Posted by: jiminmontana | December 17, 2011

God is Faithful — transcript of a sermon

It takes time for us to learn and to understand the Bible. It’s through reading the Bible – slowly and thoughtfully and prayerfully – to begin to put all the pieces together. That’s how we get to know more and more about God and then have the faith it takes to really trust Him.

Do we have any mechanics here today? Most of us are not. Most of us know that the car runs on fuel that burns and spark plugs light the fire, that the explosion pushes a pistol down and somehow that makes the wheels turn. But there is a lot to it all. You call that car part a “thingy”; the mechanic calls it a “throttle body”. But that took time to learn and it takes more time to learn how to put all the parts together and to diagnose a problem when it comes up.

So when it comes to the Bible, be like the mechanic. Take the time to learn the parts, learn how the parts of the Bible work together so that you can make sense of life. Learn to use the Bible to help you diagnose when something is going wrong with your own life and in the lives of those you can influence and help them move toward a more godly direction. When you look under the hood in your own spiritual life, you need to know the Word of God well enough to figure out what is going wrong – and you need to be your own spiritual mechanic on a daily basis to keep things working correctly.

This takes faith – and it takes your faithfulness. You can’t be dependent on other people all the time. Keep your own engine tuned up. It does take time, but bit-by-bit the truth starts to take hold of who you are and it reformats your mind. After some time in the Word, it does get easier and easier to catch the new things as they come to you.

Also, do not believe everything that you hear; make sure that Scripture backs it up. My job here is to make a case. Your job is to render a verdict. Ask, is the message true or does it go against the authoritative Word of God. Test everything according to the Bible.

Worry is a type of Faith. It is faith in a thing that is BAD. Worry is not just a person’s doubt in the Providence of God, not just doubt that the Lord is in control of all things, worry is not just a lack of hope – worry in its most powerful form is an act of the will wherein a person makes the decision to put faith in – to trust that – something bad is on its way.

Worry exists because we all live in a shaky world with some serious ups and downs. And God has put parts in the Bible to give us encouragement so that we do not go around worrying about this and that. And there is one thing above all that God wants for you and me to never ever worry about and that is His ability to save us. He never wants you to worry about His desire to save you. Just like the heart-broken father who longs to be close to his son – his daughter – God the Father loves you even better than that and He is literally moving Heaven and Earth to work out your salvation today. He has always been about this business with a motivation that is Pure.

So we must maintain our souls. A quick way to get this FIX is to read the Book of Proverbs – read a chapter a day every day. There are 31 chapters, so if today’s date is January 7th, just read Proverbs 7 that day. This is like taking a multi-vitamin and it helps greatly to get these concentrated nutrients for your soul. Let me give you the short truth that I want for each of us to bury deep in our hearts and keep handy to our thoughts as we go through one day after another – it is from Paul’s letter to the Romans at the very end of chapter 8:

 Rom 8:38-39 ESV – For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

For you saints like my spouse of twenty years, that is all you need. And that is wonderful. But then there are people like me who need more. I do not want to live on vitamins. It’s because of curious people like me that the Bible is such a thick book.

So, for me and maybe for a few others there is another way to learn how God does things in the world, and that is to read the narratives in Scripture – to read the stories of the people in the Bible. This is my preference, to see how real people lived and how they either were blessed by walking through life’s challenges according to God’s principles or how they suffered for going against God’s ways. Reading these true stories slowly and prayerfully – asking God to help us understand His Truth and to apply it to who we are – where you are in life – this is not like taking a vitamin pill. It’s like sitting down to a well-balanced meal cooked by the best chef in the world, full of the most nutritious, organic, pure, fresh foods that you need for good health. It’s not junk food. It’s the good stuff. The Book of Ruth is a favorite story of true love, tragedy that breaks hearts and can YET be overcome, a story of devotion and salvation, and redemption. The story of Joseph found in the Book of Genesis is a wonderful way to learn how God works for us BEHIND the scenes even though life is very, very hard.

That being said, I get to bring to you one of my most favorite passages from the OT, a narrative that has all the good ingredients that we need for a good story. It’s a story that involves death and the fear of death, plus deception, and hate and unmerciful people intent on killing. It is also a story of salvation and redemption, and faithfulness that is going to bless you. I can safely guarantee that you are going to benefit from this old passage. This is a REALLY important passage for you – it will set you straight about how you think about God. For your soul to be healthy, you need to know that your God is truly FAITHFUL – that He cannot help but be faithful to you, no matter what you do or what you fail to do. It is great when we people are faithful to God and to one another. But you and I need to really KNOW that our God is a Faithful – truly faithful God; and that faithfulness emanates from His character. It is just who He is.

