How to Convert Bad Decisions into Positive Outcomes

Today’s reading: Joshua 9:1-27. Key verse: Joshua 9:14.

“Pride comes before a fall.” We have seen this old adage play out already in the book of Joshua. Achan deceived himself into thinking he could take some of the spoil of Jericho without consequence. He then deceived Israel by putting it in his tent and hiding the plunder. But God cannot be deceived. Achan’s selfish pride resulted in Israel’s initial defeat at Ai, and later the execution of Achan and his household for his disobedience against the Lord.

In Joshua chapter 9, the people of Israel again decide they can make decisions on their own without following the Lord’s leading. The Israelites are visited by the men of the cities of Gibeon (within a day’s journey or so of Ai) who pose as travelers from a far country begging to make a treaty with Israel. They go all out, wearing worn-out clothing and bringing old sacks and wineskins. They even present dried-up bread as proof of their long journey. Joshua makes a covenant with them to let them live in verse 15. Yet their condemnation is recorded in verse 14:

"So the men of Israel took some of their provisions and did not ask for the counsel of the LORD." (Joshua 9:14)

Leadership Principle 9.1: Spiritual leaders take their direction from the Lord

This point has been made repeatedly in this series, but cannot be stressed enough. The best leaders do not act on their own initiative but take their advice, counsel, and direction from the Lord, who is their leader. In some ways, this takes a great deal of pressure off of the human leader, because they are ultimately followers of a greater leader, whose leadership is perfect! The best way to follow the Lord as ultimate leader is to stay in constant communication with him, which Joshua and his leaders of Israel fail to do here. The author of the book makes it very clear that he should have asked the Lord for his opinion when the men of Gibeon arrived.

Leaders today can be tempted to make decisions quickly and without thinking things through. Often many decisions must be made on the fly, without a lot of time for thought or consideration. Certainly, this case in Joshua was probably one such instance. The men of Gibeon had arrived looking like they were starving and desperate. Perhaps Joshua’s compassion for their plight led him to make a covenant quickly with them without asking the Lord’s advice. Nevertheless, leaders must find ways, even in a split second, to call out to the Lord for help, or recall his word to their minds for clear direction. Joshua, to his credit, probably remembered the words of Deuteronomy 20:10-12 but did not weigh them properly with God’s command in Deut 20:17.

Leadership Principle 9.2: Spiritual leaders keep their promises

The men of Israel make a covenant with Gibeon to let them live. Three days later they find out that they have been deceived. The people of Israel want to put the people of Gibeon to death for this deception. But the leaders of Israel, Joshua included, make sure they do not go back on their word. This was a bad decision on Israel’s part, but they knew that violating their covenant would be an even worse decision since they had sworn to let Gibeon live before the Lord.

Good leaders keep their promises even when it hurts. Israel should never have made this pact with Gibeon. But one bad decision would not be undone by another unfaithful action. There are applications today. Many enter into a marriage relationship perhaps too quickly or without thinking through the ramifications of that choice. Then later, they decide to “correct” the bad decision by leaving the relationship, being unfaithful, or seeking a divorce – another bad decision! In the business world, a bad partnership entered into may have been an extremely bad choice, but violating the terms of the partnership would be another bad choice that will not undo what has been done in that partnership. Israel should be commended for their faithfulness to the covenant made, even if it was a bad decision in the first place.

Leadership Principle 9.3: Good leaders deal with the consequences of their actions, and can convert bad choices to good outcomes

Israel, and Joshua specifically, made a poor decision in covenanting with Gibeon. It would have ramifications for them in the future. But in the meantime, they were going to live with the consequences of their actions. Gibeon would be employed as hewers of wood and drawers of water for the people of Israel at their tabernacle sanctuary. This was not ideal in that God had told them to wipe out the sinful people of the land. And yet they were able to make the most of a bad situation. In fact, as we will see in chapter 10, God was able to use Gibeon and Israel’s treaty with her people to bring himself glory. More on that in the next post.

Summary in a Sentence

Spiritual leaders don’t act of their own initiative, but take their direction from the Lord, keeping their promises, dealing with the consequences of their actions, and even seeking to find ways to use bad initial decisions to produce positive outcomes.

JJ Routley

Jonathan J. Routley (JJ) serves as Professor of Bible and Theology at Emmaus Bible College in Dubuque, Iowa. JJ also serves on the Board of Directors for the Associates for Biblical Research (ABR). He holds a PhD in Theological Studies from Columbia International University, South Carolina. JJ and his family reside in Dubuque, Iowa.
Twitter: @JJ_Routley
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