And when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ai,…
The customs and manners of modern times, in which is less of simplicity and more of parade, and when facilities for intercourse with far distant dwellers would render such a deception quite impossible, cannot be a criterion by which to judge of the policy of this expedient. Strange as it would be viewed by us, neither their appearance nor speech excited suspicion. Their falsehood stands no example for Christians, yet no one but must admire their ingenuity. Necessity is the mother of invention. The resources which have opened in invention have been such as were never thought of in ease and safety. They believed the report, and, being sore afraid, had no expectation of life but from alliance with the Lord's people; therefore were saved in yielding, when others were destroyed in resisting. There is no hope for any but those who, in faith and love, are in league with the true Israel of God — those who seek by prayer, and obtain through grace, a share in their spiritual and eternal interests. And oh! when those tremendous evils which, in the Divine threatenings, impend over the guilty, are so apprehended as to fill transgressors with fears of dying, when the great concerns of another world lie in their full weight on the heart, and they see that all to be hoped for in the best state of future being is endangered and lies at awful stake, what expedients are ready to be adopted I though none ever succeed but the one which the gospel points out as the never-failing provision of mercy. No decree is gone forth against such as cease hostilities, and who voluntarily yield themselves up to the reign of grace, but against those only who persist till they perish in their rebellion. The more deter mined and inveterate any have been in their opposition to the kingdom of God, the more heartily welcome they become when, in the fervent entreaties of deep-felt need, they apply for life and pardon through the merit of Christ. No sight on earth more interesting than to witness a spiritual subjection to our Divine and glorious Redeemer; to see a forsaking of the world for the Church, and, instead of fighting against God to destruction, sinners obtaining the assurance of life and pardon through faith. These suppliant strangers, with worn-out apparel and musty provision, and bearing every mark of having come a long journey, remind one of the true condition of those who apply to Christ, and who desire to obtain a portion in the inheritance of His people. They are really what these only feigned to be; and should they appear in the best robes of nature, whatever their own opinion, they would be esteemed but as filthy rags by the infinitely holy God, which, in self loathing, must be thrown aside for change of raiment, for garments of salvation and robes of righteousness. Their address is not less striking than their appearance, and may remind us of a suppliant for mercy, "We are thy servants: make ye a league with us." The security of life they were willing should be held upon servitude of life. What is so dear as life? As Satan said of Job, "Skin for skin; yea, all that a man hath, will he give for his life." And nothing is so much the concern of an awakened mind, as to live in a state of favour with God, and union with His people. It is accounted no slavery, but perfect freedom, as well as secure protection, and to be desired beyond all earthly advantages, to retain life in the service of God. The expedient adopted in their necessity availed. It was a precipitate act, and though highly reprehensible, in not asking counsel of the Lord, to whom all the affairs of His Church and people should be referred in humble and obedient faith, yet it was not to be rescinded. In the all-wise dominion of God it was overruled for mercy to many. Though the command was peremptory, and so utterly to destroy the inhabitants of the land as "to make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them," yet the 20th chapter of Deuteronomy, v. Deuteronomy 20:10 and Deuteronomy 20:11, would induce a hope that they who, whether near or afar off, yielded to the triumphant Church and renounced idolatry would have obtained mercy and been incorporated with the Lord's people. Is not this the very constitution and procedure of the gospel, a most affecting and honourable covenant of peace, requiring only to be closed with and signed by the sinner in submission and faith? As the men of Gibeon came to Israel, have you applied to Jesus for peace? If so, the testimony of conscience will accord with the witness of the Spirit, in that happy hope and assurance which will attend the sealing of the covenant on the heart. Unspeakably blessed their state with whom the promise of life is confirmed: they cannot perish, neither shall any pluck them out of the hands of their covenant God. The sword that spares in mercy will protect in justice. Not long before discovery was made of their artifice. The surprise which this excited was not little, nor the apprehension of consequences to be feared from the precipitate and incautious engagements entered into; for the people all murmured against the princes. But the providence of God was in it, and His honour so involved in His people's regard to their oath that the treaty made could not be broken. If in a case of fraud, and in a certain view the stealing of His mercy, God will not suffer an impeachment of His character by a forfeiture of truth in His people, what shall be said of the inviolability of those engagements of His love for the accomplishment of which He has voluntarily, in the view of all our unworthiness, pledged in solemn oath and promise His own infinite perfections? One cannot but conceive it designed to present us with an idea of the conversion of enemies to God, and afford a prelude of the accession of Gentiles to His Church. Such as God designs to save He inclines to sue for mercy. Servitude became their condition whose lives mercy spared; but that was honourable, as it was holy, and to be preferred to all the degrading liberties and superstitions of idolatry. Life was the constant reward of their service, and in many instances, it may be hoped, grace was connected with their labour. By spiritual instructions imparted in that temple where they served, though in the meanest office, the gracious among them would become sharers in more valuable blessings than any that could be connected with the highest earthly honours. None can be truly in the service of God but they will find better pay and purer satisfaction than any who are serving themselves or the world.
Parallel VersesKJV: And when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done unto Jericho and to Ai,