Have You Consulted God?

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“… but they did not ask counsel of the Lord.”

Joshua 9:14–15 (NKJV)

14 Then the men of Israel took some of their provisions; but they did not ask counsel of the Lord. 15 So Joshua made peace with them, and made a covenant with them to let them live; and the rulers of the congregation swore to them.

I offer this devotional in the context of the current situation in which we find ourselves as a church. A church that is unable, by governmental decree, to gather together as the body of Christ in its own building, or anywhere else for that matter. The various State and Federal governments have progressively rolled out ever stricter regulations designed to prevent us from meeting together as a group. Of course, this is for our own protection from the virus, but it has presented all churches in Australia with a situation that is unprecedented. How do we remain an intact body of believers whilst we are physically separated from each other?

Your church executive has been in constant communication with each other and we would like to think that the decisions that we make are the right ones. To illustrate this let’s have a look at an Old Testament example.

Joshua had successfully crossed the Jordan and destroyed Jericho. Having conquered peoples on both sides of the Jordan, the reputation of the people had spread far and wide. One particular tribe, the Gibeonites realised that they were in the direct path of this warlike advance into the land and they sought to deceive Joshua and the leaders of the tribes.

The crafty Gibeonites realized they couldn’t win against God’s people, so they sent a committee to meet them to try making peace. Even though they were lying, Joshua presumed they were telling the truth, and he made a peace treaty with them. It was one of the biggest mistakes of his life. From that day on, the Gibeonites would become a constant thorn in their side, and Joshua would live to regret “not asking the counsel of the Lord.” The songwriter says, “Oh, what peace we often forfeit. Oh, what needless pain we bear. All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.”

When we look at bible passages we sometimes wonder how this relates to our personal situation, so in this the first of a series of devotionals, prepared to feed the congregation and encourage them through this time we will ask three questions. What did this passage mean to them (the original readers of the passage)? What does the passage means for the church today? Thirdly what does the passage mean to me personally?

Clearly the passage reveals that the leaders of Israel failed in their duty of care by not seeking God before making a decision that was the exact opposite of what God had instructed them to do.  The consequences were that Israel had to honour the covenant that they had made with the Gibeonites. They had to fight to defend them and generally it was not a happy state of affairs that could have been resolved if only the leaders had sought God for direction in the matter.

What does this mean for the church today? Well having listened to Baptist ministers from all over NSW in a video hookup. We all had the same reactions when we heard the news. We all wanted to move to church on the lawn or in the park. But we waited and sought God before we acted. This should mean that no Baptist church will now hold services together as a group in any situation, because that is what the lawfully elected Governments have subsequently decided is for our protection. The situation is changing constantly, and we are taking advantage of our ability to make pastoral visits whilst it is legal to do so. Other more city based churches are moving to online models to stream material for their congregations on the internet. Please pray for us as we attempt to navigate the church through this crisis.

What does this mean for you personally?

Only you can answer that. Perhaps you might have a think about it and pray about it. What is God saying to you as an individual and as a member of our church family?

Yesterday’s victories don’t guarantee tomorrow’s—only God does. It’s too easy to move from relying on God to relying on yourself, or trusting in a method just because it worked in the past or because everybody is using it in the present.

Ask God for a “red light” in your spirit to let you know if you’re moving in your own ability rather than in His.[1]

[1] I have based this devotional on Bob Gass, A Fresh Word For Today: 365 Insights For Daily Living (Alachua, FL: Bridge-Logos Publishers, 1998), 83. Parts of which I have included in the text.