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Learning to Live with Your Mistakes

Posted on September 26

In Joshua chapter 9, the Gibeonites deceive the Israelites in order to protect themselves. Once the Israelites find out the truth, it’s too late because they had made an oath to them (using God’s name) that they would not harm them. Now what would they do? 


Have you ever made a stupid mistake? If you’re human, you have. No doubt you asked yourself, “What was I thinking? Why didn’t I think this through? Why didn’t I ask more questions?” I’m sure that’s how Joshua felt. 


Here’s the big question: Have you ever made a stupid mistake that was a big mistake? It’s the kind of mistake you can’t fix or undo. Again, this is where Joshua was at. “And the children of Israel smote them not, because the princes of the congregation had sworn unto them by the LORD God of Israel. And all the congregation murmured against the princes” (v. 18). Joshua had to live with his mistake. 


Joshua’s Solution 


Joshua did not get one of his subordinates to talk to the Gibeonites. Instead he calls for them to meet with him so he could personally give them a piece of his mind. You can tell that Joshua is angry. “Wherefore have ye beguiled us, saying, We are very far from you; when ye dwell among us?” (v. 22). No doubt Joshua realized that he should have consulted God before they made such a decision, but it was too late now. So the Israelite leader laid out what would happen to the Gibeonites. 


“Now therefore ye are cursed, and there shall none of you be freed from being bondmen, and hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God” (v. 23). Yikes! The Gibeonites would be spared, but at the expense of becoming slaves to Israel. While Israel would not treat them brutally as Egypt had done to them years before, it was still not a life of luxury. Notice three points concerning this slavery. 


First, the Gibeonites were cursed. They had been involved in a despicable act, and this act could not be kept a secret. God is clear when He says, “…and be sure your sin will find you out” (Num. 32:23b). We need to realize that sin is cursed, and the curse is the fact that sin always gets out. Don’t think that your sin will be the exception. 


Second, the Gibeonites would be Israel’s slaves. This is ironic since their sin had enslaved them first; now they would be the slaves of Israel. Sin is a terrible master. “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” (Rom. 6:16). 


Third, the Gibeonites’ job would be to chop wood and draw water specifically for the Tabernacle. This was no desk job, this was real outdoor labor! When sin enslaves, it puts a great burden upon the individual. The Gibeonites would live, but it would come at a cost. 


The Gibeonites told Joshua that they had tricked them out of fear. They were afraid of Israel after hearing of all the nations that had been defeated, and they had every right to be. It’s never good to make decisions based on fear, but cowards will always make the cowardly choice. 


With nothing better to do, the Gibeonites submit to Joshua’s demand. “And now, behold, we are in thine hand: as it seemeth good and right unto thee to do unto us, do” (v. 25). So their lives were spared at the expense of their freedom. It’s interesting to note that the text specifically mentions the altar of the Lord (v. 27). The Gibeonites’ job was not just important, it was sacred. 


Did Joshua make the right choice with what he did to the Gibeonites? Was it the best possible solution? I believe it was. Notice three good results of the Gibeonites becoming Israel’s slaves: (1) The fact that the Gibeonites were spared speaks to the truth that Israel honored their oath with them and, more importantly, honored the name of the Lord. (2) While Israel was wronged by the Gibeonites’ deceit, they were rewarded here with many valuable workers. (3) Making the Gibeonites slaves for the Tabernacle specifically would keep them from worshipping their idols. Perhaps even some of them trusted in Jehovah as their God. Joshua had indeed made the right choice. 


Make the Most of It 


Will Rogers' stage specialty was rope tricks. One day, on stage, in the middle of his act, he got tangled in his lariat. Instead of getting upset, he drawled, "A rope ain't so bad to get tangled up in if it ain't around your neck." The audience roared. Encouraged by the warm reception, Rogers began adding humorous comments to all his performances. It was the comments, not the rope tricks, that eventually made him famous. He simply made the most of his mistakes, and it always worked out for him in the end. 


Life is not always fair. Circumstances are out of our control, and many times something happens that we cannot see coming. Whether the problem is out of your control or is a personal mistake, you must learn to make the most of it. One of life’s greatest lessons is that we must live with our choices. 


As you move down the path of life, you will make mistakes. Don’t be surprised when you do. We tend to be upset with ourselves when we blow it, but that won’t fix the problem. Perhaps you were tricked, or cheated by someone, or blamed by a friend. How do you make the most of that? Well, step back and assess the situation. Ask yourself these questions: 

    —Did I do anything wrong?

    —Did they do something wrong? 

    —Should I make things right with them?

    —Should I ask for forgiveness? 

    —What would Jesus do in this situation? 

    —What part of me can grow through this problem? 

    —Who should I go to for counsel? 



Obviously I don’t know your situation, but hopefully these questions help in setting you on the right path. Joshua gives us a great example of what to do when you’re facing a mistake that you have to live with. A coward will run, but a man of courage will do the necessary part to the make the most of a mistake. So when it happens, be prepared to face the Gibeonites. 

This article is an excerpt from Paul's book Becoming a Man of Courage: A Study on the Life of Joshua. You can buy the book here 

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