Rather than quote the entire story, I shall summarize. In the preceding chapters Joshua has kicked butt all over Jericho and Ai. He’s developed a reputation – and most of the locals are ticked (v1-2). However, some of the locals from Gibeon hatch a deceitful plot to avoid getting wiped out (v3-5). They come to Israel with worn out shoes and rotten food and pretend to be from far away and want to make a peace treaty with Israel (v6). Israel is skeptical, but the con artists are good and fool them (v7-13).
The Big Mistake
Joshua 9:14 So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the Lord. The fatal flaw in Israel’s dealings was failure to consult the Lord regarding this matter. They looked with human eyes. We can be fooled easily by the wiles of the devil and men alike when we don’t turn to the Spirit for discernment. We are called to compassion and love, but not stupidity. Helping the needy doesn’t mean giving them drug money or pretending sin isn’t sin. It means turning to and relying on the Spirit for discernment and wisdom and obeying the knowing prodding of the Spirit. Certainly Joshua and the men of Israel wanted to do the right thing. They showed compassion and mercy. However, they also were fooled because they forgot to keep the Lord “in the loop.”
All decisions, good or bad, have their consequences. Even failure to make a decision has its consequences. In this case Joshua made peace and the leaders swore by their covenant with the Gibeonites (v15). Three days later they learned the truth (v16). Knowing that two wrongs don’t make a right – and it would have been wrong to have gone back on a oath made before God – they did not attack and those cities (v17-20). They did, however make these people into a servant class (v21-27). By this the deceivers paid for their trickery by hard labor. Israel paid for their mistake by having the thorn of these people in their side from that time forward.
The Good News of Joshua 9
Joshua 9:24-26 They answered Joshua, “Because it was told to your servants for a certainty that the Lord your God had commanded his servant Moses to give you all the land and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land from before you—so we feared greatly for our lives because of you and did this thing. And now, behold, we are in your hand. Whatever seems good and right in your sight to do to us, do it.” So he did this to them and delivered them out of the hand of the people of Israel, and they did not kill them. One might look at this and say these tricksters were now whining. One might look down their nose with accusation toward Joshua. One might say Joshua should have remembered his first order which was to wipe out those people. All of these are short sighted responses, yet all too common. The good news we learn from the Gibeonites is that we can throw ourselves at the mercy of the Lord. He promises to hear our pleas, forgive us, and show us mercy. He will allow those not of the family of Israel to live and serve who will submit to His authority. As for Israel, those with their noses too high stumble on the Chief Cornerstone. Joshua made a mistake, true enough. He was human, as are we. But he was wise enough to learn from his error, he did return his focus to the Lord, and he kept his word once given. He accepted his consequence. Who are we to think we know better than the Lord in any matter, and who are we who are supposed to know better to think we can be deceitful like those who don’t yet know Truth? Forgiveness is easy toward the ignorant, but for those of us who are given much, much is expected. So, to the believer I pray you will earnestly continually seek the Lord, His wisdom, and His discernment, and most of all to obey what you discern from the Spirit. To the unbeliever I say, come to Him by whatever means and forgiveness is yours for the asking. Make your peace and His offer is eternal life. Yes, it means giving up a way of sin for a way of service, but the alternative is certain death. Choose this day whom you will serve.