Deception and Discernment

"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." Joshua 9:3-6

Have you ever been deceived or misled by someone who wasn't who they claimed to be? Or by circumstances that were misrepresented? One day, not long after the decisive victory at Ai, a group of men showed up at Joshua's tent asking for an audience. They looked weather-worn and near to starving. In their exhausted state they lay their case before Joshua and the elders.

"We've come from a long way..." It certainly looked like they had been traveling a long time. Their clothes were frayed, shoes patched, wineskins cracked and about to burst, their food moldy, stale, and dry. 

Are you screaming along with me, "Don't listen, Joshua. It's a lie. Didn't you learn anything from the first battle of Ai? Ask the LORD..."

As with the situation at Ai, a crucial piece of information was missing. With Ai, they presumed God would give them an easy victory, but there was sin in the camp. This time, sin came to the camp and they didn't recognize it. They assumed their visitors were telling the truth because of how they looked. 

"So the Israelites examined their food, but they did not consult the LORD." Joshua 9:14

Have you ever presumed you knew the LORD so well that you assumed what His direction would be...without praying about it? I've had two recent occasions where someone approached me with what seemed to be a godly request. The first one definitely had a biblical precedent. I knew the scripture that supported the action the person was asking me to take. No sooner had I made the commitment than the trap slammed shut. Like Joshua, I was obligated to an action I now knew wasn't of the LORD. My error? I thought it was a godly thing to do so I didn't pray about it and then I had consequences to face.

The second person sounded like a very concerned fellow believer. The first contact was very supportive. However, a subsequent conversation triggered "red flags' in my mind. It didn't match with God's revealed character and my spirit became unsettled. I prayed about it and the LORD gave me discernment to see a deceitful motive. He gave me great peace in walking away.

In Joshua's case, he failed to seek the counsel of God and was tricked into making a treaty with people who lived a night's fast march from Gilgal--the very people God had commanded the Israelites to destroy. God doesn't contradict Himself. He had given Moses the directions for dealing with those in the land...

"When the LORD your God hands these nations (Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzite4s, Hivites, and Jebusites) over to you and you conquer them, you must completely destroy them. Make no treaties with them and show them no mercy." Deuteronomy 7:2

...and with those who lived far away.

"As you approach a town to attack it, you must first offer its people terms for peace. If they accept your terms and open the gates to you, then all the people inside will serve you in forced labor...But these instructions apply only to distant towns, not to the towns of the nations in the land you will enter. In those towns that the LORD your God is giving you as a special possession, destroy every living thing." Deuteronomy 20:10-11, 15-16

The people of Gibeon were Hivites. They duped Joshua into making a treaty with them and he was then obligated to keep the terms of the agreement. He was honor bound, as God's representative, to keep his promise even if it hurt.

The enemy of our souls is a master deceiver. Peter says the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking to devour prey (! Peter 5:8). He disguises himself as an angel of light, and the temptation he presents looks righteous. Paul exhorts us to never stop praying (aka consult God) and test everything that is said (1 Thess 5:17, 21).

May we heed these two lessons from Joshua to seek God for wisdom and guidance before we act. He is ever ready to give us the ability to discern what is right in His eyes.

by Marilyn Allison