Reading: Joshua 9
As I read Joshua and the accounts of Israel's conquest of the promise land, frankly there are many ways in which I cannot relate. Of course there are places where I connect to heart issues, like Achan who coveted and took what belonged to God. Been there; done that. But by the mercy of God I wasn't stoned with my family and burned. Thank God.
Today I found another place which all believers should be able to relate to. And it is found in the curious little story about the Gibeonites and their deception. Israel had defeated Jericho and Ai completely...not leaving anyone alive, not even the kings. When news of this spread, we find two responses. First, the kings of the Jordan joined together to make war against Israel (Joshua 9:1-2). This is a logical response if you don't believe that God is behind the Israelites. “If we join together, we will be stronger, and we will defeat them.” From a human reasoning standpoint this makes a lot of sense: Brute force against brute force; the one with more wins.
The second response is the most interesting, because these folks don't set out to fight against the Israelites, but to save their own skin. “However, when the people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, they resorted to a ruse...” (Joshua 9:3-4). These guys were actors par excellence, setting themselves up to look like they had traveled from a distant country for many days, beginning by extolling the fame of the Lord in what He was doing through the Israelites in defeating Ai and Jericho, as well as Sihon and Og on the other side of the Jordan. The Israelites made the fatal mistake of not seeking the Lord but by using only their senses to test the situation. “The men of Israel sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord.” (Joshua 9:14)
So Joshua made a treaty of peace with the Gibeonites, only to discover a few days later that the Gibeonites were their neighbors. Now they are in a fix: here are people whom they cannot destroy in the promise land, and they can't break their word, their oath. They must walk in integrity before God. (This raises a whole other topic to consider: how many of us would have justified breaking our oath because they deceived us?) So Joshua summons the Gibeonites. Listen to what he says, and the Gibeonite response (Joshua 9:22-25):
"Why did you deceive us by saying, 'We live a long way from you,' while actually you live near us? 23You are now under a curse: You will never cease to serve as woodcutters and water carriers for the house of my God." 24They answered Joshua, "Your servants were clearly told how the LORD your God had commanded his servant Moses to give you the whole land and to wipe out all its inhabitants from before you. So we feared for our lives because of you, and that is why we did this. 25We are now in your hands. Do to us whatever seems good and right to you."
Joshua tells them they will be servants, hard laborers for the house of God, and they respond by saying, “Do to us whatever seems good and right to you.” They certainly were not American Evangelical Christians. Why in the world did they so willingly accept enslavement? Real simple: they feared for their lives. It was death, or treaty. If treaty involved enslavement, then so be it.
The difference between the Gibeonites response and that of the other kings west of the Jordan is that the Gibeonites believed that God was really behind the Israelites and therefore they would be destroyed. So servitude makes for acceptable terms.
In the church world today, it often seems many want to negotiate terms for how they serve God. Their own fulfillment is often at the top of the list. It seems so foreign from the New Testament concept of being slaves for Christ, giving up our lives, taking up a cross and following Jesus. Some seem to have never counted the cost. Maybe they have never been “clearly told” of the wrath of God as the Gibeonites had been told of their impending doom.
According to Luke 14:31-33, we are at war with a king—God—and we are not able to win. We find ourselves in the same situation the Gibeonites did. We need to send a delegation just as they did to ask for terms of peace. However, since we cannot deceive God as they were able to deceive the Israelites, the terms of peace are very clear: give up everything you have. Then and only then can you be a disciple of Jesus.
“But you don't understand, we are Americans. We have rights. We need to be fulfilled. We don't want to be unwise in how radical we are in serving God.” Then you need to join in with the other kings west of the Jordan and fight; possibly you think you can win. But as for me, I think the wise approach is realizing the truth: our lives are worthless now... we are heading for the wrath of God. We give up everything... every right to negotiate on our terms, every right to complain about what role God calls us to, every right to do as we please with our lives, our money...everything.
The king of Jerusalem and its people were alarmed when they heard what the Gibeonites did (Joshua 10:1-2). Why would they do this? Gibeon was large and the Gibeonites were skilled fighters. But they were also smart—they knew a good deal when they saw one. Being a servant of God is a good deal, when we understand what's coming. Oh the mercy of God that we would be spared and allowed to serve in God's kingdom. We don't come with our importance, we don't come with our fighting abilities, we don't come with all our royalty... we come as sinners condemned to die to a merciful God who spares us, and we come to serve however He wants.
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,