One of my favorite passages: Turn to the OT Book of Joshua – chapter 9. So many of the commentaries and sermons you can find on this passage focus on the fact that the leaders of the Jews made a big mistake and had to pay for that mistake. These are sermons about the consequences of our actions and living with them righteously. That’s fine and that’s true. But there is a much greater lesson to be learned from this passage in Joshua 9 and 10 – that God is faithful to us even we do NOT deserve it, even when everything is wrong and still He comes through for us despite what even good sense would seem to dictate. I have to thank my former pastor, Bill Giovannetti, in Redding, CA of some ten years ago for laying our the key points here and going well-beyond the commentaries to point out that this story is primarily about God’s faithfulness.

Also, bear in mind that the main leader of Israel at this time is called Joshua in our English Bibles, but his true Hebrew name is actually Yeshua – the same name that we call Jesus today. This name means the “Salvation of God”.

We are going to work our way through this passage one paragraph at a time. Then we are going to go back through it and ask, “So what?” What does this have to do with me, now? And it does have a lot to do with you now – I guarantee that by reading and thinking about this really old, old part of Jewish history that you will want to hold onto it because this passage can kill your worry about the most important concern that you and I carry around: that is, “Can I trust this God I cannot see? Does He really care about little old me?”

Josh. 9:1-2 – ESV – 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.

The backstory: Moses had lead the people of Israel, God’s Chosen People, out of slavery in Egypt. Israel had wandered around in the desert wilderness for a full generation, 40 years, because they had proven that they were not ready to enter the land because they had not really trusted God. But the time had come and here in Joshua 9 the Israelites had already entered the land and begun to push out the ruthless and hateful people who lived there. That may sound like a mean thing to do, but earlier, God had refused to push the inhabitants out because He was giving them time to change their ways if they only would, but they made their cultures more and more evil with each generation. And this really is God’s planet; He has the authority to declare when one nation has done something so bad that He will intervene and punish it as He knows is best.

So Israel is coming to this promised land and is finding that the land is full of dangerous enemies who will fight to the death to maintain their cities, and farmlands, and mountains. And Israel has had great success – supernatural success, assisted by God in unseen ways to win – time and again over these evil cities and clans. Nothing like this has happened before and all of the tribes in the land are terrified of what is coming.

Here are the Canaanite tribes living in fortified cities with high walls. And along come several million homeless people to invade them. And they come with a God leading them with a huge cloud of fire in the evening. This further terrifies their enemies, but it comforts the Israelites so that they can see at night and be warmed from above. And this God also meets their needs in the daytime by providing a big cloud above them and in front of them and to keep them cool from the Sun above and direct their path. He provides weird food for them every day and they are in robust health. And He has sent an angel ahead of these people who has whispered fear and dread into the hearts of all the warriors so that even the giants with them are frightened deep in their souls that the true God of Heaven and Earth is coming to do deal with them because of their rebellion all these many years and because of His love for His People, Israel. Their Canaanite culture was truly depraved. They had something like the old Aztecs in South America with human sacrifice. {Notice that the Aztec culture has been shattered also.} The Canaanites particularly preferred to sacrifice newborn babies by burning them alive. To top things off, their religious system was based on prostitution as an act of demon worship. This culture of Canaan had to be dealt with and God was finally ready to drop the hammer.

These homeless people had come with paperwork going back to Abraham many generations before. They have the deed of title to this land and now, after many years, they are ready to claim the land and occupy it as God intended. The land belonged to our fathers then, and it belongs to us now, their descendants. And they began to occupy that land and push out every nation that would not go peaceably.

IN the midst of this great fear, these Canaanite nations put aside their many differences for the moment and they united together to repel this Jewish invasion. They were afraid of the Jews, but they were completely terrified of their God.

Jos 9:3-6 ESV – 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 (moldy). 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.”

These are the Gibeonites, the people of Gibeon (not Gideon) and they are not going along with all the other nations. This one people-group refused to combine to fight the Jews and their God because the people of Gibeon had come to the conclusion that these millions of homeless people could not be beaten.

