Monday, February 28, 2011

It's a Great Deal but Only If You Act Now

There are a lot of things on my heart this week.  I hope to be able to address them in my posts as we learn together about things that I am sure we all face from time to time.  Today, we will be talking about the Gibeonites.  Sometimes in our lives we make decisions that seem like a good idea at the time, but end up costing us in the end.  The dealings of Israel with the Gibeonites is a beautiful illustration of such a situation.  I hope that we will learn today what happens in those "it seemed like a good idea at the time" situations is that we do not take the time to really inquire of the Lord.  With that in mind, let's get into today's text.
And it came to pass when all the kings who were on this side of the Jordan, in the hills and in the lowland and in all the coasts of the Great Sea toward Lebanon— the Hittite, the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite—heard about it, that they gathered together to fight with Joshua and Israel with one accord. Joshua 9:1-2 NKJV
We are at a point in time after Israel destroyed Jericho and Ai.  The people of the land knew they had a formidable enemy and decided to join together to make a stand against the advancing Israel.  Unfortunately for them, no size army can stop the advancement of the Lord.  If the whole world were to stand against God with arms drawn and ready, it would take but a breath for God to utterly destroy each and every one of us.
But when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and AI, hey worked craftily, and went and pretended to be ambassadors. And they took old sacks on their donkeys, old wineskins torn and mended, old and patched sandals on their feet, and old garments on themselves; and all the bread of their provision was dry and moldy.  Joshua 9:3-5 NKJV
The Gibeonites, on the other hand, decided to take a different approach.  They knew they could not beat them.  They were not sure they could join them.  So they decided to trick them.  They pretended to be ambassadors from a far away land and not inhabitants of the land given to Israel.  To complete their con, they took old sacks, wineskins that were torn and patched, and old sandals and clothes.  The goal was to make it look like they were on a long journey proven by how their equipment was worn out.  To make things even more believable, the took old moldy food. 
And they went to Joshua, to the camp at Gilgal, and said to him and to the men of Israel, "We have come from a far country; now therefore, make a covenant with us." Then the men of Israel said to the Hivites, "Perhaps you dwell among us; so how can we make a covenant with you?" But they said to Joshua, "We are your servants." And Joshua said to them, "Who are you, and where do you come from?" So they said to him: "From a very far country your servants have come, because of the name of the LORD your God; for we have heard of His fame, and all that He did in Egypt, and all that He did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan—to Sihon king of Heshbon, and Og king of Bashan, who was at Ashtaroth. Therefore our elders and all the inhabitants of our country spoke to us, saying, 'Take provisions with you for the journey, and go to meet them, and say to them, 'We are your servants; now therefore, make a covenant with us.'" This bread of ours we took hot for our provision from our houses on the day we departed to come to you. But now look, it is dry and moldy. And these wineskins which we filled were new, and see, they are torn; and these our garments and our sandals have become old because of the very long journey."  Joshua 9:6-13 NKJV
We need to put ourselves in Joshua's shoes now.  We have the benefit of God's word and knowing how they set up their con.  Joshua does not.  From his point of view, some well-worn weary strangers approached him.  They jumped the gun a bit on their con in leading with the request for a treaty.  The men of Israel were immediately suspicious, but that is where the rest of their con came in.  They pointed out their well worn clothes and said they were worn because of the long trip.  To make matters even better, the said that the moldy bread was fresh from the oven when they left and the wineksins were and full and new.  They had every appearance of being from a far off land.  They even buttered up the Israelites by glorifying God and how they heard of all that He did even from afar.  They made themselves out to be people from a foreign land sent to pay tribute and make a treaty to Israel and their God.  A clever scheme, indeed.
Then the men of Israel took some of their provisions; but they did not ask counsel of the LORD.  Joshua 9:14 NKJV
This verse should stand out in your mind.  They did not ask the counsel of the Lord.  They made a decision based on what looked good to them.  They made a decision on their own wisdom.  They made a decision that they felt would be best for them.  We should never do anything without asking the counsel of the Lord.  We can never know the whole picture from our limited viewpoint.  We need the wisdom of the One who knows the beginning from the end.  We need the wisdom from the One who prepared good works for us before the foundations of the world.  We need the One who searches the hearts of men.  Making decision in our own wisdom, even if it seems like a good decision, can have tragic consequences.  Let us see how this all worked out for Israel.
So Joshua made peace with them, and made a covenant with them to let them live; and the rulers of the congregation swore to them.  Joshua 9:15 NKJV
And Joshua made his rash decision without the counsel of the Lord.  It was a terribly wrong decision as we will come to see.  He made a covenant to let them live.  His choice to not take the time to inquire of the Lord kept alive a group marked by God for destruction.  Joshua's decision undermined God's pronounced judgment upon this people and Israel was now going to have to live with the consequences of that action.
And it happened at the end of three days, after they had made a covenant with them, that they heard that they were their neighbors who dwelt near them.  Joshua 9:16 NKJV
Oops.  Joshua just learned that he had been tricked. 
Then the children of Israel journeyed and came to their cities on the third day. Now their cities were Gibeon, Chephirah, Beeroth, and Kirjath Jearim. But the children of Israel did not attack them, because the rulers of the congregation had sworn to them by the LORD God of Israel. And all the congregation complained against the rulers. Then all the rulers said to all the congregation, "We have sworn to them by the LORD God of Israel; now therefore, we may not touch them. This we will do to them: We will let them live, lest wrath be upon us because of the oath which we swore to them."  Joshua 9:17-20 NKJV
Israel's hands were tied.  They made a covenant to the Lord to not kill these people.  These people, who were set for judgment and given in the hands of Israel, were now allowed to live.  Israel was now between a rock and a hard place. They made a promise to a people who had no business having that promise and now they were under God's chastisement for making that covenant and if they broke that promise they would again be under God's chastisement.  Israel was bound to live with an enemy in their land all because they made a rash decision and did not take the time to inquire of the Lord.
And the rulers said to them, "Let them live, but let them be woodcutters and water carriers for all the congregation, as the rulers had promised them." Then Joshua called for them, and he spoke to them, saying, "Why have you deceived us, saying, 'We are very far from you,' when you dwell near us? Now therefore, you are cursed, and none of you shall be freed from being slaves—woodcutters and water carriers for the house of my God."  Joshua 9:21-23NKJV
Joshua, understanding he had to let them remain, decided to give them a different punishment for their trickery.  They could live, but they had to live as slaves. 
So they answered Joshua and said, "Because your servants were clearly told that the LORD your God commanded His servant Moses to give you all the land, and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land from before you; therefore we were very much afraid for our lives because of you, and have done this thing. And now, here we are, in your hands; do with us as it seems good and right to do to us." So he did to them, and delivered them out of the hand of the children of Israel, so that they did not kill them. And that day Joshua made them woodcutters and water carriers for the congregation and for the altar of the LORD, in the place which He would choose, even to this day.  Joshua 9:24-27 NKJV
Joshua questioned why they had deceived him and they said that they knew that God had given Israel all the land.  They knew they could not stand up to Israel in a fight, so they tricked them out of that fight.  They were more than happy to accept Joshua's terms.  They were happy that they were alive and now under Israel's protection.  Israel's poor judgment has now bound Israel to the Gibeonites in perpetuity. 

