I got stuck in a blizzard yesterday. It was bad, perhaps the second worst blizzard I've ever been in. The icy roads, and the pounding snow mixed with ice, made it impossible to travel more than twenty, twenty five miles per hour tops. I had to go to Chicago to pick up a package for my brother's mother in law, to take to Romania. By the way, I will be leaving for Romania on the 14th of December. I will still be posting articles, but it is doubtful it will be with such regularity. Well, what took me two hours getting there, took me over five coming back. When I began my journey, it was warm and sunny, but within the span of three hours, the whole of Wisconsin had turned into a winter wonderland.
I noticed something odd yesterday. Although one could barely control their vehicles going far below the speed limit, there were those brave or foolish souls, I tend to lean toward foolish, that paid no mind to the conditions, and just whizzed by the rest of us reasonable folk who were crawling along. These weren't Jeeps or Explorers, mostly two door sports cars, or four door family cars, and after a few minutes you would see one, then another of the daredevils stuck in the snow banks, or worse. The reason I share this story, is to make a point. Often we want to reach our destination in as short a time as possible, paying no mind to the conditions around us. Our goal is firmly planted in our minds, our destination is sure, and although everyone else is taking their time, coming along naturally, organically, in God's time table, we are not content to wait with the pack, and we run ahead before we are ready. Sooner or later, we see those that crawled along, those we scoffed at for being chicken, passing us, as we are stuck in the snowbanks, waiting for the tow truck to come and pull us out. Spiritual growth, spiritual maturity, spiritual gifts, are all a process, sometimes slow and agonizing, as we are constantly stripping ourselves of ourselves, so that we can make room for God. The wise man waits patiently upon the Lord, until He finds him ready, while the foolish man steps out on his own, thinking himself ready. Sometimes the path we travel gets icy, snowfall makes visibility impossible, and rather than trudge along at our own pace, hoping to make it to our destination of our own strength and volition, it is wiser by far to slow down, and let God take us by the hand, lead us and guide us. He knows where the icy patches are, and in His wisdom He slows us down so we don't careen off the path, and get stuck in a certain place longer than was intended.
Back to Israel we go, to see what we can learn and apply to our daily lives, and our daily walk.
Thus far we've established that it was God who brought down the walls of Jericho. Weapons would have been useless against them, and the people knew this. God had done everything, and no man could have taken credit for the walls of Jericho crashing to the ground leaving the way open for the warriors to sack the city, and destroy everything within its walls. Unless it is God's victory, unless we let Him direct, guide, and provide the means by which we will overcome our Jericho, our victory will never be complete. When we attempt to insert ourselves, or take a little credit for what God has done, it nullifies to a certain extent what He was able to accomplish.
It is often that God uses vessels that are of no particular value in the eyes of the world, and if they are of any significant value, He begins by breaking them asunder, as He did Saul of Tarsus and rebuilding them anew. It is only after God is done refining, remodeling and molding a vessel that He can say, 'this is My chosen vessel, he can be of use to Me.'
Too often the way in which we as men would approach a battle, a trial or a conflict is very different than how God would approach it. We tend to employ our own ingenuity, our own programs and our own schemes even before approaching God, and asking for His guidance or advice. Ah, we have happened upon an excellent method by which we can grow the church, we are well organized, have devised dozens of programs to keep everyone interested, we have sent missionaries to every corner of the world, to every continent, we project, we foresee, we estimate, and it becomes all about us, and what we can do, and what we can achieve. We take comfort in knowing that God is there, just in case we need Him, just in case there happens to be an obstacle that is beyond our ingenuity, but as long as we think we can do it on our own, we prefer that He be an observer and nothing more.
What if Israel would have said, 'it is well that the power belongs to the Lord, and the victory is His, but we must focus upon the means by which we can scale the walls of Jericho, by which we can bring them down, perhaps a battering ram, or some hammers and chisels', would the walls of Jericho ever have come down? What would they have witnessed on the seventh day, after the seventh march around Jericho if they had trusted in their own strength rather than the strength of God?
Israel obtained the victory the walls of Jericho came crashing down, because they had faith in the God who had brought them thus far, they obeyed His direction. Upon their entry into the city the people were given specific instruction yet again, the first, was to destroy the city and all who were in it, sparing only Rahab the harlot and all who were in her house. The second specific instruction was that they should, by all means keep themselves from the accursed things, lest they become accursed when they took of the accursed thing, and by association make the camp of Israel a curse and trouble it. All the gold, the silver, all the iron, were to be set apart consecrated to the Lord, and be brought to the treasury of the Lord.
Fresh off an astounding and decided victory against Jericho, Joshua set his sights upon Ai, a much smaller city than that of Jericho, an insignificant obstacle, located beside Beth Aven, on the east side of Bethel.
God had kept His promise, Jericho had been sacked, but unbeknownst to Joshua, one man had disobeyed God's specific instruction, one man had kept that which he had not been meant to keep. All but one obeyed, all but one committed a trespass regarding the accursed things. Due to one man's disobedience however, we will soon witness a defeat rather than a victory, even though the people of Israel faced a less powerful foe, and a weaker enemy.
A small city, and few people were able to set three thousand men to flight, striking them down, and causing their hearts to become melted, and like water.
But I get ahead of myself. In order to understand just how disastrous this defeat was in light of the victory they had just gloried in, one must understand that upon the scouts' return from spying on the city of Ai, they had told Joshua that he shouldn't march the whole of Israel up to the city, for it would just weary all the people. Ai was just a handful of souls, which would be easily vanquished with two or three thousand men.
There are secrets to defeat, just as there are secrets to victory and the first danger for the believer is found in the very victories in which he often glories. After a victory has been had, due to a true dependence and reliance upon God, the flesh, seeing the positive results begins to believe that it can now do on its own what the soul believed was only accomplished by the power of God. Once the flesh overpowers the spirit, a person is deceived into believing he can do anything, that his attributes and strengths extend beyond what he should by now know are his limits, the battle is already lost before even the first blow is struck.
Tomorrow we discuss the secret of Israel's defeat before Ai, and how God views sin within a body, rather than how we as men may view it.
If I can talk my wife into it, I'm off to have a snowball fight, then go do the radio program. God bless, and for those of you in the tundra, also known as Wisconsin and the neighboring states, stay warm.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.