Getting It Right!

Begins with

The Right Character

The Right Cause

This was insisted upon in the case of Ai. The Lord would not allow victory of the city by a wicked hand; he will have judgment executed by righteousness; he will have the law proclaimed by lips that have been circumcised and anointed.
Israel was all but innumerable in force.
In relation to the city of Ai, Israel was a torrent that could not be withstood. But Israel had committed sin. A goodly Babylonish garment and two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold fifty shekels in weight had been stolen by an Israelitish soldier.
The Lord will not have such warriors. His purpose has ever been to prove that right is might, that without character we cannot do his work—not spotless character, which may be impossible under present conditions, but character that is intensely in earnest, set in the right direction, aspiring after continual perfectness.
Do not go to battle with a wrong cause, or your weakness will be assured before you begin.
No man can be really eloquent upon a bad cause. He may be fluent, and may use many highly-coloured words, and use them with great skill; but earnestness of conviction is absolutely necessary to all-persuasive and all-enduring eloquence.
So, before going to war, there must be an inquiry instituted into the character and into the quality of the thing that is proposed to be done.

The Right Candidates

We must ALL advance upon the doomed institution. When the idea of taking Ai was first approached, there were clever men in Israel who said, Let two or three thousand of us go up and take the city; the whole army has been walking round about the walls of Jericho; it is quite needless to put the entire army to this expense of time and strength; take some two or three thousand of us, and we will go up and smite Ai and burn it to ashes; it is a pity to weary all the people when a handful of them might execute the design.
There are always such meddlesome people in God’s army, who will divide, and distribute, and cultivate what they call opinions. They will not allow the great laws of God to move on in massiveness and majesty; they will meddle with God. Two or three thousand of the people of Israel went up against Ai, and we have seen the result.
Now we must return, says the historian, in effect, to God’s own appointed law in this matter:
Joshua 8:5 (KJV 1900)
5 And I, and all the people that are with me, will approach unto the city: and it shall come to pass, when they come out against us, as at the first, that we will flee before them,
That must be the rule of the Church in all its great moral wars. The battle is not to be handed over to a few people, however skilful and zealous.
The work of teaching the world and saving the world is a work committed to the whole Christian body. There are to be no laymen in this war.
We must destroy the official distinction between pastor and members, pulpit and pew. The living Church of the living God is one.
Forgetting this rule, what has come to pass?—that destructive work and constructive work, acts of benevolence and charity, have devolved upon handfuls of men, and they have been left to do all that was needful in battle and in charity. They have been favoured with the criticism of those who have stayed at home. Criticism has never been a scarce article in human history!
People who have done nothing, sacrificed nothing, given nothing, are the very people who are able, by some vicious inspiration, to find fault with everybody else. When the Church realizes its totality, when every man is part of an army and not an isolated warrior, then every Ai doomed of heaven shall reel under the battering-ram which the Church will employ.
When all the people are at work, there can be no criticism: they are involved in the same strife and issue; they are common patriots, fellow-soldiers, parts of the same great multitude, and there is no time for mutual exasperation and folly.
The clever men, therefore, were in the second instance displaced. They supposed that they had realised quite a clever idea, that all the great body of Israel might remain at home and two or three thousand young, sharp, clever, active men might go up and do all the work, and come galloping home at night conquerors rich with spoil. The Lord will not have it so. Joshua must himself go up, and all the people must go up with him. There are to be no mere critics; there are to be thousands of active soldiers.
Now that we have that settled, let’s look at Joshua 8
Joshua 8:1–2 (KJV 1900)
1 And the Lord said unto Joshua, Fear not, neither be thou dismayed: take all the people of war with thee, and arise, go up to Ai: see, I have given into thy hand the king of Ai, and his people, and his city, and his land:
2 And thou shalt do to Ai and her king as thou didst unto Jericho and her king: only the spoil thereof, and the cattle thereof, shall ye take for a prey unto yourselves: lay thee an ambush for the city behind it.

