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.” Josh 8:1–2 NLT
A s a part of laying down roots in our new land of promise, we recently purchased an outdoor dining table and chairs for our deck. Since our old set served us well for over thirty years, i am planning that this one is our “last” set. This set came with those frightful words — “assembly required”. It is a well-known fact that the main difference between men and women is most clearly seen when they encounter those two words. Women, most frequently, will follow the wise course of action of reading and following the instructions. In so doing, they know each step to take — in the correct order — using the appropriate part. And the finished product tends to look just like the instructions show you that it will — and there are usually no leftover parts. Men, on the other hand — at least some of us — can’t seem to be bothered with reading the detailed instructions. We’re men! We intrinsically know how things go together! We can’t be distracted by the instructions. And we achieve great economies in that we frequently do not need to use all of the parts!
The sad thing is that too many of us approach life that way as well. We can’t seem to be bothered with reading the “instruction manual” that the Creator provided so that we would know the steps we should take. And we don’t feel the need to “ask” the Creator how He would have us proceed. Or, if we do ask, too often we are not listening or reading to “hear” His answer.
As we have already seen that was the disaster at Ai. The men took it upon themselves to follow their own plan and never asked God. As a result they didn’t know about sin in the camp, and their efforts ended very badly.
It’s interesting to note that the name “Ai” in Hebrew means “ruin”. It causes me to think allegorically that if i am headed down a path that leads to ruin, do i want to maneuver along that path following my own plan? Or do i want to follow the instruction of the Creator who knows every aspect of the path and navigate through all of the twists, turns and pitfalls?
Once the Israelites had turned to the LORD for His direction and were again walking accordingly they could now take their steps confidently and with His assurance — “Do not be afraid or discouraged.” As long as they stayed true to God’s plan their victory was assured.
Notice also that God’s plan was very specific and very detailed. Some of the men were sent to lie in ambush, and some were sent to approach from the front. Some were sent to retreat from the battle, and some were sent to attack from the rear. Each man had a specific part and a specific role. Victory was accomplished as each person did his part according to His plan. We do not read anything about any murmuring or complaining from the people about their assignment. And it would appear that each one did as they were assigned.
This is a great picture of the body of Christ — specifically the local church. Each one of us as members of the body is being equipped and empowered by Him to work and function together as the body (1 Corinthians 12:12). The body is no stronger than the sum total of its members. The outcome at Ai was dependent upon each soldier performing his particular assignment according to God’s plan. None of the soldiers were casual observers. Each of them was an integral part; each one had a vital role. Yes, it was God that assured — and even accomplished the victory — but He did so through the soldiers — just as He chooses to do so through the members of the body. And it was important that each and every one be obedient in carrying out their part. If you don’t believe that each and every person was important in the plan, think about the implications of Achan’s actions.
There is an ironic twist in the victory over Ai that we can’t miss. Once the victory had been accomplished,
…the treasures of the town were not destroyed, for the Israelites kept these as plunder for themselves, as the LORD had commanded… Joshua 8:27
If Achan had not taken matters into his own hands and disobeyed God at Jericho, he would have more than likely been able to acquire those silver coins, a bar of gold and a robe — and very possibly even more — at Ai. What’s more — he wouldn’t have needed to hide them; he and his family could have enjoyed them to their fullest. Though the temptation of sin’s reward will often look sweet, the outcome of obedience will always be sweeter — and always without the sting and bitterness of sin.
And lest we fail to mention the people of Ai, let’s also be mindful that they had a choice as well. They too had the choice to surrender their lives to the God of the Israelites. They had heard about the fate of the Jerichoites. They knew that the walls of Jericho had been inadequate against the Lord God Jehovah, and yet they hardened their hearts and turned from Him.
Whether it’s the people of Ai, or the family of Achan, or you or me,
“there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” Proverbs 14:12 NKJ
This time… and from here on… let’s do it God’s way.