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The Price of Character: A Lesson from Joshua's Integrity

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
April 16, 2024 12:00 am

The Price of Character: A Lesson from Joshua's Integrity

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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April 16, 2024 12:00 am

Have you ever compromised your values for a quick win? In this episode of Wisdom for the Heart, Stephen Davey examines the Old Testament story of Joshua and the Gibeonites. Discover the true cost of dishonesty and the enduring power of integrity. Learn how your choices define your character and impact those around you. Visit for more resources on building a life of godly character.


He says, I'm going to walk that way in my house.

That's how I want to walk. We ought to walk with integrity among those that know us best. It means when they hear you in the house talking to somebody on the phone, they know that what you're saying is the truth.

They don't hear you calling in sick, knowing, watching, having seen you load your golf clubs in the trunk of a car. When you shake somebody's hand on a deal before you ever sign the contract, that handshake matters. In a world where cutting corners seems to be the fastest route to success, how far would you go to reach your goals? What if the cashier at the store whispered a money-saving tip, but it involved dishonesty?

What would you do? Most of us struggle with the temptation to compromise, but what's the true price of integrity? Today, Stephen Davey explores the power of character and reminds you that honesty is a choice you make every day. Welcome to Wisdom for the Heart.

Stephen continues the series, Breaking Up Stony Ground, with this message called, The Price of Character. Frankly, there is an epidemic of dishonesty that is sweeping the planet. It is impacting the church, and it will affect more people than Ebola or any other virus that you can imagine, and it is equally dangerous.

Sadly, Christians are as likely as non-Christians to allow this besetting sin, this ever-ready temptation, this practice that will harden your heart like nothing else, to wrap itself around our ankles and trip us up. Well, as we explore this particular issue, I want to explore it in a positive sense, and we'll just do it in a word, one word. The word is integrity.

Let's explore it that way. What I want to do is just define it, cross-reference it, principalize it two or three times, and then I want us to watch it demonstrated in the life of a believer. And I want to tell you right up front, defining integrity is a lot easier than demonstrating integrity.

Somebody once said that every day you get out of bed, you will face a test of integrity in some form or another. In the Old Testament, the word finds its root in the Hebrew word thom, which signifies completeness or wholeness. In other words, there's nothing hidden, there's nothing missing. It's interesting that the high priest in the Old Testament was to wear this breastplate, and as a part of that breastplate, it included thumim. That's the plural form of thom, thumim, which literally meant perfections or integrities. When he appeared in formal ministry service, he wore the urim and thumim.

Urim means lights, thumim, integrities or perfections. They were part of his breastplate that covered his heart. Many Old Testament scholars believe the urim and thumim were precious gems, or maybe even some stones that he would tuck into a pocket hidden inside that breastplate. The Lord commanded Aaron, and he said, when you appear before me, you are to wear these over your heart. Exodus 28 verse 30. No high priest could approach God without his heart, as it were, symbolically covered by integrity. I think we have a wonderful New Testament analogy, by the way, since we are all priests, since we all can approach God, since we all can represent God to our world, we stand in his presence, we should stand in the presence of our world with our hearts covered with integrity.

And we're told, in fact, are we not to battle in an armor and that armor, those pieces of armor include a breastplate of righteousness, analogous to wholeness or integrity. Now, if you cross-reference this word of this Hebrew root word, you discover, first of all, it is a defining characteristic of Holy Scripture. David wrote, the law of the Lord is perfect. Psalm 19 verse 7, there's that word. The law of the Lord is whole. The law of the Lord is without corruption. When God speaks, in other words, he always tells the truth.

It's impossible for God to lie. Secondly, integrity is part of a godly testimony. Job would insist, even though he is suffering dearly in Job 27 verse 5, until I die, I will not put away my integrity from me.

Same root word. David would write in Psalm 101 verse 12, that I will walk with integrity of heart within my house, which informs us that integrity isn't perfection, at least from a human's perspective, it is being confessed up, as they would say. He says, I'm going to walk that way in my house. That's how I want to walk, which is another way of saying, we ought to walk with integrity among those that know us best. Those who are closest to us, we will keep our word, which means that you will keep your vows to your wife or your husband. It means you'll keep your word to your children. If you say you'll show up, you'll show up, and if you forget or you can't, you will ask forgiveness. It means when they hear you in the house talking to somebody on the phone, they know that what you're saying is the truth.

