ENGAGED BY FAITH (How big is your God?)

In Joshua 9 we read of what is called “The Gibeonite Deception.” Basically what happens is this group of people hear of Joshua and the Israelites and realize they are on the list of countries to be conquered. So they devise a daring and deceptive plan to lie to Joshua and the Israelites and get them to make a treaty with them. The Gibeonites pretend to be from a far away land and convince Joshua and the people that they are harmless. But, as with his first big mistake, Joshua fails to consult God on that decision. By the time he realizes what has happened, he has already entered into a covenant relationship with these people.

Now, most of us would feel confident saying that a contract entered into under false pretenses would be non-binding. But not Joshua. He upholds his end of the bargain. Even when he doesn’t have to. Not long after the treaty is made a message is sent to Joshua. It seems the other countries around Canaan view the Gibeonites as traitors. So they have banded together to make them pay. They are besieging Gibeon and perparing to destroy it. That’s when the Gibeonites decide to call on the treaty they have just made. They call to Joshua for help. When Gibeon calls Joshua for help I think this is an integrity dilemma for Joshua. I think this is an opportunity for Joshua to show the leader he is to be in his response to the Gibeonite nation. To what degree is he really going to engage in helping them?

Joshua does what Joshua’s God does. He immediately responds to help. As soon as Joshua hears that the people of Gibeon are in trouble he immediately puts his army together and they begin marching. They begin heading into battle. It’s that immediate response to obedience that God puts before him. Joshua knew his God was a God of covenants. There is no question about that. Joshua was the one who actually entered into the covenant therefore he is the one who has to keep the covenant. He is not going to be allowed to rationalize himself out of this covenant that he has made with the Gibeon nation so he immediately begins marching the people.

When God puts before us those things that are clearly in the midst of His will then we embrace those things and engage in those things. Once again, I’m not speaking about the particular amount or the way you go about approaching that. I’m just saying you don’t have to pray about that one. My grandfather used to say, “When I tell you to jump, don’t ask how high, just start jumping!” Do I want to participate in the Gospel going to the ends of the earth? Yes, absolutely and why is that? It is because God has put that call before us. Why? It is because that’s obedience. Now it could be done a hundred different ways but we’re going to start marching on that one. Am I going to share the Gospel with the people that God places in my life that don’t know Him? Absolutely, I don’t have to pray about that. Am I the person that is going to lead them to the Lord? I have no idea but I’m going to start marching. I’m going to start figuring out if I’m the one the Lord is going to use in this particular situation. We don’t minimally obey. We fully obey. It’s by faith that we’re able to obey the commands of God.

I’m amazed at how Joshua was engaged by faith. By this I mean he was fully committed. Joshua fully threw himself into what God put before him. As soon as he hears the word that they need help he begins marching the troops. Here is something very interesting that happens. It says that Joshua marched the troops and they came upon them suddenly having marched all night. That means if you take that literally and look back in Joshua 9 you will find out that Gibeon was a three day hike from Gilgal. So Joshua marched the troops what would typically take three days for probably a contingency of a small group of people and he took the entire army of the Israelite nation and he marched them through the night. He incredibly got them moving. We’re going to respond. We’re going to obey. Do you think there were any Israelite soldiers that complained? I do. Why? The response might be “We told you not to make a covenant with them. Why are we doing this? We’ll be worn out and they’ll kill us when we get there. This is no way to enter into a battle.” Yet Joshua is leading by faith.

I don’t think Joshua had a plan. I think Joshua’s plan was I’m going to trust God and we’re going to figure it out along the way. The biggest issue is that we trust God. The secondary issue is that we have a real good strategy or a good way to do this. You need to understand that there are times when God gives you a very specific strategy. There was no way that Joshua came up with the marching around the city seven times and then blow a trumpet. So sometimes God will give a specific strategy and then sometimes He’ll say “Here’s the need. Now start marching. Step out in faith and allow Me to use you and engage in what I’ve called you to do.” I often talk about churches I’ve been a part of who quoted leadership gurus more than they quoted the Bible. There are many today who are relying on strategy, planning and their own ingenuity to grow and advance the Kingdom. But is that truly sustainable? Is that truly the growth or the battle plan that God is calling us to? I think, instead our plan is much more like the non-plan of the Israelites. They are fully trusting God. This is an army that is marching by faith because of their leadership and they are not sure what God is going to do but they believe God is going to deliver this victory. God gives Joshua the promise and then I would put it this way. God then allows the nation of Israel to participate in what He is doing. If you’re not careful this is how we read what takes place. We get ourselves in different dilemmas and then we call God into it as if we are the beginning of it, the creator of it. I believe this is a picture of God doing a very unique thing. Instead of there being fifteen different battles, He unified the enemy. He put the enemy together and then He made them come to one place so that God could defeat the unified enemy which looks like a terrible plan if you’re an Israelite. In God’s economy it’s pretty efficient.

