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The people of Gibeon and three dependent cities of the Hivites, descendants of Canaan, son of Ham (Genesis 10:17), decided to fight with craft and deceit rather than the sword. The Gibeonites must have known about God's command to wipe out the cities in Canaan (Deuteronomy 20:10-18; 7:1-2), so they lied and said they had come from a distant land. While they mentioned how they had heard of Israel's many victories, they had not mentioned the more recent ones in Jericho and Ai, probably because this would have given away the fact that they were not really from a distant land.
Sadly, Joshua and the Israelites believed the Gibeonites because they "did not ask for the counsel of the LORD" (9:14). When they discovered their error, they did not break their oath with them though. That is commendable.
In the end, the Gibeonites became slaves to the Israelites. Maybe working as woodcutters and water carriers in the house of God rubbed off on them. Later God worked a great miracle among the Gibeonites (10:10-14), the tabernacle was settled for a time at Gibeon (2 Chronicles 1:3), and the Gibeonites helped Nehemiah rebuild Jerusalem's wall (Nehemiah 3:7). So, in the end, it all worked together for God's glory!
This passage reminds me of James 4:13-15:
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”
We make a mistake by not asking the Lord's will in everything. This was a significant decision for the Israelites, and they did not seek the counsel of the Lord (9:14).
It would be easy for me to condemn their actions; but in 2010, I got excited about a proposition made to me about going on a bike trip in Southeast Asia in early August 2011. George had some pause, but I was hearing we should go. After all, we are bikers, and we love Southeast Asia, right? What could be more perfect? Instead of pressing in more to explore George's pause, we went ahead instead of continuing to pray about it until we got clear and specific direction from the Lord. Our thoughts were that this was a GOOD thing, but the GOOD is always the enemy of the BEST.
It is a long story, but the short of it is that we were hearing a "yes" from the Lord about Southeast Asia, but the timing (Later in August instead of early August as originally proposed, thereby running into already committed fall obligations.) and focus of the bike trip changed between November and May. God knew that was all going to happen though, but this was probably in George's "pause" (he is so wise, and I am too enthusiastic sometimes).
We started "seeking the Lord's counsel" (9:14) again in early May, and God opened up His desires for us. We withdrew from the bike trip, and God left us without doubt within 24 hours that this was the right move! It was hard to disappoint the leader (a sweet 74 year old leading his last trip), but God knows best, and we are not here on this earth to please people but God (a lesson I am continually learning the hard way, but significant progress has been made as I heal from a relationship with a constantly disappointed and disapproving mother). We could have continued on that course to please others, but it would not be God's BEST! We trust that the other group will have a blast, but we will not be there to enjoy it! Sadly, the sweet leader accused us of being "Jonahs"! Sigh.
BOTTOM LINE: We (I) needed to inquire more of the Lord (9:14). We learned a valuable lesson and will do better next time. Thankfully, we had not made a binding covenant (in fact, the covenant that we were in the process of developing was what made us realize it was not the right direction). So, we felt free to withdraw from the trip. Even as I type this, I have been reviewing all the emails that have gone back and forth over the last few months, and God has again confirmed the decision to not go forward with that trip! I love how Bible Book Club is always hitting me where I am at on this journey! Yippee!!
(Update 2014: We ended up going on a trip to Southeast Asia that summer, but we did not go on the bike trip (which turned out to be a disaster for the people who did end up going - they even left early). We went another place God had put on our hearts many years ago. God blessed that trip and amazing things are happening now, and we are not JONAHS! In addition, this trip was earlier in the summer and with the focus the bike trip was supposed to have!)
What is your first reaction when making a decision? Do you pray or plunge into it head first without hearing from the Lord? Is there something you need to inquire about? Set aside that time! It is so important!!!
Lord, we seek Your will in our decision-making. Help us to hear Your voice and to press in for Your good, perfect, and acceptable will (Romans 12:1-2) when we have hesitation. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.