Thoughts on the Defeat of Ai

Reading through Joshua the other day, I was impressed by the hubris presented by the king of Ai:

Joshua 8:14–17

14 And as soon as the king of Ai saw this, he and all his people, the men of the city, hurried and went out early to the appointed place toward the Arabah to meet Israel in battle. But he did not know that there was an ambush against him behind the city. 15 And Joshua and all Israel pretended to be beaten before them and fled in the direction of the wilderness. 16 So all the people who were in the city were called together to pursue them, and as they pursued Joshua they were drawn away from the city. 17 Not a man was left in Ai or Bethel who did not go out after Israel. They left the city open and pursued Israel.

If you’re familiar with the story, you know that Israel was defeated by Ai in what should have been an easy victory. God allowed the Israelites to be defeated because Achan took prohibited spoil from the great battle of Jericho. So, after the judgment on Achan, God directed Joshua to return to Ai for battle. Joshua set up an ambush that appeared to be a rout for Israel. The entire city of AI went out to defeat the fleeing Israelites, but then were caught in their trap and were defeated.

It is clear that their defeat was ultimately at the hand of God, and by His foreordination (Joshua 8:1). But Ai cooperated in their own demise by their pride and overconfidence.

Pride and overconfidence often go together. As a military strategy, pride and overconfidence are foolishness, a sure-fire path to defeat.

Churches often operate this way. Every effort is made for the battle, but the battle is too often seen as “out there” and there is little consideration for the safety of the city, or in the church’s case, the flock. the warnings in Scripture remind us that the greatest dangers come from within the church (Jude 4, Acts 20:28-30).

 

 

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