Look to the Victory!

Now these are the nations that the Lord left, to test Israel by them, that is, all in Israel who had not experienced all the wars in Canaan. 2 It was only in order that the generations of the people of Israel might know war, to teach war to those who had not known it before.
Judges 3:1-2

God, it’s so easy for me to get caught up in the battle that rages all around me.  I guess that makes sense. It’s a big battle raging all around me! Hard to ignore!  But I keep forgetting that the war is won. The spiritual carnage all around me can be so oppressive.  It creeps up on me with complacency, discouragement, worldly delights, a critical spirit, and with shame.  Instead of looking at the victory, I look at the battle.

Thank you, God, that You’re not content to leave me that way.  Gently but firmly, You take me in Your hands and walk me through the destruction.  You place my feet on the conquests of Your own shed blood. You teach me the ways of war.  Your train me diligently. You personally dress me in Your own armor, the armor of Jesus, and You carry me forward as a wrecking ball of Your majesty.  

Blessed be the LORD, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle;
Psalm 144:1

Why does my heart grow weary?  Why do I stumble? Why do I struggle?  Why do I doubt?

The victory is mine to inherit.  You’ve told me so! It is already won.  But You will continue to teach me. It’s not my power that brings victory, it’s Yours.  I’m sorry for trying to take responsibility for defeating an enemy that has already been made a footstool beneath Your feet by the power of the blood of the Lamb.

The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”
Psalm 110:1

The enemy will continue to fight until You put a final end to his reign of terror.  And until then I must be in the midst of the chaos. Help me remember that You bring order from chaos.  You are teaching me with each battle how to claim my victory! You are teaching me how to lead others. You are teaching me to keep my eyes on You and my faith in Your power and not my own.

You’ve let the enemy keep fighting for a little while so that I can participate in the victory as well as the spoils. I will know war and be taught by trial how to fight, just so You can look at me with a big grin on Your face and say, “We did it!”  I marvel at Your love and desire to let me partner with You. But partnering in battle means partnering in the suffering as well as the victory. Thank You for counting me worthy to suffer for Your name.

27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. 29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, 30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
Philippians 1:27-30

I know it’s only going to get worse.  The more I learn to fight, the harder the barrage against me becomes.  But with my eyes trained on You, trained with the experience of battle, I can trust You deeper.  I will have the victory. Let’s give them that “clear sign of their destruction” one more time.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
   I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
   your rod and your staff,
   they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
   in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
   my cup overflows.
Psalm 23:4-5

So, let’s eat!  The war is won.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
   all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
   Forever.
Psalm 23:6

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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

 

Choose Today Who You Will Serve

I gave you a land on which you had not labored and cities that you had not built, and you dwell in them. You eat the fruit of vineyards and olive orchards that you did not plant.’
14 “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Joshua 24:13-15

I have earned nothing that You have given me, Father.  Nothing but Your grace has provided for me. And when I’ve tried to provide for myself it has only led to rebellion, suffering, and pain.  Even knowing that, Lord, I still look to things besides You to find my joy and my deliverance. I have put other gods before You, Jesus. And I’ll probably do it again.  I’m pretty miserable at trusting You and following You, and in that way I’m no different than the Israelites.

But just like the Israelites, You have given me a leader.  You’ve given me someone to follow, someone to lead me in the right way.  Someone even better than Joshua. He is called Faithful and True. (Rev. 19:11) He is called Jesus, Yeshua, and he is my salvation.  When I was a very little girl I said yes to following Him. And since that time I have strayed and strayed away. But every time, He has been faithful and true to me.  He has never left me nor forsaken me.

What I have learned is that following You is a choice, Jesus.  Each moment I choose who I will serve. My heart longs to please You and follow You, but my sinful nature pulls me away time and time again.  Like Paul said, I do what I do not want to do, and do not do what I should do.

It can be easy for me to get hard on myself.  I know that You have given me Your Spirit and I look at my actions and wonder how I could ever disobey You with Your Spirit so alive and active within me!  Yet I do. I look at the Israelites and say to myself, “Well, they didn’t have the Holy Spirit. No wonder they strayed away from God all the time!” But I don’t have that excuse.  Thank you for Paul’s example and of others in scripture who had Your Spirit in them and still failed You miserably at times.

