It was the
aftermath of the miraculous victory over Jericho. The people and their
leaders were feeling pretty good about themselves. In fact, the last
verse in Joshua 6, the chapter that speaks of the fall of Jericho,
states this: "So the LORD was with Joshua, and his fame spread
throughout the land." (Josh 6:27)
Yes, they were feeling pretty indestructible. So indestructible that when Joshua told them to go and spy out the region of Ai: "Now Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai …" (Josh 7:2 NIV), they came back with the following report: "Not all the people will have to go up against Ai. Send two or three thousand men to take it and do not weary all the people, for only a few men are there." (Josh 7:3 NIV)
And so that's when happened: "…about three thousand men went up…" (Josh 7:4).
It is important to notice two things here: First of all, God never told them to go to Ai. The Bible says, "Now Joshua sent men … to Ai …" Secondly, God never told them to only send 3000 men! This was the idea of the spies: "… Send two or three thousand men to take it …"
The quest was a disaster. The Bible records: "… but they were routed by the men of Ai, who killed about thirty-six of them. They chased the Israelites from the city gate as far as the stone quarries and struck them down on the slopes. At this the hearts of the people melted and became like water." (Josh 7:5 NIV)
So what really happened here?
First and foremost, the people were prideful after the fall of Jericho, so prideful that they didn't bother to ask God about Ai. They went up against the city without God's direction and without His permission. As a result, they were defeated, the entire camp went into turmoil, and moral hit rock bottom!
Friends, just like Israel's quest was to conquer and possess the Promised Land, our quest is to conquer temptation and addictions, so that we, too, can enter into our eternal rest. But just as Israel failed at Ai, we, too, are destined to fail unless we learn some important lessons from the Disaster at Ai.
The first lesson we can learn from the problems at Ai is to not become prideful and cocky in the wake of a victory. We have to continually remind ourselves that we did not win the battle, God did! "'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty." (Zech 4:6 NIV)
A few years ago, a friend of mine struggled to quit smoking. Only with God's help did he finally conquer the addiction. Sometime later, while out with a bunch of friends who were smoking cigars, he was tempted to join in. After all, he had conquered smoking. One little puff on a cigar wouldn't hurt him! I'm sad to say that this friend was drawn right back into smoking, and the last time I talked with him, he still hadn't been able to quit. When we rely on our own power, we are destined to fail!
The second lesson to be learned from the problems at Ai is to always seek God's help, and to resist the urge to follow our own will. God is all knowing, He is all powerful. When He tells us how and when to go forth and conquer, then we know that we will be successful. But if we go forward on the advice of man, things can and will end up with non-optimum outcomes.
Take witnessing, for example. Let's say you've been praying for someone for some time, and it appears that the time is ripe to speak to them, to urge them to accept Jesus into their hearts. Is it a good thing? Yes. Is the time right? Only God knows, and remember: He holds time in His hands! "He has made everything beautiful in its time." (Eccl 3:11 NIV)
And what about our "plan of attack" in witnessing to our friend? Do we challenge them upfront? Or do we wait until they bring it up?
Remember the problems at Ai? Israel sent out 3000 men, because that was what seemed right to them. Always remember: "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death." (Prov 14:12 NIV)
So what is the best plan of action? We need to ask God what we should do! If we do, and if we follow His advice, we can rest assured that the right words are said at the right time!
In summary then, the first 3 lessons that can be learned from the problems at Ai are to remember to give God the credit for our victory and resist the urge to be prideful, and to always seek God's advice, His timing, and His direction beforehand!
But there are still lessons to be learned from the Ai disaster. Join us next week for The Problems at Ai, Part B.
In His love,
Lyn Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two teens, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, www.scripturalnuggets.org, with Answers2Prayer Ministries, www.Answers2Prayer.org.