For the Sake of His Name.

1 As soon as Adoni-zedek, king of Jerusalem, heard how Joshua had captured Ai and had devoted it to destruction, doing to Ai and its king as he had done to Jericho and its king, and how the inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel and were among them, he feared greatly, because Gibeon was a great city, like one of the royal cities, and because it was greater than Ai, and all its men were warriors. So Adoni-zedek king of Jerusalem sent to Hoham king of Hebron, to Piram king of Jarmuth, to Japhia king of Lachish, and to Debir king of Eglon, saying, “Come up to me and help me, and let us strike Gibeon. For it has made peace with Joshua and with the people of Israel.” Then the five kings of the Amorites, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, and the king of Eglon, gathered their forces and went up with all their armies and encamped against Gibeon and made war against it.

And the men of Gibeon sent to Joshua at the camp in Gilgal, saying, “Do not relax your hand from your servants. Come up to us quickly and save us and help us, for all the kings of the Amorites who dwell in the hill country are gathered against us.” So Joshua went up from Gilgal, he and all the people of war with him, and all the mighty men of valor. And the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not fear them, for I have given them into your hands. Not a man of them shall stand before you.” So Joshua came upon them suddenly, having marched up all night from Gilgal. 10 And the Lord threw them into a panic before Israel, who struck them with a great blow at Gibeon and chased them by the way of the ascent of Beth-horon and struck them as far as Azekah and Makkedah. 11 And as they fled before Israel, while they were going down the ascent of Beth-horon, the Lord threw down large stones from heaven on them as far as Azekah, and they died. There were more who died because of the hailstones than the sons of Israel killed with the sword.

12 At that time Joshua spoke to the Lord in the day when the Lord gave the Amorites over to the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel,

“Sun, stand still at Gibeon,
    and moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.”
13 And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped,
    until the nation took vengeance on their enemies.

Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in the midst of heaven and did not hurry to set for about a whole day. 14 There has been no day like it before or since, when the Lord heeded the voice of a man, for the Lord fought for Israel.

15 So Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, to the camp at Gilgal. Joshua 10:1-15 ESV

The reputation of the Israelites was rapidly spreading throughout the land of Canaan. News of their destruction of the cities of Jericho and Ai had gotten out, as well as the treaty they had made with the people of Gibeon. And Joshua was about to find out that his decision to swear allegiance to the Gibeonites brought with it an added responsibility to protect them in the event they were attacked by hostile forces. It seems that the Jebusites assumed that the Gibeonites, a powerful nation, who had allied themselves with the Israelites, were now a potential threat to their national security. So, Adoni-zedek, the king of Jerusalem sent a message to the kings of Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon, saying, “Come up to me and help me, and let us strike Gibeon. For it has made peace with Joshua and with the people of Israel” (Joshua 10:4 ESV). This five-nation alliance joined forces and surrounded Gibeon, intent on destroying them. But the people of Gibeon sent word to Joshua, demanding that he honor his treaty with them and come to their aid. Due to his ill-advised decision to accept the Gibeonites deceptive offer of an alliance, Joshua had unwittingly committed the nation of Israel to their protection. He was now obligated, by an oath to God, to come to their aid. He had sworn by the name of God and could not go back on his commitment without violating his word to God.

Back in chapter nine, we were left with the impression that Joshua’s treaty with the Gibeonites was simply a commitment to let them live.

18 But the people of Israel did not attack them, because the leaders of the congregation had sworn to them by the Lord, the God of Israel. Then all the congregation murmured against the leaders. 19 But all the leaders said to all the congregation, “We have sworn to them by the Lord, the God of Israel, and now we may not touch them. 20 This we will do to them: let them live, lest wrath be upon us, because of the oath that we swore to them.” – Joshua 9:18-20 ESV

But now, we discover that the Israelites had actually become the protectors of the people of Gibeon. Not only were they obligated to let them live, they were committed to keeping them alive. Their oath was going to be more costly than they had imagined.

