But when the people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, they resorted to deception to save themselves. They sent ambassadors to Joshua, loading their donkeys with weathered saddlebags and old, patched wineskins. They put on worn-out, patched sandals and ragged clothes. And the bread they took with them was dry and moldy. …So the Israelites examined their food, but they did not consult the LORD. Then Joshua made a peace treaty with them and guaranteed their safety, and the leaders of the community ratified their agreement with a binding oath. (Joshua 9:3-5, 14-15 NLT) Gibeon, which literally means “hill place”, at an elevation of about 2400 feet, towered over most of the other cities of Canaan. Gibeon was a fortress city dating back to the days soon following the flood. It had existed for almost 1000 years because it was easily defensible. But the leaders of Gibeon were not going to take their chances, and they most certainly were not going to wait for the Israelites to show up at their doorstep.
The Gibeonites didn’t band together with their cousins who lived in the hill country, the western foothills or along the sea. But they did learn from their cousins in Heshbon, Bashan, Jericho and Ai. They learned that the LORD God of Israel was greater than any other, and that He had promised His people all of the land of Canaan and to destroy all of the people living in it. They had learned that the obstinance of the king of Heshbon, the gigantic size of the king of Bashan, the superior defenses of the king of Jericho and the bold attack of the king of Ai had all resulted in utter defeat and destruction. So they were not going to rely on their fighting skills or their fortress, rather they turned to their cunning.
The Gibeonites opted to use the weapon of deception – and they were very good at it – down to the last detail. They loaded their donkeys with patched wineskins and weathered saddlebags. They loaded their packs with dry and moldy bread. And they dressed themselves in ragged clothes and worn-out, patched sandals. Remember that God had provided the Israelites with fresh manna every day, and their clothes and sandals had not worn out for forty years (Deuteronomy 29:5). They had not experienced mold, patches and ragged clothes in their long travels. So the Gibeonites must have presented a very strange appearance to the Israelites, but obviously one they believed to be authentic.
So the Israelites examined their food, but they did not consult the LORD (Josh 9:14). Joshua and the Israelite leaders had apparently not learned from their experience at Ai. Because for the second time in recent days, they relied on their own ability to assess the situation and come up with the best course of action. They were thorough in their analysis – down to the moldy breadcrumbs – but totally negligent where it really mattered. Their first failure had resulted in death and defeat; this failure had resulted in deception. Both of which had been totally unnecessary, if they had “consulted” the LORD.
Therein is the lesson for all of us. Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take (Prov 3:5-6).
Trust Him completely. Interestingly, the Gibeonites demonstrated this quality much more genuinely than the Israelites did in this case. Though they went about it differently, they demonstrated the same faith in God that Rahab had. They had heard about the God of Israel (His mighty works). They had heard about what He could do (His defeat of the other tribes). They had heard what He said He was going to do (His promise of Canaan to the Israelites). And they had acted confidently, knowing that what He said, He would do. Now i am not applauding their deception, but i am applauding their trust.
Do your diligence, but don’t depend on it. Be careful with this one, because too many have used this principle to be negligent. i spoke to a pastor not that long ago who told me that his church had voted to send out one of their members as a missionary to another country. The church was sending and financially supporting this young woman directly. But as we talked further, it became obvious that the church had no idea what this young woman was going to be doing, who she would be working with, where she would be living, what support system was available if any difficulty or emergency arose, and much more. In short, they knew nothing, and yet they were fully funding her and “sending” her out. That’s not faith; that’s being irresponsible! But the reverse would be just as wrong. Attempting to know the answer to every question and every detail, and trusting on those answers without a clear word from God is presumptuous on our part.
Seek Him in everything. This is where the Israelites kept missing it, and this is where you and i too frequently miss it. We fail to seek God – and a clear word from Him. Sometimes we do so because we think it is small enough for us to handle on our own – that it is “too small to bother Him with.” That was the mistake at Ai. i have made that mistake more than i would want to admit. Other times we fail to seek Him, because deep down, our will or our flesh wants to do it – even if God doesn’t want us to. Or we have sought Him, and we have His answer, but we don’t like His answer.
Take His path. This most often is where that step of faith will come in. You know you have a clear word of direction from the Lord, but the step is way outside of your comfort zone. Trust Him. Take the step – or the leap – whichever the case may be.
Seek the Lord’s counsel! Avoid the defeats at Ai and the deceptions at Gibeon. And walk in the confidence and assurance of what only His counsel will bring.
(Excerpt from “Lessons Learned In The Wilderness — Possessing The Promise”. For more information about the book see http://www.wildernesslessons.com/Possessing_The_Promise.html.)