In all, Joshua removed 31 kings from power when claiming the land God had promised. Among these exists the anomaly of the Gibeonite deception. Joshua had laid waste to both Jericho and Ai and the tremors allowed the leaders of the region to receive word. One of the more courageous cities (Gibeon), in an effort to avoid destruction, pursued the avenue of deception. If they’d understood God’s history of dealing with deception, they probably would have chosen a different path. However, they went to Joshua and the leaders of Israel in their best used-car-buying-apparel and with stale bread claiming they were from a distant country. Their intent was to enter into a covenant relationship with Israel for peace/alliance/protection. Joshua asked some probing questions but in the end, their plan worked. However, it was short-lived and Israel found that they actually were a city in the region and would have been directly in the line of fire. Joshua held their feet to the fire and asked why they’d deceived them into covenant . They provided a predictable response; they were fearful. Joshua then condemned them to a life of servanthood.
The theft of blessing seems to be a common thread; especially in the Old Testament. What’s amazing is God’s mercy. Jacob stole Esau’s birthright and became the father of a nation. Gibeon purposely deceived Israel into covenant protection and rather than death, they are spared as servants of the Most High God. If Gibeon had not been willing to submit in servitude, I’m sure the outcome could have been different. It seems clear that God’s intent was to create a clean slate for Israel for the purpose of developing a nation loyal to only Him. After all, God will have no other gods placed before Him.
However, there still remains the natural consequences created by each of these deceptions. Jacob was placed at enmity with his brother and feared for his life. He was sent to find a wife among his Uncle’s people. His Uncle curiously returned the favor by deceiving him into an additional 7 years of labor and a subsequent wife. Gibeon ended up being mostly slain under the direction of Saul; most likely because of the strained relationship created with the remaining Canaanites because of their defection. In turn, David handed over 7 of Saul’s sons to them to satisfy the blood-for-blood payment.
God certainly offers mercy for those who circumvent his direction. However, the conditions caused by our defection become our consequence to bear. God has offered us the ultimate redemption, grace and mercy through His Son. However, the natural consequences caused by living outside his plan are an unfortunate byproduct. He has provided a way for us through Jesus both to eternal life and to Kingdom life in the here and now.