And the men took of their victuals, and asked not counsel at the mouth of the LORD.
Between Joshua and Eleazer, the ruler and the high priest, a noble heritage was divided. The one has the obedience of Israel, the other the secrets of God. They have at their command respectively human power and Divine wisdom. According to Numbers 27:21, Joshua was taught to expect to find a heavenly oracle in the Urim and the Thummim of the priest; and constantly the promised oracle was given. In this case, however, it was not sought. Joshua and the rest were flattered with the story of their fame, and too readily assumed the insignificance of the occasion. Otherwise, had they asked they would have received counsel, and have been set on the track of discovering the fraud. It probably did not materially matter to Israel then. The chief loss to that generation was the booty they would in that ease have divided, and the private advantage of so many slaves divided amongst the families, instead of having a servile tribe allotted to the ministry of the tabernacle. Still the historian notes the neglected oracle as if Joshua had learned here a lesson of carrying even things that seemed little to his God. The occasion gives two or three lessons worth learning.
I. THERE IS AN ORACLE WHICH WILL WISELY GUIDE ALL WHO FEAR GOD. God has never been at a loss to guide the willing steps of men; but to the heart that has sought He has always given guidance. In various ways He has led men. Abraham through a whispering of His great name; Jacob and Joseph through dreams; Moses through voice and vision and miracle alike; Joshua through some gleaming of the high priest's breastplate; Gideon through the angel; Samuel through a raised state of every faculty; the prophets by the breathings of great thoughts and feelings; Jonah's sailors by the lot; the wise men from the East by a star; the Ethiopian by a page of prophecy. He seems to accommodate all and give them their guidance where they expect to find it. God still "fulfils Himself" m many ways, The African rain maker rebuked Livingstone, by declaring his methods of getting rain were really prayers which the good God was in the habit of granting. The Moravians, who expect Divine guidance through the casting of the lot, doubtless find it there, though no one else would get it. Sometimes through the providential barring of dangerous paths; sometimes through a restraint like that which Paul described in the words "the spirit suffered us not;" sometimes through inward impulse of a cogent kind, a being "bound in the spirit to go" in a certain direction; sometimes by the mere commendation of certain courses to our taste, our judgment, or our conscience. God still gives guidance to all who ask it.
"No symbol visible
We of Thy presence find,
But all who would obey Thy will
Shall know their Father's mind." Pray for light, and in some way it will reach you. There is a living oracle for all who wish to walk according to the will of God.
II. TRUE WISDOM COMMITS SMALL THINGS AS WELL AS GREAT TO GOD'S CARE. A child tells all to the parent that it trusts; the least discomfiture - the greatest distress. And when we have the child-like heart we commit all to God, feeling that the least is not too little for His great love. The ability is developed of rising on every occasion in thought to Him, till the mood becomes so confiding, so expectant, that it forms a "prayer without ceasing." And this habit of committing all becomes fortified by the wisdom which observes how often the issues of things are to be in the inverse ratio of their seeming importance: vast consequences flowing from what seem most trivial events, and events that seem of a stupendous character leaving no trace of influence on after history. So, little things as well as great are lifted by the devout heart to the Divine ear. Joshua here thought recourse to the oracle needless because the matter seemed unimportant. But it had more importance than he knew. Strangely enough, this compact with Gibeon fixes the resting place of the ark for centuries, right down to the time of David. For Kirjath-jearim was one of the cities of Gibeon, and it was probably the residence there of the Gibeonites that determined the resting there of the ark. This, in its turn, threw the centre of the national life to the southward, helped the supremacy of Judah, the choice of Jerusalem as capital, the subordination of Ephraim and Samaria. If Joshua had seen all that hung on his decision, he would not because of the seeming insignificance of the matter have neglected the oracle. Take God into thy counsel in all matters, less and larger. Commit the little acts to His decision, surrender the little things which self will would decide. "Faithful in least, faithful in much;" and, even so, devout in least, devout in much. Christ raised the dead, and then said, "Give her something to eat;" the omnipotent miracle, the homely kindness, being equally characteristic of Him. Walk with God always. In least things consult His oracle.
III. ALL MAKE MISTAKES, BUT GOD'S SAINTS PROFIT BY THEM. This is the second mistake of the same kind which Joshua has made since crossing Jordan. Not consulting the oracle, he sends too few men against At. Not consulting the oracle, he makes this covenant with Gibeon. But our text recording the mistake shows how it was discovered, and the repetition of it avoided. There is no mistake which is absolute mischief, it will always give us at least a lesson. Blessed are they who can turn all their faults into schoolmasters. For though such schoolmasters use the lash, they give good teaching, being skilled to teach humility, watchfulness, dependence on God. Turn your faults to good account, and every act of folly into a spring of wisdom. Lastly, observe, that not only did Joshua turn the fault to account, but -
IV. GOD MAKES THE BEST OF A GOOD MAN'S MISTAKES. After all, the alliance with Gibeon gave them entrance into a position of importance, became the occasion of the great victory of Beth-heron, and has no traceable results of mischief. Thus it ever is. God makes the best of us and of our work. When the heart is right our every failing is turned to good account. Be not too nervous about the results of our actions. For when the purpose is honest and devout -
"Our indiscretions ofttimes serve us well.
There's a Divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them as we will." G.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the men took of their victuals, and asked not counsel at the mouth of the LORD.