The small army was soundly routed by the men of Ai. At this the hearts of the people melted and became like water. (Josh 7:5)
No kidding. The people were toast in this foreign land if God didn't deliver victories, yet it seemed at Ai that he had failed them. What happened? You can find this story in Joshua 7, where the people of Israel had finally surged into Canaan, the land God had promised to give to them. Joshua wondered what had happened, too, and fell before God in fear and mourning, asking for guidance.
Haven't we been there, too? We feel like we're walking on God's path, following his word, and yet a failure washes over us.
Please know that I'm not a formula person: what happened to the people in Israel may not be what's happening to you. But, on the other hand, it may be, too. And we need to take a look, just in case.
So what caused the failure at Ai?
Disobedience is what happened. God had commanded the people to take no spoils when that impenetrable city, Jericho, fell but one greedy man, Achan, hoarded some treasures. Thirty-six soldiers who thought they were headed for an easy victory in Ai died for Achan's disobedience.
When God seems to be failing us, when his promises seem thin and distant, it's a good idea to begin searching for disobedience. We need to fall before God, asking for guidance. Is there anything in me that separates me from the Father?
We're saved by grace but are we choosing to walk in a point of disobedience? Is there a choice that we're refusing to allow God to make? Are we withholding something from God, citing our right to some cherished indulgence?
God said it plainly to Joshua: I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction. (Josh 7:12)
Tomorrow: one Israel?