However, when the people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, they resorted to a ruse: They went as a delegation whose donkeys were loaded with worn-out sacks and old wineskins, cracked and mended. They put worn and patched sandals on their feet and wore old clothes. All the bread of their food supply was dry and moldy. Then they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and the Israelites, “We have come from a distant country; make a treaty with us.”
Joshua 9:3-6 (NIV)
Today’s chapter is a fascinating story of how one of the people groups living in the Promised Land dupes Joshua and the Hebrew tribes into making a binding oath not to destroy them. The Gibeonites use a little improvisational theatre to make Joshua and the tribal elders think that their delgation had made a long journey from a distant land in order to make a treaty with the Hebrews.
Joshua, who just a couple of chapters ago made the mistake of not asking God what the battle plan should be before attacking the city if Ai, makes the same mistake of not taking this decision to God and asking for God’s wisdom. He and the tribal elders fall for the ruse and make a binding, sacred oath not to destory the Gibeonites. They quickly discover that they’ve been duped.
Having made the binding oath, they conscript the Gibeonites to perpetual service as woodcutters and watercarriers for the Hebrews and the temple-tent (aka Tabernacle) used for worship.
As I read this chapter, I couldn’t help but think of Jesus’ parable about the business manager of a rich tycoon. The manager had allowed local merchants to run up a ton of debt which the business manager had never collected. Realizing there was a cash flow problem, and suspecting that his business manager is not doing his job, the tycoon calls a meeting, demands a thorough audit, and plans to fire the guy.
The business manager, seeing the handwriting on the wall, realizes that he’s about to be put into a lose-lose situation. He won’t have a job, and he’ll also have the reputation of being a bad manager. Thinking ahead, the business manager realizes that he’s going to need good connections and leverage with other potential employers in order secure a new job. So, the business manager calls all the merchants who owe his boss money and tells them cut their bill in half. Now he’s got a whole host of potential employers who both appreciate that he saved them a ton of money, and who now owe him a favor.
After telling this parable, Jesus says, “The people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.” He then tells His followers, “use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”
I realized this morning that Jesus could have used the Gibeonites as Exhibit A as an example of His parable. They found themselves in an imppossible position and acted shrewdly to survive. God’s man and God’s people fell for it.
Jesus turns this worldly shrewdness upside down and asks me to consider myself in the role of the business manager and God in the role of my master.
Who do I know who lives at my Master’s mercy? The poor, the needy, the down-trodden who have nothing and need a hand-up.
Who owes my Master a debt they’ll never be able to repay? Sinners who have yet to repent and be forgiven.
Next, consider that all of my money, power, and position belong to my Master and His business. Let’s say I use my money, power, and position on this earth to “make friends” with those whose life circumstances leave them living at God’s mercy. Let’s say I treat those who owe a debt of sin with grace and forgiveness.
Someday I will be fired from this earthly employment for my Master. All of that wealth, power, and position I had on earth will be stripped away and left behind on Earth. Then I will arrive at Heaven’s gate. What I will find there, Jesus is telling me in the parable, will be a welcoming committee of “friends” to meet me.
Jesus will then look at my “friends” and then look at me. Then will He say, “for when you did it to the least of these, you did it to me.”
Time to “make some friends.”
Note: Wendy and I are taking a long weekend’s rest. I plan to be back on this chapter-a-day journey next Wednesday. Cheers!
If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.