The Defeat of Faith
When it comes to contests of any sort, we like to be on the winning side. If we’re on a hockey team or if we have favourite team, we don’t like for them to be defeated. But defeats will come from time to time. Joshua chapter 6 ends with a note of victory. It says, “So the LORD was with Joshua; and his fame was noised throughout all the country.” But there is a marked change in the beginning of the seventh chapter. It begins with a little word “but.” It introduces a marked contrast from the victory of the one chapter to the tragedy of the other. We read, “But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing.” The nation had to share the blame of a certain man’s sin. This man Achan, took what belonged to the Lord and the whole nation suffered. The passage goes on to say—“for Achan…took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against the children of Israel.”
It is no light matter to steal God’s portion. Some may wonder what that is. Yet anyone familiar with the Bible would know that a certain part of our income belongs to the Lord. Some people say it is the tithe. Others say that it is more than the tithe. In Old Testament times it was the tithe, and in certain instances God asked for more than one tithe from the Israelites.
Actually, we have no New Testament passage that confines us to the tithe. Yet we owe the Lord a portion. We cannot improve on God’s method of setting aside a tithe for His work, though that is the least any believer of this age should give. And it should not be given as a legal obligation but as a happy gift to the Lord. But more than the tithe is intended. Believers of this age are to give proportionately. As a man purposes in his heart, so he is to give. This is the Lord’s portion and this is what we should set aside first of anything we receive. In 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 Paul tells us, “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.”
The conflict with Ai was only the second battle the Israelites had fought since crossing the Jordan. It proved, however, to be a sad defeat for them. Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai and they brought back the advice that only a small group was all that was needed to take the city. So about 3000 Israelites attempted to take the city, but they were soundly defeated. Joshua 7:5 says, “And the men of Ai smote of them about thirty and six men: for they chased them from before the gate even unto Shebarim, and smote them in the going down: wherefore the hearts of the people melted, and became as water.” This was only the second battle for the Israelites and was a minor one as compared to Jericho, but it was a terrible defeat for them.
This defeat for Israel followed hard upon their great victory. But this is the greatest danger time for any of us. Satan is always quick to take advantage of us when we have triumphed. That is the time for us to be alert against his stratagems by studying the Word of God and watching through prayer.
It is God’s intent that His children should live a life of unbroken victory. There was no need for the defeat at Ai. God does not make it impossible for men to sin, but He always makes it possible for them not to sin. He does not eradicate the old nature so that if a person wanted to sin he could not. But on the other hand, He always makes it possible for us not to sin.
In 1 Corinthians 10:13 we learn, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” God does not promise to take away the temptation, but He does promise to provide a way of escape. The child of God who is determined to live in the centre of God’s will, will be exposed to the attacks of the enemy. But there is no reason for despair, because the Lord is our High Tower. He is our Protector and Deliverer. David reminds us in Psalm 18:2-3, “The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.” This is true regardless of what methods Satan may use against us.
What caused Israel’s defeat at Ai? First of all, there was self-confidence or presumption. Presumption is a form of pride. Pride is the only disease known to man that makes everyone sick except the one who has it. It was this pride that the men Israel fell into when they considered Ai to be just a small place and offered counsel to the send only a small portion of the army. Apparently they thought that they had taken care of Jericho very adequately and were quite able to take care of Ai by themselves.
Pride will blind us. It can cause us to think the enemy is much smaller than he really is. Peter warned us in 1 Peter 5:8, that our adversary goes “…about as a roaring lion.” The Israelites had to learn that the real battle was not against flesh and blood men but against spiritual evil forces. The enemy was far greater than a flesh and blood being that the Israelites saw with their eyes. The devil and his forces were at hand to aid the people of Ai in their opposition to the Israelites.
This we must constantly remind ourselves of with regard to our spiritual warfare. Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood foes but against spiritual powers in high places. However, we are not without resources. In fact, we have the highest resources, for “greater is he that is in you, then he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
Another point of failure on the part of the Israelites, was that they did not consult the Commander-in-Chief concerning Ai. They underestimated the enemies strength and sent only a small army. The centre of gravity had shifted from God, to their own reasoning. They forgot that our weapons are not carnal but mighty through God. They also forgot the real enemy is unseen and has power beyond man’s power to overthrow.
No work of God is easy when we consider the enemy that must be defeated. But with God all things are possible. Our Lord reminded us that without Him we can do nothing. Paul also came through with a note of triumph to the effect that in Christ he can do all things.
“Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” (Romans 8:12-13).