Growing with God: A daily devotional with Tonia Slimm.
Joshua 9:15 (NIV)
Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath.
Joshua 9:15 (MSG)
So Joshua made peace with them and formalized it with a covenant to guarantee their lives. The leaders of the congregation swore to it.
“Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant (treaty) with them, to let them live; and the leaders of the congregation [of Israel] swore an oath to them.” -AMPLIFIED
Yesterday we looked at how the Gibeonites deceived Joshua and the leaders by acting as if they had traveled a long distance, when in actuality they lived but a short distance away, to make a treaty for their safety with Israel. Joshua and the leaders failed to consult God on what to do and sadly made a treaty of peace with this devious nation.
This treaty or covenant would be a solemn ceremony; perhaps involving a sacrifice to God as a demonstration of the validity of the word of the Israelite leaders. It was then acknowledged by the leaders with an oath, or a promise. The Israelites had given their word and now we will see that they must carry through with it.
His-story continues on like this, “Three days after they had sworn peace with these deceptive messengers, they discovered the visitors were Gibeonites from the land of Canaan, their neighbors, who, in fact, were living in part of the land God had promised the Israelites. So the Israelites went to their cities: Gibeon, Chephirah, Beeroth, and Kiriath-jearim on the third day, but they did not attack them. Even though they had been tricked into making a treaty, an oath made in the name of the Eternal was sacred. The people of Israel grumbled and complained against their leaders, but they replied to the entire congregation. Look, we have sworn an oath in the name of the Eternal God of Israel, and we must not touch them. If we attack them now and break our word, God’s anger will fall on us. Let them live and serve us.” -Joshua 9:16-20 (VOICE)
The leaders realized the seriousness of the treaty or vow that they had made with the Gibeonites; though the people grumbled and complained against them. It was too late to go back and change things. This was a hard lesson learned on the importance of seeking God’s direction before making decisions. The leaders decided that though they could not destroy the Gibeonites because of their promise; they could still force them to be servants to them.
Let us look at the importance of keeping a promise here in this passage. The leaders realized that they could not go back on their word. They understood the seriousness of breaking a promise. The leaders told the people, “If we attack them now and break our word, God’s anger will fall on us. Let them live and serve us.”
God takes our vows and promises very seriously. King Solomon wrote these words in Ecclesiastes about keeping promises, “If you make a promise to God, do not be slow to keep it; for He takes no pleasure in fools. So do what you have promised. In fact, it would be better not to make a vow in the first place than to make it and not fulfill it. Do not let your mouth lead you to sin, and do not claim before the temple messenger that your vow was a mistake. Why should God be angry at the sound of your voice and destroy everything you’ve worked hard to achieve?” -Ecclesiastes 5:4-6 (VOICE)
Jesus warned against making oaths or promises that we may not be able to keep. Jesus said, “You need not swear an oath—any impulse to do so is of evil. Simply let your “yes” be “yes,” and let your “no” be “no.” -Matthew 5:37 (VOICE)
In Joshua 9 we find Joshua confronting the Gibeonites on why they deceived the people of Israel and the truth comes out, “We knew for a fact that the Eternal One, your True God, had told His servant Moses that He would give you all of this land and that you would destroy all of the people in it. We were so afraid of you that this seemed the best thing to do. But now we are in your hands. Do to us what seems fair and just to you, and we will accept it.” -Joshua 9:24-25 (VOICE)
Once again we see how God’s reputation had gone before Him. Considering the poor choice on the part of the Israelites they could not destroy ALL of the people, but they did put the Gibeonites in a place of servitude. We find Joshua doing this, “So Joshua spared the Gibeonites from the people of Israel and certain death but made them servants of the people of Israel, chopping their wood and carrying their water, serving the Eternal’s sanctuary from that time on, in whatever place he chose as he directed them.” -Joshua 9:26-27 (VOICE)
How important is it that we keep our promises, you may ask yourself? Scripture impresses on us that it is of the utmost importance. In fact, it would be better that we do not make a promise, but rather let our yes be yes and our no be no. “It is even more important, my brothers and sisters, that you remember not to make a vow by the heavens or the earth or by anything. When you say “yes,” it should always mean “yes,” and “no” should always mean “no.” If you can keep your word, you will avoid judgment.” -James 5:12 (VOICE)
“It is a trap for a man to [speak a vow of consecration and] say rashly, “It is holy!”
And [not until] afterward consider [whether he can fulfill it].” -Proverbs 20:25 (AMP)
Lord, let my yes be yes and my no be no. I do not want to make promises that I cannot keep; for I know that is not pleasing to you. Help me to remember the seriousness of keeping any promises that I have made. More importantly, let me remember that all the promises you have made will come to pass or have come to pass. You are in fact the Great Promise-Keeper. Help me to hold on to your promises, dear Lord.