Let's Join the Winning Team (Part 6)
By Sophia Prinsloo
with Barbara Wilmerton Haas
Text Version | Afrikaans
A Bible Story About Joshua
(Continued from Part 5)
Have you ever become carried away with excitement when your favorite team won, whether it were in sports, the arts, singing, debate, or games, etc.? You wanted to be on the side of the winning team, unless you felt you could beat them. Well, it was the same in the time of Joshua but, for them, it was a matter of life and death.
News of the utter defeat and total destruction of Jericho and Ai by the hand of the God of Joshua and the Israelites spread rapidly to all the nations living west of the Jordan River. Even people living on the highest hills, in the deepest valleys and right up to the great Mediterranean Sea towards Lebanon heard about their victories. These nations were the —
They were so afraid of the Israelites that they decided to come together as one and fight against them. But then something happened.
The Gibeonites, who were part of the Hivites, found out some important information
about the Law of the Israelites that changed everything.
The Bible doesn't tell us specifically how they got to know this important information but, in those days, there was no such thing as —
Nations learned about one another by chance, by visiting one another, by buying and selling goods to one another, or even by spying on one another. Let's imagine for a moment that it could have happened this way:
Zibeon, the young Hivite, proudly led his gang of adventurous teenage boys on a fishing trip. With their fishnets and lunch boxes in their backpacks, they rode their smelly, coarse-haired donkeys all the way to the Jordan River. When they reached the banks of the river, one of the boys stayed with the donkeys to guard them, while the other boys carefully made their way through the lush thicket. They were wide alert, watching out for lions, snakes and other dangerous predators prowling in the rustling bushes, just as their parents taught them.
Suddenly, Zibeon heard a strange noise. “Shhh!” he warned his gang, signaling them to get down. Stealthily trying not to break any twigs, they slowly crawled towards the sound and peeked over the edge of the river bank. No, the sound wasn't coming from a fierce lion, nor a creepy crocodile, but a couple of bearded men who had beaten them to their favorite fishing spot. Who were these men? Were they friends or were they foes? They just had to know. Hiding behind a large rock, Zibeon and his gang listened intently to the men talking, trying to find out who they were.
“I'm a LEVITE and I know the Laws of Moses!” the guy with the extra-long tassels on the corners of his garment insisted. “MOSES commanded us NOT to make any treaties with the nations living in Canaan, but to destroy them all, together with their evil practices. We are ONLY allowed to make treaties with cities VERY, VERY FAR away from us,” he said with his tassels swinging wildly to the tugs on his fishing line.
Zibeon gasped, turned around and whispered to his friends, “Those men are ISRAELITES! Remember MOSES? He was the leader of the children of Israel who parted the Red Sea for Israel to go through on dry land. We must go back to the city immediately and report this information to my dad!”
Zibeon's dad was a very important security advisor to the King of the city of Gibeon.
Zibeon realized this information could save their lives.
The youngsters cautiously turned around, made their way back through the thicket, jumped on their donkeys and rode as fast as they could back to the city of Gibeon. They were hurting from the long, bumpy ride, but they didn't care because time was of the essence.
They arrived home just in time to catch Zibeon's dad who was about to leave for an urgent, security meeting with the King. Jumping from his donkey, nearly out of breath, Zibeon told his dad what the party of Israelite men said. There and then, Zibeon's dad decided to take his son to the meeting with the King so he could repeat what he had heard.
Once inside the King's throne room, Zibeon could feel his heart beating in his chest. He bowed before the throne and respectfully told the King what he had heard from the Israelites. The King listened intently to Zibeon's story and then quickly made a plan. He told his security council, “Men, we know Israel destroyed Kings Og and Sihon, as well as Jericho and Ai. Our city is huge, much bigger than Jericho and Ai, and we have many soldiers, but we have ONE BIG PROBLEM.
The God of the Israelites is too mighty for us and,
with his help, they will certainly destroy us.
“The only chance we have to save our lives and those of our people, is to deceive them with a cunning scheme. We must act as if we had come from a VERY, VERY FARAWAY country and then make a treaty with them.”
