So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the LORD. And Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them to let them live and the leaders of the congregation swore to them.
The people of Israel have reached the Promised Land. Jericho has fallen but they have been beaten back on their first attempt at capturing Ai as a result of Achan’s sin but they have subsequently conquered it and taken the spoil and livestock for themselves while destroying the inhabitants of the city at God’s direct command. (As our modern sensitivities may rebel at this we need to remember Abraham’s words as he pleaded for Sodom and Gomorrah – Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?)
These initial successes put the ‘fear of God’ literally into the hearts and minds of the inhabitants of the land and their kings and the people of Gibeon concocted an elaborate deception to save their skins. If you are unfamiliar with the account you will find it in the first part of chapter 9. The result was good for the Gibeonites but it exposed a weakness in Joshua and the people as they ‘did not ask counsel from the LORD.’
The instructions they had from the LORD for taking and subduing the land were very clear but it seems even at this very early stage in the conquest they were too ready, perhaps buoyed up by the taking of Ai, to assume that they knew what was right better than the LORD!
The result led Israel into awkward situations and in particular having to fight a battle (Chapter 10) and having members of one of the Canaanite tribes living among them albeit as servants doing the mundane tasks of cutting wood and drawing water. Space does not allow me to survey all the OT references to Gibeon of which there are 48 in the OT (Source Biblegateway.com) but I want to draw out a warning for today.
The Gibeonites made a very convincing case and the Israelites fell for it. Today there are a multitude of siren voices calling us to follow this or that path and particularly to Christians to change the commands of God and the wisdom of God on grounds of ‘the culture is different today’; ‘we have moved on from that position for we have understanding that was not available to the ancients’; ‘we cannot tell other people what is right or wrong’; ‘each must follow their own truth’ etc. and in the light of what may sound very persuasive arguments we are never far from doing or accepting what God’s word forbids.
This is particular true and relevant in the realm of sexuality and under the guise of reflection and prayer many within the church are seeking ways to endorse Same Sex Marriage and associated things that undermine God’s good and perfect plans for human flourishing. On the surface church leaders of many of the established denominations are being very ‘spiritual’ as they reflect and pray while in fact they are seeking ways to subvert God’s truth.
The onus is therefor on God’s People to constantly ‘seek counsel from the LORD’ which we do in the Word’s clear teaching on these things. We must not be seduced by the pleas of those that say it is unchristian to deny people what they want!
We are called to emulate Bunyan’s character in Pilgrims Progress – Mr Valiant for Truth. It is not an easy thing to stand against the flow but the faithful follower of the Lord Jesus has always done so and we must do the same in our generation always seeking ‘counsel from the Lord’ and then ‘having done all to stand’. Ephesians 6.13.
Lord, keep us faithful to you and your word of truth that we may stand firm and shine as lights in a dark world, unafraid to be different and go against the flow for the glory of your name.