God Looks at the Heart

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:17


Reading through Samuel, I’ve marveled at the loyalty David showed to God’s anointed King Saul, even amidst the cruel reality of twisted rage and jealousy Saul possessed.  There is a lesson here from both men. Both had been chosen by God, and yet the two men couldn’t have been more different in loyalty, value, and service. Plainly, God did this for a reason: to teach us that man looks at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart.

God chose Saul in order to answer the Israelites desire for a human king.  He chose a strong and handsome man from a wealthy family. He was a man of great stature and he had a commanding presence. He looked the part in every human way!  The Lord also chose Saul from a humble family, a family that was small and insignificant. I believe the Lord chose him in the hope that Saul would remain humble because of his background.  Even knowing that Saul’s hubris would defeat him, the Lord gave Saul the opportunity to succeed. Free will is a powerful thing. And Saul would always have the ability to choose the path he would take, whether it be for God or for himself.

There was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish, the son of Abiel, son of Zeror, son of Becorath, son of Aphiah, a Benjaminite, a man of wealth. 2 And he had a son whose name was Saul, a handsome young man. There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people.
1 Samuel 9:1-2


On the other hand, David was a doe-eyed boy with a faith in the Lord that struck courage in the hearts of his companions, and fear into the hearts of his enemies.  Whether defeating Goliath, or defending his sheep, David’s victory always came from faith and trust in the Lord. David trusted in God regardless of his audience. His faith came from his heart, and the Lord blessed him with victory.  Yet the victory of God often doesn’t look like the victory of a man. And David’s victory looked like serious defeat for many years, while the Lord worked.

Jealousy and fear became hallmarks of Saul’s leadership.  From the beginning, he both loved and hated young David. David had made him look like a fool by defeating the taunting Goliath after days of humiliating and demoralizing ridicule, with nothing more than a slingshot and faith.  I think this only highlighted Saul’s own lack of faith and trust in God. Still, Saul tries to stand on the side of David and the side of God. He spends half his time trying to kill David, and the other half of the time trying to love David. This must have been horribly difficult.  However, Saul’s biggest fault always seemed to be that he wouldn’t take responsibility for his own shortcomings. He lacked humility. Everything that happened to him was always someone else’s fault. And every mistake Saul made he justified in some way.

David, on the other hand, abided in the Lord fully.  He never put his faith in a kingdom or even King Saul, but instead his heart beat only for the Lord.  To God this was a beautiful and valuable offering. Even though David was quickly anointed as king due to Saul’s folly, David would never raise his hand or his heart against him because no matter the circumstances, even if Saul’s actions were evil and dishonoring to God, David respected the Lord’s chosen, and also trusted the Lord in His promise to raise David up as King.

How often am I guilty of not trusting the Lord and His promises for me?  I look at someone’s poor leadership, or their sinful actions, or their blatant disrespect for God, and my heart instantly goes to bad places.  In my flesh I want justice. I want to make things right. I want to fight for the sake of God’s Name! David’s companions were the same way. Time and time again they would encourage David to kill Saul, and they’d use the justification that God had allowed Saul to fall into his hands, or they would argue that God would bless him for taking down the unrighteous king.  Yet, through it all, David refused to raise a hand against God’s chosen.

Jesus did the same thing.  No wonder we are constantly given the parallels between the two of them!  David always tried to trust in God’s promises. Jesus perfectly trusted God’s promises.  Israel didn’t want to accept Jesus because he came to the world as a servant and not a conquering king.  So, too, David served and waited and trusted. Volumes of books have been written on the subject!

I want to trust God like that!  Because trusting God from the heart is to mirror Jesus! And because of God, I have been given His Spirit to walk in trust.  I don’t have to worry about God taking away His Spirit from me, the way He took it from Saul, because our righteousness is now Jesus. My calling is now Jesus.  My redemption is set by the blood of the Lamb and no folly or failure can take that from me. So, as David did, I shall boast in the Lord alone. Because on my own, I’m no different than Saul.