And yet, God stood with Joshua and the people of Israel, promising to go before them and provide them with a victory over the five-nation alliance.

“Do not fear them, for I have given them into your hands. Not a man of them shall stand before you.” – Joshua 10:8 ESV

Joshua had sworn to the Gibeonites by the name of God and God was not about to let His name be denigrated or His honor be marred. His reputation was at stake. So, He acted and “threw them into a panic before Israel” (vs 10). Joshua and his troops chased their panic-stricken enemies as they fled for their lives. But this is when the story gets really interesting. Because Joshua had sworn an oath by God’s name, God was going to make sure that the Israelites, Gibeonites and the Amorites knew that this was His battle, not theirs. He got directly involved in the action, providing a miraculous display of His power to destroy the enemies of Israel.

…the Lord threw down large stones from heaven on them as far as Azekah, and they died. There were more who died because of the hailstones than the sons of Israel killed with the sword. – Joshua 10:11 ESV

What makes this event even more significant is that Baal, the false god of the Canaanites, was worshiped as the god who controlled the weather. He was in charge of the rain, hail and floods. And yet, Yahweh, the God of Israel rained down hail on the worshipers of Baal, destroying them while sparing the Israelites.  And as if that was not enough, God honored a request from Joshua to make the sun stand still, so that the Israelites could have more daylight to capture and destroy the remaining forces of the Amorites. The Canaanites, a term used to refer to all the people living in the land of Canaan, were also worshipers of the sun and moon, considering them to be deities. So, when God affected the sun, He was revealing His superior power over the false gods of the Canaanites.

But that begs the question: What exactly happened here? Did the earth really “stand still” as the text suggests? There has been much speculation and even more debate regarding this issue over the centuries. There are those who argue that God caused the earth to rotate on its axis or slowed the earth’s rotation in order to lengthen the day. This would have been a world-wide phenomena. There are others who believe it was a localized event, whereby God somehow altered atmospheric conditions in that region, creating a refraction of the sun’s light as it set in the sky. And then there are those who speculate that God simply provided a separate source of light that gave the appearance of sunlight. The bottom line is that we don’t know how God accomplished this miracle, we just know that he did. The text matter-of-factly states, “The sun stopped in the midst of heaven and did not hurry to set for about a whole day” (Joshua 10:13 ESV) and then, as if to clarify that this was a God-ordained miracle, reads, “There has been no day like it before or since, when the Lord heeded the voice of a man, for the Lord fought for Israel” (Joshua 10:14 ESV).

While we can easily find ourselves debating and doubting the how surrounding the events in this passage, we must not lose sight of the who behind it all. While it is easy to find this story difficult to believe, it is intended to stress the supernatural power of God. The God of the Israelites is not like Baal or Molech. He is a living, all-powerful God who fights on behalf of His people. He is not some kind of distant deity who sits up in heaven, watching helplessly as His people struggle to live their lives on this planet. He is intimately involved in their lives, interjecting Himself into their affairs in miraculous ways that defy explanation. The Amorites had good reason to fear the Israelites, but it had nothing to do with Joshua and his military forces. It was because the Israelites were the chosen people of God Almighty.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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When God Gets Left Out.

1 As soon as all the kings who were beyond the Jordan in the hill country and in the lowland all along the coast of the Great Sea toward Lebanon, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, heard of this, they gathered together as one to fight against Joshua and Israel.

