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Joshua Part 5: The Gibeonites

Scripture: Joshua 8:30-35, Joshua 9:1-27
Date: 03/17/2007 
The fifth in a six part series on the life of Joshua. This sermon focuses on the renewal of the covenant after destroying Ai. We also learn about the treaty with the Gibeonites which teaches us our desperate condition.
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

Good morning. Isn’t springtime wonderful? It’s just been so beautiful the last few days, and I’ve been praising God for this time of year. If you are visiting today, we are continuing with a series on the book of and the character of Joshua. Today will be the fifth installment. I anticipate there’ll be one more beyond this presentation. Just a little background for you, Joshua is a great book to study because it’s the book where the children of Israel transition from their status of pilgrimage to the Promised Land. They are led by the ultimate general Joshua. The name Joshua is identical to the name that Mary gave to Jesus. Of course it wasn’t given by Mary; it was given by God. God picked the name, gave it to Joseph and Mary. The name Jesus is the Greek form of Yashua. He is called in the Old Testament Joshua the son of Nun. Joshua means Jehovah Saves. Nun means Eternal or Perpetual. He is the savior, the son of the eternal, the perpetual. So there are a lot of parallels between the Old Testament character and our Savior, and we’re learning a lot as we go along the way. To bring you up to speed, in our last study we talked about this battle with the people of Ai. You remember Achen had stolen something and they were defeated by the people of Ai initially. They went back and they actually used an element of diversion. It appeared that they were losing. It looked like they were retreating, but then they turned around and they got the victory. Sometimes God’s church looks like it’s retreating, but ultimately God is going to give us the victory. Now that brings us up to where we are.

After they won, go in your Bibles please to the book of Joshua chapter eight. After they won that battle with the people of Ai, they totally destroyed the city, the defeated the people there, they took possession. They’re sort of in the middle of the Promised Land now. There was no single kingdom that could fight against them because when they overtook Jericho was the biggest beachhead and Ai the only way the other nations could fight against them would be through a confederacy and that’s still coming. They’re in the middle of the Promised Land, they decided look, first thing you do when you plant a nation is you must have a constitution. You’ve got to have your bylaws for corporation. They thought now we’ve got a breather. It’s time for us to ratify and renew our covenant with God. So they demonstrated their love for the word. Joshua loved the word. Of course Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible; if you include the book of Job that would be six books. That was the existent scripture they had then. If you look in the book of Deuteronomy; turn in your Bibles to Deuteronomy chapter 11 to start with.

In Deuteronomy chapter 11 they were given some interesting instructions regarding the blessing and the cursing. Keep in mind, Deuteronomy is the last message of Moses written just before he died. He told them in verse 29, Deuteronomy 11, when they come into the land that “God has brought you into… to possess, that you shall put the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Ebal.” The people in the middle of the Promised Land were these two mountains. By the way, when Jesus met with the woman at the well, the woman of Samaria, it was in the valley between these two mountains Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal. Now go with me to Deuteronomy chapter 27, Deuteronomy chapter 27, look at verse 1. “Then Moses, with the elders of Israel, commanded the people, saying: ‘Keep all the commandments which I command you today. And it shall be, on the day when you cross over the Jordan to the land which the Lord your God is giving you, that you shall set up for yourselves large stones, and whitewash them with lime.’” They were to plaster these stones. “You shall write on them all the words of this law, when you have crossed over, that you may enter the land which the Lord your God is giving you, ‘a land flowing with milk and honey,’ just as the Lord God of your fathers has promised you. Therefore it shall be, when you have crossed over the Jordan, that on Mount Ebal you shall set up these stones… and you shall whitewash them with lime. And there you shall build an altar to the Lord your God, an altar of stones; you shall not use any iron tool on them.”

In other words, don’t make a graven image. Don’t chisel any design. It’s to be a natural altar helping them to avoid idolatry. You’ll “build with whole stones the altar of the Lord your God, and offer burnt offerings on it… You shall offer peace offerings, and shall eat there, and rejoice before the Lord your God. And you shall write very plainly on the stones all the words of this law.” Now did you catch this? Moses said, “When you cross over you’re to go to these two twin mountains in the middle of the Promised Land and you are to set up an altar to the Lord, offer sacrifices and other large stones” probably with a flat surface “and you shall whitewash them or plaster them with lime and engrave” that was primitive concrete “and engrave the words of the law.” Now some have argued was that talking about just the Ten Commandments that he quotes in Deuteronomy chapter five or was it the entire book of Deuteronomy and there is some debate about that. The word of God was to be inscribed on this so that it basically became the constitution for this new nation based on the word. By the way, for the church that makes it into the Promised Land what is our constitution? Am I right? The Bible is the basis for what we believe. It is the ultimate litmus test by which we calibrate who we are, where we’re going, what we believe.

So now when you get back into the book of Joshua they do exactly as they had been told. They not only heard the commandments, they did them. Verse 30, chapter 8 of Joshua, verse 30, “Now Joshua built an altar to the Lord God of Israel in Mount Ebal,” just as he had been told, “as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the Book of the Law of Moses…” We just read that. “‘…an altar of whole stones over which no man has wielded any iron tool.’ And they offered on it burnt offerings to the Lord, and sacrificed peace offerings. And there, in the presence of the children of Israel, he wrote on the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he had written. Then all Israel, with their elders and officers and judges, stood on either side of the ark…” What’s in the ark? The Ten Commandments. They stand “on either side of the ark before the priests, the Levites, who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord, the stranger as well as he who was born among them.” Any alien that comes to America has to swear allegiance to our Constitution. Isn’t that right?

