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Saturday, March 26, 2016

Avoiding Deception

Joshua and the people of Israel no sooner recover from Achan’s deception than they fall for another deception. The Gibeonites hear about the defeat of the people of Jericho  and Ai and devise a plan to save themselves from the same destruction by deceiving Israel into making a treaty with them. This story alerts the reader to seven conditions that make a person vulnerable to deception:
  • Exhaustion - Israel had just finished fighting the people of Ai, “Israel cut them down, leaving them neither survivors nor fugitives” (Joshua 8:22). They also carried off for themselves the livestock and plunder of this city and burned Ai to the ground. Exhaustion may weaken a person’s defenses against deception.
  • Euphoria of victory and celebration - Israel successfully ambushes a sleeping Ai from all sides and experiences great victory. Joshua builds an altar to the LORD and copies on stones the law of Moses. The entire nation recites the blessings and the cursings. Euphoria may dull a person’s sensitivity to deception. 
  • Empathy - The Gibeonites present themselves as hungry and poor, “They went as a delegation whose donkeys were loaded with worn-out sacks and old wineskins, cracked and mended. The men put worn and patched sandals on their feet and wore old clothes. All the bread of their food supply was dry and moldy” (Joshua 9:4-5). Israel responds with fleshly empathy instead of discernment. Worldly compassion may impair a person’s discernment to deception. 
  • Expediency and ease - A battle with all the kings west of the Jordan is imminent. The Gibeonites appear and request a treaty with Israel, “Make a treaty with us” (Joshua 9:6).  The Gibeonites came not to war with Israel but to offer themselves as servants, “We are your servants” (Joshua 9:8). Israel sees the Gibeonites as one less people they must fight. Expediency may prompt a person to ignore warnings of deception. 
  • Dismiss reservations - Israel questions the veracity of the Gibeonites by asking, “Perhaps you live near us” (Joshua 9:7) “Who are you and were do you come from?” (Joshua 9:8) Raising questions without obtaining satisfying answers allows a person to fall for “trumped up evidence” and being deceived. 
  • Prayerlessness  - “The men of Israel sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the LORD” (Joshua 9:14). Prayerlessness dulls a person’s heart so that he cannot recognize deception. 
  • Ignoring Scripture - Moses clearly warned Israel against making treaties with the people in Canaan, “And when the LORD you God delivers them over to you, you shall conquer them and utterly destroy them. Your shall make no covenant with them or show mercy to them” (Deuteronomy 7:2). Ignoring Scripture sets up for deception. 
This scene reveals three truths about deception: 
  1. Things are rarely as they appear. The simple believe every word they hear, everything that they see, and thus open themselves to be deceived. 
  2. Knowing what the Scriptures say and appropriating those truths prevent deception.
  3. Making decisions without serious prayer is a recipe for disaster. Praying about everything gives people time to think clearly and gives God time to work

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"When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath" (Joshua 7:1)

Achan had something he couldn't enjoy. In fact he had to bury what he had taken. God prohibited Israel from taking anything from the city of Jericho "But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them . . . All the silver and gold and articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the Lord and must go into his treasury" (6:18-19). This battle was won by God, therefore to God belong the spoils of war.

Achan forgot something very basic about God: He sees and He knows. "And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account" (Hebrews 4:13). "Darkness and light are alike to God." We cannot see the Invisible One but He can surely see us. 

Truths we can learn from Achan's theft, deception, and death:
  • If it has to be hidden, it can't be right.
  • If it can't be waited for, then it should not be taken. Had Achan only waited for the next battle he would have been allowed to take from the spoils of war (8:2).
  • Delayed gratification is better than immediate possession by deception.
  • The evidence of God's blessings isn't based on the amount of your possessions or reward, but on your participation in His winning the battle.
  • Living in the awareness of God's presence will prevent you from walking in deception, scheming, and taking things that don't belong to you.
  • The consequences for taking things that God hasn't given you affects more than just you. Thirty-six men lost their lives, leaving their families without dads and brothers. Israel was humiliated before the people of Ai.
  • An attitude of entitlement demonstrates unbelief in the goodness of God. Entitlement says that "God owes me something."
We must guard our hearts from wanting what God hasn't given us--coveting. We are no different from Achan when we take what is not ours to have.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading: Joshua 7:1-9:27
  • What happened in Israel when their "trimmed down" army was defeated in Ai?
  • How does Joshua respond to their defeat? To what does he attribute their defeat?
  • How does God respond to Joshua?
  • Does Achan have time to repent? What do you think he was thinking that night? (We are prone to think that we probably aren't the only ones to take something or we justify the amount we have taken, etc.)
  • What does Achan's sin cost him, his family, Israel?
  • Read Proverbs 28:13. How could Achan have responded the night before?
  • Why does Joshua increase the size of his army the second time they go up against Ai?
  • How does Joshua celebrate Ai's defeat?
  • Does Joshua have any reservations regarding the Gibeonite's request to enter into a treaty with Israel?
  • Upon what basis does Joshua make his decision regarding the Gibeonites?
  • What does the Gibeonite's deception cost them?
Turning truth into prayer:
Ask the Lord to search your heart and reveal things you've said or done that need to come into the light so that you can walk in fellowship with Him.