Neglecting the Lord's Counsel
Editor's Note: Last week, I was blessed to attend the 77th Bible Lectures at my alma mater, Freed-Hardeman University. One of the lectures delivered was by Josh Ketchum who preaches for the church in Mayfield, KY. Josh spoke about the Gibeonite Deception in Joshua 7; he graciously agreed to let me to run this article which is a condensed version of his remarks. Josh blogs regularly at joshketchum.com, and I would strongly urge you to follow his writings. Thanks, Josh! - mcw
A Story of Deception
In Joshua 9 there is an intriguing story of deception amidst the bloodshed of battle. Following the victory at Ai (Joshua 8:1-29) and the renewal of the Covenant (Joshua 8:30-35), Joshua meets some apparent travelers who are actually from Gibeon. The Gibeonites, who are living in Canaan, deceive Joshua and the leaders by dressing in worn out clothes, offering dry, molded bread, and tattered wineskins as proof they had travelled from a distant land. The law of Moses allowed treaties with foreign nations, but commanded the Israelites to completely destroy the cities of the Canaanite nations who would be their neighbors (Ex. 23:32, 34:12, Num. 33:55, Deut. 20:10-18). Though skeptical at first, the leaders of Israel fell for this ruse. The Bible says, "So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the Lord." (Josh. 9:14). They made a peace treaty with the Gibeonites. It wouldn't take long to discover their failure, as the Israelites reach the Gibeonite cities three days later. The people wanted to destroy them, but they had to allow them to live. The congregation murmured against its leaders. Joshua will consign the Gibeonites to being "cutters of wood and drawers of water for all the congregation" (Josh. 9:21).
Why were they Deceived?
Satan is a deceiver (Rev. 20:10) and liar (John 8:44). He works through cunning (2 Cor. 11:3) and deception to get Christians to fall. We can see in this story some of the shortcomings of the Israelite leaders which lead to their deception and often ours as well.
- They had a presumed self-sufficiency. The Israelites believed they could make the decision on their own. They did not need to consult the "counsel of the Lord." Satan says to man, "You can do it own your own!" Whenever we think and act independent of God, we set ourselves up for deception!
- They focused on the physical. They checked out the bread, the patched wine-skins, and tattered clothes, but did not check with the Lord. They went with what they "saw," rather than seek spiritual guidance. Like Eve in the garden who focused on the fruit, their eyes deceived them. We must "walk by faith and not by sight."
- They yielded to the flattery of the Gibeonites. A part of the ruse was an appeal to the power and deeds of the Israelites by the Gibeonites (Josh. 9:9-10). This appealed to their pride and ego. The leaders will suffer disgrace before the people because they had given themselve to pride (Prov. 11:2, Josh. 9:18-19).
But isn't there more to the story?
If we carefully consider this story, I think we will see that the leaders of Israel were simply negligent and careless regarding their obligations and duties towards God. It is not that they just forgot the commandments of God, but they "did not ask the counsel of the Lord" (Josh. 9:14). They had an obligation to consult the Lord because they were in a covenant relationship with Him. Their covenant relationship demanded they consult God. For whatever reason, they didn't stop and think, "What is the Lord's will on this peace treaty?" They had abundant means available to consult the will of the Lord, but they chose to use none of them. They had a responsibility and a privilege of consulting the Lord, yet they neglected to do such.
This story typifies Christians today. It is not that we just "forget" to do the Lord's will, but we are careless and negligent in asking and consulting the Lord's will. We don't believe necessarily that God is incapable, but it just often does not dawn on us that everything is under his control. We want to compartmentalize the sphere of God's influence in our lives. We think about consulting God regarding "religious" or "spiritual" issues or maybe when we have some real "problems," but regarding day-to-day issues, financial decisions, work choices, dating and marriage relationships, entertainment, and time management we tend to neglect to consider the will of the Lord. A Christian entered a covenant with Jesus at baptism (Col. 2:11-14). We have a privilege and obligation to seek and ask the counsel of the Lord on every issue of our lives. This is one of the big aspects of the kingdom teaching by Jesus in that we are seeking the rule or reign of God in our hearts and lives (Mat. 6:10, 32-33). People of the world do not share in this same obligation, because they are not in a covenant relationship. How many blessings do we miss out on and problems do we create simply because we like Joshua are negligent and do not stop and "ask counsel of the Lord" (Josh. 9:14).
Josh Ketchum preaches for the Seven Oaks Church of Christ in Mayfield, KY. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.