Last week we looked at the great defeat of Jericho. The Israelites listened to God, the walls of Jericho fell, and they conquered the city. One key idea to remember is that this city was the Lord's - everything was to be destroyed except the silver, gold, bronze, and iron, which were to be consecrated and put into the Lord's treasury. The first city they conquered was for the Lord. Everything else would be for the Israelites. Something obviously goes wrong in Ai. The Israelites suffer a major defeat and learn a valuable lesson because of it. In reading through this story, we will see three things that we should not do when we are in battle with the enemy.
I. Don't underestimate your enemy
Joshua 7:1-5: But Israel violated the instructions about the things set apart for the Lord. A man named Achan had stolen some of these dedicated things, so the Lord was very angry with the Israelites. Achan was the son of Carmi, a descendant of Zimri son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah. Joshua sent some of his men from Jericho to spy out the town of Ai, east of Bethel, near Beth-aven. When they returned, they told Joshua, “There’s no need for all of us to go up there; it won’t take more than two or three thousand men to attack Ai. Since there are so few of them, don’t make all our people struggle to go up there.” So approximately 3,000 warriors were sent, but they were soundly defeated. The men of Ai chased the Israelites from the town gate as far as the quarries, and they killed about thirty-six who were retreating down the slope. The Israelites were paralyzed with fear at this turn of events, and their courage melted away.
- Acan disobeyed God and stole from what was supposed to be dedicated to the Lord
- Joshua failed to seek direction from the Lord before sending out soldiers (his spies had reported they would only need a few thousand soldiers to take the city)
- The Israelites underestimated their enemy
Joshua 8:25: So the entire population of Ai, including men and women, was wiped out that day—12,000 in all.
Confidence was probably high after seeing Jericho's walls come down and taking the city. Compared to Ai, Jericho should've been considerably more challenging. We see something similar in the New Testament:
Acts 19:13-16: A group of Jews was traveling from town to town casting out evil spirits. They tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus in their incantation, saying, “I command you in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, to come out!” Seven sons of Sceva, a leading priest, were doing this. But one time when they tried it, the evil spirit replied, “I know Jesus, and I know Paul, but who are you?” Then the man with the evil spirit leaped on them, overpowered them, and attacked them with such violence that they fled from the house, naked and battered.
These men obviously had some success casting out demons until they came across this one. They were not ready for him and were completely embarrassed.
1 Peter 5:8: Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.
We are to stay alert at all times because our enemy is always seeking opportunities to defeat us.
Similarly in the New Testament, Jesus tried to prepare his disciples for what was to about happen.
Luke 22:31-33: “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter said, “Lord, I am ready to go to prison with you, and even to die with you.”
Peter was not a weak man. He left his family business to follow Jesus. He got out of the boat to walk on the water. He truly loved and believed in Jesus. He was convinced that he was ready to go to prison and even die for Jesus. However, as we know, that was not the case. As Jesus predicted, Peter denied Him three times.
Matthew 26:41: Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!”
Jesus was trying to teach them a powerful truth in the garden, but they kept falling asleep. They were to keep watch and pray so that they would not fall into temptation. Jesus knew that Peter would fall so he prayed for him. God believed in Peter. He knew that Peter would turn back to Him and would be an encouragement to the rest of the disciples.
II. Don't take sin lightly
Joshua 7:10-13: But the Lord said to Joshua, “Get up! Why are you lying on your face like this? Israel has sinned and broken my covenant! They have stolen some of the things that I commanded must be set apart for me. And they have not only stolen them but have lied about it and hidden the things among their own belongings. That is why the Israelites are running from their enemies in defeat. For now Israel itself has been set apart for destruction. I will not remain with you any longer unless you destroy the things among you that were set apart for destruction. “Get up! Command the people to purify themselves in preparation for tomorrow. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Hidden among you, O Israel, are things set apart for the Lord. You will never defeat your enemies until you remove these things from among you.
Joshua did not see this coming. He did not expect to lose and now that they had, he was afraid of the ramifications of the defeat. I love God’s response to him. Get up! Someone has broken my covenant and you need to deal with it.
