Part of God’s promise to Abraham was to bless all nations. In this story we see a shadow of God’s redemptive plan for the Gentiles. God’s covenant promise is eventually fulfilled to the whole world through Jesus! We don’t have to try trick our way into God’s family because God has opened the door for all of us! We only need to trust in him and receive his free gift!
“…we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” Romans 5:1
Some background on the story
Focusing on God’s promise to give his people the land will help give direction to the story. God’s instruction to Joshua was to take the Promised Land and, as we saw last week, God was empowering them to defeat their enemies! The Gibeonites could see that the Israelites were God’s covenant people and it is worth mentioning that they acknowledged God’s sovereignty, similar to Rahab. They wanted to live in the Promised Land too and knew that their only way to be saved was to be at peace with God, so they tricked Joshua and the elders of Israel into making a covenant with them. Despite the Gibeonite’s deception, the elders of Israel honored that covenant because they understood that God takes promises very seriously. They didn’t only let the Gibeonites live in the Promised Land but the Israelites even ended up fighting to protect them against the other kings in the area!
Disneyland: Access Denied
Supplies: pretend all-access pass to Disneyland
Ask the kids if they would want to go to Disneyland if they could. Explain that Disneyland is a fun place to go, and anybody can go there if they buy a ticket. What would it look like though if Disneyland was only open to direct family and friends of the owner of Disneyland? Now, imagine you found out that the owner of Disneyland wanted to especially invite you and your family to come visit Disneyland! That would be really exciting, wouldn’t it?
That’s kind of how it was for the Israelites. God, who is the owner of all things, made them a special promise called a covenant that he would:
- Make them numerous/a nation (fulfilled in Egypt), and
- Take them into a Promised Land (the land they entered with Joshua)
But there was another part of the covenant
- God promised to make them a blessing to the nations (God wants all people to know him and love him)
This was difficult because there were other people who also wanted to live in the Promised Land, but God said that, in order for his plan to work, he only wanted his people who knew him and worshipped him to live in the Promised land. That meant that everyone else had to go!
The Gibeonites Also Want In!
Props you could use: The Gibeonite’s ‘disguises’ are full of awesome prop opportunities! Everything (except maybe the donkeys) is pretty easy to make up from around the house. There are the ragged clothes and the old sandals, old wine skins (you could use an old water bottle) and there’s dry bread.
Tell the story from Joshua 9
You don’t have to read the entire chapter, especially for the younger kids. Rather tell it in your own words and read the dialogue in verses 8-13. Consider having some of the kids stand up as the Gibeonites and then dress them up. The felt-board (4-5 group) might also be especially handy for this one since this story isn’t in any of the children’s bibles I looked at.
Joshua and the leaders of Israel didn’t do the right thing by not asking God for wisdom. They understood though that God takes his promises seriously and so they kept their word to the Gibeonites. God always keeps his promises! Today God’s promise to make his people a blessing to all nations is fulfilled in Jesus! Jesus made it possible for everyone to be friends with God and come into his kingdom. We are a little bit like the Gibeonites because God’s kingdom is only for those who are pure and holy. We don’t have to trick anyone to come into God’s kingdom. We “…have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). We can be honest with God and admit to him when we’ve done something wrong. In him we find forgiveness and he makes us pure and holy so that we can be part of his kingdom!
Prayer: Thank God for sending his Son Jesus so that we can be at peace with him and be part of his kingdom. Thank him that we can always trust his promises. Pray for humility for the children to come to God when they need forgiveness.
- Why would it have been bad to make a treaty with the Gibeonites if they were from the Promised Land?
- Why did the Gibeonites want to make a treaty with the Israelites?
- Is it okay that they wanted to be at peace with God and live in the Promised Land?
- What do we need to do to be at peace with God today?
This goal of this game is for the kids to get their shoes back on the quickest.
How to Play: Separate the class into equal teams and have them pile their shoes on one side of the room. Then have the two teams line up single-file on the opposite side of the room from their shoes. Each team should be lined up in front of their pile of shoes. Have the first person in each line run across the room to put his or her shoes on. When the kid comes back with shoes on, the next kid can go, and so on until everyone has their shoes back on. The first team to get all their shoes back on their feet wins!
Image Credit: The Glory of Byzantium: art and culture of the Middle Byzantine era, A.D. 843–1261. New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2006.