This week’s lessons show the consequences of relying on our own understanding, rather than looking to God for wisdom and blessing.
Perhaps you can apply how the Israelites regarded their treaty by supplying specifics from your own experiences. You get into something that perhaps was wrong for you, but you said you would do it and now you have to stand by it. You said, “Well, I’m in a business venture, but it’s costing me.” Well, that’s alright. If you said there was something you were going to do, you have to do it. You have to stand by it even though it’s costly.
I guess the chief illustration of this would be a bad marriage because of the particularly solemn nature of the covenant that is taken when marriage vows are exchanged. Sometimes a Christian marries a non-Christian. And afterwards they say, “Oh, this isn’t working out. I made a bad mistake.” God says, “Well, yes, that’s true. That’s a bad mistake. But you’re to stay with that unbelieving partner.” Sometimes it’s Christians marrying Christians. Just because the other person is a Christian doesn’t always mean that person is the right one. And you say afterwards, “Well, but things are bad. I’m not happy. This doesn’t seem to be working out the way it’s supposed to work out.” Well, that may well be true. But that doesn’t mean that you’re to seek the world’s way of getting out of the situation. You see, the world would say, “Well, get a divorce. That’s what divorces are for. You made a mistake, but of course you’re supposed to be happy, so try again.”
The Bible doesn’t buy that judgment. It says very explicitly in the Pauline letters—I think of I Corinthians especially—that a man is not to divorce his wife, and a wife is not to divorce her husband. And Jesus, who pronounces upon that sort of thing most harshly, says, “If you do divorce and marry, its adultery.” That’s the way God looks at it. If you go against what God says just to get yourself out of a bad situation, all you really do there is exchange one bad set of consequences for another bad set of consequences. They’re not the same ones, but they’re bad consequences all the same. It affects the children. It affects you. It affects your friends. And most of the time it affects the second marriage in a detrimental way. Disobedience is no way to solve your problems. And what I want to say by way of encouragement is that obedience provides a situation in which God quite often does the remarkably unexpected thing.
That’s what He did with the Gibeonites. This is really quite interesting. The Gibeonites were guilty, of course. They were liars. They deceived the Jews. The Gibeonites weren’t killed, but did suffer for what they had done. But when their deception was uncovered, we’re told what happened. In verse 21 the leaders of Israel said that because of the oath they would be spared, but they were going to become woodcutters and water carriers. In other words, they were going to be slaves. But there’s something that I need to point out. When we get to the end of the story at verse 27, we find something else out about their jobs as woodcutters and water carriers. It says that Joshua had them do these things for the community and “for the altar of the Lord at the place the Lord would choose.” I think that’s utterly astounding. These people who deceived the Jews are made slaves, but God says that the place at which they’re going to do that specifically is the place at which He’s going to set up His altar. They were going to be as close as possible to where the true worship of the true God was carried forth.
Years later, the people of Israel were out following after every other false god that the Canaanites had worshipped. Yet while this idolatry is going on, the Gibeonites were, nevertheless, the ones who were there in the city where the altar was found, partaking faithfully in the service that pertained to the worship of the true God. And they were blessed for it.
In what way did the Gibeonites suffer for their deception?
How did God bless the Gibeonites even through their suffering?
Disobedience is no way to solve your problems. And what I want to say by way of encouragement is that obedience provides a situation in which God quite often does the remarkably unexpected thing.