Right away, they were trouble.  The other kings that joined forces to fight Israel had decided to attack Gibeon as traitors.  Israel, by their oath, was forced to come to their defense.  Later in history, Saul attempted to correct the issue of the Gibeonites by attacking them himself leading God to punish Israel with a drought for going against their covenant.  The problem is that once you make a promise, you are bound to that promise whether you should have made it or not.  

That is why we have the lesson of the Gibeonites.  We often make rash commitments without first seeking the counsel of the Lord.  God does not allow us to back out of those commitments whether we should have made them or not.  If you marry the wrong person, it is the wrong person you are to remain married to.  If you sign the wrong contract, you are bound to the wrong contract you signed.  If you get into a partnership with someone who should not be your partner, you are bound to that partner.  If you are tricked into making a commitment, you are still bound to that commitment.  The consequence of our failure to seek after the Lord is to live with the ramifications of whatever decisions or commitments we made.  I know sometimes we are faced with decisions that almost seem to need immediate answers.  Never fall for that as it is a trick meant to deceive you into acting rashly.  If you were ever involved with purchasing a car and told the salesman you wanted to sleep on it, you know full well the slick sales trick of creating artificial urgency to get you to make a commitment you may not make if you had time to think about it.  God tells us to inquire of Him and so we will never be hurt by taking time to seek after God's will for any decision we need to make.  The consequences, however, of making rash decisions can be rather difficult.  You may be on the hook for a loan you can not pay for, you may be married to a person that will never be the spouse God had for you, you may get involved with a business that ruins you financially, and you may even sustain a false gospel God had set for destruction.  Israel thought they had a good deal in that the Gibeonites were their slaves, but as we see from history it was Israel who were the slaves to their foolish decision.  Always take the time to seek after God, there is no such thing as a decision so immediate that it can not be brought to God in prayer.  When faced with decisions in life, the first and only choice you should make is to pray and God will decide the rest.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.  Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV

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