Joshua saw God’s mighty hand at work many times–from crossing the Red Sea to watching Jericho’s impassable walls crash to the ground. But then the Hebrew commander experienced devastating defeat.
Right after the conquest of Jericho, his advisors recommended moving forward to defeat the city of Ai. Joshua took their suggestion, expecting quick success. Instead, the Israelites found themselves retreating in fear after 36 of their men fell in battle.
Why, Joshua wondered, would the Lord do this to them (Josh. 7:7-9)? But he had misread the situation–God did not initiate this disaster. The problem originated within the Hebrew army, when an Israelite took forbidden plunder after Jericho fell. Because Joshua failed to seek heavenly counsel, he did not know that there was a problem until it was too late.
The man who’d sinned was put to death, along with his family. Then God told Joshua that it was time to take Ai. This time, purged of unrighteousness and following divine direction, the army was successful (Josh. 8).
The story contains two vital lesson for all believers. First, it is critical to deal with sin quickly and completely–iniquity skews our thinking and keep us from communicating with our Father. And second, before taking action, we should wait for God’s guidance.
Are you trying to win a battle in your own strength? Examine your heart and make sure that you have repented of all sin. Then ask for God’s leading. It takes determination not to run ahead of the Lord, but when you patiently do things His way, the end result is definitely worth the wait.
Dr. Charles Stanley