In our weekly Sunday evening Bible study, we’re examining the book of Joshua. While looking at chapter nine, I learned something I didn’t know before which blessed me. I want to share it with you, hoping it blesses you too.
In Joshua 5:1 (NLT) it says, “When all the Amorite kings west of the Jordan and all the Canaanite kings who lived along the Mediterranean coast heard how the Lord had dried up the Jordan River so the people of Israel could cross, they lost heart and were paralyzed with fear because of them.”
During the conquest of the Promised Land, God had told His people in Deuteronomy 20 that when they approached a town to attack it, they must first offer the people terms for peace. If they accepted the terms of peace, they were to serve the Israelites with forced labour. If they refused the terms, the Israelites were to attack, killing every man, but keeping the women, children, livestock, and other plunder for themselves.
God told the Israelites the above instructions applied only to distant towns, “not to the towns of the nations in the land you will enter” (Deuteronomy 20:15 NLT).
In nearby towns, every living thing was to be destroyed. God’s reason for doing this was that it would “prevent the people of the land from teaching (the Israelites) to imitate their detestable customs in the worship of their gods, which would cause (the Israelites) to sin deeply against the Lord...” (Deuteronomy 20:18 NLT). “When the Lord your God hands these nations over to you and you conquer them, you must completely destroy them. Make no treaty with them and show them no mercy” (Deuteronomy 7:2 NLT).
The Gibeonites came up with a ruse so they wouldn’t be destroyed. “But when the people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, they resorted to deception to save themselves” (Joshua 9:3-4 NLT).
They dressed in old clothing and sandals, brought moldy bread and wineskins, told the Israelites they had come from a long distance, and asked Israel to make a treaty with them and they would be Israel’s servants.
The truth was the Gibeonites did not live far away but nearby. A very sad verse is in Joshua 9:14: “So the Israelites examined their food, but they did not consult the Lord” (italics mine). Therefore, they made a treaty with the Gibeonites in spite of what God had told them.
Three days later Joshua learned they had been deceived. When he called together the Gibeonites he said, “Why did you lie to us? Why did you say that you live in a distant land when you live right here among us? May you be cursed. From now on you will always be servants who cut wood and carry water for the house of my God” (Joshua 9:22-23 NLT).
The Gibeonites had to work hard. The Israelites used a lot of wood and water. Just the daily offerings in the tabernacle required huge amounts for burning and cleaning up. The Gibeonites weren’t dead but they were cursed to be menial slaves.
However, our God is a merciful God. And this is the part that blessed me. Because the Gibeonites cut the wood and carried the water for the Lord’s service, they were brought close to the Lord. In Joshua 21:17 (NLT), it says, “From the tribe of Benjamin the priests were given the following towns with their pasturelands: Gibeon, Geba, Anathoth, and Almon...” Gibeon became a centre for training in the Word of God and worship.
Under King Solomon, before he built the first temple, the tabernacle was at Gibeon. “Then he (Solomon) led the entire assembly to the place of worship in Gibeon, for God’s Tabernacle was located there” (2 Chronicles 1:3 NLT).
When the Israelites returned from captivity in Babylon, the list of those who could prove Jewish heritage included the Gibeonites. Nehemiah 7:5,25 (NLT) says, “So my God gave me the idea to call together all the nobles and leaders of the city, along with the ordinary citizens, for registration... The family of Gibbar” (Gibeon).
And lastly, the Gibeonites helped to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. “The Old City Gate was repaired by Joiada...and Meshullam... They laid the beams, set up its doors, and installed its bolts and bars. Next to them were Melatiah from Gibeon, Jadon from Meronoth, people from Gibeon... (Nehemiah 3:6-7 NLT, italics mine).
Thus is appears that God in His mercy allowed the Gibeonites to be absorbed into the covenant people. Like Rahab, who hid the spies, they transferred their allegiance from pagan gods to the true God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
This is an Old Testament example of God’s mercy and grace. In the New Testament, God’s mercy and grace has abounded to us in the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit...” (Titus 3:5 ESV).