But when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ai, they on their part acted with cunning and went and made ready provisions and took worn-out sacks for their donkeys, and wineskins, worn-out and torn and mended, with worn-out, patched sandals on their feet, and worn-out clothes. And all their provisions were dry and crumbly. And they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and to the men of Israel, “We have come from a distant country, so now make a covenant with us.” But the men of Israel said to the Hivites, “Perhaps you live among us; then how can we make a covenant with you?” They said to Joshua, “We are your servants.” And Joshua said to them, “Who are you? And where do you come from?” They said to him, “From a very distant country your servants have come, because of the name of the Lord your God. For we have heard a report of him, and all that he did in Egypt, 10 and all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon the king of Heshbon, and to Og king of Bashan, who lived in Ashtaroth. 11 So our elders and all the inhabitants of our country said to us, ‘Take provisions in your hand for the journey and go to meet them and say to them, “We are your servants. Come now, make a covenant with us.”’ 12 Here is our bread. It was still warm when we took it from our houses as our food for the journey on the day we set out to come to you, but now, behold, it is dry and crumbly. 13 These wineskins were new when we filled them, and behold, they have burst. And these garments and sandals of ours are worn out from the very long journey.” 14 So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the Lord. 15 And Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them, to let them live, and the leaders of the congregation swore to them. Joshua 9:1-15 ESV

Joshua and the people of Israel had successfully conquered two Canaanite cities. They had defeated and destroyed Jericho and Ai, and their reputation had already begun to spread. News of these two victories made its way to the surrounding nations, creating a sense of fear in the hearts of their people. And the Israelites had celebrated these two victories by traveling to Mount Ebal, where they erected an altar to God and recommitted themselves to the covenant God had given to Moses on that very same spot. As part of the ceremony at Mount Ebal, Joshua inscribed the law of Moses on the stones of the altar and had read the words it contained to the people of Israel. There are some who believe that Joshua had written and read the Book of Deuteronomy in its entirety. Others believe Joshua limited his writing and recitation to chapters 27 and 28. But his reading of the law would have likely included the blessings and the curses found in Deuteronomy. The law was conditional. It required obedience and failure to obey came with serious consequences. But obedience would be accompanied by blessing.

“And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God.” – Deuteronomy 28:1-2 ESV

God had promised to go with them and to cause their enemies to flee before them.

“The Lord will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before you. They shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways. – Deuteronomy 28:7 ESV

But God had made it clear that, if they disobeyed His law, things would not go well for them.

“The Lord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies. You shall go out one way against them and flee seven ways before them. And you shall be a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth.” – Deuteronomy 28:25 ESV

And one of the key requirements He placed on them was a ban from making treaties or alliances with the people who lived in the land of Canaan.

30 Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased and possess the land. 31 And I will set your border from the Red Sea to the Sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the Euphrates, for I will give the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you shall drive them out before you. 32 You shall make no covenant with them and their gods. 33 They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.” – Exodus 23:30-33 ESV

God not only required their full obedience to His law, but that they remain set apart and segregated from the nations who dwelt in the land of Canaan. He knew that any interactions they had with the various people groups that occupied the land would end up in the compromising of their convictions. They would be turned away from serving God alone. God knew that the greatest threat to His people was not the military might of the inhabitants of Canaan, but the presence of their false gods. The Israelites didn’t need to worry about succumbing to the superior strength of their foes, but of falling for their false gods. Because if that happened, they would find God to be their enemy. And He had made it very clear what would happen if they disobeyed His law or failed to remain faithful to Him as their God.

47 Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things, 48 therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness, and lacking everything. And he will put a yoke of iron on your neck until he has destroyed you. – Deuteronomy 28:47-48 ESV

And yet, in spite of all these warnings, Joshua and the people of Israel quickly found themselves in a situation where their commitment to God’s law was put to the test. Because of their growing reputation as a powerful force to be reckoned with, the people of Gibeon decided to do something to protect themselves against this growing threat. They devised a plan to deceive Israel into making an alliance with them. They were smart enough to recognize that Israel was on a search-and-destroy mission, having completely annihilated both Jericho and Ai. They weren’t simply defeating their enemies, they were eliminating them. And the people of Gibeon knew that they would be next unless they did something. That Israel would make an alliance with one of the nearby nations who occupied the land was highly unlikely, so the Gibeonites devised an elaborate ruse that allowed them to appear as if they had traveled from a distant land in search of an alliance with the Israelites.