They don't hear you calling in sick, knowing, watching, having seen you load your golf clubs in the trunk of the car. When you shake somebody's hand on a deal before you ever sign the contract, that handshake matters as much as your signature. Those who know you best know you mean it. When you sign on for some ministry assignment, you're going to be the teammate that finishes the job and carries the weight.

You do right. You're honest. The average citizen lives with a sense of suspicion regarding those in power of being dishonest. In fact, the chaplain of the Kansas Senate made it into the news some time ago when he prayed, as the Senate was open, and he prayed this prayer, all-knowing Father, is the reason he called him that, all-knowing Father, help us to know who is telling the truth today. One side tells us one thing and the other just the opposite. If neither side is telling the truth, we'd like to know that too. And if each side is telling half the truth, give us the wisdom to put the right halves together.

Amen. Now, the apostle Paul uses the same idea. It's the New Testament word blamelessness for those who will lead in the church, those elders, honesty for those deacons. According to 1 Timothy chapter 3, honesty is a prominent characteristic for leadership in the church. They should be men of integrity. In fact, if their handshake doesn't matter, if it can't be counted on, the confidences of those who follow them are then undercut and the church is hurt. A man or a woman of integrity doesn't necessarily put on a show.

They are the same in the dark as they are in the light. Now, let me show you a demonstration of integrity from someone who would have been applauded for violating it. And that's why I want to take you to this particular narrative. Everybody would be cheering him on for violating his oath. Go to Joshua, the book of Joshua.

While you're un-sticking the pages there, let me set the scene for you. Joshua is leading the Israelites into the Promised Land. But just because the land is promised doesn't mean that it's going to be handed to them. In fact, it's filled with idolatrous, God-hating, child-sacrificing, demonized kingdoms. With the help of God, the people of Israel are going to effectively become the judging hand of God in wiping these nations out. They will be brought to judgment. The Lord miraculously parts the waters of the Jordan.

The people of Israel march across on dry land. They encounter Jericho. You remember that story where God miraculously blows over the walls and the Israelites shout in faith.

The news spreads, of course. Terrified kings form quick coalitions to battle Israel, and they draw up in battle array. Now, according to the plan of God, there are seven Canaanite nations living in the land who are to be put to death.

It'll be capital punishment, judgment from God. Deuteronomy 20 informs us that they are unrepentant idolaters confirmed in their rebellion against God. There are people groups and nations beyond their land that they could form peaceful covenants with, but these in the land are dug in their heels, and they're going to fight God tooth and nail.

With that in mind, notice how one nearby city comes up with a rather ingenious plan. Go over to Chapter 9 and look at verse 3. But when the inhabitants of Gideon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ai, they on their part acted with cunning and wind and made ready provisions and took worn-out sacks from their donkeys and wineskins worn out, torn, mended, with worn-out patched sandals on their feet and worn-out clothes.

Reminding me of college days, by the way. Verse 6, and they went to Joshua in the camp of Gilgal and said to him and to the men of Israel, we have come from a distant country, so now make a covenant with us. But the men of Israel said to the Hivites, perhaps you live among us, then how can we make a covenant with you? And they said to Joshua, we are your servant. And Joshua said to them, well, who are you and where do you come from? And they said to him, from a very distant country, your servants have come.

Again, they're stressing this because they could be allowed to live. We've come from a far off country. But because of the name of the Lord your God, you know, we heard a report of him and all that he did in Egypt. In fact, look down at verse 11. So our elders and the inhabitants of our country said to us, take provisions in your hand for the journey and go to meet them and say to them, we are your servants, come now make a covenant with us. Here is our bread. It was still warm when we took it from our houses as food for the journey on the day we set out to come to you. But now look, it's dry and crumbly. These wineskins were new when we filled them and behold, they burst.

These garments and sandals of ours are worn out from the very long journey. So the leaders took some of their provisions, that is they inspected them, but did not ask counsel from the Lord. And Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them to let them live and the leaders of the congregation swore, that is, swore an oath to let them live. Now, notice the discovery is made in verse 16. At the end of three days after they'd made a covenant with them, they heard that they were their neighbors and that they lived among them.

