The Error of Walking by Sight - Part Five
THEME: Coming to Know the True God
This week’s lessons show the consequences of relying on our own understanding, rather than looking to God for wisdom and blessing.
Francis Schaeffer in his study of the Gibeonites points out that the thing that happened to them is not identical with, but is quite similar to, what happened to Rahab. Rahab was the harlot of Jericho, an immoral woman; but she had heard about the Jewish God. And when the spies came, she said, "I know that your God, Jehovah, is the true God, the Lord of heaven and earth." It was a great testimony. Because of her confession of faith she left her people and sided with the Jews. And when her people were destroyed, she was spared. Moreover, she was brought into the covenant community and was blessed in that relationship.
That's the same sort of thing you have with the Gibeonites. They didn’t have the same level of perception that Rahab had, and their testimony was given in the context of their deception. But nevertheless, here’s what they said in verse 9, "Your servants have come from a very distant country because of the fame of the Lord your God." They knew about Israel’s God. They had heard about all that He did in Egypt and all that He did to the kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan. And furthermore, later on in the story, they say, "We know that God spoke to you through His servant, Moses, and said He was going to give you the whole land." And it was on that basis, imperfect as it may have been, that they identified with the Jewish people and were spared. They may have come with very little understanding, and they certainly came under less than perfect circumstances. But they came, and they were faithful once they had come.
After this, the battle for the land goes on for many years. It took about seven or eight years before the main part of the fighting was done; and even then, parts of it continued after that. But in all that long story, never once do we ever hear about a Gibeonite going back to the other side. Once they had made their decision, they were willing to stand by it. You know, if Rahab’s decision to side with Israel had been uncovered, Rahab would have been killed. The king of Jericho wouldn't have hesitated to kill her in a moment. But when the Gibeonites defected and made peace with Israel, their deception was uncovered by the other nations around them. When the other kings heard about it, they all got together to attack the cities of the Gibeonites. And then the Israelite army had to go and defend who was now their new ally. And because the Gibeonites were faithful in their service to Israel, they were greatly blessed. Quoting from Francis Schaeffer’s study:
When the land was divided, Gibeon was one of the cities given to the line of Aaron. Aaron was the high priest. It became a special place where God was known. Approximately 400 years later, David put the tabernacle in that city. And this meant that the altar and the priests were in Gibeon as well. At least one of David’s mighty men, those who were closest to him in battle, was a Gibeonite. At that important and solemn moment when Solomon, David’s son, ascended the throne, Solomon made burnt offerings at Gibeon. It was there he had his vision when God spoke to him concerning his coming rule. Much later still, about 500 years before Christ and the time of Zerubbabel, the genealogies of those Jews who returned from captivity under the Babylonians included a list of the Gibeonites. This is particularly striking because the names of some who claimed to be Jews were not found in the registry. And they were not allowed to be part of the Jewish nation. In the days of Nehemiah, the Gibeonites were mentioned as being among the people who rebuilt the wallsof Jerusalem. The Gibeonites had come in among the people of God, and hundreds of years later they were still there. 
The point I want to conclude with is simply to say that in many ways, we are like the Gibeonites. All the parallels are there. We were ignorant of the true God, and we worshipped false gods. We were under judgment, but we heard about God and we responded. And so, by the grace of God, we were brought into the fellowship of the covenant people. The same thing can be said about the Gibeonites. Were the Gibeonites liars and deceivers? Yes, they were; but so were we. Were they under judgment? Yes, they were. They had no hope in the world apart from God. But we were as well. Paul tells the Ephesians that as Gentiles they were cut off from the covenant of Israel. They were without God and without hope, just as we were.
Yet at some point in time we heard about the true God. We may not have heard a great deal about Him, and we may not have understood much of what we heard. But the God about whom we heard was the true God. And so, by that knowledge in one way or another, we were brought into contact with God’s people where we learned about His ways more thoroughly. When the time came when by the same grace of God that had brought us into that fellowship and exposed us to that gospel, our hearts were open to receive that truth. And we believed and became people of God because of what happened internally, not merely by the fact that we had been brought shoulder to shoulder with those who already were God’s people. By faith we passed out of darkness into light. We passed out from under God’s wrath and judgment to the kingdom of His dear Son.
You see, if you’re not yet a believer in Jesus Christ, you’re still where those Gibeonites were before they came to Israel. I’m not saying that you should come with deception. You can’t fool Almighty God. He knows your heart. But I am saying that you should come even as they came. You say, "But I don't know much." That's alright. God will teach you more. You say, "I'm not sure I know how to believe." That's alright. God will teach you how to believe. You say, "I'm not sure I can believe." That's right. You can’t believe in yourself. But God is the God of grace who gives us the ability to respond to the preaching of that glorious Good News. You see, in spiritual things as in many other things, you can’t trust your senses. But you can trust God. And if God says to you, “Come,” you can come. And you can know that things will be alright because the God who says, "Come," is the God of truth who loves you and who calls you out of that great and eternal love.
- In what ways were Rahab and the Gibeonites similar?
- From the lesson, what else do we learn about the Gibeonites in terms of their future existence among the Israelites?
Think back on your conversion experience. What were the circumstances and who were the people God used to bring you to saving faith. Praise God for his great love toward you in Christ.
1. Francis A. Schaeffer, Joshua and the Flow of Biblical History (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1975), pp. 149-150.
2. Ibid., pp. 150-151.