The other week I came to a spot in my reading that I have contemplated almost daily since.
The passage was Joshua 9, subtitled in my Bible “The Gibeonite Deception.” When Joshua was leading the Israelites and the Lord was giving them great success against their enemies, the people who were then occupying the Promised Land got together to make war against the Israelites (9:2). However, “when the people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, they resorted to a ruse” (9:3-4) or a plot to deceive the Israelites. They put on some worn out sandals and loaded their donkeys with some worn out sacks, old wineskins that were cracked and mended, and dry, moldy bread (9:4-5). Then they asked the Israelites to make a treaty of peace with them, telling them that they were from “a distant country” (9:6).
Here is the part that stuck out to me in ‘highlighting.’ Joshua 9:14 tells us “The men of Israel sampled their provisions BUT DID NOT INQUIRE OF THE LORD” (emphasis mine). Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath, which they swore by the Lord, the God of Israel (9:15, 18).
I’ll admit that I didn’t fully understand the ramifications of the passage until last year when studying Kay Arthur’s Covenant. In it, she noted that even though the Gibeonites had deceived the Israelites into making the covenant, they were bound to it. We see later in 2 Samuel 21:1 “During the reign of David, there was a famine for three successive years; so David sought the face of the LORD. The LORD said, ‘It is on account of Saul and his blood-stained house; it is because he put the Gibeonites to death.’” David had to go make restitution because Saul broke the covenant between the Israelites and Gibeonites that Joshua and the elders had made in Joshua 9.
I wondered when studying this passage on Covenant if maybe God was a little harsh (forgive me, Lord!) in bringing a three-year famine to avenge the blood of these people who got their treaty of peace by being deceptive. But, it drove home the point to me that God doesn’t take promises lightly. And neither should we.
In re-reading this passage from Joshua 9 more recently, I realized that it was truly the Israelites’ fault whereas I had blamed the people of Gibeon. Even though they were God’s chosen people, the Israelites simply sampled the Gibeonites’ provisions, took their story at face value, and never bothered to consult God. He had been on their side, granting them success in their journey. How difficult would it have been to pray about it? Why didn’t they seek Him in this decision? To me, it looked like they thought this was a no-brainer. I scratched in the margins of my Bible “help us not live by our own wisdom.”
God calls us to be wise. But, we are to seek Him when faced with decisions and allow Him to speak to us! Something may look and seem like a good deal or wise choice, but we need to pause and inquire of the Lord before pursuing it. After all, this one choice or decision may affect later generations more than we realize!
Father God, thank You for Your Word. Thank You that keeping a promise is important to You. Thank You that You teach us the right way to handle situations. God, may we not rely on our own wisdom to make important decisions but may we inquire of You and Your will as we go throughout life. You are important to us, and we want what You have for us and for the generations that will come after us. Forgive us where we’ve made poor decisions in the past and help us move forward by your grace. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!