Power to Prevail: The Battle of Ai

faith, sin, victory No Comments

Around B.C. 1400, Joshua, the newly appointed leader of the children of Israel, led in a successful attack against the city of Jericho.  Jericho represented the “firstfruits” of the conquest of the land of Canaan by the Israelites.  During this campaign, God forbade Israel from taking any of the spoils from the battle for themselves (Joshua 6:18,19).  The spoils of the battle belonged to God.  The “accursed things” (items under the ban) were dedicated to God.
Sabatoging Success
In Joshua 7:1, 20-21, we are told that Achan coveted some of the items, stole them and hid them in the floor of his tent.  The items were:  a Babylonian garment, 200 shekels of silver and a wedge of gold that weighed 50 shekels.  Achan stole these items from God.  During the first battle of Ai, Israel mustered 3,000 men to go up against the city.  The total population of Ai was 12,000.  The men able to fight wars in Ai were few.  However, when Israel engaged in the battle with the men of Ai, they were defeated.  Thirty-six Israelites died.  These are the only causualites Israel suffered during the conquest.  Why were they defeated?  The sin of Achan sabatoged victory!  God withdrew His favor.
Securing Success.
God told Joshua that there was sin in the camp.  Joshua set up a procedure to discover the person and his sin.  A search was made among the tribes and families of Israel and Achan was revealed to be the transgressor.  Joshua confronts Achan and says, “My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the LORD God of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me.”  Achan answered Joshua, and said, Indeed I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done:  When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it” (Joshua 7:19-20).  God had instructed Joshua to punish him.  Achan, his family and his livestock were brought to the valley of Achor.  Achan and his family were stoned and then burnt with fire (Joshua 7:25).  The sin in the camp was purged and so Israel was sanctified before God.  This is the first step toward success.
The second step involved following the strategy that God gave Joshua for victory.  God instructed Joshua to lay an ambush against the city of Ai.  Joshua laid out the plan before his army.  Joshua divides the army of 30,000 men into two groups.  One group of 5,000 would form an ambush against Ai by positioning themselves on the west side of the city.  Joshua and the remaining army would attack from the north side of the city.  Joshua planned to withdraw after beginning to attack, in order to draw the men of Ai from the city.  He said, “…for they will say, They flee before us, as at the first: therefore we will flee before them…” (Joshua 8:6-7).  When the men of Ai pursue after the Israelites, then the ambush would arise and go into the city and set it on fire.  When Joshua saw the smoke of the city going up, he would turn his army to fight the men of Ai.  The plan worked.  Israel defeated Ai that day and took all of the possessions of the people for spoil.
Several lessons can be drawn from this battle.  First, you win with God and you face defeat without Him.  Second, you sabotage success by sinning.  God withholds His favor. Third, you secure success thr0ugh sanctification (purging out the sin) and following the strategy God gives for victory.  Part of that strategy involves taking advantage of your enemies’ weaknesses.  The men of Ai were arrogant after they won a minor victory over Israel in the first battle.  This made them vulnerable to ambush.  Following God’s strategy for victory led to triumph.  We have power to prevail over all enemies when we team up with God, remove sin from our lives and pursue God’s will in faith.