaanites time to repent of their sin and return to him. But they didn’t and their society was so corrupt, that it permeated every aspect of the people, both young and old, even their animals.
But we can trust God to do just with the children, because of his words in places like Deuteronomy 1. Where God is telling the adults that because of their sin, they would not enter the promise land, but God wouldn’t hold that judgment to their children. Deuteronomy 1 beginning in verse 37 says, “37 Because of you the Lord became angry with me also and said, “You shall not enter it, either. 38 But your assistant, Joshua son of Nun, will enter it. Encourage him, because he will lead Israel to inherit it. 39 And the little ones that you said would be taken captive, your children who do not yet know good from bad—they will enter the land. I will give it to them and they will take possession of it.”
Jesus said this in Luke 18:16-17 about children, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
God’s heart is for children, and we can trust their lives to his judgment.

But the whole purpose of God’s judgment being so complete in this moment was to call the people into obedience, an obedience the Canaanite people had abandon. And the total destruction of the Canaanite people, was not only as judgment on them, but was to keep the Israelites from falling into the same sins, and the same judgment. 
But places like Judges 1:28 tell us what the Israelites did instead of following God’s command. It reads, “When Israel became strong, they pressed the Canaanites into forced labor but never drove them out completely.” Then a verse later it says, “Nor did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites living in Gezer, but the Canaanites continued to live there among them.” 
This disobeying of God’s commands to destroy the Canaanites, eventually led to Israel falling into the same sins of idolatry, sexual promiscuity, and child sacrifice. 

See the Israelites thought that they could play with sin, and it would be fine, but it led to their own judgment. Because God isn’t interested in us playing games with his commands, and our sin. No, he is interested in a simple premise, our full trust in him, and following where he leads. That means we put our trust in Jesus as our Savior, the one who takes God’s judgment for us.
And this is where the Old Testament and the New Testament collide. We can look at God in the Old Testament and see a wrathful God who dulls out punishment to those who don’t obey him. But we tend miss the compassion he has, in holding back judgment from people, waiting for them to turn from their sinful ways. And when he shows us for thousands of years that this process of punishing humans for their sins is never going to work, he sends God the Son to earth to take the whole judgment of God upon himself.
This is why it says this in Romans 3, “23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, 26 for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he makes sinners right in his sight when they believe in Jesus (NLT 23-26).”

And when we accept Jesus as our Savior, that judgment that is coming for us, is placed on him instead. Now, the power of sin in our lives in broken, and the Holy Spirit can cut out the sin that holds us back from a full encounter with God. We can now live holy and blameless lives, in the power of the Holy Spirit. Because God’s judgment is just and he works to bring us life, not destruction. But like a parent who has to bring the discipline eventually, God does as well. 
Even the peace loving guru Jesus says in the Gospel of John chapter 3, “17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”
The difference between God’s judgment falling on us or not, is simply Jesus and if we have accepted what he has done for us or not. 
The Old Testament shows us that God does not desire to pass judgment on humans, instead giving us a different route through Jesus. But that doesn’t mean he won’t pass judgment eventually, a reality Jesus taught as well.

Therefore we need to stop playing with sin. We need to go to God and have him point out the idolatry, the sexual sins, and the sacrifices we make that are in opposition to him. We need to trust his judgment to be just and right. And we need to follow him fully, and not with a half-heart.

Let us learn a lesson from the Canaanites and the Israelites, that once we allow a little sin in, it’s hard to cut out. Let us instead seek God this week to cut the sin out of our life, that brings our Father in heaven to discipline us.

My challenge for you this week is to re-read Joshua chapters 6-8 and ask God, to help you follow his command. Do this every day when you wake up and when you go to bed. Let us follow the command of God, to not allow sin to fester in our lives, but to have it cut out by the Holy Spirit. Amen.