Wednesday, July 6, 2016

One Prayer Away From Stumbling

Reflections for this date are based on the following scripture passages:
Joshua 9

The early chapters in the Old Testament book of Joshua outline Israel's invasion of Canaan. Under the Lord's direction they entered Canaan much as they left Egypt with the Lord holding back the waters of the Jericho River as they crossed on dry land. Then the Lord instructed Israel concerning her first military encounter against the city of Jericho and they were given victory over the city without any opposition. Witnessing God working in our lives in such powerful ways is exciting. While such experiences encourage us to be even more devout in following the Lord, they also bring with them a temptation.

An example of this temptation is given in Joshua chapter 9. The people of Gibeon had heard of what God was doing through Israel and knew that as inhabitants of Canaan they were doomed. However, they also knew that if they portrayed themselves as non-Canaanites they might not be destroyed. So they "took worn-out sacks on their donkeys and old wineskins, cracked and mended. They wore old, patched sandals on their feet and threadbare clothing on their bodies. Their entire provision of bread was dry and crumbly." (Joshua 9:4-5) All of this to give the impression that they had traveled a long distance to come to Israel and worship their God.

What was Israel's temptation? Their temptation was the presumption that the amazing victories God had given them were due, at least in part, to their own amazing prowess. Thus further tempting them to think they could discern this situation with the Gibeonites without conferring with the Lord. This is probably the temptation that plagues me more than any other. Receiving God's blessing and then feeling proud of myself as if I am responsible for the blessing. Filled with this pride I take my next step without the Lord's guidance, exposing myself to a fall. This cylce seems to happen over and over.

I come to identify with Paul who embraced his weakness saying, "For when I am weak, then I am strong." How can this be? Because when he acknowledged his weakness Christ's power could reside in him and he then operated out of Christ's power and not from his own weakness.

Israel, and us, was just one prayer away from stumbling, from making the foolish mistake of engaging in a peace treaty with the Gibeonites without seeking the Lord's guidance. It didn't matter that the Lord had given them victory upon victory in their march across Canaan. The point was that the victories came from the Lord and not their own wisdom. Even one lapse in relying on their own wisdom made them susceptible to a very unwise decision. Just one prayer would have made all the difference.