Monday, April 8, 2019

What You Don't Know

At any given time, you only know what you know; what you often forget is what you don't know, what you can't possibly know. And that means that every decision you make, no matter how good it seems at the time, is based only on a partial understanding...unless you ask God to show you what you can't see. 

A good reminder of this happens in Israel as they press toward the Promised Land in the early chapters of Joshua. A few early victories have only intensified the fear of the peoples who live in the land, and one of those peoples concocts a devious plan - they dress themselves in dirty, torn clothes, pack up some stale food, and walk a few miles to meet the advancing Israelite armies. Their plan is that they will convince Israel that they are a people from far, far away - a people that Israel won't encounter in battle for a long, long time - and sign a peace deal, essentially surrendering themselves as servants in order to save their lives. 

So their long-bearded men show up in tattered rags, covered in dirt, breaking bits off of stale bread, and they present themselves to Joshua and the people, begging for mercy and for a deal. And Israel seems to know there's a possibility that something sly could be afoot; they even call it out. "How do we know this isn't just a scam? That you aren't just a people from right around here trying to fool us?" And the visiting people point out their beards, their clothes, and their bread as evidence.

Good enough. Israel makes a treaty with them, ensuring this people to be their servants in exchange for their very lives, without asking God whether or not that's a good idea. Without asking this God who has been telling them all along to march forward and destroy everyone. Without asking this God who sees more of the land than they do, who knows more of the plan than they do. 

And then, of course, they find out that this people is not from far, far away but rather, from very, very close. Though God would have had them destroy this people, now, they can't. They've made a deal without knowing what they were getting into, and now, they're bound by it.

They are, after all, a covenant people. They live by their deals.

It's the same story we live out all the time - we only know what we know. We never know what we don't know. Sometimes, we may have an inkling of what we don't know, but we don't know enough about what we don't know to really understand that we don't know it. And what we see before our eyes seems simple enough to us. After all, do beards, rags, and bread lie? Do dust and dirt and weariness lie? 

We move forward based on what we know, without stopping to ask God whether or not what we know is enough. Whether or not our eyes might be lying to us. We don't ask this God who has been guiding us all along the way. We don't ask this God who sees more than we do. We get ourselves into some great, big, giant messes because we're sure of what we know...without ever asking God, who knows more than we ever could, about what we don't know. 

The question, then, to ask ourselves when making any decision is not, "What do I know?" What we know is quite plain. It's right there before our eyes. But we have to remember that our eyes are deceiving, and they may be lying to us. The question we have to ask ourselves before we make any decision is, "What do I not know?" We know what we're thinking about; what are we not thinking about? We know what we see; what do we not see? We know what we know; what do we not know?

And if there are things that we aren't thinking about, things that we're not seeing, things that we don't know, then we have to be willing to stop and ask Someone who is thinking, seeing, and knowing. We have to ask God, even when it seems plain and simple to us. Even when it seems obvious.

Lest we get ourselves into a deal we were never intended to make, but now, we have to keep. We are, after all, a covenant people. We live by our deals. 

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