That is, they lived nearby. In fact, what they're going to discover is the city they're living in is located six miles away from Jerusalem. In other words, Joshua and the people are duped.

Joshua is the leader among the leaders and he feels it more severely than the others. But they discover that these particular Hivites living in the city of Gibeon don't live six weeks away or six days away, they live less than six hours away from what would become the capital city. Can you imagine? I imagine before the ink dried on this peace treaty, the Gibeonites went around the corner and they doubled over in laughter. Can you believe we pulled this off?

This is Oscar-winning performances if you've ever seen them. Those Israelites are so naive in that Joshua. Is he green or what?

This is great. Now, the real question is, what's he going to do? What's Joshua going to do?

Now that he has discovered that he has been fooled, what's going to happen to his promise? Well, I can tell you without looking what most would say, well, hey, that's just a piece of paper, not according to Joshua and the leaders. Look at verse 18, but the people of Israel did not attack them because the leaders of the congregation had sworn to them by the Lord, the God of Israel. Don't miss this little commentary at the end of verse 18. Then all the congregation, that is the entire Israelite nation, murmured against their leaders.

Here's Joshua. He's in a lose-lose situation. I mean, the entire nation is willing to mount up and wipe these people out.

And in so doing, restore, you would think, at least this is how it sounds and it sounds good, the credibility of their leaders. We just eliminate this problem. Joshua says, no. No? Are you kidding? We can't destroy these people.

Now, think about it. Joshua is stuck in the middle. He's literally now defending the people who've made a fool out of them. Skip over to verse 26. So he, Joshua, did this to them and delivered them out of the hand of the people of Israel, and they did not kill them. In other words, Joshua had done something wrong. He hadn't asked the Lord's advice before signing this peace treaty.

He'd only looked at the stuff in their hands. He hadn't asked the Lord for wisdom to see the stuff in their hearts. Now he faces an incredible test of integrity.

Is he going to break his sacred oath to people who obviously don't deserve it? Joshua and these men, even though keeping their word made their lives miserable. Have you ever thought about the fact that the temptation to lie or to be dishonest or to break a vow or to violate a promise is to make our lives better, to make something easier, to smooth something out, to eliminate pressure, to move from unpopularity to popularity? We rarely want to suffer for being honest.

Right? Maybe you've lost a job that way. It made your life miserable by doing what was right. Maybe you lost that client because you wouldn't lie and say, look, we can't get that product to you for three weeks.

You want it in one, so we'll tell you you can get it in one even though we know we can't. You lost the client. Maybe you lost a friend. Maybe you lost a passing grade.

Maybe you lost a boyfriend, a relationship, because you were honest. One author wrote about his daughter and son-in-law and their three children who went for months without adequate housing in Vienna, Austria. Austria, that part of the city, had scarce housing. The real problem, though, was landlords who had available housing were demanding that they sign the lease falsely claiming to pay less for the rent than they actually had to pay.

That way the owners could claim less revenue and pay less taxes. They couldn't find an honest landlord. See, Joshua here, don't miss it, he is the victim of his unwillingness to break his promise. So the pressure mounts. He suffers a major drop in the polls. He's defending his enemies rather than eliminating his enemies, all because of integrity. So what does he do? Well, you'll notice he gives them their request. They'd asked twice to be the servants of Israel, so he says, all right, I'll let you do that.

You can live. Look at verse 27, Joshua made them that day cutters of wood and drawers of water for the congregation, and notice this, and for the altar of the Lord to this day in the place that he should choose. Most Old Testament scholars, I read, see in this Joshua's commitment to the gospel of God's grace. Joshua's assignment of these Gibeonites, these idolatrous Gibeonites, keeps their idolatry from retaking hold because their work is going to be carried on in connection with the tabernacle.

It's more than that, though. Their work, and this is Joshua's plan, their work is going to expose them directly to real, genuine, legitimate worship of the true and living God. I was like somebody, you know, stealing, they get caught, they've robbed your house. I mentioned several months ago, we had been broken into, and they finally did catch those guys. They targeted pastors, and they went online, they did some searches.

I really want to replace our big church picture online with a little shack, you know, because they assumed that we'd have a lot. So they robbed from nine pastors, and I told you all about that. They did catch them.