However, they had perhaps correctly understood that making an honest peace with Israel was not an option. The decree had come from God directly, “Make no treaty” with any of the inhabitants. Drive them from the land. Fight them and destroy them, because their evil has gone too, too far and they cannot be rehabilitated. There does come a point when the Lord will hand a person over to the sin he or she is seeking and no longer extend His hand of friendship. He does this with nations also.

Thankfully, even though the Supreme Court of Heaven had ruled and the death sentence had come down for all of the Canaanite cities, Mercy would prevail. Even in this story, Mercy will break through and Mercy will win the day. God’s judgment came first and the first word was, “Kill them all”. But God’s mercy had the last word and this story of war and death and suffering will become all about salvation and community and hope. That is the way our God IS. This is why we do not serve Him in fear and dread, but we love Him because He is a God of pure Holiness, and He loves us and works out our salvation in the strangest way despite the fact that we have all blown it in life in so many ways.

God had given the Canaanite peoples ample time to change their ways. He had given them ample evidence that He is able to do right by those people who are obedient to Him – the news had traveled far and wide that the mighty empire that was Egypt had been laid low by the God of these people. Pharaoh had been drown in the strangest way and his army was no more. For 40 years, a huge number of nomads had been traveling around in the driest part of the planet, yet they had not died of thirst – rather, they had multiplied and flourished. Recently, the walled city of Jericho had fallen down with just a trumpet blast and that great city was overwhelmed in a moment. The people of Canaan were in despair, but still they had not turned from infant sacrifice – knowing human nature, you can bet that these godless nations increased their practices of evil as it was faith in this depraved system that they placed their trust. God had given them TIME to change and to turn to Him. Had they taken that opportunity which had lasted for an additional forty years, the God of Grace would have relented, and turned from his righteous anger, and made a way for them to enjoy a full and complete salvation. We see in the Book of Jonah that the evil city of Ninevah did repent of their national sin and God did relent of His plan to destroy them. But Canaan chose not to repent, rather to fight.

The Gibeonites do not know that this God of Israel is a kind God. They are very afraid and only know that this God is more than they can handle. So they play a hoax on the people of Israel. The old King James says that they were “wily” in their dealings with Joshua. Other translations use the words “crafty”, “cunning”, that they “resorted to a ruse”, they were “deceptive”. It is the same idea as found in the beginning of the Bible, back in the Garden of Eden wherein the serpent is said to be more “crafty, shrewd, cunning, and subtle” than any of the other beasts. It is with this same Devilish quality that these Gibeonites come to trick the people of Israel. This is scandalous. And I love it!

The Gibeonites want to trick the Jews into making a COVENANT with them – an unbreakable promise of peace forever so that the Jews will never be able to wipe out the Gibeonites as God had earlier commanded. If your Bible translation uses the word “treaty”, feel free to scratch that out and put a note there that these people sought a COVENANT. Their trick was to say that they had come from a very far country. And they worked hard to create a false appearance. They made themselves look like they had been traveling for months. They got shoes that the thrift stores had thrown away as being too far gone to even give away. These Gibeonites went “Dumpster Diving”. They put rotten, moldy bread in their backpacks. Their wineskins were worn out and mended, likely holding more vinegar than wine. They were in a dilapidated condition and looked totally harmless, helpless, and in need of pity. The truth was that these delegates had come from a large and powerful city that was just around the next mountain. The truth was that they did not want to die and they did not want for their loved ones to die and they did not know how to approach these people or how to approach their God. Using their natural minds, they acted just like Wile E. Coyote from the old cartoons and did everything they could to get out of their troubles using deception.

Please make a mental note that these ideas of a “far country, and tattered clothes, and nothing to eat, and begging to just be servants” would be used by Jesus in the Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. That is not by accident.

In Hebrew they say, “cut a covenant with us”. This is what you and I have with our God when we place our trust in His remedy for our sinful condition. He has “cut a covenant with us” through the tragic and cruel death of the only Good person who has ever lived.

Now these people from the city of Gibeon who were of the people-group called Hivites bait the lure.

Jos 9:7 ESV – But the men of Israel said to these 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. {It’s an unnamed country, a country so far away that if we told you the name, you would say that you’ve never even heard of it} For we have heard a report of him, and all that he did in Egypt, (over 50 years ago) and all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, etc. to Sihon the king of Heshbon, and to Og king of Bashan, who lived in Ashtaroth(also many years ago). So our elders and all the inhabitants of our country said to us, ‘Take provisions in your hand for the long journey and go to meet them and say to them, “We are your servants. Come now, make a covenant with us.”‘ Here is our bread. {They hold out a blob of mold} 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/moldy. 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.”

