Years ago, a family member of mine had a friend who was selling gold coins as investments. Being a only a casual collector, he negotiated what he thought to be a fair price and exchanged money for a single coin. Wanting to be sure that he’d gotten what he paid for, he took his new purchase to a coin expert who, after a thorough inspection under magnification, determined that the coin had been “sliced.” That is, it had been cut in half, hollowed out, and the gold replaced with worthless metal of equal weight. Only a shell of gold remained.
You know, sometimes, you just can’t get an accurate appraisal of things by looking at the surface.
By the time we get to chapter nine of the book that bears his name, he and the Israelites had seen their God deliver mighty Jericho into their hands. Then after an initial setback, the smaller city of Ai was reduced to smoldering ruins. As God’s army pushed forward in conquest, the news of these victories spread quickly. So it was with good reason that many of the kings of other nearby cities decided to form an alliance and go on the offensive. (Joshua 9:1-2) However, the people of Gibeon opted for another, more cunning tactic. They dressed a group of their men in shabby clothing and patched sandals, then loaded donkeys with worn-out sacks, old wineskins and dry and moldy bread, and sent them off to meet the Israelites. (vs 3-6)
In these disguises, the Gibeonites approached the Hebrew camp with the intent to deceive Joshua into believing that they had traveled a long distance. Appearing to be from a remote location, they hoped to coax Joshua into signing a peace treaty, assuring that their lives and city would be spared. (vs 8-13)
With the omniscient God on their side, you’d have thought this ruse would have been discovered quickly, but verse 14 reveals Joshua’s critical mistake. He and the Israelites “sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord.” In short, they trusted what they could see and feel rather than trusting God to guide them.
Sadly, most of us can relate all too easily. How many times have we assessed a critical situation based solely on the word of someone else or our own limited perspective only to find ourselves hurt and disappointed? How much of that pain could we have avoided by simply reading the clear instructions written in God’s Word, and then asking for guidance before we choose to act? Unfortunately that often means unlearning one of the world’s most insidious and spiritually crippling lies… that we can trust ourselves and our feelings to know what’s best.
So what happened with the Gibeonites when their deception was discovered? We might expect that Joshua ignored the treaty and slaughtered the deceivers, but not so! Joshua and the Israelites had sworn an oath by the name of the Lord and entered into a covenant with these people (vs 15). In a time when honor mattered, and peace treaties were not entered into lightly, this was a serious and binding contract in the eyes of God and men! In fact, it was so serious that 400 years later when Israel tried to destroy the Gibeonites, God judged and punished His people for breaking the covenant that Joshua established. (2 Sam 21:1-6)
We’re human and thus not always going to make the best decisions, so when we do mess up…
LET YOUR FAILURE REMIND YOU TO PRAY – In Psalm 32:8 God promises His guidance and constant involvement in our lives. He says “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” But that doesn’t mean that He will force His opinion on us. As in Joshua’s case, He often allows us to trust ourselves and make predictably bad decisions. We have to learn to honestly ask ourselves if we truly want to know God’s mind… and then the hard part… we have to commit to do what He says even when it conflicts with our own desires.
BE A PERSON OF INTEGRITY – If you can undo a bad decision, by all means, undo it! Correct the wrong! Go the other way! Walk in godliness from the start. Give a gentle answer. Be a peacemaker. (Rom. 12:18) However, if you make a binding agreement or have given your word on something, honor your commitments. Remember that unbelieving people judge God by the way they see those who claim to follow him live their lives. And it’s always better to suffer a wrong than to bring dishonor to our God.
TRUST GOD WITH THE OUTCOME – “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” That verse from Romans 8:28 is a powerful promise that our mistakes and failures are not beyond the ability of God to redeem and make a part of the tapestry of our lives. So when you do make a blunder or deliberately ungodly choice, remember that God is still with you and at work in you and through you. Sometimes He gives you the opportunity and the power to change your decision; other times He gives you the strength to live with the consequences of your actions and watch Him make out of it something far more valuable than gold.