16 It came about at the end of three days after they had made a covenant with them, that they heard that they were neighbors and that they were living [g]within their land. 17 Then the sons of Israel set out and came to their cities on the third day. Now their cities were Gibeon and Chephirah and Beeroth and Kiriath-jearim.18 The sons of Israel did not strike them because the leaders of the congregation had sworn to them by the Lord the God of Israel. And the whole congregation grumbled against the leaders. 19 But all the leaders said to the whole congregation, “We have sworn to them by the Lord, the God of Israel, and now we cannot touch them. 20 This we will do to them, even let them live, so that wrath will not be upon us for the oath which we swore to them.” 21 The leaders said to them, “Let them live.” So they became hewers of wood and drawers of water for the whole congregation, just as the leaders had spoken to them.
22 Then Joshua called for them and spoke to them, saying, “Why have you deceived us, saying, ‘We are very far from you,’ when you are living [h]within our land? 23 Now therefore, you are cursed, and [i]you shall never cease being slaves, both hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God.” 24 So they answered Joshua and said, “Because it was certainly told your servants that the Lord your God had commanded His servant Moses to give you all the land, and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land before you; therefore we feared greatly for our lives because of you, and have done this thing. 25 Now behold, we are in your hands; do as it seems good and right in your sight to do to us.” 26 Thus he did to them, and delivered them from the hands of the sons of Israel, and they did not kill them. 27 But Joshua made them that day hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation and for the altar of the Lord, to this day, in the place which He would choose.
And the crap hits the fan, because they didn’t ask God what they should do. But, lest we think that us frail humans could thwart God’s master plan, the story takes an interesting twist.
First though, what could have happened? Well, we’ve seen the men of Israel take foreign women as wives and follow idols, and that ended terribly with many deaths. Later on, we’ll see descendants of the survivors of a nation try to wipe out the Jews (in the book of Esther). So, there could have been dire consequences.
Though the leaders felt it was their duty to keep the oath, even though it was based on lies, the people knew they were supposed to destroy all the people in their promised land, so Joshua and the other leaders had a crisis.
What about that twist though? Instead of going sideways, a solution is found, and one that even brought glory to God. Instead of breaking their oath, the Gibeonites (one would think willingly) become slaves in order to escape death. The Gibeonites knew their entire nation was doomed, because the Israelites served God and they knew what God had told the Israelites to do.
Even when life throws us a curveball, God has no problem fitting that into His plan. Even when we do something we shouldn’t, God can work it for good. He’s just that amazing, so don’t forget it.