Deception – The Gibeonites Story

The bible story of the Gibeonites and how they tricked Joshua & the Israelites (which you can read in the book of Joshua Chapter 9) is a fascinating bible story which has a lot to teach us about deception.

What is Deception

It is a deliberate attempt to make you believe something which is not true – there is an intention to mislead – something is hidden, concealed, there is an ulterior motive.    Deception presents facts in a way that you think they are the truth.    It will usually contain a mixture of truth, half-truths & lies – it distorts the truth.    Deception is usually very close to the truth otherwise it would be easily spotted.  Craftiness, & Cunning are usually involved. 

Deception can also arise from giving or allowing a false impression to be made by manipulating information, exaggerating or leaving truth or some truth out – lying by omission.  If you let someone believe something untrue about you – the person has a wrong impression and instead of correcting them you let them believe it – that’s also deception.  That is such a subtle trap we can all fall into – allowing someone to believe an image of ourselves that we project which is not reality- even as believers.

A lie will usually lead to another lie. Eventually you are so far away from the truth you no longer recognise the truth.   That is why deception is so dangerous –it’s very subtle. We start to believe the lie is actually truth because we have a wrong reference point or foundation for what we believe.   We receive information through a distorted lens of deception and don’t realise it is not truth. We then think others are deceived!

We see elements of this in the plan of the Gibeonites.  It was very cleverly thought out – they went to great efforts to paint a picture and give the impression they had travelled from a long long way away and were not in fact neighbours of the Israelites.    Their bread was mouldy, their wine was gone, their clothes & sandals were worn out and tattered etc.   Those facts were true but the reason they gave was not true.   That was the deception.

There is always a motive for deception– sometimes it is just as important discerning the motive behind the deception.  The reason why someone wants to deceive us or why we deceive ourselves (self-deception) or others. It can be for a whole host of reasons – dishonest gain (greed), self preservation, fear etc. to name just a few.  

In this story the Gibeonites had heard what had happened to the cities of Jericho & AI (the Israelites had wiped them out) and they feared for their lives – they didn’t want to die. It was all about self-preservation – than can be a strong motive for deception– we lie or cover things up because we don’t want someone to know the truth about us – preserving ourselves.  Fear about what people would think if they know the truth –we become trapped in this false picture we have created.

The Gibeonites wanted a peace treaty with the Israelites– that was what they told Joshua & that was true (v2/3).    It doesn’t seem like they were planning a Trojan horse – enemy infiltration– and kill the Israelites afterwards – we’re not told that.    The Gibeonites had various options to achieve their aim.  We know from verse 1 that they could have joined forces with the other neighbouring Kings in the area who planned to attack the Israelites.     That was a genuine option.  The Gibeonites were not a weak people or small in number– In Joshua 10 we find out that Gibeon was a might city – bigger than Ai & full of mighty men.  They could have fought.

However, they discounted that option – the Gibeonites were wise enough to realise that they had no chance of getting what they wanted by force because God was on the side of Israel.  If someone can’t beat you at something or take something by force then beware that they don’t cheat you out of it instead. 

Their other option would have been to throw themselves on the mercy of the Israelites & God – been honest from the very beginning – there was an option to do the right thing – but they resorted to obtaining what they wanted by deception.  

This is still true today of how the enemy, Satan, will use deception against us.  It is one of his greatest strategies – his motive is to “rob, steal and destroy” – he wants to ruin the fullness & joy of a life of freedom & redemption that Christ has given us & all that God has for us.  Satan wants to stop you growing and maturing and being an effective disciple of Jesus.

If Satan cannot frighten us or overcome us by a direct attack then he will seek to deceive us in some way either by what we believe about our faith in God and salvation in Jesus or what we believe about ourselves.   We need to be able to identify and discern those lies.   Otherwise there will be consequences of us believing the lie – strongholds will develop in our thinking or behaviours which are not Godly and we won’t be mature and develop in our faith with a firm foundation of truth.    

In these days with so much access to information from so many various sources we really need to be able to discern false teachings, false doctrine, false prophecies etc- That is why we need the tools which God has given us to discern deception.

