There’s a story in the book of Joshua that’s always struck me as an overlooked warning. As the Israelites march through the land facing battle after battle, they see a few defeats but many, many victories in places like Jericho and against people like of Ai.
In the midst of of this sword slinging, there’s a short side story that gets lost.
In chapter 9, they’re approached by the Gibeonites, who have constructed an elaborate ruse for the Israelites. Wearing distressed clothing and carrying moldy bread, the convince Israel that they are travelers from a far land. The truth is they lived a three day from where Israel stood.
They were not aliens, they were homeboys, but their trick worked. Based on their appearance, Israel decided it would be better to draw up a peace treaty than to fight people who had no assets nearby to plunder. In other words, if there was nothing in it for Israel, why not just make peace?
Of course, peace was made, and three days later Israel stumbled into the Gibeonite cities. Here, under there nose were cities they could have captured, they realized that making peace had actually cost them great loss. In their anger, they considered retribution, but realized they’d made a promise not to kill them. Instead, Israel made the Gibeonites water carriers and wood cutters of them.
All’s well that ends well?
Not so much. Now they were stuck living with a Gibeonite wood cutter under foot. Yes, the Gibeonites were useful in some respects, but they constantly reminded them of their own poor discernment. They’d gained a slave, but it was the result of a mistake, not a victory.
And once a Gibeonite, always a Gibeonite. Every night as they lay their heads on the pillow, the wise men of Israel had to wonder….will the Gibeonites rise? We’ve kept our portion of the bargain – will they keep theres? Are we aiding and abetting tomorrow’s enemy who will rise up and kill us with our own weapons?
I’m struck by the idea what who and what you make peace with is as formative to your life as who and what you make war with. What exists in your house that you’ve made some sort of uneasy truce with? What habit, what lowered standard, what diluted conviction have you chosen to ignore, thinking there were other battles to fight?
Make war for a reason – but make peace the same way because peace can be every bit as exhausting when it’s made in a happenstance way.
Don’t find yourself stuck with a Gibeonite wood cutter that you did not want to begin with.
Special note – Saturday’s radio show feels extremely important to me on this 10th anniversary of 9/11. Join it live online from 730 WTNT or via podcast once it’s posted Saturday morning. As well, join me at that same podcast link Monday through Friday mornings for the 3-5 minute Daily Short(s).
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