Lord, the Israelites obeyed You and trusted You when You were right there with them, guiding them and protecting them, just like the Disciples did when Jesus was with them and helping them, and teaching them what to do.  And when You weren’t tangibly present they struggled to obey and over time they abandoned You altogether, serving themselves and the idols of their own making.

“I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away.2 They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. 3 And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. 4 But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.
“I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. 5 But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me;10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
John 16:1-15

Jesus said that it was better for Him to go so that we could have the Helper.  Thank You, Jesus, that You have made a way to be forgiven by the cross, You have made a way for life by Your resurrection, and You have made a way to obey by the gifting of Your Spirit.  So, today I choose to serve You, Lord. I choose to let Your Spirit guide me. I choose to submit to Your greater authority and be filled with your forgiveness, your life, and your obedience.

Do not be conformed to this world,[a] but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:2

I will no longer be conformed to this world.  I will let my mind be renewed by You and stop trying to renew it myself.  I will stop living in condemnation of my failures and strive to forgive myself and follow You. Thank You God.  Thank You for Your help, Your guidance, Your love, Your forgiveness, and Your life.

I am Yours, Jesus.  Today I choose to follow You.

 

Yeshua is Salvation

I recently learned that the first use of the word “salvation”, that is “Yeshua” aka Jesus, happens in the Torah when Yahweh rescues His people from the Egyptian army at the crossing of the Red Sea. While on a general level I could see the similarities to Jesus, this morning I had an even deeper understanding of the parallels of this story with the story of Salvation through Yeshua for all who would believe.

The Israelites had been enslaved by Egypt.  They were oppressed and despised. Humanity is enslaved by sin.  The world is ruled by, oppressed by, and destroyed by sin. It takes over our decision making, it rules our thoughts, it inspires anger and vengeance, and dependance on self instead of God.  

God brought a deliverer to Israel with Moses.  And God brought a deliverer to humanity with Jesus.  Through Moses, God parted the Red Sea to make a way for the Israelites to journey toward the Promised Land and have victory over the Egyptian slavers. God used Jesus to bring salvation to the world, by taking on the sin of the world on His own body and having victory over it, to clear the way for people to enter the journey toward the Promised Land of the New Jerusalem.  

Moses interceded for the people with God.  He communed with God on the mountain, brought the law of the Ten Commandments to the people, and told the people what God wanted from them.  Jesus intercedes for all people with God. He came to earth as a man to intercede for people to God. He fulfilled the Law once and for all by conquering sin and death on the cross for all people who would accept it.  He came back to life to lead all people who would believe Him to the Promised land of eternity with God.

The Israelites wandered through the desert learning the lessons of God, and growing in their faith and trust in God’s protection, provision, and salvation.  Humanity wanders a world still ruled by sin, learning the protection, provision and salvation of Jesus. Just as God led the Israelites along the way through the desert, so too, God leads the way for all who trust in Him, through the Holy Spirit, to navigate through the desert of a sinful planet until we can finally arrive at the Promised Land of eternity with Christ.

Finally, the Israelites are led into the Promised land by the conquering of idol worshipers, and false gods and practices, while allowing any who chose to side with God to have the salvation He offered to His chosen people as equal inheritors.  God partnered with the Israelite army, but in the end it was always God who provided the victory, not any special work or tactics of Joshua and his military prowess. We are allowed to partner with Jesus in the conquering of sin and death, by being made co-heirs with Christ, and this is given not by our own power, but simply as a gift of God by his grace.  As followers of Christ, we can have victory over the sin and death in our lives but trusting in God to win the battle for us.

And finally, the Israelites receive their promised inheritance, just as we too shall recieve our promised inheritance with Christ.  Pretty cool.

Note: I didn’t include scriptural documentation because I have assumed a Biblically savvy audience.  For Biblical context references, feel free to contact me privately, and I will provide them.

 

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.