Yeah, Yeah, I Got This, God
I just finished reading “Me, Myself and Bob”. It the story about the rise and fall of Phil Vischer and VeggieTales. Phil was the creator of VeggieTales that shot through the roof in the 90’s with success. The company mushroomed from this little tiny band of people into a $20 million plus company with over 300 employees in just a few short years and then it imploded in on itself. Phil writes that while the company was soaring, he was so confident God was blessing his vision of being the Christian version of Walt Disney. And when it started to tank he writes of the struggle of seeing God stand by and not doing a thing. God let the whole thing fall apart. It was a real crisis of faith for him. Failing at an epic level. The thing that struck me the most was that the epiphany for Phil came when God began to show him that while he had consulted God in the beginning as the company began to take off, he stopped consulting God. It was only in hindsight that he realized he took it from God and was running it on his own and that’s why when it crashed God didn’t save it. It really wasn’t God’s by then. Who here has ever started a plan or on a path with prayer consulting God and living with the buzz of his clear direction, and then somewhere we just stop consulting Him? It could be big decisions or even little decisions – ones that are life-altering and others that last for a season. Today’s passage is a similar story.
This story is actually quite funny only because we’re not the only ones that get duped. It really is ingenious. There’s an important piece we need to know about the Gibeonites. This wasn’t some poor little group of people who were weak and vulnerable. Look at chapter 10:1-2. Gibeon was an important city. A Royal City with three other cities near it. And the men were good fighters. But apparently their brains were even sharper than their swords. They did the math and there was no way they were going to survive a direct confrontation with Israel and so they were going to go for deception and try to make a treaty with Israel. It’s ingenious really. So their plan is set the real question is whether it will work.
So this is their under cover name, “Hivites” (seriously? That’s their code name?) You can see how suspicious the Israelites were, in fact their first impression was that this whole thing was a con. The whole thing felt “hinky.” But the Hivites played the part well. They laid on the flattery. Three times they said, “We are your servants.” And the Israelite leaders started to get puffed up thinking, “Sniff…yeah, that’s right. People know about us. There’s a new sheriff in town boys.” Notice also that they mention all of the stories about God outside of the country but they don’t say one thing about the Jordan River, Jericho, or Ai. If they had mentioned the recent stories it would have tipped the leaders off. It’s all strictly “old news” that they share. Joshua and the leaders were faced with a very difficult decision. There was a lot at stake and far more than they even realized.
As they head into this decision, there are three other passages that are relevant to this story. One is Deuteronomy 20:10-18. In verses 10-15, Moses actually encourages Israel to make treaties with countries not in the land. If any city surrendered and yielded to Israel they were to make peace with the people and not kill anyone but make them servants of Israel. If the story of the Hivites was true then they were encouraged to make peace with them.
But in verses 16-18 the command is to destroy everyone that’s in the land. Now some would say that this is a command that was to be followed to the letter of the law. But with the salvation of Rehab it seems that a better word would be “policy” that has exceptions for individuals, cities and tribes that repented or acknowledged God were allowed.
But the second passage that is relevant addresses the conundrum they faced. Were these Hivites lying or telling the truth. No one can see that. But Numbers 27:18-21 records the scene where Joshua is given the mantle of leadership and instructions on how to lead. God gave specific instructions to Joshua to go to the high priest to obtain decisions from God on how to lead Israel when the law is not clear. Eleazar the high priest had the Urim Thumim. It was basically like casting dice. Ask yes or no questions and roll the Urim Thumim. So what Joshua should have done was gone to Eleazar and requested, “Can you ask the Lord whether these men are lying?” Or, “Can you ask the Lord if we should make a treaty with these men?”
But Joshua didn’t and the rest of the leadership didn’t think to either. The text says their leaders sampled their provisions. The leaders hold the bread and sniff it and examine their clothing, and looked at the weary people and put it all together. It was obvious. Trusted their instincts. Yeah, yeah, we got this. It’s a false sense of self-confidence. So without consulting the Lord, Joshua makes a peace treaty with them to let them live and all the Israelite leaders ratified it with their own oath. Just like Phil Vischer forgot to inquire of the Lord in the middle of the rocketing ascent of VeggieTales, “Yeah yeah, I got this God.”
It’s funny how that phrase is so popular right now. You could be in the middle of the sentence, “Yeah, yeah, yeah,…” People jump in because it’s obvious, and they cut you off. “Yeah, yeah, yeah…” Like they don’t have the time to listen to you finish the sentence because they know what you’re going to say. And I think this is what happens between us and God, “Yeah, yeah, we got this.” It is forever part of our brokenness to drift into a false sense of self-confidence even if we started out with our eyes on God. What makes it hard NOT to be self-confident is we can see it with our own eyes. We can smell it. We can touch it and hold it with our own hands. We can tell it’s good and what God wants. It’s so certain, right? Our senses don’t lie. It’s obvious. So obvious that we don’t inquire of God but we tell God, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah I got this, God.” And God steps back, “Okay. Thunder, you got this.”