Will de Brailes, c 1250, England

These guys are really good. They have the look. And they only tell stories that they would have heard a long, long time ago. They talk about victory over Egypt and only Joshua and Caleb are still alive among the Jews to remember those old days. They talk about the other victories that happened a generation ago when the Jews were still wandering in the desert of Sinai. They do not mention any of the recent battles. That’s how far and remote and removed these people want to present themselves.

What do you call this? In modern terms, please answer – what do you call this? Yes, it’s a scam, a con, a _______.

Plus, they present themselves to be the servants of the Jews. That was a good trick also. Here these Jews are the sons and daughters of slavery in Egypt. It appeals to their pride that finally they will get their chance to have their own servants. The pride of life is a powerful intoxicant and the good sense of the leaders of Israel will be blinded to the truth.

It was too much to resist.

Jos 9:14 ESV – So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel at the mouth of the LORD. 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 with a binding oath.

Joshua saw with his natural eyes and he was deceived. No one sought the Word of the Lord. And things only go wrong with Israel when they refuse to seek this counsel. The one battle that the Jews had lost was only when they had not taken the time and humbled themselves to ask the Lord how to proceed. This is true throughout the history of Israel and it will be true in your life. It is a never-changing principle that cannot be escaped.

Where do you get counsel from the Mouth of the Lord? You get it from the Bible. Hide this Word in your heart. Carry it in your mind and in your memory in all things. But the Jews thought that they could make one decision without turning to the Lord, and boom – they got tricked. And ask the Lord to direct your paths when you pray. At every significant decision in life: every change of job, before a major purchase, before you commit to an agreement – prayerfully ask the Lord to open or close the door.

Jos 9:16 ESV – At the end of three days after they had made a covenant with them, they heard that these people were their neighbors and that they lived among them. 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. But the people of Israel did not attack the towns, 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. 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. This we will do to them: let them live, lest wrath be upon us, because of the oath that we swore to them.” 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.

Now remember that this passage is literal history. These events happened. But also, the writer wants to convey spiritual truths to you and me that are timeless and he does so by loading certain terms in the passage that have heavy theological meaning. He uses the term “covenant”, and “swear an oath”, and “promise”. And, by doing this, the author has made these deceptive, crooked Gibeonites the poster-children for God’s salvation for all the ages.

The Jews were permanently obligated to live at peace with these wicked people. It was a promise that could never, ever be broken or amended. The delegates had come from Gibeon to get this promise and they succeeded. And it was Joshua (Yeshua) and all the leaders of God’s People who were acting as the ambassadors of the God of Israel who swore this oath of peace – so there is a literal sense that they obligated God to keep this covenant of peace for all time to these wily Gibeonites. The Jews had tied the hands of even God. And this is exactly what the next chapter will prove out. When the Gibeonites become the object of hatred by all of these other nations that are gathering together against the Jews, all these evil kings come to first destroy the now hated Gibeonites, and I bet that you can guess who it is that comes to save these rascally Gibeonites from certain destruction. Yes; it was the people of Israel who fought for them and God joined in the battle in such a way and to such a degree that it is hard for us to get our minds around it all.

Jos 9:22 – 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, {Well, duhh!} “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 altar of the LORD, even to this day, in the place that he should choose.

The Gibeonites say, “we greatly feared for our lives”, and this is a revealing statement because Gibeon was no push-over. Gibeon was a major city. These tricky people were the A-team, not the losers, not the slackers of Canaan. 2 verses later we read in Joshua 10:2

Jos 10:2 ESV – “. . . Gibeon was a great city, like one of the royal cities, and because it was greater than Ai, and all its men were warriors.

Ai had been very tough to defeat. All of Canaan was deeply concerned that now one of their most powerful cities had gone over to the other side. We can call this “pre-evangelistic fear of the Lord”.

Here are a people who have served useless idols and treacherous demons. Now, they come face to face with the true God of Heaven and Earth, and He is a God of supreme power. Here is a God of muscle. He is a God that they cannot control, they can’t carve out of wood or stone, they can’t manipulate with rituals or sacrifices of the worst sort. Yahweh scares them. They are afraid.

And the truth is that when God begins to enter in upon your life, you are going to be afraid. Everyone, deep down and even though they will deny, deny, deny that there even is a God, they will always, always, always have a dread of this God when He is mentioned in a way that touches them on the inside. They may become angry or even dangerous. They will often hate you for bringing to mind the unwanted thought of a God who cannot be pushed aside forever. It is going to be scary; it’s normal.