So they were saying even the aliens among us must vow allegiance to the word of God. That He had commanded before them, “that they should bless the people of Israel. And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessings and the cursings, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law. There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded which Joshua did not read before all the congregation of Israel, with the women, the little ones, and the strangers who were living among them.” You know that’s our challenge as pastors. When we met towards the end of this last year 2006 we talked about a preaching plan for the new year and our goal is to cover as much of the word of God and to make sure that we cover at least the pillars of our faith and the needs of the flock in our presentations. There is actually a method to what we’re doing and that’s our challenge is to rehearse and to teach all of the word of God to you that you might be skilled for what purpose? To live the life and for you to teach the word of God to others that you might be equipped for that purpose. So Joshua loved the word of God. He was committed to the word of God. He recited the word of God in the nation. Now go to chapter nine verse one. This is where we get to the title for our message “The Gibeonites.”

Now “it came to pass when all the kings who were on this side of the Jordan,” meaning the west side of Jordan, “in the hills and in the lowland and in all the coasts of the Great Sea” that’s the Mediterranean “toward Lebanon” that’s the north “the Hittite, the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite” when they “heard of it…” When they heard that they had conquered Ai, when they heard that they had basically planted their constitution and set up an altar in the middle of the land, it’s like when Columbus came to the shores of the New World and they stuck a flag in and they claimed it for the queen or the king of Spain that was really saying this is our land. That made them very nervous. All these other nations heard “that they gathered together to fight with Joshua…” They were organizing to have this great army to come and to fight in one consolidated battle against the children of Israel.

Not just one nation here and there, but all of the remaining nations said, you know, we used to fight among ourselves, now we’re going to have to pull together to fight you. And while that’s happening it says, but when the people of Gibeon “the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, they worked craftily,” cunningly “and went and pretended to be ambassadors. And they took old sacks on their donkeys,” I’m assuming old donkeys too, “old wineskins torn and mended,” make some notes here. You might underline these words. “…old and patched sandals on their feet, and old garments on themselves; and all the bread of their provision was dry and moldy.” Old, old, old. “And they went to Joshua, to the camp at Gilgal,” that’s when they still had their base camp down near the Jordan River. “…and said to him and to the men of Israel, ‘We have come from a far country; now therefore, make a covenant with us.’” Now why did they do that? Why did they have to pretend that they were people from some far distant country?

Turn in your Bibles, don’t lose your place there in the book of Joshua, but Deuteronomy chapter 7, or listen as I read it. Moses had given them a clear mandate they were not to enter into any covenant of the nations that lived in the territory of Israel. “When the Lord your God,” Deuteronomy 7:1, “When the Lord thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou; And when the Lord thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them;” (notice this) “thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them…” They were not to make any allegiance; they were not to tolerate any agreement with the nations that lived in that land.

They were to be totally evicted, expelled or annihilated because they worshipped pagan Gods, they were involved in diabolical worship, sacrificing their children, things that we can’t even repeat in church that was part of their religion is what was happening among those nations. You’ve got to have a picture. They had become a very base people. Now the people of the Gibeonites also known as the Hivites, they were something of an exception. For one thing, instead of becoming part of the confederacy that was going to fight with Israel, their leaders got together and they looked each other in the eye and they said, “We better think of some other strategy. The Israelites have God on their side.” It was so obvious when they saw the walls of Jericho fall, you just think about it. They could look outside from their mountains from the walls of the city of Gibeon and they could see the children of Israel camped on the other side of Jordan with the pillar of fire at night.

They could see the people going out and gathering manna. They knew the history of how they parted the Jordan River when they crossed over. The obvious miracles of God, they saw the walls of Jericho fall and now they think, “We can’t beat them.” So what do you do? Jesus talks about this, Luke 14:31, “Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation” sends his ambassadors “and asks” for “conditions of peace.” They said, “We’d better make peace. We can’t beat them.” But they’re not allowed, they knew they’re not allowed to make peace with anybody that’s entrenched in the Promised Land. So “we’d better pretend that we’ve come from another land.” You got the picture here? Because otherwise they’re under a death decree. Now we have a lot to learn from the Gibeonites. You know Jesus is coming to this world, our Joshua. The Bible says the vast majority of the world unfortunately will not be saved. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Christ has died that all might be saved, but most don’t believe. “Straight is the gate that leads to life and few there be that find it. Broad is the way that leads to destruction.” The Bible says when Jesus comes all the tribes of the earth will mourn. All of these pagan nations of the world that have not accepted Jesus and become part of spiritual Israel they’re in trouble. If you want to survive the coming of Joshua with His angels, you’d better make peace now because we’ve got a King who is coming with twenty thousand and you and I only have ten thousand. I mean, that’s the comparison of the parable. So if you’re smart you make peace. But how are we going to make peace? We do what the Gibeonites did. It’s not that God is endorsing deception. You remember Jesus told the parable of the shrewd steward who realized he was going to be put out of his office. So he went and made friends of the unrighteous mammon that they might receive him into their habitations. It’s not that Jesus is endorsing deception, He is commending thinking ahead and making a plan. God wants us to think ahead. Most people live their lives as though this is it. Eat and drink for tomorrow we die. Isn’t that how most of the world thinks? They don’t really think about the eternal picture. The Gibeonites were looking ahead so they made a plan.

