Only Fools Rush In – When I was a Juggernaut in my own mind (Joshua 9)

 

Grenades full, overshield charged, sword in hand and a rocket launcher on my back… yeah, this is going to go my way.  These guys have no idea who is headed their way, and with my massively overloaded arsenal there is no way they are a match for the unstoppable force that is the Spartan under my command.  I burst in the room prepared to unleash pure, unadulterated carnage on my unsuspecting foes – but alas, the sweet, sweet annihilation of my foes was not to be.  No, quite the contrary.  My enemies, who I had already mentally added to my kill count, were quite prepared for my little assault.  Two were positioned in the back of the room to act as decoys, while the other two were at the entrance beyond my periphery.  I bolted toward the enemies in front of me with my plasma sword in hand, about to dispatch both in a glorious double kill, when my mistake hit me.  Literally.  A quick WHOP to the back of the head and down I went, without a single enemy casualty to show for my efforts.

I had unwittingly ARMED them and given them a substantial advantage…

As the camera panned without emotion over my fallen body, I watched as my enemies plundered all of the items and weapons I had been carrying so proudly and confidently a few moments earlier.  I sat and waited for my respawn, with the horrifying knowledge that not only had I failed in an opportunity to decimate my over-matched opponents, but I had unwittingly ARMED them and given them a substantial advantage.  Bright red “X” marks on my screen told me the tale that I didn’t want to take the blame for… my teammates were being picked apart by our foes, one by one, as I sat helplessly waiting to re-enter the fray.   And the greatest irony?  That the enemy army was using the very weapons I had intended to destroy them with against us.  And to add to my frustrated state of mind, I came back to life realizing those very weapons that I was once carrying were now going to be used against ME.

The sad reality is that many times in life we are our own worst enemy.  Head-strong and confident, we march right into a catastrophe of our own design.  And in an honest moment, we realize we have nobody to blame but ourselves for our current predicament.  But I have good news – this is a challenge that even some of the most well-known leaders in Biblical history have faced down and solved.  Let’s turn to the story of Joshua, a leader who can relate to our dilemma and more importantly can provide us with insight into correcting this behavior.

The Gibeonites chose a path of deceit that would make a Decepticon jealous

In the Biblical book of Joshua chapter 9, we find Joshua and the nation of Israel fresh off of a victorious battle with the city of Ai.  To say this was an overwhelming triumph is an understatement – the Bible captures the account with the city of Ai being burned to the ground, and the inhabitants utterly destroyed.  Good things were happening, enemies were falling, the troops were advancing… and a new foe was plotting.  The entire land of Canaan was promised to the Israelite people, and to possess the land fully they were instructed by God to eliminate all of their opposition with extreme prejudice.  There could be no exceptions, and this was clear not only to Joshua and the armies of Israel but also to the current inhabitants of Canaan, much to their dismay.  To this point the Israeli war effort had successfully marched right through Jericho and Ai, and while the remaining unconquered cities banded together in an effort to stop the Israeli advance, the inhabitants of Gibeon had other plans for survival.

Following the military logic in the phrase “If you can’t beat em, join em”, the Gibeonites chose a path of deceit that would make a Decepcticon jealous.  They changed into old, worn out clothes, and loaded their animals with battered and beaten up supply bags.  To add to the charade, they even filled their supply bags with dried out and moldy food, all for the purpose of catching Joshua off guard.  Appearances can be very deceiving, and in this case the deliberate effort to seem as nothing more than weary travelers from a distant country was all too convincing to our natural vision.  Of course God saw right through the ruse and was waiting to warn Joshua against this treachery… but here is where the fatal mistake is made.

… “they did not ask counsel from the mouth of the Lord”

Joshua and the leaders of Israel, fresh off their recent victory and trusting in their own intellectual abilities to discern the situation, question the emissaries of the Gibeonites briefly before letting what their eyes see blind them to the hidden truth.  And unfortunately, we do the same thing.  So many times we experience the greatness of God in our lives and enjoy his provision in a miraculous way, but once delivered from our troubles we go right back to trusting in our own strength and ingenuity, forgetting that left to our own devices we tend to only make a mess of things.  God is not a part-time advisor, or a consultant we call on when we begin to lose control.  Our relationship with God is exactly that – a relationship.  A full-time, every minute of every day partnership in which we follow His guidance and ask for His blessing on each and every choice we make.  Failure to do so can be quite costly.

