Jesus answered, "Watch out that no one deceives you."
Deception has been around since the garden. The serpent deceived Eve into thinking the fruit from the tree God had forbidden Adam and Eve to eat from was God purposely keeping something good from them. It's easy for us to see how she could have avoided Satan's trap because we know the full story. But Eve didn't. The serpent was Satan, and even then he was out to steal, kill, and destroy. He is a liar and the Father of lies. If she had only known who she was talking to or that God is trustworthy and incapable of lying or tricking, she would not have given in.
It's not so easy to detect deceit when it's happening right before our eyes. We don't always recognize the signs or what is going on. We think we are safe because we go to church or because we love Jesus. We believe it's not happening to us because we are praying and serving the Lord. But in reality, we aren't paying attention.
Joshua thought he was safe. He led the Israelites in two victories against Jericho and Ai. Both cities were defeated and utterly destroyed. When the people of Gibeon heard about this, they came up with a plan to trick Joshua. They shared their idea with some other cities and together sent some men to Joshua. These men claimed to be from a distant land and wanted Joshua to make a treaty with them. When Joshua asked them who they were and where they were from this is what they said:
“Your servants have come from a very distant country because of the fame of the Lord your God. For we have heard reports of him: all that he did in Egypt, and all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan—Sihon king of Heshbon, and Og king of Bashan, who reigned in Ashtaroth. And our elders and all those living in our country said to us, ‘Take provisions for your journey; go and meet them and say to them, “We are your servants; make a treaty with us.”’ This bread of ours was warm when we packed it at home on the day we left to come to you. But now see how dry and moldy it is. And these wineskins that we filled were new, but see how cracked they are. And our clothes and sandals are worn out by the very long journey.” (Josh.9:9-13)
The men of Israel examined their provisions and were satisfied with what they said, but they didn't inquire of the Lord. So Joshua made a treaty with them. A few days later they learned that these men lived nearby and that they had been tricked. How could Joshua have known these men were lying? Three things from this story come to mind:
Everything they said about God was true. Sometimes deceit comes in such a way that we don't recognize it because it's mixed with truth. The Bible tells us we need to be discerning. That means we need to inquire of the Lord, the very thing Joshua didn't do. Discernment also reminds me of the Bereans, who received the message with great eagerness and searched the Scriptures to see if what Paul said was true (Acts 17:11).
Notice how these men came singing God's praises. Often, receiving praise can puff us up and lower our defenses. The admiration of others can blind us to what is really going on. Even though these men weren't directly praising Joshua, what they were saying about God and His fame could have had the same effect.
When asked who they were and where they came from, the men didn't fully answer the question. They avoided telling Joshua who they were by saying "Your servants" because that would have ruined the plan. If we aren't paying attention, we may not notice the things that aren't said. What we hear sounds good, so that's all that matters to us in the moment.
Deception happens when we believe the lies we are told, our pride blinds us to the truth, and we only hear what we want to hear. No one likes being deceived, but the fact is, we are all susceptible. Knowing it can happen at any time hopefully will cause us to examine more closely what we hear and remember to ask the Lord for discernment and wisdom. There is only truth and lies. The Father's heart is for you to know the truth.
Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me."
Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.
All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal.
But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.
Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God
my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.