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards,not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
1 Corinthians 1:26-31

 

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To Go From Knowing to Doing

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us.
1 John 4:18-19

Lord, I’ve been afraid of a lot of things lately and I didn’t even know it.  It’s a true tragedy to realize that the enemy has convinced me so often that the fear I’m feeling is not fear especially in regard to the judgement of God.  I have spent 45 of my 49 years of life as a believer in Jesus, and I guess I thought that I had established a deep understanding of God’s love and forgiveness.  I’ve certainly asked for it enough times! Sin sneaks up on me and the next thing I know I’m calling out to You, God, asking You to please, please forgive me.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
   a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Psalm 51:8

I know you love a repentant and contrite heart. I know that You are most pleased when I choose to submit to Your will for my life instead of choosing to rebel.  I know that Your plan for me is so much better than anything I could plan for myself. Frankly I KNOW a lot of things. But knowing and doing are two very different things.  And I don’t do near as much as I know.

Lord, how else can I bridge that gap except to call upon You?  You are my Creator. You are my strong Tower. You are my bridge to salvation.  You can be my bridge between knowing and doing.

So, help.  I need help, God. I’m tired of being afraid.  I’m tired of letting fear, disguised as a million different things that seem ok, rule my choices and my life.  I want to walk in the confidence of your forgiveness so that I can walk through life without fear of judgement.  If I am going to believe that the judgement of my sins were poured out on the cross of Christ, then I’m not supposed to walk in guilt any longer.  I am forgiven so I don’t need to be afraid of You, God. Let Your perfect love cast out all fear in my life as I submit to Your sufficient and all encompassing forgiveness.  Perfect Your Love in me, Lord Jesus, so that I can help show others how to have the peace of Your forgiveness. No one who trusts You will ever need to fear the judgement of their sins.  Silence the enemy and all the lies he spreads that say we’re not worth it, or we don’t deserve it, or what we did is too horrible. Help all people to find and recieve Your free offering of life and love without judgement, by Jesus on the cross. It seems a very fair punishment for anything anyone could do.  Help me to accept it more fully. And help others to find it and be free of guilt. Amen.

But I call to God,
    and the Lord will save me.
Psalm 55:16

When I am Faithless…

I seem to start a lot of my conversations with, “I’m sorry, God.”  Lord, I know full well that repentance is a fine and necessary thing.  But Lord, I’ve neglected to accept Your punishment for my crimes against You as already PAID IN FULL.  I’ve walked around, suffering and moaning with the failures that surround my day. I am sad and I hear myself say, “I know I’m just suffering the consequences of my own actions.”  So sad. And I know that I often do have to suffer the consequences on occasion. But I have neglected to fully receive from You that the consequences for my sin were paid on the cross of Christ.

I have victory.  I am forgiven. I have let the enemy convince me that I have neither!  I have walked in grieving and loss. I have walked in guilt and shame. I have walked in all the things You conquered for me in Your payment for my sins on the cross.  You rose from the dead! You PROVED your victory. You proved it and proclaimed it and then sealed it as a promise in our hearts by giving us–giving me–Your Holy Spirit.

But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? 12 Turn back, my daughters; go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, even if I should have a husband this night and should bear sons, 13 would you therefore wait till they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me.”
Ruth 1:11-13

Why do I ever think You’ve left me to my fate?  Why do I act the way Naomi did when everything she depended on in the physical world had been taken from her.  Distraught, she cried out in her misery, but not to You, God. She cried out in shame and worry and hopelessness.  How many times have I felt that same way? I’ve walked in the sorrow of my circumstances instead of the peace of Your Gospel.  

But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”
Ruth 1:16-18

Ruth, on the other hand, who had nothing, and by worldly standards was fated to a worse fate than Naomi, chose to trust in You.  As a foreigner she had no hope without You, and so she chose by faith to walk to the very end trusting You regardless of how things looked.

I’ve always thought I knew the story of Ruth and Naomi.  I’ve always thought of Naomi as so faithless. And today I saw that I have been walking like Naomi, in faithlessness.  But You are faithful even when we are faithless. Thanks for that, God. Please give me more faith. Teach me to trust You more and hope in Your salvation.

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself.
2 Timothy 2:11-13

 

The Gibeonite Consequence: the Flipside to Mercy

A few days ago I talked about the profound mercy of God when Joshua got tricked by the Gibeonites into a false covenant.  But now it’s time to look at the flipside of this egregious error. Disobeying God led to tragic consequences for the people of Israel.  The very thing that could have been a gift of mercy became a thorn.

