THEME: Israel True to Their Word
This week’s lessons show the consequences of relying on our own understanding, rather than looking to God for wisdom and blessing.
Yesterday, we looked at the first two points from Ephesians 6 about our spiritual warfare. The third is that we’re to carry the offensive weapon, our sword, which is the Word of God. It means we have to know it. We have to be able to use it. We have to have it at our disposal. Some people say, “Well, you know, I believe the Bible.” You then ask them, “Well, what in the Bible do you believe?” At this point sometimes such people might have a hard time naming anything they believe because they don’t know it. It’s not much good if that’s what your knowledge of the Bible consists of. But you need to know it. You need to understand its principles. You need to have its words in your head and in your heart. Then with that, you’re able to wage an offensive spiritual warfare. And fourth, at the very end of that section, Paul stresses, not once but twice, the necessity for prayer. He said that everything is to be brought before God in prayer. Christians are to be always praying. That’s what we need if we’re going to be victorious. If we pursue those things, and consult God, and look to Him for our strength, then we won’t be misled by mere sense impressions.
With regard to the Gibeonite deception, Israel probably thought that they took a reasonable amount of time in interrogating the Gibeonites and checking out the evidence for the conclusion they were about to reach. But it was only a very short time after they made their decision that they found out their error. It is often that way in Christian things. We have to face a certain decision, and we don’t really inquire of the Lord. We muddle over it for a long amount of time because we really don’t have wisdom in the matter. We consider all the evidence, and then on the basis of all the evidence that we can see, without consulting God, after what we consider to be a long period of deliberation, we make our decision. And then from there it’s just a very short time that we find out that we were entirely mistaken.
I think that’s intentional in the way the story is told. Notice that verses 14 and 15 read, “The men of Israel sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord. Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath.” But then look at what Israel discovers in verse 16: “Three days after they made a treaty with the Gibeonites, the Israelites heard that they were neighbors, living near them.” Three days is all it took for them to find out their mistake. And yet, here’s an important point: they had to live with the consequences indefinitely. You see, when they found out the mistake, we’re told that the people began to rebel against their leaders. They blamed the leaders for having made the mistake. And yet although the leaders of the people had made a bad mistake in establishing a treaty with the Gibeonites without first consulting the Lord, nevertheless, they didn’t make a second mistake by breaking their covenant which they had made in God’s name. They said, “No, we’ve made a covenant with them. And even though we made a mistake, even though we were fooled by them, even though we failed to consult the Lord, nevertheless that’s what we have done before the Lord. Now we must stand by our word and we must live with the consequences.
And so that’s what they did. The Gibeonites were with Israel a long time. As a matter of fact, years later God protected the Gibeonites because of that vow Israel had made. In 2 Samuel 21, there’s a little story that concerns the Gibeonites. Prior to this, Saul had been king, and for one reason or another he decided that he didn’t like the Gibeonites and was going to get rid of them. He didn’t succeed in doing that, but he certainly killed a lot of them. And as a result of that, because of the covenant Israel made with them back in Joshua, God defended the Gibeonites and caused a famine to come over the land, a famine which lasted three years.
By this time David was the king, and he inquired of the Lord why the famine had come. The answer to David was because of Saul’s breaking of the oath and killing the Gibeonites. David asks what should be done, and he then consulted with the Gibeonites since they were the ones who had been offended. As a result of that, seven of Saul’s sons were put to death as punishment for what Saul had done to the Gibeonites. After that, the famine was removed. So when the leaders of the people back in Joshua’ time decided that they would not go back on their oath by killing the Gibeonites, they were doing what was right. And years later, God reaffirmed that by even judging a king of Israel when he broke the terms of that treaty.
The third item Dr. Boice mentions is the Word of God. How can the Bible be misused by people who claim to believe it? How are we to use it correctly for it to be the spiritual weapon God intends?
How does prayer serve as a means to victory over spiritual attacks?
Even though Israel had made a foolish treaty with the Gibeonites before God, once the vow was made it was still to be honored. Consider how important our promises are, and how seriously God takes our words.