Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of Sherlock Holmes mysteries, often told the story of how he sent a telegram to each of twelve friends, all men of great virtue and considerable position in society. The message was worded: “Fly at once, all is discovered.” Within twenty-four hours, so the story goes, all twelve had left the country!
While all of us are acquainted with failure, very few are willing to admit it. John F. Kennedy once said, “Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan; no one wants to claim it.” Henry Ford, the inventor of the automobile took a different view when he said, Failure is “the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.”
Joshua 7 closes on a sad note with the judgment on Achan for his disobedience at the battle of Jericho. No one would have blamed Joshua if he threw up his hands in defeat and gave up. And yet, God turned the tragedy of Achan’s failure into a new opportunity for Israel to trust God and gain success.
A Fresh Start (1-2). Knowing that Joshua might be tempted to doubt or fear another defeat, God encourages him and promises victory. The phrase, “Do not fear and do not be dismayed” appears seven times in Scripture, all in the context of an individual facing the challenge of accomplishing a great task commanded by God. If God calls us to do something, we can be confident he will equip, encourage, and enable us to accomplish it.
No matter how badly we may have failed, we can always get up and begin again. Our God is the God of new beginnings and fresh starts.
A Fresh Strategy (3-13). Rather than allowing Joshua and the leaders of Israel to depend on their personal experience, God introduced a fresh strategy for conquering Ai. They are to take the entire army into the battle. One group is to hide behind the city and another group is to guard their flank between Ai and Bethel. The third group will attack and feign a retreat. When the city gives chase, the ambush will be sprung. As important as strategy is, it is more important that we seek the Lord and follow his directions for each challenge we face.
A Fresh Success (14-29). Fully aware that the battle belonged to the Lord, Joshua waited for God’s instructions. God was going to use Ai’s pride and overconfidence against them. At the right time, God instructs Joshua to spring the trap. Israel cut down all of the people save for the king who was executed later.
The conquest of Canaan was God’s judgment on an evil society. They engaged in moon worship, child sacrifice, and displayed pornographic statuary. God had been patient for over 500 years before bringing judgment on the people.
The victory over Ai reminds us that we are called to faithful obedience. When we follow God’s instructions and believe his promises, we will be victorious.
A Fresh Statement (30-35). Following the victories at Jericho and Ai, Israel pauses to renew and restate their commitment. They journey north to Shechem, located between Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Ebal. There, they followed Moses’ instructions to renew their commitment to obey the law.
God is looking for people who will declare their allegiance to him. He desires people who will follow him wholeheartedly.
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on November 11, 2018. It is part of a series of sermons on the book of Joshua. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.