One of the things I personally enjoy the most about our life in Florida is not the weather, but rather the continued opportunity to meet with men and invest in their lives and encourage them in their walks with the Lord.
This is not new to Florida, but has been a constant blessing which I have found fulfilling for many years. It has become even more prominent in my life as we are surrounded by a host of men and women in the “sunset” years of life.
None of us have that many years left!
The other day I was meeting a friend in a local coffee shop. He is a fairly “young” Christ-follower who is eager to grow in his relationship with the Lord.
During our conversation, he asked me a question about the Bible – specifically about the Old Testament and the nation of Israel, and their entrance into the Promised Land in the book of Joshua. This friend asked me about the differences between the first two battles in that book. You remember – the Battle of Jericho and the Battle of Ai (pronounced in two syllables “A” then “I”!).
In case you don’t remember, let’s review those two battles. (Check it out for yourself in Joshua 6 and 7!)
Moses had led the people through the wilderness up to the River Jordan and was prevented by God from entering the Promised Land. God appointed Joshua to take his place as leader of the nation of Israel, and assigned him (Joshua) the task of crossing the Jordan and conquering the peoples of the land of Canaan.
Joshua sent the spies to scout out the enemy in the first major arena of conflict, the city of Jericho. You remember the song anyway, don’t you – “Joshua fit (fought) the battle of Jericho and the walls came tumblin’ down!” The victorious Israelites then went up to the city of Ai, and thought they could win the battle over that little town with no sweat or at least very little effort.
But this little community and its small army soundly defeated the army of the nation of Israel.
Reeling in their defeat, Joshua and the people of Israel began to inquire of the Lord why they lost ground there. The Lord showed him very clearly what the problem was: He had given Joshua and the people specific instructions to burn and destroy everything in Jericho, except for the things of great value, which He wanted them to consecrate and dedicate and devote to service for Him.
The people were NOT to take specific items of treasure from the city of Jericho for their own little souvenirs. But one fellow named Achan had done just that. He saw this silver tea set and he thought, “This will look good on my dining room table. Nobody will miss just this one little set, and I’ll just hide it until everything cools down anyway.”
So he took part of the treasure that was meant for the Lord and he hid it.
And, to make a long story short, it was not until Joshua and the leaders of the people of Israel dealt with Achan that God restored His favor upon the nation and gave them victory over the army of Ai in the rematch!
As we think about that, the lesson seems very obvious: SIN (or rebellion against God, His Word, and the things of God!) HAS A SEVERE PENALTY, AND OFTEN THE CONSEQUENCES AFFECT MORE THAN JUST THE SINNER!
And that is not just revealed here. Ask Jonah about that lesson. He learned it first in the bowels of a great ship and then in the belly of a “great fish”. Ask Ananias and Sapphira (check out Acts 5). They learned it in the community of the saints, the early church!
But there is a deeper principle here: The difference in the two battles is also the difference in the enemies. At Jericho, the enemy was from without. The enemy was visible, alive and active. You could count them. You could tell just how strong they are.
You could evaluate your strength accordingly. But the enemy at Ai was a different enemy. Oh, yes, the outward enemy is still there, but the REAL enemy is the one on the inside.
The real battle at Ai was in the inner man of each man, woman, and child who was part of that nation of Israel. The real enemy for them took the forms of GREED, LUST (for things, not sex!), and COVETING!
As I have meditated on this passage, one thing I am discovering is that oftentimes it is easier for us to fight the obvious enemies than it is to fight the inner enemies. Our greatest temptations to sin are to follow our own desires, desires that we think nobody will ever know about, see or detect.
But I am here today to personally affirm to all that GOD HAS ALREADY WON THE VICTORY IN THE BATTLE OVER SIN – ALL SIN – AND HE IS IN THE BUSINESS OF HELPING US TO SEE THAT AND EXPERIENCE THE SPOILS OF VICTORY OURSELVES (if we celebrate on His terms, not ours!)
Isn’t that the message of Easter? God is in the business of putting on display His RESURRECTION POWER in every area of our lives.
On the cross, He paid the price for our sin, but that very first Easter Sunday, when He rose from the dead, He guaranteed the victory over all our sin. And that victory is ongoing. No matter whether the sin be greed, pride, power, or lust, or envy, or gossip, or whatever the temptation may be, God is in the business of helping you who know Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit to experience the victory over those things.
The whole of the Christian life is a process of allowing God the right to control the celebration!
Enjoy Him this week, won’t you? Have a Happy Resurrection Sunday! God bless….
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the News Journal and a former pastor in the area. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.