Vol 2 - No 21, May 31, 2006
The trial of faith:
In our study of the witness of faith in Hebrews 11 we are about to begin examining the lives of the last six (6) men mentioned by name therein: Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthae, David and Samuel - Hebews 11:32. Before doing so we need to review some of what led up to the times in which they lived. First to be noted is that God promised Israel through Moses that He would give them the Promised Land. His instructions were that Israel was to utterly destroy the previous inhabitants of the land, show no mercy, make no covenant nor allow any marriage with them. This may appear overly harsh in human terms but God had good reason. He knew if Israel commingled with the former inhabitants they would surely turn to worship their false gods/idols and this could not be tolerated. Israel was to be a holy people (totally separated unto God), Deuteronomy 7:1 - 41 When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou;
2 And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them:
3 Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son.
4 For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly.
, and stood to benefit greatly if they obeyed the Lord.
When Israel finally arrived in the Promised Land they were reminded: "And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, Come hither, and hear the words of the LORD your God. And Joshua said, Hereby ye shall know that the living God is among you, and that he will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Hivites, and the Perizzites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Jebusites. Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth passeth over before you into Jordan." - Joshua 3:9 - 119 And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, Come hither, and hear the words of the LORD your God.
10 And Joshua said, Hereby ye shall know that the living God is among you, and that he will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Hivites, and the Perizzites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Jebusites.
11 Behold, the ark of the covenant of the LORD of all the earth passeth over before you into Jordan.
Thus, the God of heaven and earth actually lived in the midst of Israel and they had the opportunity to enjoy health, abundance and security if they obeyed His word by faith. As we have studied, Israel's first experience in the land was a miraculous victory at Jericho. But in spite of this and a promised bright future, their faith quickly faltered. As we saw in Vol 2, No 19, it started with one man named Achan who coveted loot from Jericho and kept it for himself. Next they failed to consult God, who was there with them, and instead depended upon their own judgment in planning an attack on the little town of Ai. As a result of leaving God out of their plans they were soundly defeated - Joshua 7:1 - 51 But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against the children of Israel.
2 And Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is beside Bethaven, on the east of Bethel, and spake unto them, saying, Go up and view the country. And the men went up and viewed Ai.
3 And they returned to Joshua, and said unto him, Let not all the people go up; but let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai; and make not all the people to labour thither; for they are but few.
4 So there went up thither of the people about three thousand men: and they fled before the men of Ai.
5 And the men of Ai smote of them about thirty and six men: for they chased them from before the gate even unto Shebarim, and smote them in the going down: wherefore the hearts of the people melted, and became as water.
. This should have taught them a valuable lesson because once Achan was purged and Joshua asked God's counsel, they were given a plan for victory over Ai - Joshua 7:6 - 8:29.
After the victory at Ai Joshua built a stone alter upon which sacrifices were offered. He inscribed the law of Moses on stones and read the entire law to all the people of Israel - Joshua 8:30 - 3530 Then Joshua built an altar unto the LORD God of Israel in mount Ebal,
31 As Moses the servant of the LORD commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, an altar of whole stones, over which no man hath lift up any iron: and they offered thereon burnt offerings unto the LORD, and sacrificed peace offerings.
32 And he wrote there upon the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he wrote in the presence of the children of Israel.
33 And all Israel, and their elders, and officers, and their judges, stood on this side the ark and on that side before the priests the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, as well the stranger, as he that was born among them; half of them over against mount Gerizim, and half of them over against mount Ebal; as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded before, that they should bless the people of Israel.
34 And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessings and cursings, according to all that is written in the book of the law.
35 There was not a word of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua read not before all the congregation of Israel, with the women, and the little ones, and the strangers that were conversant among them.
. But in spite of these reminders Israel again demonstrated one of mankind's prevalent tendencies, self centeredness. They failed to seek the Lord's counsel again. A group of Kings in the Promised Land heard about Israel's invasion and gathered to fight against Israel, Joshua 9: 1 & 2, that is all except the people from the town of Gibeon of the Hivite nation. The Gibeonites pulled a real fast one. They didn't prepare for war with the other Kings but dressed in old worn out clothes and shoes and took moldy bread and provisions to make it look like they had been on the road for a long time. They approached Israel's leaders and laid down the story they had traveled from their homes in a far away country where they had heard about the miraculous victories God had given Israel. They claimed to have traveled all this way so they could join in league with Israel and be their servants - Joshua 9:3 - 133 And when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done unto Jericho and to Ai,
4 They did work wilily, and went and made as if they had been ambassadors, and took old sacks upon their asses, and wine bottles, old, and rent, and bound up;
5 And old shoes and clouted upon their feet, and old garments upon them; and all the bread of their provision was dry and mouldy.
