It’s been the longest, most agonizing day of her life. She watched her young son being kidnapped and forced into a car. With no time to think, she doesn’t call 911 and, instead, chooses to pursue her son’s kidnappers at high speed for the next several hundred miles. Along the way, she ends up killing them, getting into a car accident that almost costs her life and finally rescuing her child. If you saw this movie, Kidnap starring Halle Berry, you leave absolutely assured of this mothers love for her child. She is relentless and unflinching in her love for him.
Creating the Need
Hard times and duress has a way of serving as a sort of MRI revealing the true nature of our hearts and what we really love. Suffering has never wrecked a person’s faith, but it has always revealed a person’s faith. And one of the clearest ways to know what’s in your heart, is how do you respond to your haters, to those who have betrayed, wronged and hurt you?
This is exactly what’s in view in Simon Wiesenthal’s classic, The Sunflower, in which he tells the true story of the time in which he was serving as a Jew in a Nazi camp when a dying Nazi soldier, who had been responsible for killing hundreds of Jews, asks Simon to forgive him for all of his atrocities. The last part of the book is a round table discussion of sorts where various dignitaries and faith leaders chime in on how Simon should have responded. One of them said, “It always seemed to me inhuman and a travesty of justice if the executioner asked the victim to forgive. One cannot, and should not, go around happily killing and torturing and then, when the moment has come, simply ask, and receive, forgiveness. In my view, this perpetuates the crime.”—Herbert Marcuse. There it is. When in the face of such injustice and inhumanity, what a person really believes comes out. How about you?
This is exactly what’s in view when we come to our text this morning. Just one chapter earlier, Gibeon had wronged and hurt the people of God deeply through an intense act of betrayal. Now in our story, Gibeon—the very one’s who had betrayed them—is in need. It’s here where we see God and Israel’s incredibly gracious heart as in an insane act of grace as they rush to their betrayer’s side and rescue them. What grace!
This ancient story still holds modern relevance. You want to really know what’s in your heart? How do you respond to your Gibeonites—those who have deceived, wronged, betrayed and hurt you? Of course I want to be careful here. This text is not about reconciling with that abusive ex (please hear me on this), but there are some broader applications to be made. If we really want to know where we are with God…if we really want to discern the intensity of our Christianity, how do we respond to the Gibeonites in our lives? How do you handle that dad who walked out on you? How do you respond to that ex who cheated on you, causing you to file for bankruptcy and abandon the life you once enjoyed? How do you respond to the former pastor who split the church and took away your friends? How do you react to that so-called friend who broke their promise? What do you do with the person who perpetrated the act of racial injustice towards you? How do you handle Gibeon? If you haven’t figured it out now, this story is all about grace.
Grace is Hard | Joshua 10:5
This is the last battle described in detail in the book of Joshua. What we see in verse 5 is that a large coalition forms to fight against Gibeon because they are ticked off they would have the nerve to make a peace treaty with the very nation who threatened their existence. Gibeon catches wind of this and see how they respond in verse 6. What’s interesting here is if you study Gibeon’s words in Hebrew they are all imperatives, which is an emotionally intense mood. It is as if Gibeon is hollering, “HELP!” to Israel.
Now I don’t know about you, but if I’m Israel, and the one’s who just betrayed me hollered help, I’m going to be like, “Look at God! Ain’t God good? Won’t he do it? Won’t he will?” I mean this is like that ex who has refused to make child support payments and is now asking me for a loan. Won’t he will? But it’s here where God flips the script and ends whatever thoughts of jubilation Israel may have had. Because God says go help them, and I will be with you. Yep. God is like, “That’s right, the very one’s who wronged you, go help.” See friends, grace is not passive. It is not just the refusal to exact vengeance. Grace is active, it’s rushing to the battlefield to help your enemy. And this is the first of three things we are going to learn about grace this morning, and that is…grace is hard.
In one of his books, Ravi Zacharias tells the story of a husband and wife who were in a heated argument. The husband got so angry he threw acid in his wife’s face, severely deforming her for life. He then left her and his family for another woman. Years later, this man fell on hard times. He was completely destitute. In a Gibeonite act of desperation, he reached out to his ex wife—the one he poured acid on—and asked if she could care for him. To the shock of her children, she did. When asked by them how could she do such a thing, she simply said, “She’s Christian, and to be a Christian is to show grace.” Grace…even to Gibeon.
Do Not Be Afraid
Grace is hard. Easier said than done, I know. Here is Israel, not only is she asked to show grace to Gibeon—the one’s who wronged them—but to help them against a coalition much larger than they. Talk about hard! Israel doesn’t have the resources or the manpower to defeat them on their own. It’s impossibly hard. I want you to think right now of the person who has hurt and wronged you the most. Got it? What if God told you to help them? You may be like, “That’s too much to ask. That is a hill too big for me to climb!” Maybe you even have some fear in you. Fear if they’ll accept your offer of help. Fear of being rejected. The same kind of fear Israel had. Hear what God says to Israel. He says it to you, in verse 8: “Do not be afraid.
You know these four words, “do not be afraid,” are constantly rolling off of God’s words to His people in the Scriptures. In Exodus, God tells Israel, “do not be afraid.” God tells Moses, “do not be afraid.” God tells Joshua several times, “do not be afraid.” God tells Gideon, “do not be afraid.” God tells Elijah, “do not be afraid.” God tells Hezekiah, “do not be afraid.” God tells Jehoshaphat, “do not be afraid.” God tells Isaiah, “do not be afraid.” God tells Mary, “do not be afraid.” God tells Joseph, “do not be afraid.” Jesus tells his disciples many times, “do not be afraid.” God tells Paul, “do not be afraid.” God tells wives, “do not be afraid.” Jesus tells the church in Revelation 2, “do not be afraid.” Did you know God only says this to people who are facing impossible challenges, and are contemplating huge risks? He doesn’t say this to people playing it safe. And to you and me, He says to us—when faced with a huge challenge of showing grace to those who have wronged us—“do not be afraid.” Grace is hard, but God is with us! “Do not be afraid!”
