Sunday, 1 December 2019

Deception - Joshua 9

Joshua and the people are on a roll! They have trashed Jericho and then went on to defeat another important people under the King of Ai. The covenant is renewed and they are all feeling pleased with themselves. Nearby kings are right to be worried - they know they are next. So they form a coalition, ready to go to war in order to defend themselves.

Except for one people group: the Gibeonites. They take a different line - they send some people as a delegation, but deliberately dress to make it look like they have been on a long journey. Taking old dry bread and worn out provisions, they play the part of a delegation coming from a far off land wanting to make a treaty with the Israelites. They are taken to Joshua and show what they have, sticking to their long journey story. Will Joshua fall for it?

[Pause for Communion]

At this crunch moment of the Gibeonite delegation before Joshua and the Israelite senior leaders, the key for us to know is that Joshua and his advisors didn't enquire of the Lord. Instead they believed what they saw, made a treaty, and took an oath.

It didn't take long: just 3 days until it was discovered that these people were actually from nearby, occupying land that the Israelites had been destined to conquer. The ordinary people wanted to go up and attack anyway, but Joshua prevented them - honouring the treaty and oath with the foreign people. Naturally there was grumbling at the grassroots level, and Joshua had to ask some hard questions of the Gibeonites. The outcome was that the foreign people were to become their woodcutters and water carriers for life. Interesting isn't it: the Israelites had been freed from slavery in Egypt but now became slave-drivers themselves. That doesn't sound like true 'Kingdom Life' to me!

What makes us think we can do stuff, or do anything, without first enquiring of God? What makes us think we can do something like a worship service, or run a parent n toddler session, or a leadership meeting ... without first pausing and inviting the presence of God? (I don't mean have a quick 'opening prayer', but a clear, purposeful, meaningful pause).

What makes us think we can send our children off to school, go into work, go into a meeting at work, visit a customer, have that discussion, have that necessary confrontation ... without first pausing and inviting the presence of God?

When our work pressures or deadlines loom, what makes us think we can trade our personal prayer, our praying with others, or our time coming together as a body to pray or worship ... trading them for work time while hoping to still be efficient in all our work? What makes us think we can do that trade?

What makes us think we can get through a single day, or even a single step forward without the presence of God?

Lets look at Joshua and the Israelites in this episode. They got 'cocky' so easily! After Jericho they thought they could rush to defeat Ai, but read the story and you will see there was trouble in the camp. They had to sort that first and then move forward. The covenant was renewed after they crossed the Jordan, but the people had to effectively renew it again after the Ai business.

Thats why we put communion in the middle of the story. Communion is us inviting the presence of God among us afresh, resetting our lives to be in covenant with God through Jesus. Without this we are lost! We are to be people of Jesus: his life, death and resurrection - we need to pause and sync with this before we attempt or do anything!

Some practical tips help us set our spiritual rhythm (these sit within the habits 'Discipline of OFF' and 'Ever Closer to Jesus'). Simple things might include praying 'Come Holy Spirit, my senior partner' each morning, or using the Celtic style prayer cards (available on the church resources web page). Or how about the simple breath prayer: 'Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me'? Or you might just stop, put yourself before God, and declare: 'I thirst'.

Put spiritual rhythm and punctuation into your day: pausing before you go into that meeting, the start of a car journey etc. From this passage we could have talked about spiritual deception and the ways we might be deceived. Yet for us it is firstly more important to rehearse how we might practice the presence of God, being first and foremost about Him, inviting Him, enquiring of Him. Only when we learn and practice these things can we hope to avoid being deceived!

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