Introduction: In chapter 7 we see Joshua and his men getting routed by the men of Ai because of the sin of one man Achan who coveted and kept devoted things from the previous exploits, against the specific command of God to not do so. This defeat follows a grand victory God had given the Israelites when the walls of Jericho collapsed and the entire city was destroyed and every living thing in that city was put to the sword by the Israelites. Instead of this victory taking the Israelites to the next high, we find them falling into another low in their history- which is in line with the general pattern ie. Victory followed by pride by sin by judgment and then defeat. Though Achan’s sin was the immediate cause of defeat at Ai, this defeat also emanates from a sense complacency and self-dependence among the Israelites including their leader Joshua. In the previous chapters we see that Joshua sought the Lord at all times for all decisions in their life and never took any step without consulting God. In verse 2 of Chapter 7 we see Joshua sending out men to spy out the city of Ai but we don’t find him seeking God’s plan in this matter. Perhaps the victory over a stronger fortified city like Jericho made pride creep into their heads causing them to underestimate the prowess of the men of Ai. So when the spies returned and suggested that only about 2 or 3 thousand men are required to go up against Ai, Joshua readily agreed to their suggestions without even feeling it necessary to seek the will of God. Inevitably, Israelites were routed by the men of Ai with many of them getting killed. This defeat broke the Israelites and their hearts melted with fear. Joshua realized his mistake immediately and sought the presence of the Lord by falling face down before the ark of the Lord. He quickly realized that God is their Jehovah Nissi and without God they can achieve nothing. Later, in this chapter we see the Israelites ruthlessly dealing with the sin of Achan by wiping out his entire household. Chapter 8 is set against this background and a study of this part of the history of Israelites in general and Joshua in particular gives us some important principles for turning defeat into victory in our lives. We all commit mistakes in life and as someone has said – to err is human. But the grace God gives is to learn from these mistakes, repent and turn back into the purposes God has called each one of us. So let us begin to understand the nine principles we can learn from the life of Joshua and his men.
1. Return to Lord with repentance and brokenness:
In verse 6 of chapter 7 we see Joshua tearing his clothes and falling facedown to the ground before the ark of God and remaining there till the evening. When we commit mistakes and experience a consequent defeat in our lives, the first thing we need to do is to set our pride aside and humbly come back into the presence of the Lord. Not only should we come back but we should linger in the presence of the Lord till we find a direction from God. Joshua remained there till the evening. He did not give up but persisted till the Lord showed up in verse 10. Many of us who have experienced defeat and disappointments in life expect a quick answer from God and give up easily when no answer seem to be forthcoming. Whatever be the scale of our mistakes or transgressions, God’s Word promises that when we return to Him with repentance and brokenness, we will find God. In Isaiah 55:7 the scripture says- “Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the LORD, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.” In Joel 2:13 it says- “So rend your heart, and not your garments; Return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, and of great kindness; And He relents from doing harm.”
Brokenness in our lives is what God desires. In Psalm 51:16 it says – “the sacrifices that God desires is a broken spirit and a contrite heart.” We need to understand that a state of “brokenness” is an integral and essential step towards your destiny. It is very much in the Godly order of things. God cannot use a man unless he or she passes through a state of brokenness at some stage in their lives. History is evidence to the veracity of this awesome statement. All our great fore-fathers- Abraham, Moses, David, Peter or Paul, were all broken, before God commissioned them for specific purposes in their lives. Unless we are prepared to be broken, we cannot expect to be used by God. That’s a bold statement and be sure it is not my own thought. In Mathew 26: 26 we find Lord Jesus himself laying down this principle. Mathew 26:26- “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” Jesus has laid down an awesome principle here for all of us to understand and follow. He expects us to follow this principle because he applied the very same principle to himself first. So what is the order-
Took – The first step that God takes in our lives is when he takes us out of this world in whatever condition we were in. We were all wretched sinners and condemned to die. But God in his mercy chose us and set us apart. There is no room for any guilt or shame or inferiority complex because God has found us worthy to be chosen. Whatever be our past, there is no room for guilt or shame because we are now in God’s hands.
Bless – The immediate next thing that God does is that He blesses us and changes our destiny. Once we were doomed to die but now we have eternal life. We were all outside the door and a nobody but now were all inside and have been adopted as children of God. We have become heirs to the Kingdom of God and suddenly all rights of the children have been bestowed on us. Every promise given to the children of God in the Word becomes ours- not because we deserve it but because God in his mercy chose to do so.
