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  • Writer's pictureAdelee Russell


Joshua 9:14-16 “So the Israelites examined their food, but they did not consult the LORD. Then Joshua made a peace treaty with them and guaranteed their safety, and the leaders of the community ratified their agreement with a binding oath. Three days after making the treaty, they learned that these people actually lived nearby!” (NLT).

God was giving the Israelites the Promised Land. He was helping them conquer their enemies and take possession of what was rightfully theirs. He told them to wipe out all the surrounding towns. But the Gibeonites (a neighboring people) were terrified of the Israelites. They knew God had given them the land. So they came up with a plan. A group of them got in costume with old clothes, worn wine skins, and moldy bread, and claimed they were a traveling group from a nation far away. And they tricked the Israelites into signing a treaty with them, promising not to hurt them or drive them out.

Now before we talk about the Israelites and discernment, let’s clear the air a little: It can be difficult to read the Old Testament stories about the Israelites killing and / or driving out other nations, but let’s look at some of the things we can know for sure:

1). We know the Israelites were instructed to welcome foreigners into their fold if they chose to follow the one true God, and the Israelites were to love them as their own people (Leviticus 19:34).

2). We know foreigners lived and traveled with the Israelites (Joshua 8:33) Rahab the prostitute is perhaps the most famous foreigner who chose to follow the Israelites’ God, and was in turn, saved from destruction along with all of her family (Joshua chapters 4 and 6).

3). We know that God did NOT punish other nations because the Israelites were so special and favored, but because of the horrific wickedness of the other nations themselves (Deuteronomy 9:4 “’After the LORD your God has done this for you, don’t say in your hearts, ‘The LORD has given us this land because we are such good people!’ No, it is because of the wickedness of the other nations that he is pushing them out of your way” (NLT)). And He ONLY punished them when their sins reached such a catastrophic degree that He could no longer stand idly by (Genesis 15:16, “After four generations your descendants will return here to this land, for the sins of the Amorites do not yet warrant their destruction” NLT).

4). We know that God even sent prophets to wicked nations in hopes of leading them to repentance and restoration (see the book of Jonah).

5). We know that God, in His compassion, also rescued other nations besides the Israelites from their enemies depending on the situation (Amos 9:7, “ ‘Are you Israelites more important to me than the Ethiopians?’ asks the LORD. ‘I brought Israel out of Egypt, but I also brought the Philistines from Crete and led the Arameans out of Kir’” (NLT)).

The Gibeonites could have turned to God, repented, and been welcomed into the family of the Israelites. But they didn’t. They acknowledged the Israelites’ God but they did not choose to follow Him as Rahab did. Instead they chose to deceive the Israelites into signing a treaty. And they succeeded. So instead of carrying out justice against a wicked nation as they were instructed, and instead of receiving full possession of the Promised Land, the Israelites got themselves stuck in a treaty with a wicked nation through deception and manipulation.

Why? They examined the evidence. They took stock of the situation and did what they thought was a thorough investigation of the facts. What was missing? “...They did not consult the Lord...”

We can investigate a situation with our own understanding. We can do “the responsible thing” and take stock of the circumstances. We can examine and assess. But unless we go directly to God through personal prayer, asking Him for discernment, we can never know for sure we’re making the right decision. Because God knows everything. And we don't. The Israelites inspected the Gibeonites’ supplies to see if their story was true, but God saw the Gibeonites plot against them and create their fake costumes and props. If the Israelites had consulted God, He would have told them what He knew, and given them HIS divine discernment.

It's easy to wonder "Why didn't God just alert them anyway?" Two reasons come to mind: One, God is all about relationship. He's not a magical genie in a bottle. Nor is He a cold stoic being in the sky. He's a Heavenly Father. He wants a real relationship with each and every one of us. And that relationship cannot develop if we do not learn how to draw near to Him.

The second reason that comes to mind, is that God is passionate about our growth. He is jealous for our good. He wants us to experience the abundant life Jesus promised us in John 10:10. And that requires growth. He loves us exactly how we are, but He loves us too much to let us stay that way.

Assessing a situation myself and asking God for discernment are two completely different things. That’s kind of eye-opening for me to think about. How many times do I think I’m doing the responsible thing by assessing a situation, but I don’t actually consult God about it? How many times do I lean on my own understanding of a situation but I don’t actually go to God personally in prayer, ask Him for discernment, and then wait for His answer?

God is our Heavenly Father, and He loves us more than we can comprehend. And He is always eager and willing to help if we go to Him and ask Him for wisdom and discernment.

James 1:5, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking” (NLT).

Proverbs 3:5-8, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the LORD and turn away from evil. Then you will have healing for your body and strength for your bones" (NLT).

Jeremiah 29:13, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart" (NIV).

James 4:8, "Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world" (NLT).

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