The motives for deception can look “good” to us too -just as the Gibeonites thought and this is part of the trap with “self-deception” – we can do what we think is good rather than what is Godly.   We can convince ourselves that the only way out of a situation is to “bend the truth” for a good cause. What a trap. 

Where does Deception come from?

Deception originated from Satan – Jesus said satan is the “father of lies” John 8:44 – “He (satan) was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him.  When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies”.  

We see satan’s nature as the liar and deceiver in the garden of Eden.  Satan deceives Eve into eating the forbidden fruit which introduced sin & death into creation. 

Deception is sin –a half truth which misleads – is sin – self-deception is sin.

Deception introduces DOUBT  –  Deception can mean you start to doubt the “truth” – you doubt your ability to know the “truth”.     You start to doubt your own faith – “Are you really a Christian”?   Satan introduced doubt when he said to Eve ”   Did God really say”?  You can start to doubt you have heard God correctly.     

Watch out for doubt in your thoughts– where is it coming from?  Doubt and Discernment are different things coming from different sources. Doubt does not come from the Holy Spirit. Discernment is the Holy Spirit working in and through us to reveal truth.

We can deceive ourselves – self- deception – it can be in our own hearts.   The bible says that “the heart is deceitful above all things” Jeremiah 17:9 – It is so important to ask God to search our hearts and ask Him to reveal if there is any sin in us.    Are we deceiving ourselves in areas of our lives, in our behaviours or attitudes.

So we see that from that very first act of deception in the Garden of Eden there are then stories of deception throughout the bible. Jacob deceives his father Isaac to steal the birth right from his brother Esau, Laban then deceives Jacob into marrying Leah, Joseph’s brothers deceive their father Jacob and pretend Joseph is dead.

The Pharisees tried to deceive Jesus, Ananias & Saphira tried to deceive Peter and Simon the Sorcerer tried to deceive Paul.

There is a pattern of deception and deception is still at work today.  Jesus warns his followers not to be deceived.

Matthew 24;24   “For False Messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.

Paul warned the early churches – 2 Corinthians 11:3 – “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ”.

Acts 20:30 “Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them”.

Let us heed these warnings and be on our guard as believers against deception.

Discovering Deception

The good news is that this story of the Gibeonites tells us very clearly how to avoid deception –in two words – Ask God.

I love the fact that there is no mystery here, it’s clear -In one sentence we are told exactly why the Israelites were deceived by the Gibeonites– they didn’t ask God but relied instead on the evidence of their own eyes & ears.  Self-Reliance & not God Reliance.    

Can we rely on God – The answer is Yes.  

Firstly God knows all things (He is omniscient) – nothing is hidden from his view. God cannot therefore ever be deceived.   The bible says in Hebrews that no creature is hidden from His sight but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

God forbids deception so it is not part of His character– Leviticus 19: 11 “Do not lie.  Do not deceive one another”.    Proverbs 12:22 “The Lord detests lying lips but he delights in people who are trustworthy”.

We can also trust Jesus – The bible teaches us that there was no deceit in Jesus –  Isaiah 53: 9 “nor was any deceit in his mouth”.  

Jesus is The way, The truth & The lifeJesus does not deceive us or lie to us.

Jesus has also sent us the Holy Spirit – as believers we have the Spirit of Truth– living within us.  Jesus said the Holy Spirit is our counsellor and will “lead us into truth”. John 16:13 “But when he, the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.  He will not speak on his own, he will speak only what he hears (from God) and he will tell you what is to come”.

God promises us guidance when we seek Him. There are lots of promises in scripture that when we seek God He will lead & guide us and that we can trust in Him.   In Psalm 5 – we are encouraged to take our requests to God each day in prayer and look up (wait for the answer).

God has provided us with His written word – Holy Scripture– His words of truth.   God’s Word is the plumb line.  If you want to check something is truth – first check what the bible says about it. Go to the source first.   

Hebrews 4 says  “ For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness for he is a babe but solid food belongs to those who are of full age – that is who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good or evil.”

We need to study and get into the bible ourselves and then practice and test whether the things we hear, read etc. are good (of God) or evil.   We have to know these things for ourselves and so mature in our faith.  We also need to live out our faith in doing good.   James says that we deceive ourselves if we don’t act out our faith as doers of the word and not just hearers.

