Life has a nasty habit of not going according to the script. The journey is often longer, harder, and more unpredictable than expected. Victory and defeat, success and failure, joy and tears, are often next door neighbours, happening in quick succession. However, when you follow Biblical principles, ultimate blessing, success, and victory will be yours.
Let’s take the example from the life of Joshua. As appointed, anointed and directed by God, he led the children of Israel into the promised land - the inheritance promised to their forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. However, the journey from promise to fulfilment went in directions hard to imagine.
1. Left turn: Jacob/Israel, due to the famine in Joseph’s day, ended up leaving the promised land altogether;
2. Sojourn: Israel ends up living in Egypt.
3. Length: The Egyptian sojourn lasted 400 years.
4. Return: The journey back to the promised land was long and indirect, with twists and turns throughout the wilderness. Due to five sins, the journey took Israel 40 years (I Corinthians 10:5-13).
5. Fulfilment: Now that Israel left Egypt, made it through the wilderness, and stood at the gate of the promised land, their inheritance would not be handed on a silver platter. They would have to fight for it. There are numerous promises in Scripture and all of them are ‘Yes’ and ‘Amen’ in Christ (II Corinthians 1:20). Yet, we too, will have to ‘fight the good fight of faith’ in order to lay hold of them (I Timothy 6:12).
Victory and Defeat
The first fight was the conquest of Jericho (Joshua 6). Though an impregnable fortress, Jericho’s wall crumbled with ease before the victorious Israelites. Flush with victory, Joshua found out that their next destination, Ai, would be a ‘cake walk.’ No need to send the entire army - just 3,000 men.
This ‘piece of cake’ turned out to be a death trap. The people of Ai came out of their town as tigers and 36 Israelites were smitten.
What went wrong? Why was there this ‘speed bump’ that knocked the entire enterprise off-track? After rising up early in the morning and seeking God, Joshua got a very direct answer from God to explain their defeat. It was not because of the strength of their enemies. The cause came from within: Israel sinned.
The sin was the in several parts (Joshua 7:11):
1. They transgressed God’s covenant - the binding agreement that attracts great blessing when obeyed and terrible curses when broken;
2. They took the accursed thing;
3. They stole it;
4. Dissembled it;
5. They put it among their own stuff.
This was no misdemeanour. Failure to obey meant that Israel was rendered powerless before a minor enemy. Furthermore, God said He would no longer be with them until they rooted out the accursed thing.
As is often the case, our greatest challenges come from the enemy within, including our own evil hearts, more than from external foes. One’s ability to be cleansed from the evil attracts God’s presence, which virtually assures victory.
In short, defeat came to Israel because it touched the accursed thing. Only by remedying the situation could victory come.
Next month, we will learn the nature of the accursed thing and have to pass from curse to blessing.
TO BE CONTINUED: