Three years ago today, i stood in the presence of a master craftsman. i must confess i do not know the craftsman’s name. i had never seen him before that day, and i haven’t seen him since. We didn’t speak the same language, so all we could do was smile and nod. i do not know anything about the man beyond what i observed in the moment. But as i stood there riveted in his presence, i knew it was a moment i would never forget – and a lesson that would forever be etched in my memory.
Having heard of the cunning way that the Gibeonites had deceived Joshua and become allies with the Israelites after the destruction of Jericho and Ai, King Adoni-zedek of Jerusalem was afraid. His plan was to form an alliance with the other Amorite kings of the hill country – King Hoham of Hebron, King Piram of Jarmuth, King Japhia of Lachish and King Debir of Eglon. And his plan was not to attack the Israelites; he feared them and their God too much. Rather, his plan was for this alliance of the hill country to combine their forces and attack the traitorous Gibeonites. He would deal the Israelites a setback by defeating their new ally, Gibeon, and at the same time communicate to all the Canaanite peoples that an alliance with the Israelites and their God would not be tolerated.
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 Israelites were in great distress. Finally, they cried out to the LORD for help, saying, “We have sinned against you because we have abandoned you as our God and have served the images of Baal.” The LORD replied, “Did I not rescue you from the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Ammonites, the Philistines, the Sidonians, the Amalekites, and the Maonites? When they oppressed you, you cried out to me for help, and I rescued you. Yet you have abandoned me and served other gods. So I will not rescue you anymore. Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen! Let them rescue you in your hour of distress!” Judg 10:9-14
That is most definitely not the answer the Israelites wanted to hear when they cried out to God! But it is definitely the answer they deserved to hear. And it is unquestionably the one we deserve to hear!