It is so very important to seek the Lord before any major situation in our lives and more so in this age we are living. The main point and Scripture I want you to see in this study is: “Then the men of Israel . . . did not ask counsel of the LORD.” – Joshua 9:14 (emphasis mine).
Scripture Text – Joshua 9:1-15
While Israel was reaffirming their commitment to the Lord, the kings in Canaan were getting ready to attack. They had heard about the defeat of Jericho and Ai and were not about to give up without a fight. It was time for them to go on the offensive and attack these Jewish invaders. The city-states in Canaan were not always friendly with one another, but local rivals can often come together when they have a common enemy (Psalm 2:1–2; Luke 23:12).
After an experience of great blessing and victory, God’s people must be especially prepared to confront the enemy because that is when he loves to attack most often. However, Israel’s greatest danger wasn’t the confederation of the armies of Canaan. It was a group of men from Gibeon who were about to enter the camp and deceive Joshua and the princes of Israel. Satan sometimes comes as a devouring lion (1 Peter 5:8) and sometimes as a deceiving serpent (2 Corinthians 11:3), and we must be alert and protected by the spiritual armor God has provided for us (Ephesians 6:10–18).
What the Gibeonites did (Joshua 9:3–5). Gibeon was located only twenty-five miles from the camp of Israel at Gilgal and was on Joshua’s list to be destroyed due to the Lord’s command to destroy all of the Canaanites (Deuteronomy 20:10-20). If after the overall conquest Israel was involved in other wars, they could offer peace to cities that were outside the land. (See Deuteronomy 7:1–11.) Somehow the Gibeonites knew about this law and decided to use it for their own protection. Since the enemy knows how to use the Word of God for their own purposes, God’s people must keep alert (Matthew 4:5–7).
The Gibeonites assembled a group of men and equipped them to look like an official delegation from a foreign city. Their clothing, food, and equipment were all designed to give the impression that they had been on a long and difficult journey from a distant city. Satan is a counterfeiter and “masquerades as an angel of light.” – 2 Corinthians 11:14 (NIV). He has his “false apostles” and “deceitful workers” (verse 13, NIV) at work in this world, blinding the lost and seeking to lead believers astray. It’s much easier for us to identify the lion when he’s roaring than to detect the serpent when he’s slithering into our lives.
What the Gibeonites said (Joshua 9:6–13). Satan is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44), and human nature is such that many people find it easier to tell lies than the truth. The Gibeonites told several lies in their attempt to get out of trouble.
First, they said they were “from a very far country” when they actually lived twenty-five miles away. Then they lied about their clothing and food. “This bread of ours was warm when we packed it at home on the day we left to come to you. But now see how dry and moldy it is.” – Joshua 9:12 (NIV). They also lied about themselves and gave the impression that they were important envoys on an official peace mission from the elders of their city. They also called themselves “your servants,” when in reality they were the enemies of Israel.
These four lies were bad enough; but when the visitors said they had come “because of the name of the Lord,” it was blasphemous. Like the citizens of Jericho (see Joshua 2:10), the people in Gibeon had heard about Israel’s march of conquest; but unlike Rahab and her family, they didn’t put their faith in the Lord. These men were wise enough not to mention Israel’s victories at Jericho and Ai; for that news couldn’t have reached their “far country” that quickly. Satan’s ambassadors can lie more convincingly than some Christians can tell the truth!
Satan knows how to use “religious lies” to give the impression that people are seeking to know the Lord. In my ministry I’ve met people who have introduced themselves as seekers; but the longer they talked, the more you would see that they were sneakers, trying to get something out of the church and its people. They would make their “profession of faith” and then start telling whoever would listen their sad tale of woe, hoping to break the hearts of the people and then pick their pockets. I’ve witnessed it more than once. Of all liars, “religious liars” are the worst. If you need to be convinced of this, read 2 Peter 2 and the Epistle of Jude.
Why they succeeded (Joshua 9:14–15). The reason is simple: Joshua and the princes of Israel were impetuous and didn’t take time to consult the Lord. They walked by sight and not by faith. After listening to the strangers’ speech and examining the evidence, Joshua and his leaders concluded that the men were telling the truth. The leaders of Israel took the “scientific approach” instead of the “spiritual approach.” They depended on their own senses, examined the “facts,” discussed the matter, and agreed in their conclusion. It was all very logical and convincing, but it was all wrong. They had made the same mistake at Ai and hadn’t yet learned to wait on the Lord and seek His direction.
The will of God comes from the heart of God (Psalm 33:11), and He delights to make it known to His children when He knows they are humble and willing to obey. We don’t seek God’s will like customers who look at options but rather, like servants who listen for orders. “Anyone who wants to do the will of God will know.” – John 7:17 (NLT). It’s a basic principle for victorious Christian living. God sees our hearts and knows whether we are really serious about obeying Him. Certainly we ought to use the mind God has given us, but we must heed the warning of Proverbs 3:5–6, “And lean not on your own understanding. . .”
True faith involves exercising patience (Hebrews 6:12). “Whoever believes will not act hastily.” – Isaiah 28:16. Moses had told the Jews, “Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land where you are going, or they will be a snare among you.” – Exodus 34:12 (NIV). But in their haste Joshua and the Jewish leaders broke God’s Law and made a covenant with the enemy. Since their oath was sworn in the name of the Lord (Joshua 9:18), it could not be broken. Joshua and the princes of Israel had sworn to their own hurt (Psalm 15:4; Ecclesiastes 5:1–7), and there was no way to revoke their oath or be released from their promise.
Like Joshua and the nation of Israel, God’s people today are living in enemy territory and must constantly exercise caution and be extremely vigilant. When you believe the enemy instead of seeking the mind of the Lord, you can expect to get into trouble.