Thus, even this Christian nation has seen God pushed out of the schools – because He disturbs people. Even the Christmas songs you hear in public places are only about Jingle Bells and Rudolf and Santa and Snow – all the Christ Mass content is being scrubbed away because even a newborn Baby in a Hay Trough is disturbing to every soul that will not come to Him on His terms.

For a life that has been full of wrath and sin, as was the culture of Canaan, it is going to be scary to realize that the God of Holiness is coming to deal with you or even think about you. But this is a needful part of God’s Grace that He be not only loving, but also huge and dangerous. We need to experience that He is Majesty with all the power of the King of the Universe. So the Gibeonites beg, “Make us your servants!” And we see that Joshua (Yeshua) declares: “you shall never be anything but servants, cutters of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God.”

What does that mean? Well, the Gibeonites will become servants at the Tabernacle, very near to all of God’s object lessons of Salvation. These gentiles will be working among and even living right beside the very priests of this God whom they fear more than anything. They will learn the Hebrew, and hear the prayers, and watch the sacrifices, and hear the blessings, and learn the teachings better than any of the Jews who are not Levites. God had ordered that the Tabernacle be off-limits to all the Jews who were not Levites. And very few of even the Levites could be around the Tabernacle unless it was their time of the year to serve at the tabernacle, and that was only after they had become 30 years old and it was all very limited because this God was understood to be too dangerous and not to be approached lightly or unwisely.

But no one, not initially, cared for these treacherous Gibeonites so let them carry wood for the altar – let them get burned. And even that was Grace because they got to learn more about this God than the vast majority of all the Jews because they received a permanent induction right to the courts of the Tabernacle every day and every night. They were there to learn about what the New Testament refers to as the “shadow of Messiah”. That’s not a bad deal.

Let’s just peak into the next chapter to see the great lengths that God goes to to make certain that the Gibeonites do get to enjoy peace now that the covenant has obligated the Jews and even God to care for these crafty people.

Jos 10{5 ESV – 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.

Jos 10:6 ESV – And the men of Gibeon sent to Joshua (Yeshua) 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.” (Think of this as a prayer to Yeshua – Save us now in our moment of need!)
Jos 10:7 ESV – So Joshua went up from Gilgal, he and all the people of war with him, and all the mighty men of valor.
Jos 10:8 ESV – 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.”
Jos 10:9 ESV – So Joshua came upon them suddenly, having marched up all night from Gilgal.
Jos 10:10 ESV – And the LORD threw them (the evil kings and enemies of Israel and Gibeon) 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.
Jos 10:11 ESV – 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. (God caused a storm of meteorites or hailstones to rain down on them) There were more who died because of the hailstones than the sons of Israel killed with the sword.
Jos 10:12 ESV – 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.”
Jos 10:13 ESV – 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.
Jos 10:14 ESV – 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. (And saved the people of Gibeon according to the covenant which could never be broken.)

In these two chapters we find the most messed up story of salvation in the entire Bible AND we find the Lord working out that salvation in the most amazing way that can be found in the entire Bible.

This part of the Bible is history, but it is so much more than history for you and for me. It is history that has been carefully told so that you and I can draw a deep understanding about who God is and how He will act for us when it comes to His ability to work Salvation for you and me. Read Joshua 9 and 10 over and over through your years on this earth and learn more about Who our God is and How He will move to keep His Covenant of Peace to you. Come to Him in your fears. Come even with your deceptions. Go ahead and be foolish and try to make a deal with God to save your skin. Be like these Gibeonites if that’s the best you can do, and the King of the Universe will keep His oath of Peace to you. He will move Heaven and Earth to preserve you in His care. He will stop the Sun overhead to prove the He will keep all of His promises, only turn to Him and accept the deal that He has always been holding out for you.

None of us come to the Lord in a perfect way. How could we? We come to Him in fear of His wrath and hoping that we can get on His good side. It is only after we make that motion to surrender to Him that we experience that other part of who He is. It is always this way. It will always be this way for your children and your friends and the people at work who have not turned in surrender to the Lord. So don’t try to sugar-coat things. People know that there is a God and they are afraid of Him. Consider Romans 1:

Rom 1:19 ESV – For what can be known about God is plain to (all people everywhere), because God has shown it to them. Rom 1:20 ESV – For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. Rom 1:21 ESV – For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Rom 1:22 ESV – Claiming to be wise, they became fools,

And those fears are not ungrounded. The God who made this universe is way too big for us to handle.

