This truth is wonderfully illustrated in Joshua 9:3–15 in the passage commonly referred to as the wiles of the Gibeonites. Although they were renowned for their military strength, they were absolutely intimidated by the series of supernatural victories that God had granted Israel in their conquest of central Canaan and the two major cities of Jericho and Ai. They had heard rumors that their entire land was under the judgment of God. They knew that their hour to be judged was near as Israel prepared for its southern campaign. They were only about 20 miles south of Israel’s encampment at Gilgal. They knew that a military conflict with God’s people would be futile, so they devised a plan to deceive God’s people into making an unholy alliance with them that was designed to sidestep the deserved judgment of God and to save themselves from destruction.
They would pretend that they were not really inhabitants of the land but that they were only unfortunate pilgrims passing through in the time of war. To accomplish this deceit they selected an envoy to represent them. They disguised themselves as ambassadors from a very far country who had been on an arduous journey. They made their saddlebags of goat’s hair to appear very old and weathered. They carried with them cracked and torn wineskins that clearly had been mended many times. On their feet they wore worn-out and patched sandals. They donned ragged and dirty travelstained clothing. As a final deception, they carried bread that was dry and moldy. To the natural eye, they did indeed look like weary pilgrims.
The deception worked. When they presented their case before Joshua, he made one of the greatest mistakes of his life. It is recorded in Joshua 9:14: “They did not ask for the counsel of the LORD.” They would make the mistake of judging the pilgrims by sight rather than by light. They were deceived into making an unholy alliance with the enemy because they did not seek the Lord’s guidance. They believed their eyes although it contradicted their experience. You see, they too were pilgrims. But what a difference!
During their long journey in the wilderness, did their clothes fall to shreds and suffer decay? Did their sandals rot off their feet? With all of their walking, did their feet swell? Were they forced to eat crusty, moldy bread? No! God’s pilgrims are enabled to go through the wilderness, but they do not look like they have gone through the wilderness. God’s grace brings them through victoriously. The testimony of a spiritual pilgrim is rich with stories of God’s faithfulness.
I fear that many testimonies today appear as the Gibeonites appeared. They stand as the Gibeonites stood, beaten up and bruised as they grieve over the pilgrim experience. In the end, in most cases, they do say something to this effect: “Although it was a tough go, the Lord finally brought me through.” That is not the vibrant testimony of a spiritual pilgrim.
Oh, that God would raise up spiritual pilgrims who would walk by faith and not by sight. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if His life was so manifested in our pilgrimage that no one could detect the hardness of the way no matter what we were called to pass through?
A Day’s March Nearer Home