A few days ago I talked about the profound mercy of God when Joshua got tricked by the Gibeonites into a false covenant. But now it’s time to look at the flipside of this egregious error. Disobeying God led to tragic consequences for the people of Israel. The very thing that could have been a gift of mercy became a thorn.
It’s easy to look at our lives at times and think about how clever we are, or how kind, or how forgiving, but at the end of the day, if we aren’t obeying God, we will find ourselves, no matter how clever we think we are, on a path of tragedy. If we truly believe that God is sovereign and omniscient, why do we rely on our own reason in any matter? Why do we presume to know what’s best, when only the Lord can know? God has given us a direct line of communication with Him through His Spirit, but we flounder in our self-sufficiency and fall short of all the good God has planned for us, as well as suffer the consequences for our poor choices.
What started out as an opportunity to show mercy with the Gibeonites became a stumbling block for all of Israel. By enslaving the Gibeonites (and others along the journey) instead of destroying them, Israel brought upon themselves the taint of false worship and the lie of doing what seemed best in their own eyes. The consequences of not asking God’s opinion brought profound suffering to the Israelites. And don’t we think the same things? How many times have I thought, “wow, God, that’s harsh” and questioned His judgement? Thoughts like that or troublesome to Believers. We want to believe God, but sometimes we don’t understand or see the big picture. Why did God let that person die? Why does God let bad things happen at all? If God is love, why doesn’t He “accept” everyone? Having faith and trusting God is hard.
And they (the Israelites) abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the Lord to anger. 13 They abandoned the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. 14 So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. 15 Whenever they marched out, the hand of the Lord was against them for harm, as the Lord had warned, and as the Lord had sworn to them. And they were in terrible distress.
Just as the Lord had warned, by allowing anyone to enter into their fellowship who was not willing to follow and obey Yahweh, the Israelites became influenced by, and began to worship, the pagan gods of their enemies. They got sucked into evil by their own compromise. They incurred the wrath of the One True God and broke the covenant Yahweh had made with their ancestor, Abraham. Fortunately, however, the covenant Yawheh made with Abraham did not rely on the obedience of Abraham’s descendants. (See Genesis 15) It was God alone who took responsibility for both sides of the covenant with Abraham. And just as God foretold would happen, the descendants of Abraham fell short of their obligation and promise to God. They didn’t trust God to provide a way for them. That’s why it’s so powerful that Abraham trusted God to provide a sacrifice when He was asked to sacrifice his own son. Abraham trusted God and it was counted to him as righteousness!
And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
God allowed the consequences of disobedience to be revealed and experienced by His people in the hope of showing them that trusting in God would bring them salvation, while trusting in false gods or themselves would bring only destruction. Time and time again, Yawheh raised up leaders for His people to guide them in His ways. And time and time again, the people would be led for awhile and then fall away when their leaders died. They failed again and again to trust the God who made them and saved them.
8 Whenever the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. For the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them. 19 But whenever the judge died, they turned back and were more corrupt than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them. They did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways. 20 So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he said, “Because this people have transgressed my covenant that I commanded their fathers and have not obeyed my voice, 21 I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations that Joshua left when he died, 22 in order to test Israel by them, whether they will take care to walk in the way of the Lord as their fathers did, or not.” 23 So the Lord left those nations, not driving them out quickly, and he did not give them into the hand of Joshua.
It seems clear to me that God’s mercy is great, so great in fact, that He is willing to see us hurt ourselves if it means we can learn that trusting in Him is better than trusting in ourselves or the things of this world. We can’t ever fall into the trap of thinking we know best, especially if we feel confident that we are walking with God and know Him well! That is when we are in even deeper danger of straying away! If we gain too much confidence in ourselves, we begin to believe we know the will of God even if we haven’t asked Him! We can trust the Spirit of God within us will guide us, but we need to take caution before making decisions. We need to stop and listen before we act rashly.
Jesus, I’m so thankful for the Holy Spirit within me that helps me and guides me. Lord, thank You that You have done everything to teach me, guide me, and fulfill Your promises for me. Thank You that You are not content to leave me where I’m at. You’re not content to see me suffer in the consequences of my past mistakes. You’re not content to see me walk in the paths of death. You want me to be free. You want me to be strong. You want me to learn and grow and thrive in life. So, Lord, I submit to Your rule in my life and in my decisions. Help me to stop and listen before I act. Help me to know Your will by communing with You regularly and keeping Your Presence near to me at all times. Protect me from foolish choices and lead me in the paths of righteousness for Your namesake. Thank You that where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom! Help me to trust You more.
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
2 Corinthians 3:17