An Example of Misplaced Confidence
Josh 7:1-11 (NKJV) “But the children of Israel committed a trespass regarding the accursed things, for Achan the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed things; so the anger of the LORD burned against the children of Israel. Now Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is beside Beth Aven, on the east side of Bethel, and spoke to them, saying, “Go up and spy out the country.” So the men went up and spied out Ai. And they returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not let all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and attack Ai. Do not weary all the people there, for the people of Ai are few.” So about three thousand men went up there from the people, but they fled before the men of Ai. And the men of Ai struck down about thirty-six men, for they chased them from before the gate as far as Shebarim, and struck them down on the descent; therefore the hearts of the people melted and became like water. Then Joshua tore his clothes, and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the LORD until evening, he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust on their heads. And Joshua said, “Alas, Lord GOD, why have You brought this people over the Jordan at all—to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? Oh, that we had been content, and dwelt on the other side of the Jordan! “O Lord, what shall I say when Israel turns its back before its enemies? “For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear it, and surround us, and cut off our name from the earth. Then what will You do for Your great name?” So the LORD said to Joshua: “Get up! Why do you lie thus on your face? “Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. For they have even taken some of the accursed things, and have both stolen and deceived; and they have also put it among their own stuff.”
Josh 8:1-3, 8 (NKJV) “Now the LORD said to Joshua: “Do not be afraid, nor be dismayed; take all the people of war with you, and arise, go up to Ai. See, I have given into your hand the king of Ai, his people, his city, and his land. “And you shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king. Only its spoil and its cattle you shall take as booty for yourselves. Lay an ambush for the city behind it.” So Joshua arose, and all the people of war, to go up against Ai; and Joshua chose thirty thousand mighty men of valor and sent them away by night…(vs 8) “And it will be, when you have taken the city, that you shall set the city on fire. According to the commandment of the LORD you shall do. See, I have commanded you.”
As a military guy, I marveled at the strategies Joshua used to defeat various enemies. I saw similar strategies in my military studies, in the book “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu. Even cooler was that the strategies came from God. I’m sure the Bible was written first lol! I just checked, yes Tzu was born in 544 BC, lol.
Back on track. The most important thing I learned from Joshua was that all of his strategies came from God. Unconventional strategies like, march around the walls of Jericho seven times and then shout. Here’s a man who I consider to be one of the greatest generals of all time and the secret of his greatness was that he asked God for strategy. That revelation has dramatically influenced my life. It was a great part of the reason that as a leader I stopped placing so much confidence on what I learned in school or from my experience. I started asking God for strategies for different work scenarios that I encountered. He answered with wisdom from scripture and at times with unconventional strategies. Twice in my military career, God gave me strategies that brought me into direct conflict with the people that worked for me or my boss. But as I persevered and relied on what He told me, I experienced tremendous success. My position was if the greatest General who ever lived didn’t come up with his strategy, but merely asked God, who am I to do something different?
Proverbs 8:12 (KJV) says God gives us knowledge of witty inventions. The WEB translation says ingenious inventions. In my life as a leader, these have manifested in ideas on new organizational constructs and using existing communications equipment in innovative ways to greatly improve productivity.
Back to my role model, Joshua. Up until the battle of AI, Joshua had not experienced defeat. He sought God for strategy, executed that strategy and had resounding victory. His victories were highlighted by the minimal loss of life. The loss was so minimal that I don’t remember even seeing any mention of loss of life in his victories. As a military man, I find that astonishing. Fast forward to AI.
In Joshua chapter 7 we see that Joshua didn’t consult God for strategy. He put his confidence in the report of his spies, the size of AI and his previous victories. Because Joshua didn’t consult God, he did not know that God was not partnering with them because of the sin of a man named Achan.
Joshua had forgotten that his true success rested in his ability to hear from God and humbly follow God’s direction. He witnessed Moses stepping away from God’s direction when he “smote the rock.” He saw the resulting consequences that Moses endured, consequences that led to his becoming leader of the children of Israel. But he forgot all that and attacked AI.
Based on the spies’ estimates, he sent about “two or three thousand men.” At AI, the children of Israel were routed, chased off. Moreover, thirty-six men died. As a military man, it doesn’t seem like the loss of thirty-six men, is a lot in a battle that you lost. Especially considering that there were no high-tech, stand-off weapons at the time and that you started out with over two thousand men. However, when you take into account that in Joshua’s previous victories there was miraculously little or no loss of life, the loss of life at AI was significant.
These thirty-six men died, and the battle was lost because Joshua’s confidence was misplaced. In the next chapter, he seeks God and God gives him an unusual strategy. It’s an ingenious strategy. It is very like what you would read in Tzu’s “Art of War.” That is fascinating to me.
I also found it interesting that when God estimated how many men they would need, He said: “take all the people of war with you.” By not seeking God, Joshua not only had the wrong strategy but he also totally underestimated what would be needed to defeat AI’s army.
It is Joshua’s failure that I think of the most when I think I have gotten to the point where I don’t need to consult God in some area of my life.
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