No claims of absolute originality are made for this material. As one man said, "I milk a lot of cows, but I churn my own butter." Please use these sermons as the Lord leads, but nothing on this site may be used for profit without my expressed, written permission!
A LITTLE TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT
Intro: There are certain kinds of ants have a passion for the sweet, glandular substance given off by the caterpillar of a species of large blue butterfly. They can become so “addicted” to it that they even seek out “the supplier” and carry him to their nest with delight.
In doing so, they unwittingly bring home an enemy in disguise, because the caterpillar gorges himself exclusively on one food item: ant larva. Usually such a threat to the colony would be repelled with great vigor, but the adults enjoy the tasty secretions of the “guest” so much that they are oblivious of the fact that their young are being devoured in the process. The ants find out far too late that their enemy is A Little Too Close For Comfort.
As I read this story of the foolish ants, I began to see a similarity between this story and what the Bible tells us about Joshua and Israel in Joshua chapter 9. In these verses, we see Israel becoming a little too cozy with their enemies.
After decisive victories at Jericho and AI, and after a special time of worship and recommitment to the Law of God at Mounts Ebal and Gerizim, the people of Israel are preparing to march deeper into Canaan to claim the land the Lord had given to them. As I said, they are fresh from a victory. In fact, they now have a couple of impressive victories under their belts. They have seen the great walled city of Jericho defeated and they have witnessed the pesky little town of Ai defeated too. Before they can move forward to future victories, Israel must learn a valuable lesson about themselves and about the enemies they face.
In the battles and stories related to Israel’s conquest of Canaan, we can see a picture of our lives as children of God as we struggle to obtain the victory in our lives. As I look at the Bible’s record of these events, it is not too hard for me to see the parallels between the battles Israel fought in the flesh and the ones which we fight in the spirit. The cities that they faced teach us some spiritual lessons.
1. Jericho - A type of the world - It was defeated, and we have the promise of victory over the world in our walk with the Lord Jesus, 1 John 5:4, “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.”
2. Ai - A type of the flesh - It, too, was defeated, and we have the promise of victory in the flesh as we battle for the Lord Jesus, Romans 7:24-25, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.”
3. Gibeon - A type of the devil - This is a battle that still must be fought. However, we have been promised victory in this area as well. To obtain it, we must trust the Lord Jesus Christ and walk in His will day by day. He can be defeated - James 4:7, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Eventually, the devil will get exactly what he deserves! Rev. 20:1-10.
Today, however, we must still contend with Satan and his attacks. Thankfully, the Lord has not left us without a word in this matter. In this passage, we can see a portrait of Satan and the way he works. As we will see, there is a danger in letting our spiritual guard down. Let’s take some time today to study this passage and learn more about how the enemy operates. There are some lessons in this passage we need to take to heart when the enemy get A Little Too Close For Comfort.
I. V. 1-13 OUR ENEMY IS DECEPTIVE
Ill. Note verses 1-2. When all the kings of Canaan heard what had happened to Ai and to Jericho, they joined forces to seek to defeat Israel. Isn’t it amazing how the devil’s crowd will join up to fight God’s people? Just look at the way Jesus was treated by His enemies. The Pharisees and the Herodians hated one another, but they came together in the common effort of seeing Jesus put to death. Another friendship that was formed over the death of our Lord was that which was formed between Herod Antipas and Pontius Pilate. We are still seeing these same kind of alliances formed in our day!
A. V. 4 He Uses Deceptive Wiles - When the Gibeonites heard that the Israelites were headed in their direction, they devised a scheme to trick Israel into making a peace treaty with them. They dressed in old clothes, carried old bread and wine and pretended that they were from far away. They did everything in their power to trick Israel.
Ill. What a picture of our enemy, the devil! The Bible tells us in Eph. 6:11 that we fight an enemy that uses “wiles” to get his way in our lives. The word “wiles” refers to “deceit, trickery, cunning arts.” You see friends, Satan would like nothing better than to trip you up and cause you to fall into one of his traps. Just before Jesus died, He told Simon Peter that Satan desired to have him that he might sift him as wheat, Luke 22:31-32. Satan wants to do the same to you and me. He wants us to fall. He wants us to fail, and he will stop at nothing to bring that to pass. 1 Tim. 3:7 tells us that Satan uses “snares” to catch his prey. This word refers to “a trap set by a hunter in order that he might capture his prey.” So, Satan uses deceptive wiles, just like the people of Gibeon did.
B. V. 4-5 He Uses Deceptive Wares - The Gibeonites had taken every step possible to deceive Israel into believing that they were from a far away country. They carried old sacks on their donkeys, broken and bound up wine skins, patched shoes, shabby clothing and even some moldy bread. Their entire aim was to trick Israel.
Ill. When the devil comes against you, he will not do so in a red suit with a pointy tail and horns. He will not be carrying a pitchfork and he will not smell like sulphur. When the devil comes to your life to cause you trouble, he will appear as an angel of light. 2 Cor. 11:14, “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.” He will make his plan appear to be the perfect thing for your life. So, beware of every impulse that comes into your mind. Check out everything by the Word of God and by the will of God, listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit, John 16:13, and the Lord will always lead you in the right way!
