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Unit 1: God Calls a People
Living With Integrity
God’s people must handle the complexities of life with integrity.
To seek to affirm all of God’s teachings as we deal with life’s complexities.
Engage the Word
Through the early chapters of Joshua, the Israelites succeeded in their conquest of the Promised Land. In order to establish a pure nation free of idol worship and pagan influences, God commanded them to completely defeat the inhabitants. They were not permitted to allow their enemies a chance to live in the new nation of Israel, even as slaves. They could not allow any risk of intermixing pagan idol worship with the pure religion of the Israelites. The Israelites were unique in their practice of monotheism (one God), and they were vulnerable to outside cultural influences. God knew that what they needed was security on their own land in order to establish themselves as the nation through whom God would eventually bless and save the world. Making treaties or taking oaths with other nations might seem like the right thing to do in the moment, but it was too risky in the big picture.
The Gibeonites’ Ruse (Joshua 9:1-10)
The Israelites previously waged very successful campaigns west of the Jordan against the cities of Jericho and Ai. Knowing that their own defeat was inevitable, the Gibeonites developed a ruse hoping to trick Joshua and the Israelites into allowing them to live in their land. Initially, Joshua was rightly suspicious, asking, “Who are you and where do you come from?”
The Gibeonites began to boast of Israel’s God. Perhaps they were patronizing them and the Lord, but it may be that they were genuinely convinced that the God of these conquerors was real, true, and worthy of respect and fear. The Gibeonites referred to God’s fame and all He did in Egypt, and to the kings east of the Jordan. It is interesting they referred to Him in the singular, “Yahweh Elohim”, the “Lord your God.” The great name of the Lord was already famous among the nations for the miraculous things He had accomplished for His people. The fear of inevitable defeat at the hands of a people who worshiped a famous God convinced the Gibeonites to offer themselves to the Israelites in submission. In the end, it was this fear and respect that saved their lives.
The Treaty (Joshua 9:11-15)
Using worn-out clothing and provisions they made, it appeared that they had been on a very long journey; however, they lived only a short distance away. Their treaty was ratified by sharing a meal together, which symbolized unity and friendship under their new partnership. However, verse 14 points out that Joshua entered this agreement without seeking the Lord’s guidance. It is here that we become aware that there is trouble ahead, which may have been avoided if only Joshua had inquired of the Lord. Joshua knew the importance of seeking the Lord’s will with every decision. Maybe he was blinded by the Gibeonites’ deception, or perhaps he simply had a momentary lapse in judgment, assuming he was under God’s blessing. It is a constant temptation for Christian leaders to take the Lord’s blessing for granted; God’s wisdom should be sought in all of our decisions.
Keeping the Promise (Joshua 9:16-19)
The truth was revealed and Israel learned the truth: they were tricked by the Gibeonites who actually lived nearby. Israel should have attacked and defeated them, but now it was too late. It no longer mattered that the Gibeonites’ story was a lie, the leaders made a promise, an oath, they “swore to them by the Lord, the God of Israel.” The oath that was made to the Gibeonites was actually an oath to God, and to break the oath would be to break a promise made to the Lord which would surely invite the Lord’s wrath.
We can’t blame the people for grumbling against the leaders. They had been deprived of a victory and the plunder that would have followed. They had been deprived of remaining faithful to the commands of their God. Had the leaders inquired of the Lord, this would not have happened. However, as unpopular as it might have been, once the oath was made it was right to honor it no matter how inconvenient. There are times when leaders will not be able to please all of the people, but hard choices must be made regardless. Living with integrity is always the right choice.
The Cost of Integrity (Joshua 9:20-26)
Agreeing to honor the oath, despite the Gibeonites’ false pretenses, the leaders kept the promise and allowed them to live. However, Joshua summoned the people together and explained that they would be servants to Israel and to the house of the Lord. Their service would consist of hewing wood and carrying water--two of the most essential yet laborious tasks in establishing and maintaining society. An archaeological excavation at the site in 1956 revealed a deep pool and evidence of water reserves at the ancient city of Gibeon (now El-Jib). Joshua was pressing every advantage possible while honoring his oath to the Lord. The Gibeonites, given the alternative of utter defeat, were happy with this arrangement.