Consider the story that the Gibeonites tell Joshua (Jesus). We have come from a “far country”. This phrase “far country” appears in Scripture only a few times and in every case it represents unBelieving people or people who where at odds with God coming to seek peace with God. The most notable is the Parable of the Prodigal Son mentioned earlier.

Consider the passage: These people come from a far country, they come deceitfully, they come in tattered clothing, they come without any provisions for the future, they come in fear, they come to just be servants, and they come to save their own skins from a God they can’t handle.

There is not a better depiction in the whole Bible that this one, and it is a portrait of you. Me. These Gibeonites represent us. They come to God’s People and they trick them and succeed in making peace. And the Jews blow it, too. They do not ask what the Lord would say on this matter. The leaders, starting with Joshua (Yeshua, Jesus) make a binding covenant of peace with these people who really ought to have their throats cut. This is a covenant made by Fallen, sinful people with Fallen, sinful people. This is the most messed-up covenant that can be found in the whole of Scripture. Nevertheless, this covenant is still totally unbreakable, unshakable forever. It is permanent.

Now there is type of logic that all students of law and debate must learn and use. In Latin, it is called a fortiori logic. You can even Google the phrase “a fortiori argument” later today if you like. It means “from the stronger”. “a” in Latin means “from”. Fortiori means “that which is the stronger”. A fortiori logic means that the learning flows from the greater to the lesser. For example: Is anyone here able to perform three good push-ups?

OK. So this young man just banged out three solid push-ups. Yes? So let me ask all of you, can he do just two good push-ups? Can he do one? Yes. Of course he can do one, because he just did three. This is logical. It is a fortiori logic.

If the bigger thing is true, then the smaller thing must be true. If the harder thing is true, then the easier thing is true. All of the lesser parts of a thing be true if the whole complete thing is true.

In the Bible, we often come across the phrase “much more” – and this is a fortiori at work. Here are a few examples:

Mat 6:30 ESV – But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

Mat 7:11 ESV – If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
If the harder thing is true (Fallen people being good and kind) then the easier thing must be true (a loving, unFallen, creative Father caring for those He loves)

Rom 5:10 ESV – For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

If God would do all of these good things for you at a time when you were still his enemy, still resisting Him, still preferring to live on His planet in a way that was defiant and was even shameful in your own estimation of right and wrong – then how much greater will be his kindnesses to you now that you have turned toward Him and accepted His love in obedience, even though your obedience is not yet perfect.

If the harder thing – if the seemingly impossible thing be true – then the simple thing has to be true.

So which is harder? For Fallen, deceived Jewish people to keep a covenant? Or for God who knows all things and cannot lie to keep a covenant?

These Jewish leaders had messed up. The people were murmuring against them. They had good reason to fear a revolution – because the people has revolted in the past. These Jewish leaders were hard pressed to break their vows, but they kept them anyway despite the fact that it cost them, it made them look foolish, and it put them in jeopardy. How much easier is it for a God who is above all these petty concerns and who has no fear and who knows exactly how everything will turn out just right – how easy it is for Him to keep the promises that he has made to you and me.

It’s a piece of cake for God to keep his word – it’s his nature. It is harder for people like you and me to come through and keep our word. God is not like us. He has no fear, no lack, no needs; he knows all things and He is already ahead of us in time and already enjoying the reality of what to us is a distant future.

If the imperfect Jews who kept their covenant with these crafty, deceptive, wily, con-artist, sneaky, rascally Gibeonites – people who built everything upon the false pretenses of a premeditated ruse – a promise made under the worst conditions of all time —– how much more likely it is for the God of perfect Holiness to keep the promises that He has made to you?

If the promises which the Jews had made was totally unbreakable and even required of them to rush to the aid of these horrible Gibeonites, how much more can you trust the promises which the Lord God has made to you?

The Gibeonites represent us: coming for Peace in tattered clothes, hungry, miserable, torn and patched, and CROOKED. The Jews (Joshua – Yeshua) represent God. Yes, the similarity is distorted almost completely, but one thing remains – the covenant cannot be unmade: it is permanent and God must do whatever is needful to make sure that He keeps it well.

