Posts tagged Ai
Success and failure. For any leader, there is a double-edged sword. You make decisions – calculated, but risky – and, when they work out in your favor, you are hailed as a hero. When they don’t work out, though, there is hell to pay. For Joshua, his honeymoon period as leader of the people of Israel came to an abrupt halt when the troops were routed at Ai.
Understand that just prior to that pummeling, Joshua and the Israelites had enjoyed an incredible victory at Jericho using one of the strangest military tactics in history. It was a plan that could have only worked if God was in it. And so, armed with new confidence in God’s ability and willingness to route their enemies, Joshua sent out his men to make quick work of Ai.
There was only one problem. There was a key piece of information that Joshua didn’t have. He didn’t know that one of his own people had defied the command of God when they conquered Jericho. One man had messed it up for everybody by stealing what was to be devoted to God. As I read this, I couldn’t help but think of Gene Wilder’s rant toward the end of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971).
“It’s all there, black and white, clear as crystal! You stole fizzy lifting drinks! You bumped into the ceiling which now has to be washed and sterilized, so you get nothing! You lose! Good day, sir!” – Willy Wonka
God basically says the same thing in Joshua 7:10-12:
The Lord said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction. (Joshua 7:10-12)
You lose. Good day, sir!
And so, armed with this new information, Joshua slinks off to find out who made him (and, in his eyes, God) look like a fool. Of course, he finds that person, a man named Achan, and “takes care” of him. The Israelites then go on to route Ai with the help of God and some of Joshua’s military prowess.
And then, we get this great scene of all the people of Israel coming together between two mountains and reading the law of Moses – just as God had commanded. The series of events is an incredible reminder of how God’s plans can work, if only we follow them. Sure, Joshua and the people of Israel had a bit of a hiccup when they failed to follow God’s instructions, but when they corrected their error, God’s path was still there for them – waiting for them to come back.
He does the same for us – marks out a path and waits for us to walk down it. Sometimes, we stray, but the path is still there. We just have to get back on it in order to go where God wants us to go. And, once there, we’ll realize that his plans were always better than ours anyway.