Joshua 8:10-17

Early the next morning Joshua mustered his men, and he and the leaders of Israel marched before them to Ai. 11 The entire force that was with him marched up and approached the city and arrived in front of it. They set up camp north of Ai, with the valley between them and the city. Joshua had taken about five thousand men and set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai, to the west of the city. They had the soldiers take up their positions—all those in the camp to the north of the city and the ambush to the west of it. That night Joshua went into the valley.

When the king of Ai saw this, he and all the men of the city hurried out early in the morning to meet Israel in battle at a certain place overlooking the Arabah. But he did not know that an ambush had been set against him behind the city. Joshua and all Israel let themselves be driven back before them, and they fled toward the desert. All the men of Ai were called to pursue them, and they pursued Joshua and were lured away from the city. Not a man remained in Ai or Bethel who did not go after Israel. They left the city open and went in pursuit of Israel.

As I look at this passage, I realise that there are two side of the story here. Let's explore the side of Israel first. Upon receiving God's command, Joshua and his leaders took time to prepare the army, positioning themselves in their ambush position, getting ready for Ai to fall into the trap. I am thinking, is it that we need to prepare ourselves even if God is sending the blessing direct to us? Let's put it in more simple terms. God blesses us and this we know. Ephesian 1:3 says it quite clearly in no uncertain terms:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

But I am asking ourselves, are we prepared and well-positioned to receive God's blessing? As I ask this question, I think about one common issue that normally people of my age in church talk about: BGR. Getting into a romantic relationship, that's a hot topic. We all know that God instituted marriage and most of us are meant to get married someday, and God dun intend us all to become monks and nuns. I dun know for you, but for me, a good wife nowadays is a great blessing from God. But as men, let's ask ourselves, are we prepared for such a blessing? Are we 'man enough' to receive such a gift from God? By this, I mean are we spiritually matured enough to lead our spouse, are we financially stable enough or confident enough to make sure that the family won't starve to death and are we equipped with the right mentality towards marriage and the opposite gender? While man and men are not perfect, we ought to think about these issues and we should, on our part, position ourselves well to receive God's blessing.

Another case scenario. Are we also positionally ready to receive God's blessing in the form of new converts? By this, I do mean is the wineskin ready? Are there people who can take care of the new people? Or is it just going to be the job of the CL and the core team to do so? Do we prepare ourselves to go and spread the gospel? These are questions we need to think about.

The other side of the story occurs at the side of Ai. The story suggests that they were not thinking really correctly and were perhaps being too overconfident after their last victory over Israel. They left the city wide opened and were going to fall into the trap set by Israel. What can this say about us? One question I am asking, do we get complacent after one victory? Do we sit down and ponder about things before we set off to the next stop? It's the same as a few posts before when we talk about the circumcision. But what happened with Ai was that they got too overconfident and we dun see that they give glory and thanks to God. The book of Acts documents one incident quite clearly about such attitude:

On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. They shouted, "This is the voice of a god, not of a man." Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.

And so it would happen to Ai. But more importantly, it's still the question of knowing whether God is with you in your venture or not. It's not the case that just because 'it is not prohibited in the bible, therefore I can do'. But it's more like are we aware where is the center of action going to be and go right down there? The center of God's action was with Israel, in the ambush, and not with Ai. They were going into the torrent. And so, considering Ai's side of the story, what can we say? Those not on God's side will head towards destruction? Then did anyone warn Ai about God? Yet earlier on, we saw that the people of Canaan knew that God was with Israel. So I am thinking again, we ought to warn those heading towards destruction, though not in fire and brimstone manners.

God is not on the side of the sinners but with Jesus, we can be on the side of God.


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