A Promise of Victory

Now the same God that gave victory at Jericho is giving victory at Ai.
Remember now that the children of Israel are possessing the land; they’re possessing their possessions, and they had marched around the walls of Jericho. And then, they gave a shout; the walls came a tumbling down. And then, they sinned; they disobeyed the Lord. And when they went up against Ai, they were not able to take Ai. As a matter of fact, they were defeated and shamed with humiliation. They fled before the people of Ai.
Then, they repented of their sin; they dealt with their sin; they judged their sin.
And God now says, “Since you’ve dealt with your sin, I’ve given Ai to you, this other city.” And God says something that I want you to particularly note. He says, “As I gave you Jericho, I’ll give Ai.”
In other words, the same God who defeated Jericho is going to defeat Ai.

Promise of Winning

God gave Jericho to the Israelites, and God gave Ai to the Israelites; but God did it in two separate ways.
Now, you see, so many times we need to learn a lesson, and it is this lesson: that the methods of God often change—the methods often change.
The who is a whole lot more important than the how, and sometimes we get hung up on the how.
Sometimes we think God has to do the same thing every day, and we get all discomforted if God doesn’t do it exactly tomorrow like He did it yesterday.
Listen, the important thing is that God is doing it.
Did you know that one of the worst things that can happen to the church is to fall into a rut—to think that we have to keep on having the same programs every year that we used to have?
Do you know what the seven last words of the church are? “We never did it that way before.” That’s right.
We think because God did it that way before that God is honor-bound to do it that way again. And sometimes we get into an argument with people over methods.
Listen, methods are not important; it is God that is important. And God can take Jericho one way, and Ai another way, if He wants to.
God’s methods change—God’s methods change—but God’s personality, and God’s character, and God’s principles, never change.

Promise of Waiting

Notice that the Lord tells them that they will do to Ai what they did to Jericho, except for the fact that in Ai, they are to take all the spoils for themselves!
If Achan would have waited just a few more days, then he could have had all the riches that he could have imagined. Instead, he ran ahead of God and grabbed for himself that which was forbidden by God and as a result, Achan paid the ultimate price.
What a lesson for you and me this morning! We are guilty of the same kind of foolishness aren’t we? If we could just learn to wait on God and let Him lead and bring into our lives the things that need to be there, we would be far better off.
Unfortunately, this flesh wants what it wants and it wants it now! It doesn’t want to wait. Regardless of the arena you name, you are far better off to wait on the Lord to bring those things into your life that He knows are best for you, (i.e. Mate, sexuality, finances, ministry, etc.), than you are to run ahead of God and mess things up really bad and then expect Him to bail you out! When we can learn to wait on the Lord, we are well on our way to victory in the Christian life, Rom. 12:7; Psa. 130:5; Psa. 37:34.)
Psalm 130:5 KJV 1900
5 I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, And in his word do I hope.
Psalm 37:34 KJV 1900
34 Wait on the Lord, and keep his way, And he shall exalt thee to inherit the land: When the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see it.
Isaiah 40:31 KJV 1900
31 But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings as eagles; They shall run, and not be weary; And they shall walk, and not faint.

A Pursuit of Victory

Joshua 8:3–17 (KJV 1900)
3 So Joshua arose, and all the people of war, to go up against Ai: and Joshua chose out thirty thousand mighty men of valour, and sent them away by night.
4 And he commanded them, saying, Behold, ye shall lie in wait against the city, even behind the city: go not very far from the city, but be ye all ready:
5 And I, and all the people that are with me, will approach unto the city: and it shall come to pass, when they come out against us, as at the first, that we will flee before them,
6 (For they will come out after us) till we have drawn them from the city; for they will say, They flee before us, as at the first: therefore we will flee before them.
7 Then ye shall rise up from the ambush, and seize upon the city: for the Lord your God will deliver it into your hand.
8 And it shall be, when ye have taken the city, that ye shall set the city on fire: according to the commandment of the Lord shall ye do. See, I have commanded you.
9 Joshua therefore sent them forth: and they went to lie in ambush, and abode between Beth-el and Ai, on the west side of Ai: but Joshua lodged that night among the people.
10 And Joshua rose up early in the morning, and numbered the people, and went up, he and the elders of Israel, before the people to Ai.
11 And all the people, even the people of war that were with him, went up, and drew nigh, and came before the city, and pitched on the north side of Ai: now there was a valley between them and Ai.
12 And he took about five thousand men, and set them to lie in ambush between Beth-el and Ai, on the west side of the city.
13 And when they had set the people, even all the host that was on the north of the city, and their liers in wait on the west of the city, Joshua went that night into the midst of the valley.
14 And it came to pass, when the king of Ai saw it, that they hasted and rose up early, and the men of the city went out against Israel to battle, he and all his people, at a time appointed, before the plain; but he wist not that there were liers in ambush against him behind the city.
15 And Joshua and all Israel made as if they were beaten before them, and fled by the way of the wilderness.
16 And all the people that were in Ai were called together to pursue after them: and they pursued after Joshua, and were drawn away from the city.
17 And there was not a man left in Ai or Beth-el, that went not out after Israel: and they left the city open, and pursued after Israel.