When we miss the mark, if we repent, He will forgive us (1 John 1:9). Today, whatever you’ve done, turn to your heavenly Father, repent, and receive His mercy and grace.
We all know the story of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, renamed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ther young Hebrews removed from their homes in Jerusalem in 605 B.C. during a siege by King Nebuchadnezzar, and carried off to Babylon.
Interestingly, their Hebrew names had something of God in them. Hananiah means, ‘the grace of the Lord’; Mishael, ‘He that is the strong God’; and Azariah – ‘The Lord is a help’. Their new names, probably given to make them forget the God of their fathers, favoured Chaldean idolatry. Shadrach means, ‘the inspiration of the sun’, worshipped by the Babylonians; Meshach, ‘of the goddess Shach, worshipped as Venus; and Abednego – ‘the servant of the shining fire’, which was also venerated.
The Hebrew meaning of the name of their friend Daniel, carried off with them, was ‘God is my judge’. His name was changed to Belteshazzar – ‘keeper of the hidden treasures of Bel’. While in Babylon, the four young men endured ‘tests of faith’, first regarding their diet (see Daniel 1), and secondly, regarding King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, which he demanded that his magicians, wise men, and counsellors (Daniel and his three friends among them) tell him the dream and interpret it. If they couldn’t, they would be destroyed. To find out what happened, read Daniel 2.
The third great test of faith for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego is the one I want to examine more closely. Daniel is not mentioned in this test and the Scripture does not say why. The three men apparently faced it on their own without Daniel’s help.
King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold in the plain of Dura and commanded that when music was played, all his subjects had to bow down to the image. Anyone who didn’t obey was to be thrown into a fiery furnace. The king taunted, “And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?” (Daniel 3:15).
King Nebuchadnezzar got wind of the fact that the three Hebrews were not bowing
down to his statue. They would not bow their knees because that would be a violation of the
“You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God...” (Exodus 20:3-5 NIV).
The king hauled the three men in for an accounting. They answered him with boldness.
“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar, ‘Your threat means nothing to us. If you throw us in the fire, the God we serve can rescue us from your roaring furnace and anything else you might cook up, O king. But even if he doesn’t, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference, O king. We still wouldn’t serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up’” (Daniel 3:16-18 MSG).
I so admire the three for telling the king that even if God didn’t deliver them, they still wouldn’t worship the image.
King Nebuchadnezzar was not happy, flew into a rage, made the furnace seven times hotter, and threw the three men inside. The fire was so hot, the men who tossed the three into it were killed by the heat.
Suddenly, after they’d been thrust into the fire, the king jumped up. The men were not harmed. And there was a fourth Person with them. “Well, look!” Nebuchadnezzar shouted. “I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire, and they aren’t even hurt by the flames! And the fourth looks like a god!” (perhaps better translated “a son of the gods”) (Daniel 3:25 TLB).
Having observed the miraculous protection of the three men, the king told them to come out of the fire and made a decree that no one should “speak a word against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego...” (Daniel 3:29 NLT).
Why did I review this when most of you know it? I did it for three reasons.
1. To be ready for the big trials, we need to be obedient in the smaller ones
2. Tests of faith can often rest on resisting the influence of the world. As our culture becomes increasingly anti-God, this is truer than ever. The Scripture tells us, "SO COME OUT FROM AMONG UNBELIEVERS AND BE SEPARATE," says the Lord, "AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; And I will graciously receive you and welcome you [with favor]..." (2 Corinthians 6:17 AMP).
3. Although it isn't stated, I believe the fourth Person in the fire was the pre-incarnate Christ. He didn't spare the three men from the fire but was with them in the fire.
My dear friend, whatever you’re going through today, Jesus is with you. When
circumstances and situations come crashing down on your head, when your health is in jeopardy, when friends you trusted betray you, He is there. He is not on the outside looking in. He is with you, right where you are.
And He is with you to deliver you, to give you the victory, to lead you in triumph. Believe His Word, stand on His promises, and you cannot fail. He has promised it. “In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life” (2 Corinthians 2:14 MSG).
Today, march in Christ’s victory parade.
In this Blog, I want to share with you some of the things I've learned from many years of following Jesus.