So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the LORD.

Joshua 9: 14

 

This is one of those strange moments in the story of the conquest of the land of Canaan by the Israelites under Joshua’s leadership. In fact, this is a point where the story seems to take a sort of left turn into the realm of Theater of the Absurd. The story tells us that this one group of people from within the land sent representatives to Joshua in order to act out a drama in which they convinced the Israelites that they were actually from far away. So, the Israelites entered into a covenant with these Gibeonites that they would not harm them. It was only after this that it was learned that the seemingly road weary, worn down and dusty travelers standing before them were actually skillful actors who were dressed in costumes and were using stage props in order to convince Joshua of their sincerity.

 

The true point in all of this is found in this simple statement. Although God had been consistently providing wisdom, guidance, and counsel for Joshua and for the people for a very long time by now, they chose to make this decision on their own. In the overall scheme of things, this was not a very big deal. These were a few people who could do little harm, and they told a very convincing story. Yet, history has demonstrated that small decisions and little events can have extraordinary and ever-lasting consequences. Consider what impact a few deceptive words from a serpent had on us all after Adam and Eve acted upon them. This bit of grand theater that was carried out by the representatives of Gibeon is very similar in tactic to the way that Satan deceived our ancestors in the garden. Also, in both instances, the answer to the problem at hand would have been easy to discern by simply taking a few moments to turn to God and seek out His counsel and wisdom.

 

There is universal truth to this human dilemma and failing. We want to take charge of our lives and to make our own decisions along the way. Yet, we also know that God is in life with us and that He provides us with multiple sources for His ageless and universally applicable wisdom. So, we determine which issues and under what circumstances we will go it on our own or seek out the Lord first. This is what Joshua and the Israelites did here, and for them this self-directed decision would haunt them for generations to come. There was a better way for them to proceed, and there is a better way for us to engage with life also. The Lord provides us with His Word of truth to guide our journeys through this world. His Spirit also speaks wisdom to us, and the body of faith surrounds us with people who are similarly informed. God intends for His people to turn to Him and to trust Him to lead us through all of life. His counsel is ours, and it brings life, peace, and righteousness to our days. So, why would we ever join Joshua in saying, “Never mind, Lord; I’ve got this one handled?”

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Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.

Ephesians 6: 11

 

Imagine a medieval knight as he is preparing for the joust who decides that he will leave off the cuirass, the breastplate, of his suit of armor. After all, it’s a hot and humid day, he feels especially self-confident that morning, and the field of opponents doesn’t look all that frightening. Now come ahead to today and envision a soldier preparing for a day of patrol who thinks that his wit and skill will suffice to keep him safe; so, he doesn’t bother with the helmet or the body armor that he has been provided. In both instances we would say that the person on view was being foolish and was needlessly putting himself at risk.

 

Paul was aware of the same sorts of tendencies in the people of his days that we can see in others throughout history and that we encounter in ourselves today. We think that when we reach a certain level of skill, experience, and competency that we can do life on our own. Certainly, God’s Word and His Spirit’s leading have provided us with useful instruction and are helpful in times of crisis, but as people who have traveled some real distance with Jesus, we can take on the routine of life on our own. This sort of thinking and the approach to life that follows after it can lead us into a dangerous street that is mined with Satan’s deceptive traps and dangerous compromises.

 

In light of the well-documented history of human failure, of personal experience of the bad effects of leaving God’s righteous path, and the reality of Satan’s relentless drive to attack God through His people; it seems ridiculous and foolish to do anything other than what the Apostle counsels. The Lord provides His people with a perfect protective covering for us to wear through all of our days. Yet, like most aspects of our relationships with Christ, we need to decide to use what He is providing. This armor from heaven is put on and held in place through deep and intimate prayer, by diligent study of God’s Word, and in the supportive accountability of the body of Christ. Although Christ’s armor will not protect us from all of the blows and injuries that living in this world will cause, it will protect our souls and our witness so that our lives will stand as living testimony to Christ’s redeeming victory.

 

 

Therefore stay awake – for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning – lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all. Stay awake.

Mark 13: 35, 36

 

This world has many ways and means of putting us to sleep. Some of the time it sings a lullaby of ease and comfort that sooths the mind and seems to satisfy the needs of the heart. On some occasions it grants us our wishes for prosperity and fame so that we will settle into a life of comfort, and on others it crushes our hearts in its grip of pain so that we are too numb to respond. The prince of this world has many tricks up his sleeve and is relentless in his drive to manage, manipulate, and control the hearts and the minds of people.

 

Our place of dwelling is simply not a safe place to take a nap. If we are followers of Christ there is not enough time left for us to go on a vacation either. We are on the alert, and our Lord has charged us with a sacred duty to perform. We are doorkeepers to eternity. Christ left us with the keys to salvation, and He instructed His people to think, live, and speak out in the power of His Spirit and with the truth of the Gospel evident in it all. Jesus takes away our need for rest periods or even for sleep for the righteous intent of our hearts. With the Spirit of Christ dwelling within us we do not need to refresh and recharge.

 

The battle for the souls of people rages around us, and its intensity is increasing daily. There will be no delay or respite from it granted to us, for Satan is continually plotting his next move. Yet Christ gifts His people with everything that we will require to enter into the contest that will be at our door today. Our Lord also grants our hearts and our minds the peace and the security of His victory over sin and the truth of the Word of God so that we can follow His command to stay alert without entering into an unhealthy hyper-vigilant state of being. We do know that there will be an end to this conflict. Christ will return, and evil will be destroyed. Until that day, God’s people are to, “Stay awake!”

O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?

Who shall dwell on your holy hill?

He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart.

Psalm 15: 1, 2

 

It may not always seem so apparent, but we all get to make daily choices about where we go, how we get there, and the way that we act while we are on this journey. Although we may need to head out of our homes and go to the same workplace, same school, and the routine stops that populate our lives, it is our own, individual choices that truly define the quality and the nature of the living that we transact during the day. We not only are allowed to make these choices, but we need to make them. It is these choices that create the environment that will direct the way that our mind handles everything that we encounter.

 

The Lord makes His word and its infinite truth available to us. He even speaks it directly to our hearts by His Spirit; yet, we are the ones who can decide to listen, and we determine the ways of our actions. Now, I’ll admit that there are days when I really don’t want to make the choice that includes seeking God’s perspective and wrapping myself in a warm and protective blanket of truth and love. There are days when I find some sort of perverse pleasure in being sad, lonely, and distant. These are days when I want the false freedom of being able to act badly toward others or to hold onto a diminished concept of my own value and worth. Yet, these moments and days are ones where I am choosing to operate in a reality that is created out of the deception that Satan continually attempts to use in order to distract me from God’s will and to disable me from my calling as Christ’s living witness. These are times of choosing to live in a cardboard hut made of lies and wrapped in failure that sits at the side of evil’s garbage dump. These are days when I could be living in the splendor of Christ’s richly furnished and palatial tent that is anchored at the top of His holy mountain.

 

This is my daily choice, and it is yours, as well. In making this decision to put on God’s truth, we are establishing the way that we want to travel through the day. This decision creates the attitudes that our mind will use to frame our responses to everything that transpires. Now is the moment to seek God’s righteousness and His truth so that the rest of this day can be viewed from the perspective of the same window that God uses to view His world.