What does it say?
The Gibeonites, a neighboring tribe, hear of the fall of Jericho and are terrified to face the Israelites (Jos 9). They decide to enjoin the old refrain, “If you can’t beat them; join them.” So they send messengers disguised as though having come from a far distance begging to join forces with the Jews. Naively, Israel falls for the deception and makes a mutual defense treaty.
The Amorites were equally concerned about Israel’s victory over Jericho and their subsequent treaty with the Gibeonites, one of the larger city-states in the area (Jos 10). Instead of deception, the king of Jerusalem opts to form a coalition of five Amorite tribes to attack the Gibeonites. The Gibeonites immediately invoke the freshly made treaty with Israel, calling for help. In some way God extends the daylight and gives Israel victory over the Gibeonites. Having driven a wedge into the center of the country, Joshua now turns his troops southward.
After bringing the southern half of the Promised Land under control, Joshua next turns to the north where God gives Israel victory over an alliance of northern tribes (Jos 11). At long last Israel is in the land and the major pagan occupants have been defeated.
What does it mean?
Deception and sowing tares among the wheat has long been a tactic of God’s enemies. Even Jesus had Judas Iscariot among The Twelve. Enemies also attack directly with full fury and enlist others to their cause. There is one God, one story and one mission. This same mission is ours. Should we expect to go through life attack-free? We should be on guard against those who would ingratiate themselves with us only to form relationships that will compromise us. We should also be aware that others would forcibly attack us for our faith and recruit others to join with them.
Regardless of the form of attack and regardless of our naiveté, ignorance or carelessness, God gives victory to those who faithfully are engaged in his mission and have learned to trust and obey him.
How will I respond?
Where have I left myself open? Are there relationships in my life that are toxic? Are there people from whom I need to distance myself? Despite mistakes along the way, God gave Joshua victory over his enemies because he fully bought into the mission. Do I?