This is one of my favorite vacation pictures. Look closely. What do you see?
Clouds. -- fact.
Evergreen trees. – fact.
Beautiful blue skies. – fact.
Stones. – fact.
Stair steps. – fact.
At first glance, it appears that you are looking upward at the sky through the trees. Right?
Wrong. Look again.
Wait a minute. I clearly see clouds and blue skies, and I know that clouds and sky are above trees, so… I have to be looking upward at the sky.
Oh. I see. The stair steps are going downward, right? So that means I’m standing somewhere really, really, really high up because I’m looking DOWN on the blue skies and clouds -- which everyone knows are above the trees. It has to be … Right?
Wrong again. It’s a FACT that the picture above shows trees, clouds, blue skies, stair steps, and stones. Facts are facts.
But facts are not the TRUTH.
I was standing at the top of a set of descending stone stairs on the edge of Crater Lake looking DOWN through the evergreens at the reflection of the clouds in the crystal clear, perfectly still waters below me.
You see… facts are tricky. They are merely pieces of data recorded to capture information. Facts only tell us part of the whole. Facts can be twisted to distort or to embellish reality. Let’s say a police officer records a statement given by a witness at the scene of a crime. That statement is fact, but the fact is merely a record of what a specific person said… it doesn’t mean that what they said is a true account of what actually happened. Get my drift here?
How we interpret and handle facts makes a tremendous impact on what we believe to be true.
When Joshua and the children of Israel entered the promised land, their fame in conquering Jericho and Ai spread throughout the land and struck fear in the hearts of the inhabitants. The nearby Gibeonites realized they were in the path of destruction and concocted a clever scheme. Dressed in old, tattered clothes and with their donkeys loaded down with old sacks and cracked, mended wine skins they approached Joshua offering themselves as servants in exchange for a peace treaty. As they told a tale of a long journey from a distant land, they pointed to their moldy dry bread and the condition of their appearance as factual proof that their story was true. Joshua and his men examined the facts carefully – even sampling their provisions – and they totally swallowed the lie.
Unfortunately, the facts – as convincing as they were – supported the deception, not the reality. In trying to decipher the information presented to them, Joshua and his men missed the most important step of all:
They failed to ask the Lord about it.