THEME: The Key to Victory
This week’s lessons recount Israel’s victory in their second attempt to conquer Ai.
So when we look at this battle of the Jewish troops at Ai, we learn a great deal from the fact that there was no miracle this time. But notice that even though it was won by non-miraculous means, the victory was every bit as complete and every bit as much of a triumph as the victory that had been won at Jericho. You see, what God requires of us is not the experience of the unusual, but, instead, that kind of faithful obedience in everyday life, which really is the key to victory. From Israel’s point of view, the conquest of Jericho was no different than the conquest of Ai. In both cases, all they did was obey God in terms of His instructions for the battle. In one case they marched around the city, blew their trumpets, and shouted. In the other case they carried out a plan of military strategy. It was God who was laying out the strategy and giving the victory as it pleased Him.
That is so important in the case of this second great victory because coming as it did after the defeat in the first attempt to take it, I am sure Joshua would have heard the attack of Satan, just as we often hear it when we are defeated in the Christian life. Satan comes and says, “Well, you really didn’t make it that time, did you? You know, you entered the Christian life thinking that everything was going to be great and God was going to work for you. And, I suppose, maybe God will work for people who live perfect lives. But you’ve really blown it. You didn’t pray, you were self-confident, you sinned. And then, look at the defeat. Aren’t you humiliated?” Satan might have tried to say to Joshua, “You might as well just go back to the desert. No sense trying to proceed with the conquest now in this Promised Land. It might have been promised to perfect people, but not to people like you. Why don’t you just give up? Why don’t you go back to living like the world? Let victories like Jericho be for saints, not for normal people.”
You know, whenever we find ourselves thinking like that, we are really thinking not the thoughts of God after God, but the thoughts of Satan after Satan. And the great wonder of the Christian life is that in spite of our defeats, in spite of our failures, God is, nevertheless, the one who gives the victory. It’s not us. And because God is the one who gives the victory, He can take us right where we are in the midst of the failure, and carry us forward, and give us a victory every bit as great, and wonderful, and exhilarating as those victories that we remember from so many years before. This section of Joshua reminds us that we need to be alert to the fact that we do experience defeats. You might have a particular sin you’ve been trying to overcome, and haven’t succeeded at it. Or you have a particular obstacle in the way of your progress, and you haven’t been able to budge the obstacle. But it may also be that God just hasn’t given the victory yet. And you have to know that the God who calls you to follow Him and to serve Him is the God of victories. And He’s the God who takes His people forward, and by His power gives us the Promised Land.
I remember when I was in college, and one of the courses in English literature had on its final exam a question concerning a particular Christian classic. We were asked to discuss the piece of literature in terms of this question: “Is it possible to have a Christian tragedy?” That’s a very interesting question. It presupposes a knowledge of what is genuinely Christian. It presupposes a knowledge of what are really the tragic elements of literature. And what it was asking for was that kind of penetrating analysis which at the end of an exposition of that theme concluded that it is never possible to have a Christian tragedy because although Christianity recognizes the tragic elements, it nevertheless also serves the God who is greater than the tragedies—the sovereign, benevolent, loving, merciful God, who in the end triumphs and whose will is done.
What we want is to be on the side of that God. We want to be in His army. We want to be fighting His battles because even though it sometimes happens in this life that we experience momentary and sometimes protracted periods of defeat, in the final analysis, the armies of the Lord Jesus Christ are triumphant. The kingdom of God does come. The banner of the cross is raised. And Jesus Christ is glorified forever.
From the lesson, what does Dr. Boice say is the key to spiritual victory? Can you think of some other answers that people might give that need to be rejected?
What are some ways Satan tries to discourage us as we seek to live the Christian life?
Pray that God would be glorified in your life, even in the battles he is calling you to go through. Strive to obey him in all things, and then trust him for the victory you need.