Ephesians 4;14  “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.”

The symbolism of the mouldy bread and wine that has run out also speaks to me in this story.      As believers we also need fresh bread from heaven – Jesus is our daily bread. He is the living water which never runs out. Reading the bible, Prayer, worship & praise- these are all ways that we daily eat & drink and build ourselves up in Christ.

One of the gifts of the Holy Spirt is Discernment.  I encourage you to ask the Holy Spirit for the gift of discernment.   Through the exercise of that gift we can discern between good & evil and truth & lies. The Holy Spirit reveals hidden things and what would not be possible to know by our human understanding – it is a divine revelation from God.  

Jesus exercised discernment– Jesus discerned the hearts & motives of the Pharisees when they were trying to trick him –  “you hypocrites he said– why are you trying to trap me”.    Peter discerned through the Holy Spirit that Ananias & Saphira were lying to him and lying to the Holy Spirit.  The impure motives of Simon’s heart in seeking the gift of the Holy Spirit were also discerned.

Why did the Israelites not ask God about the Gibeonites?   We are not told why – just that they didn’t.   This is really interesting because the Israelites had a recent testimony of God revealing deceit in a miraculous way. They discovered why the battle of “Ai” was lost by God revealing deception by one of their own people who had stolen and hidden spoil from the battle which had been forbidden.  They could have easily asked God about the Gibeonites.   Was it over-confidence or mis-placed confidence in their own abilities – they asked a few questions of the Gibeonites, tested the food etc. but ultimately they relied on themselves and not God. There is a warning in this to us.

The Gibeonites were also pressurising the Israelites to make a peace treaty and to act quickly.    That can be a sign of deception –  being pressurised into making a quick decision. We need to make time to seek God and ask Him for guidance before making a decision especially if that decision will have big consequences.   Don’t be rushed.

There were also signs of deception – – warning bells were there – The Gibeonites flattered the Israelites.  Perhaps Joshua & the people were flattered to hear that their exploits in battle had reached so far and wide.  Perhaps some pride crept in which made them vulnerable.   So the lesson for us it to beware the flatters.

Romans 16:18 “For such people are not serving our Lord Christ but their own appetites.   By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naïve people.”

Ephesians 5 v 6 “Let no-one deceive you with empty words”.

Seeing is not always believing

We are warned not to believe everything we see especially when it comes to signs & wonders.    If people are just looking for signs & wonders as evidence of truth or God – the miraculous – then there is a great danger of being deceived.  

Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 2 9-10 “the coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works.  He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie – and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing.   They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.”  

Appearances can be deceptive. The appearance of the Gibeonites deceived the Israelites. They believed what they saw with their eyes.

The good news is that Truth will eventually out. One day the truth will be revealed. The things that are hidden will be revealed by God.

In this story it was only 3 days – a very short time -before the Israelites discovered the truth.

Dealing with Deception

This is a really important part of the story. There are lessons we can learn. 

Imagine how Joshua & the Israelites felt when they realised they had been deceived – angry, upset, vengeful, stupid, shamed, guilty, disappointed, betrayed –perhaps they looked for others to blame, fearful that they had disobeyed God. 

Put yourself in their shoes for a moment and imagine – How would you have felt & how do you think you would have reacted.  

You may have even experienced deception and can identify with those feelings. – I know I have – twice that I know I have been in fellowships which have been deceived by trusted people– a huge amount of money was stolen from one church and in another there was a sexual predator pretending to be a believer.    It can cause a lot of pain & hurt –especially if you have been deceived by someone close to you – but the fallout from how we react can be even worse than the effects of the deception itself.  It can cause division, disunity, bitterness, recriminations & unforgiveness even pride – blame those who have been deceived and act as though it wouldn’t have happened to you.   “How could they have let this happen”?    Relationships are really tested and sometimes don’t survive.   We need to guard our hearts in these incredibly difficult circumstances.

