Turning Defeat Into Victory – 2

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Scripture Text – Joshua 8

Henry Ford defined a mistake as “an opportunity to begin again, more intelligently.” Joshua would also have agreed, because he is about to “begin again, more intelligently” and organize a victory out of his mistakes.

A New Beginning – Continued

Please read Joshua 8:1-2 for the background to this section.

The word of promise (Joshua 8:1c). “I have given” was God’s promise (see Joshua 6:2) and Joshua’s guarantee of victory as long as he obeyed the instructions of the Lord. “God never made a promise that was too good to be true,” said evangelist D.L. Moody; but every promise must be claimed by faith. Unless the promises of God are “mixed with faith” (Hebrews 4:2), they accomplish nothing. Because Israel acted presumptuously in their first attack against Ai, they failed miserably. The promises of God make the difference between faith and presumption.

You can never exaggerate the importance of the Christian soldier spending time daily in the Word of God. Unless daily we take the sword of the Spirit by faith (Ephesians 6:17), we go into the battle unarmed and therefore unprepared. Spiritually minded believers are victorious because they allow the Word of God to “saturate” their minds and hearts. The Spirit using the Word controls their desires and decisions and this is the secret of victory.

No matter how badly we have failed, we can always get up and begin again; for our God is the God of new beginnings.

A New Strategy

Please read Joshua 8:3-13 for the background to this section.

God is not only the God of new beginnings, but He’s also the God of infinite variety. I remember a quote attributed to the words of King Arthur: “And God fulfills Himself in many ways/Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.” God changes His leaders lest we start trusting flesh and blood instead of trusting the Lord, and He changes His methods lest we start depending on our personal experience instead of on His divine promises.

et God's strategy

The strategy God gave Joshua for taking Ai was almost opposite the strategy He used at Jericho. The Jericho operation involved a week of marches that were carried on openly in the daylight. The attack on Ai involved a covert night operation that prepared the way for the daylight assault. The whole army was united at Jericho, but Joshua divided the army for the attack on Ai. God performed a mighty miracle at Jericho when He caused the walls to fall down flat, but there was no such miracle at Ai. Joshua and his men simply obeyed God’s instructions by setting an ambush and luring the people of Ai out of their city, and the Lord gave them the victory.

It’s important that we seek God’s will for each undertaking so that we don’t depend on past victories as we plan for the future. The World War II song “We did it before/And we can do it again!” doesn’t always apply to the work of the Lord. How easy is it for Christian ministries to dig their way into administrative ruts that eventually become graves, simply because the leadership fails to discern whether God wants to do something new for them.

The strategy for Ai was based on Israel’s previous defeat; for God was organizing victory out of Joshua’s mistakes. The people of Ai were overconfident because they had defeated Israel at the first attack, and this overconfidence would be their undoing. “We did it before, and we can do it again!”

At night Joshua and his army marched fifteen miles from Gilgal to Ai; and, using 30,000 soldiers, Joshua set up an ambush behind the city from the west. He put another 5,000 men between Ai and Bethel, which was about two miles away. This detachment would make sure that the army from Bethel wouldn’t make a surprise attack from the northwest and open another “front.” The rocky terrain in the highlands around Ai made it easy for Joshua to conceal his soldiers, and the whole operation was done at night.

The plan was simple but effective. Leading the rest of the Jewish army, Joshua would make a frontal attack on Ai from the north. His men would flee as they had done the first time and by fleeing draw the self-confident people of Ai away from the protection of their city. At Joshua’s signal the soldiers lying in ambush would enter the city and set it on fire. The people of Ai would be caught between two armies, and the third army would deal with any assistance that might come from Bethel.

Being a good general, Joshua lodged with his army. He certainly encouraged them to trust the Lord and believe His promise for victory. The Captain of the host of the Lord (Joshua 5:14) would go before them because they obeyed His Word and trusted His promises.

To Be Continued

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Adapted and modified excerpts from Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Strong, “Be” Commentary Series.
Unless otherwise noted, Scripture taken from the New King James Version®, NKJV © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.
Used by permission. All rights reserved.

About Roland Ledoux

Pastor of Oasis Bible Ministry, an outreach ministry of teaching, encouragement and intercessory prayer from the Holy Bible, the written Word of God and author of the ministry website, For The Love of God. He lives in Delta, Colorado with his beautiful wife of 50+ years and a beautiful yellow lab whom they affectionately call Bella.
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