C. V. 6-13 He Uses Deceptive Words - Notice that in these verses, these men from Gibeon lied, v. 6, 9, 11-12; they used claimed to be something they were not, v. 8-9; and they were careful in what they said and in what they referred to, v. 10. Ill. They did not mention any of the events that had taken place since Israel had crossed the Jordan River. This gave the impression that they had indeed been traveling for some time, and did not know about Israel’s victories at Jericho and Ai.
Ill. This is a perfect picture of how our enemy, the devil, operates. He will use slick and enticing speech to get you to yield to his plans for your life. He practiced this kind of trickery in the Garden of Eden when he talked to Eve, Gen. 3:1-6.
In other words, the devil will give you every reason in the world to justify the things he wants you to do. Then when you have followed him and are out of God’s will and in trouble, he will discard you like a piece of trash and leave you to rot in your sins!
1. What did the devil tell Cain to get him to kill Abel?
2. What did the devil tell David to get him to sleep with Bathsheba?
3. What did the devil tell Judas to get him to betray the Lord Jesus?
4. What has the devil told you in the past; and what is he telling you now?
Ill. 2 Cor. 2:11 says, “Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.” This verse teaches us that Satan desires to gain an “advantage” over us, and to do this, he will use every trick in the book to get us to follow him into failure. Be careful!
1 Peter 5:8 tells us what the devil is up to today. He wants you. He wants your family. He wants your marriage. He wants your children. He wants your testimony. He wants your church. If you have it, and you got it from the Lord, he wants it; and to get it, he will do anything!
I. Our Enemy Is Deceptive
II. V. 14 -21 OUR ENEMY IS DESTRUCTIVE
A. V. 14 Their Ability To See Clearly Was Destroyed - Notice that in verse 7, Joshua initially was a little skeptical of these so-called ambassadors. He questioned them about their origin again in verse 8. Joshua is to be commended for his caution, but he gave up just a little too soon! When the Gibeonites showed him their clothes, their food and the broken wineskins, Joshua was more than impressed and he believed their story!
Ill. If the Lord has done anything for His children, He has given us a perfect Book and powerful Spirit. These two gifts give us a distinct advantage when it comes to fighting the devil! Using the Bible and the inner leading of the Spirit of God, we can do what 1 Pet. 5:8 says and we can be “sober and vigilant”. These words carry the idea of being in control of ourselves and of being watchful. You do not have to fall for everything the devil tells you! He is a liar and the father of it, John 8:44. Hey folks, we do not have to fall into his traps! Thank God ,we can walk in victory over the devil if we will be sober and vigilant!
Ill. When your spiritual vision gets dim through neglect of the Word of God and prayer, you are very susceptible to the tricks and traps of the enemy. It is impossible to have the victory over him when we neglect the very things which are designed to make us strong! The Bible tells us in Eph. 4:27, that we are not to give “place” to the devil in our lives. This word refers to a beachhead. If we give the devil room in our lives to attack us, you can count on the fact that he will! We must always be on guard to avoid his attacks. Don’t even let him have so much as a foot in the door!
B. V. 14 Their Ability To Seek Counsel Was Destroyed - Notice that Israel ate with the Gibeonites and did not even take the matter to the Lord in prayer. To break bread with someone in that day was considered to be a sign of unalterable friendship. But what they considered to be the right thing to do turned into a problem because they did not take the time to take the matter to the Lord in prayer first and neither did they take the time to wait on His answer. As a result, they stepped out of the will of God and had to suffer the consequences!
Ill. How many times has this been true in your life and mine? We look at what the devil has to offer us and we join up with him without even seeking the Lord’s will in the matter. At other times, we stack the deck in our favor so that even the Lord’s attempts to speak to us and change our direction are made to appear like His blessings on our decision. I am encouraging you to be sure that it is the Lord’s voice you are listening to and not the devil’s voice, or even the voice of your own heart!
God’s will is that we seek His face and that we give Him time to give us His answer! What does the Lord say?
You get the idea! God expects His people to seek His will and wait on His answer!
C. V. 15-21 Their Ability To Stay Clean Was Destroyed - In these verses, we see that the Israelites ability to be God’s separated people was hindered by their decision to make a covenant with the Gibeonites. God had told them to utterly destroy the inhabitants of Canaan and to make no covenants with them at all. Deut 7:2 says, “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:” However, Israel disobey this command and as a result they sinned before the Lord.
Ill. Before we judge them too harshly, let’s look at ourselves for a minute. How many times have we been guilty of following Satan instead of the Lord? The Word of God plainly tells us what the Lord’s will is for our lives, 2 Cor. 6:17, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,”. Yet, all too often, we will allow the flesh, the word and the devil distract us and defeat us.
