Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Pondering on the Gibeonites:

I've been reading through the book of Joshua, and have been thinking long and hard about chapters 9 and 10. These are the chapters that recount the interaction of the Israelites with the Gibeonites. The Israelites were supposed to completely eliminate all of the people in the Promised Land, but instead were deceived by the Gibeonites into making a peace treaty with them.

I've preached through this passage before as an illustration of making decisions without consulting God. Had the Israelites done so, they wouldn't have made the decision they made, they wouldn't have found themselves fighting a battle in Joshua 10 to protect the Gibeonites.

However, there's another aspect here. First of all, while the people's decisions are questionable, realize that no decisions by people ever surprise God. Therefore, God knew, even before Israel left Egypt, that they would make peace with Gibeon. So, what can we learn from it?

There are times when we make decisions based on false or misleading information. That's just the truth. The Israelites did it with the Gibeonites. It's happened to people in relationships, in jobs, in churches, and in politics. The question is, what do we need to learn from this story? God had this recorded for a purpose.

When we make a decision that we look back and question why we made it, are we really making progress? Joshua 9:18 records that the people grumbled against their leaders because of the peace. It's actually the first grumbling on the right side of the Jordan River. The Israelites had really gotten over complaining after 40 years of desert wandering. Yet here they were, grumbling....

But what good does it do? You can do exactly nothing to change the past. Some decisions you can't even undo, at least not without severe consequences. So, do they become a draw on you? Why should they? God is not surprised at the ill-advised decisions you've made. He's not surprised at mine either. Make the experiences you've had serve you in your growth. Joshua made the Gibeonites “hewers of wood and drawers of water” to serve the worship of the Lord God. I've not had to draw water since a few Boy Scout campouts a long time ago, but I've hewed wood recently. It's a pill, but a necessity sometimes.

Our past experiences, our own bad decisions, need to be made to serve us as we worship God. To provide us the base on which to build the sacrifice of praise and of our lives. Should they be incorporated into our normal behavior? No. We can see in 2 Samuel that the Gibeonites remained a separate people from the Israelites. Likewise, the Gibeonites of our past shouldn't be repeated, but should remain those things we look back at and refuse to replicate. Yet when we need to find a rebirth of worshiping God, where can we turn?

We wash ourselves by remembering the grace we've already seen in our lives. We warm our hearts with the knowledge of His work in us. We let the hewn wood and drawn water of our life's Gibeonites move us in our worship of God.


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