Their plan was to feign that they were from a far country and to reinforce this deception they had everything about their appearance look like they made a long journey even though they are actually the nearest city to where they were camped at the time. They were next in line for destruction. So they’ve got to make it look good. Actually they had to make it look bad for it to be good. I remember when I went to military school and I went camping one time with the kids in the spring and it was one of the most miserable experiences of my life, the other cadets, because that’s when I really discovered I’ve got hay fever and I had nothing for it. They’d pitched our tents in the springtime out in the middle of this very weed I was allergic to. I just had fits of breathing and snorting and sneezing and couldn’t do anything with all of my friends. I was just miserable. I heard they were going out on camping exercises again and I didn’t want to go so I thought, “I’ve got to find a way to get some special consideration.” Now my brother taught me how to act sick. My brother told me, I remember when we were very young we learned this, he said, “Dougie, what you do…” He didn’t want to go to school one day so he spit on his hands, he rubbed it together and he rubbed his face so his face was kind of red and clammy, then he said, “Mom, I think I’ve got a fever.” She felt his head. He’d just been rubbing his face so it was a little hotter than normal. She said, “Let me take your temperature.” So she gave him a thermometer.

Back then, you remember those thermometers? You had to wait like three or four minutes. So you’d give it to the kid, then you walked away and you’d come back and you’d check it. You put it under your tongue (that’s the kind we insisted on) and you know what I mean? “Well,” my brother said, “then you take the thermometer and you rub it against the sheets and it gets hot and you put it back in your mouth.” So I went to the school nurse and I said, “I’ve got a fever.” My face all red, she said, “Well, let me give you the thermometer.” She walks out of the room and I… put it under my tongue. She comes back and she said, “Yeah, lo and behold, you look 102°, well we’d better watch you.” So I got out of the camping trip. So I’m laying there for a day or two and I thought this is pretty good. I’m not having to wake up for drill, I’m not having to do any of the things anyone’s doing so I’m trying to milk this out as long as I can.

So I remember for two or three days she’d come in, she’d give me the thermometer, she’d always walk out. Matter of fact, I went online to New York Military Academy, this trivia that I’m telling you, and I found a picture of the school nurse is there. This story came back to me. I would rub the thermometer and I’d put it back in, and spit on my hands and rub my face. One day she came in and she said, “You know, looks like you’re getting better. It’s only about 99°. I think we can let you out.” She said, “We’ll check you this afternoon.” So that afternoon I thought, “Uh oh, I don’t want to go out. I don’t want to go back.” So I took it and I rubbed the thermometer and she came back in to pull it out of my mouth and she said, “Why you should be dead! It’s 110°!” or something like that. But I was pretending to have this bad condition so I’d get special treatment. I won’t ask for a show of hands for any of you who have tried to exploit the sympathies of others that way, but that’s sort of what they are doing. They’re saying, “Look, we’ve come on this long journey to make peace with you because we’ve heard about your God and how mighty your God is and we want to make a league with you.” See, the children of Israel were allowed to make leagues for the purpose of trade with other surrounding nations, but nobody that was living within their boundaries so they had to make it look like they came from a long distance.

Now I want you to notice specifically some of the things that are mentioned. It tells us that they had old sacks, old wineskins, old sandals, old garments, dry moldy bread, far country. They’re giving the appearance of wretchedness. What is it that helps us be prepared for receiving of God’s Spirit? Isn’t it an awareness of our condition? You know one of the problems with the church in the last days is they don’t know their condition. See what the Gibeonites do is they come and everything about them is wretched. Everything from the shoes on their feet to the clothes on their back to the animals that they rode to their provisions it is old, it is wretched. It looks like they’ve come a long way; it looks like they’ve been through a lot and so they are looking for mercy. They’re looking for sympathy. Now I want you to take these components one by one. Let’s look at them. First of all, it says they’ve got old sacks. What does that represent?

What do you do with a bag? A bag holds your provisions. In the Bible they kept their resources in bags. You remember when the brothers of Joseph took some of the provisions from Egypt. They put them in their sacks. That’s what you carried the provision for yourself and for your animals during your journey your pilgrimage. You know the Bible says that for the lost our bags have holes in them. I remember one time my mom said she was coming home late from work and so my brother and I sometimes had to fend for ourselves at this point. My brother used to be my cook, but he went to live with Dad and I was by myself and my mom gave me five dollars for dinner so I could just go eat out. That was a lot back then, but all she had was a five dollar bill so she gave me this five dollar bill and I went to the restaurant and I ate like a king and with great confidence. Then when it finally came time, they gave me a bill to pay; I reached into my pocket and I reached in deeper than I had expected because I had a hole in my pocket. The money was gone, and I’m looking at the cashier and I wanted to say along with Isaiah, “Woe is me! I am undone!” I couldn’t find my money.

I finally did say, “Please trust me I’ll come back.” They were very dubious, but I did. I brought the money back and paid. I’d never felt so helpless before. To think I had these resources and then you reach in and it’s gone. For the world, everything we have, all our treasure is so exposed. Jesus said in the world, you’re putting your money in bags with holes. Thieves break through and steal. Rust and moth does corrupt. You know everything is under a curse. It reminds me of what it says in Haggai chapter 1, “You have sown much, and bring in little; you eat, but do not have enough; you drink, but you are not filled with drink; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm…” And catch this, “he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes.” Now what often causes the holes in bags, the holy bags is the parasites, the plagues. That’s why it says that God would rebuke the devourers for those that trust God and He opens the windows of heaven. If you’re putting all the bounty in bags with holes, what good is the bounty? So they’ve got old sacks.

