Joshua 9. The Treaty with the Gibeonites. What possible value does a fake peace treaty from 1200 BC have? You might be surprised. Let's do this bible study style. I will ask some questions, let you ponder and answer (at each divider), and then I will help pull it together into some application points at the end.
Read Joshua 9.
OK. What makes this story Interesting to you?
Here are some of my thoughts: Listening to God is important!, The question of slavery. Is God for it or against it? Is there a real penalty for breaking my word to God?
What was the Challenge the Gibeonites faced?
I think verse 24 sums it well. As they saw it they had two options; Die fighting or deceive and exploit the perceived weakness of Israel, that they tend to keep their word.
So they decide to go with option 1. "Make a covenant with Israel & their God through deception and trickery." I guess I can't blame them too much, can you?
What mistake does Joshua and the leaders of Israel make?
Note that this is not the first time Joshua made this mistake, just a few chapters back he made this same mistake about his battle plan against the King of a small town of Ai.
I want you to notice something. Joshua and the leaders had the ability and responsibility to ask God for wisdom. If they had, they would have received his council! This was a needless deception. They did not need to run into this trap.
Is this a mistake you are likely to make?
How often do we act before we ask? Therefore we often face troubles. When Joshua was making plans to take the small town of Ai (Jos 7:2–4). He though they were few and he could handle them without asking God about what to do. Oops. But he did not learn his lesson.
Nowadays when I am faced with any challenge. I stop and I ask… Google! And I get half a dozen lame YouTube videos about how to solve my problem. But with a multitude of counselors and some good discernment I can often weed out the worst advise. Still I often end up trying to fix my car with instructions that applied to some other model or year. The point is, I am now in a habit to check the internet before I jump into something new. How much more should we be asking God about everything? He knows everything... even the future.
We must learn to ask him for wisdom. As people that have the Holy Spirit in us we MUST ask. We must listen. Why? Because God has given us the means to both ask and listen, and he is willing to answer.
I think the problem with many of us is we don't believe we can hear his voice well. God promises us if we are his sheep we will hear his voice. Believe that. You will get better the more you listen and obey. There are other voices in our head. Our own, and sometimes whispers from the enemy trying to ruin us. To tell the difference check that the voice does do not deviate from God’s written will in the WORD of GOD. We must make sure we do not deviate from his revealed will. What if I still can't tell? Ask again. Ask for confirmation. Seek, Ask, Knock. Good stuff sometimes requires some effort. (pressing into God). Also, get Godly council from others that hear God.
So what does Joshua and the leaders decide to do with the Gibionites?
They made a covenant. (not a contract) … that is important distinction.
A contract is legal and is terminated when either side breaks the terms.
A covenant is sealed by blood usually an animal sacrifice before God.
A covenant is not terminated by the the other party failing to honor their side. The commitment is made to GOD, and he does not change.
An example of a covenant is when you asked Jesus into your heart, you cut covenant with God. The blood shed was Jesus. The agreement you made was for Jesus to take your sins and for you to live for God.
Ezekiel asks the rhetorical question…
Ezekiel 17:15,19 (NKJV)
"Will he who does such things escape? Can he break a covenant and still be delivered?"
“So this is what the Sovereign Lord says: As surely as I live, I will punish him for breaking my covenant and disregarding the solemn oath he made in my name.
Sad thing is, only 3 days later the Israelites find out they were deceived. the city of Gibeon is only about 20 miles form their camp in Gilgal!
What does the people of Israel want to do now?
Why do the leaders not kill them for this deception?
Kill the treacherous Gibeonites! But the Leaders are now people who fear God and will not let them. They knew there would be consequences for breaking covenant with God.
You see. Each of us is protected by by God. you could picture it as a personal invisible shield like you see in Star Trek, but it is much more like the Holy spirit and angels and includes the aspect of positive blessing as well. When we disobey God that protection weakens and can be removed. When that happens our enemy the devil is only too willing to bring the bad stuff down on us.
