Pastor Scott Jonas
Joshua 9-12: The Gibeonite Deception
Let me tell you a story in Joshua called the Gibeonite Deception. In it we will see Joshua fail as a leader. The reason he fails is because he “did not ask counsel from the Lord.” This one episode will reverberate for centuries. It also will tell us a lot about the importance of prayer.
Last week, in Joshua 8, 3,000 men went to the little town of Ai to defeat it. Instead, the Israelites were sent running in fear. Turns out God was teaching Israel a lesson, because one among them had stolen silver and Gold from God’s treasury. The culprit, Achan, was caught, and executed. Ai was defeated. Joshua renews the covenant with God that was first established through Moses.
News of Israel’s destruction of Jericho and Ai found the ears of the other Kings of the promised land. They usually fought each other but now they banded together in a truce in order to fight the army of Yaweh. One people did not join the anti-Semitic alliance, the Gibeonites. They heard what God had done through Israel so they sent emissaries to Joshua in order to trick him. You see Gibeon was a series of four cities within a few days journey of Jericho. The emissaries were dressed in nice but very worn clothing. They loaded their bags with old crumbly bread. They went before Joshua and said, “We are from Gibeon a far away country. We believe that your God is too mighty for us. Make a truce with us so we may live at peace with you.”
Joshua must have been feeling good. They’ve defeated the strongest in Jericho. They fixed the Achan theft problem. They are finally gaining some momentum. They are well on their way to clearing the promised land of villainous Canaanites. Joshua has a choice. #1 He can make a truce with these Gibeonites in the name of God. #2 He can decline their request. #3 Joshua can wait, pray and discern. Joshua doesn’t hesitate. He pledges a truce with the Gibeonites in the name of Yahweh. Three days later, Joshua realizes that he’s been hoodwinked. The Gibeonites live within the Promised Land. Joshua has violated his mission to purge the land. He’s either got to defame the name of God by breaking his oath to the Gibeonites or he has to fail in his original mission to rid the land, all because he failed to pray.
How often do we fail because we fail to pray? We know we should pray. God has all the answers and we who belong to him have access to him. But we don’t stop, go to our heavenly father and ask his advice. We get so full of hubris and self-sufficiency. God lets us fall on our face. It happened to Joshua and it happens to us.
This is Joshua’s big sin. Every leader in the Bible has a major fail. Moses’ was striking the rock in anger at God. King Saul’s was a corruption for power. David’s was using his position to take advantage of his citizens. Peter’s was denying Jesus when Jesus needed him the most. Joshua’s seems to be pride and self-sufficiency. He thinks, I know what I’m doing. God appointed me for my strength and courage. I don’t have to bother him with the details. He told me the mission “Defeat the Canaanites.” This is just a negotiation with a faraway clan. Why would I go to God in prayer over such a trivial matter?
The reason why we pray is not supposed to be functional. If you only go to God with the big things then you are like the adult child who only calls their mom and dad twice a year. Prayer is relational. Moses talked to God all the time. Joshua actually met God before the battle of Jericho. His heavenly father was just waiting to tell him, “Don’t do it!” This scene is very similar to the Garden of Eden. The Gibeonites deceived Joshua just like the devil deceived Adam and Eve. Both times, they would have been saved from terrible choices by just going to God and asking, “What do you think?” We go to God in prayer because he loves us and has our best interests at heart.
Going to God in prayer does make our choices clearer. Last week was the Orstadts last Sunday befor they moved to Indiana. I know they went to God in prayer over that decision. He knows better than they do even though they have the freedom to live wherever they want.
When we don’t pray our lives get more complicated. Joshua either had to break his mission to clear the Promised Land or break his oath to the Gibeonites in God’s name. After, the Gibeonites deception was discovered; God’s people were upset with their leaders. These Canaanites would live in land promised to them. Joshua made a pronouncement, the Gibeonites could live, but they would be servants of Israel. Their land of Trees would be dedicated to the functioning of the tabernacle. Their men would work under Israelites at the Tabernacle. Life just got messier.
Our lives become very messy because of our past decisions. How many decisions do you wish you could go back and change? We all have our regrets. In 2008, at the height of the housing bubble, Ann and I bought a house before we sold our own. It made our life very messy and stressful. I remember signing the contract and not feeling good about it. If only I had the strength to say “wait! I need to pray about this for a few days.” When we don’t pray our lives get more complicated.
Just because we have the freedom to choose something doesn’t mean we should neglect praying about it. I’m sure many of you are in the midst of making a big decision. Should we have more kids? Should I leave my job? Should I go back to school? When should I retire? Should I get surgery on my hip? Should I move closer to family? So many decisions. In Christ, we have the freedom to make those decisions and know that God is with us either way. He’s with you if you have more kids or not. He’s with you at this job or another. He’s with you if you retire and he’s with you if you continue to work. He’s with you if you get the surgery and he’s with you if you continue to suffer. He’s with you here and he’s with you when you move.
Pray anyway. Allow him an opportunity to warn you. Allow him an opportunity to guide you. If your life is way too complicated, pray that he can simplify it. If your life is simple, pray that he helps you to keep it that way.
The book of Joshua shows us that God’s people have a hard time doing things God’s way. It feels much easier to rely on military might than to rely on prayer. For us it is much easier to rely on google than on communicating with our heavenly Father. Got to Him today with that decision you are stressing over. He’s waiting to hear from you, just like a good Father.
By Grace through Faith