6 And they went to Joshua unto the camp at Gilgal, and said unto him, and to the men of Israel, We be come from a far country: now therefore make ye a league with us.
7 And the men of Israel said unto the Hivites, Peradventure ye dwell among us; and how shall we make a league with you?
8 And they said unto Joshua, We are thy servants. And Joshua said unto them, Who are ye? and from whence come ye?
9 And they said unto him, From a very far country thy servants are come because of the name of the LORD thy God: for we have heard the fame of him, and all that he did in Egypt,
10 And all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites, that were beyond Jordan, to Sihon king of Heshbon, and to Og king of Bashan, which was at Ashtaroth.
11 Wherefore our elders and all the inhabitants of our country spake to us, saying, Take victuals with you for the journey, and go to meet them, and say unto them, We are your servants: therefore now make ye a league with us.
12 This our bread we took hot for our provision out of our houses on the day we came forth to go unto you; but now, behold, it is dry, and it is mouldy:
13 And these bottles of wine, which we filled, were new; and, behold, they be rent: and these our garments and our shoes are become old by reason of the very long journey.
. In spite of just having received a refresher course in God's Word Israel's leaders relied on what they could see, and not on faith. They saw the Gibeonites' worn out clothes, moldy bread and musty bottles of wine and "asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord" - Joshua 9:1414 And the men took of their victuals, and asked not counsel at the mouth of the LORD.
As a result the princes of Israel let the Gibeonites live and made peace with them, which was contrary to God's Word. It wasn't until three (3) days later that Israel learned the Gibeonites had fooled them and actually lived only three (3) day's journey from where they were at the time. The people of Israel were angry at their leaders for their error but the leaders claimed to have sworn in the name of God not to harm the Gibeonites who were made to work as Israel's indentured servants, cutting wood and drawing water. This was probably part of their motive for accepting the deal; Israelites no longer had to cut wood or carry water. On the other hand, the incident actually demonstrates faith on the part of the Gibeonites, who believed they were doomed to death because God had given Israel their land. They were very cleaver and got jobs instead of the alternative, being killed. - Joshua 9:15 - 2715 And Joshua made peace with them, and made a league with them, to let them live: and the princes of the congregation sware unto them.
16 And it came to pass at the end of three days after they had made a league with them, that they heard that they were their neighbours, and that they dwelt among them.
17 And the children of Israel journeyed, and came unto their cities on the third day. Now their cities were Gibeon, and Chephirah, and Beeroth, and Kirjathjearim.
18 And the children of Israel smote them not, because the princes of the congregation had sworn unto them by the LORD God of Israel. And all the congregation murmured against the princes.
19 But all the princes said unto all the congregation, We have sworn unto them by the LORD God of Israel: now therefore we may not touch them.
20 This we will do to them; we will even let them live, lest wrath be upon us, because of the oath which we sware unto them.
21 And the princes said unto them, Let them live; but let them be hewers of wood and drawers of water unto all the congregation; as the princes had promised them.
22 And Joshua called for them, and he spake unto them, saying, Wherefore have ye beguiled us, saying, We are very far from you; when ye dwell among us?
23 Now therefore ye are cursed, and there shall none of you be freed from being bondmen, and hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God.
24 And they answered Joshua, and said, Because it was certainly told thy servants, how that the LORD thy God commanded his servant Moses to give you all the land, and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land from before you, therefore we were sore afraid of our lives because of you, and have done this thing.
25 And now, behold, we are in thine hand: as it seemeth good and right unto thee to do unto us, do.
26 And so did he unto them, and delivered them out of the hand of the children of Israel, that they slew them not.
27 And Joshua made them that day hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation, and for the altar of the LORD, even unto this day, in the place which he should choose.
