Can We Ever Have Enough of God’s Counsel?
In doing my daily Bible readings, I recently read chapters six through fourteen of Joshua. It’s a fascinating read in many ways. As you undoubtedly recall, Moses was told that his death was drawing near and because of his sin at the rock that produced water (he struck the rock when he should have simply spoken to it). God had determined that He would then work through Joshua, son of Nun.
God raised up Joshua to be His servant and commander-in-chief of Israel. God used Joshua to conquer Jericho (Joshua 6). Shortly thereafter, Israel is routed by another enemy due to what turns out to be the sin of Achan (Joshua 7). Because Achan literally disobeyed and turned his back on God’s commands, God turned His back on the armies of Israel allowing Israel to be defeated by the men of Ai. This resulted in roughly 36 men of Israel (Joshua 7:5) because of this. Ultimately, Achan was stoned to death for his sin. That may seem harsh to us but consider that Achan’s actions caused the deaths of at least 36 Israelites and the phrase “eye for an eye” comes clearly into focus. It could have all been avoided had Achan taken God’s counsel through Joshua seriously. He chose not to do so with terrible results. As James says, when lust “conceives,” it literally conceives death (James 1:15). God’s counsel was arrogantly ignored with terrible results.
It is important for Christians to understand that God’s counsel should always be used liberally over all situations that we face in this life. Because there appears to be so much more grace extended by God to the world today, it is sometimes easy to fall into the trap of believing that God doesn’t keep track of things or that He simply allows things to slide. This really is not the case, though He doesn’t seem to deal with our wrongs as quickly and forcefully as He did during the times of the Old Testament. However, even there, we see great amounts of grace extended to humanity from God. During Noah’s time, though He did not need to wait 120 years to bring about judgment, that is what He chose to do. It gave time for people to come to terms with the evil that was so deeply ensconced in their lives. Of course, it also allowed people to become that much more evil. But wherever grace is extended, evil also always has a chance of growing exponentially as well.
Once Achan’s sin was dealt with and things were once again set right within Israel, God turned toward them and smiled upon them. Because of this, Joshua 8 tells us that this same group of warriors from Ai, who had previously routed the Israelites and killed some of them, were now on the receiving end of God’s anger. Under Joshua, the Israelites fully defeated Ai. After that victory, Joshua builds an altar to God and renews Israel’s covenant with Him (Joshua 8:30-35).
In Joshua 9, we see a new tactic by Israel’s enemies. Israel was under strict orders to destroy (literally, cleanse from the Land), all who currently possessed it. We might wonder why God was so seemingly hateful toward those people, but it is very clear that all those people were supreme idolaters in the land. They worshiped foreign gods and did evil in the sight of the Lord. Does not God – as Creator of all people and things – have the right to rid this world and universe of those individuals who continue to rebel against Him? Of course He does and it’s not as if they had only been warned once. God had allowed their evil, their idolatry, their corruption to exist for hundreds and hundreds of years. It had come to a point where God decided the time was right to eradicate these people from the Land that He had created and given to Israel as a possession forever. God had waited and He had waited a long time for anyone to turn to Him in repentance, but that repentance was not forthcoming. God also knew it would never be forthcoming and their time had run out. God was using Israel as His arm of judgment against evil people. But the record is filled with the many times Israel also neglected God’s counsel and the two went their separate ways for a time though God never allowed it to last forever. At some point, a generation of Israelites always began to cry out to God, to seek His face, and to look for a way back to God. God always acquiesced and He will also acquiesce one last time during the coming Tribulation when He will call His final remnant from among the Jews in Israel.
But here in Joshua 9 we see the ever-present danger of not seeking God’s will or counsel. The Gibeonites came to Israel’s leaders with the express purpose of deceiving them so that they (Gibeonites) would not be destroyed by Israel. Men of Gibeon pretended to have traveled a great distance; a distant land (v. 6b). Their sandals were worn, their wineskins were worn and patched as were their clothing and even the food they carried appeared to be very old and stale. The Gibeonites also even tried to profess that they feared Israel’s God too. It was all part of a ruse to convince Israel’s leaders that the Gibeonites were really very far away and not part of the Land that God was giving to Israel. In this way, they hoped to make the Israelites believe they were not a threat to them. But in verses 14 and 15 of Joshua 9, we read something very important.
The men examined some of their provisions, but they failed to ask the Lord’s advice. 15 Joshua made a peace treaty with them and agreed to let them live. The leaders of the community sealed it with an oath. (NET; emphasis added)
Notice the leaders of Israel “…failed to ask the Lord’s advice.” Had they done so, the Lord certainly would have revealed to them the true nature of the Gibeonites’ visit and that, far from being from a distant land, they were actually neighbors of the Israelites and part of the Land that God was giving to Israel.
Notice God did not interfere. He allowed Joshua and the other leaders to use their own free will to determine their path. It was a fateful decision as they wound up entering into a covenant not to destroy the Gibeonites. Once the charade was unmasked, the only thing the Israelites could do was be angry but honor the covenant. They did end up enslaving the Gibeonites as people who cut wood and drew water for the Israelites. It was almost as good as ridding the Land of them, but not quite. On the other hand, entering into this covenant or oath with the Gibeonites meant that Israel took control of four towns immediately: Gibeon, Chephirah, Beeroth, and Kiriath-jearim; v. 17. This gave Israel a secure footing in the Land. However, had they destroyed these people they would have also had a far more secure footing in the Land.
As Christians, we are faced daily with issues and decisions. Whether we are wondering who to marry, which job to take, or something else that might not seem as important, we must avail ourselves of God’s Counsel. How is this accomplished? Ultimately, through the study of His Word and prayer. The two go hand-in-hand today.
I do not believe God has given His Church true profits or apostles for today. It is not conceivable to me since the Canon of Scripture has long been closed. The original prophets were used by God to provide messages to His people of Israel and spoke as they were moved along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). Peter is quick in the first verse of the very next chapter to point out that there were plenty of false prophets as well who tried desperately to gain the people’s favor and often did. Prophets, as well as authentic apostles certainly had their place in God’s plan but it is also very clear from Scripture that Jesus was/is the final Word.
Everything we need to know about living the Christian life we can learn from His written Word, which details for us the consecrated life of God the Son in human form; Jesus.
We must avail ourselves of His Word. We must pray in all things that God would provide insight and wisdom for whatever situation we face. We can also go to other confirmed Christians to ask for their counsel. Of course, we must remember that any counsel received must be in line with His Word. If it is not, it must be rejected.
God wants us to succeed in living the consecrated life of a Christian. He wants us to know His will for us. He wants us to bring Him glory. There is nothing in your life that is too small or too large that we cannot take to Him. We must avoid ignorance by thinking we know what God would have us to without ever seeking His face. Mistakes can be too easily made and must be avoided.
The history of Israel is replete with failure after failure. At times, it seems that their failure is more often highlighted than any successes they may have experienced when they chose to follow God’s directives. The same holds true for us. We can either follow God at every turn or make the mistake of thinking we know best only to learn that we know very little.
Seek God. Seek His counsel. Read His Word. Pray to Him daily that His and only His will be done in and through us. How do we do this? By remembering the words of Peter.
Be sober and alert. Your enemy the devil, like a roaring lion, is on the prowl looking for someone to devour – 1 Peter 5:8 NET
The devil never takes a breather or holiday. He plays for keeps. Keep him at bay by bathing in God’s Word and prayer. It’s the only way to be victorious over our enemy who constantly works to push us off the path that God wants us on.
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