Broke – We would all be happy if God had stopped at the second stage. But whether we like it or not God doesn’t stop there. He has to essentially break us if we have to have any chance of being used by God. Without the breaking process and the unlearning process we cannot expect to be used by God. All the baggage that we carry of our past- our prejudices, biases, strongholds, attitudes, likes & dislikes, sins etc need to be broken we have to stand any chance in the kingdom of God. Moses knew his destiny from his childhood and knew that God had called him as a deliverer of the Israelites. But, he was mistaken when he thought that all his royal upbringing and strapping would help him in achieving his purpose. Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and he was mighty in words and deeds. He thought these qualifications would entitle him to take matters into his own hand. He killed an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew but when he got exposed, he had to flee for his life. This followed a 40 year period of breaking, before God could take him to his destiny. Unless we are prepared to be broken we cannot expect God to use us.
Gave – And finally when we are broken and prepared by God, we become ready to be used as a blessing to other. Jesus broke the bread and gave to others. Our lives are not our own, it is meant to be a blessing for someone. We cannot simply eat, drink, be happy and die. Our lives need to be poured out for others. For this reason only God told us that we are a salt and a light and a city on the hill. It is not natural for us to just live for ourselves. It is not God’s plan for us to be self centered and remain focused our own lives only. Paul said about his own life in Philippians 2:17 “Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.” Abraham was blessed by God thus- you shall be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out.
Many of us would be happy with the first two stages- that of ‘taking’ and ‘blessing’ and some may be a bit more enterprising in going to the third stage of ‘giving’ by skipping the third stage of ‘breaking’. But my dear brothers and sisters- there is no way we can be used by God, unless we are prepared to be broken in the presence of the Lord.
2. Deal with Sin. (Joshua 7: 25-26)
Once we turn back and return to the Lord, we need to address the source and cause of the problem. We cannot continue to live with the problem and expect God to work in our lives. Sin issues have to be dealt with ruthlessly and like cancer it has to be surgically cut and removed. God can help to show us the problem but we alone have to deal with it. In chapter 7 we see God revealing to Joshua that the Israelites had sinned by taking the devoted things that they were not supposed to take. Instead of pronouncing judgment straight away, God asks Joshua and the leadership to deal with the problem. This is the principle that we need to learn. When we turn to the Lord and spend time in His presence, God’s Word and His Holy Spirit would well up in our hearts a new level of consciousness and understanding which would expose all the wrong things in our life. Once we reach this stage, God expects us to renounce such sins and deal with it ruthlessly. If we are struggling to know the cause of our failures we can pray the way David prayed in Psalm 139:23-24 “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” We again find David praying thus in Psalm 5:8 “Lead me of Lord in your righteousness because of my enemies, make your ways straight before me.” David clearly understood here that sin can cause him to fail before his enemies and he stands no chance unless he stands under the righteousness of God. Jesus himself taught us to be ruthless, asking us to even consider cutting off our foot and gouging out our eyes if they cause us to sin. In Mathew 18:8-9 it reads “If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.”
3. Be encouraged (Joshua 8:1)
There are two things that discourage or dismay us- our present circumstances and the uncertainties of future. In verse 1 we find God himself exhorting Joshua and asking him not to be afraid and discouraged. We as God’s children need not be dismayed by our present circumstances because what is seen is temporal and what is unseen eternal. In 2 Corinthians 4:18 we read “while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” We cannot let our present circumstances dictate our future destiny because it is God who is in control of our destiny and it is He who is going to do what is promised. For it is written in 1 Cor 2:9 “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” God is omnipotent, He can change our circumstances in no time and we should never allow doubts and fears put by the enemy to limit our destiny which God has planned. Similarly, the uncertainties of future should not overawe us because our future is in God’s hands. We need to cling to the promises given in the Word while deciding about the future. In Deuteronomy 31:8 God promises – “the Lord will go before you and He will be with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid or discouraged.” We should lay aside all fears simply because He is a God who goes before us and not behind us. He is always there in the forefront and would never leave us nor forsake us. In Isaiah 41:10 God promises us that He would help us and strengthen us and will uphold us with His righteous right hand. In Isaiah 43:1-2 God promises to carry us through thick and thin and even when the heat is on. When we walk through the waters, He will be there, when we pass through the river, we shall not drown and when we walk through the fire we shall not be burned for He will be with us. What an awesome promise. Is there any room left for us to be discouraged?