The men agreed, so a few high-ranking men disguised themselves as ambassadors from a VERY, VERY FARAWAY country. They clothed themselves with the most worn garments and patched shoes they could find. Then they took some smelly, moldy bread, as well as old, torn and roughly mended wineskins and packed them in old sacks, then loaded them on their donkeys and set off to the Israelite camp in Gilgal, just few miles away.
As they approached the Israelite camp, guards sounded an alarm. “Quiet, everyone! We see a company of men coming. They're riding on donkeys…. Wait a minute! It looks as if they're waving a white flag to show they come in peace.”
When the strangers arrived at the camp, the Israelites didn't attack them. Instead, they cautiously allowed them to come into their midst. Joshua and the rulers of Israel gathered around them, ready to finish them off right then and there if they as much as tried to make a wrong move.
The strangers bowed down low, very respectfully and lied. “We come from a VERY, VERY FARAWAY land to ask for a peace treaty with you.”
The men of Israel didn't trust the strangers so began questioning them with skepticism. “Maybe you're lying to us and are living close by. How can we then make a covenant with you?”
The pounding hearts of the strange beggars nearly sank into their patched shoes, but they refused to let their hearts ruin the day. They stiffened up and became determined not to let their request be declined. Retaining their composure, the strangers meekly said to Joshua, “We are your servants.”
Joshua was touched by their humility, but still trying to get to the bottom of this himself, he asked, “Who are you? Where do you come from?”
The hopes of the strangers flared up. “Your servants are from a VERY, VERY FARAWAY country and we came because of the Name of the Lord your God. We heard of his fame, the wonders He did in Egypt, and how He also helped the children of Israel annihilate Kings Og and Sihon on the east side of the Jordan River.”
Because news traveled very slowly to far places in those days, the Hivites were careful not to blow their cover and mention Jericho and Ai, so they continued, “Because of your God, our elders and all the inhabitants of our land earnestly pleaded with us and said, ‘Take provisions with you for the journey and go, meet the Israelites. Say to them, “We're your servants now. We're asking you to make a covenant with us.”’”
One of the strangers took out a piece of bread from the worn sack on the donkey, showed it to them and said, “Just look at this crust and crumbs. This is old, moldy leftovers from a loaf of bread. When we left home, it was freshly baked.”
A second one held up a wineskin and added, “Yes, and these wineskins were still brand new then, but now they're torn.”
A third one stepped forward, pointing at his dusty clothes and shoes, saying, “Check out our filthy, ragged garments and patched shoes. They became old and worn out from the long journey. You just have to believe us.”
The men of Israel inspected the strangers' provisions and decided that it appeared they were telling the truth. Joshua and the Israelite elders talked among themselves about whether or not to make peace with the strangers, but they made ONE BIG MISTAKE — they did NOT seek advice from the Lord. So without asking God what He thought about it, Joshua made a covenant with them to let them live, with the rulers of the congregation promising to protect them. The strangers were overjoyed, leaving the camp with great relief, trusting and hoping the Israelites would keep their promise.
Three days later, Joshua and the Israelites marched against the city of Gibeon to smite it. Before they could attack, the men from Gibeon shouted loudly: “Look at this document! Isn't this the treaty you made with us?”
Joshua and the elders could hardly believe their eyes! But right there in front of them, the Gibeonites showed them proof of the covenant they'd made with them. Only then did the rulers of Israel realize they had been deceived by the Hivites, who lived NOT very far away, but actually on their doorstep, in the cities of Gibeon, Chephirah, Beeroth and Kirjath Jearim. These Hivites were definitely NOT wearing filthy rags and patched shoes anymore. The rulers of Israel were so sorry they'd not asked the Lord for advice before making the treaty with the Hivites. Also, the children of Israel weren't at all happy with their rulers and complained loudly about their significant blunder.
The rulers replied, “We made an oath with them using the Name of the Lord our God and that's why we MUST keep our promise to them and let them live. If not, God's wrath will come upon us if we don't keep our word. We'd rather let them serve us as woodcutters and water carriers, paying for their deceit.”
