So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the Lord. ~ Joshua 9:14
Decision making can be tough. Each day we’re faced with a multitude of decisions, some big and some small. Then there are different moments in life where we face a decision that can alter the course of our lives.
In Joshua 9, the people of Israel were well into the conquest of the Promised Land. The leaders of Gibeon developed a plan to trick the Israelites into making a treaty with them. You do have to give the Gibeonites credit for creativity. Their costumes and props accomplished the job. You could also argue about whether or not the Gibeonites had a sincere belief in God or if it was more along the lines of James 2 and just a general dread like the demons who shudder; but they had heard about Moses and the Lord, and their fear inspired action.
The Israelites, however, fell for the Gibeonites’ deception. And it was all because they “did not ask counsel from the Lord.” How often is this true in our day to day lives?
In Matthew 18:3, Jesus said that we need to have faith like a child. This isn’t an immature faith that never seeks to grow, but it is a trusting faith. A child learns to walk, run, ride a bike, play ball, swim, and climb a tree because he trusts his parents to guide him. Yes, often, a child’s selfishness will result in saying no to parental direction, but the trust a child has for her loving father or mother is great.
In our culture, the more we mature the more independent we seek to become. In the Bible, spiritual maturity isn’t becoming an independent, self-made person. Rather, it is learning to trust and depend on the Father more and more. We are to seek counsel from the Lord all throughout our day.
The Father speaks to us most clearly through the Bible. God’s word is to be upon our hearts and minds day and night (Joshua 1:8, Psalm 1:1-3, and 119:11). We speak to the Father though our prayers. Paul commanded us to pray without ceasing (Ephesians 6:18 and 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18). This, of course, doesn’t mean that we live every moment of every day locked away in a room on our knees with an open Bible; but it does mean we are seeking constant communion with God and a constant seeking of his counsel.
I like the way Kevin DeYoung speaks of decision making centered on God in his little book Just Do Something. He wrote that we should seek wisdom in three places: the Bible and prayer, as mentioned above, and also the wise counsel of other men and women who love and follow Jesus (he points to Proverbs 1:5, 12:15, 15:22, and 19:20). After all, God puts them into our lives to mentor and guide us (Titus 2:1-8).
This was where the people of Israel failed in Joshua 9. They knew God’s promises and his command about the Promised Land. They even had some initial suspicion about the Gibeonites’ story (9:7). Yet they trusted their own wisdom and conclusions about the situation instead of asking God.
Now, it is also never good for us to agonize ourselves into inaction over a situation, but if we keep God out of sight and out of mind except for those moments that we really feel like we need him, then we are not living in trust and we are not seeking his will. We need to learn to trust, follow, and obey him completely; seeking him at all times in his word, prayer, and wise counsel from other faithful men and women. In this way may we avoid the error of the Israelites in Joshua 9:14.