4. Follow the Lord’s Plan (Joshua 8:2)
Once we have come into the presence of God with brokenness and repentance, God would give us a specific plan and direction. Joshua was given a plan to set up ambush behind the city of Ai. Proverb 20:24 says that our steps are directed by the Lord. We are not people without a direction or purpose. God plans out everything for us when we align ourselves to His purpose. In Isaiah 48:17 God says “I am the Lord your God who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.” In Jeremiah 29:11 God says “For I know the plans that I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” Once we know for sure that God has planned everything for us, why should we take the bother of doing it ourselves and vitiating God’s plan with our ideas. Another thing we can learn from this passage is that God generally gives a broader direction and leaves us to work out the finer details. God told Joshua to set up the ambush behind the city but it was Joshua who worked out the finer blue print of the strategy. When God gives us a plan, we need to work on that plan by putting our full efforts, intellect and wisdom. We simply cannot expect God to come and do that for us. That is plain and simple lethargy and laziness.
5. Use every resource and the best resources.
This principle is especially true when we are trying to regain a lost victory. Don’t underestimate the enemy especially when the enemy had tasted success against us in a particular area. Joshua this time chose to move his entire army and not part of his army as he had done before in chapter 7. He chose thirty thousand of his best fighting men to combat the enemy. It is very important to use our best and every available resource when we are trying to regain lost ground. Don’t attempt to the enemy stronghold with half measure- go all out in full force. We need to apply this principle especially when we are trying to break enemy strongholds over our neighborhood, over our cities and nation. It is very important to mobilize all the available intercessors and prayer warriors to come together in agreement to combat the enemy. It is very essential to have unity in the body of Christ to tear down the works of darkness which have been there for ages. The enemy is not just going to give up so easily. We need to garner everything that we have to fight this good fight.
6. Outwit the enemy ( Joshua Chapter 8:5-6)
Devil would generally attack us in our known areas of weakness and would use the same tricks that he had used before. So it is very essential to be prepared in that area and plan strategies to outwit the enemy in that very area. Joshua knew that the men of Ai would chase them when they confront them because this is exactly what happened the previous time. But the only difference this time was that, it was a trap and a ruse and Joshua had planned to lure all the fighting men of Ai away from the city, so that his men who were lying in ambush could enter the city unopposed and destroy everything. God expects us to use wisdom and strategies when combating the enemy. We need to be atleast one step ahead of the enemy. This is what Paul is professing when he says in 2 Cor 2:11- “In order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.” Satan does make schemes against us but when we spend time in the presence of God, He would give us ideas and strategy to outwit and outsmart him.
7. Go on the offensive when you have to regain victory.
In verse 10 we find Joshua marshalling all his men and marching towards Ai. He didn’t wait for the enemy to take the first step but took the initiative to confront the enemy at their backyard. He confronted the enemy face to face. This is an important principle we need to grasp especially when we are trying to regain lost ground. We cannot afford to be defensive in areas where we have experienced defeat in the past. We need to be aggressive and use all the weapons of warfare that God has given us. That is why it says in Matthew 11:12 that “the Kingdom of God suffers violence and the violent take it by force.”
8. Deal ruthlessly with the enemy.
Be merciless when you are dealing with the enemy for our enemy is a roaring lion looking to devour someone. (1 Peter 5:8). We cannot poke at the enemy or leave it injured. The enemy would come back at us with greater force, if were to leave the job unfinished. In verse 25 & 26 we see Joshua and his men killing every men and women of Ai. They didn’t spare anybody. It is very important to finish and complete your victory or else it would come back to haunt and bother you. 2 Cor 10:4-6 says- “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.” Use all the weapons of warfare that God has given to complete the victory.
The book of Joshua is a manual on spiritual warfare. By grasping and imbibing the principles laid in this book, we can become mighty warriors for God. God expects each one of us to be warriors. God has appointed us over the nations and the kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant. (Jeremiah 1:10) God has promised us in His word that if we ask He will make nations our inheritance and the ends of the earth, our possessions. We are expected to rule with an iron scepter and subdue everything. (Psalm 2:8-9). It is very important for the body of Christ to understand that the royal blood of Lord Jesus runs in their veins and they are all mighty warriors. Let us not sulk in defeat and adopt the principles given above to turn defeat into victory as Joshua did.
(Written by Stanley Mathews)