Early this year, actor Bill Murray took a chauffeur on a wild ride at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. After racking up a $200 tab for several hours of limousine service, the famous comedic actor tried to pay with his credit card only to discover that the driver only took cash.
Murray then pulled out his wallet and forked over what he had–$73 bucks–and promised to send the rest in the mail. Sounds like a familiar scam, right?
But according to the driver, Bill delivered. Not only after that, a check arrived in the mail for the remainder of the charge–plus the tip!
Examples like this are rare in our culture. Being a man or woman of our word just doesn’t happen very often.
Today we’re going to explore the story of a leader who kept his word…to an amazing degree. Please join me.
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Joshua 9. Up to this point, the people of Israel had shown weaknesses—they rushed into battle with Ai when Achan had kept some of the loot from the battle at Jericho. Now it was time for the leaders to learn their lesson.
Remember that in his final address to the Israelites, Moses gave explicit instructions:
- Destroy all people who live in the land you are to possess because they will lure you into idolatry.
- You are free to make treaties with cities that are at a distance and do not belong to the nations nearby.
Notice that in verses 6-8, Joshua talks with the Gibeonites. The author wants to make sure the reader understands Joshua was fully aware of the events and was ultimately responsible for the decision that was made.
But the telling verse in this chapter is verse 14: “The men of Israel sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord.”
This reminds me of Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
This is a challenge to me to pray more before making decisions. All too often I assume I have it all figured out…and then I later regret it.
Although the lives of the Gibeonites were saved, we read in verse 26 that they were assigned to serve Israel as woodcutters and watercarriers, two menial jobs which guaranteed they would exist as servants of Israel.
So why didn’t God stop Israel before entering into their agreement? Joshua 11:19-20 tells us:
Except for the Hivites living in Gibeon, not one city made a treaty of peace with the Israelites, who took them all in battle. For it was the Lord himself who hardened their hearts to wage war against Israel, so that he might destroy them totally, exterminating them without mercy, as the Lord had commanded Moses.
God hardened the hearts of Israel so they would covenant with the Gibeonites, which incited the surrounding nations into battle.
Joshua 10. Learning from his mistake, Joshua takes the offensive against the surrounding nations, ensuring that he inquired of the Lord first, of course. The chapter tells of many battles won. In many ways, this is the high point of the book. The New Bible Commentary explains:
The three principal geographical areas of Judah, the hill country, the Negev and the foothills, were all subdued in this campaign. Though much land still remained to be taken (see Joshua 13:1–7), the back of the condemned Canaanites had been broken; in that sense it could be said that Joshua had subdued the whole region.
Luke 16:19-31. The Lazarus in Jesus’ parable isn’t the Lazarus that Jesus later raised from the dead.
What strikes me in this parable is that the nameless rich man didn’t do anything to harm Lazarus. He simply did nothing. Yet Jesus held him responsible for what he didn’t do and as a result, after the rich man died, he was sent to Hades (the NIV translation of hell is incorrect).
Sitting in Hades, the rich man begs Abraham to send someone back to his home to warn his brothers. But Abraham replies, “If your brothers didn’t listen to Moses and the prophets, nothing will convince them.”
This parable reminds me that no one can be convinced into the kingdom of God. Arguments and debates just won’t cut it. They help, but the Holy Spirit must draw the person to Jesus.
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
Today’s reading struck me about the importance of keeping your word. Israel messed up by entering into an agreement with Gibeon not to kill them. But when Joshua and the Israelites discovered that the country was only 17 miles away, they were incensed…
Nevertheless, Israel kept their word, even so far as to defend the Gibeonites against their former allies.
Keeping our word seems like a long-lost art form. In Psalm 15, David writes that the person who is given the right to enter God’s holy hill is the one “who keeps his oath even when it hurts.”
Our ability and willingness to keep our word says a great deal about the person we are inside. Perhaps it’s a long-lost value that needs to be revived.
Just think what our lives would be like if God hadn’t kept his word to us? We wouldn’t be here. The apostle Paul writes in 2 Timothy 2:13, “If we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.”
- What spoke to you in today’s reading?
- When facing a decision, do you tend to pray first? Why or why not?
- Have you ever kept your word even when it hurt? What happened? Did you regret your decision? Why or why not?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.