Ai. If you know your Old Testament, you know that Ai was a little city that managed to put a big hurt on the people of Israel. This story is not in the book of Joshua just for historical value, rather, it has been recorded for us so that we might learn some basic truths about sin and how to deal with it.
First, it is important to look at the background. The people of Israel had just crossed over the Jordan River on dry ground. They had also just conquered a major fortified city – Jericho. The people had obeyed God and had marched around Jericho for seven days, and on the seventh, with a shout and the blast of trumpets, the walls of this impregnable fortress fell flat on the ground. It was a miracle of God that provided Israel with a huge military victory. This is important to note, because often times, our greatest temptations can come after great “victories”.
After this miraculous victory provided by God, the Israelites got self-confident. They seemed to think that they were capable of pulling off more military victories by their own intellect and effort. Then comes Ai.
After Jericho, Joshua sent a couple men to scout out the nearby city of Ai. It was a relatively small and unfortified city. In Joshua 7:3 the spies bring back their report, “Do not have all the people go up, but let about tow or three thousand men go up and attack Ai. Do not make the whole people toil up there, for they are few.” Ai looked like a cake-walk to the spies. No need to take the whole army, just send a couple thousand men and the whole thing will be over quickly. That is just what Joshua did, and the men of Israel were routed by the men of Ai, fleeing before them.
All of Israel was despondent because of this defeat, and Joshua brought his complaint to God. The Lord’s response was that there was hidden sin in the community of Israel. The reason Israel couldn’t stand before its enemies was that a man named Achan had coveted and taken goods from Jericho which were supposed to go into the treasury of the Lord. Lesson: festering, unconfessed sin leads to spiritual defeat.
The next lesson comes from God’s response once the sin had been dealt with. Though Ai was small and weak in comparison to Jericho, the Lord lays out a strategic plan of attack against the city. Joshua is the involve the whole army. A portion was to draw the warriors of Ai out of the city, pretending to flee from them as before. The rest was to lay in ambush behind the city, entering it and setting it on fire when the men had left. Then both groups converged and killed all the men of Ai. Why is this important? Because battling sin requires strategic planning.
We must not take a lax attitude toward what we consider to be minor spiritual battles. Instead, we need to have a plan of attack against the sin in our lives. Know where you are week. Know the buttons that the Devils pushes on you all the time, and put together a strategy to defeat them. First and foremost, we must do this in total reliance on God for victory. Second, we must learn to use the “sword of the Spirit” which is the word of God. Store up some battle verses in your mind. Be able to respond to the lies that go through your mind with the truth of God’s word.
Also, be physically strategic. If you know where you are week, then there are physical circumstances you know you need to avoid. Maybe you need to turn off the TV, maybe you need to put accountability software on your computer, maybe you need to stop shopping at certain stores, maybe you need to avoid a particular part of town or particular people. Your battle plan must be custom fit for your areas of weakness.
So take a few simple lessons from the battle of Ai. Be extra careful in seasons of spiritual ‘victory’; beware self-confidence; don’t hang on to secret sin; have a plan for the battle.
Remember, we have a real Enemy who wants to destroy God’s people as far as it is possible. Engage in this real fight today. Trust God and wield a sword!