Sometimes we get lost in the popular idea of legacy. Many think of legacy as made of the great things—things like Super Bowl rings, battles won, groundbreaking discoveries or heroic deeds remembered for all time. But what about the imperfect legacy?
Think of some of the great names in the Bible. Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David.
Abraham believed God—clinging to God’s promise to give him a land, an heir, and through him to bring blessing to all peoples.
Moses, the deliverer, led the descendants of Israel out of slavery from cruel oppression. He was the lawgiver.
Joshua helped the fledgling nation of Israel capture the promised land; he defeated 31 kings.
David was called “a man after God’s own heart” and he firmly established Israel as a nation.
Yet Abraham allowed his wife to be taken into the house of another man because he was afraid he’d be killed over her. He slept with his wife’s maid.
Moses murdered a man. After hiding out in the wilderness, Moses led the Israelites to the wilderness and in a fit of anger disobeyed God’s instructions.
Joshua conquered 31 kingdoms, but there was still land left to be won. The enemy was not fully driven back.
David committed adultery and then murdered her husband, who was a friend and fellow soldier.
Legacy is not about having a perfect record. It’s not about the swashbuckling hero who proclaims victory before the battle. Legacy is about faithfulness even in the midst of failure. It’s proceeding even when the feelings aren’t there.
Every one of us is building a legacy. An imperfect legacy. But there’s hope, because God uses broken vessels. He is able to bring good out of the messes we get into. Can you identify?
The lesson of the Gibeonite legacy
Let me further illustrate this with the very imperfect legacy of the Gibeonites. Liars. The Gibeonites were liars.
You remember the story. When the Israelites were coming into the promised land, they’d conquered Jericho and Ai. Perhaps next on their list was the town of Gibeon. Give them credit—they apparently figured it was better to join ‘em than get beat by ‘em.
So they loaded donkeys with worn out sacks, old and mended wine skins and moldy bread. And they came to the Israelites and proclaimed: “We have come from a distant country and we’d like to make a treaty with you.” Well, the Israelites weren’t born yesterday, and they inquired, “How do we know you are not our neighbors?”
The Gibeonites lied again, “We have come from a distant country, and we are your servants.” Ultimately, the ruse works and the Gibeonites get their treaty.
Just three days later—three days!—the Israelites learn that the Gibeonites were their neighbors. You can imagine the reaction. I’m not sure what words you’d use to describe it. Deceived! Embarrassed! Outraged!
When the Israelites come to the Gibeonites, we see their humble response. You see, the Gibeonites knew that God was at work:
They answered Joshua, “Your servants were clearly told how the Lord your God had commanded his servant Moses to give you the whole land and to wipe out all its inhabitants from before you. So we feared for our lives because of you, and that is why we did this. We are now in your hands. Do to us whatever seems good and right to you.” (Joshua 9.24-25)
Seeing their earnestness, Joshua makes the Gibeonites woodcutters and water carriers for the house of the Lord. There the scripture makes an interesting postscript: “And that is what they are to this day.”
The story continued
That tells you the Gibeonite story wasn’t done.
In fact, they have a beautiful story:
- One of David’s mighty men was a Gibeonite — I Chronicles 12.4
- In Nehemiah, Gibeonites were among those rebuilding the walls — Nehemiah 3.7
- A prophet, Hananiah the son of Azur, came from Gibeon — Jeremiah 28.1
Now I’m certainly not advocating lying, but it’s helpful to see that our past doesn’t define us forever. God can take anyone who submits to Him and turn the story of their lives into a beautiful legacy.
Are you one of those stories?
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Published June 19, 2020