Joshua 9: Compromise

Compromise is a part of every day life. There simply can be no getting around the fact that we will not always get everything we want, and so compromise is a part of business, commerce, politics, parenting and more. But is there ever a time when compromise is a bad thing?

In Joshua 9, a group of Gibeonites approached Israel at their camp at Gilgal and requested to form an alliance or, at the very least, a non-aggression pact. They used flattery, noting that their people had heard all that the Most High God of Israel had done while His people were in Egypt and en route to Canaan and so had gone to great lengths to seek them out and establish a treaty. And they used more than a little deception, putting together an elaborate ruse that involved moldy bread, tattered garments and gear, and worn shoes so that the Israelites would believe that they had indeed traveled a great distance.

And so, without consulting the Lord, Joshua and the elders of Israel made a pact with the Gibeonites, ratifying it by oath.

There is a key problem there: they did it without consulting the Lord.

I wonder what God would have said and/or done had they consulted Him before signing this treaty. Perhaps He would have impressed all of the elders with an inescapable unease. Maybe He would have spoken directly to Joshua, telling him exactly what was going on as He had numerous times in the previous chapters. Or maybe He would have just said nothing and instead waited the three days for the spies (or whoever it was) that brought the news that the Gibeonites were actually from right next door.

At any rate, they didn’t wait, and so instead they opened the door to a compromise which would have lasting ramifications. You see, because Israel failed to dislodge the Gibeonites, they set instead a critical precedent that it was okay to be less than completely successful when it comes to obeying the Lord. I mean, God did command them to completely destroy the people of the Promised Land. Israel’s conquest of Canaan was supposed to be complete, but instead it would be marred by key moments when they accepted failure – or at least incomplete success (which sure sounds a lot like failure to me!). Such was the case in Joshua 15:63, where we learn that Israel was unable to dislodge the Jebusites living at Jerusalem. Such was the case in Joshua 17:12, where we discover that the Manassites were unable to occupy a significant portion of the towns they inherited. And such was the case with the Philistines. In Joshua 13:2, their territory was noted as not-yet-conquered. Rather than conquering the Philistines, though, the Israelites would be repeatedly subjected to them through the books of Joshua and 1 Samuel, and even down to the time when the whole region was conquered by the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Alexander, and eventually Rome, the Philistines would be a perennial thorn in Israel’s side. All because they set a precedent of less than complete obedience right here.

More importantly, though, because Israel failed to wipe out the Gibeonites, there was guaranteed to be a perpetual Gentile presence in Canaan, among the people of God. That meant that there would be a chunk of people in Israel who didn’t serve God, had no interest in serving God, and would inevitably tempt the Israelites to do the same. I wonder how the books of Judges, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, and 1 and 2 Chronicles would have read if the Israelites had not made this treaty. How would history have been different? Would Israel’s influence have expanded to the level of the Roman Empire? Would we be answering to a government in Jerusalem instead of Washington, DC? We’ll never know because they compromised their spiritual integrity when they agreed to spare the Gibeonites, and so they were drawn away to Baal and more.

The Israelites’ failure to inquire of the Lord, which led to a lack of complete obedience (aka compromise), had dramatic and lasting consequences for the nation. Clearly, compromise is not always a good thing.

So how do we figure out what is an acceptable compromise? Or, perhaps more accurately, how do we determine when and where we absolutely must not compromise? I would propose two steps that I think are illuminated here in Joshua 9.

First, inquire of the Lord. There are a few ways that this should happen. First, search Scriptures. If it’s in the Bible, whether as a precept (i.e., specifically outlined regulation) or principle (i.e., general idea about God’s will), compromise is out of the question. End of discussion.

If, however, something is not explicit in Scripture, then the second way that we should inquire of the Lord is to spend time in prayer. Now, understand that does not mean that you tell God what you want to do and He will bless it. Too often, that’s what we think prayer is. Rather, this is where you ask God what He would have you do and then listen to what He has to say. That’s right. Listen. It’s the second part of prayer that we have a real tendency to overlook. But when we listen, as I said above, He may make Himself clear through a number of means including an audible voice, a vision of some sort, or (probably most likely) a feeling of profound ease or unease.

And a third Biblical way that I believe we can inquire of the Lord is by the proverbial fleece. In Judges 6:36-40, after God called Gideon to deliver Israel from the Midianites, Amalekites, et al, Gideon tested the Lord. He said in vss 36-37, “If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised – look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said” (NIV), and in the morning, God had done exactly that. Notice, though, that Gideon wasn’t satisfied with one test. So he repeated the test, except in reverse (i.e., the dew was on the ground but the fleece dry), and again, God made it happen. Here’s the thing about signs: Gideon was already pretty sure he knew what God wanted him to do. This was just a matter of confirming it. We can take this to mean that signs will never contradict Scripture and should be used only as a confirmation of the voice of God revealed through prayer. Furthermore, you shouldn’t necessarily trust just one sign. But on the flip side of that coin, you also can’t keep asking for signs indefinitely.

More often than not, I believe that simply stopping to inquire of the Lord will help us to understand what compromises are good and right, and which ones are not. Then again, He might not. And that brings me to the second step that we should take to figure out if a compromise is okay.

Wait for it. No, that’s not a dramatic pause in the post here. It’s the second step to figuring out whether God endorses a given compromise. Sometimes, we just need to wait. Back here in Joshua 9:16, we discover that the Gibeonites’ deception was exposed just three days after Joshua and co. signed the treaty. Three days. Had they simply waited those three days – seventy-two hours – for the scouts to report or whatever it was that revealed who the Gibeonites really were, and where they were really from, they never would have gotten themselves into the mess they did. We have all seen the disastrous results of getting in a hurry. My kids trip and fall. I forget the keys or something else on the kitchen island. We get ourselves into a real mess. The point here is that, sometimes, God might not reveal His will to us in an instant. In that case, we need to stop and wait.

Now, there’s a problem with waiting: it requires patience. And a lot of us (read that, a lot of ME) have that in short supply. But that’s a post for another time.

For now, remember that compromise is important, but sometimes it’s even more essential to NOT compromise. The way to figure out which case you’re dealing with is to inquire of the Lord and wait for Him to respond.

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1 Response to “Joshua 9: Compromise”


  1. 1 Glen Mustian October 25, 2017 at 4:14 pm

    Thanks brother, I’m teaching this chapter tonight and I’m going to quote from your comments!


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