We are in a covenant relationship with the Lord and that is not to be taken lightly. His covenant is like an umbrella for us. We are protected from the curse in this world when we stand under His covering. It's under this covering we receive His blessing and favor. When we walk out from under that covering, we are exposed to the curse.
Malachi 3:8-11: “Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me! “But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?’ “You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me. You are under a curse, for your whole nation has been cheating me. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test! Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease. Your grapes will not fall from the vine before they are ripe,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “Then all nations will call you blessed, for your land will be such a delight,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
The Israelites were cheating God with their tithes. They were giving their first fruits but were not giving the full amount. They were not walking in covenant and therefore were cursed.
If they brought in the whole tithe, God would open up the heavens and they would have enough room to take it in. Their crops would be guarded against insect and disease (the curse could not affect them).
When you get married, you are in a covenant relationship as husband and wife as well as with God. What happens to a marriage when someone decides to break that covenant by cheating on their spouse? Maybe an addiction to pornography is impacting the marriage. That marriage is probably not going to last. We must remember that we are the bride of Christ. We cannot allow the things of this world to impact our relationship with Him.
Joshua 7:20-21: Achan replied, “It is true! I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel. Among the plunder I saw a beautiful robe from Babylon, 200 silver coins, and a bar of gold weighing more than a pound. I wanted them so much that I took them. They are hidden in the ground beneath my tent, with the silver buried deeper than the rest.”
Achan allowed these meaningless things to break his covenant with God. Ultimately this happens when Jesus isn't enough for us. He is the one that truly satisfied us and fulfills our hearts desires.
1 Peter 1:14-16: So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”
Sin is all about self. We will do anything to get what we want at any cost and we lose everything and everyone in the process. Jesus has called us to be set apart from the world. We are to be holy like God is holy. Our new nature is selfless and we find true satisfaction in Jesus.
James 1:13-15: And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.
This is exactly what happened to Achan. He saw the plunder, he wanted it, and he took it. This brought death to him and his family. It seems kind of harsh for one man's sin to impact a whole nation. God gives us a great picture of this in the New Testament.
1 Corinthians 12:26: If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.
If you have a parent bound in addiction, it will impact the whole family. If you have a child running from God, it impacts the whole family. We are all one in Christ. If one person suffers, we all suffer. If one person is honored we are all honored.
God has given us clear direction that we need to help those who have fallen into sin. We need to go after them. He has also given us direction with believers who willfully walk in sin and it causes others to fall away. Sometimes they have to be cut off from the church.
The enemy's strategy is always to attack and take out pastors and other church leaders, because it causes more people to leave their faith. I have friends that have left the church simply because their pastor fell into sin. It’s important to pray for church leaders for this reason.
Ephesians 4:31-32: Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
When we allow sin in our lives, it gives the enemy access to our lives and makes us vulnerable to his attacks. Walking in covenant reminds us that Jesus has made us righteous through his work on the cross. We are dead to sin and it has no power over our lives. There is a reason why God tells us to deal with the issues we may have with another person before coming into his presence. We do not want to walk outside of our covenant relationship with God - it can be extremely dangerous for us!
III. Don't do anything without God
Repentance is one of God's greatest gifts to us. God is so gracious to us that He makes a way for us to get right with him and walk in the blessing of His covenant. Israel made it right with God and God told them how to defeat Ai.
Joshua 8:1-2: Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid or discouraged. Take all your fighting men and attack Ai, for I have given you the king of Ai, his people, his town, and his land. You will destroy them as you destroyed Jericho and its king. But this time you may keep the plunder and the livestock for yourselves. Set an ambush behind the town.”
This time they were to set an ambush. They lured the men out of the city and burned the city down. They then defeated everyone from Ai. They received victory just as the Lord had said.
God has given territory to take, and He has given us everything we need to accomplish that. We must continue to seek His face and do what He tells us to do. He made it incredibly simple for us.
Romans 8:12-14: Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.
We have His spirit to lead us. Covenant is all about oneness and relationship with God. He will guide us daily as we seek Him and operate out of His strength and wisdom.
- Don’t underestimate the enemy.
- Don’t take sin lightly.
- Don’t do anything without God.