From Jericho to Ai

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Book of Joshua reveals how he, as the leader, and the nation of Israel would find success in the Promised Land into which they were now possessing. God told Joshua at the beginning of this incredible journey: " careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. 8 This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success" (Josh 1:7-8). NASB
The first six chapters of the book reveal how Joshua and Israel followed God's commands, even though doing so brought on delays concerning their possessing the land that lay before them. Chapter four reveals them building a memorial with stones gathered from the bed of the now dry Jordan. Chapter five reveals the circumcision of the males who were born during the wilderness wanderings. Chapter six reveals God's unusual battle plans for conquering Jericho. In all these commands, Joshua and his followers obeyed. Indeed they found great success when they were obedient to the commands of God. Then we come to chapter seven and Israel's advancement into their Promised Land comes to a screeching halt. Defeated by a much smaller enemy in Ai, they are now disheartened and afraid of the consequences that could follow.
I've noticed several principles that flow out of this text that we should take note of in moving forward into our promised destiny.

  • Conferring With The Flesh Instead of Inquiring of God

Josh 7:2 Now Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth-aven, east of Bethel, and said to them, "Go up and spy out the land." So the men went up and spied out Ai. NASB
No where in the text is there a divine command from God as to how to possess Ai. There is only the word of man. This is a drastic change from the first six chapters of Joshua. We will always cause our journey into the next realm to become sidetracked when we listen to the voice of man above the voice of God!
  • The Sin of Presumption
Josh 7:3 And they returned to Joshua and said to him, "Do not let all the people go up; only about two or three thousand men need go up to Ai; do not make all the people toil up there, for they are few." NASB
The spies presumed, and evidently Joshua agreed that they were well able to defeat a smaller enemy. The text seems to lend itself to the sin of presumption. This writer finds it astonishing that no one noticed that God is silent at this point in their journey. They presumed upon their past victory instead of trusting in the God who gave them the victory in Jericho. WE ARE THE MOST VULNERABLE TO DEFEAT ON THE HEELS OF A GREAT VICTORY!
  • Impatient Disobedience
Josh 7:1 But the sons of Israel acted unfaithfully in regard to the things under the ban, for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah, took some of the things under the ban, therefore the anger of the Lord burned against the sons of Israel. NASB
Instead of waiting on God to bless him, Achan took matters into his own hands. He took the items that God had banned in the conquest of Jericho. These items were reserved as holy unto the Lord but Achan placed them with his own stuff, burying them under his tent. Impatient Disobedience has caused many to become shipwrecked in their journey into their promised land. I wonder, how many divine moves of God have been roadblocked by disobedience? Only Heaven knows for sure. However, I truly believe that no move of God has been stopped by opposition from without but disobedience and compromise from within.
We have heard it often said: "I'm only hurting myself." However, that is a lie. Our disobedience not only hurts us but our families and the communities (religious or secular) into which we are joined. 
  • Our Failures Are Not Final
Josh 8:1-2 Now the Lord said to Joshua, "Do not fear or be dismayed. Take all the people of war with you and arise, go up to Ai; see, I have given into your hand the king of Ai, his people, his city, and his land. 2 And you shall do to Ai and its king just as you did to Jericho and its king; you shall take only its spoil and its cattle as plunder for yourselves. Set an ambush for the city behind it." 
What Grace! What Love! What Faithfulness! When we repent and come to God with our failures, usually the result of doing things 'our' way, we find Him to be a faithful, loving, and grace-full God. A God who will encourage us to not fear nor be dismayed. A God who will use our greatest defeat and turn it into a great victory. Our failures are not final. God's plan for victory included the actions of Israel in their last defeat. "Retreat as though you are returning to your camp - but have a company of soldiers ready for an ambush." Only God would use our last defeat as a battle plan for our next victory. We want to forget the defeat - to put it out of our mind. However, God says I can turn that embarrassing mess into a great message. Just follow Me! That's Grace.