Discernment: The Believer’s Defense
So I’m reading through the Bible right now, and currently, I find myself in the Book of Joshua. In it, I came across a familiar story: the story of the Gibeonites. As promised the terror of the Children of Israel was upon all the Amorites (inhabitants of Canaan), and the Gibeonites were no different in that regard. However, they were smarter than the Amorites. Instead of waiting and peeing their pants, they devised a cunning plan, and went to treat with Israel.
But when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, they worked craftily, and went and pretended to be ambassadors. And they took old sacks on their donkeys, old wineskins torn and mended, old and patched sandals on their feet, and old garments on themselves; and all the bread of their provision was dry and moldy. And they went to Joshua, to the camp at Gilgal, and said to him and to the men of Israel, “We have come from a far country; now therefore, make a covenant with us.”
Then the men of Israel said to the Hivites, “Perhaps you dwell among us; so how can we make a covenant with you?”
But they said to Joshua, “We are your servants.”
And Joshua said to them, “Who are you, and where do you come from?”
So they said to him: “From a very far country your servants have come, because of the name of the Lord your God; for we have heard of His fame, and all that He did in Egypt, and all that He did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan—to Sihon king of Heshbon, and Og king of Bashan, who was at Ashtaroth. Therefore our elders and all the inhabitants of our country spoke to us, saying, ‘Take provisions with you for the journey, and go to meet them, and say to them, “We are your servants; now therefore, make a covenant with us.’” This bread of ours we took hot for our provision from our houses on the day we departed to come to you. But now look, it is dry and moldy. And these wineskins which we filled were new, and see, they are torn; and these our garments and our sandals have become old because of the very long journey.”
Then the men of Israel took some of their provisions; but they did not ask counsel of the Lord. So Joshua made peace with them, and made a covenant with them to let them live; and the rulers of the congregation swore to them. (Joshua 9:3-15)
Now per the word of the Lord via Moses, all the inhabitants of the Promised Land save the family of Abraham (Edom, Moab, and Ammon; see Deuteronomy 2:1-19) were meant to be wiped out completely. It wasn’t meant to happen all at once, so that wild beasts wouldn’t take over the land (Deut. 7:21-24). So understandably, the Gibeonites were “scurred”; absolutely petrified. And seemingly, their plan went undetected. How? They didn’t ask for the Lord’s counsel.
The men of Israel looked them over and accepted the evidence. But they didn’t ask God about it. (Joshua 9:14 MSG)
They went undetected until they were.
And it happened at the end of three days, after they had made a covenant with them, that they heard that they were their neighbors who dwelt near them. Then the children of Israel journeyed and came to their cities on the third day. Now their cities were Gibeon, Chephirah, Beeroth, and Kirjath Jearim. But the children of Israel did not attack them, because the rulers of the congregation had sworn to them by the Lord God of Israel. And all the congregation complained against the rulers.
Then all the rulers said to all the congregation, “We have sworn to them by the Lord God of Israel; now therefore, we may not touch them. This we will do to them: We will let them live, lest wrath be upon us because of the oath which we swore to them.” And the rulers said to them, “Let them live, but let them be woodcutters and water carriers for all the congregation, as the rulers had promised them.” (Joshua 9:16-21)
Israel didn’t use their Holy Ghost discernment and thus, the people who should have been annihilated for the sake of Israel and Israel’s posterity, became a serf-class (v. 21), and ultimately, a thorn in their side. One chapter later, Gibeon’s neighbors declare war on them. And as if Joshua and his army didn’t already have enough to do, conquesting the Promised Land and all, they find themselves having to fight another battle, this time, on Gibeon’s behalf.
Now it came to pass when Adoni-Zedek king of Jerusalem heard how Joshua had taken Ai and had utterly destroyed it—as he had done to Jericho and its king, so he had done to Ai and its king—and how the inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel and were among them, that they feared greatly, because Gibeon was a great city, like one of the royal cities, and because it was greater than Ai, and all its men were mighty. Therefore Adoni-Zedek king of Jerusalem sent to Hoham king of Hebron, Piram king of Jarmuth, Japhia king of Lachish, and Debir king of Eglon, saying, “Come up to me and help me, that we may attack Gibeon, for it has made peace with Joshua and with the children of Israel..” Therefore the five kings of the Amorites, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, and the king of Eglon, gathered together and went up, they and all their armies, and camped before Gibeon and made war against it.
And the men of Gibeon sent to Joshua at the camp at Gilgal, saying, “Do not forsake your servants; come up to us quickly, save us and help us, for all the kings of the Amorites who dwell in the mountains have gathered together against us.” (Joshua 10:1-6)
So besides the fact that you just got in your Bible reading for the day, lol, what did we learn here? We learned two things:
1) When You Don’t Use Discernment, You Create Unnecessary Problems
Israel had to fight a battle against a coalition of five Amorite kings because they allowed the Gibeonites to ally themselves with them. This could have been avoided, but alas, it was not. Now while we in a modern-day context do not promote making war against people for the sake of religious beliefs (although Islam sure does!), we do believe in following through with the Word of the Lord for our lives. We cannot veer to the right nor to the left. We must stay the course.
In my book, Judging the Prophetic, I recount the biblical story of a young prophet who delivered the Word of the Lord to the King. The Lord not only directed him to deliver the word, but to return home a different way from whence he originally came. And on the way, another, older (false) prophet encounters him, lies, saying the Lord told him that the young prophet was to come and get some R&R with him, and the young prophet believed him. Ultimately, the older prophet who lied also delivered the fatal word to the same prophet who wound up being slain by a lion on the road, in fulfillment of the false prophet’s words. (Read the story in 1 Kings 13.) Using your discernment - or not - could very well be the difference between life and death.
2) Even When You Make Mistakes, God Can Still Use You
As terrible as our mistakes can be, and as terrible as we can feel for making them, and as sad as they can make God feel, when we repent, He is still capable of using us, and accomplishing great wonders! Just look at what happened to Israel!
So Joshua ascended from Gilgal, he and all the people of war with him, and all the mighty men of valor. And the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not fear them, for I have delivered them into your hand; not a man of them shall stand before you.” Joshua therefore came upon them suddenly, having marched all night from Gilgal. So the Lord routed them before Israel, killed them with a great slaughter at Gibeon, chased them along the road that goes to Beth Horon, and struck them down as far as Azekah and Makkedah. And it happened, as they fled before Israel and were on the descent of Beth Horon, that the Lord cast down large hailstones from heaven on them as far as Azekah, and they died. There were more who died from the hailstones than the children of Israel killed with the sword.
Then Joshua spoke to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel:
“Sun, stand still over Gibeon;
And Moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.”
So the sun stood still,
And the moon stopped,
Till the people had revenge
Upon their enemies.
Is this not written in the Book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day. And there has been no day like that, before it or after it, that the Lord heeded the voice of a man; for the Lord fought for Israel. (Joshua 10:7-14)
Not only did the “stars and their courses” fight against the Amorites by raining hail down on them, but also, God allowed the sun and moon to stand still at Joshua’s command. Out of Joshua’s battles, I’d say this one tops all of them! Even the Battle of Jericho!
Now this is not to negate my second point, yet I just want you to think: how much greater might this story have been had Israel never disobeyed to begin with? What if they had used their God-given discernment? As Believers, if we hope to truly and fully mature in the things of God, then we must utilize and exercise discernment.