Jesus made it clear that deception would increase in the end times. In fact, he warned his disciples that even the very elect would be in danger of deception (Matthew 24:24). Paul also warned believers that deceiving and deception would increase in the last days (2 Timothy 3:13). Many believers do not realize that they are the targets of deception designed to thwart God’s plan for their lives, and take them off the path He has ordained for them. That’s why Peter challenged believers to be self-controlled and alert because the enemy, as a roaring lion, is on the prowl looking for someone to devour or deceive (1 Peter 5:8).
Satan is a master at customizing deceptions for believers based on their predispositions, weaknesses, attitudes, maturity level, and current life situation. Much like a suit tailor will measure a man’s neck, chest, waist, arm length, and leg inseam, the enemy carefully crafts the perfect deception for each individual believer. The closer we get to the end of all things, the more the devil will be active in his attempts to bamboozle or trick, delude, mislead, and fool believers.
The people of God under Moses and then Joshua were told not to enter into any treaty with the people in the land they were to possess (Deuteronomy 7:1-3; Exodus 34:15-16). The Gibeonites, who lived no more than ten miles from the camp of Israel, heard about the success of Israel. They developed a preemptive ruse to trick Joshua and the other leaders into believing they had come from a great distance by presenting cracked and mended wineskins, moldy and stale bread, patched sandals, and old rags for clothes. The Bible says the leaders sampled their provisions, but did not inquire of the Lord.
We can learn much from the negative example of Joshua and the leaders of Israel how to overcome the deception of the enemy, no matter how strategic, custom made, or diabolical. First, the people had forgotten the instructions of God not to enter into any treaty. The first step into deception is to willfully minimize, rationalize, or compromise the truth we already know. The Lord had already made it clear not to make covenant with the people of the land through his Word and through his servant Moses. Alarm bells should go off in our hearts when we find ourselves suddenly at odds with the Word and spiritual leaders God has placed in our lives.
Second, the Bible says the people sampled the belongings and provisions of the Gibeonites. This is a great example of sense based living where believers rely on their five senses rather than the Word of God and discerning of spirits, the spiritual gift whereby we can know the source of an utterance or manifestation (the human spirit, a demonic spirit, or the Holy Spirit). Believers are deceived because they begin to give more weight to their experiences than they do to the Word. A way can seem right to us and yet end in death and destruction (Proverbs 16:25).
Finally, Joshua and the other leaders failed to inquire of the Lord about the encounter with the Gibeonites. No doubt, the Lord would have reiterated his command and exposed the ruse of the enemy. Too often we start out in the Spirit, but then revert to our flesh thinking we can handle things on our own. When we cut ourselves off from the presence of God, we cut ourselves off from his unlimited knowledge base (omniscience) that would prevent our deception.
Any believer can overcome the devil’s targeted deception against them by doing what they already know to do, by walking in the Spirit instead of the flesh or the senses, and by inquiring earnestly of the Lord when they feel confused or uncertain. When we don’t do these things we become a willing participant in our own deception, and the problem with deception is we don’t fully comprehend we are deceived until the consequences begin to manifest.