Ai was not to be the final battle. There were more cities to capture and thus more battles to fight. One defeat does not lose the battle, and one victory does not win the war. The devil is not excited about the prospect of victory for the people of God. It was true for the Israelites, and it is true for believers today. We must be aware of his strategy and recognize when he seeks to lead us astray with deceptive actions.
I. A daring deception (vv. 3-6)
"However, when the people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, they resorted to a ruse: They went as a delegation whose donkeys were loaded with worn-out sacks and old wineskins, cracked and mended. The men put worn and patched sandals on their feet and wore old clothes. All the bread of their food supply was dry and moldy. Then they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and the men of Israel, 'We have come from a distant country; make a treaty with us.'"
The people of Gibeon knew they could not defeat Israel. Although other kings were forming alliances to fight Israel, the Gibeonites developed a solo plan (v. 1). With old clothes, old wineskins, and moldy bread, they sought to convince Joshua that they were from far away and had been led to Israel as a result of hearing the great things of Israel's God.
The problem was, God had told Joshua not to make an alliance with anyone. They were not to align themselves with non-Israelites.
The lesson for us is that the devil is deceptive and will use anything to convince God's people to compromise. Satan is sly and seeks to sneak up on believers. He uses subtle ways to draw us from the things of God. Christians today need to remember that Satan will probably not try to get us to deny the entire Bible. He's much more content to entice us to compromise in "small" ways. He tempts us to keep a little corner of our lives just for ourselves.
II. A blatant blunder (vv. 14-15)
"The men of Israel sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord. Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath."
Joshua did not seek the counsel of God and, thus, failed to see the truth. It seems to be an obvious omission, but how easily do we fall in the same trap? Paul reminds us that the devil blinds people's eyes to their need for the gospel, but he also seeks to blind believers, keeping them from turning their eyes to God (2 Cor. 4:4). We never arrive at the place where we do not need to read the Bible, pray, and commune with God. The devil seemingly tries to blind us most when we are trying our hardest.
III. A graceful gesture (v. 26)
"So Joshua saved them from the Israelites, and they did not kill them."
Even though Joshua and the Israelites entered into a bad alliance, they kept their oath. Two wrongs would not make things right. In the grace of God, the Gibeonites were made woodcutters and water carries for the rest of their days.