Vol. 4, No. 11
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The Gibeonites lied and the Israelites got in trouble for it -- at least that is how some skeptics would look at it. The Israelites were commissioned to do battle against all nations inhabiting the land that had long ago been promised to them. They were to destroy the people and not leave anyone alive (Deuteronomy 7:1-2). Joshua and his troops are doing a pretty good job of that, and so the people of Gibeon become afraid. Rather than mustering their forces to fight the nation powered by Almighty God, they aim to outwit them. And that they do.
The Gibeonites approach the Israelites in torn clothing with ragged luggage. They lie, claiming they are not inhabitants, but travelers through the land of Canaan. "Well," reasons Joshua and his men, "if they are not inhabitants, we don't have to destroy them." In an apparently compassionate decision, God's Word is disobeyed. The Israelites make a covenant with the Gibeonites, promising not to kill them. When their true habitation is exposed, Joshua has egg on his face. The oath now prevents him from proceeding to destroy the people. This was the first let-down of God's command, and it couldn't be "made up." Once one group of people was permitted to stay, the snowball effect of influence and ensuing idolatry would not be stopped in Israel (see the book of Judges).
But why, one might justifiably ask, was Joshua held accountable for responding -- again, apparently compassionately -- to a boldfaced lie? The reason is found in Joshua 9:14, in the midst of the account. The Israelites "did not ask counsel of the Lord." They did what seemed reasonable and, even caring, without asking counsel of the Lord. The lesson for us is quite obvious.
We won't get a direct answer from the Lord if we stop and ask him for specific instructions of how to deal with every daily decision that comes up. We don't live in a time period when God works that way. Rather, we have the responsibility to base our decisions on an accumulated knowledge of the counsel of the Lord. The principles revealed in his Word guide us through each daily decision. We err greatly when we fail to embed these principles in our minds and hearts by diligent study.
Read the Book of Nehemiah sometime and note how many times Nehemiah prays before making any kind of decision. Note in the Gospels how the Lord took long periods to pray before big decisions, or in times wherein he might have felt tempted. Then, take all these examples to heart.
Somebody told me once that schoolteachers make 10,000 decisions a day. I imagine most people are similar. While it would be impossible and impractical to utter a prayer before each one, it is possible and practical (and even expected) for us to be people of study and prayer who, by the very nature of our lives, continually rely on the counsel of the Lord (Proverbs 3:5-6).