Victory Over That Ai in Your Life

Joshua 7:11-12 (RSV)
"Israel has sinned; they have transgressed My covenant which I commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, and lied, and put them among their own stuff. Therefore the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies; they turn their backs before their enemies, because they have become a thing for destruction. I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you."

The Israelites, after forty years of wandering in the wilderness, finally were led by Joshua under God's direction into the Promised Land. As long as Israel lived in obedience to the Lord, Israel's enemies fled before them and their cities fell.

When Israel reached Jericho, strict instructions were given that all that was to be designated for destruction be destroyed completely. No spoils of battle were to be taken for personal reward. Joshua 6:17-19 states, "And the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the LORD for destruction; only Rahab the harlot and all who are with her in her house shall live, because she hid the messengers that we sent. But you, keep yourselves from the things devoted to destruction, lest when you have devoted them you take any of the devoted things and make the camp of Israel a thing for destruction, and bring trouble upon it. But all silver and gold, and vessels of bronze and iron, are sacred to the LORD; they shall go into the treasury of the LORD."

When the Israelites moved against Jericho according to the Lord's instructions, the He delivered this fortified, seemingly impregnable city into their hands. It was a great victory, and the it was obvious to all that the Lord had done it.

As the Israelites moved farther into the land, they were filled with confidence in the Lord their God that He would continue to drive out the people of the land before them and deliver the land into their hands.

They came upon a small, insignificant city called Ai. It looked like an easy place to overcome. So much so that Joshua sent only a small portion of his army to take it. Again, they moved in confidence because the Lord was with them. Or so they thought.

Unknown to Israelite community, a man named Achan had secretly taken some of the spoil from the battle of Jericho for himself, and thus brought sin into the camp. So with this sin contaminating the community, when the Israelites went up against little Ai, they were beaten and put to flight by its residents.

Joshua was overcome with grief and dismay. How could this defeat happen? Was not the Lord with them? The Lord answered Joshua and told him that because there was sin in the camp, He would not be with them in battle and they would be put to flight by their enemies.

The rest of chapter 7 of Joshua tells how Achan's sin was discovered and how it was dealt with. Once this was done, the Lord went before them in battle and delivered Ai into Israel's hands, just as He did Jericho.

How does this story apply to us today? Have you experienced difficulty with a particular sinful tendency in your life. A tendency that simply refuses to go away no matter how hard you pray, read the Bible, go to church, read self-help books, or do other things to control it?

While all believers struggle with sin and will continue to do so until death or Jesus' Second Coming, there are sometimes besetting sins that trouble us, steal our peace, and rob us of our joy in Christ. They are our own personal "Ai"s. They seem on the surface to be simple things to overcome. But for some inexplicable reason they continue to be an irresistible snare; something before which we fall down in defeat continually. Does this describe your life?

As you pray to God for victory in your walk with Christ, is there a sin you are cherishing somewhere in your heart? If there is, then instead of experiencing victory you will suffer defeat after defeat. Why? Because if you cherish sin in your heart God will not hear your prayers nor deliver you from the particular sin that has its grip on you.

There is hope, however. 1 John 1:9 teaches that if we come before God with a repentant heart and confess our sins, He is faithful and just to not only forgive us, but to purify us from all unrighteousness. In this way, as with the sin of Achan in the Israelite community, your sin will be dealt with and its stain removed from you. Then the victorious life in Christ will resume with peace and great joy.

Is there a besetting sin that just won't let go no matter what you do? Ask yourself this question. Is there cherished sin in your life? If the answer is yes, acknowledge your sin to yourself and to God in true repentance. Seek His forgiveness, which He will gladly bestow on you. Then you will know the victory over and freedom from that besetting sin only the grace of Jesus can provide.

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