This is a message from pastor and teacher Bill Serjak from the Joshua series “New Beginnings”
An Oath is an Oath
The Israelites had been deceived. One of the tribes they had been ordered to conquer that lived close by tricked them into thinking that they lived far away and that it would be all right to make a treaty with them. The Israelites fell for their deception and made an oath with them not to destroy them. They were not supposed to make such a treaty, but fell for their enemies’ deceit. Some would say that such a treaty should be null and void since it was based on deceit. However, Joshua did not void the treaty. The Israelites did several things wrong before they made the treaty. Our Scripture Lesson said that they did not inquire of the Lord before they entered the treaty. I’m not sure what God would have said to them. He might have exposed the trick of the Gibeonites or at the least slowed down the process and that would have kept the Israelites from entering into the treaty. They might have used the Urim and the Thummim, which was a way of casting lots that the Israelites used to determine God’s will. In any case, they did not stop to consider what God wanted them to do and they ended up making a bad treaty.
We are often guilty of doing the same thing. We look at the surface events and act on them rather than consider the alternatives of what might be really going on. When our daughter moved away from home the first time, I gave her one of those speaking picture frames with my picture in it. The words I recorded were words that I often used when questioning Lynn, “Did you stop and think about that before you did that?” Most of us would make very different choices if we just took a moment to think about it and consult God before making decisions. We need to bring our relationship to God into every decision we make. As we come closer to Him and know Him better, we start to see things more and more from His point of view. He doesn’t speak to us directly very often, but He teaches us to make choices more like the way He would make them. We need to consider our choices from the perspective of God. Many people make business choices based strictly on what will make the most money and don’t consider what God might want them to do. Many choose their lifelong partner strictly by what they are feeling in their heart and don’t consider what God might want them to do.
The Israelites made a bad choice because they didn’t find out enough information. However, after they made the bad choice based on deceit, they still obeyed what they had said despite the deceit. They kept their word. It is important to keep our word. Much of who we are is based on doing what we said we would do. When Jesus is described in the New Testament, He is called the Word of God. Jesus is God’s promise come in the flesh and God keeps His word. We are called to do the same. We are called to keep our word and not look for a way out of what we have said. Some have said they went against an oath they had made because God led them that way. God doesn’t work that way. God wants us to work honestly and to keep our word. Even when we make a bad oath, God wants us to keep the oath and He will help us make it work out for good.
When I went to my first church as an associate pastor, I said that I would stay at least three years. The average stay of an associate pastor at that time was about 18 months. After I had been there two and a half years, a church in a growing community asked if I would go there as their pastor. At that time, I was very interested in evangelism and eventually serving a large church. That church was pretty much the type of church I wanted to serve. However, I had only stayed two and a half years of the three years I had said I would stay. The senior pastor said if I felt God was calling me to this church, then I should go, despite what I had said. However, it was significant to me to do what I had said I would do. Had I gone against my word, I would have ended up with a very different style of ministry and would have become a different sort of pastor. I don’t think I would have liked who I would have been as much as I like being who I am right now. I also wouldn’t have had the chance to be here for over thirty years. Putting down roots here and enjoying this ministry was much more important and that ministry came from simply keeping my word many years ago.
Some things don’t work out the way we thought they would, but when we love the Lord and seek to follow Him, He makes things work out well. God did that with the Israelites and Gibeonites. The Gibeonites did no harm to the Israelites and God put the Gibeonites into bondage to serve the Israelites all their lives. God blessed the Israelites for keeping their word and brought judgment on the Gibeonites for their deception. God wants us to keep our word. He wants us to be like Him and He always keeps His word.