It’s easy to look at our lives at times and think about how clever we are, or how kind, or how forgiving, but at the end of the day, if we aren’t obeying God, we will find ourselves, no matter how clever we think we are, on a path of tragedy.  If we truly believe that God is sovereign and omniscient, why do we rely on our own reason in any matter? Why do we presume to know what’s best, when only the Lord can know? God has given us a direct line of communication with Him through His Spirit, but we flounder in our self-sufficiency and fall short of all the good God has planned for us, as well as suffer the consequences for our poor choices.

What started out as an opportunity to show mercy with the Gibeonites became a stumbling block for all of Israel.  By enslaving the Gibeonites (and others along the journey) instead of destroying them, Israel brought upon themselves the taint of false worship and the lie of doing what seemed best in their own eyes.  The consequences of not asking God’s opinion brought profound suffering to the Israelites.  And don’t we think the same things?  How many times have I thought, “wow, God, that’s harsh” and questioned His judgement?  Thoughts like that or troublesome to Believers.  We want to believe God, but sometimes we don’t understand or see the big picture.  Why did God let that person die?  Why does God let bad things happen at all?  If God is love, why doesn’t He “accept” everyone?   Having faith and trusting God is hard.   

And they (the Israelites) abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the Lord to anger. 13 They abandoned the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. 14 So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. 15 Whenever they marched out, the hand of the Lord was against them for harm, as the Lord had warned, and as the Lord had sworn to them. And they were in terrible distress.
Judges 2:12-15

Just as the Lord had warned, by allowing anyone to enter into their fellowship who was not willing to follow and obey Yahweh, the Israelites became influenced by, and began to worship, the pagan gods of their enemies.  They got sucked into evil by their own compromise. They incurred the wrath of the One True God and broke the covenant Yahweh had made with their ancestor, Abraham. Fortunately, however, the covenant Yawheh made with Abraham did not rely on the obedience of Abraham’s descendants.  (See Genesis 15) It was God alone who took responsibility for both sides of the covenant with Abraham. And just as God foretold would happen, the descendants of Abraham fell short of their obligation and promise to God.  They didn’t trust God to provide a way for them.  That’s why it’s so powerful that Abraham trusted God to provide a sacrifice when He was asked to sacrifice his own son.  Abraham trusted God and it was counted to him as righteousness!

And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
Genesis 15:6

God allowed the consequences of disobedience to be revealed and experienced by His people in the hope of showing them that trusting in God would bring them salvation, while trusting in false gods or themselves would bring only destruction.  Time and time again, Yawheh raised up leaders for His people to guide them in His ways. And time and time again, the people would be led for awhile and then fall away when their leaders died.  They failed again and again to trust the God who made them and saved them.

8 Whenever the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. For the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them. 19 But whenever the judge died, they turned back and were more corrupt than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them. They did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways. 20 So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he said, “Because this people have transgressed my covenant that I commanded their fathers and have not obeyed my voice, 21 I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations that Joshua left when he died, 22 in order to test Israel by them, whether they will take care to walk in the way of the Lord as their fathers did, or not.” 23 So the Lord left those nations, not driving them out quickly, and he did not give them into the hand of Joshua.
Judges 2:18-23

It seems clear to me that God’s mercy is great, so great in fact, that He is willing to see us hurt ourselves if it means we can learn that trusting in Him is better than trusting in ourselves or the things of this world.  We can’t ever fall into the trap of thinking we know best, especially if we feel confident that we are walking with God and know Him well! That is when we are in even deeper danger of straying away! If we gain too much confidence in ourselves, we begin to believe we know the will of God even if we haven’t asked Him!  We can trust the Spirit of God within us will guide us, but we need to take caution before making decisions. We need to stop and listen before we act rashly.