Based on their faith God allows them to participate in what He’s doing. Look at the way it’s worded. It’s interesting to me how the recounting of the battle unfolds.

Joshua 10:9-11 says, 9 So Joshua came upon them suddenly, having marched up all night from Gilgal. 10 And the LORD threw them into a panic before Israel, who struck them with a great blow at Gibeon and chased them by the way of the ascent of Bethhoron and struck them as far as Azekah and Makkedah. 11 And as they fled before Israel, while they were going down the ascent of Beth-horon (a 700 foot drop), the LORD threw down large stones from heaven on them as far as Azekah, and they died. There were more who died because of the hailstones than the sons of Israel killed with the sword.

Whose battle is this? This is God’s battle. God throws them into a panic so they don’t know how to fight which is important when you’re fighting this young army because they can only beat people who don’t know how to fight. God kills more with hailstones than the Israelite nation which is interesting to me.

I think Joshua gets so wrapped up and so full of faith where now his eyes are not on himself or his army and he clearly is seeing what God is doing. He gets so wrapped up in it that he just makes this declaration to God and God obeys the voice of man. The sun and moon stopped and the nation took vengeance on its enemies. That is unbelievable.

How big is your view of God?

I don’t know what crisis you’re in the middle of but I know if you’re like me even when I think I’m really stepping out in faith I still have a very practical, believable way that God could fix it. Even when I think that I’m really praying asking God to do something unique I’m still in a sense putting God in a box. I’m still confining God to that which I can conceive of or that which He could possibly work out.

I see this a lot as we deal with illness. We have leaders who have no problem praying powerful prayers to the God of creation, but somehow their God shrinks when faced with a major illness.

Why are we so afraid to ask God to stop the sun?

Because that gnawing little bit of unbelief still holds on to us. Deep down, maybe in a place we’re even afraid to acknowledge, there is a part of us that doesn’t believe God can cure cancer. Deep down, there is a part of us that is afraid to ask for miracles. And that is still minimizing God and trying to put Him into a small box.

The problem I’m afraid for many of us is we’re sitting still hoping that somehow we can have that type of faith experience as opposed to being engaged by faith, as opposed to diving into the battle fully committing ourselves to what God has put before us by faith, as opposed to being consumed in a sense by faith. Being consumed by faith puts you in a very vulnerable position and it means you will be put farther and farther separate from this world. That’s an uncomfortable position for us. Yet I believe God is still there. The same God who stopped the sun for Joshua. The same God who parted seas and caused walls to fall down is waiting patiently and asking,

“Would You allow me to participate in that? I’m willing to march all night and go in and engage in that marriage, that family, those co-workers to get the Gospel put out before them.”

Maybe it’s time for us to fully engage. To be in the moment as Joshua is in the moment here. So focused and so in tune with God that it is totally normal for us to cry out to Him for a miraculous intervention. Maybe we should be the one asking, IMG_2751-XL Maybe we need to pull our heads out of the church growth texts and bow our heads in prayer. Maybe we need to spend less time on our spreadsheets and plans and more time focusing.

We need to just march. March all night if necessary, but just march. Don’t overthink. Don’t overplan. Simply step out in faith.  If you have faith like the grain of a mustard seed, you say to this mountain ‘be moved from here to there’ and it will be done because all things are possible for you in Christ. That’s the promise. That’s the promise for you and me today. In our personal lives as we battle the influences of an adversarial culture. In our marriages, in our families, in our businesses and schools, even in our churches. Focus. Step out in faith. For there is where we will find God and there is where we will find the victory.

 

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