The recent Winter Olympics provided many memorable moments, with the U.S. men’s curling team among the top. After losing several matches early, the team skillfully and strategically fought their way to a gold medal victory for the first time in history.
One significant rule of curling is that there is a countdown clock running on each team at any time when one of their stones is not moving. This is the time when team members huddle together to analyze their possibilities and plan their upcoming shot, and also to predict what moves their opponents will make in order to counter those in advance. If they cannot reach agreement, or feel unsure that they’ve determined the best strategy, they can call a timeout and invite a coach to the ice for a new perspective. The U.S. men’s team called a timeout in a pivotal moment late in the gold medal match, gaining additional input and confirmation from their coach that led to an ultimate victory.
So the men of Israel took some of their [the deceptive agents from Gibeon] provisions and did not ask for the counsel of the Lord. Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath.
— Joshua 9:14–15
The leadership of the Israelites allowed lying emissaries from a nearby enemy stronghold [Gibeon] to trick them into an agreement. Despite trepidation and suspicion, and following a time of recent military and spiritual victory, the leadership of Israel — and Joshua in particular — failed their followers. They neglected to ask the Lord for guidance. They trusted their intuition, instead of insisting on God’s input. That choice, made in haste by a few, negatively impacted the entire nation.
As a result of their decisions, Israel foolishly entered into an oath with an enemy nation that God had already promised to conquer. When the ruse was discovered after a few days, it was too late.
Oh, that Joshua had called a timeout.
In this story, we see disappointing leadership. We see the need for good leadership. We see the consequences of ignoring God. We see deference to the immediate over the eternal. We see how the decisions of one, or a few, can affect so many. We see, presumably, how a desire for possessions can dangerously outweigh our desire to be in God’s will. We see human failure.
And, if we are honest, we see ourselves. We know how the devil wants to destroy us, and how our flesh will selfishly urge us toward temporal satisfaction. Many of us have the proof of consequences when we have acted without God, or outside of his will and teachings.
Ultimately, in God’s power and grace, he redeemed the failure of Joshua and his leaders through an immediate military victory at Gibeon against the five kings of the Amorites, through the pitching of the tabernacle of God [God’s very presence] in Gibeon, and through the eventual usage of Gibeonites in the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem with Nehemiah. This is an example in Scripture of God not only forgiving, but bringing blessing out of lies, deceit and treachery.
If you face a confusing or troubling circumstance, call a timeout and seek his guidance through prayer. If you need wisdom, call a timeout and search his Word. If you need strength or rest, call a timeout and ask the Holy Spirit to recharge you.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.
— Proverbs 3:5–8