Joshua chapter nine stands as an instructive cautionary tale for any of God’s people who determine their lives without counsel from the Lord. Here is the context:
The Israelites have come into the Promised land and defeated the walled city of Jericho and the smaller city of Ai. God through Moses had ordered Israel to annihilate all the inhabitants of the land and drive them from it because God knew their culture of idolatry would infect the worship of Jehovah. News of this Israelite battle plan became known throughout the region and struck fear into the pagan peoples.
One such group, the Gibbionites, determined that if they were going to survive they would need to use some innovative trickery. What they did was to disguise themselves as travelers from a far country. With their tattered cloths and worn out sandals they convinced the leaders of Israel that they indeed were from a far country and had heard of the greatness of the God of Israel and all he had done. They had come to join with them. The Israelites then made a covenant with them and agreed to allow them to dwell with them. Three days later the truth was discovered. But it was too late. Israel had now made a covenant with these inhabitants of the land whom they were supposed to drive out.
The key to Israel’s failure at this point is outlined in v. 14 where we are told “…they did not ask counsel of the Lord”. They made a binding covenant and established a lasting relationship with the Gibbionites that would hamstring them from obedience to the Lord because they did not seek counsel from the Lord. This led them to a great deal of trouble. Their own people became disgusted with the leadership (vv. 18, 19). It also trapped them into a pattern that would haunt them moving forward. What Israel did at this point was to honor their covenant with them but to make them slaves; carriers of wood and water. This became a pattern for Israel during the ongoing conquest of the land. Instead of driving out the inhabitants completely they would make them their servants. Thus, full obedience to God was never a part of their taking possession of the land. And those “servant peoples” who were allowed to remain became the feared godless influence upon Israel that God predicted. What a mess! All for lack of seeking the counsel of the Lord.
Now, do we seek counsel from the Lord in our lives? First, do our lives reflect that we want to be led by the Lord’s counsel or do we operate our lives keeping our own counsel? That is the key question. It is one thing to fail to seek God’s counsel in a specific area of life. It is something altogether different to systematically live without counsel from God.
Then, assuming we say we do want to live by God’s counsel…where do we get it? There are several answers (prayer, advice of spiritual people, sermons, lessons, Christian books, spiritual leadership, etc.) But all these sources of counsel track back to one source; God’s Word. All good sources of counsel we receive will base their counsel on a knowledge and correct application of God’s Word. This is a major reason why we must be Bible students. This is why we listen to sermons, go to Sunday School, Bible studies, and read Christian material. This is why we read and study the Bible individually and privately. All of God’s counsel to us will come from his Word and his Holy Spirit within us pressing us to that Word.
As you know, your pastors stand ready at anytime to give you counsel in your lives. But it is only helpful to the extent that we base that counsel in the Word of God. In order for us to do that we must be fluent in and knowledgeable of the Word. And for you to receive it, you must have in your heart the desire to get counsel from the Lord in all areas of your life, but especially in the most momentous decisions of your life.
May God be your counselor today and every subsequent day God gives you. May his Word guide and direct your path.