In the nineth chapter of the Book of Joshua (verses below), Joshua and the assembly leaders of Israel get themselves into a big pickle.
In short, the Gibeonites have used all sorts of tricks to deceive Joshua and the men of Israel into making a peace treaty with them even though they are their neighbours.
Joshua’s error is made obvious in verse 14:
“The men of Israel sampled their provisions (ie: the provisions of the deceiving Gibeonites) but did not inquire of the LORD.”
You see, Joshua and the men of Israel looked with their eyes and heard with their ears and maybe even tasted witht their mouth but “did not inquire of the Lord”; they did not ask of the Lord; they did not speak with the Lord; they did not pray to the Lord; and so they were deceived.
Let’s make things a little clearer. The Gibeonites were the enemy of Israel. Joshua was meant to completely destroy them, as he had done with other peoples in the region, but because “he did not inquire of the Lord” he is now, tragically, making a peace treaty with them. In other words, Joshua is making a peace treaty with the enemy.
Further, the Lord had made a promise to Joshua and the Israelites that he was going to go with them and destroy all of the enemy so that they would inherit all of the land. So this agreement that Joshua has made with the Gibeonites stands in opposition to the very promise of God all because Joshua and the men of Israel “did not inquire of the Lord”.
When I was in Cyangugu, Rwanda earlier this year with my friend Jerome I met another friend’s father who is a Pastor there and he said to me “It’s very hard for someone to come out of witchcraft and into faith in Jesus because they have made agreements with the devil.”
I believe there is a similar thing going on here with Joshua. Joshua, in his foolishness, has made an agreement with the enemy that stands in opposition to the very promise of God. And not only that, but they now have a deceptive enemy living in the camp with them. They have mistakenly decided to honour their oath made in deception rather than honour the promise of God. “The enemy is living in the camp”.
What can we learn from these verses?
We know that our enemy is actively trying to deceive us out of our inheritance. That inheritance is ours by faith in the promises of God. We’re not to live by sight but in everything we need to “inquire of the Lord” (PRAY) so that we are not deceived into loosing our inheritance and/or compromising the promises of God. We need to be quick to acknowledge our mistakes and honour the Word of God and the Promises of God higher than any foolish decisions that we make. You will notice that there was no repentance by Joshua and the men of Israel. There was only ‘damage control’ going on to honour an invalid agreement that was based on a deception.
Joshua Chapter 9:
9:1 Now when all the kings west of the Jordan heard about these things — those in the hill country, in the western foothills, and along the entire coast of the Great Sea as far as Lebanon (the kings of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites)— 2 they came together to make war against Joshua and Israel.
3 However, when the people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, 4 they resorted to a ruse: They went as a delegation whose donkeys were loaded with worn-out sacks and old wineskins, cracked and mended. 5 The men put worn and patched sandals on their feet and wore old clothes. All the bread of their food supply was dry and moldy. 6 Then they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and the men of Israel, “We have come from a distant country; make a treaty with us.”
7 The men of Israel said to the Hivites, “But perhaps you live near us. How then can we make a treaty with you?”
8 “We are your servants,” they said to Joshua.
But Joshua asked, “Who are you and where do you come from?”
9 They answered: “Your servants have come from a very distant country because of the fame of the LORD your God. For we have heard reports of him: all that he did in Egypt, 10 and all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan-Sihon king of Heshbon, and Og king of Bashan, who reigned in Ashtaroth. 11 And our elders and all those living in our country said to us, ‘Take provisions for your journey; go and meet them and say to them, “We are your servants; make a treaty with us.” ‘ 12 This bread of ours was warm when we packed it at home on the day we left to come to you. But now see how dry and moldy it is. 13 And these wineskins that we filled were new, but see how cracked they are. And our clothes and sandals are worn out by the very long journey.”
14 The men of Israel sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the LORD. 15 Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath.
16 Three days after they made the treaty with the Gibeonites, the Israelites heard that they were neighbors, living near them. 17 So the Israelites set out and on the third day came to their cities: Gibeon, Kephirah, Beeroth and Kiriath Jearim. 18 But the Israelites did not attack them, because the leaders of the assembly had sworn an oath to them by the LORD, the God of Israel.
The whole assembly grumbled against the leaders, 19 but all the leaders answered, “We have given them our oath by the LORD, the God of Israel, and we cannot touch them now. 20 This is what we will do to them: We will let them live, so that wrath will not fall on us for breaking the oath we swore to them.” 21 They continued, “Let them live, but let them be woodcutters and water carriers for the entire community.” So the leaders’ promise to them was kept.
22 Then Joshua summoned the Gibeonites and said, “Why did you deceive us by saying, ‘We live a long way from you,’ while actually you live near us? 23 You are now under a curse: You will never cease to serve as woodcutters and water carriers for the house of my God.”
24 They 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. 25 We are now in your hands. Do to us whatever seems good and right to you.”
26 So Joshua saved them from the Israelites, and they did not kill them. 27 That day he made the Gibeonites woodcutters and water carriers for the community and for the altar of the LORD at the place the LORD would choose. And that is what they are to this day. NIV