This sermon is translated from German into English. You can find the original video here
Most of you probably know the fairy tale of the Brothers Grimm Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf. In the fairy tale, the wolf devours the grandmother, lies down on the bed, pulls the cap over her face and then the little girl Little Red Riding Hood comes to visit, and she sees that something is funny about the grandmother and asks:
“Oh, grandmother, what big ears you have!” – “That I can hear you better!” “Oh, grandmother, what big eyes you have!” – “That I can see you better!” – “Oh, grandmother, what big hands you have!” – “That I can grab you better!” – “But, grandmother, what a terribly big mouth you have!” – “That I can eat you better!” Scarcely had the wolf said that than he jumped out of bed and devoured poor Little Red Riding Hood. But the story has a happy ending. The hunter comes, cuts open the belly of the sleeping wolf, frees Little Red Riding Hood and the grandmother, they put stones in the belly instead and when the wolf wakes up and is thirsty and drags himself to the well, the stones pull him down. There are slightly different versions of the ending, but the main thing: Little Red Riding Hood and Grandmother survive.
This fairy tale has a lot to do with the story we are dealing with today. Only that our story really happened, and we have already seen in our whole series that it has a lot to do with our own lives, and we can learn from it: Joshua Chapter 9:
1 And it came to pass, when all the kings which were on this side Jordan, in the hills, and in the valleys, and in all the coasts of the great sea over against Lebanon, the Hittite, and the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite, heard thereof ; 2 That they gathered themselves together, to fight with Joshua and with Israel, with one accord. 3 And when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done unto Jericho and to Ai, 4 They did work wilily, and went and made as if they had been ambassadors, and took old sacks upon their asses, and wine bottles, old, and rent, and bound up; 5 And old shoes and clouted upon their feet, and old garments upon them; and all the bread of their provision was dry and mouldy. 6 And they went to Joshua unto the camp at Gilgal, and said unto him, and to the men of Israel, We be come from a far country: now therefore make ye a league with us. 7 And the men of Israel said unto the Hivites, Peradventure ye dwell among us; and how shall we make a league with you? 8 And they said unto Joshua, We are thy servants. And Joshua said unto them, Who are ye? and from whence come ye? 9 And they said unto him, From a very far country thy servants are come because of the name of the LORD thy God: for we have heard the fame of him, and all that he did in Egypt, 10 And all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites, that were beyond Jordan, to Sihon king of Heshbon, and to Og king of Bashan, which was at Ashtaroth. 11 Wherefore our elders and all the inhabitants of our country spake to us, saying, Take victuals with you for the journey, and go to meet them, and say unto them, We are your servants: therefore now make ye a league with us. 12 This our bread we took hot for our provision out of our houses on the day we came forth to go unto you; but now, behold, it is dry, and it is mouldy: 13 And these bottles of wine, which we filled, were new; and, behold, they be rent: and these our garments and our shoes are become old by reason of the very long journey. 14 And the men took of their victuals, and asked not counsel at the mouth of the LORD. 15 And Joshua made peace with them, and made a league with them, to let them live: and the princes of the congregation sware unto them. 16 And it came to pass at the end of three days after they had made a league with them, that they heard that they were their neighbours, and that they dwelt among them. 17 And the children of Israel journeyed, and came unto their cities on the third day. Now their cities were Gibeon, and Chephirah, and Beeroth, and Kirjathjearim. 18 And the children of Israel smote them not, because the princes of the congregation had sworn unto them by the LORD God of Israel. And all the congregation murmured against the princes. 19 But all the princes said unto all the congregation, We have sworn unto them by the LORD God of Israel: now therefore we may not touch them. 20 This we will do to them; we will even let them live, lest wrath be upon us, because of the oath which we sware unto them. 21 And the princes said unto them, Let them live; but let them be hewers of wood and drawers of water unto all the congregation; as the princes had promised them. 22 And Joshua called for them, and he spake unto them, saying, Wherefore have ye beguiled us, saying, We are very far from you; when ye dwell among us? 23 Now therefore ye are cursed, and there shall none of you be freed from being bondmen, and hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God. 24 And they answered Joshua, and said, Because it was certainly told thy servants, how that the LORD thy God commanded his servant Moses to give you all the land, and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land from before you, therefore we were sore afraid of our lives because of you, and have done this thing. 25 And now, behold, we are in thine hand: as it seemeth good and right unto thee to do unto us, do. 26 And so did he unto them, and delivered them out of the hand of the children of Israel, that they slew them not. 27 And Joshua made them that day hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation, and for the altar of the LORD, even unto this day, in the place which he should choose.
In our Strong and Courageous series, we accompany the people of Israel to conquer the land that God had promised them. A land flowing with milk and honey symbolizing blessings and wealth. God had freed the people from slavery in Egypt, led them through the desert, cleared their way through the Jordan, and conquered the cities of Jericho and Ai. And we have seen that this is also God’s goal with us:
To free us from the bondage of our guilt and shame, to lead us into a life of freedom, peace and joy. It is God’s desire that our lives flourish. He wants to change our character, take us into his family, bestow upon us a deep relationship with him and one another, bless us with every spiritual blessing, and make us heirs of heaven.
