God’s people should always be careful about “going on autopilot.” Bad things tend to happen when we don’t consult with Him!
Joshua, chapters 9-11; 1 Corinthians, chapter 6
Joshua 9:3-15 (NLT):
But when the people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, they resorted to deception to save themselves. They sent ambassadors to Joshua, loading their donkeys with weathered saddlebags and old, patched wineskins. They put on worn-out, patched sandals and ragged clothes. And the bread they took with them was dry and moldy. When they arrived at the camp of Israel at Gilgal, they told Joshua and the men of Israel, “We have come from a distant land to ask you to make a peace treaty with us.”
The Israelites replied to these Hivites, “How do we know you don’t live nearby? For if you do, we cannot make a treaty with you.” They replied, “We are your servants.” “But who are you?” Joshua demanded. “Where do you come from?”
The Gibeonites’ Deception
They answered, “Your servants have come from a very distant country. We have heard of the might of the Lord your God and of all that he did in Egypt. We have also heard what he did to the two Amorite kings east of the Jordan River – King Sihon of Heshbon and King Og of Bashan (who lived in Ashtaroth). So our elders and all our people instructed us, ‘Take supplies for a long journey. Go meet with the people of Israel and tell them, “We are your servants; please make a treaty with us.”’
This bread was hot from the ovens when we left our homes. But now, as you can see, it is dry and moldy. These wineskins were new when we filled them, but now they are old and split open. And our clothing and sandals are worn out from our very long journey.”
“They did not consult the Lord”
So the Israelites examined their food, but they did not consult the Lord. Then Joshua made a peace treaty with them and guaranteed their safety, and the leaders of the community ratified their agreement with a binding oath.
All of the people of the land of Canaan prepared to fight against Israel. They came together and massed their armies, hoping to defend their homes and cities. All except Gibeon. When the people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, they resorted to deception to save themselves. Desperate times call for desperate measures. To be honest, no one should blame the Gibeonites for what they did. They recognized God’s power, and they understood that God would defeat all of the kings of Canaan and give the land to Israel. No one could stand against God’s power, so they decided to try to trick Israel into making a treaty with them.
The problem is found in verse 14: So the Israelites examined their food, but they did not consult the Lord. Fresh off their victories over Jericho and Ai, they were confident in God’s presence and protection in battle. But when they weren’t fighting, they became careless. They asked all the right questions:
- “How do we know you don’t live nearby?”
- “Who are you?”
- “Where do you come from?”
But they did not consult the Lord. And as a result of that failure, they made a treaty with Gibeon.
Notice that nowhere in this passage does God condemn the people of Gibeon for what they did. God had commanded the Israelites not to make a treaty with the people of the land, because He wanted them to take the whole land and remove any source of temptation to idolatry. But the Gibeonites are not only not condemned; they are portrayed in a very positive light. The way they describe God accurately portrays the power of God and his faithfulness to Israel. They willingly accept their fate – to become servants for Israel. The sense of this passage is that the Gibeonites believed in God and his power, and because of that, they were willing to submit themselves to Israel.
Notice also that God does not “blast” the Israelites for making the covenant. He had commanded them not to, but they hadn’t willfully disobeyed. They were negligent – they weren’t as diligent as they needed to be. In fact, God ends up using the treaty as a way to draw the southern kings into battle (chapter 10) so Israel could destroy them. But that doesn’t mean that God wanted Israel to make that treaty. The fact that God works things out does not mean that God approves of “how we got there.”
They did not consult the Lord
That brings us back to the key to the passage: They did not consult the Lord. They trusted in their own wisdom and understanding, examined the bread and wineskins of the Gibeonites, considered the evidence that supported the Gibeonites’ story, and accepted it at face value. But they did not consult the Lord.
Why are we so hesitant to consult with God? Are we afraid that God won’t say “yes?” Are we afraid that He will take us in a different direction? That’s the whole point! If we’re about to make a bad decision, we should want God to say no! And just as with Israel, God has proven his faithfulness and his trustworthiness. God makes better decisions for us than we make for ourselves!
Father, we confess that there are times when we just don’t think to consult you. We rationalize this as not wanting to “bother” you, or as “using the intelligence God gave us.” But there is no reason why we should ever be reluctant to consult you!
Help us today, and every day, to make it our practice to consult you about every decision and situation we face. If there are times when our judgment is correct, you can tell us that! But we should never trust in our judgment – only in You. You are the all-knowing, all-powerful God. We should always seek your direction. Help us to build our lives on the habit of consulting you. Amen.