I remember that Sunday afternoon well. I had spent the week preparing a sermon, the second I was to give, and thought I had everything covered. I had done the research, checked the cross-references, and had thought up of several examples that should do a fine job reinforcing the message. It was a lazy Alabama afternoon and the Carolina Panthers were about to come on television. As the pre-game commentary droned up I began to feel uneasy. About midway through the first quarter I knew something just wasn’t right. I turned off the television and just spent some time praying. Then I got up and shredded the prepared sermon.
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 9:14-15, ESV
Why did I trash what seemed like a perfectly good sermon? The main reason is because it was the sermon I wanted to give. It was a sermon on a topic I was interested in and thought the church should hear. As I prepared that whole week, I asked God to open my heart and help me deliver it in a way that glorified Him, however, I never once asked about the contents of the sermon. On the most important aspect of the sermon, the central message, I never inquired of the Lord. So there I was Sunday afternoon as the Panthers played, huddled at my kitchen table, writing a whole new sermon.
The consequences to me were minor. I missed watching a football game. However, for Joshua and the Israelites, failing to inquire of the Lord got them into trouble. They didn’t check in with God and made a peace treaty with a deceitful group of folks. Deceitful, because in the next chapter of Joshua we find out that the city of Gibeon was a mighty city. Because Israel had a treaty with Gibeon, enemies attacked Gibeon. Because of that peace treaty, the Israelites were obligated to fight on behalf of the Gibeonites. As a consequence, lives were lost. Valuable time was wasted. All because no one stopped to pray and ask, “Lord, what should we do here?”
Preachers preach on this often and I’ve written on inquiring of God several times in recent memory. The reason is because it is that important. We may not see the truth behind a situation. Surely Joshua and the leaders didn’t. We may be pushing our own agenda. That was my situation. There are a lot of reasons we would be influenced to make the wrong decision in a particular situation. We can’t account for them all. Therefore, if we think or suspect that there’s some gravity to the choice, we need to inquire of God. Not only may we not understand the truth behind a situation, we may not foresee the consequences. That’s what happened to Joshua and company. They didn’t realize that this decision would plunge them into a battle. However, it did. That should give us pause. It should reinforce why we should take decisions before the Lord and wait for His response.