Summary: The Gibeonites deceive the Israelites into a treaty because the Israelites fail to ask the Lord. We learn to involve God in our decisions, act with integrity when we make a poor decision, and trust God to redeem even those bad decisions.
Better Ask the Boss
Have you ever been deceived? Have you ever gotten burned by somebody who seemed sincere, whom you trusted, and who turned out to have been lying to you all along and took advantage of you?
Sadly most of us can relate all too easily. We have placed our trust in someone who offered their word, and we have been hurt and disappointed. A few years ago Joanne and I bought an old house, knowing that we would need to do quite a bit of renovating. So we asked quite a few questions, and even had an independent inspection. The guy with whom we did most of the discussing was open about a few of the obvious things that needed doing, but we later discovered he was less than truthful about some others. After the deal was done, we were renovating and had a plumber installing some fixtures in the bathroom and replacing a bunch of old cast iron water lines, which we had budgeted for. Suddenly Joanne came running upstairs to find me, because we had water spewing everywhere out of the plumbing stack (where all the waste water drains down into the main sewer) – something we had not budgeted to replace. At first we were convinced that our plumber (who actually had a few leaky pipes in his head, if you know what I mean…) had messed something (else) up, and was somehow to blame. But on further investigation, we could see that a huge crack in the stack had been repaired at some earlier time with roofing tar. And so we ended up saddled with an extra, unexpected expense because of the deceit of the previous owner.
I know that story doesn’t compare to some of the stories that I’ve heard in the course of pastoral ministry – that many of you have been deceived on far deeper, more painful levels. The story we are going to look at today from Joshua 9 shows us an example of the Israelites being deceived, and how they handled it.
Read Josh 9.
The Ongoing Consequence of Achan’s Sin (vs. 1-2):
Let me just review briefly what has been going on with the Israelites up to this point. God had been doing great and awesome things for His people, demonstrating His power in their defeat of two kings beyond the Jordan river (their names were mentioned in the passage), then in parting the Jordan river so they could walk across on dry ground, and then in miraculously leveling the fortress city of Jericho. Following the fall of the walls of Jericho, Joshua proceeded on to the next town (Ai) without knowing that God had withdrawn His blessing because of the sin of one man, Achan, who had took some of the plunder from Jericho. Without the presence of God, the Israelite force was humiliated by the smaller, weaker group at Ai. Joshua seeks God and discovers the reason for the defeat was the sin in the camp, and God instructs them in how to deal with this sin. They follow God’s instructions, God returns to fight for Israel, and they defeat Ai the second time.
But the first defeat at Ai has a secondary consequence – Israel’s enemies see that it is possible to defeat the Israelites. Previously, we read of how Israel’s enemies’ “hearts melting in fear,” because of their terror at the power of Israel’s God – this is what Rahab reported in chapter 2. But now, because of the defeat at Ai, the surrounding nations took courage and decided that it was possible to defeat the Israelites – that their God was not in fact all powerful. And so in vss. 1-2 we read of those kings organizing together, forming an alliance and preparing to wage war against the invading Israelites.
It makes one wonder what might have happened if Achan had not sinned – if the reputation of the God of Israel had remained as it had at the beginning. Would the people of Canaan resisted, or would they have recognized that the battle was futile and thus given themselves up to Israel, perhaps even recognizing the supremacy of Israel’s God and chose to worship Him? Of course we don’t know, but to me that sounds more like the plan of God than the record we have of history; doesn’t it to you? Doesn’t it sound more like God to come in power (even if that power is first shown in a military way, as at Jericho), and then expect all peoples to respond to Him in worship, than just to destroy everyone? I know I’m playing the “what if…” game, which is impossible to know, but I can’t help but wonder if God didn’t have a better plan. Sort of like the garden of Eden – God had a better plan but the entrance of sin made a big mess of it.