Next Sunday we will discover more of this in the service. Jesus cleared the way for this when he died on the cross for our sins and made reconciliation and forgiveness with God possible. We have seen that in order to belong to God’s family and to grow into what God intended for our lives, accepting this gift and trusting our lives to God is a prerequisite. This means that he is allowed to lead us, and we trust him.
Baptism is a sign of this step and communion is a reminder of what Jesus did and that we belong to the family of God. We have a new identity as children of God. But: the land that God had promised to the people of Israel was not free. It had to be fought for, even though God promised victory in advance. And so we are not free from habits, behaviors, thought patterns, other voices that want to guide us and prevent us from experiencing this blessing. We have seen from Jericho that we are in a spiritual battle and what means we can use:
to live in the truth, that is, to be truthful, speech and action should correspond, to work for justice,
to trust in God,
to hold on to the certainty of our salvation.
Having a willingness to share the good news with others,
and to surround ourselves with God’s Word and to believe in it more,
the community among themselves, the obedience and the love to overcome evil with good.
But there are also things that prevent this life of victory. Last week we saw what disobedience and small compromises can lead to, ultimately, a lack of trust in God. And today it’s about what happens when we listen to the wrong voices.
1. Beware of deception
The news of the destruction of the two cities of Jericho and Ai gets around. The country’s kings get scared and band together. But the Gibeonites realized that they had no chance that way. And so they resorted to a ruse. They dressed up like the wolf in the fairy tale. They acted like they were from far away. They told what they had heard. But not from Jericho and Ai, because that would not have penetrated so far into these distant lands. They even brought God into play. And they successfully deceived the people of Israel. The Israelites made a covenant with them. Three days later they realized that they had been deceived. We’ve talked before about being in a spiritual battle. In the Bible we read:
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour
The Bible says we have an adversary. He is interested in our not experiencing the spiritual blessings that Jesus has in store for us and the full life that Jesus wants us to have.
Whenever we encounter this dimension, we can fall off the horse from two sides. There are those who totally reject that, and I think that’s very common today, even among Christians, but that’s part of the deception. And then there are the others, who see the devil behind every bush and don’t dare to do anything anymore because of fear.
That too is part of the deception. The devil walks around like a roaring lion, but he’s not one. Jesus has already defeated the devil and we are on the victor’s side and all the devil does is fight rearguard until he is defeated once and for all, which is what we read about in Revelation. But we should be sober and watchful. Then: The devil disguises himself as an angel of light. It says in 2 Corinthians 11:14 He disguises himself like the wolf in the fairy tale. We read in Ephesians that his attacks are insidious and insidious. We would also see through it quickly from the front. But we read of his methods in the Bible:
And you can think about where you may have already experienced this or where you are currently experiencing it: He lulls people into a false sense of security, so that they don’t deal with death and eternity. He mixes truth and lies so that they don’t find the right way. He tears out thoughts.
Where God speaks, for example through his word, the Bible or someone we are talking to. Thoughts that motivate you to, for example, find out more about your faith, improve your relationship with your spouse, spend more time with God, do something God has shown you, etc. You go home, a big argument breaks out and all good intentions are uprooted, destroyed, shattered. Or someone comes and criticizes you or tells you that it’s not going to work out anyway. And all courage is gone, torn away.
The devil pulls it out, and he often uses other people to do it. And maybe that’s exactly what will happen to you this morning after this sermon. Then hold fast to what God tells you. The devil messes up our minds. He begins to confuse your feelings about God through your thoughts. No more trust, doubt in God. Should God really have said, as with Adam and Eve Does God Really Love Me? Does God really mean well with me? Does God care for me? Fear that traps me and doesn’t let me boldly do what God wants He sets traps to lure people into sin so that their relationship with God will be disturbed.
We heard about that last Sunday But no sooner have you given in to the sin than he accuses you and your bad conscience comes up and a voice tells you how bad you are and that God definitely doesn’t love you.
This, too, is a strategy to keep you away from God. He tries to silence people and destroy their reputation. He makes people persecuted for their beliefs. He tries to create strife to destroy unity and focus energy elsewhere. He uses the pleasures of life Distraction – Pleasure, wealth that keep us from God. No time to pray, read the Bible, go to church, work. Belief is so overwhelming. sin so tempting. Busy, there is always something to do. Even devout service can keep us from truly coming to God. Or the opposite: convenience. It is far too exhausting to implement what God wants from us. To be challenged, to dare something new. The devil imitates God with subtle nuances to pull people away from the true God. Some heresies and sects arose in this way.
In this context, Jesus speaks of people who act like sheep, i.e. like real believers, but are actually wolves. And that’s exactly what happens in our story. The Gibeonites act quite innocently, put a little honey on their lips, they even bring God into play, they say they want to get to know him and serve him, but in truth they have other motives.
