When life is on the line, people can get desperate. Think about being alive when God had a covenant with only one group — the Israelites. Think about growing up on stories of God protecting Israelites and strengthening the Israelites to defeat every enemy. You understand the power of covenant.
Who are you? You are one of a group of Gibeonites. (Joshua 9)
So you and your people may be good people, but you live on the land God promised to the Israelites. This makes the Gibeonites an enemy set for destruction, by God’s command, for the Israelites to collect on or lay hold of their promise. Knowing God will enable the Israelites to destroy the inhabitants of the land, the Gibeonites, in fear of the reports of Israelite victories in battle, devise a cunning plan. I mean, why should you have to die?
The Gibeonites can’t just move, so they create an advantage to stay alive using what they know. The Israelites are 1) people of covenant and 2) must destroy all the near inhabitants of the land. The Gibeonites decide to do three things.
–PRETEND TO BE FROM A FAR AWAY LAND.
The plan to stay live is for the Gibeonites to say they are from a land far away instead of the lands to be conquered. I mean, how would the Israelites know the Gibeonites are neighbors? Only God could reveal the truth about the Gibeonites.
–LOOK THE PART OF TRAVELING A LONG WAY.
The Gibeonites make everything need for travel look old — clothes, shoes, wineskins, and even moldy and dry food. Amazing! Check out Joshua 9:6-9, 11.
6 When they arrived at the camp of Israel at Gilgal, they told Joshua and the men of Israel, “We have come from a distant land to ask you to make a peace treaty with us.” 7 The Israelites replied to these Hivites, “How do we know you don’t live nearby? For if you do, we cannot make a treaty with you.” 8 They replied, “We are your servants.”“But who are you?” Joshua demanded. “Where do you come from?” 9 They answered, “Your servants have come from a very distant country. We have heard of the might of the LORD your God and of all he did in Egypt… 11 So our elders and all our people instructed us, ‘Take supplies for a long journey. Go meet with the people of Israel and tell them, “We are your servants; please make a treaty with us.”’Joshua 9:6-9,11 NLT (emphasis added)
–APPEAL TO THE HONOR OF COVENANT.
The Gibeonites speak the language that the Israelites respect. Covenant. The Gibeonites want a treaty because they know that under a covenant, they will live. The Israelites will be unable to kill them as they will be bound to do to the other inhabitants of the land. Moved by the deceptive appearance of the Gibeonites, Joshua agrees to make a treaty or covenant and give the Gibeonites tasks as servants.
Verses 14 -15 are heartbreaking: 14 So the Israelites examined their food, but they did not consult the LORD. 15 Then Joshua made a peace treaty with them and guaranteed their safety, and the leaders of the community ratified their agreement with a binding oath. Did you see that? The Israelites did not pray and ask God whether they should make a treaty with the Gibeonites.
And just like that, the Gibeonite plan is a success!
Please, read all of Joshua 9. For context read from chapters 5 through 10. It’s amazing and relatable. We like to think that “when we know better, we do better.” It is not a sin to want to live; in fact, living is encouraged. But the times demanded different action. Joshua and the Israelites were to destroy ALL of the inhabitants of the land. All of the kings of the inhabitants joined together to fight Joshua and the Israelites. The Gibeonites were part of the larger Hittites and did not want to be involved in dying.
As for Joshua, we have to consider that when desperate plans are hatched, we can be swayed. We are not immune from being convinced to disobey God. May we learn to exhibit sobriety in our interactions with those who fear our God and want to make a false peace with us. May we be dealt with soberly if we choose to take our fear of God and deceive others.
And, may we be more discerning overall. Not suspicious. Not gullible. Just sober and discerning. We have the benefit of the indwelling Spirit of God and access to His gifts and wisdom, if we ask. Let us be quicker to ask in prayer than devise a plan. Selah.
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