Jesus, I’m so thankful for the Holy Spirit within me that helps me and guides me.  Lord, thank You that You have done everything to teach me, guide me, and fulfill Your promises for me.  Thank You that You are not content to leave me where I’m at. You’re not content to see me suffer in the consequences of my past mistakes.  You’re not content to see me walk in the paths of death. You want me to be free. You want me to be strong. You want me to learn and grow and thrive in life.  So, Lord, I submit to Your rule in my life and in my decisions. Help me to stop and listen before I act. Help me to know Your will by communing with You regularly and keeping Your Presence near to me at all times.  Protect me from foolish choices and lead me in the paths of righteousness for Your namesake. Thank You that where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom! Help me to trust You more.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
2 Corinthians 3:17

 

Devoted to Destruction

“For it was the Lord’s doing to harden their hearts that they should come against Israel in battle, in order that they should be devoted to destruction and should receive no mercy but be destroyed, just as the Lord commanded Moses.”
Joshua 11:20

It’s funny to me that the day after God shows me the mercy of His love through Joshua, I would be stirred by His dedication to the destruction of His enemies.  But here we are. Let’s face it, Joshua got asked to lead God’s people into a whole lot of destruction of other people. And it would be really, really easy to decide that God liked destroying people based on the above verse alone.  We can be so quick to decide things when we look at scripture through the lense of our own analysis, can’t we? However, if we look at the scripture through the eyes of the Holy Spirit, where we can recognize the true character of God, we can see more clearly the Lord’s intent and our faith is built up.  We learn to trust the Lord and not ourselves, for the Lord is light and we are born into shadow and destined for death without Him.

Our first clue in the book of Joshua to the Lord’s view on destruction happens with the fall of Jericho and the salvation of Rahab.  Right off the bat, at the very beginning of Joshua’s siege to claim the Holy Land, God rescues a prostitute. Ya, that doesn’t sound like a God devoted to destruction.  At least not at first. How can we reconcile the opposing points of view and not think God is a bully bent on utter annihilation? Easy. Think back to Exodus. Think about the Golden Calf and the Ten Commandments.  

7 And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” 9 And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. 10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”
11 But Moses implored the Lord his God and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’” 14 And the Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.
Exodus 32:7-14

 

When people worship idols, and claim the works of God on the idols they have made with their own hands God no longer becomes important to you. (Think of your own hypocrisy and how many times you counted God’s acts of providence upon you as “good old fashioned hard work”, or luck, or something else.)  Not really. If you know He is God, and yet worship yourself or your success, you retreat from the presence of God’s light and love, and into a darkness born of your own depravity. With Moses and the people of Israel, God called attention to the most important thing a person can do: choose to follow and trust God, or not.  (Remember Adam and Eve?) When Moses stands before the Lord in defense of the people, acknowledges their sin, and asks for God to forgive them, he mirrors the very thing that Jesus would do for mankind in the future. Moses argues for salvation for the people based on God’s own character. Repentance brings God to relent from destruction.  Sin must be destroyed. But we can choose to be healed from our sin rather than destroyed with our sin, simply by repenting and allowing God to reign in our lives.

When we look ahead a chapter or two in Exodus, we can see that the Lord defines himself as merciful and good.  

5 The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. 6 The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands,forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
Exodus 34:5-7

Based on this truth of who God says He is, we can discern the intent behind this business of devotion to destruction, can’t we?  It can’t mean what we think it means because God doesn’t contradict himself. What, then, has God done when the Bible says He hardened the hearts of people to make them worthy of destruction? If God is merciful and compassionate, and the stain of sin is in all mankind through Adam, what is it that God wants destroyed?  Simply put: Sin. The hardening of a man’s heart by God means that God has allowed their sin to be amplified by their own stubbornness or hardened hearts. But if we believe that we have free will (as was discovered with Adam and Eve and their submission to the temptation of Satan), then when faced with the truth of God’s mercy and desire to rescue humanity, we all the more can see that we are depraved and in need of saving.  The hardening of our hearts makes us hyper aware of the sin in our lives and becomes either conviction to fight against God or to repent and be saved. The amplification of the sin in mankind makes the need for salvation all the more real. (By the way, that is how we know it is the very Spirit of God that convicts us of our sin and leads us to salvation through Him. We can’t seem to even recognize our sin without Him.)