In this story we read that the Israelites were not happy at all with Joshua & the leaders when they found out they had been deceived – they started to complain.  There was the potential here for there to be a rebellion against the leaders.    The people wanted revenge and to kill the Gibeonites and when that wasn’t possible then have them severely punished and to be their slaves.   That would have been a terrible life of slavery & drudgery.   Open to future abuse as well by their masters.    The Israelites had been slaves in the past and now they had the chance to be the masters – to make someone else pay.   There was the potential that the Israelites would even deceive themselves into justifying their own bad behaviour or mistreatment of the Gibeonites.   They deserved it by deceiving them and had brought this on themselves.

The Gibeonites had obtained the covenant of the peace treaty with the Israelites by deception. It might seem justifiable to us for the Israelites to have broken the covenant they had made as it had been obtained by fraud. As a lawyer, I know that the law today enables parties to terminate a contract if there has been fraud or misrepresentation.   It is seen as the fair thing to do.

However, the Israelites had made this vow & covenant in God’s name and the leaders were concerned about bringing dishonour to God’s name and also fearful about what God might do to them if they didn’t honour the covenant.

That decision was Godly Wisdom indeed because later in the bible we find out that Saul does break that covenant.   The result is that God is really displeased and there is a famine as a result which is only brought to an end when 7 of Saul’s sons are killed (crucified) as a substitution to make right the wrong that has been done to the Gibeonites.

This reminds me that through Christ’s death on the Cross and His Resurrection Power we are given the ability in Jesus to overcome our natural desires of our flesh for revenge, anger etc when deceived and to forgive the deceiver and release them to God.

What did Joshua do in this story?

Joshua doesn’t attack the Gibeonites when he discovers the truth.    He confronts their lie in the right way.    He wants to discover the truth – why did they lie.  

That is important for us – we may need, in some circumstances and however, difficult and upsetting to confront the deceiver. In the right way- in a Christ like way- just like Joshua did.     Jesus did the same with the people who tried to deceive him – He called it out.   “Why are you trying to trick me

The Gibeonites take the opportunity and tell Joshua the truth.  It’s like a confession of their sins. They confess the lie.

They are under a curse because of the lie but Joshua also shows them Mercy – v 27 – He doesn’t make them the slaves for everyone – imagine what a life of hell that would have been -but he makes them woodcutters & watercarriers for the house of God.   This would still been a hard & demanding work but not the punishment that the people wanted and perhaps arguably that the Gibeonites deserved.  

By making them the woodcutters and watercarriers for the house of God Joshua actually brings them close to God.     This reminds us that God is truly merciful to everyone and He has made a way through Christ for everyone to come into His family.

So I would say -Put those who have wronged you into the hands of God.   Let Him deal with them for you.   If we have done wrong let’s confess our sins and God will forgive us.

It doesn’t say in the story that Joshua explicitly forgave the Gibeonites but this is something which we are required to do as believers.  Forgive those who trespass against us.   Jesus tells us to forgive – it is a requirement of living out a life of faith.  It is not easy.   I didn’t realise for a long time that I even had any unforgiveness in my heart still towards the person who had hurt me through their deception.    It wasn’t obvious – I didn’t think about them or wish bad things on them.   I thought I had dealt with it but I had deceived myself by burying the hurt & fear deep inside me.  

God showed me the effect of that buried unforgiveness in my life was like those little foxes which ruin the vineyard.   It was ruining my fruitfulness in certain areas of my Christian walk.  God really opened my eyes to the things I had deceived myself about by not dealing properly with those things– lies that I had started to believe – that I couldn’t really trust God to protect me or those close to me, that there was hatred buried deep in my heart towards this person.   I learnt to forgive by God’s grace.

Defeating Deception

When we deal with deception in the right way I believe that we defeat it’s power in our lives.     In Joshua chapter 10 the Gibeonites are under attack from the other Kings and they ask Joshua for help.

This was the test.   Joshua does not refuse them help. He helps his one-time enemies who had deceived him.  Joshua is faithful to his promise and because of this and the way he acts, we read in Chapter 10 that God gives the Israelites their biggest victory in battle so far – there are miracles and God enables them to defeat all of the 5 Kings who had plotted against the Israelites at the start of chapter 9 at once.   God says “Do not fear them for I have delivered them into your hand”.

If you are obedient to God then he will give you the victory over your enemy and you will overcome.

God can do the miraculous in your circumstances – in v11 of the chapter we read how God came to their aid and cast down great hailstones from heaven – a demonstration of His great power.   