Thee leaders of Israel were right to be concerned. about 180 years later, King David is asking God why they have had three years of drought. and the answer is that they had broken covenant with the Gibeonites! ( 2 Samuel 21:1–6). Think of it. 180 years later, and this national covenant is still in effect. Think of the ramifications that has!
Is a covenant made by deception really binding?
A contract made under deception is not legally by today's standards. But this was a covenant to God and it is absolutely binding today as it was then. The leaders honored their covenant with Gibeon not because Gibeon deserved it, but because they feared living out from under the protection of the One TRUE living God and had sworn an oath to him. Made a COVENANT before Him. In the face of strong opposition of their own people they did not back down. To obey God… is more important than what seems right to us.
Obedience is better than sacrifice.
The world says it is easier to ask forgiveness than permission. This is a lie.
With God do it right the first time. God can turn for good our evil when we turn back, but how much more can he do when we honor him and obey him and never fall?
Obedience is critical to live under the blessings of God.
So how is justice served to the Gibeonites?
It is probably not right to let Gibbon get away with the deception without any punishment, so they kept their word and let them live, but they were also subjected to the menial and hard labor required for conducting worship services to God.. to haul the wood and water required for sacrificial WORSHIP.
This is slavery! is God for slavery?
First, did they ask God about enslaving the Gibeonites? I does not look like it. However, it appears the Gibeonites are willing to go along with this rather than face death. I would be too... but not a very nice choice! However, it is important to point out that they benefited greatly from this arrangement in the next chapter. Their alignment with Israel brings the wrath of the surrounding nations and they are going to be wiped out, but Israel comes and fights fro them!
Still, was it right to making the other nation slaves?
This was not God’s original will. His original command was to destroy them. If you wonder about that command, Good it has an interesting story & explanation but I will have to cover it in another blog.
The covenant with God superseded that original instruction. Why? There are priorities hierarchies with God’s commands. The disciples of Jesus as Jews were to honor their religious teachers, but when those religious teachers commanded them to stop preaching in the name of Jesus they did not stop because God’s direct command to them superseded the general command to honor their teachers. However, they did not resist arrest. and only broke out of prison when God’s power and His angels guided them.
We are to honor and obey our father and mother. But if our parents asked us to break God’s law we would be right to disobey them. At all times we must rightly divide God’s word and Obey him according to the priority of his commands to us. This can take wisdom and maturity, and the devil will often try to confuse us on these points. The debate between Pro Life and Pro Choice is one of these issues. Women do have rights. But so do babies. So in the face of conflicting rights Godly priorities must be understood and applied.
Slavery that was practiced everywhere At that time. God had freed the Jews from Egyptian slavery so slavery was understood ,and Freedom was valued highly. God had given laws to Moses to ensure slavery had moral limits. Hebrews could not be any more than temporary endured servants when they could not pay a debt. However non-Israelites could be slaves. God had given rules to Moses about the treatment of slaves to prevent cruelty. Owners could not murder slaves, if they hurt them like damaging an eye or a tooth they had to free them.
This was the way God showed his love and differentiated Israel from all the other lands were slavery was uncontrolled. When Christ came it made it more clear about the law of love and the way we are to treat our fellow man. After Jesus, Paul penned “Philemon” , and begged the owner to set his runaway slave free and receive him as a brother.
This is the Gospel the good news of Jesus that makes us all equal.
Slavery in the new testament takes on a spiritual dimension.
We see that without Jesus we are slaves to SIN.
That when we ask for Jesus to come into our life -- he sets us free from this slavery.
That our message is one of FREEDOM from slavery.
So how are you gong to be different today?
So the challenge to you today is... what is your word to God worth?
Have you given God your life by becoming a Christian?
If so, recognize it is a covenant. You really are a new person on a new path.
Don't go back to your old ways, or be pulled away from God's will for your life by the empty promises of this world. If you are feeling guilty about something ask God, read the Word, and ask for Godly council from a strong Christian. It is no good walking outside the protective covering of God. The devil is real and he really does hate us. He would be happy to put us in to a spiritual drought were were lost touch with God.
Confess, Repent (turn away from your wrong way), and ask God for help to walk in his will daily. He is ready to help and His word is always Trustworthy.