Ill. If you let him, the devil will get you into such a shape that the Lord cannot bless and use you you at all! I can think of many, many individuals who listened to the siren song of the devil and found themselves castaways as far as the Lord’s work is concerned. Maybe you don’t think that can happen in your life. Just ask David, the sweet singer of Israel, the man after God’s own heart, what the devil can do to your life. You follow the devil and you, like David might find yourself in a place of prayer begging God just to restore the joy of your heart and life, Psa. 51:12. Don’t let that happen in your life! Our enemy is very deceptive and disruptive, and given the change, he will defeat and destroy your life. The good news is this: Our enemy may be deceptive and disruptive, but he can be defeated!
I. Our Enemy Can Be Deceptive
II. Our Enemy Can Be Destructive
III. V. 22-27 OUR ENEMY CAN BE DEFEATED
A. V. 22 The Enemy Must Be Confronted - When Joshua found out what these people had done, he went straight to them and rebuked them and confronted them about their sins.
Ill. There is a lesson in that for the church today. We do not have to roll over and play dead while the devil molds us to his will! We need to be like the Lord Jesus, Who when He was tempted turned to the Word of God and confronted Satan with the truth of the Book and caused the devil to have to flee from His presence! Friends, Satan cannot stand in the presence of the truth! If you will stand on the Word of God, Satan will be forced to leave you alone. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you,” James 4:7.
B. V. 27 The Enemy Must Be Controlled - There is no question that Joshua and Israel made a mistake when they dealt with the Gibeonites. However, mistakes to not have to spell permanent ruin. Joshua realized the seriousness of what they had done and he immediately took the necessary steps to control the situation. They can’t kill them, because they have given them their word, v. 19, but they can control them!
Ill. In your life and mine, there will be times when we will step out of the Lord’s will and commit sin. That is just a fact! However, the mistakes we make in following the devil do not have to be permanent, neither do they have to destroy us completely! Thank God, the Lord has promised us complete forgiveness and restoration if we will return to Him in repentance, 1 John 1:9. We must face the fact that our sins carry consequences that must play out completely, Gal. 6:7. Yet, we can get right with the Lord and we can serve Him faithfully.
Ill. We need to learn from our sins and our failures so that we do not fall into those same traps again! Either we will control our sins, or they will control us! Which it is depends on you and what you want from life. There is forgiveness where there is repentance!
C. V. 27 The Enemy Must Be Commissioned - Notice what Israel did with the Gibeonites. They took them and they put them to work carrying water and chopping wood for the Tabernacle of the Lord. Joshua took his mistake and used it for the glory of the Lord! The Bible even indicates that these people eventually got right with God and were absorbed into the nation of Israel - 2 Sam 21:2-6. Joshua took his error and used it for God!
Ill. Will you and I fail the Lord as we go through life? Probably, and often! However, our sins and mistakes do not have to knock us out of the Lord’s work! When we fail we need to allow the Lord to use that time of sin, chastisement, correct, repentance and restoration in our lives for His glory. What the devil meant for your defeat can be turned into the source of your greatest victories, if you will allow the Lord to have His way in your sins. You can’t undo the things you have done, but you can bring them to Jesus and He can use them to help you grow in Him. What first looked like a curse to the people of God eventually turned into a blessing as these people were brought to the Lord and lived their lives serving God!
Ill. Please do not misunderstand me, I am not trying to glamorize or glorify sin in any fashion. I am trying to tell you that your failures do not have to defeat you forever, and they do not have to define you! God’s grace is bigger than your sin, Rom. 5:20! Let Him prove it today!
Conc: Joshua and Israel thought they were making a treaty with people from a far away land. Instead, they found themselves shackled to the enemy! The people they were to avoid at all costs were now A Little Too Close For Comfort.
There is a story about a certain man who wanted to sell his house in Haiti for $2,000. Another man wanted to buy it, but because he was poor, he couldn’t afford the full price. After much bargaining, the owner agreed to sell the house for half the original price with just one stipulation: he would retain ownership of one small nail protruding from just over the door.
After several years, the original owner wanted the house back, but the new owner was unwilling to sell. So the first owner went out, found the carcass of a dead dog, and hung it from the single nail he still owned. Soon the house became unlivable, and the family was forced to sell the house to the owner of the nail.
The moral of the parable is, “If we leave the devil with even one small peg in our life, he will return to hang his rotting garbage on it, making it unfit for Christ’s habitation.”
Has this ever happened to you? Is the enemy A Little Too Close To Comfort? Maybe you are in the middle of some sin situation right now. You listened to your flesh, or the devil and now you are in a mess. Why not bring that thing to the Lord and let Him turn you failure into something He can use for His glory? He still loves you, and He will forgive you and restore you, if you will turn to Him. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” 1 John 1:9.
Maybe you are not saved. The devil has you! If you would like to be delivered from your bondage to sin, come to Jesus right now and ask Him, and He will save your soul and transform your life for His glory.
Not long before she died in 1988, in a moment of surprising candor in television, Marghanita Laski, one of our best-known secular humanists and novelists, said, “What I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness; I have nobody to forgive me.”
Maybe you can remember the times when the Lord stepped between you and your enemies. He delivered you from your sins, and set you free. Wouldn’t you like to come to Him and thank Him today?