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It was an amusing billboard actually; a cartoon drawing of a wide-eyed, bewildered-looking squirrel, holding a broken cable in his paws. The sign just said, "Call before you dig" and he gave a toll-free phone number. The utility folks have this problem. I'm not sure if it's with squirrels; it certainly is with people. They start digging and they cut right into their lines and their cables. You know, those could be gas lines, phone lines, or phone cables. And in the process, the happy diggers make a big mess for the utility company and their customers. A mess that could have easily been avoided.
It really is a good idea to check with the people in the know before you just start plowing ahead. It's our failure to check with the person who's really in the know that explains many of our costly mistakes, that causes some of the biggest messes in our life.
Consider the example in Joshua 9:14-15. It's our word for today from the Word of God. The Jews have been winning one victory after another over the Canaanites as they took possession of the Promised Land that God was giving them. They are about to come upon Gibeon, one of the royal cities of Canaan. The Gibeonites have heard about the fall of the other cities the Jews have gone against. They know they're going down next unless they can trick God's people somehow into making a peace treaty with them, which seems unlikely in light of the fact that God's orders are to remove every tribe from the land and not to coexist with them.
But the Gibeonites are shrewd. They sent a delegation to see Joshua, with donkeys loaded with cracked wineskins and worn-out sacks. They wore patched sandals and old clothes, and they carried dry and moldy bread with them. The whole scam was to make it look like they were from far away and that they had come on a long journey. Here's how Joshua and his men decided what to do with these Gibeonites, "The men of Israel sampled their provisions (so they made sure the bread was really dry and moldy) but they did not inquire of the Lord. Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live." Do you know, within days, the Jews learned that the Gibeonites weren't from far away; they were from close by. But because they had been tricked into this treaty, they could not, by honor, remove them as God had commanded.
As a result, the hands of the Jews were tied for years to come, and the treaty actually sparked a major battle with other armies. How did this mess happen? They didn't call before they dug. They decided on the basis of what seemed right to them, but they made the fatal mistake so many of us have made so many times - they didn't check with heaven! And they blew it. So do we.
So much unnecessary pain, so many unnecessary complications and difficulties and conflicts, all because of our failure to seek God's direction. We neglect to check with God for many reasons. We're in too big of a hurry, we're feeling pressured by other people, we compromise for the sake of convenience, or we just plain know how we want it to be and we stubbornly blaze ahead with our own will. Sometimes, we may even be doing God's thing, but it's not God's time or it's not God's way. We "lean on our own understanding," which can only see part of the picture. When you consult with the Lord, you're getting direction from the only One who can see the whole picture.
In 2 Chronicles 18:4, King Jehoshaphat gave King Ahab this advice before he went running off into battle: "First, seek the counsel of the Lord." King Ahab didn't, and he died in that battle. You can avoid a lot of problems and a lot of pain if you'll instinctively check with heaven first. Call before you dig.