The men believed the evidence they were shown, but they did not ask the Lord about it. – Joshua 9:14 (GWT)
Mistakes. We all make them. Hopefully, as Christians, we make fewer of them -and when we do, we find ways to use them to our good. However, whether we find ways to produce some positive outcome or not, we will have to deal with consequences. Those consequences can be minor and brief or major and lengthy — it depends on the mistake we have made.
In the story being told in Joshua 9, people came to him from a nearby land and deceptively posed as people from far away, hoping to make a pact with the Israelite people. Evidence was there to show that they were not who they claimed to be, but the Israelite people did not recognize it, nor did they inquire of the Lord as to what they should do before swearing an oath. When I fail to consult the Lord before making a serious decision I am saying I know as much as God about it. Once I rely on my own ego and human intellect, I open myself up to the possibility of catastrophic failure with dire consequences. I suspect we’ve all been there.
The person who rushes into a marriage without first consulting the Lord and one day wakes up to realize they are stuck with the wrong partner has made a bond -and swore an oath before the lord that should be honored. The Bible says that God hates divorce. “For I hate divorce!” says the LORD, the God of Israel. “To divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. “So guard your heart; do not be unfaithful to your wife.” – Malachi 2:16 (NLT). By the way, I’m not saying there are not legitimate biblical reasons for divorce — but just saying “oops! I made a mistake. Let’s undo this uncomfortable situation right now” is not a reason to violate the commitment you have made. Now you must live with it. Part of being a Christian is living with the consequences of our actions, secure in God’s grace for forgiveness of our sins, but responsible [nonetheless] for our actions to others and our commitments made before God. So what does a discussion of divorce have to do with the story told in Joshua 9? Read on.
As divorce is often the result of hasty decisions made between two people without first consulting the Lord, so was Joshua’s resulting dilemma the product of a decision made without consulting God -but involving Him by invoking His name in an oath. When the Israelites discovered they had been deceived, they were nonetheless bound by the vow they had made in the name of the Lord not to harm their enemies. The deception of their enemy did not invalidate the oath the Israelites had taken. Our commitments to others, made before God, are not to be taken lightly and are not disposable because we don’t like the consequences or think we have somehow been tricked. Often that trickery would have been exposed had we first consulted the Lord before entering into some agreement – be it a marriage or any other form of contract between people.
I shall leave this post here with [what some may consider] not the happiest of endings. There is, however, a light at the end of the tunnel, and it is Jesus. There is a power that comes to us that enables us to live with the consequences of our mistakes and [better still] stop making them! That power is the Holy Spirit. We’ll get into that more in future posts. In fact, my next posting [unless God leads me elsewhere] will be about creating positive outcomes from some of our mistakes. There are always ways to glorify God! Read on through the end of Joshua 9 and you will see how Joshua made some good out of a poor decision. We’ll get into that next time. May God continue to bless you as you study His Word.
I wish to express my gratitude to the Tree of Life Ministries and credit Pastor Mike Dodson, Sr. for a recent broadcast where he preached on the subject of mistakes and their consequences and referred to the story in Joshua 9.