Next thing we find, old wineskins. Now in the Bible it’s hard for us. Maybe you’ve been to Spain, and you’ve seen… all I could find online was a picture of one of these Spanish wineskins, but really they were like the white one on the top of the screen. They used to take these goatskins, they’d tie off the openings after they borrowed the skin from the goat and they would seal them very well and they would fill them with wine. But it tells us that these wineskins were old and patched. That means along the way they were so old they cracked and they sprouted holes and they’d try to sew them up or sew patches on them. And you know when it comes to holding liquid that never works very well. So here they’ve got these leaky wineskins that are patched.

What does wine represent in the Bible? What did Jesus say when He gave grape juice to the disciples at the last supper, what did that represent? This is My blood. The wine represents the blood of the covenant or the gospel of salvation is often in the context of that wine. You know in Revelation chapter 17 it tells us that the scarlet harlot you find there she has got a golden cup in her hand and it’s filled with wine that’s called the blood of martyrs and she has made the inhabitants of the world drunk with her wine. It’s fermented. You only get drunk on fermented wine, right? Now is fermented wine new wine or old wine? Old wine. This isn’t too fast for you, right? New wine is unfermented grape juice. What kind of wine does Jesus compare the gospel to? He says, I’ve come to give you good news and you put the new wine in new wineskins. So God’s message is new wine in new wineskins, right? What do these Gibeonites have? Old wineskins.

They represent the lost, but they know they are lost. Their doctrines are patched. You know one of the things I found so frustrating before I discovered the truth of the remnant church is how vacillating and changeable the doctrines are in many churches. I’m telling you the truth, friends, you’ve got to believe me. I’ve gone to many different churches, many different denominational backgrounds and sometimes their theology would radically change from one pastor to the next in the same church. Just whatever that particular pastor happened to believe could have been totally different. They just put patches on the other doctrines and it was all patched and leaking and intoxicating. That’s the kind of wineskins that the world has. They have maybe elements of truth, but it’s made the world drunk on the wine of Babylon. Old wineskins. By the way, that’s Revelation 17:2 and Matthew 9 where Jesus said, “The new wine is put in new wineskins.”

What do they have on their feet? Sandals. What kind of sandals? New echo sandals? Rockport sandals? What does it say? Old, patched and in the original it says clouded. What that means is that sometimes the sandals would come apart and they’d tie them off with strips of cloth. I found this picture online. First of all, there are some ancient sandals made of rope there. That’s probably different from what they wore in Palestine but it gave you a picture. I’ve seen stuff like this in Africa before. Someone very clever. They’re very poor. They took some of the discarded bottles used by the tourists and they made a pair of sandals out of the water drinking liter bottles. Isn’t that interesting? You’d be amazed at how resourceful the poor can be there, but what does it tell you about the man wearing those sandals? Poor. What else? Do you think he could run in those? Do you think his walk might have been halting and inhibited a little bit when you’re walking on liters of plastic? When I lived in the hills, I remember one time, I don’t know why, on long trips I used to hike, but one time I went off with a friend.

I also had some sandals I wore around the cave and I wore my sandals and we took off I said, “Oh, well, they’ll work.” But you don’t want to do rock climbing with regular walking sandals on because it’s too much strain for them. They shift too much on your feet. While I was miles from home, the cave, one of them broke. I don’t know, I don’t remember what I did; I did something to temporarily rig it. The problem was I couldn’t walk normally. I had a halting kind of a crippling walk. I had to walk very tenderly or it would break again. So when people have got these old patched sandals what does it do to their walk? Cripples it; it inhibits it. You can’t run if you can get along at all. What does a walk represent in the Bible? A walk represents the life you live and if you’re walking in old patched sandals what kind of life are you living? What kind of walk do you have? It’s a crippled, halting walk. You remember what Elijah said to the people of Israel? “How long will you halt,” it means how long will you hobble “between two opinions.” The people were crippled because they couldn’t make up their mind whether to serve Jehovah or whether to serve Baal.

Their walk was inhibited. When Jesus washed the feet of the disciples what’s the significance of that? Cleansing the walk. “How beautiful upon the mountain are the feet of those that bear good news,” Isaiah tells us. Those who have the gospel, they will run and not be weary. They’ve got to walk and not only they’ve got walking, they’ve got running shoes. See, so the walk represents your walk with the Lord, your path through life. It was crippled, old, patched sandals. You know I love the story in the Bible contrasted with the Gibeonites who got these old sandals wrapped up with rags, by the way, rags, all of our righteousness is like filthy rags. These are all pictures of the wretchedness of the lost. Contrasted with that the children of Israel with the blessing of God when they went through the wilderness you remember what it says there? Moses, Deuteronomy 29:5 and 6, “I have led you forty years in the wilderness… and your sandals have not worn out on your feet…” Here the Gibeonites, these ambassadors ostensibly have just come from a far country and their sandals are all patched and worn out. The children of Israel said, “We’ve been using these for forty years and they’re still good!” What’s that telling us? When you’re walking with God, you walk differently, don’t you? What’s your walk like? How does the world see you walk?

Are you wearing old rotted rags on your feet or do you have the gospel shoes? That’s what this is about, friends. Do you remember when John the Baptist was talking about… I don’t want to belabor my shoe aspect of the sermon, but it’s got a lot of theology here. When John the Baptist talked about Jesus coming, he said, “He who is coming after me is mightier than I Whose sandals I’m not even worthy to carry.” What do sandals represent? The walk. Who had a perfect walk? Jesus. He said, “I am not even worthy to bear His sandals.” “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly.” These Gibeonites have got rotten, ragged sandals like all the lost, amen? Oh, one more thought. When the prodigal son came limping home from his job at the pigpen one of the things the father said was, “Put sandals on his feet.” He was either barefoot or he had some bad shoes or the father never would have said that, is that right? So when we come to the Lord, do we get new shoes? How were the children of Israel supposed to eat the Passover? Specifically with their staff in their hand and their gospel shoes on their feet. When you accept the blood of Christ you get new shoes. Amen? Because you’re supposed to have a new walk. Are Christians just forgiven or do we walk differently? There’s supposed to be a difference. But these Gibeonites are pleading their old sandals.

The other thing we find is the old garments. We come to Jesus in our rags. They’ve got old garments. What does clothing represent? You know this. We’ve talked about it so many times. Clothing represents character. Filthy rags represents unrighteous character. Isaiah 64 “We are all like an unclean thing…” This was part of our memory verse “…and all of our righteousness is like…” what? “…filthy rags.” You remember in the story in Zechariah 53 when Joshua the high priest stood before the Lord and he had filthy garments on; he’s bearing the sins of the people and his garments are filthy for their sake and the devil, the adversary, is there pointing at his dirty garments and the Lord says, “Give him new garments.” Give him a new suit. You know I also like the story in Mark chapter 10 verse 50, when blind Bartimaeus, he calls out, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” He wants his eyes to be opened. Jesus calls him and as that poor blind beggar came to Jesus, he was the epitome of someone who is poor, wretched, miserable, blind and naked. He threw aside his rags when he came to Jesus. It says, “…throwing aside his garment… he came to Christ.” So how do we come? We’ve got our filthy rags, we come just like we are and we’re asking for His robe. We throw aside ours. When the prodigal son came home what did he get? New robe. So everything we’re reading about these Gibeonites it’s picturing for us their old, wretched condition.

What do they have in their provisions? Well, they’ve got holey bags and that which has not fallen out of the bags is moldy, dry bread. Here’s a pretty picture for you. I remember one time leaving my lunch in my lunchbox untouched over the weekend because something else had come up at school and then Monday opening my lunchbox. Any of you ever have that experience? And there’s something wretched happening in there. Would you eat that? I’ve got news for you. That’s what most of the world is eating. Not only is it moldy bread, it’s dry bread.

No moisture, no life in it. I remember (I love history) and I remember reading some of these stories, many accounts, of these sailors that would go on these voyages and when they left they had good, fresh provisions, but sometimes back when they used sailboats it took months to get across an ocean, especially if they got caught in a dead calm, and they’d pull their food out of these barrels and sometimes by the time they got halfway through a barrel… You ever heard the expression “The bottom of the barrel”? When they started getting down there not only was the bread moldy it was as dry, they called it hardtack. But they were starving and when you’re starving you will even eat… I won’t ask for a show of hands, but how many of you before were hungry and you get to the end of the loaf and you notice that there’s a little bit of mold around the edges and you look both ways and you just tear off the mold and you’re hungry, you still eat it?

I see you nodding. I’ll take that as a yes. Some of you who have really lived through dire straits when you’re hungry enough you’ll even eat moldy bread. It won’t kill you, but it tastes awful. If you eat moldy rye bread, it’s got something in it called ergot that has a chemical called lysergic acid diethylamide 25 which is better known as LSD and you can hallucinate. It’s true. I won’t tell you how I know that. But here all they’ve got is this moldy bread. That’s a symbol for what the world is feeding on. Isaiah said, “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread and your wages for that which does not satisfy?” Not only was this bread old and moldy it probably was crawling with vermin. During World War II a lot of prisoners of war were given bread that was crawling with maggots and worms. We’ve had the experience before, not frequently, where in our pantry we saw things hatching. We had neglected some flour or something like that and something got in and laid some bugs. I remember listening to a friend of mine who was in a prisoner of war camp during World War II and he says, “When you first get there, you won’t eat it because you’re just absolutely revolted that there are bugs in the bread. By the time you’ve been there for a few months you’re actually eating everything. You’ll go out of your way to eat the bugs for the protein.”

That’s the food of the world. You know what most of the world feeds on? You ever read the headlines in the supermarket? I don’t just mean the tabloids, any of the magazines. It is vanity. The programs people watch on television, vanity of vanities. The fodder of the world is dry, moldy, vermin infested bread. This is what people are feeding on. That’s why they’re sick from their head to their foot. This is the food of the world. When the children of Israel went through the wilderness, God gave them fresh bread every day. This is what He wants for you and me. Except on Friday He gave them twice as much because that was to sustain them through the Sabbath. Matter of fact, if they went out Sabbath morning and they’d tried to store up extra. If they tried to store up extra another day, they didn’t find any Sabbath morning. If they’d tried to store up extra bread on any of the other days, more than what they needed for their fresh daily allowance what would happen to it the next morning? It bred worms and it stunk! What kind of bread does the Lord want us to eat? How many of you like hot, fresh bread right out of the oven?

You know when I lived up in the mountains, this is a very real point for me, a lot of my food came from the dumpster behind the bakery because there was this bakery in Palm Springs and their big branding motive was “Fresh every day!” and what they could not give away at the end of the day they then threw out and it was day old bread. I’ve gone into the dumpster many times and gotten the old bread. That’s how a lot of the world eats. Well, these Gibeonites came and they said, “Look, let us show you how far our journey is. It’s taken months to get here because our bread was hot out of the ovens when we left. Look at it now!”

It doesn’t specifically mention it, but if they went to all of this trouble to make their shoes and their clothes and their bags and their bread all look moldy and old, what do you think the donkeys looked like? They had come from a far country and traveling through those desert regions evidently they were probably a little gaunt. I couldn’t find a picture of an old donkey, but I thought that one would do. What does an animal represent? That represents strength. You remember the Good Samaritan he took the man that was injured and put him on his own beast because he couldn’t carry himself. So they’re weak.

“We’ve come from a far country…” What does a far country represent? Luke chapter fifteen verse thirteen. “…many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed” away from his father “to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.” Our sins have separated us from God. There is a great distance between us and heaven. We in this world are in a far country. Are you beginning to get the picture? Everything about this story is telling us that they were separated from God. It’s a picture of the lost. Now why is this important to us?

I’ll let you read it right out of the Bible. Go with me back to chapter nine of Joshua, and it says in verse 13, chapter 9, “‘These wineskins which we filled were new, and see, they are torn; and these our garments and our sandals have become old because of the very long journey.’ Then the men of Israel took some of their provisions…” It doesn’t mean they ate it; you wouldn’t want to eat any of that or drink any of that. It means they took it and they examined it. They looked at their stuff, “but they did not ask counsel of the Lord.” They trusted the evidence of their eyes rather than enquiring of the Lord. “So Joshua made peace with them, and made a covenant with them to let them live…” Oh, this is so potent, friends. I love this story. Are you getting this? What are they doing? They’re coming to Joshua and they are pleading their unworthiness. They’re pleading their poverty. What is it that gives us the right to come to Jesus expecting mercy? Is it our goodness? It’s our badness! Have you ever thought about it? Who in the Bible of the disciples of Christ does the Lord honor the most by revealing His resurrection to? Who is the first at the scene of the resurrection? Mary Magdalene. Was she the holiest among them, or did she have the worst reputation? And Peter, “Lord, depart from me; I’m a sinful man!”

Was that true? Yes! You notice that through the Bible God often chooses the least, those who are the farthest to magnify Himself. Some of us have stayed away from God because we think I’m not good enough. Well, that might be the very thing that qualifies you! Are you listening to me, friends? This is good news. First of all, for some of you who think, “Aw, you know, I’m not as bad as some people out there so maybe I’m not qualified.” You’re bad. You’re worse than you think, that’s all. It’s like that story when Jesus is at the feast in Simon’s house and Mary is washing and kissing His feet and wiping His feet with her hair and Jesus says to Simon, the host, “Simon, I’ve got something to say to you.” He said, “Say on, Master.” He said, “A certain man had two people that owed him money. One owed fifty and one owed five hundred pence and he freely forgave them both. They could not pay. Which of them do you think will love him more?” Simon said, “The one who is forgiven the most.” He said, “This woman has come to the house, she has been kissing My feet. You didn’t greet Me with a kiss. She’s been washing My feet with her tears; You did not wash my feet. Her sins which are many are forgiven for she loved much. For to whom much is forgiven the same loves much.” You got that? Now the Lord is not saying you’ve got to go out there and be a big sinner in order to appreciate salvation. He’s saying you need to realize what a big sinner you already are because, no matter how miniscule you may think your sins are, your sins were big enough to put Jesus on the cross. We’re all big sinners, right? Realizing our wretchedness is what qualifies us. You remember the story. Two men went into the temple to pray. One is a Pharisee, one is a publican.

Pharisees were known for their being fastidious and righteous in all of the little minute details. The Pharisee stands and he prays thus with himself, “Lord, I thank You that I am not like other men. I pay tithe of all that I have. I fast twice a week and thank goodness I’m not like this publican, this tax collector back there!” The publicans on the other hand were known for their riotous living. They did not observe the Law; they hung out with the prostitutes. They were the tax collectors and back then that was a little different than they are today. They sort of were the extortionists; they were the mafia. You got that? And Jesus says, “Now the publican is in the back. He will not so much as lift up his head, but he bows his hands and he smites, beats his breast and he says, ‘Lord, have mercy on me a sinner!’” Now catch what Jesus says. Who would you think, especially if you were a Jew back then, who would deserve forgiveness more? The Pharisee who is very observant and obedient or the publican who recognizes his wretchedness? Jesus said it’s the publican who confessed. He brought to Joshua his wretchedness, he confessed it, who was forgiven instead of the one who was pleading his righteousness. The Lord is not condoning sin. He’s not saying that you should go out there and sin and say oh well, that’s who Jesus is going to save.

He’s saying you must recognize and confess and present your sin and then He can cleanse you. The publican went home justified. The Gibeonites presented their old torn clothes, their rags, their broken sandals, their holey bags, their ripped wineskins, their skinny donkeys. They presented their unworthiness and that’s what commended them to Joshua. I guess I’m not getting through. Whenever I read this story I just want to shout halleluiah. I think this is such good news that that means that nobody here is going to be disqualified because you’re too bad. There may be some here who are disqualified because you think you’re too good. Jesus never turned anyone away because they were too bad, but many people in His time were rejected because they thought they were too good. That’s good news for those of you… maybe some of you think you’re too good; that’s why you look depressed. Well, we’ll have a visit later and I can tell you what’s wrong with you if you don’t know. It’s probably the same sin that is customary of all man. So what did Joshua do? It says he made a covenant with them. What does that mean? Well, in the original language here it means they offered sacrifice, and they ate a feast. They would offer sacrifice and some of that sacrifice was also incorporated into the feast (just like the Passover is a sacrifice and a feast).

So they probably sacrificed the lamb; they ate a feast to seal the promise now we will not make war with you, but we will enter into trade with you that we will be at peace between our nations. I always think it’s very interesting that they go through all of this to talk about this far country, this nation they’ve come from. We’re ambassadors. You notice something that’s obviously missing? What’s the name of the country? Where are you from? Does it have a name? The name is left blank. Did you catch that? I mean, wouldn’t I say, “Well, what’s it called?” There must be a name. Is it north, south, east or west? They don’t even tell what direction they’ve come from. “We’ve come from a far country.” “Where is it?” “Oh, it’s a long way.” “What’s the name of it?” “You’ve never heard it. Just trust us. You can’t pronounce it so why bother?” It’s a blank. You know why it’s a blank? Because you get to fill in the blank with your name. This story is talking about the country you and I come from. It’s talking about our background, our experience. I don’t know what it is, but whatever it is, you get to fill in the blank. We are all separated from the Promised Land. We are all doomed because Joshua is coming and unless we make a covenant with Him, we’re in big trouble. Now I’m running out of time and I’ve got more story left.

There will be one more installment in Joshua, God willing. So they made a covenant. The whole congregation swore to them a vow. Has the Lord given us His word? Has He made promises to us? Has He made a covenant with us, our Joshua, our Jesus? “And it happened at the end of three days…” When did Jesus eat the Last Supper? Three days later they suddenly realized who He was. At the end of three days, “after they had made a covenant with them,” they realized “that they were their neighbors” and they dwelt right next door. I don’t know how they found out. We can only speculate, but maybe they saw one of the fellows who had made the covenant, one of these supposed ambassadors, they were watching him and he snuck in the walls of Gibeon and they realized that he was a Gibeonite. Maybe they saw him a little later with new shoes on that they had given him. Don’t you think that the Israelites since they made this covenant, don’t you think they gave them some new shoes and some new clothes? I mean, they’d come all this way. And when we come to our Joshua does He give us some new provisions? Do we get a new robe just like that prodigal son?

I think they’re sporting these new Israeli clothes. That’s because you become part of the church, you get a new robe. Maybe they saw them going in and out of Gibeon, they said, “Hey! That’s my clothes I gave that guy! They live right near us!” They said, “Oh, we’re going to get even with them!” And you know what Joshua said? “Can’t do it.” “But God said we’re supposed to destroy all of the inhabitants!” “Can’t do it.” “Why?” “We have given our word; we have made a promise. We’ve made a covenant with them. We’re at peace with them.” When I go into the next story you’re going to find out Joshua not only allowed them to live, he ends up protecting them. So what did they do? They said we’ve got to do something. In verse 21 it says, “…the rulers said, ‘Let them live…’” Oh, friends, underline that in your Bible. Let them live. The gospel is about eternal life, amen? We make this covenant with Jesus that we might live. This is a life and death thing they did, isn’t it? “…but let them be woodcutters and water carriers for all the congregation…” It’s not just for the congregation; it’s talking about something specific.

You go down to verse 23, it says, “…you shall be freed from being slaves woodcutters and water carriers for the house of my God.” Joshua said, “Look, we’re going to let you live. We’re going to keep our word, but there’s a condition. We promised to let you live, but it’s on the condition that you agree to be our servants. You are to be woodcutters and water carriers for the house of God.” What does that mean? First of all, the house of God is the church. Isn’t that right? “What? Don’t you know that ye are the temple of God?” What do they cut wood for? To keep the fire burning in the altar. They were to keep that fire burning all the time as representing the intercession of Christ. What did they draw water for? The two main things you saw in the first apartment of the sanctuary that needed a constant fresh supply was the altar was always burning and the water was kept flowing in the laver. That represents the sacrifice of Christ and baptism. The water and the fire were the essence of the gospel. Think about this. Jesus said, “Unless you are born of the water and the Spirit…” Baptized in fire at Pentecost, right?

Water and fire, “you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.” I like the truth that back in the days of Noah the world was washed in water. Jesus is coming again the world will be washed in fire and then He makes a new heaven and a new earth. Elijah prayed for rain. He prays that fire comes down first like in the altar first thing fire. He prays, fire comes down, and then he prays, water comes down. Right? Fire and rain. That’s talking about the ministry of the Christian. We are to keep the gospel going. Children of Israel crossed the Red Sea. They went through the water and God had anointed them with a pillar of fire. The water and the fire. It’s talking about that we must be doing the work of Christ. We are to be servants in the house of God. Now there is a condition. How many of you want to make a covenant with Joshua? How many of you know that you are poor and wretched and miserable and blind and naked? We like those Gibeonites we are doomed and we can present our wretchedness, we can plead our poverty and will the Lord reject us? No, He’ll accept us. He’ll embrace us. Poor leper came to Jesus one day full of leprosy.

He said, “Lord if You will, You can make me clean.” He was poor wretched just a mess. Jesus said, “I am willing,” and He touched Him and cleansed Him. We’re all like that leper. We come with our poverty. The Lord accepts us, and then He cleanses us, and then He puts us to work. You cannot be stagnant or you will lose it. If you want to keep the covenant you’ve got to be willing to be a servant in the house of God. Oh, friends, this is such a wonderful truth. I think I’ve got some other verses for you here. Listen to this. Psalm 84:10 “For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God Than dwell in the tents of wickedness.” What are the redeemed going to do in heaven? Revelation 7:15 “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple.” Even in heaven you’re going to be a servant in the house of God there. So if we’re going to be serving before the Lord in heaven then we shouldn’t chafe if He wants us to serve Him here.