The Plan of God

God told them in exact detail how they were to mount their attack against Ai.
They were to lay an ambush for Ai and they would take the city and all its inhabitants.
Israel had already learned what happens when you do things the Lord’s way. When you fight the battle by following His plan, you cannot fail. They had also learned what happens when they refused to do it God’s way. They learned that failure awaits that person who goes against the will of the Lord.
Remember, we are talking about fighting this flesh that we all carry around. If you are going to pursue victory over your flesh and if you ever expect to gain the victory, then you must go about it God’s way. No other plan will work!
I will say more about God’s plan for dealing with the flesh in a moment, but for now, you need to know that if you will win the victory over your flesh, then you need constant contact with the things of God.
We are strengthened spiritually when we are exposed to the things of the Lord.
There are several that need to be a huge part of our lives:
1. The Word of God—1 Pet. 2:2; 2 Tim. 2:15
2. Prayer—Luke 18:1; 1 Thes. 5:17; James 4:2
3. Church Attendance—Heb. 10:25
4. The Fellowship of the Saints—1 Cor. 12:27
None of these things will give victory in and of themselves, but we need each one to strengthen us and to help us grow in the Lord. When we begin to neglect even one of these essential areas, then we are sure to suffer spiritually. You see, when we feed the flesh and ignore our spiritual needs, then we are headed for trouble in our spiritual lives!)

The Power of God

Joshua 8:18–23 KJV 1900
18 And the Lord said unto Joshua, Stretch out the spear that is in thy hand toward Ai; for I will give it into thine hand. And Joshua stretched out the spear that he had in his hand toward the city. 19 And the ambush arose quickly out of their place, and they ran as soon as he had stretched out his hand: and they entered into the city, and took it, and hasted and set the city on fire. 20 And when the men of Ai looked behind them, they saw, and, behold, the smoke of the city ascended up to heaven, and they had no power to flee this way or that way: and the people that fled to the wilderness turned back upon the pursuers. 21 And when Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had taken the city, and that the smoke of the city ascended, then they turned again, and slew the men of Ai. 22 And the other issued out of the city against them; so they were in the midst of Israel, some on this side, and some on that side: and they smote them, so that they let none of them remain or escape. 23 And the king of Ai they took alive, and brought him to Joshua.
The Context.
Israel fought the battle, but God gave the victory! You see, the first time Israel went to Ai, they went in their own power and they suffered terrible, humiliating defeat. This time they went to battle walking in the power of God and they were victorious.
Again, there is a lesson here for those of us who struggle with this flesh. The battle will not be won by our ability to say “No!” The battle will not be won because we are more powerful than the temptations we face. The fact is, if you try to fight the spiritual battles of life in your own power, you are headed for terrible defeat in your life. You might as well plan now for a string of sins and defeats in the flesh.
Listen, there is just one way for us to prevail in this battle, and that is for us to learn to appropriate the power of God in our lives. We need to realize that when we cannot win the battle, He can! When we are unable to fight the flesh, sin and the world, God will fight it for us. I’ll tell you how to fight the flesh: fight it in God’s power—
Ephesians 6:10–11 KJV 1900
10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
Philippians 4:13 KJV 1900
13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
1 Corinthians 10:13 KJV 1900
13 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.
The only way any of us will ever see victory over this flesh is through the power of God!

