The Book of Joshua

22. Alliance with Enemies.

Joshua 9.

"What communion has light with darkness? " — 2 Cor. 6:14.

A great combination of the people of Canaan followed upon the overthrow of Jericho and Ai, and the establishment of the law of Jehovah in the centre of the land. The nations, whether of hills, valleys, or the seaboard, gathered themselves together with one accord, or "one mouth," to fight against Joshua and Israel. They recognized the necessity of sinking all differences, and of uniting together to gain their great end — the overthrow of Jehovah's army.

Amongst these combined peoples were the Hivites, whose cities — Gibeon, Chephirah, Beeroth, and Kirjath-jearim — were four. The heads of these cities took counsel together, and, while others of their nation sought the sword, they resorted to stratagem in order to gain their end — "they did work wilily."

The open hostility of the enemy is ever more easy to meet than his devices. When the powers of the world array themselves against a few poor saints of God, the latter have to conquer or to die. The early Christians stood up before the great and the mighty of their day, and, out of weakness, gained victories, the blessings of which we Christians reap to this hour. Again, at the time of the Reformation, the few frail men, who at the first would obey God rather than man, discomfited kings, emperors, and popes. God was for them, and in His might and by His might the victory was won. To their faith and courage Protestants owe their present freedom.

But when the Enemy comes guised as an angel of light, speaks smooth and flattering words, and, as in our day, argues religiously, let Christians beware. Satan has gained more successes by sowing his tares while men sleep, than by all his strength arrayed to crush God's people. When he fails to crush, he tries to corrupt: such are his devices.

The echoing Amens of Israel to the commandments of the Lord, and to His word bidding them abstain from all union with their enemies, had hardly died away, when the ambassadors from Gibeon presented themselves in the camp at Gilgal. These ambassadors had a fair appearance to the elders of Israel. They bore outwardly upon them the signs of having come from far, and their credentials looked antique. Persons who apparently come from a distance, have often a captivating power with God's people, and obtain a hearing which, were they better known, would be denied them. The strange fascination that pertains to apparent antiquity for antiquity's sake is patent to all. Things regarded as "old," things that are worn out, "rent and bound up," command the veneration or superstition of the mind, too frequently without the enquiry "Are these things true?" Now-a-days numbers of Christians are content to ask of religious curiosities, "Are they old?" If at ease about their age, they are satisfied. It does not occur to many to ask "Are they genuine in the light of God's word?" nor even to enquire, what the venerable things were when new! Old and mouldy things were new and fresh once, and had the enquiry been raised in the camp of Israel as to the origin of the old things of these ambassadors, and as to what hands had woven the garments, and as to what country in which the grapes and corn had been grown, the issue would have been very different from what it was.

Let the saints beware of "dry and mouldy" bread, for stale fare is not of God's providing for His children. Rent wine-skins, with the wine run out, are like teaching and preaching which retain but the remembrance of the glad past, joy in the Holy Ghost being gone. Patched-up garments do but indicate that they have served their day, and should be discarded. God's messengers have feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, and the longest journey never wears them out. "By their fruits ye shall know them," is the Master's word concerning false teachers and guides. Alas for the infatuation for the "dry and mouldy" traditions of days long since passed, and for the blindness of men to the common device of the Enemy leading them to set aside the living word of God for tradition!

The "old sacks, old wine bottles, old shoes, and old garments" of these "ambassadors" commanded the respect of Israel's princes, and their "dry" bread gave to their mission a solemn sanction. The elders of Israel took of their victuals, used their own eyes, and sought not wisdom from God. These Hivites had deceit and lying for their weapons of warfare, and with them they gained the victory.

The oldest truths of God are ever new to the soul, for they come direct from God. When ambassadors present themselves to us, as did the Hivites to Israel, we may safely assume that their wine was grown in the enemy's land, for God's ambassadors carry with them the living energy and unction of His Holy Spirit.

Satan has little new to offer man, but he is wily in the extreme, and masterful in his way of dressing up his ambassadors, and colouring their credentials. Where he cannot ruin God's people by open war, he will squeeze himself in amongst them and corrupt the soldiers of Christ. In our own day and in our own land he is terribly successful with his wiles, and ever succeed he will where men, instead of asking counsel of the Lord, or humbly following His word, betake themselves to the wisdom of their own hearts.

To Gilgal — Israel's camp, the very spot where God had said of Israel that He had rolled off the reproach of Egypt from them, and where they had been nationally separated to Himself, and whence they had issued to war against the powers of the land of promise — to Gilgal, in their daring deception, the Hivites came! And Satan, this day, comes as an angel of light on to the very holiest ground that Christians occupy, and by flattery and deception succeeds in effecting an alliance with them in the camp itself. He corrupts the most sacred truths by introducing error into them, and spoils heavenly realities by the leaven of evil doctrine. The place Israel occupied gave them no power — a lesson for Christians! Forms of orthodoxy are of no avail to keep out the Enemy. No creed, no principles, will keep out the Hivites; our only resource is, that to which, alas, we so slowly resort, "the mouth of the Lord." True, Christians have no Urim and Thummim as had Israel, but they have the word of God which lives and abides for ever.