Through this understanding of scripture, we can reconcile the seeming contradiction of devotion to destruction and the mercy and compassion of God.  As Paul so beautifully put it:

18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 5:18-21

When we see the profound failing of humanity in ourselves, by having a hardened heart or recognizing by our own conscience by failure to obey the letter of God’s law, we have an even greater opportunity to recognize our need for salvation through Jesus Christ.  Paul said that the Law of Moses came “to increase the trespass”. Does that mean God made the law so we would fail? Definitely not! Look what Paul says a little later in the book of Romans:

13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
Romans 7:13-20

Joshua led God’s people into the destruction of sin but still offered mercy and adoption into the family of God for any who would repent.  The Gibeonites knew the reputation of the Law of the Isrealites: that they were to include foreigners in their practices and worship if they wanted to follow God, and thus used that loophole to finagle their way into God’s protection.  Why didn’t God devote them to destruction? Because God is full of mercy and honor. He allowed the Gibeonites to live (for a little while) in order to honor the covenant that Joshua had made with them and to show His power to save, even through the disobedience of man.  It is that same mercy that allowed Rahab and her entire family to be saved simply by turning away from the sin and community of Jericho and aligning herself with God’s people. So too, at the end of Chapter 11 of Joshua, we discover that a handful of people from the “enemy tribes” remained after the dedicated destruction was finished.  

21 And Joshua came at that time and cut off the Anakim from the hill country, from Hebron, from Debir, from Anab, and from all the hill country of Judah, and from all the hill country of Israel. Joshua devoted them to destruction with their cities. 22 There was none of the Anakim left in the land of the people of Israel. Only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod did some remain. 23 So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the Lord had spoken to Moses. And Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal allotments. And the land had rest from war.

At the end of the day, God will do anything to show us our need for Him.  We can choose to walk in our sin and be ruled by sin that leads to death. Or we can walk away from our sin and be ruled by Christ who offers victory over sin and death and gives us life.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Romans 6:1-4

 

A Lesson from Joshua and the Gibeonites About the Mercy of God

Lord, you are so merciful it baffles me at times.  Even in the midst of dishonesty, trickery, and cowardice, You are faithful and merciful.  Your compassion is boundless. Your mercy is unrelenting. Your love is a rock of salvation that cannot be moved.  You are good. You are light. And in You there is no darkness.

As I read Joshua, it would be easy to look at all the conquering and destruction and think that the God of the Universe was a terrible creature, full of hate and fury.  But instead what I have been constantly reminded of is the faithfulness of God, and His incredible mercy. We see it first with Rahab of Jericho. She was a filthy, Godless, prostitute, and the spies Joshua sent to gather intelligence found protection in her house.  She gave them shelter. She lied for them. And she trusted that God would show mercy to her for contributing to his people. Okay, maybe it’s easy to see the profound mercy of God through Rahab. She becomes part of the direct lineage of Jesus because she trusted God would protect her if she acted on behalf of His people, and trusted that He would spare her.  Cool, right? I get it.

But what really blows my mind is God’s mercy for the spies.  Rahab was a prostitute! What on earth were the spies doing with her?  I doubt they were there for conversation! And God sees them, deep in the midst of unrepentant sin, distracted from the task at hand, enjoying the pleasure of the very city God had destined for destruction because of sin, and He is still faithful to deliver Jericho into the hands of Joshua and the Israelite army.  Do you see that? And we find ourselves doubting God’s mercy?!

Later on with Joshua, the Gibeonite deception causes Joshua to make a terrible mistake.  

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.5 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.
Joshua 9:8-15

When the Gibeonites masqueraded as sojourners seeking after the God of Israel, Joshua accepts them with open arms.  He fell for their deception immediately because it seemed like the right thing to do. But Joshua failed to ask what God wanted.  He depended on his own judgement to discern the intent of the Gibeonites and he was wrong. He trusted himself over God, totally out of self-confidence and good intentions.  And that self-confidence and good intention turned Joshua from the Lord to himself. Sounds a little like accidental idolatry of self to me! How many times have I done that?  How many times today have I done that!? When you think about it, it’s kind of terrible.

But God is so merciful!  The Gibeonites came to Joshua in fear and enslaved themselves to the Isrealites.  How sad. And when Joshua discovers the deception he admonishes them and tells them they are cursed now to be slaves.  In other words, if they had been honest and turned from their own wickedness and trusted in God to spare them, they would have been spared and they would have been free.  But their fear enslaved them. Even though they’d enslaved themselves, God spared them from destruction.

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. 27 But Joshua made them that day cutters of wood and drawers of water for the congregation and for the altar of the Lord, to this day, in the place that he should choose.