Even the sun stood still v 12 and v 14 – The Lord fought for Israel.  He didn’t just fight for the Israelites though (His people) – He also fought for the Gibeonites – it was their city that was being attacked.   God was now protecting those who were serving in His house and part of His house.   We are also under God’s protection now having been brought into His family through Jesus the Son.    We are under God’s loving care.    God surrounds us with His favour.

I don’t think that Joshua & the Israelites would have had such a victory if they had not honoured the peace covenant made with the Gibeonites. God honoured Joshua and gave him a mighty victory.

Bless you my friends.

Simple Instructions

Did you collect stickers as a child? These are two stickers I put in a bible given to me in 1976 by Glenrothes Baptist Church when I was a young girl. I’ll stress the young 😊

Two simple instructions:

1. Follow Jesus

2. Read the book of God

If you asked me for advice today then I don’t think I could put it any better than that. It’s served me well for the last 45 years. Follow Jesus and read God’s Word. Simples as they say 😊

We sometimes have a tendency to over complicate things and then can’t see the wood from the trees. It’s good to remind ourselves of simple truths which help us and bring us back on track when we get a bit lost, discouraged or wander away from God and His plan.

2 simple instructions that we can all apply.

Are you following Jesus? Have you submitted your life to Him as Lord? If not then there is no greater joy. If you have-are you still following His leading? Walking in the Spirit and being led by the Spirit.

Are you reading (or listening) to the Word of God, the bible for yourself? Do you know sound doctrine? There’s no substitute for studying the bible for yourself. Sure we have appointed teachers in the church to help us with our understanding, there are great books, teaching manuals, guides etc out there to help us but don’t neglect to read and study the Word of God for yourself.

My friend Heather told me this little verse which was passed on to her;

The bible is a mine of gold, of precious gems and wealth untold. Read now and pray that you may find, rich treasures for your heart and mind. Amen 🙏🏾

Be blessed today my friends x

Feeling invisible

Do you sometimes feel invisible? That people just don’t notice you.

A visiting preacher from Turkey once told us that Mission begins with Seeing.

In chapter 2 of the story of Ruth we read in verse 5 – Boaz said “whose young woman is this?”

Ruth who was a foreigner, a stranger, a refugee who is destitute is noticed by Boaz. From that moment on when she is noticed – everything in her life changes.

When we notice someone or when someone notices us – things change.

There were a lot of reasons for Boaz not to notice Ruth or pretend he hadn’t noticed her- she was a woman from another culture. She was poor – not a worker in the field just there to pick up the leftovers – but Boaz noticed her. When he noticed her – he also did something to change her circumstances forever. He showed her favour, gave her advice, his protection and then redeemed her in marriage.

Ruth was a widow from another country who had gone to Bethlehem with her mother in law Naomi, also a widow, to escape a famine in the land. They had heard that there was food in Bethlehem. Ruth was a Moabite and was an outsider from a different culture. The Jews and Moabites were often in conflict. Ruth as a widow had no husband to represent her. She had no voice and no legal rights. She had no-one to protect her. She is living in a desperate situation having fled from a country suffering a severe famine. She has nothing other than her mother in law Naomi. She no doubt felt shame about her destitute circumstances.

Ruth was someone who desperately needed someone to notice her and help her.

Boaz was at the other end of the social scale. He is a wealthy landowner who has power, influence and privilege. He is a Jew. He has a voice. He has a position. Sometimes “having” can stop us seeing how others – the “have nots” are affected and living but Boaz does see Ruth though. He notices her situation and then uses his position to help her. He doesn’t ignore her plight.

This story is set in Bethlehem which is called the “House of Bread”. Hungry people come to the house of bread to be fed. When Ruth and Boaz marry and have children their descendants lead directly to Jesus. Jesus is from their line. Jesus who is and called himself the bread of life. Hungry people need Jesus who is the only one who can truly satisfy their hunger. Do we notice spiritually hungry people and signpost them to the true bread of life. Do we notice those who are actually hungry and feed them.

