We all make many decisions every day. And all of us have made decisions that we have regretted. No doubt we can all remember making bad decisions. Some decisions were serious while others were not. Today we will examine a decision made by Joshua and the other elders of Israel which had grave consequences.
I. BLESSINGS AND FIGHTS CAN OCCUR AT THE SAME TIME (VERSES 1-6).
Even while Israel had gathered to worship in Mount Ebal (Joshua 8:30), her enemies had gathered to plan an attack (verses 1, 2). While Israel was worshiping God and reviewing God’s law, the kings of Canaan rallied to form an alliance to meet the challenge of Israel’s invasion. Though all the kings gathered to form this military alliance, the Gibeonites decided to pursue a different course of action because “the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai” (verse 3).
The Gibeonites had heard the same reports as Rahab, but they reacted differently. They had heard about Israel’s strength and may have even realized that the power of God was behind that strength. Rahab also heard about the God of Israel, but her heart was open to learn more of Him and worship Him. The Gibeonites’ knowledge led them to be afraid and to do everything they could to save their lives.
Instead of repenting, the Gibeonites decided to deceive the Israelites (see verses 4-6). They wanted to deceive Joshua about their origin. We do not know if they knew that God had told Israel not to make any alliances with the people of Canaan or if they believed that although Joshua might not make an alliance with neighboring nations, he might make one with a country that was far away.
Many people today still live by the Gibeonite philosophy—expediency rules. They do whatever they have to do to get through life’s difficulties. If the Gibeonites had simply turned to God in repentance, as Rahab had done, no deception would have been necessary.
II. DON’T BASE DECISIONS ON SUPERFICIAL EVIDENCE (VERSES 7-15).
Verses 7-15 tell us that the Gibeonites tricked the men of Israel. Notice in verse 8 that they did not answer Joshua’s question: “Who are you, and where do you come from?” Instead they said, “We are from a far country,” implying that “we are from so far away that you would have never heard of us.”
The Gibeonites were deceptive not only about their origin, they also lied about their intentions. They told Joshua that they wanted a covenant because they had heard about the wonders of the Lord God (see verse 9). They gave the impression that they longed to honor God. But they did not offer to repent; they offered only to serve. Then they presented their proof—moldy bread, patched wineskins, and ragged clothes (See verses 12, 13).
It seems incredible that Israel’s leaders accepted as evidence things that were highly questionable. Envoys with the power to conclude a treaty with another nation should have had substantial credentials. However, verse 14 tells us that “then the men of Israel took some of their provisions; but they did not ask counsel of the LORD” (See also verse 15).
So Joshua made a treaty with the Gibeonites without first bringing the matter before God. This treaty was a promise not only to spare their lives but also protect them if they were attacked.
Perhaps the reason Joshua neglected to consult God was that he thought the evidence was so strong that it was not necessary to ask God. Perhaps Joshua did not ask God because his own decision looked so right and so obvious.
III. DECEPTION WILL ALWAYS BE DISCOVERED (VERSES 16-20).
The writer of Proverbs says, “A lying tongue is only for a moment” (12:19). The story of the Gibeonites’ deception shows that dishonesty may work temporarily, but it is never a permanent solution. Sooner or later trickery and deceit will be exposed and the truth will come out. When Israel checked out the story, they discovered the truth (See verses 17, 18).
When the Israelites discovered the deception, they complained bitterly against Joshua and the leadership and accused them of being gullible. Realizing that they had been tricked, Joshua and the leaders did not defend themselves. But they did acknowledge that a covenant was a covenant and could not be taken lightly (See verses 19-21).
IV. WHEN YOU MAKE A BAD DECISION, YOU MUST LIVE WITH THE CONSEQUENCES (VERSES 22-27).
It took only three days for Israel’s leaders to discover that they had made a mistake, but they had to live with that mistake for the rest of their lives. The story of Joshua’s reaction to the deception of the Gibeonites shows us how important it is to keep our promises, even when it is difficult. Other people’s wellbeing may depend on it. God’s people are called upon to live obediently amid mistakes of their own making.
An obvious present-day application is marriage. Sometimes a Christian will marry an unbeliever. What can be done then? The world says, “Get a divorce. You have a right to be happy. Do what is right for yourself.” But the truth is that you cannot! The Word of God says that the decision is one with which the Christian must live (1 Cor. 7:12).
Joshua and the leaders of Israel erred in trusting their own judgment and failing to consult the Lord about the Gibeonites, but they did not compound the error by breaking the covenant they had made.
Some Christians believe that there are no consequences to sin if we confess and seek God’s forgiveness. Although repentance does bring cleansing, it does not erase the consequences of sin. That is the great problem with a failure to consult the Lord in all matters: we must live with the consequences of our wrong decisions.
Israel was called upon to honor the covenant with the Gibeonites soon after the agreement had been made. Five kings of the Amorites, angered and threatened by the Gibeonite strategy, decided to attack the Gibeonite cities (10:3-4). Joshua was obligated to defend them. The covenant between Israel and the Gibeonites was respected for centuries. On a later occasion, when King Saul broke the covenant, God sided with the Gibeonites and brought judgment upon Israel (2 Sam. 21:1).
The story of Israel’s deception by the Gibeonites is just one of many examples in the Bible that remind us that we must live with the results of our bad decisions. May we learn from these stories to take our decisions to God as we humble ourselves to be led by the Holy Spirit.
General Conference Ministerial Association