I got a letter this past week that they have been sent to jail. Well, you know, if I had a choice and an opportunity to repay them, what would I do? Well, a few thoughts come to mind.

Unsanctified thoughts. But what if I said, your punishment is going to be to clean the facilities of our church every day and usher during the services? That's kind of what he does. He says, your penalty is I'm going to bring you in, and you're going to be around priests and worshipers, and you're going to haul this wood and this water in, and you're going to see people worshiping God. And he knows that's going to influence them dramatically. He's going to expose them to the glory and the grace of God.

Even in his difficulty, he cared most about his testimony. If you track through the Old Testament, by the way, you discover the Gibeonites will later refuse to follow rebellious Israelites who go back into idolatry. You discover that when the nation is divided, David places the tabernacle in Gibeon for safekeeping. You discover 500 years before the birth of Christ, during the leadership of Zerubbabel, the genealogies record that among those who longed to return from exile to Jerusalem were these Gibeonites. One of the more fascinating things I discovered in Israel's history is the public commitment of the Gibeonites in the record of Nehemiah's own journal.

When Nehemiah returned to rebuild the city of Jerusalem, who would volunteer to help him but these Gibeonites, they helped him complete the reconstruction of their former home. Their forefathers had been deceivers, but their deception had been overwhelmed by a man of integrity and a lineage of faithful service to God had begun. Have you ever thought about the fact that you're about to go out there and enter a world and be surrounded by Gibeonites, idolatrous pagans who don't know what it means to worship a true and living God? Do they know who you are? When you do business with them, how will you do business? They're going to deceive you at the drop of a hat, but can they trust your word? Can they trust your commitment to integrity, your promises, your work ethic, your honesty? Every believer faces a test of integrity every day.

We don't know what it's going to look like tomorrow. We want to ask God to help us get ready. I close with this. I got a letter from a man recently who had just been released from prison. I got it a couple of weeks ago. While incarcerated in the Texas prison system, he had begun listening to our program and for some time was corresponding with Wisdom's office. His name is Brian, and he wrote this, and I quote, after 21 years, eight months, and one day, I was released from the Texas prison. My, how the world has changed.

Why does everyone constantly stare at their mobile phone? There is definitely an adjustment phase, but I'm prepared for that because now of my solid foundation in Jesus Christ. I want to thank you for all the free material you sent over the years which gave me a solid biblical ground to stand upon. It wasn't long after I was released that I was tempted to compromise my integrity. A few days ago, I took my written computer driving exam and I passed, barely. The customer service rep scheduled me for a driving test one week away and then excused me to leave. And I said, wait, what about a permit that allows me to practice driving? She said, well, that'll cost you $11.

Listen, it's only a week away. Why don't you just save yourself the money and practice without anybody being the wiser? No way. I'm going to practice doing the right things for the right reasons, even if it costs me a little more. I'm not doing that again.

That's another way of him saying, listen, my character is worth more than $11. Way to go. This test that we face will never take a holiday.

It will not take a semester off. It's going to be waiting for you and me tomorrow. As you go through the rest of your day, you'll face situations where your integrity is tested. I hope this time in God's word will help you face that test successfully. I'm glad you joined us here on Wisdom for the Heart. Stephen Davey is working his way through a series entitled Breaking Up Stony Ground. He's exploring various matters of the heart that shape who we are. Today's lesson is called The Price of Character. Please sign up for a free membership in what we call Friends of Wisdom. Once you do, you're going to begin receiving resources from Stephen that'll help you walk wisely through life. Friends of Wisdom receive an email from Stephen each Tuesday. He might send an encouraging article to help you better apply God's word to your everyday life.

Sometimes he sends an answer to a Bible question he received. At least once a month, our Friends of Wisdom receive a free resource. Joining Friends of Wisdom is both free and easy. All you need to do is visit forward slash friends. You'll fill out a brief form and that's it. You'll be signed up and you'll start hearing from Stephen very soon. And when you sign up, you'll receive two free resources immediately. Stephen has two very popular booklets. One is called Blessed Assurance.

The other is called The Coming Tribulation. Sign up at forward slash friends. Join us next time here on Wisdom for the Hearts. you
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-04-16 00:46:43 / 2024-04-16 00:55:55 / 9

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