The Gibeonites

Lessons on God's sovereignty and grace.

Joshua 9 (7)

Read Joshua 9.

1.  What was the difference between the response of the Gibeonites to Israel’s initial victories and that of the rest of the nations of Canaan? How can we account for this?

2.  Joshua and the rulers of Israel failed to consult the Lord in this matter. But did their failure thwart the Lord’s purposes? 

Think about it.
In many ways, the Gibeonites are a study in how some people come to salvation. Let’s have a closer look.

First, there is an awareness of the greatness of God, and of the reality of His working in time, in people, and with frightful power. All people know God, as Paul explained (Rom. 1.18ff), but not all people are willing to admit they know Him, and to seek Him as He intends (Acts 17.26, 27). Instead, they deny, resist, and fight against Him.

But as the grace of God works on them, their resistance breaks down, and they begin seeking some accommodation with Him. Under the influence of God’s grace, second, the Gibeonites recognized the futility of fighting against Him. Their only hope was to ingratiate themselves with the people of God, and thus, if only by association, find deliverance from death. They adopted a ruse as their way, hopefully, of achieving their objective. Put into a more abstract perspective, the Gibeonites had to humble themselves and seek a new identity among those who served the God of Israel.

Finally, against all odds and in seeming contradiction to the mission of Israel, the Gibeonites were “adopted” into the household of God as servants of His people. Just so, when anyone comes to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, it is a miracle that eventuates in their becoming servants of God and members of the household of faith. That any sinner – deaf to God’s call, blind to His truth, and dead in trespasses and sins – should come to faith in Jesus is a work that only the grace of God can accomplish; and He accomplishes it at His pleasure, by His grace, and through the agency of His witnesses, though they be ever so inept.

We have been mostly critical of the role of Joshua and the rulers of Israel in this episode. However, despite his failure to consult the Lord, Joshua foreshadows Jesus – and every witness to Jesus – by offering a covenant to the suppliant Gibeonites. This is what each believer does who extends the offer of forgiveness and salvation through Jesus to an unbelieving friend.

Meditate and discuss.
1.  Think back on your own coming to faith: In what ways did it follow the course the Gibeonites took?

2.  Meditate on Genesis 6.3. Does God’s Spirit still “strive” with people today? What forms might that striving take? Is this something we should be praying for?

3.  In the sovereignty of God, He can use even the ineptitude of believers and the duplicity of unbelievers to accomplish His good and perfect will. How should we be encouraged by this in working our Personal Mission Field?

“Although they [the Gibeonites] had brought a little faith, nevertheless they did not receive the highest rank of the kingdom or of freedom because their faith was not ennobled by the increase of works, since the apostle James declares, ‘faith without works is dead.’” Origen of Alexandria (185-254 AD)

Thank You, Lord, that though I may not be the most courageous or consistent witness for Jesus, still I know that You can…

Pray Psalm 71.12-16.

As you think about the day ahead, what opportunities for bearing witness to Christ can you anticipate? Use this prayer to help you prepare.

Psalm 71.12-16, 3 (Solid Rock: My Hope is Built on Nothing Less)
O God be not too far from me; my ever-present Helper be! 
Consume and shame my enemies; let them reproached and humbled be. 
Refrain, v. 3
A Rock of habitation be; 
Command Your Word to rescue me; 
My Rock and Fortress ever be!

But as for me my voice I raise to sing in hope and constant praise! 
With saving grace my voice will swell Your never-ending grace to tell. 

T. M. Moore

The seven lessons in this week’s study in the book of Joshua, and all previous weeks, are available as free downloads by clicking here.

Where does the book of Joshua fit in the ongoing story of God’s covenant? Our workbook, God’s Covenant, can help you discover the place in God’s work of redemption not only of Joshua but of all the books of the Bible. God’s Covenant is a valuable resource to guide you in all your studies in God’s Word. To order your copy, click hereAnd when you order, we’ll send you a free copy of Bricks and Rungs: Poems on Calling.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from 
The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT. 

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