THEME: The Reality of the Spiritual World
This week’s lessons show the consequences of relying on our own understanding, rather than looking to God for wisdom and blessing.
Israel thought their assessment of the Gibeonites was accurate. We would tend to look at a situation like that and think along the same lines. We would wonder what else Israel could do. From our perspective, what else can be done? After all, we live in a material world, and God has given us senses by which to make judgments. So if we look at bread that’s dry and moldy, it must be old. And if there are wine containers that are dry and cracked, well, they must be old. And if they are wearing old sandals, it must be that the people have been wearing them over a very long journey. We say, “You just can’t operate in the world without making judgments based on sense impressions.” And, of course, that’s entirely true. If we lived in a world where the only reality is the reality you see, then it would be entirely right to trust our sense impressions 100 percent of the time.
But the difficulty is that we don’t live in a merely material world. There is also a spiritual world, and there is a spiritual battle going on in that spiritual world. And, therefore, when it comes to the point of making value judgments, moral decisions, and seeking out the will of God, we can’t do that merely on the basis of our senses. To put it in very basic terms, we cannot say, “This is the path that seems good to me” and, therefore, choose it. What we have to do is inquire of the Lord and follow His direction as we find it in Scripture, regardless of whether or not that is the path that seems good to us personally. This is what Proverbs 3:5-6 is all about: “Trust in the Lord and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” The key words in that particular advice are these: “Lean not to your own understanding.” But that’s what Joshua and the Jews did in this situation. They leaned on their own understanding, and that’s why they were led astray.
When common sense says that a course is right, lift your heart to God for the path of faith. The path of blessing may be in a direction completely opposite to that which you call “common sense.” When voices tell you that action is urgent, that something must be done immediately, refer everything to the tribunal of heaven. Then if you’re still in doubt, dare to stand still. If you’re called on to act and you do not have time to pray, do not act. If you are called on to move in a certain direction and cannot wait until you have peace with God about it, don’t move. Be strong enough and brave enough to dare to stand and wait on God, for none that wait on Him shall ever be ashamed. This is the only way to outmatch the devil.
Let’s be very specific about this. In the sixth chapter of Ephesians the Apostle Paul talks about spiritual warfare. He says, “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Now what Paul is saying in that passage is that there’s a spiritual warfare above and beyond the things that we see. And it’s because of that and because of the fact that we need direction in that warfare that we can’t trust what we see exclusively, but we have to wait upon God for His wisdom, His strength, and His direction.
When you put the teachings of that important passage in Ephesians together, they go something like this. The first is that if we are Christians, we are all engaged in a spiritual battle. This is not something just for some elite persons in the Christian community. When God calls us to salvation, He also calls us into that spiritual struggle. Second, if we’re to prevail in it, we must be clothed with God’s armor. That’s to say we have to have the kind of character God gives that’s able to stand against the onslaughts of the enemy. There is an offensive warfare, but there’s a defensive one, too. Therefore, we have to be clothed with righteousness, and to carry the shield of faith, and have the preparation of the gospel of peace at our disposal—all those things that Paul mentions.
Why is relying on your sense impressions for all your decisions a serious mistake?
Read Ephesians 6:10-18. From the lesson, what are the first two truths from this passage that every Christian needs to know?
In what ways do you feel you are in a spiritual battle? How can the individual pieces of God’s armor serve to give you victory in your conflict against evil?