Have you ever been deceived? I have, a couple of times.
We have people walking into the church and asking for help. They tell you their sad stories, the great need they are in, and ask for money. It’s really difficult to tell, most of the time, if they are saying the truth.
I remembered this one young man who came into my office with a sad story. As he was telling it he was choking with emotions and started to cry. It was so real. Mucus was flowing and I have to give him tissues to clean up. I finally gave him some cash, my can of digestive biscuits and a new towel.
About two weeks later, I just happened to be chatting with my friend, a fellow pastor from another church and he mentioned this young man. We shared information and concluded that it was the same man – the same look and the same story. We had the same visitor, and we were conned.
The Gibeonites lived nearby, in the territory of Canaan, designated for destruction according to the Word of God, because of their wickedness.
• They are enemies of Israel, not to be friends of Israel. But they came disguising themselves and seeking to make peace.
• This is not the plan of God but Israel fell for it. They are deceived into thinking these people come from a far country.
It wasn’t just Joshua being fooled. The Bible says the men of Israel were there.
• They are likely the leaders of Israel, which includes the leaders of the tribes, plus the priests and elders. Joshua AND his leaders were cheated.
• Having more people does not necessarily ensure a right decision. Being leaders (knowledgeable and likely with certain experience) do not necessarily mean you will make good decisions.
Why were they gullible? What caused them to fall into this trap? We don’t have to guess. The Bible tells us plainly and a matter-of-factly.
• 9:14 "The men of Israel sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord."
• They interrogated the people, they listened to their fabricated story, they looked at their worn-out clothes and sandals, and examined their bread, BUT.
• They did all these things, but NOT the ONE THING they should have done: Seek God for His take on this. “They did not inquire of the Lord.” They did not seek counsel from God.
This is so true for many of us, including myself. When we are faced with an issue, we look at all the angles, evaluate the evidences, and do everything else BUT speak to the One who knows everything.
• Only when something bad happened, because of our wrong judgement, then we come to the Lord and seek Him for help.
• At that time, it is not to seek Him for direction; we seek Him to ratify the faults.
We behave just like these leaders – we judge by sight and not live by faith in the Word of God. We listen to what men have to say, but not what God has to said.
For our applications today, I will use the memory verse from last Sun DG time - Proverbs 3:5-6.
1. DON’T LEAN ON YOUR OWN UNDERSTANDING
The Lord is not saying DON’T USE our understanding or intellect. God has given us a good mind and we are to use it.
• But don’t LEAN on your own understanding. Don’t depend only upon your own judgement. Our understanding is limited and imperfect.
• Even prophets can make mistakes if they depend only on their own reasoning.
I give you 2 examples from Scriptures.
1. Prophet Samuel was asked to anoint a son of Jesse as the future King of Israel.
• 1 Sam 16:6 “When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, "Surely the Lord's anointed stands here before the Lord.”
• But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him'" (16:7).
• God said it. He must have looked good, a stature fit to be a King. Samuel says, “Here is the man!" and God says, “This is not the man!”
Then God reveals the truth – “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
• This is what the Lord says of you and me. It cannot be wrong. We know it is true because we do that all the time. We base our judgement on what we can see.
• We can only look at the outward and judge from its appearance. Obviously there is a danger here. It is wise for us to recognise it.
2. Prophet Nathan when King David told him he wanted to build a temple for God.
2 Sam 7:1-3 “After the king was settled in his palace and the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies around him, 2 he said to Nathan the prophet, "Here I am, living in a palace of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.”
3 Nathan replied to the king, "Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the LORD is with you."
• Based on his own judgement, everything looks right for the King to do it.
• 7:4 tells us THAT VERY NIGHT the Word of the Lord came to Nathan… God corrected him. David’s son will be the one to build the temple for Him.
Both prophets made initial judgements based upon their own understanding, until the Lord reveals to them His will and re-directed them.
• What does that tell us?
2. IN ALL YOUR WAYS, ACKNOWLEDGE GOD
James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”
• Sense the tone here, God loves to guide us. He wants to but we must be willing to seek Him.
Israel finally made a decision without the counsel of God.
• They failed NOT because the deception was fool-proof (although it was very well executed). They failed not because the lies were realistic (although they were very convincing).
• They failed because they did not consult God. The author states it very clearly. The unspoken line is, the outcome would have been different if they had consulted God.
It is interesting to note that Joshua made a similar mistake earlier on in his campaign against Ai.
• He listened to the spies' report and apparently made his decision based solely upon it. “Send two or three thousand men will do.” (7:3)
• It is sometimes easier to listen to the words of men (and do what they say), than to listen to God and do what He says.
The truth is, they needed the strength of the entire army to do this right.
• God said eventually: “Take the whole army with you…” (8:1) and Joshua took 30,000 of his best fighting men! (8:3)
• That’s 10 times more than what the spies said. God’s way is not always the easiest way but it is the right way, the correct way, the successful way.
We seek God because our judgement is inaccurate and our reasoning can be flawed.
• Seek the face of God and listen to what He has to say. Study the Scriptures and know the truth.
Prov 3:5-6 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
3. GOD DIRECTS US TO HIS PERFECT WILL
You are assured of a response. God’s heart for us is good. It has always been and it will always be. When we seek Him, we will find Him eager to GUIDE us.
• He will speak, through His Word, our study, our prayer time, through brothers and sisters in Christ.
There will always be Gibeonites in the world.
• The Lord says in the last days, “false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect - if that were possible. 23 So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time.” (Mark 13:22-23)
• Search the Scriptures, study the Word, know the truth, and we will not be deceived. It will not be for a lack of truth that we are deceived!
• I’m glad to know that quite a number of you are attending BSF (bible study fellowship). It’s good. Many of us are now studying the Bible in the DGs. We need that. Keep it up. Know the truth of God’s Word.
The real problem will not be the deceptions per se, or the lies, or the false evidence we see. The real problem is when we fail to seek God and know His will.
• Deceptions and lies cannot fool us if we seek Him with all our heart and lean not on our own understanding.
• Ps 111:10 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding.”