At the end of three days after [the Israelites] had made a covenant with [the Gibeonites], they heard that they were their neighbors and that they lived among them. . . . Then all the congregation murmured against the leaders. But all the leaders said to all the congregation, “We have sworn to them by the Lord, the God of Israel, and now we may not touch them. This we will do to them: let them live, lest wrath be upon us, because of the oath that we swore to them.” And the leaders said to them, “Let them live.” So they became cutters of wood and drawers of water for all the congregation, just as the leaders had said of them.
Joshua summoned them, and he said to them, “Why did you deceive us, saying, ‘We are very far from you,’ when you dwell among us? Now therefore you are cursed, and some of you shall never be anything but servants, cutters of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God.” They answered Joshua, “Because it was told to your servants for a certainty that the Lord your God had commanded his servant Moses to give you all the land and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land from before you—so we feared greatly for our lives because of you and did this thing. And now, behold, we are in your hand. Whatever seems good and right in your sight to do to us, do it.” So he did this to them and delivered them out of the hand of the people of Israel, and they did not kill them. But Joshua made them that day cutters of wood and drawers of water for the congregation and for the altar of the Lord, to this day, in the place that he should choose. Joshua 9:16, 18b-27 ESV
The Lord redeems the life of his servants;
none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned. Psalm 34:22
When there is a war, and one side is knows it is beaten, it will often surrender to the other side. Surrendering can be a way to save the lives of many people, even though the losers might become prisoners or give up the things they were fighting for. During the American Civil War, General Sherman led Union troops on a cruel March to the Sea across the southern states. They burned food supplies along the way, leaving hungry people behind. Many men fighting for the Confederacy deserted. The city of Savannah surrendered to the Union because it knew it couldn’t fight and win a battle against the marching Union troops.
The Gibeonites knew the power of the God of Israel and that they couldn’t possibly win, since God was fighting for his people. They also knew that they were doomed to God’s judgment. They did the only thing they could think of to do; they tricked the Israelites into making a covenant of peace with them. It was like a surrender. They became the servants of Israel, but they saved their own lives by doing that. The Gibeonites were happy to be alive and felt that they ended up with a good deal.
We were also doomed to God’s judgment because of our sins. We’re a little bit like the Gibeonites. We come to the God who has the right to punish us and look for mercy instead. We can’t trick God the way the Gibeonites tricked Israel, but we can be sure of his mercy because of what Jesus did for us. Jesus died to take the punishment for our sins, and we have forgiveness and mercy from God because of that. We love and serve God, and he calls us his own and helps and cares for us always.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for showing us love and mercy in Jesus, our Savior. In His Name, Amen.