False Evidence

The book of Joshua records an incident where an enemy of the people of God deceived them with false evidence.

When the people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, they resorted to a ruse: They went as a delegation whose donkeys were loaded with worn-out sacks and old wineskins, cracked and mended. The men put worn and patched sandals on their feet and wore old clothes. All the bread of their food supply was dry and moldy. Then they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and the men of Israel, “We have come from a distant country; 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.”


The men of Israel sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the LORD. (Joshua 9:3-14)


The people of Gibeon presented certain evidence: worn-out sacks, old wineskins, old clothes, patched sandals, and dry, moldy bread. The evidence itself was true: the sacks were worn-out and the bread was dray and moldy. The evidence was presented as symptoms supporting the conclusion that the people lived far away and had made a long journey. Although the evidence supported that conclusion, the conclusion wasn’t the truth: the people did not live far away and had not made a long journey. Even if they truly had made a long journey, that is not evidence that they lived far away. They could have made the journey long just to make it appear that they lived far away.

Fortunately, the record highlights the mistake they made: they did not inquire of the Lord. They did not ask God what the truth was. If they had, he would have told them, they would not have been deceived, and they would not have had to live with the consequences of having been deceived.

This example is important for us today. If the men of Israel had asked God he would have answered them. He would have spoken to them by his spirit in the same way he speaks to us today. We have the same, or better, guidance from God than Joshua did then. It is extremely important that we learn the lesson of this example and seek God for truth.

It is also important that we learn from this example that the evidence of things seen, heard, or felt, may not be the symptoms of what they appear to support. Pain and fever are not necessarily the symptoms of sickness. What does God say when we ask him?

How we handle the evidence of things seen is critical to successful prayer. We will encounter symptoms that suggest our prayer is failing or has failed. We may encounter symptoms that suggest our prayer is succeeding or has succeeded. What does God say when we ask him? He is the only reliable source of truth. We can only know if our prayer is succeeding or has succeeded by what he says.

Eventually the evidence of successful prayer will come into agreement with the truth of successful prayer. We receive the results of prayer according to what we believe we receive. (Mark 11:24) If we experience pain and fever and believe we receive sickness, then that is what we will have. If we experience pain and fever, ask God and believe him when he tells us our prayer for healing is on track, then healing is what we will have. We receive from God by faith: by evidence of things not seen.