Monday, October 16, 2006

A Little Lie

Joshua 9:1-27

Intro.: Do you know what one of the easiest decisions I ever made was – it was the decision to ask my wife to marry me.

  1. You want to know why – it was a mistake.

  2. I had decided to wait until the end of my senior year to ask her to marry me.

  3. But one night we were walking around the campus – and it slipped out, “Will you marry me?” I suspect she was as surprised to hear me say it as I was to say it. And it would be three months before she would answer my question. But that is another story. All I can say is that I am glad that she did say “yes”.

  4. Today we want to look at a point in time when the Israelites had to make a decision. And how they handled it.

Read: Joshua 9:1-8


Trans: The Gibeonites lived 5-1/2 miles north of Jerusalem.

  1. Archaelogists have actually located the old city on a hill called el Jib. For many years they thought they had found the right site. But it was when they found 31 jars with the name of Gibeon etched into their handles, the scholars became convinced that they had the site.

  2. The Gibeonites figure into much of Israel's history – the events of Joshua occur around 1350. They can be traced through history to the rebuilding of the temple under Nehemiah in 445 BC.

  3. The events that we read about today is the beginning of that history.

T.S. This inital interaction of Joshua and the Israelites with the Gibeonites can be divided into three segments.

  1. The Presentation

    1. The Gibeonites lived a few miles north of Jerusalem.

    2. And they had heard, as had everyone living west of the Jordan, what had happened to in Jericho and Ai. It was a worrisome time.

    3. As we will see, there were a group of cities that were willing to battle Israel.

    4. But the four cities that made up the Gibeonite communities had another idea. They chose to be deceptive:

      1. They took their oldest animals

      2. Loaded them down with old sacks and wine bottles, tied it all together with old used rope

      3. They even put on the oldest and shodiest clothing and shoes.

      4. They took old, moldy bread as their provisions.

      5. And they told a story.

    5. You see, the Gibeonites were confronted with an ethical decision:

      1. Would it be better to fight, lose, and die.

      2. Or would it be better to lie, deceive and, possibly, live.

    6. I think we as Christians make three errors when making ethical decisions:

      1. The first mistake is to assume that every decision is either black or white. There are easy decisions (“Should I rob the bank.”); but not every decision is this clear. I make this mistake every time I say to my wife, “Why didn't you do it this way?” Or, more subtly, “I would have done it this way.”

      2. The second mistake that we can make is assuming our choices make no difference. After all, some would argue, God will forgive me, so I can do what ever I want. Yet, in all of this, God does care. God does want to enter into our decision making.

      3. The third mistake is similar to the second, and that is to not come to God as we make decisions. Yes we believe that God is concerned about our decisions, but then we forget to allow our faith to influence those decisions. We make them based on how we feel or on what we think – never allowing our faith to shape the decisions we make.

(Appl.) The greatest book of ethics are the scriptures – but if we choose to ignore it, then it is of no use at all.

  1. The Decision

    1. Of course the Israelites had to respond – and they were not going to be tricked. These guys were smart.

    2. They knew they weren't to build alliances with those outside the community of faith.

    3. So they began asking questions – look at verse 7: But perhaps you live near us. How then can we make a treaty with you? Or look at Joshua's question in verse 8: Who are you and where do you come from?

    4. They were asking good questions – but they neglected to ask the most important question – What does God want? Remember the three mistakes that we mentioned earlier – they forgot the third mistake – they neglected to turn it over to God? I do not know what God would have said – but the omission is significant.

    5. Because what they do is strange – Joshua offers them a treaty and the Israelite leaders follow it up with an oath.

(Ill.) Do you see that work “treaty” - it's an interesting word. Behind the word “treaty” is the Hebrew word “berit”. Normally the word “berit” is translated “covenant”. It is also the word that is used to most often describe God's very special relationship to man.

    1. Joshua is not the only person to define that relationship – the other leaders also swore to abide by the treaty. On the surface it looks like a simple agreement between two groups of people. But there is also a third party involved – the Lord. Verse 19 reads, “We have given them our oath by the Lord, the God of Israel”.

(Appl.) I am not sure why they missed it, but as we sit here, it comes as no surprise that God is involved in all we do.

  1. The Consequences

    1. Deception from the Gibeonites followed by the Israelites making a treaty without giving thought to what God might want – it was bound to lead to confusion.

    2. It did not take long for the deception to be found – three days, three days after offering the treaty, the Israelites find that they have been deceived.

    3. And they are mad. Like most of us, they did not like finding out that they had fallen for the Gibeonite's ruse.

    4. And as their anger grew, they wanted to go after those who had been involved.

    5. But they couldn't – they had made an oath before God. They had made a commitment that they would hang onto.

    6. That doesn't mean there were not consequences:

      1. For the Gibeonites, it meant that they would spend the rest of their lives serving the Israelites in the lowliest jobs known at the time, as woodworkers and water carriers.

      2. For the Israelites, the the Gibeonites will live in their midst for most of the next 5 or 6 centuries

(Ill.) In the movie Casualties of War, Michael J. Fox plays Private Erikson, a soldier in Vietnam. Though Private Erikson did not participate, his squad did commit a violent and horrible crime. Afterwords, as he struggles with has happened, says to the other men in his squad, “Just because each of us might at any second be blown away, we're acting like we can do anything we want, as though it doesn't matter what we do. I'm thinking it's just the opposite. Because we might be dead in the next split second, maybe we gotta be extra careful what we do. Because it matters more. Maybe it matters more that we ever know.”1

Conclusion: That is the big lesson for today. Whether it deception or some more obvious sin or ignoring God in our decision making, there are consequences.


1Sarrault, Joel. Quoted in Rowell, Edward K. (2005). 1001 Quotes, Illustrations, and Humorous Stories for Preachers, Teachers, and Writers. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

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