Victory. Defeat. Victory. What's next? Another defeat. Clearly, Joshua is still learning! Joshua followed his own judgment and was deceived by the Gibeonites. If Joshua had asked for the counsel of the Lord, he would have found out that these men were really from a neighboring city, not from a distant land as they claimed. But he didn't bother. The decision was one he thought he could make on his own. Thus, the leaders of Israel find themselves in a predicament.
There are a couple of positive things in this chapter, though. Once the men of Israel gave their word to the men of Gibeon, they did not go back on it. They might have thought they would be justified in doing so since the agreement was based on a lie. But they had sworn by the name of the Lord, and to break their word would defile His name. So, even though their own countrymen grumbled about it, they honored their promise. As it is said, "two wrongs don't make a right."
But the Israelites had to live with the consequences of their misjudgment and abide by the people of these four cities living in their land. They became servants to Israel -- hewers of wood and drawers of water -- for many generations. This may be a way God turned Joshua's bad decision into a blessing. These pagan people went back and forth to the place of worship every day and must have observed some of the worship of the true God. They also did necessary work, freeing up the Israelites to do other things, like focus on their military campaigns. When we mess things up, God often turns things around and makes them into blessings. He doesn't necessarily remove the consequences of our actions, but if we admit our error and repent, He often shows mercy to us.
It is a difficult thing for Americans, especially, to consult God before making decisions. We are taught all of our lives to rely on ourselves and on our own judgment. This is one of the things I struggle with the most as a Christian. I often need to be reminded of these verses in Proverbs 3.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil. (Prov. 3:5-7)If I acknowledge God in everything I do and not think myself too wise, I can keep out of a lot of trouble. :)
Lord, you promise to give us wisdom if we ask with believing hearts. Remind me to consult You when making decisions and not to think I can do it all on my own. Give me your wisdom, and let me trust in you rather than in myself. As I follow you and what you tell me in your word, you will guide me in your ways. Amen.