Grace is Hereditary | Joshua 10:8–9
God says, “Israel, I want you to go out there and show grace to them, and you can do this because I am with you.” This is His point in verses 8–9. Look at it with me. Now the fact that God would say, “I am with you,” blows my mind, because Israel had blown God off in chapter 9 by ignoring Him. Now, one chapter later, God says, “I am with you,” What grace! If you haven’t picked up on it by now, grace is not just a NT doctrine, it’s laced all throughout the Scriptures. We see it in the book of Joshua. Chapter 7 Israel sins by taking the devoted things and loses the battle to Ai. One chapter later, God graciously gives them a do-over and they win. Chapter 9 Israel ignores God. One chapter later, God graciously gives them a do-over. Anyone grateful for the gracious do-over’s God has given them? But don’t miss the point. God is saying, “You can give grace to Gibeon, because I’m giving you grace by being with you.” To give grace, you must get grace. And this is the second thing we learn about grace—it’s hereditary.
To be a Christian means you have been given grace. Ephesians 2:8–9 says that we have been saved by grace through faith, and not of works. Romans 2:4 says that it was God’s kindness (hear grace) that leads to repentance. Our sins were forgiven because of God’s grace. We have been raised to new life by an astounding act of God’s grace. To be in the family of God means the very fabric of our spiritual DNA is grace. Grace is hereditary.
In the 1954 Cotton Bowl between Rice University and the University of Alabama, the game was a tight knit one with the score being 7-6. Dicky Moegle—the running back for Rice University—took the ball and stormed up the sideline late in the game destined for a sure touchdown. It was here when a player sitting on the University of Alabama’s bench named Tommy Lewis, rose up off the bench and illegally ran on to the field, tackling Dicky Moegle before he could score a touchdown. After the game, when Tommy Lewis was asked by dumb-founded reporters why he came off the bench to tackle Moegle, he shrugged his shoulders and said, “I don’t know. I guess I had too much Bama in me.” This should be the exact response of the believer when the world is shocked we could show grace to others, even our enemies. We should merely shrug our shoulders and say, I don’t know, I guess I have too much Jesus in me! Grace is hereditary.
Grace is Historical | Joshua 10:12–14
So Israel goes out onto the battlefield and they fight, but what’s clear is they don’t fight alone. The text says that God threw their enemies into a panic and, then in verse 11, that while their enemies were fleeing, God threw large stones at them from heaven. Really God? Come on. You throw hailstones at them while they’re fleeing. That’s awesome. I mean that’s like one of those fights in HS when a kid is getting beat, falls to the ground and someone comes out the crowd and gets a kick in, that’s what God is doing here.
Let me just come by your house and say this. God gets in on the fight. Yeah we do our part, but God is doing His part. Listen, you never know what God is up to in the hearts of your haters. While you’re debating, praying and even hurting, God could probably be at work softening their hearts with “hailstones.” So trust God.
It’s here where Joshua makes a crazy request in verses 12–14. Look at it with me. He says, “God, will you make the sun stand still?” Joshua prays the impossible. I mean, His prayer reminds me of what Jesus said we should pray in Matthew 17:20. Can I ask you a question? When was the last time you prayed what felt like an impossible prayer regarding the haters in your life? Prayers like: God can you give me the courage to reach out to my estranged father? God can you give me the boldness to bless my mother-in-law who is always negative? God can you strengthen me to tell that old friend who wronged me that I forgive them, because I’ve been carrying around this hurt too long? Have you prayed the impossible?
Scholars are baffled by our story, and they try to explain it away. So they say things like, well the sun didn’t really stand still, it was a solar eclipse. Or, the sun didn’t really stand still, God just lessened the heat. I’m not here to get into any of these debates. Here’s what you should know: Whatever happened here, it was a historical day. And it’s always a historical day when you trust God to do the impossible, and you extend grace to those who have wronged you! This becomes an historical mile marker in your journey with Jesus!
I have a friend of mine who says that growing up his father remarried after his biological mother died and his step mother, while not treating him mean, never really embraced him. He says he felt the pain of this as a little boy and it created a devastating distance between them, causing him to harbor bitterness towards her for years. Finally, well into adulthood, he gets saved. And as Jesus always does, some time later, he points out the bitterness in my friend’s life, and begins to challenge him to make it right. So my friend gets on a plane and flies thousands of miles away. His heart is racing as he sits down with her, does the gracious thing and says, I want you to know I forgive you, and we are okay. A few short years later, she’s now terminally ill, she reaches out to him and asks if he would care for her. He drops everything and does. She is still amazed by his grace and begs him to share with her where it came from. He shares Christ with her, she becomes a Christian, dies and slips off into eternity with Jesus. The point is clear: His act of grace became an historical moment both in his journey and in hers. She’s now in heaven because of grace.
Now you maybe saying, why in the world should I do that? Well friend, don’t you see? We were all Gibeon—sinful people whose sin put us in a helpless state, destining us for an eternity in hell. But God, in an act of crazy grace, sent His Joshua, Jesus Christ, to save and rescue and deliver us. And it was the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ that became the greatest historical moment ever, even greater than the day in our text. Because it was this moment where Satan was defeated and new life was given. Won’t you say yes to Jesus?
12 …remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” So God, give us the strength, to show grace to those who have hurt us, for our good, and your glory! Amen!
YOU ARE SENT!