We are all refugees like Ruth in one sense in that we too as mankind lost our original place with God when sin entered the world through Adam & Eve eating of the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge. We all need a Boaz – a saviour to step in and help us. Someone who notices our plight and has the ability to be able to save us from sin – there is only one who can truly do that – His name is Jesus the son of God who through his death and resurrection saved and redeemed us from sin. We are refugees no more as our home is now in heaven with God forever and ever. We are now part of the family of God as Ruth became part of Boaz’s family on marriage.

If you feel invisible, insignificant or overlooked then I want you to know today that God is a God who sees us – God sees you. God notices you. He is just waiting for you to notice Him. He sees you right where you are.

When Hagar fled to the wilderness and hid it was God who saw her – She called him “you are the God Who Sees” because God saw her in her predicament and helped her. Even if those around us don’t notice us, if our families don’t notice us – God does. God always sees us. He loves us.

We are God’s eyes too – who does he want you to notice today so that you can show His love. Who does God want you to see – mission begins with seeing.

Whether you identify with Ruth or Boaz in the story, I pray that you will be encouraged. You will know that God has noticed you – He sees you and loves you. That we will also notice those who God wants us to see and notice who are in need today.

Have a blessed day.

Photo by Eva Elijas on Pexels.com

A Know it all?

“Meanwhile, a Jew named Apollos, an eloquent speaker who knew the Scriptures well, had arrived in Ephesus from Alexandria in Egypt. He had been taught the way of the Lord, and he taught others about Jesus with an enthusiastic spirit and with accuracy. However, he knew only about John’s baptism. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him preaching boldly in the synagogue, they took him aside and explained the way of God even more accurately.” Acts 18:24-26

We have a saying at work that we use a lot as a balance and check:

“You don’t know what you don’t know”.

Think about that saying for a moment.

It’s demonstrated here in the story of Apollos. He didn’t know what he didn’t know until two fellow believers told him and gave him a more full understanding of faith and explained the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes, we are deficient in our knowledge, but until we discover that or someone points it out to us, we are blissfully unaware. We think we are fully informed but we may not be. As a lawyer it makes me consider and research carefully before giving a client advice in case there’s something I have missed.

There are some keys we can learn from these verses.

Apollos knew the Scriptures. He had been taught about Jesus and he taught others. What he taught was correct but it wasn’t the whole story, He had limited knowledge. Whoever had introduced Apollos to faith had limited knowledge too because he only knew what he had been taught up to that point.

You will only learn as much as your current teacher knows.

Aquila and Priscilla had been given a more complete teaching. They had been with Paul and learnt from him. When they heard Apollos speaking publicly they realised that he was lacking in knowledge. They didn’t just leave him in ignorance though but they acted. They didn’t leave Apollos in the dark. Instead they took him aside and explained things more fully to him.

Note that Aquila and Priscilla didn’t publicly shame Apollos. They didn’t flaunt their knowledge or act in a superior way. They took him aside these verses say and so would have explained things privately to him. This was wise and respectful. It also meant that they didn’t squash his enthusiasm and his gifting. He was already an eloquent speaker.

Let us also be careful how we correct those who may not be as mature in faith or have more limited knowledge. We don’t want to be responsible for squashing the gift within them or dampening their enthusiasm in the wrong way. We also need to understand their current level so as not to overwhelm them and make things too difficult to grasp.

As we considered in the last post about Being Open-Minded it seems that Apollos was just that. It was to his benefit and then the benefit of others that he listened, was teachable and then went on to share with others what he had learnt.

I pray that today I won’t consider myself a know it all but will be willing to be shown a more excellent way when I am deficient or lacking in knowledge and understanding of God.

Have a blessed day friends.

Adding knowledge

Portraying God

As Christians we want to portray God accurately to others. Misrepresentation is a serious thing. So serious that there are laws in place to protect people from misrepresentation and compensate them when it happens. This is certainly the case in the UK where I live and practice law and I am sure in other nations.

Although this week’s blog will have a bit of a legal influence (it’s my day job after all) I promise it won’t be boring…now there’s a possible misrepresentation if ever there was one!! 😊

This theme of misrepresentation caught my attention recently when I read again Job’s story. It’s certainly not the easiest book in the bible to read. As a heads up, the things that happen to Job and his family are terrible. If you’ve never read Job before then do try it and persevere as it has lots of rich nuggets in there and spoiler alert…a happy ending.

