It is so ironic what happened after Achan and his sins were addressed. Recall that Achan took of the spoil of Jericho for his own self and hid them in his tent. The irony is that when the Israelites went to fight the city of Ai the second time, they utterly destroyed it, but God gave them the opportunity to enjoy the spoils from the city. Had Achan not sinned, he would have been one of those who benefited from the spoils.
What a lesson this is. When we run ahead of God and do for ourselves, we always lose. We stay on the narrow path and stay obedient, then there is blessing ahead.
By now the reputation of the Israelites as a fearsome battle machine spread throughout the land. In chapter 9 there is almost an element of humor. There was a group of people called the Gibeonites that lived not far Joshua’s current location. Because of the reputation they heard of the Israelites, they decided to trick them. They put on old shoes and old cloths and carried old wine bottles and moldy food to come to Joshua. They lied and said they came from a far country. They persuaded the Israelites to make an agreement with them of peace.
Later they found out that the Gibeonites were liars, but even so that created a difficult situation for the Israelites because they gave their word of peace. What would you do if somebody lied to you and you made an agreement with them based on that lie and then found out the truth? The natural inclination for all of us would be to break that truce and follow through as if it never happened.
The lesson here asks the question how is it possible to make ourselves suspect for deception? How is it in this world we can become vulnerable to other people and then are ones who suffer the consequence?
In verse two of this chapter the Israelites were distracted by their intention to fight a war. We must be careful not to be so distracted in one area of our lives that we could become vulnerable in another area. When we are vulnerable in this way, we are blindsided and must suffer the consequence even as innocent people. We may question how it is that the liars get off scott free while we must suffer the consequence?
In verse 14 it is plainly stated that the Israelites did not ask God’s counsel. In all areas of our lives we should stay in contact with God for what direction we should go and what decisions we should make. God must be first and foremost in our thinking regardless of other people and circumstances around us.
Verse 16 tells how the Israelites discovered that the liars were actually neighbors. That means that the Israelites were unfamiliar with the territory so that they were unable to know exactly where the Gibeonites lived. It is important for us to be aware of our surroundings and know the territory where we walk. If we are not careful, we could find ourselves in an unsavory situation and without realizing it offer a poor testimony to the world.
Verse 18 says that the people were very disgruntled with their leadership because the princes made this pact with the Gibeonites. Whether it be in our family, our church, or community, it is very easy to be the source of discord. Without realizing it we can find ourselves surrounded by people that are more than eager to criticize us even if we really act with good intentions. When I was pastoring a church, I read from a document to point out the evil that surrounds us in this world. After I read that paper, I laid it behind me on the small pew where I sit on the platform. To this day I feel the criticism that I received that was unjust, but nevertheless I garnered criticism for what the other person said I was throwing things around on the platform.
Verses 11 through 23 concludes the story of the Gibeonites by saying that the Israelites would tolerate their presence, but that they would have a menial status in the community. They would be expected to function and have occupations for which others would have cause to look down on them. The Israelites tried to get the upper hand of the situation by instructing the Gibeonites, but the fact is they tolerated these people in their presence and had to suffer that. They may have thought that they were making the Gibeonites suffer. However, the Gibeonites got their way. They would not be subject to war and, therefore, would not be subject to death. Having low social status was much preferred than being killed in battle.
It is so easy for us to try to serve the Lord and do things with good intentions, but still find ourselves in difficult situations that put us in a position of criticism. No one can ever avoid being criticized at any time in their lives, but these Israelites are the ones who generated that. If they would only have sought the face of the Lord and if they only they would not have made the pact blindly, the entire situation could have been avoided. It was through the deceit of the Gibeonites and the naïveté of the Israelites that they all found themselves in the situation which should have never been. For us we need to walk lightly on the path of life and take care when situations are presented to us so that we properly analyze them and ask for God’s leadership.