Joshua and the leaders of the people are deceived. You go into it. They make a covenant, a contract. 3 days later everything flies up. Now it says
2. Bear the consequences
Israel is true to its word. Joshua owns up to his mistake. And they bear the consequences. Perhaps also a warning to us not to give someone your word prematurely, to enter into contracts, to make a covenant, today we only know that from marriage, with someone. How seldom do people stand by it these days? Your yes be a yes, says Jesus.
When 400 years later King Saul breaks the covenant made with the Gibeonites, God punishes the whole people, one can read in 2 Samuel 21.
God has nothing against foreigners. On the contrary. He loves all people. We should love them, help them, welcome them, integrate them. This is more than just passive watching, even in the current situation. Jesus says in Matthew 25:35
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in.
In the Book of Moses we read how God protects strangers and gives his own laws for dealing with them. And when people ask when that happened, he says what you did to one of the lowest, you did it to me. So we have a chance right now to help Jesus.
For the people of Israel, he issues their own rules for dealing with strangers among them. But at the same time he warns against mixing. We see that later, when the Israelites start marrying strange women from the peoples around them. They bring their idols with them. The people of Israel also begin to run after these idols. Eventually even an Israelite king, Manasseh, will sacrifice his own child to Baal, just as the people of Canaan did. And they turn away from God.
God wants to protect you from that. But now it is too late for the Gibeonites. But we talked last week about God being a second chance God.
Last week we saw the people of Israel repent, repent, confess and cleanse their guilt, and now we see Joshua and the leaders of the people resubmit themselves to God’s laws and face the consequences.
And I’m sure, even if it’s not explicitly stated here, I’ll do penance for it as well. And God makes something good out of it. For the Gibeonites and for Israel. Even if it wasn’t his original plan.
The Gibeonites had said before that they would serve God, and Joshua obliges them to do just that. They become woodcutters and water bearers, but not just anywhere, but at the altar of the Lord, in the tabernacle, later at the temple. And we read how this people, by being in the immediate vicinity of God, themselves begin to serve God not only outwardly but also with their hearts, to recognize him as the true God and to believe in him.
In the Book of Ezra and Nehemiah, after the people of Israel had been taken into captivity and now returned to rebuild, the Gibeonites continue to stand by them. And so they also become a blessing to Israel throughout history, not just through their direct ministry.
God promises us:
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
Maybe you’re sitting here this morning or listening to the live stream and there are decisions in your life that you regret. Decisions that you can no longer undo. Choices that make you suffer. That affects every one of us. We all know that. And the devil wants to deceive you and tell you: That’s it. You will not recover from this. This will haunt you all your life.
But God has promised you that everything will work out for your good, even if you have to face the consequences and that means suffering and pain and detours. He invites you:
Don’t bury your head in the sand.
Don’t believe the enemy’s lies.
Own your mistakes, confess them, turn to God.
Bear the consequences, yes, but be curious what God will make of it.
3. Get God involved
What was the real problem of this situation? We read in Joshua 9:14:
The leading men of Israel examined the dried bread. But they did not ask the Lord for advice. What are the Israelites doing? They listen to what the Gibeonites have to say, they examine it, they look at the bread, and then they decide. But they don’t involve God.
Prov. 3:5-6Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. God gave us a mind to judge things, yes. But it’s a spiritual battle. We have seen the enemy trying to deceive us. And you cannot judge spiritual things with your mind alone. If you don’t get God involved, then there’s a good chance you’ll make wrong decisions.
That’s the actual problem. God gives us the freedom to shape our own lives and make decisions. But he wants to guide us and keep us from falling. So we should include him. did you give me this opportunity, god? Should I go this route?
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.Psalm 119:105
But often not for the entire timetable. That was also the problem, what we saw last Sunday. Jericho is taken, now it’s Ai’s turn. And here we go. Instead of first asking God what plan he has, they devise a human plan and it goes awry.
How often does it happen to us that we think that God acted this way once, so we do the same thing again and then God will do the same thing again.
But God is not like that. It is alive and not an automaton that always works in the same way. We’re in a relationship and he wants to be involved. And then we can learn to listen to him. The decisive factor is what our motivation is when making the decision. Is it God’s word and love for him or what drives us? When we ask God for advice, we can also trust that he will guide us.
Psalm 32:8: “I will instruct you and show you the way that you should go!” He promised us that. Sometimes we experience this very clearly. Sometimes we experience this when we are on the move. We can trust that God will also direct our thoughts in our reflections if we include him. That He gives us peace or strife about a decision.
And finally, God can open and close doors. Before making important decisions, people in the Bible often took a period of fasting and prayer to listen to God. Maybe you are in such a situation right now to make an important decision. Then involve God. God, I want my life to honor you and for you to guide me. I have this decision to make and I need your help. I try to be as open as I can to listen to you. Please guide me and help me find the right answer.
Jesus promised: whoever seeks will find
make wise decisions B
eware of deception
bear the consequences
This will not protect us from mistakes, but God also makes something good out of it and he helps us to live more and more the life that he intended for us, a life that blossoms in his presence.