They knew that if they could trick the Israelites into making an alliance or peace treaty with them, that it would bind them permanently – even after the truth of their deception become known. The treaty, once signed, would become an unbreakable agreement between the two nations, effectively preventing Israel from obeying God’s command to destroy all the nations of the land of Canaan. And the most revealing and regretable lines in this passage are verses 14 and 15.

14 So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the Lord. 15 And Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them, to let them live, and the leaders of the congregation swore to them. – Joshua 9:14-15 ESV

The Israelites took the bait. They bought the lie. All because they didn’t take the matter to God. They made a cardinal mistake. They listened to the lies of the enemy and didn’t seek the wisdom of God. Joshua made peace with the Gibeonites, signing a binding covenant that would eventually place the people of Israel in the awkward position of having to put their allegiance to the people of Gibeon ahead of their allegiance to God.

Joshua got taken. He got bamboozled by the enemy and fooled into making an alliance that had been expressly forbidden by God. His failure to seek God’s counsel resulted in him breaking God’s law. He listened to the lies of the enemy and heard what he wanted to hear. The alliance seemed like a good idea at the time, but would one day come back to haunt him. And it all could have been prevented had Joshua sought the counsel of God. It’s interesting to note that the people of Gibeon met Joshua at the Israelite camp at Gilgal. So, the people of God had left Mount Ebal and returned to their original location. They had left the altar and the law behind, both literally and figuratively. They had met with God at Mount Ebal, but now they were back at Gilgal and Joshua’s actions indicate that he neglected to make seeking God a permanent and pervasive part of his daily experience. Worshiping God at the altar is worthless if you’re going to abandon His influence over your life when you leave the altar.

 

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Seeking the Face of God.

Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year. And David sought the face of the Lord. And the Lord said, “There is bloodguilt on Saul and on his house, because he put the Gibeonites to death.” So the king called the Gibeonites and spoke to them. Now the Gibeonites were not of the people of Israel but of the remnant of the Amorites. Although the people of Israel had sworn to spare them, Saul had sought to strike them down in his zeal for the people of Israel and Judah. And David said to the Gibeonites, “What shall I do for you? And how shall I make atonement, that you may bless the heritage of the Lord?” The Gibeonites said to him, “It is not a matter of silver or gold between us and Saul or his house; neither is it for us to put any man to death in Israel.” And he said, “What do you say that I shall do for you?” They said to the king, “The man who consumed us and planned to destroy us, so that we should have no place in all the territory of Israel, let seven of his sons be given to us, so that we may hang them before the Lord at Gibeah of Saul, the chosen of the Lord.” And the king said, “I will give them.”

But the king spared Mephibosheth, the son of Saul’s son Jonathan, because of the oath of the Lord that was between them, between David and Jonathan the son of Saul. The king took the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, whom she bore to Saul, Armoni and Mephibosheth; and the five sons of Merab the daughter of Saul, whom she bore to Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite; and he gave them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them on the mountain before the Lord, and the seven of them perished together. They were put to death in the first days of harvest, at the beginning of barley harvest.

Then Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth and spread it for herself on the rock, from the beginning of harvest until rain fell upon them from the heavens. And she did not allow the birds of the air to come upon them by day, or the beasts of the field by night. When David was told what Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, the concubine of Saul, had done, David went and took the bones of Saul and the bones of his son Jonathan from the men of Jabesh-gilead, who had stolen them from the public square of Beth-shan, where the Philistines had hanged them, on the day the Philistines killed Saul on Gilboa. And he brought up from there the bones of Saul and the bones of his son Jonathan; and they gathered the bones of those who were hanged. And they buried the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan in the land of Benjamin in Zela, in the tomb of Kish his father. And they did all that the king commanded. And after that God responded to the plea for the land. – 2 Samuel 21:1-14 ESV