The Performance of God

Joshua 8:24–26 KJV 1900
24 And it came to pass, when Israel had made an end of slaying all the inhabitants of Ai in the field, in the wilderness wherein they chased them, and when they were all fallen on the edge of the sword, until they were consumed, that all the Israelites returned unto Ai, and smote it with the edge of the sword. 25 And so it was, that all that fell that day, both of men and women, were twelve thousand, even all the men of Ai. 26 For Joshua drew not his hand back, wherewith he stretched out the spear, until he had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai.
These verses tell us the news that Israel trusted in the Lord and absolutely prevailed over their enemy. God did what He said He would do!
May I remind you that we are serving the very same God that gave Israel the victory? He hasn’t changed one bit! He is still the same God this morning that He always has been and always will be. You can count on God to keep His Word—
Romans 4:21 KJV 1900
21 And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.
Psalm 119:89 KJV 1900
89 LAMED. For ever, O Lord, Thy word is settled in heaven.
You see friends, when we are engaged in a battle with this flesh, we need to be able to count on God, and let me tell you for the record that you can! He is all powerful and He is able to help you as you fight the flesh and the battles of life, Heb. 4:14–16.)
Hebrews 4:14–16 KJV 1900
14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. 15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

A Preservation of Victory

Preserved by Death

The Negative Side
Joshua 8:27–29 KJV 1900
27 Only the cattle and the spoil of that city Israel took for a prey unto themselves, according unto the word of the Lord which he commanded Joshua. 28 And Joshua burnt Ai, and made it an heap for ever, even a desolation unto this day. 29 And the king of Ai he hanged on a tree until eventide: and as soon as the sun was down, Joshua commanded that they should take his carcase down from the tree, and cast it at the entering of the gate of the city, and raise thereon a great heap of stones, that remaineth unto this day.
We are bound to set fire to every devoted abomination. Ai was burned. The smoke of the city ascended up to heaven, and Ai became, not a heap, but the heap,—as if it were the only heap.
We must not omit the fire. Things must be so burned down that they can never grow again. Otherwise we shall have all the work to do over again, and the ages will be hindered in their highest progress.

Preserved by Devotion

The Positive Side
Joshua 8:30–31 KJV 1900
30 Then Joshua built an altar unto the Lord God of Israel in mount Ebal, 31 As Moses the servant of the Lord commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, an altar of whole stones, over which no man hath lift up any iron: and they offered thereon burnt offerings unto the Lord, and sacrificed peace offerings.
It is no use building your altar until you have burned the abomination. A great destructive work is to be done first, and in the doing of it, there will be great outcry about change
If you have not been faithful in the work of destruction, you cannot be faithful in the work of construction.
And after the altar, what? The law—the law of righteousness, the law of God. Verse 32 reads:
Joshua 8:32–35 KJV 1900
32 And he wrote there upon the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he wrote in the presence of the children of Israel. 33 And all Israel, and their elders, and officers, and their judges, stood on this side the ark and on that side before the priests the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, as well the stranger, as he that was born among them; half of them over against mount Gerizim, and half of them over against mount Ebal; as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded before, that they should bless the people of Israel. 34 And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessings and cursings, according to all that is written in the book of the law. 35 There was not a word of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua read not before all the congregation of Israel, with the women, and the little ones, and the strangers that were conversant among them.
We are thus called to energy, called to labour, called to sacrifice. We are all called.
Merely to hear what the army has been doing is not patriotism. In the Church there is no place for laziness, there is no place for criticism, there is no place for mere sentiment.
Does the world need to be captured for Jesus Christ, or does it not?
If you say it has not, then abandon the standard altogether; if you say it has, then never forsake the standard.
Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.
Strive to enter in at the strait gate.
Take unto you the whole armour of God. Stand against the wiles of the devil.
Never leave it an open question as to which side you are upon. Having done the destructive work, do not imagine that the whole program is complete; now begin the construction of the altar. And having made a place for prayer, do not suppose that the whole duty of man has been perfected; next put up the law:—battle, prayer, law; law, prayer, battle. If there is aught else, it has not yet been to me revealed.
Related Media
See more
Related Sermons
See more