Day of Reckoning:
So they make this deal and the Gibeonites leave. Joshua and the leaders move forward with their military strategy and move out to conquer the next tribe and low and behold, guess who it is? The Gibeonites, who live around 16 miles from Ai. Let’s read verses16-21. Such a bummer. It’s a pretty tense scene though. The whole nation marches to the four Gibeonite cities and set up camp. A day of reckoning was coming.
The leaders had to have a knot in their stomach over having to break the news to the people. The nation heard the news and grumbled. This is a famous word because nearly every time Israel grumbled against it’s leaders it was wrong but this time the people were right. The leaders really messed this one up. And they explain to Israel they gave their word and invoked God’s name for this treaty. It can’t be broken. Why? I love what James M Boyce says, “Disobedience is no solution to the bad consequences of an earlier disobedience.” (An Expositional Commentary Joshua: James Montgomery Boice pg 75).
Who here has made a decision without consulting God and lives with the regret of dragging those you love into it? Who doesn’t dream and think, “There’s gotta be a way out of this!” Does anyone get weary of having to face it and be reminded of it every day? But any dream, any plan that includes disobedience as part of the path out of it is simply an evil plan. It’s not an option. Disobedience is no solution to the bad consequences of an earlier disobedience or just plain bad decision. Listen to God’s word on this because we’re great at rationalizing. We can’t rationalize away more disobedience no matter how much good it might bring.
With Gibeonites: Verses 22-25:
In verses 22-25, we finally have the Day of Reckoning between Joshua, the Israelites leaders and the leaders of the Gibeonites, otherwise known as the Hivites. Joshua asks a question, “Why did you lie?” What’s interesting is that God makes us feel sympathy for them, and more than that, God is leading us to want to give them mercy. While they might not have much of an understanding of God they give all the credit to God. And there is no deceit when they say, “We are in your hands.” Joshua honors the treaty and makes them servants.
This story ends with verses 26-27. Seems like an innocuous little statement but it’s profound. It seems like the Gibeonites totally got hammered and were going to be indentured servants to Israel but this treaty between them ends up being an incredible blessing to both nations. As you read through the rest of the history of Israel, there all kinds of battles and rebellions within Israel and by nations against Israel but not once did the Gibeonites ever betray their loyalty to Israel. They stayed true to Israel even when Israel didn’t.
350 years later 2 Samuel it records that Israel experienced a three year famine under David’s rule. David finally asked God what was going on, and apparently Saul, in his zeal to conquer the nations around him, attacked the Gibeonites and killed many of them, violating God’s honor and name which had been given in the original treaty. God was judging Israel for that offense and until Israel made it right the famine wouldn’t stop. So David went to the Gibeonites and apologized and asked what would it take to bring justice. The Gibeonites asked for seven men from King Saul’s family to be killed. Pretty brutal, but David did it and then God’s honor was restored and the famine ended. 350 years later, God still saw that treaty as valid and he would not have His name or reputation dishonored. As people of God, while this is in the Old Testament, it still applies to us. When we give our word or oath God is involved in it. We are Christians and God is wrapped up in all we do. Do not make deals lightly because they will be permanent, and God doesn’t care even if the other party was unethical.
Not only that, this position of serving around the altar at first appearance seems to be humiliating but it’s actually this position of privilege. God took them and placed in the very center of worship. Anywhere there was an altar for God, the Gibeonites were there making sure the fire and water was available for the sacrifices. God looks at this and smiles because he’s just brought a nation into his presence on a daily basis.
Fast forward 400 years later. It’s in Gibeon that David set up the tabernacle. Which meant all of the priests lived in Gibeon. One of David’s mighty men was a Gibeonite. Solomon made sacrifices in Gibeon and had his famous vision from God in Gibeon. Fast forward another 500 years and after Israel had been destroyed by Babylon and many deported. When the chance came to return to Israel there were many Jews who stayed in Babylon but guess who came back, the Gibeonites. And they were listed as those among the faithful. And they were also listed among those who helped rebuild the wall. They were seen as part of Israel and as having faith in God. .
Folks, it imperative we consult God. Doing the whole, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I got this God” is foolish when we consider that God’s reputation is on the line and the permanence of our decisions.
How do you consult God? Some of you right now might feel like you do consult God but you don’t hear from Him. Here are several ways:
- Consult the Bible. Check this first. If you’re about to make a decision go to the word if it says not to do it. You’ve just got your first consultation. If He warns against something because it can be a gateway to all kinds of evil, listen to it.
- Pray and wait for an answer. One of my favorite things to do with people is to pray and ask God to speak. I find so many Christians really want to consult God but don’t really know how to do it. I think we fill our time with God with our talking but we never give Him space to answer. And rather than just come with our request, come to God and ask Him, “God what are your thoughts? Give me Your wisdom on this, or knowledge, or discernment.” He’ll do it.
- Don’t Rush: I’ve always struggled with “false urgency”. Like, we’ve got to make this decision and make it now.” Says who? These Israelites rushed it. They took what, maybe a few hours to formulate an everlasting treaty. What was the big rush? Don’t rush. Sloooooowwww down. Slowing things down gives God time to move, and prompt, and speak.
- Do it with others. Seek wise counsel when you’re making a big decision. Go to a mentor or trusted friend for advice.