These closing chapters of the book of Second Samuel function as a kind of appendix, presenting six unrelated stories and in no chronological order, but intended to provide us with an historical overview of the life of David. The first involves a famine, which probably took place early in David’s reign. It had lasted three years and brought much devastation to the people of Israel. But it was not until David sought the face of God that he became aware of the cause of the famine. It is significant to note that, early in David’s reign, he seemed to have been more prone to seek the face of God when faced with a difficulty. But he had still waited three years to ask God what was going on. And God told him, “The famine has come because Saul and his family are guilty of murdering the Gibeonites” (2 Samuel 21:1 NLT). Now, before we move on in the story, it is important that we look back at how all of this happened. All the way back in Joshua 9, we are told of an incident concerning the people of Israel as they were attempting to take possession of the land of Canaan, promised to them by God. Joshua was approached by some Gibeonites, disguised as weary travelers and representing themselves as representatives of a distant nation. They were seeking to make a treaty with the Israelites. The Gibeonites, who were actually local occupants of the land, had heard what Israel had done to the cities of Jericho and Ai, and knew they were next. So, they had come up with the plan to deceive the Israelites into making a treaty with them. And it worked. But what’s important to note is that it worked because Joshua  “did not ask counsel from the Lord” (Joshua 9:14 NLT). Instead, he signed a treaty with the Gibeonites, vowing not to attack them. Even when the Israelites discovered they had been deceived, they could not do anything about it, because they had “had sworn to them by the Lord, the God of Israel” (Joshua 9:18 NLT). Why is this even important? Because it reveals a powerful lesson regarding the danger of the people of God failing to seek the wisdom and direction of God. We have seen over and over again, what happened to David when he failed to seek God. It never ended well. And this incident with the Gibeonites is yet another reminder that failure to seek God may not have immediate consequences, but it will inevitably come back to haunt you.

Years later, when Saul had become king of Israel, he broke the very same covenant with the Gibeonites by killing some of them. the details of this incident are not recorded in the book of First Samuel, but David does not attempt to dispute that it happened. First of all, because it was God who had said that it had happened. Secondly, because the Gibeonites had confirmed it. There is little doubt that Saul had not sought the will of God when he had committed this violation of the covenant. And his sin was now having its inevitable consequences. As a result, David was forced to put seven of Saul’s sons to death as a form of retribution, and in order to satisfy the demands of the Gibeonites. The famine would not end until this situation was made right and justice was served. But one of the lessons we must take away from this story is the residual nature of our sins. Joshua had failed to seek God and had made a covenant that went directly against the will of God. He had commanded the complete destruction and elimination of the occupants of the land. No treaties were to be made. And Joshua’s failure to listen to God would leave the Gibeonites in the land. Then Saul would end up putting some of them to death, breaking the covenant Joshua had made with them. And then the people of Israel would suffer through a three-year famine, all because Saul had violated a treaty with the Gibeonites, sworn before God Himself. One sin had led to another and then David had been left with the unpleasant task of having to remedy the whole situation by having seven men put to death.

Sin always has consequences. What can easily be overlooked in this story are the thousands of innocent people who suffered from the famine. Many had probably lost loved ones due to starvation.  Innocent children suffered. Animals died. The entire community was forced to go through three years of God-ordained punishment because of the sins of two men. And we see the sorrow of Rizpah, one of the mothers of the slain men, as she stays beside the bodies, mourning their deaths and protecting them from scavengers. Her grief was the direct result of someone else’s sin.

And the story comes to a conclusion with David gathering the bodies of the seven slain sons, along with the bones of Saul and Jonathan, and burying them all in the land of the Benjamites. Saul and Jonathan had also died as a result of sin against God. Saul deserved what happened to him, but Jonathan was yet another innocent casualty of sin’s devastating impact. Time and time again, in the Scriptures, we see latent and lingering influence of sin. It has a long shelf life. Our sins can be forgiven, but their consequences can last for generations. That is why it is so important that we seek the Lord. It is when we fail to seek Him, and leave ourselves vulnerable to our own sin natures and the influence of the enemy, that we risk doing those things that come back to haunt us. We tend to wrongly assume that our sins are personal and harm no one but ourselves. But the Scriptures are full of sobering stories like this one that prove that conclusion painfully wrong – dead wrong.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson