The Christian life is about spiritual advancement in a physical reality. One author says that, “there are no spiritual advances, personally or corporately, (that will happen) without challenge and conflict” (Jackman 2014: 104). In other words, if you want to follow Jesus in this world then you should expect to face opposition and deception.
The problem is that opposition and deception often come in the form of invisible enemies. Consumerism is just one of those invisible enemies that I confronted last week. You could easily add materialism, capitalism, nationalism or individualism to the list. All of those enemies are invisible enemies of that seek to deceive you and oppose the work of God in your life. But how would you recognize or realize when you’ve made agreements with one of these invisible enemies?
How would you know if you’ve gotten into bed with an invisible enemy? And once you clearly realize that you’re in bed with the enemy then how will you resolve the problem? How will you move forward in becoming a Christ-follower who worships God in spirit and in truth? How will you do battle with an invisible enemy in a world that values visible results?
I would suggest that the story we see in Joshua chapter 9 is very helpful here because in this story we see the age-old conflict between God and Satan erupting between God’s people and her enemies. In other words, what we see here in this very visible portrayal of the Gibeonite deception is actually the continuation of the invisible battle between God and Satan that erupted back in the Garden of Eden and will continue until the Second coming of Christ.
Joshua 9:1 – 27…
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, 2 they gathered together as one to fight against Joshua and Israel.
3 But when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ai, 4 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, 5 with worn-out, patched sandals on their feet, and worn-out clothes. And all their provisions were dry and crumbly. 6 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.” 7 But the men of Israel said to the Hivites, “Perhaps you live among us; then how can we make a covenant with you?” 8 They said to Joshua, “We are your servants.” And Joshua said to them, “Who are you? And where do you come from?” 9 They said to him, “From a very distant country your servants have come, because of the name of the Lord your God. For we have 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.
16 At the end of three days after they had made a covenant with them, they heard that they were their neighbors and that they lived among them. 17 And the people of Israel set out and reached their cities on the third day. Now their cities were Gibeon, Chephirah, Beeroth, and Kiriath-jearim. 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.” 21 And the leaders said to them, “Let them live.” So they became cutters of wood and drawers of water for all the congregation, just as the leaders had said of them.
22 Joshua summoned them and he said to them, “Why did you deceive us, saying, ‘We are very far from you, when you dwell among us? 23 Now therefore you are cursed, and some of you shall never be anything but servants, cutters of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God.” 24 They answered Joshua, “Because it was told to your servants for a certainty that the Lord your God had commanded his servant Moses to give you all the land and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land from before you – so we feared greatly for our lives because of you and did this thing. 25 And now, behold, we are in your hand. Whatever seems good and right in your sight to do to us, do it.” 26 So he did this to them and delivered them out of the hand of the people of Israel, and they did not kill them. 27 But Joshua made them that day cutters of wood and drawers of water for the congregation and for the alter of the Lord, to this day, in the place that he should choose.
Satan, the father of lies, the accuser of God’s people, the lion who comes to steal, kill and destroy, is still simply a big kitty on a leash that is held by the sovereign hand of God. Even though Satan opposes God’s work in and through me at every turn, his efforts to chop me down like a weak little sapling, will only serve the purposes of the Lord to chop away the deadness in my life so that I will continue to grow into a strong oak tree. Think about the opposition you face in your life, as we look back at the text together…
1: National Opposition (vss. 1 – 2)
All the kings of the land heard about what the Lord was doing in and through the nation of Israel. Back in chapter 5, their hearts melted with fear. Their livelihoods were in danger. So, motivated by the invisible enemy of fear, the kings of the land mounted a united national opposition against Israel (vss.1 – 2). What begins as only one or two enemies easily and quickly multiplies into an overwhelming outright assault that could completely demoralize your soul and leave you blind to what’s coming next.
I can imagine being in Joshua and Israel’s shoes in these moments. Can you? You pick up the phone and the doctor tells you that what appeared to be some abnormalities has actually multiplied into a life threatening illness. The job you had that was barely paying the bills lays you off for the holidays. That sinful addiction that kept knocking your front door down seems to have found its way in through the back door again. You thought your marriage or some other relationship had finally recovered from the last onslaught of brokenness when in reality underneath everything it has silently deteriorated into hopeless isolation.
Like Joshua and Israel, you’ve fought hard to weather the opposition from your enemies only to find out that now your enemies have united together into some kind of formalized massive opposition. You can’t get your eyes off of this massive enemy coming against you… to the extent that you totally miss the invisible enemy that has snuck right into your heart.
2: An Invisible Enemy (vss. 3 – 15)
Joshua has just gathered the Israelites in a valley after their victory over Jericho and Ai for an old-fashioned praise and worship service that was complete with the visible portrayal of the blessings of the sacrifice for the curse of sin (ch. 8). Talk about a spiritual high right?
But the next thing that happens, Fox News or CNN or some other variation of a social media news outlet broadcasts its message of fear regarding the national opposition that is coming down the pipe and the impossibility of the opposition coming against you captures your heart and mind.
Then out of the corner of your eye you catch some movement. What is that? Another enemy? You brace yourself for impact only to find out that its just some worn out issue that’s been nagging you in the back of your mind for a while. Enter the Gibeonites, the invisible deception. What do you do with this? What does Joshua and Israel do with this?
Look at the Gibeonites. What do you see? Some worn out clothes? Some dried up moldy food? They look like foreigners. Where did they come from? What do they want? They’ve heard about your God. They’ve heard how He destroyed your other enemies. They don’t want to face the same fate. They want to serve you in exchange for their safety. Seems reasonable and they seem harmless. So you make an agreement with them for their preservation (vss. 3 – 15).
The reality according to Joshua 10:2 is that the Gibeonites were actually a very sizeable and formidable enemy. They were a large nation of cities and they had well trained warriors. But instead of a full frontal attack, like the other nations were planning together, this enemy played in the realm of invisible deception to stay alive and exert its influence.
Now historically, God gave some instructions for how to relate to enemies that were distant from you. Don’t pick a fight with them and live at a peaceable distance from them after seeking the Lord’s voice as to whether or not they are a threat (Deut. 20:10 – 18; Num. 27:21). The problem here is that Joshua and Israel never sought the Lord (v. 14). Instead, they relied on what they could see, taste, touch, smell and hear. They relied on their physical senses instead of their spiritual senses.
One author says that, “If your enemy cannot kick in the front door he will slip in through the side door to compromise your trust and obedience to the Lord” (Jackman 2014: 107). You’ve experienced this right? You face down one massive scary enemy all day long and when you get home you tune out behind the TV. Your marriage or some other relationship goes through a fiery test so you renew your commitment to attending church gatherings. Your kids rebel so you get them back to youth group so they can get fixed.
None of these resolutions are necessarily bad at all. In fact on the surface they are very good. But somewhere in the corner of your mind’s eye you make an agreement with some invisible enemy like comfort or consumerism. And then at some point you realize that even though you are doing some good things, as it appears, some silent, invisible enemy has set up shop in the middle of your heart.
The only reason you watch TV is to escape into comfort and the only reason you go to church is to fix some big issue inside of you or your spouse or your kids. And then the awakening happens. The moment of realization hits you square in the face just like Joshua and Israel in verses 16 – 21.
3: The Moment of Realization (vss. 16 – 21)
Someone preaches a message or you see a passage pop up on your Bible app or a friend confronts you or God speaks to you in a dream and you wake up to the horrifying reality that you’ve made some agreements with some invisible, deceptive, enemies and they’ve set up a sweat shop in your heart; an idol factory in the center of your soul.
This is the moment of realization where you recognize that “you’ve made decisions on the basis of moldy bread, rather than seeking the Lord’s direction for your life” (Jackman 2014: 108). It’s the moment that you realize that you’ve walked by sight and not by faith and because of this you’re now in bed with an invisible enemy that’s been deceiving you for longer than you can imagine.
It’s the moment that you realize that comfort is your god. Consumerism is your master. Individualism is your slaveholder. Nationalism is your boss. Capitalism has crept in and it won’t leave. What do you do now? What do you think Israel does on the day they woke up to the reality of the Gibeonite deception?
Israel doesn’t go ballistic. They don’t attack their enemies in some unbridled rage. They don’t take to Facebook to wine about the mess they got themselves into although they do complain against the leadership for holding them accountable to their commitment. At the end of the day, Israel and her leaders decide to honor their agreement for the sake of the Lord’s honor. This is the beginning of the resolution of the conflict (vss. 16 – 21).
4: The Resolution of Conflict (vss. 22 – 27)
Resolution is important in conflict management because resolution brings purpose to tension. There’s a kind of tension between the legitimate need for something like comfort or security and the abuse of that natural need that can quickly dissolve into a desire that gets overindulged. This is where resolution brings purpose to the tension.
If what I’m saying here is too heady then think about it this way: If I suddenly realize that I’ve become part of the church because of my out of control desire to consume another product or experience, then I can resolve that conflict and bring purpose to the tension by realizing that I am not only a consumer but I am also called to be a contributor. If I wake up to the realization that I only got married because of some desired benefits then I can resolve the conflict and bring purpose to the tension by remembering that I am called to serve my spouse rather than use my spouse for my own agenda.
Resolution brings purpose to tension. This is exactly what happens in the end of this story. Joshua confronts the deceptive Gibeonites for their lies and in a radical turn of events they entrust their lives to Joshua (whose name means God saves) as their deliverer. In the end of the story God’s enemies become the hospitality team in the temple (vss. 21 – 27).
The Gibeonites are much like Rahab; liars, prostitutes and enemies of God transformed into worshipful servants of the Rescuer. You might be interested to note that the Gibeonites were partially responsible for the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem many years later in Nehemiah 7:25. Talk about a miraculous resolution that brings purpose to the tension!
The resolution of the conflict of this story reveals God’s purpose in shaping us into worshippers of him. In other words, the purpose behind the conflict is the object of our worship. It’s always been about the object of our worship. Back to the Garden of Eden: it was about the object of Adam and Eve’s worship. Back to when The Satan fell from Heaven: it was about the object of his worship. Back to this story: it’s always been about the object of Israel’s worship. Who will they trust? Who will they obey? Who will be at the center?
Last week in our study of the end of Joshua chapter 8, I hammered away at an invisible but deadly enemy of ours called consumerism. Consumerism is an invisible motivation of the heart that moves us into patterns of consuming one product or experience after the next in our quest to satisfy a deep hunger or thirst within our souls. I referred to consumerism as a worship disorder that can only be remedied by coming under the rule of our rescuer at the cross of Calvary.
Nevertheless, you still may wonder what this has to do with you. You might even be tempted to think that because you are here today you are obviously exempt from the clutches of consumerism. You may also wonder what consumerism and the study of Joshua have in common. Joshua appears to be a book that is centered on Israel’s physical conquest of the Promised Land and to be sure, that is the narrative of this book.
Wouldn’t we actually do better to apply the narrative of this book to some of the visible enemies we see in our world? Shouldn’t we be talking about how to leverage all of our physical resources (time, talent, treasure) for the advancement of God’s spiritual agenda in our highly politicized world? Why would I continue to take aim at something like consumerism when there are tons of other very worthwhile visible enemies in the world around us?
Here’s my short answer. Consumerism, while invisible, leaves a visible path of destruction behind it. Consumerism is similar to a termite in its invisible nature. But the effects of consumerism, like the termite, will weaken and erode the spiritual lives of believers within a church community, which will then weaken the power of that church in that community.
Consumerism may very well be one of the most devastating enemies of the church today, especially in the American culture because consumerism may very well be one of the most deeply held values of our nation. And the real danger for us may lie in our bent towards fighting enemies in the physical realm with physical weapons rather than in the spiritual realm with spiritual weapons while completely missing the extent of the hold that our invisible enemies have upon our hearts.
How deeply do you think an invisible enemy like consumerism has a hold on you right now? If America really is infected with this invisible poison, then how much of your heart has been shaped by this value? How would you even know if your life were infected with the poison of consumerism dressed up in the religious language of the church?
Think about the struggles you face for a moment. Think about the things that bother you the most: fear, loneliness, discontentment, worry, laziness, addiction, overworking, what is your struggle? What’s at the center of your struggle? Better yet, who is at the center of your struggle?
How surprised would you be if you stripped your struggle away from all of the religious language you have and you found yourself standing exposed in the center of your existence where the Son of God belongs?
The Christian life is about spiritual advancement in a physical reality and “there are no spiritual advances, personally or corporately, (that will happen) without challenge and conflict” (Jackman 2014: 104). In other words, if you want to follow Jesus in this world then you should expect to face opposition and deception. The Christian who desires comfort in the church doesn’t desire to be like Christ.
Jesus left the comfort of Heaven to come to this sin stained earth to rescue you. He was beaten nearly to death. He was nailed to a cross on a lonely hilltop. He was crucified alone between two criminals. His friends abandoned him in his hour of greatest need. He was dead before sundown and tossed in a borrowed grave.
He did this because you and I love to serve ourselves just like the Gibeonites did. He did this so that by God’s grace you may come to faith in him, so that he might forgive your sin. His body was broken and his blood was poured out so that consumers like you and I could become contributors through the power of the empty tomb.
He did this so that liars and beggars and thieves and prostitutes and any other outcast enemy you can imagine could come and become transformed members of the family of God. Jesus is the object of our worship.
Are you convicted that you’ve made yourself the object of your worship? Cast yourself upon him like the Gibeonites and say, “We are in your hand. Whatever seems good and right in your sight to do to us, do it” (v. 25) and Jesus will be faithful to make you into a worshipper of God in spirit and in truth who has been transformed by the renewing of your mind.