The Bible captures this in a statement that stings the heart – “they did not ask counsel from the mouth of the Lord”.  Trusting their flawed instincts, they enacted a binding peace treaty with the people of Gibeon, while failing to recognize that super-natural wisdom from God was only a prayer away.  And now the problems begin… once the people of Israel found out that they had entered into a covenant with the Gibeonites and that they were actually their neighbors, they were quite upset.  The leadership of Joshua and the heads of Israel were now called into question by their constituents. If they couldn’t tell the difference between foreign diplomats and the enemy next door, how can they possibly lead this nation any further?  And the murmuring begins… the deadly sin which caused the Israelites to engage in the 40 year journey in the wilderness to begin with.  Failure to ask for God’s guidance and leadership can lead to a downward spiral that affects all of those that look up to you, and if you occupy a role of leadership in any aspect of your life the expectations are even higher.  So now that the mistake has been made, what can be done?  Time to see what our God can do with our missteps…

We can choose to allow God to turn our mess into a masterpiece

So even though they made a terrible mistake, Joshua and the princes owned up to it and decided to stay true to the covenant they had just made with the people of Gibeon.  They knew that they had made this oath not just to them, but to God Himself.  While the Gibeonites had tricked them, it was Joshua and the leaders of Israel who own the blame for their failure to seek God, allowing the wool to be pulled over their eyes.  Two wrongs never make a right, and in a deal that worked best for all the parties involved Joshua would spare the people of Gibeon from the Israeli war march, and in return the people of Gibeon would serve the God of Israel, the one true God, by becoming servants of His house.  The Gibeonites would become the caretakers of the church, and their lives were spared.  Isn’t this amazing?  God took the mess that Joshua had created, and turned it into a blessing!

And now that we have walked through this adventure with Joshua, we see how often this same pattern plays out in our own lives.  We feel as if we are in control of our lives, and we make decisions without seeking God’s advice or guidance.  Then we quickly get ourselves into a situation that we cannot handle. Now that we are in over our heads, we have a choice to make just like Joshua did.  We can either choose to turn to God and allow him to turn our mess into a masterpiece, or we can continue to run headfirst into a room full of enemies, contributing to our own demise with our misplaced self-confidence.  The choice is ours.

I learned a valuable lesson the day my ambush failed – I lacked the knowledge I needed heading into a room full of enemies, and all the weapons, skills, and ingenuity I had at my disposal was ultimately no match for an enemy that had been far more cunning in their preparations.  And if I had continued in that manner of play, rushing an overpowered enemy mindlessly over and over, I would have continued to fail.  So what did I do?  Once respawned, I acted as if I was about to make the same mistake as last time.  My enemies saw my movement on their displays, and must have assumed I was foolishly returning to the site of my previous demise, hoping my weapons may still be lying there.  They hid in the same room, lying in wait for my approach.  But not this time…

Once we know the enemies tricks, it is easy to avoid them and counter attack

Having done this before, I knew they would be hiding in the exact same spots.  Funny how our enemy never seems to change tactics until their battle plans fail, isn’t it?  This time, I faked an entry into the room, then promptly backed out while lobbing sticky grenades at the spots I knew they would be hiding in.  Two explosions cleared out the two in the back of the room, and lured the others out into the open where I could make short work of them with a battle rifle.  Game, set, and match.  Once we know the enemies tricks, it is easy to avoid them and counter attack.  And having that knowledge, we can take our previous mistakes and turn that into our greatest victory.

God is there at all times, an ever-present help for all of our times of trouble.  He is always one prayer away, waiting to give us the guidance we need to make the right decisions.  But the responsibility is on US to call out to Him for help.  And no matter what situation you have gotten yourself into, regardless of what kind of deal you have made, or how desperate your circumstances are, He can salvage your problems in a way that you cannot even imagine.  He may even turn your challenge into something that will help you in the future.  It is never too late to turn to Him for help – call out to Him today!

 

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