Matt was home a bit longer than usual this morning, which meant I had time not only to eat breakfast but also to read my Bible! I read the first part of Joshua 8 – God’s instructions for the Israelites to ambush a city that had brutally defeated them in Joshua 7. The first time the Israelites attacked the city of Ai, they didn’t realize one of the men with them had kept plunder which should have been set apart for God in a previous battle. God didn’t help them in this battle and they were forced to a humiliating retreat.
However, in Joshua 8, the wrongdoer had been identified and punished, and God was ready to help Israel defeat Ai. The plan he lays out is to hide an ambush behind the city, pretend to attack from the front and then flee as if they were beaten again to draw the army away from the city. The Israelite warriors in ambush could then set the city on fire and Ai would be defeated.
What struck me from the whole passage is how God redeems the Israelites’ humiliation to give them victory: they must face their failure head on in order to move past it, and not in a new-agey self-help think positive way, but in trusting obedience with God’s help. They re-enact their recent defeat, but as their enemies gloatingly pursue them the roles are reversed and the pursuers become the losers. It’s beautiful because it emphasizes that redemption is not something God came up with just for the New Testament. However, it is also stark because the cost of redemption is still death. I think it’s easy as Christians to be a bit desensitized to the horror of Jesus’ death on the cross because we can’t really imagine how brutal it was, and he resurrects from the dead so it doesn’t really count, right? But there is no avoiding the horror in Joshua 7 as the guilty man with his family were stoned to death and all of his belongings including the stolen plunder were burned.
I was encouraged this morning by Joshua 8 that no matter how I fail, no disappointments or shortcomings or even disobedience are beyond God’s redemption. However, in reflecting on that, I’m also reminded of the cost for that to be possible and of the privilege I have to access God’s forgiveness and redemption through Jesus’ life instead of my own.