In the end, Joshua and the Israelites made a promise and kept it. Even when they realized that their oath was based on false pretenses, they stayed true to their word. People of virtue keep their promises even when it becomes inconvenient or costly. This is the virtue with which God treated Israel in His covenant promise. And with the empowering guidance of the Holy Spirit, God’s people today can and should live with the same integrity.
Connect to My Experience
Today, we use legal contracts to assure that agreements are kept, which assures that a mutually beneficial agreement is honored by both sides. If the agreement is broken, there are consequences.
Have you ever experienced a broken promise or contract?
Have you ever had to keep a promise even when it was inconvenient?
Transition: Today we will see that God is a God of covenant-promise. He keeps His promises and looks for His people to reflect His character to our world.
Connect to the Word
The Lord is a God of covenant-promise. He keeps His promises and looks for His people to reflect His holy character to our world (Deuteronomy 7:9; Hebrews 10:23; Ephesians 4:22-24).
Invite someone to read Joshua 9:1-10.
The Gibeonites lied to Joshua, stating that they were from far away when they were actually neighbors.
How did the Gibeonites make it appear that they were on a long journey? (vv. 4-5)
Why did they deceive Joshua and the Israelites? (v. 3)
Invite someone to read Joshua 9:11-15.
Asking for a peace treaty, the Gibeonites continued their ruse. What additional steps did the Gibeonites take to support their trickery? (vv. 12-13)
Verse 14 explains the key mistake that Joshua and the leaders made--not inquiring of the Lord. Has there ever been a time in your life when you may have avoided a key mistake by seeking the Lord’s counsel? Share about that experience.
Invite someone to read Joshua 9:16-19.
Joshua and the leaders made a treaty with the Gibeonites, believing their lie. Yet three days later, the Israelites discovered that they had been tricked. What thoughts and temptations do you think went through Joshua’s mind?
Since the premise of the treaty was a lie, would Joshua have been justified to break the treaty and attack?
Even when the Gibeonites were not true to their word, Joshua and the Israelites honored their word. Even though it wasn’t fair, Joshua was more interested in preserving his integrity.
Invite someone to read Joshua 9:20-26.
Staying true to his word, Joshua saved the lives of the Gibeonites. As a consequence of their deception, they would be permanent servants at the altar of the Lord.
How do you think the example of Joshua’s leadership gives hope to spiritual leaders today?
Joshua made the mistake of failing to seek the Lord’s guidance in this situation, and he learned his lesson the hard way. God desires us to seek out His wisdom in every situation, and He promises to grant it.
Connect to My Life and the World
Broken promises hurt people, erode trust, and degrade our witness as the body of Christ, but living with integrity represents Jesus well to those around us.
Christians should be people of their word as a testimony to their lives and the witness of Jesus. (Read Matthew 5:37, James 5:12, and Colossians 3:9 for reference.)
Do you think it is necessary to make a promise or an oath today? In what situations (if any) is it beneficial or necessary?
When promises are broken, there is an opportunity to demonstrate forgiveness and healing. As we reflect on the character of God, we show others that God forgave us when we were unfaithful.
Worldliness rewards selfishness, but God’s people see beyond the advantage of the moment toward the bigger picture. Living with consistent integrity may be difficult and costly at times, but God blesses it in the end. As Christians, our pursuit is not selfish gain; instead, we live seeking to bless the world as God has blessed us, and we live with the reward of eternity in view.
What are some ways that the church today reflects the character of God to our world--individually and corporately?
Keeping promises and living with integrity can be difficult, but we as Christians keep our focus on the prize of heaven. How can we live now with eternity in view?
Imagine together the impact it has on the world when the church carries out every aspect of life with integrity. As Christians living in a world marked by selfishness, how might true integrity help renew and transform our communities?
Jeremy Smallwood is lead pastor of Lavelle Church of the Nazarene in Central PA. He has a B.A. from Eastern Nazarene College, and an M.A. in Christian Education from Nazarene Theological Seminary.
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