One of the things though that we can easily overlook as we get to the end of the story and the good stuff for Job is that God is not happy about some things that have happened. In fact He is angry that Job’s friends have not spoken accurately about God in their discussions with Job when they were trying to ‘help” their friend. They have misrepresented God in their talks and God is now taking them to task for it.

That’s serious stuff and really got me to thinking and it’s a big challenge. As a Christian do I accurately represent God to people or do I misrepresent Him? Do I accurately reflect God in my blog and my writings? In my family life, church life, with my Christian friends and in my workplace. When I preach in church and in our small group fellowships. This is a massive topic for thought and discussion and I’m sure will prompt lots of thoughts and comments from others as we reflect and consider this more.

Now in legal terms there are different levels or types of misrepresentation because the law realises that not every type of misrepresentation is the same. There are two though that I thought might help us think about this a bit more.

There is an “innocent” misrepresentation where the person didn’t realise that they had said or done something wrong. They hadn’t meant to mislead the other person into believing something which wasn’t true because they believed it to be true themselves.

That’s an easy thing to do and it can happen to us. We say something about God that we believe to be true, perhaps it’s something we have been told by others or taught, even brought up in faith to believe or was our mindset before but actually it’s not correct. Our source of information was wrong or we have not interpreted it incorrectly. We didn’t mean to mislead anyone but we have done it. We have believed and repeated a false teaching or doctrine. We have become the blind leaders of the blind that Jesus warns about. We may have given the wrong impression about God perhaps because we don’t want to offend someone

There are consequences for both parties though when this happens because even an innocent misrepresentation is wrong and leads us on the wrong path. Someone suffers along the way. Perhaps not immediately but at some stage it will have an impact.

When I read the story of Job I think that’s what his friends have done. They were sincerely trying to help. They thought they were giving Godly advice and they were learned, sincere, passionate and believable. There’s a responsibility on us to ensure that what we tell others about God is true especially when we think we are helping others with Godly advice. I always remember being taught in class that “ignorance of the law is no defence”. In other words if I’m caught speeding I can’t say I didn’t know that the legal speed limit was 70 and I was doing 90. I’m expected to find out what the requirements are to be a responsible citizen.

The good news is that as believers we have been given the tools to portray God properly. We have the bible, Jesus’ example to follow and the Holy Spirit who is the Spirit of Truth and God himself that lives within us. Thank the Lord that we can trust in God that He will lead us and guide us into all truths. If we have doubts then we have the ability to discover the truth about God. We need to have that humble attitude of heart though and be willing to listen and be corrected. If we think we know it all then we will be heading for a fall.

We also need to take our responsibility seriously to check things out for ourselves and apply ourselves to knowledge and understanding and seeking guidance from Godly leaders and teachers. God has blessed us with the gifts of ministry especially the gift of teaching within the body of Christ for this very reason. Paul used to do this within the early church and there are examples in his writings. This is why it’s beneficial and necessary to belong to a good fellowship of believers and meet together to be discipled.

The other type of misrepresentation is a fraudulent misrepresentation. Now in this case the person knows that what they are saying or doing is wrong and they are deliberately misleading the other person for their own gain in some way..it could be for a material benefit or for more subtle benefits. This is why Jesus himself warned us about the wolves in sheep’s clothing. Those within the body of Christ who are pretending to be believers but are deliberately trying to sabotage the work of the Church and hurt believers. They will be exposed and they can and will be identified. They won’t display the fruit of the Spirit and Peter and Jude’s letters to believers also help us to look out for the signs and warn us to avoid following their behaviours.

I want to portray God accurately. I ask God to forgive me when I have not done so and pray that He will lead me and guide me in His truth. To put the record straight when I have got it wrong. Teach me your ways God so that I may and will also help others to discover you, the one true God, your son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit of Truth.

Let me know your thoughts and have a blessed day. I have a feeling that the Lord has much more to teach me on this topic. Bless you.

After the Lord had finished speaking to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “I am angry with you and your two friends, for you have not spoken accurately about me, as my servant Job has.”
Job 42:7

We all need a helping hand