But Joshua was a man of faith and God continued to give Israel victory under his command. As the account in the book of Joshua continues, Israel came to the defense of the Gibeonites against five (5) Canaanite Kings who attacked because of the league they made with Israel. With the Lord's assistance the five (5) cities ruled by these kings were utterly destroyed. Many were killed by great hailstones rained down by the Lord and this is the occasion when the sun and moon stood still for a day at Joshua's request in order to give Israel more daylight in which to finish the battle. This is the only time the Lord did this in response to a man's prayer. Subsequently, the Lord gave Joshua and Israel victory over an additional 31 kings and the inhabitants of their 31 city states. In fact, as long as Joshua was in command, Israel did the Lord's will and prospered. They cut a wide swath through the land, destroying the enemy, taking spoils and dividing the conquered land amongst themselves. - Joshua 10 - 12.
When Joshua became aged, approaching death, the Lord told him that even if all the former inhabitants of the land had not as yet been conquered, he should never the less divide and allocate the Promised Land among Israel. - Joshua 13. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen, Hebrews 11:11 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
, and Joshua proved his faith in God's word when he followed instructions - Joshua 14 - 19. Joshua died at 110 years of age after repeating God's Word to Israel, that is; they would be blessed if they followed His word and drove the former inhabitants with their idols out of the land but they would face the wrath of God if they did not do so - Joshua 23 & 24 & Judges 2:1 - 91 And an angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you.
2 And ye shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land; ye shall throw down their altars: but ye have not obeyed my voice: why have ye done this?
3 Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you.
4 And it came to pass, when the angel of the LORD spake these words unto all the children of Israel, that the people lifted up their voice, and wept.
5 And they called the name of that place Bochim: and they sacrificed there unto the LORD.
6 And when Joshua had let the people go, the children of Israel went every man unto his inheritance to possess the land.
7 And the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the LORD, that he did for Israel.
8 And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being an hundred and ten years old.
9 And they buried him in the border of his inheritance in Timnathheres, in the mount of Ephraim, on the north side of the hill Gaash.
Israel had instructions to annihilate the people remaining in the land that Joshua allocated to the various tribes of Israel, but they did not carry through. "As for the Jebusites the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the children of Judah could not drive them out: but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Judah at Jerusalem unto this day." - Joshua 15:6363 As for the Jebusites the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the children of Judah could not drive them out; but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Judah at Jerusalem unto this day.
& Judges 1:2121 And the children of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites that inhabited Jerusalem; but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Benjamin in Jerusalem unto this day.
. "And they drave not out the Canaanites that dwelt in Gezer: but the Canaanites dwell among the Ephraimites unto this day, and serve under tribute." - Joshua 16:1010 And they drave not out the Canaanites that dwelt in Gezer: but the Canaanites dwell among the Ephraimites unto this day, and serve under tribute.
. See also Joshua 17:1212 Yet the children of Manasseh could not drive out the inhabitants of those cities; but the Canaanites would dwell in that land.
& Judges 1:2727 Neither did Manasseh drive out the inhabitants of Bethshean and her towns, nor Taanach and her towns, nor the inhabitants of Dor and her towns, nor the inhabitants of Ibleam and her towns, nor the inhabitants of Megiddo and her towns: but the Canaanites would dwell in that land.
, 29 - 36. It was not that Israel was unable to drive out or destroy the enemy, it was that it was more economically feasible to let them live: "Yet it came to pass, when the children of Israel were waxen strong, that they put the Canaanites to tribute; but did not utterly drive them out." - Judges 17:1313 Then said Micah, Now know I that the LORD will do me good, seeing I have a Levite to my priest.
& Judges 1:2828 And it came to pass, when Israel was strong, that they put the Canaanites to tribute, and did not utterly drive them out.
. A nation strong enough to force others to pay taxes is strong enough to destroy them, but instead of doing God's will Israel decided to let them live, and so to live off of them.
Sadly therefore it was that after Joshua and the leaders that served with him died their descendents forgot Gods Word: "And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim: And they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the LORD to anger." - Judges 2:10 - 1210 And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.
11 And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim:
12 And they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the LORD to anger.
. Thus the stage is set for the last six (6) men of faith mentioned by name in Hebrews 11: Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthae, David and Samuel.
An application of Israel's experience for us today is clear. Israel clearly demonstrated it is impossible for mankind, on his own, to obey God's perfect Law and this fact brings us to Christ that we might be justified by faith and not the works of the law - Galatians 3:24 & 2524 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.
. Christ, God's son, the perfect man, did what Israel could not do because of human frailty: "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." - Romans 8:2 - 42 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.