God instructed Israel to beware of the pagan nations that dwelt in the land of Canaan. They worshiped other gods, walked according to a different morality code, and were a great temptation to compromise and sin for God’s holy people. Therefore, to obey God fully, these pagan nations were to be entirely rooted out from the land. God had devoted them to destruction, and Israel had no other choice but to be God’s agent of judgment.
God also instructed Israel to beware of independence. They were to seek the face of God before making decisions. God would lead them by his cloud, his prophets, his priests, his elders, and the Angel of the Lord. God would hear and answer their prayers, and they were to be careful to do whatsoever he commanded.
For the most part, Joshua faithfully led God’s people. He really was a hero in God’s house. However, in Joshua 9, his sinful frailty revealed itself. Joshua led Israel in making a horrible decision:
As soon as all the kings who were beyond the Jordan in the hill country and in the lowland all along the coast of the Great Sea toward Lebanon, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, heard of this, they gathered together as one to fight against Joshua and Israel. But when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ai, they on their part acted with cunning and went and made ready provisions and took worn-out sacks for their donkeys, and wineskins, worn-out and torn and mended, with worn-out, patched sandals on their feet, and worn-out clothes. And all their provisions were dry and crumbly. And they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and to the men of Israel, “We have come from a distant country, so now make a covenant with us.” But the men of Israel said to the Hivites, “Perhaps you live among us; then how can we make a covenant with you?” They said to Joshua, “We are your servants.” And Joshua said to them, “Who are you? And where do you come from?” They said to him, “From a very distant country your servants have come, because of the name of the LORD your God. For we have heard a report of him, 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 the king of Heshbon, and to Og king of Bashan, who lived in Ashtaroth. So our elders and all the inhabitants of our country said to us, ‘Take provisions in your hand for the journey and go to meet them and say to them, “We are your servants. Come now, make a covenant with us.” ’ Here is our bread. It was still warm when we took it from our houses as our food for the journey on the day we set out to come to you, but now, behold, it is dry and crumbly. These wineskins were new when we filled them, and behold, they have burst. And these garments and sandals of ours are worn out from the very long journey.” So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the LORD. And Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them, to let them live, and the leaders of the congregation swore to them. (Joshua 9:1-15)
Perhaps Joshua was swayed by his senses. His ears told him they were from a far off place. His eyes told him they had been on the road for a long time. His nose may have suggested it had been many days since their last shower.
Perhaps Joshua was swayed by his emotions. He could have been influenced by compassion. Here before him were a sorry group of individuals pleading for help. He himself had once wandered in a barren land for many years. He also could have been influenced by more pragmatic considerations. At least here was one people group with whom he would not have to go to war.
Perhaps Joshua was swayed by his counselors. Beside him were the “men of Israel” and the “leaders of the congregation.” He was not making this decision alone.
However, one thing is clear. Joshua was not swayed by the leading of the Holy Spirit. He did not ask counsel from the LORD, and as a result, he entered into a covenant with a deceitful and ungodly nation.
Friends, how often do we make independent decisions? How often do we enter into covenants or agreements without inquiring of the Lord? He promises to answer when we call. He promises to give us wisdom when we ask. His Spirit guides our intellects and wills. He has the ability to place a check in our soul, but so often we go through life making decisions without reading his Word and conversing with him in prayer.
Consider the line of the famous hymn:
O what peace we often forfeit. O what needless pain we bear. All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.
If we prayed without ceasing, and sought the Lord’s face on a regular basis, we would walk with greater wisdom. We would make fewer mistakes. We would honor the Lord, and we would give Satan less of a foothold in our lives. Independence is good in some ways, but it is never good to make decisions independently of the Lord. We prove to be foolish when we do not take advantage of the always available counsel of the Lord.