"Ambassador" signifies "a hinge," and most truly these men were the hinge to the door to let into Israel's camp the heathen they had entered Canaan to destroy. "Peradventure ye dwell among us, and how shall we make a league with you" said Joshua to these ambassadors. "We are thy servants," they softly replied. "Who are ye, and from whence come ye" Joshua further enquired. Then they talked of old times, and spoke of work and warfare in years gone by; they were eloquent upon Jehovah's wonders in Egypt forty years previously, and of victories a long distance from their homes on the other side of Jordan, and so disarmed him of suspicion. But not a syllable had these men to say of the work of God at their very doors at Jericho and Ai this they kept at a careful distance: not a sentence had they to utter of Ebal and its assent to the word of Jehovah; this they excluded.

Satan's ambassadors object to discuss God's victories of today, His work of this hour, the things of all others, in which, if His people be walking in the Spirit, they will be most deeply interested. The facts of God's work in bygone days have become, in our own times, history, of which the world is willing to speak; but the effects of God's truth in our own days, its present victories, its demands for present obedience — such home-truths are not to be mentioned. Anyone may speak of victories over pagan Rome, or papal Rome, of centuries ago; but the victories of the gospel in the world of this day and hour, and the Word's authority over the children of God at the present moment, must not be mentioned — as Jericho, Ai, and Ebal were carefully ignored by the Hivites.

Satan has consummate art in mingling lies with truth, and these Hivites were skilful men. They had heard the fame of Jehovah, and of the mighty kings Sihon and Og, slain by Israel, this was true; but their credentials, their mouldy bread, their rent and empty wine skins, and their old garments, each and all were lies.

Flattery overcomes more saints than does the sword. Where fierce opposition prevails over its tens, unctuous words overcome the thousands. The princes of Israel accepted the testimony of the victuals, used their own wisdom and discernment, and asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord; and so the Hivites gained the day.

Perhaps because the ambassadors presented themselves to the princes, they gained their way the easier. Many a man of position in the things of God, many "a prince in Israel," falls through flattery. Flattering words blind the soul to the reality of things. The very position he occupies is solely the gift of God, but if he use the authority entrusted to him as if his own wisdom were his power, he is liable to fall through not asking counsel at the mouth of the Lord. The truly dependent spirit is often more rare in the "prince" than in the rank and file of God's army. Achan, a prince, brought the accursed thing into the camp, and these princes made the alliance with the heathen, and brought Israel into association with their enemies. And the error of the princes of Israel is placed before us in a marked way by the Holy Ghost in the book before us.

"To the law and to the testimony" must ever be the Christian's test of the qualifications of the ambassadors from a far country. He must ask counsel at the mouth of the Lord, gain the true wisdom from God's word by the Spirit, and obey the Scriptures.

The truth came out at last. What appeared to come from a distance was a next-door neighbour. At the end of three days the error was discovered. The princes had committed the people to the alliance, they had opened the way into Israel's bosom for the idolaters, and their oath had to be respected. No wonder "all the congregation murmured against the princes"; but God would not allow the evident lies of the Gibeonites to be an excuse for the evil that the princes had imposed upon the congregation through the exercise of their own wisdom, and through neglecting to humble themselves to ask counsel at the mouth of the Lord. Princes lead in the congregation of God's people, and He allows the evil of their self-sufficiency to continue, and root it out they cannot — what is sown must be reaped.

Now, when the leaders in the church of God, by their pride and self-sufficiency, allow alliances with God's enemies, be it of principles or of persons, the consequences must be borne by the church. Never will the church of God be seen again in its fidelity to Christ and in separation from the world, as it was at the first. In a limited way, the same truth applies to revivals among Christians, who in spirit in different ages have resorted to Gilgal, the camp, and have thence issued to victory. To the camp sooner or later Satan's ambassadors come, and there by the leaders they are received, and the tradition of men is accepted where the truth of God should alone prevail, with the result of weakness and eventual corruption.

In God's sovereign mercy to these Hivites the Christian can rejoice. But the Christian cannot rejoice in their victory through deceit and lying, nor in the defeat of the princes through their own self-sufficiency. Poor heathen they were, and for their lives they wrought, and though their lives were spared, cursed were they, and under the ban, all their days. They were devoted to be slaves to the sanctuary, as the silver and gold at Jericho had been devoted in an absolute manner to Jehovah.

The princes of Israel of the present day, who effect alliances with enemies, and bring into the congregation things of the world, the flesh, and the devil, will never find God in His sovereignty, making these evil things to serve in His sanctuary. On the contrary, the end of such alliances will be, that the Hivites will get the Israelites into the slaves' place. In other words such ways will end, where the energy of the book of Joshua ends, and where the book of Judges begins — in Bochim, Weeping.