There is a verse in the book of Joshua that gives us an apt, though sad summary of much trouble that we bring into our own lives. In Joshua 9, we read about what has been called the “Gibeonite deception.” The Gibeonites knew that the Israelites would not make a peace treaty with nations that were geographically nearby. So the Gibeonites pretended to be from a far off land by wearing worn out clothes and carrying spoiled bread and wine and under that ruse offered to make a treaty of peace with the Israelites. The Israelites accepted their offer, and here we read the sad verse that explains the blunder: “The men of Israel sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the LORD.”
Before we dismiss that Israelite oversight as just another instance of poor human judgment recorded in scripture, let’s take a moment to consider this verse more carefully. First, the men of Israel were not hasty. They heard the Gibeonites’ description of how their bread had spoiled and their wineskins had cracked; they listened to the necessary testimony. Second, the men of Israel were not gullible. They sampled their provisions. Note the plural! They sampled both the bread and the wine. Yes, it is easily seen that the wineskins were cracked – the men of Gibeon had been quick to point out the state of their wineskins. But was the wine sour as well? Third, the men of Israel did not simply trust one man’s judgment; a number of the “men of Israel sampled” these provisions.
Given the possible means for verifying the account the Gibeonites gave them, the Israelites really did everything correctly! They were cautious, evaluated the evidence, and took counsel with each other in assessing that evidence. “But,” the scripture goes on to tell us, they “did not inquire of the LORD.” In short, they believed that the evidence was so clear that they didn’t need God’s help in this decision. And this failure, we go on to read in Joshua 9, proved disastrous.
Today we are often no different. The Israelites made the best decision they could be expected to make if their own wisdom and their own resources were all they had to go on. But, like many of us, they thought their own experience, opinions, and judgments were sufficient to resolve their own dilemmas without seeking the word of God on the matter. You and I are often confronted with opportunities and dilemmas and, all too often, we take our counsel from the people around us, from our own experiences, and from the evidence as we interpret it… but we also do not inquire of the LORD.
The Israelites under Joshua made a terrible mistake that day – one that exposed their descendants to an increased temptation to idolatry. How often do you and I make decisions that are both understandable and even respectable in the eyes of men, but fail to reflect an absolute dependence on God by seeking his word on the matters before us? For us this is not simply a matter of praying about our problems or big decisions and seeing how we feel in the morning. For us it is a matter of “hiding God’s word in our heart that we might not sin against Him” (Psalm 119:11). For us it must be a matter of searching the scriptures to see how God addresses our lives and special situations and then “letting God be true and all men liars” (Romans 3:4). When you have your big decisions, be sure to ask God about your circumstances and options. Be sure that you don’t “lean on your own understanding,” but rather “acknowledge him in all your ways.” (Proverbs 3:5-6). And he will make your paths straight!