Do you want to live? Yes, I want to live. Plead your poverty, make a covenant with Joshua, accept that sacrifice, the new clothes that the church gives you, the new robe, the new shoes, and then be willing to be a servant. How did Paul identify himself when he wrote his letters? “Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ.” Is it bad to serve Jesus? You know I’ve got to give you a little more history. This covenant that they made with the Gibeonites, it lasted all the way into the New Testament. Matter of fact, even after the Babylonian captivity the Gibeonites were a nation that just became a nation, it was a caste within Israel, of servants for the temple. They were a special group and their purpose of existing was to serve in the temple.

You can read here in Nehemiah 3:7 talking about those who built the wall, “And next to them Melatiah the Gibeonite, Jadon the Meronothite, the men of Gibeon…” Here they are after the Babylonian captivity, the people of Gibeon are still there. They’re building up the city of Jerusalem. By the way, Gibeon was just about eight miles southwest of Jerusalem. That’s where this city was. This is a wonderful story of salvation, friends. Joshua wants to make a covenant with us. Are you afraid that you’re not good enough? Don’t be afraid of that. All you’ve got to be afraid of is that you think you’re too good. If you’re aware of your sin, you can come just like you are.

You know Billy Graham in most of his campaigns for years, who knows what his favorite appeal song is? “Just As I Am” and we’re going to sing that together now and I’m going to make an appeal. If you’ll turn in your hymnal to 313. Now we’re going to sing the old traditional melody, but you’ll find the words on 313. Let’s stand together as we sing this and as we come to our Joshua pleading our poverty I hope you’ll make a covenant today and know that you can have new life. No, we’re going to sing the old melody. I didn’t mean to mess you up. “Just as I am without one plea…” It’s 314. Do you have that in your book? Sorry about that. It won’t work. That’s the one. You sing the verses on… I don’t know why they did this when they did the hymnal. The verses on 313, melody from the other page. Very good.

Just as I am, without one plea, But that Thy blood was shed for me, And that Thou bidst me come to Thee, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

How many of you recognize that melody? Before we sing the next verse, I’d like to make a simple gospel invitation. I know we probably have some visitors here today. Maybe you’re Christians; maybe you have never made that decision to accept Christ. Our Jesus is coming soon and all of the tribes of the earth are going to mourn. And unless we think ahead and make a covenant with Him by pleading our poverty, by pleading our wretchedness, we cannot be justified, but if we do, if we’re willing to be His servants, we will live. Have you made that covenant? Have you said, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner”? You can make that decision today and know your sins are forgiven. If you’d like to come and ask for special prayer, maybe some have wandered from the Lord, and you’d like to renew that commitment, come as we sing verse two. We’ll be praying for you.

Just as I am, and waiting not To rid my soul of one dark blot, To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

I especially like the words in verse four because it encapsulates what we’ve talked about. “Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind…” that’s how we come to Jesus, and I think there may be some of you here today that are feeling that struggle inside and you want that assurance that you’ll be ready when our Joshua comes with the trumpets blowing. Come, you can make that decision by just coming and say, “Lord, I am poor, wretched, miserable, blind; forgive me. I want that new life. I am willing to be a servant, a woodcutter and a water bearer for your house.” Let’s sing verse four together as people come and we pray.

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind; Sight, riches, healing of the mind, Yea, all I need in Thee to find, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

You know a part of our story I didn’t get to today, when the Gibeonites were attacked by other nations they went to Joshua and they reminded Joshua, “We have made a covenant with you; come save us.” Some of you have made this covenant with Joshua and you’d like to remind Him today, “Lord, I’ve made a covenant with You. I want a refreshing of that covenant.” If you’d like to lift your hands in His presence. Amen. Let’s sing verse six together and then we’ll close with prayer.

Just as I am, Thy love unknown Hath broken every barrier down; Now, to be Thine, yea, Thine alone, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Father in heaven, Lord, our hearts are thrilled as we see the beautiful message of the gospel woven into this story of Joshua. How we like those Gibeonites can think ahead and come into Your presence pleading our poverty, recognizing that we’re doomed unless we make that covenant of peace. Lord, I am so thankful that Jesus is willing to forgive us, that He is willing to accept His blood sacrifice that we might have that covenant of salvation. Lord, it gives us great joy to know that and we are willing to be servants in Your house. If it means that we must keep the fire going and the water flowing that people might find cleansing, what a privilege, Lord, to serve in Your temple. Bless each person here. Save us, Lord. Help us to have those new sandals that we might walk a new walk and that new robe of righteousness that we might reflect Your kingdom and be ambassadors of Your people. Be with each person in their lives and family and in a special way those who have responded this morning to the gospel invitation. I pray that they can become rooted and grounded in the truth. We ask in Christ’s name. Amen.

I’d like to invite the congregation to be seated and those who have come forward this morning if you’re visiting the church we have some pastors who would be delighted to talk with you. If you have any questions, we want to tell you how you can continue to follow up in your walk with the Lord.

One other announcement. Typically after our service we have people who stay behind for special prayer in the sanctuary. This morning there’s some things that needed to be recorded. Those who are part of our prayer ministry, if you wouldn’t mind this morning meeting in the Youth Chapel, we’d appreciate that. God bless you, friends.

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