So, if a covenant made by humans cannot be broken, then God’s covenant with you, Christian, is the one thing that you can hold in your life as permanent, unshakable, unbreakable, and certain. You likely are concerned about all of the uncertainties in the world today. The economy is a shambles, jobs are hard to come by and it is hard to pay for the obligations we agreed to meet just a few years ago. People you know are losing their houses. Everything is spinning and may be spinning out of control. But there is one thing that you can hold onto for certain, and that is this: God will be faithful to you because that is Who He Is. He Is Faithful. Even though you may have come to Him is a way that was less than perfect – and you did – He is perfect and He is able to do the impossible on your behalf.

But God has made more than one promise to those who call upon His name in hope and trust. There is so much more than salvation from his anger. There is more than escape from Hell and some type of existence in Heaven where you will be tolerated and permitted to exist eternally in a really neat world. God has promised to Save you in every way, in every aspect of your humanity and to make you the perfect you – the you that you’ve always wanted to be and more. The honest you, the you who is certain of who you are in the world, the you who is brave, and truly kind, and generous, and strong, and upright, and noble. How does He do this?

Everyone born into this world by natural means has come into the world with one big problem that they have no ability to fix. We are all born with a Sinful nature that is at odds with the God of creation. It started with Adam. When He rebelled against God, his Father, Adam unplugged his human spirit from the throne of the ever-living God in the heavenly realm. Adam unplugged himself from life in the Spirit of God. {In the day that he did eat thereof, he did surely die – or God was a liar.} Even though Adam continued to live naturally, his spirit was ruined. After that, he did not have a healthy spirit to give to his own children. Those children were made in his Fallen image and on down the generations to you and me and everyone you know. We are all in the same boat. We are all born with the same need that we can not remedy on our own. You children are born like you in this regard. We must all be born again, and that rebirth is of our spirits which we cannot see. We must all get plugged into the source of eternal Life on the other side of Reality.

Because we inherited this condition from the first man, we sin. We don’t only break God’s rules. We break the laws of man as well. We do stupid things that we agree violate our own personal moral convictions. We lie. We take by force, by deceit, by dark of night. We hurt one another and ourselves. We hate one another and ourselves. We kill one another and ourselves.

But there was one Man who was not naturally born. He is Messiah, and he did not receive his human spirit from a natural father, but the Holy Spirit caused him to live. And he lived as a man. He lived a full life under the Law of the Jews. And because he did not have a spirit that was ruined like mine when I was conceived, he did not crave the things of the World like we are prone to do. He craved to remain obedient to the Father above while he lived as a man in this world below. So he remained Innocent all of His days on earth. Each bit of the Law was obeyed without any error, and it was actually NATURAL for Jesus to keep the Law because that Law was handed down from his own character. His character was not at odds with God’s ways. So He lived the perfect life as the perfect Jewish man. And the Father loved Him. As Yeshua matured and did more and more of the Good which the Father desires to see on this planet among people like you and me, the Father’s favor grew and grew. It cannot really be understood – it is a mystery to me that the Father’s favor could increase for the Son, but it became infinite. As a pure man, he was anointed with the Holy Spirit and He performed miracles through reliance on the Holy Spirit of God. As an adult Jewish man, Jesus enjoyed to total and infinite favor of God the Father. And it was at that point that this Innocent man was killed horribly. And there became one death too many in the universe. His death was not deserved. In a strange way, the Justice of God was shattered when He permitted that singular Innocent life to be nailed to that Cross. I cannot understand it.

People like me do not deserve to live. I was born bound and determined to earn my sentence of death through the many sins I have committed in my years. We are just like those Gibeonites: although the Lord has afforded us much time and opportunity to repent, each day that we do go on sinning in God’s universe we earn our damnation. So we fear, and our fears are not without cause until we turn to Him and accept this deal He has provided for you and me and everyone you know.

How many lies have been told in the history of the world? How may lies remain to be spoken? I do not know, but God knows and there is a certain number and that number is limited. As many as that be, it cannot compare to the infinite perfection of that one Innocent life that was whipped through the streets of Jerusalem by all the liars who have ever lived and will ever live.

How many families have been torn by the infidelity of father and mother? Though the pain be terrible and the count of broken marriages and broken homes is unknowable to you and me, God knows. And the number assigned to that pain is small when set beside the giant figure of Messiah, the ever-faithful Son of God who is the unwaivering Bridegroom of his Church. With his own Blood, he paid the dowry for his beloved and he will return soon to bring her to meet the Father in Heaven.