Not very happy with the turn of events, but making the most of it, Joshua called the Hivites together, reprimanding them. “Why did you deceive us, posing as a people coming from a VERY, VERY FARAWAY country when all the while you were living right under our noses? You are a cursed people. Now it will be your duty to become our servants, as you said. You will serve as woodcutters and water carriers for the sacrifices in house of the Lord our God.”
Humbly, the Hivites answered, “Your servants heard that the Lord your God commanded Moses to give you this land and destroy its citizens. We feared for our lives and that's why we deceived you. Now we're in your hands, at your mercy. Do with us as you see fit and right in your eyes. We'll gladly serve as woodcutters and water carriers for your God.”
So the Israelites let them live. All the cleaning rites of the priests and Israelites required lots and lots of water, and an enormous amount of wood was needed for the many, many burnt sacrifices, so there was endless work for water carriers and woodcutters. The Hivites were not only relieved that their lives had been spared, but they were also happily satisfied that they were now aligned with Joshua and the Israelites and, most of all, with their wonder-working God, Who would now protect, avenge and defend them as well.
When Jesus came to earth, He told a parable about a wise king who discussed with his counselors whether or not they were strong enough to defeat the men who were marching against them. If not, they would send the truce team to discuss terms of peace, as the Hivites did with Gideon.
Just like the Hivites, you and I have the opportunity to also be wise by making a peace treaty with Jesus, Who is bigger, stronger and mightier than us all. The good news is that, unlike the Hivites, we don't have to try and deceive Jesus to become part of his winning team. All He asks is that we be honest with our sins, which are like filthy, worn-out rags in the eyes of the Lord.
When we make a treaty with Jesus, giving our lives in service to Him, He'll come to our aid during life's difficulties, help us get through them and empower us to win heaven in the end. Remember, only the Israelites were bound by the Laws of Moses, but Jesus' New Testament Covenant is available to all who are willing to surrender to Him and serve Him with all their heart, soul, mind and might.
(Continued in Part 7)
God would love for you to join his winning team. You can't do that by trying to be good, because good works are like filthy, worn-out rags before the Lord. The only way to become a part of God's winning team is by accepting Jesus Christ as Savior and serving Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.
1. Why were the Hivites so eager to make a treaty with the Israelites?
2. How did the Hivite company from the city of Gibeon disguise themselves?
3. Did their cunning plan work?
4. What mistake did Joshua and the rulers of Israel make?
5. Who made it possible for us to enter into a covenant with God?
6. Do you think God will keep his covenant with you even if you make mistakes but ask forgiveness?
A VERSE TO LEARN
“But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises” (Hebrews 8:6).
AN ALTERNATIVE VERSE TO LEARN
“By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament” (Hebrews 7:22).
“What a bargain! I give up my filthy rags of self-reliance and good works. I lay aside my worn-out shoes of striving. I leave behind my sleepless nights on the streets of doubt and fear. And in return I get adopted by a King!” — David Wilkerson.
Do you know anyone in your class who pretended to be good in front of the teacher just to stay on his or her good side? Or did someone pretend to be something they weren't, just to become your friend? Have you ever pretended in order to get someone to like you?
Remember, with God you never need to pretend. He knows you better than you know yourself and yet He still loves you. Would you like to learn to love Him too? Would you like to be part of a covenant with God and be on his winning team?
[After discussion:] Let's take a moment and thank God for loving us just as we are. Let's ask Him to teach us to always be honest before Him and not pretend to be without sin. Let's also ask Him to help us be part of his winning team.
Heavenly Father, thank You for loving me just as I am.
Teach me to always be honest about my mistakes before you.
Lord, I want to be on your winning team.
Please make me a part of your covenant.
Jesus, be my Lord and Savior.
Help me always remember to ask You for advice in my life.
I thank You and I love You.
In Jesus' Name. Amen.
CAN YOU FIND THIS STORY IN THE BIBLE?
Joshua 9:1-27; Luke 14:31-32
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The Holy Bible: Joshua the Conqueror (watch online)
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