The Gibeonites, even in their fear and cowardice and eventual enslavement, receive mercy from God.  They had to deal with the consequences of their actions by being enslaved, but they were spared. Sounds a lot like the Israelites in Egypt! What a profound mystery is the love and mercy of God and His desire to commune with us!

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish…32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” Ephesians 5:25-27, 32

God’s love for us is so profound, so merciful, so bonding, that He uses marriage as a metaphor for what He wants with his people, His bride.  Intimacy and forgiveness. That is a mystery, indeed!

Both Joshua and the Gibeonites find mercy from the Lord.  Even though Joshua had sinned mightily. And the Gibeonites melted in cowardice and fear when faced with the potential slaughter from God’s armies.  God used it to bring potential salvation to the Gibeonites (because having been spared and enslaving themselves to the Israelites, they would be among them and see evidence of His grace by proximity.)  So in cowardice from the Gibeonites, and in self-confident, careless disobedience from Joshua, God showed His mercy to both sides.

God took the mistakes that had been made, the inevitable failings of humanity and used it for good.  In Joshua Chapter 10, the story of the mighty Gibeonites in submission to the Israelites became a warning and a trumpet call to the rest of the people in the land.  Destruction comes to the enemies of God, but mercy comes to all who will turn to God and accept His leadership. Like Rahab, one can come to God with faith that He will rescue, or one can come to God in fear.  Fear may have saved the Gibeonites from death, but it came at the cost of their own freedom. Fear brought them only temporary life and at the cost of their own freedom. Only turning to God in faith will lead to life forever in His family.

If only they had turned to God in faith instead of fear!  What a valuable lesson. Faith will bring deliverance and acceptance into the body of Christ.  Fear will only bring enslavement by your own hand. And can your own hand save you? Surely not.  Just ask the Gibeonites.

Back to the Garden

Sin and shame have ruled my life for a very long time.  Since I was a child, I tried to hide it from everyone: from God, from myself, from the world.  As a small child I had experienced a cruel type of shame from the enemy that forced a burden on me that I was not intended to bear.  But the Lord is so merciful, full of forgiveness and abounding with love. What the enemy intended to harm me, God will use for good.  And He is.

I’ve longed to go back to the Garden where I could walk in the presence of God, completely vulnerable, completely trusting, and completely unashamed.  I just didn’t know it. I kept trying to cover myself instead of relinquishing my control to let God cover me. God’s covering is perfect. It protects.  It builds up. It comforts. It surrounds me in love and peace. It is good because God is good. And in the Garden, we communed as one friendship in complete transparency with one another.  I could know Him and He knew me. And it was good.

But the devil tried to steal that from me.  He tried, but he has failed. God never gives up, and He hasn’t given up on me.  Instead, He has tenderly and lovingly guided me back to Him, though the path has been difficult.  All along the journey I have fought with Him. I’ve questioned His judgment and His direction. Can you imagine?  I questioned God! What an oxymoron! But I did it, and I’ll likely do it again. I kept insisting that He not see my nakedness.  I had too much shame. I had too much guilt. I had fear and darkness where their should have been trust and love.

“I acknowledged my sin to You,
And I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to YAHWEH,’
And You forgave the iniquity of my sin.”
Psalm 32:5

When I acknowledged my doubt and fear and shame to Him, He didn’t turn me away.  He forgave me. And again and again He will do the same. What incredible peace there is in that!  It is life changing. As I continue to strip off the layers and layers of shame and guilt and fear that I have built up around myself for so many years, the Lord faithfully and lovingly says, “I forgive you, I forgive you, I forgive you,” over and over and over again.  Seventy times seven and more. And with each confession I’m drawn closer to Him. I am more and more exposed and I am more and more free.

His presence is the only covering I need.  Shame and doubt and fear have only kept me away from Him.  But as I release control of my covering to the Lord, I am free.  His presence is my shield, my righteousness, my honor, my delight.  To be naked and unashamed in His presence is to be back in the Garden.  And that’s where I want to be.

So, Father, I’m sorry for not trusting You.  I’m sorry for trying to cover all of my guilt and shame with manufactured lies that never gave me the comfort and peace that I thought they would or needed them to.  Real peace can only be found in You. Real comfort is in Your arms. Your presence is mine for the asking when I surrender to You and confess it all. Thank You! I am saved.  Help me to continue to walk in the Garden and not try to cover myself again in anything but You.