By Ron Morrow
I’ve read Joshua 9 a number of times over the years. As far as I was concerned, the Gibeonites were deceivers and the Israelites made the foolish mistake of believing their lies rather than seeking God’s counsel in the matter. It was all right there in black and white. No nasty “grey areas” to complicate things.
Then along came Pastor Alan and the “unusual story” that was the subject of his sermon. Suddenly, I found myself wondering: Would I be willing to lie in order to save my own life? What about in order to save the lives of people I love? These are the kind of questions the Gibeonites were forced to confront.
Israel’s enemies were well aware that the Israelites had captured the cities of Jericho and Ai. Now there were rumours circulating that the Israelites intended to seize control of all the land west of the Jordan River as well as wipe out everyone and everything that was there. In response to this threat, “all the kings who were beyond the Jordan . . . gathered together with one accord to fight Joshua and Israel” (v. 1).
The Gibeonites, however, formed a different plan – based on a very different understanding of the challenge they faced. They understood that the battle was not really against Joshua and Israel, but against the God of Israel – who led the Israelites out of Egypt and gave them victories over the two kings who ruled east of the Jordan River (verses 9, 10 and 24-26). So, they tricked the Israelites into forming an alliance with them. It was a very elaborate ruse, and it worked perfectly!!
When the Israelites discovered that they’d been outsmarted, they were furious. However, the oath they had sworn prevented them from harming the Gibeonites. So, the leaders decided that the Gibeonites would become servants in the Temple. In effect, those who were formerly “outsiders” had now become “insiders.”
So, what’s the take away for us? Pastor Alan suggested several things. Here are two that stood out for me. First, we need to remember that we ourselves were “outsiders” before being brought under God’s loving care (Ephesians 2:12-14). Second, we need to avoid the temptation to judge those who may not fit our definition of an “insider.” For God has declared, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion (Romans 9:15).