The Conquest of Caanan

Jerry didn't know how he was going to be able to go to college. He was just a poor sewer rat with no high school education, no money and no social standing. No one would ever give him a scholarship, and a loan was out of the question. Yet if he wanted to keep his job as the hotel dishwasher, the boss insisted that he get himself educated. He had protested, but the boss gave him very clear instructions. He was to go down to the school, sign up for a program in hotel management and not think about the money.
Jerry obeyed his employer. When he went in to the cashier's office, he was surprised to find that the entire program had been paid for, including fees, books and other expenses.
when he asked his employer about this, he learned that the owner gave the same opportunity to all of the sewer rats, and had an account set up with the college to pay for it all. To date, he was the only one who had been willing to obey the seemingly illogical instructions. Consequently, he would become the hotel's new manager.

Have you ever recieved orders that just didn't make sense until after they had been carried out? Imagine what it must have been like for the Hebrews who were getting ready to move into the promised land.

The Hebrews had just recently escaped from Egypt and into Arabia, and were now poised to invade caanan. Moses had sent spies into the land to survey it, including his own apprentice, Joshua. All of the reports about the land itself were favorable. One team brought back a cluster of grapes the size of an antelope. This land was well-watered and full of wonderful things. God made it that way specifically to give to the children of Israel. I can say this confidently because throughout history, when God-fearing Hebrews have inhabited Caanan, it has been lush and green. When they have been removed, the land reverted to desert. Only since the 1940s has it begun to change back into the beautiful green land it is today. But I digress.

Joshua and his pertner, Caleb, advised the Israelites to go in and take the land. The other spies, however, while recognizing that the land was good, also reported that it was full of Rephaim- giants! And they were right! King Og was only one of the giants which Israel would have to face. Now how many people here have ever personally known a giant? An interesting but sad fact about giants is that they do not live long. The larger they are, the more likely it is that one of their vital organs- usually the heart- will fail very early on. To have a stable population of giants, there had to be a large number of them propigating quickly.

For most of the Israelites, invading Caanan seemed like an incredibly foolhardy venture. They wouldn't do it. So God told them fine. They could have it their way. He made them wander in the wilderness for forty years. Some of them tried to go back and invade once they'd realized they'd made the wrong choice, but it was too late. Every adult except Joshua and Caleb (including Moses for unrelated reasons) would be dead before Israel would be given a second chance.

After the last of the old generation had finished his natural life, a very different generation had arisen. They had learned from the mistakes of their parents. What God told them to do, they would do. This was good, because God came up with a truly bizarre order.

Israel had just defeated the people of what is now Jordan. The land was already being divvied up. Now it was time to cross the Jordan river and begin conquoring Caanan. The first place that would have to go was the fortified city of Jericho. It would take some serious military might to take down Jericho. But what did God have them do? Walk around in circles. It must have seemed like complete nonsense. But this generation of Hebrews obeyed God's command. They were rewarded for their obedience when the wall surrounding Jericho fell down like a drawbridge.

As soon as the Israelites began moving in, the caananite tribes conspired against them. All, that is, except the people of Gibeon. The Gibeonites tricked Israel into making an alliance. Fortunately, God wasn't too angry. Israel's sin wasn't deliberate disobedience, but failure to check with Him before making a treaty.

Because the Gibeonites did not oppose the Hebrews, but chose instead to submit to the power of God, knowing they stood no chance against Him, God chose to honor the treaty. The Gibeonites were made slaves of the temple as punishment for their trickery. Yet as the years passed, the Gibeonites went from being slaves to valued servants in King David's time. By the era of Nehemiah, they held a position of honor. By the new testament era, there was no distinction made between Gibeonite and Hebrew.

So what can we learn from this?

God is a rewarder of those who trust Him. The motivation for the trust matters little. Joshua and Caleb trusted God because they knew of His love and faithfulness and were granted long life and entry into the promised land. The Hebrews under Joshua's command trusted God because their parents had been an excellent bad example. They were rewarded with God's help in their conquest of the land. The Gibeonites submitted to God out of fear, and they were taken in to become part of the Hebrew nation.

On the other side of the coin, God does not reward the perverse. It was not because of the righteousnes of Israel that God gave them caanan, because of the sins of the caananites, as He reminded them again and again. And though He took excellent care of those He banned from the promised land, feeding them daily and keeping their clothes from wearing out, He did not relent on their punishment until the very last member of that generation had passed away.

Concerning our river of history, my first thought is that this would have been an awesome era to see. Israel was a newborn nation and its people were exactly what God intended them to be. They truly loved their God and obeyed them with all their hearts. They also loved their fellow Israelites. Those living in Transjordan built an altar to bear witness to their distant descendants that these were one and the same people, lest there ever be contention. Unfortunately, it did not last long, but while it did, it must have been glorious.

Sadly, the following generation screwed up again. They failed to complete the work of their parents and eliminate the Caananites from Israel. Because of this failure, God withdrew His protection and allowed the remaining caananites to become a thorn in their sides. Especially vexing were the Philistines, who would play a great and terrible role in Israel's future. Even after they had become extinct, a new people would be created with their name, who this very day plague Israel like an infection and act as an ulcer to the entire world.

But more immediately, a learning process would begin for Israel. a cycle of rebellion and correction was to begin. And this will be the subject of my next sermon.

Today's reading: Joshua 6:1-20
6:1 Now Jericho was straitly shut up because of the children of Israel: none went out, and none came in.
2 And the LORD said unto Joshua, See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valour.
3 And ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war, and go round about the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days.
4 And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams' horns: and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets.
5 And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram's horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him.
6 And Joshua the son of Nun called the priests, and said unto them, Take up the ark of the covenant, and let seven priests bear seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark of the LORD.
7 And he said unto the people, Pass on, and compass the city, and let him that is armed pass on before the ark of the LORD.
8 And it came to pass, when Joshua had spoken unto the people, that the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams' horns passed on before the LORD, and blew with the trumpets: and the ark of the covenant of the LORD followed them.
9 And the armed men went before the priests that blew with the trumpets, and the rereward came after the ark, the priests going on, and blowing with the trumpets.
10 And Joshua had commanded the people, saying, Ye shall not shout, nor make any noise with your voice, neither shall any word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I bid you shout; then shall ye shout.
11 So the ark of the LORD compassed the city, going about it once: and they came into the camp, and lodged in the camp.
12 And Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the LORD.
13 And seven priests bearing seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark of the LORD went on continually, and blew with the trumpets: and the armed men went before them; but the rereward came after the ark of the LORD, the priests going on, and blowing with the trumpets.
14 And the second day they compassed the city once, and returned into the camp: so they did six days.
15 And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they rose early about the dawning of the day, and compassed the city after the same manner seven times: only on that day they compassed the city seven times.
16 And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the trumpets, Joshua said unto the people, Shout; for the LORD hath given you the city.
17 And the city shall be accursed, even it, and all that are therein, to the LORD: only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent.
18 And ye, in any wise keep yourselves from the accursed thing, lest ye make yourselves accursed, when ye take of the accursed thing, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it.
19 But all the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are consecrated unto the LORD: they shall come into the treasury of the LORD.
20 So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets: and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city.