So the Israelites examined their [the Gibeonites] food, but they did not consult the LORD – Joshua 9:14 (NLT)
When it comes to interpreting the Bible, it’s best we take a balanced and integrated approach. We as humans tend to be “either / or” and God tends to be “and.” We may place so much focus on love that we forget truth. God has granted Christians liberty, but some take that liberty as a license. In my last post I wrote about spiritual audacity; being bold in our requests to God and seeking to do big things to enrich God’s kingdom. We must not however under the banner of spiritual audacity fall prey to spiritual presumption.
The text above is taken from a passage highlighting spiritual presumption. By way of background, Joshua and the Israelites had utterly destroyed the cities of Jericho and Ai. Their victories created quite a stir in the land. Most of the surrounding leaders determined the best way to defeat the Israelites was to form an alliance and attack them (Joshua 9:1-2) however the Gibeonites took a different tact. Instead of attempting to outright defeat the Israelites, they sought to deceive them. Long before distressed fabric was a fashion statement, the Gibeonites appeared in distressed clothing before the Israelites. They [the Gibeonites] resorted to deception to save themselves. They sent ambassadors to Joshua, loading their donkeys with weathered saddlebags and old, patched wineskins. They put on worn-out, patched sandals and ragged clothes. And the bread they took with them was dry and moldy. (Joshua 9:4 -5)(NLT).
The Gibeonites dressed this way and carried old provisions to appear as if they lived and traveled from a distant land and were not nearby neighbors. They wanted to cast this appearance so the Israelites would not see them as a threat and could thereby be enticed into making a treaty with them. Verse 14 tells us, So the Israelites examined their food, but they did not consult the LORD (NLT). Without divine consultation, Joshua foolishly and hastily made a treaty with the Gibeonites only to learn three days later they lived nearby. (verses 15 – 16).
After learning they had been duped by the Gibeonites, the Israelite people were upset with their leaders. The whole assembly grumbled against the leaders, but all the leaders answered, “We have given them our oath by the LORD, the God of Israel, and we cannot touch them now. (verses 18b – 19). God had instructed the Israelites to completely destroy the inhabitants of Canaan (Deut. 20:17). However because the Israelites made a treaty with the Gibeonites, they were now stuck. The Israelites could not destroy the Gibeonites, instead, they forced them to be water carriers and wood cutters.
We face consequences when we are spiritually presumptuous. Since they were not destroyed, the Gibeonites served as a constant reminder to Israel of its disobedience. The Gibeonites were attacked by the five kings of the Amorites and sought protection from the Israelites. The Israelites had to fight a battle that was not initially theirs to fight to defend their unwelcomed allies. God sovereignly allowed Israel to defeat the Amorites, miraculously causing the Sun to stand still in the process (Joshua 10:12-13), but nonetheless the Israelites got drawn into a fight that was initially not theirs.
No one is immune from spiritual presumptuousness. David displayed spiritual audacity when he defeated Goliath. He also displayed spiritual presumption when he stayed home from the battle at a time when the kings typically went off to war (2 Samuel 11). It was during this time when David observed Bathsheba bathing on the roof and ultimately seduced her.
The same Moses who audaciously asked God to see his glory foolishly struck the rock when God told him to speak to it (Numbers 20:8-11). Because of his presumptuousness, Moses was not permitted to enter into the Promised Land (Numbers 20:12).
Spiritual presumption is not the opposite of spiritual audacity. The opposite of spiritual presumption is spiritual indifference, where we fail to seek God direction or having sought it, reject it. To guard against spiritual presumption we must display the attitude of the prophet Samuel as a young boy when upon hearing the voice of God he said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:10b)(NIV)