Phase One

Then Joshua rose up early in the morning and mustered the people, and went up, he and the elders of Israel, before the people to Ai.”—Joshua 8:10 (NKJV) 

Israel had hit a major roadblock in their stunning defeat before the city of Ai. After discovering the cause of the defeat to be Achan’s sin of stealing and concealing forbidden spoils of war, Israel responded appropriately and God directed them on how to proceed.

God tells Joshua to lead the army of Israel right back to the place of prior defeat. Only this time, with their camp clear of sin, God would divinely oversee their victory. He even gives Joshua specific strategic instructions for overtaking Ai. 

Instead of launching an all-out assault on the city, they were to split their forces in two. The first group would approach the city and then retreat, acting as bait to lure the defenders out of Ai in pursuit. Then, the second group would ambush the defenseless city from behind, secure it, leaving its army vulnerable between Israel’s two forces.

Joshua conveys God’s instructions to his soldiers, and they enact phase one of their divinely determined strategy. Ai’s defenders see the initial army of Israel approach and retreat. Undoubtedly, they thought this was going to be a repeat of their previous victory over Israel. Prideful and overconfident, every fighting man rushed out of the city to pursue Israel’s fleeing force (Joshua 8:12-17).

That was the beginning of the end, both for the city of Ai as well as for those charged with protecting her. We’ll look at that more tomorrow, but the point we cannot miss today is the importance of staying inside the city! If the fighting men of Ai had stayed within its walls, they would have been kept safe. But by rushing out, blinded by overconfidence, they became vulnerable.

The Book of Joshua, though historical in nature, also acts as a commentary. It demonstrates spiritual principles that lead to victory or defeat. And in this case, it reveals the defeat that follows when one ventures outside of the protective walls God has provided for His people. Those walls don’t consist of stone or mortar but of principles and precepts established in Scripture that give us a boundary and fortification against the things that would lead to spiritual defeat. 

We need to recognize that God gives us His Word to warn, protect, and save us from our spiritual foes. Don’t be drawn out, don’t be lured out, don’t be blinded by a sense of overconfidence; take refuge within the walls of God’s Word.

DIG: What was God’s strategy for defeating Ai? How does this strategy parallel the spiritual life?

DISCOVER: What are some defeats you’ve experienced as a result of venturing outside of the walls of God’s Word? How did you and should you respond? 

DO: Spend time today reflecting on some of the defeats you’ve experienced. Consider the lessons the Lord taught you in them. Examine your life and assess whether or not you’re currently applying those lessons.

About the Author

Pastor Dan Hickling

Pastor Dan Hickling serves our online community, also known as the Calvary Chapel Online Campus. He and his wife Becky have been married for 22 years and have two children, Lauren and Danny. Both Dan and Becky have been part of the CCFL church family for 22 years and have served in full time ministry for 20 of those years.