How many bullets and bombs and blades have tracked down their victims in all the wars and feudings of our history. My mind goes immediately to the Holocaust of the last century, to the cattle cars crammed with Jews and gypsies, to the crematoria where men went mad to recognize the faces of their own murdered kin as they were rolled into the flames. And as horrific as is all of that sin throughout the ages, a number has been assigned and the number of these devilish killings is fixed and finite. Only the infinite Worth of the Living Christ can overcome all these things. According to His character is He willing to set even such men as these right before Holy God. By His merit is He alone able to soak up all the sins which have bloodied God’s soil. His name means “the salvation of God”: He is able to wring out all of your wrongs into the sea of God’s forgetfulness because of Who He Is and because of the Price that He has paid to earn that right.

Isa 43:24 – You have not . . . satisfied me with the fat of your sacrifices. But you have burdened me with your sins; you have wearied me with your iniquities.
Isa 43:25 – “Yet I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins any longer.

God must keep his covenants. Remember Abraham. When God promised a son to this old man, Abraham laughed at the thought of it. His really old wife, she laughed at the mention of it. So, did God say, “Fine! I’ll take my promises to someone else who is worthy of it” ? No, God took Abraham outside the tent at night and had him look at the stars in the desert sky and God assured Abraham that his sons and daughters would be as innumerable as were the stars in the sky. And although the Devil and his monsters work for the end of the Jews in every generation, the Jew cannot be obliterated because the promises of God are eternal.

Remember David. God made a promise to David that could not be broken. David was assured that the royal line of Judah would flow from his lineage forever.

2Samuel 7:16 ESV – And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.'”

But that promise was made before David stole Bathsheba away from her godly husband and had that man killed. The promise was made in chapter 7. The adultery and murder came four chapters later. So did God retract His promise to David? Not at all. I would have, but God will not be like you and me. Over 300 years later, we read in Jeremiah 33:

Jer 33:20 – “Thus says the LORD: If you, (Jeremiah,) can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night will not come at their appointed time, then also my covenant with David my servant may be broken, so that he shall not have a son to reign on his throne, and my covenant with the Levitical priests my ministers.

Jer 33:24 ESV – “Have you not observed that these people are saying, ‘The LORD has rejected the two clans that he chose’? Thus they have despised my people so that they are no longer a nation in their sight. Jer 33:25 ESV – Thus says the LORD: If I have not established my covenant with day and night and the fixed order of heaven and earth, Jer 33:26 ESV – then I will reject the offspring of Jacob and David my servant and will not choose one of his offspring to rule over the offspring of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For I will restore their fortunes and I will have mercy on them.”

What about the people of Israel? Over and over and over again, the Bible and history records that they let the Lord down and did all kinds of bad things that should have gotten them fired from being the Chosen People of God. In 2 Kings 13 we have the end of a long list of horrible stuff and then verse 23:

2Ki 13:23 – But the LORD was gracious to them and had compassion on them, and he turned toward them, because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them, nor has he cast them from his presence even now.

Let us not attempt to cast God in our image. He is not like us. He does not change His mind about His promises. You have one certain thing that will not let you down. Only trust in the Son to make you right before God and never doubt Him.

The world around will shame you for your mistakes. Your own conscience will turn against you in the night and condemn you to Hell in a hundred ways for each of your offenses. “Look at how low you have sunk!” When you feel down and you loath yourself and are thinking about suicide and are just about certain that God has turned his back on you. When you come to your senses and realize that you have gotten away from God into a far country and you have nothing of value in your life – nothing to offer but for your own pile of sins, when your clothes are tattered and torn and reveal your bare spots, and you are crushed by your decisions and living in an unhealthy dread of God because of who you recognize yourself to be . . .

realize that it is the covenant which the Father has made with His own Son, Messiah, which supersedes any of the crimes and offenses that you or Satan can stack up on your side of the equation. God the Father has made a promise to God the Son. So no sin, no calamity, no demon, no natural disaster, no thing can tear down this promise which the Lord is honor-bound to keep forever. He foreknew that you would be a lot of trouble way before he made these promises in the first place! God’s integrity depends on who He is, not on who you are.

Now for the vitamins:

Hbr 10:23 ESV – Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. Hbr 10:24 ESV – And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,
Hbr 10:25 ESV – not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Titus 3:3-7
At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

1 John 3:3
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.

Rom 8:38-39 ESV – For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

———————————————————- – info on modern day Gibeonites in Ethiopia.


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