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Most of the articles on these WebPages have been written by godly men with a central belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. However as with most of us, they may have different beliefs concerning some particular doctrines. These articles have been made available for the purpose of “gleaning the good” where good can be found. I do not necessarily endorse all that is written by others, anymore than I expect others to endorse all that I write.

   Morning Thoughts by Elder Philip Conley

Joshua 9:14, "And the men took of their victuals, and asked not counsel at the mouth of the LORD."

This morning, the world abounds in rashness and imprudence. Because patience is the antithesis of rashness, patience is becoming more and more of a lost virtue in modern times. Quite often, the old adage, "Sleep on it" brings clarity of thought when the heated emotion of the day dies down. When people make decisions based on hot emotions, impulses, or cursory glances at the evidence before them, they are doomed more often than not to make a bad decision. For the child of God seeking to walk by faith in this world, rash decisions counteract the patience that faith promotes. Therefore, our decisions in life need to be steeped in faith and the resulting patience that is built off that faith. (II Peter 1:5-8) Let us consider, for a moment, some situations that require us to be persistent and patient, while most importantly seeking the Lord's direction in our path.

In the passage from our study verse above, the children of Israel are in the midst of driving out and destroying the inhabitants of Canaan's Land. Joshua, to this point, has successfully led them across the River Jordan and in two different campaigns against Jericho and Ai. While more successful battles and campaigns will ultimately follow, we read of an interesting situation in which the Gibeonites craftily prevent their destruction at the hands of the Hebrews. These Hivites come to Joshua and all the people with the appearance of ambassadors from a far country. They intentionally dress in old clothes, have old wine bottles, and possess mouldy bread. They declare upon meeting the Israelites that their clothes were new, their bread quite hot, and their victuals fresh when they began their journey. However, due to the course of time during their travels, everything had worn out. (Verses 1-13)

When the children of Israel behold this situation, they make an oath and pledge to deal kindly with these men that have travelled so far to make peace with them. Unwittingly, the congregation vows not to slay those that were just a few days' journey in front of them based on rash impulse and looking at faulty evidence. As the story unfolds in the verse after ours, we find that Israel stands by their vow to the Gibeonites and put them under tribute and servitude while sparing their lives. The next chapter unfolds with them having to save these people from the assault made by the other inhabitants of Canaan against them. But, let us consider what Israel did not do - that they should have - why it occurred, and how that applies to us today.

One of the most striking things about Israel's behaviour (that is so reminiscent of our behaviour as well) is their consistent manner to either ignore or rebel against what the Lord has told them. Even though He has dealt with them honourably time and time again, they act dishonourably in return. His faithfulness to them is met with unfaithful behaviour over and over. They make a decision this day without seeking His face and counsel in the matter. How often today do we make decisions without asking His counsel and guidance in our lives?

Now, there are times when we should not have to ask His counsel, for the path is plain and obvious. We should never have to ask the Lord, "Is it ok to commit adultery this time? Is idolatry in this circumstance warrented based on mitigating factors?" Moral requirements do not change on a daily basis, for the Lord's commandment about these matters is abiding and unchanging. However, many items and decisions in life are not necessarily moral vs. immoral. Sometimes, the right decision hinges on different things. For example, the Lord told Joshua that they were going to utterly drive out the inhabitants of the land, but due to the faith of Rahab the harlot, an entire household of Jericho lived even in the midst of the city's destruction. This did not go against the Lord's statement, but rather, the circumstance of Rahab's faith merited favour in the eyes of the people of Israel.

This circumstance is vastly different from Rahab's in that hers was an act of faith, while the Gibeonites acted by craft and guile. Had the Israelites inquired after the Lord's counsel, they would have understood that these men were not what they seemed. Had their patience extended to reserve the matter for judgment for a time, they would have come upon the cities of these men rather quickly (3 days time). So often today, craft and guile lure away God's children from the right path and decision due to our own faulty judgments and impudent choices.

Consider what swayed the minds of the children of Israel. Instead of inquiring to the Lord, they heeded what they saw in the Gibeonites' food and raiment. They took those "evidences" rather than the Lord's counsel. So often today, we think we have "evidences" of things that supersede all other things in our minds, to the neglect of faithful prayer and consideration. We are all prone to act upon what "I feel" or what "I think." Sometimes, our intentions may be sincere and honest in that we really feel to be doing the right thing. However, no matter what our feeling is of the matter or what it is that we might "see" at the time, the Lord's direction should take the highest place of exaltation in our minds and hearts. What if the evidence points the other way?

When evidence seems to point a certain way, we should not be negligent to weigh those factors in the equation, but we must always be cognizant to the fact that more factors may exist. One of the ploys that a salesman tries to insert into mind of his market audience is that what he is offering is either the only or the best of its kind. A car salesman wants the prospective customer to think that his car is the only one that could meet the needs of the client, but careful looking shows that many other such vehicles exist out there for the taking. A house salesman tries to assure the client that this house is the "one that they have been looking for" even though the market has or will have other houses quite similar to it.

In our spiritual lives, we can become so enamoured with a particular piece of evidence that we are not cognizant of anything else, including the direction of God. To the man with the slick tongue that brings about some new wind of doctrine, he assures the hearers that this assuredly is the way to go. He may even have some evidence (Scripture taken out of context) that "seems" to corroborate what he is teaching. However, the Lord warns us about those that have "evidence" to corroborate their errant teaching. Even if a man gives a sign and wonder that comes to pass as he said it would, that is no excuse to follow the sign and wonder and go off into the idolatry that he is promoting. (Deuteronomy 13:1-5)

Another easy example is the circumstance of a minister that is seeking which vineyard to tend or the flock seeking for an undershepherd to pastor them. Perhaps there may seem to be factors or evidences that indicate that this or that would be a good pairing. However, no matter what we see with our eyes - whether the man sees a goodly flock that is zealous and vibrant or the church see a man blessed to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ - should give rise for us to neglect to inquire of the Lord about our decisions. Perchance the man may think the opposite and think the place wholly unsuited or unsuitable for him. Perchance the flock may have had a bad first impression of a man. In either case, these evidences do not take the place of careful consideration and the Lord's direction and guidance.

Another example here is the implementation of new practices. Certain ideas hold the luster of "evidence" that their inception will promote growth or increase spirituality among the participants. However, a "try it out and see" decision can yield results as equally undesirable as the children of Israel faced on this day. To those that would bring new practices into the Lord's church, they may have evidence that seems appealing to hear their case. However, inquiry of the Lord - through prayer and through His word - can easily dash these ideas upon the stones of truth.

Therefore, may our decisions in our personal and church lives always include the inquiry of the Lord's direction and guidance. May His inclination to us override all the "senses" and "evidences" that we see and feel. What the Lord directs should always mean more to us than what we think or what we feel. And should our feelings and inclinations be mistaken for the Lord's guidance, may we pray that He deliver us from our own fallibility with the prayer of His will be done and that we see His will for what it truly is. Surely we have all made bad decisions and sometimes made them quite honestly by acting sincerely, but may we ever cling to that most blessed privilege that we have to approach unto Him, begging for mercy and finding grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

In Hope,

Bro Philip