Joshua 8:1-29 (Part 1) – Let Your Mess Become Your Message

Posted: June 11, 2017 in 06-Joshua
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Joshua 8:1-29 (Part 1 of 3)

The Israelites Defeat Ai

There is a Christian phrase that floats around these days. I cannot say for certain who coined it because you see it everywhere when you do a google search but it is true of what God does through us when we seek forgiveness for our sins. The saying is “God turns our mess into a message.” It simply means that through salvation we are redeemed and that through faith in God our past becomes our testimony to His greatness. Our mess of our past becomes our testimony. Our mess of our past becomes our ministry.


Yesterday’s blog was just that. My choices in life that had an atomic bomb affect with ripple effects on my life can be traced back to a decision to pursue a relationship with a woman who was not my wife that led to an affair and adultery. The course of my life was profoundly affected by that decision and I was using in my last blog to warn against the seductive siren call of an extramarital affair as a testimony, as a ministry. My life, in general, is a testimony to the first commandment. You shall have no other gods before me. I made acceptance, particularly female acceptance, the point of my life.


Once I became old enough to recognize what the female body has to offer a man, the pursuit of that became my god. Chasing after it, doing what I had to do keep access to it, has led me to so many mistakes in my life. I no longer blame the women in my life for taking advantage of my willingness to do anything, say anything in the pursuit of or the protection of my access to their charms. I did it to myself. My teenage and adult life was like a drug addict doing anything and saying anything to keep access to his supply of drugs. A drug addict will slowly forget any morality or pride or whatever just to keep access to a supply of drugs. I was the same way when it came to the physical charms of a woman. I allowed the pursuit of feminine charms to rule my life. It was my god. Whatever sacrifices I needed to make at its altar I was willing to make. In my first marriage, it seemed that there was this wedge that my first wife needed there to be between me and my family. I gladly eschewed my parents and my family when it was what my first wife needed so as to prove my love to her. With my second wife, it seemed that how I proved my love was eschewing anything to do with my past before I met her. That included my children. She expected me to only do what was legally expected of me for my children and no more. She expected that I elevate her children above mine. I bought it all just to keep access to my god, her feminine charms. I practically did not have a relationship with my children for those nine years all because my drug, my god, the charms of the feminine body demanded it. It was my drug. I would do whatever it took to please it and keep access to it. Even after my salvation, this was the one sin stronghold that the Holy Spirit had to hardest time getting me to let go of. This was my most entrenched sin, acceptance from others, and access to what a woman has to offer a man. Even after the breakup of my second marriage, because I refused to ignore my children any longer and lied about to my second wife, I was still addicted to female approval. As a single guy I was all about finding and keeping access to my drug, my god. It was not until I met Elena that I learned that it’s not all about the access. She taught me that love was not measured by access. Love is not conditional. Love does not demand. Love just is. I know that God sent this woman, Elena, who became my third and final wife, to save my life, to break the chains of my addiction, and to show me what love that He has for me. Unconditional love. Forgiveness. No hoops to jump through. But we cannot realize that until we put God first. Whatever we have on the throne of our lives before Him will rule us, disappoint us, and destroy us.


I know that I would not, literally, be alive today until I learned this lesson. I could make Elena my god for having saved my life but it was the through the mess that my life had become that I realized that I could no longer make access to feminine charms the god of my life, the ruling factor in everything I did. When I look back on my life and how all this happened, I get so angry at myself and so disgusted by what I look back on that it almost brings tears to my eyes for all the wasted time. But as the line from Steel Magnolias says, “that which does not kill us makes us stronger.” When I look back on what my life was and what it is now, it also gives me great thanks to the Lord for being patient with me, looking out for me, and saving me for what He has for me now. We must use our past as motivation to love God more for what He has done. Let our past become part of the reason we love Him so much.


That’s what I thought of this morning as I read through Joshua 8:1-29 this morning for the first of three times. It is the fact that Joshua and Israel let their eyes get taken off God by their success and it led to utter failure. But, they did recognize what their sin was and repented of it. God then led them to victory. That is our story. How we let our mess become our message. Israel screwed up big time but they fell humbly before God and restored them and gave them blessing. That is my story. That is my mess and my message. Let’s read the passage together this morning:


8 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Take the whole army with you, and go up and attack Ai. For I have delivered into your hands the king of Ai, his people, his city and his land. 2 You shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king, except that you may carry off their plunder and livestock for yourselves. Set an ambush behind the city.”


3 So Joshua and the whole army moved out to attack Ai. He chose thirty thousand of his best fighting men and sent them out at night 4 with these orders: “Listen carefully. You are to set an ambush behind the city. Don’t go very far from it. All of you be on the alert. 5 I and all those with me will advance on the city, and when the men come out against us, as they did before, we will flee from them. 6 They will pursue us until we have lured them away from the city, for they will say, ‘They are running away from us as they did before.’ So when we flee from them, 7 you are to rise up from ambush and take the city. The Lord your God will give it into your hand. 8 When you have taken the city, set it on fire. Do what the Lord has commanded. See to it; you have my orders.”


9 Then Joshua sent them off, and they went to the place of ambush and lay in wait between Bethel and Ai, to the west of Ai—but Joshua spent that night with the people.


10 Early the next morning Joshua mustered his army, 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. 12 Joshua had taken about five thousand men and set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai, to the west of the city. 13 So the soldiers took up their positions—with the main camp to the north of the city and the ambush to the west of it. That night Joshua went into the valley.


14 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. 15 Joshua and all Israel let themselves be driven back before them, and they fled toward the wilderness. 16 All the men of Ai were called to pursue them, and they pursued Joshua and were lured away from the city. 17 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.


18 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Hold out toward Ai the javelin that is in your hand, for into your hand I will deliver the city.” So Joshua held out toward the city the javelin that was in his hand. 19 As soon as he did this, the men in the ambush rose quickly from their position and rushed forward. They entered the city and captured it and quickly set it on fire.


20 The men of Ai looked back and saw the smoke of the city rising up into the sky, but they had no chance to escape in any direction; the Israelites who had been fleeing toward the wilderness had turned back against their pursuers. 21 For when Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had taken the city and that smoke was going up from it, they turned around and attacked the men of Ai. 22 Those in the ambush also came out of the city against them, so that they were caught in the middle, with Israelites on both sides. Israel cut them down, leaving them neither survivors nor fugitives. 23 But they took the king of Ai alive and brought him to Joshua.


24 When Israel had finished killing all the men of Ai in the fields and in the wilderness where they had chased them, and when every one of them had been put to the sword, all the Israelites returned to Ai and killed those who were in it. 25 Twelve thousand men and women fell that day—all the people of Ai. 26 For Joshua did not draw back the hand that held out his javelin until he had destroyed[a] all who lived in Ai. 27 But Israel did carry off for themselves the livestock and plunder of this city, as the Lord had instructed Joshua.


28 So Joshua burned Ai[b] and made it a permanent heap of ruins, a desolate place to this day. 29 He impaled the body of the king of Ai on a pole and left it there until evening. At sunset, Joshua ordered them to take the body from the pole and throw it down at the entrance of the city gate. And they raised a large pile of rocks over it, which remains to this day.


From this passage, we see that, after Israel had been cleansed from Achan’s sin, Joshua prepared to attack Ai again – this time to win. Joshua had learned some lessons that we can follow. First, confess your sins when God reveals them to you (Joshua 7:19-21). Second, when you fail, refocus on God, deal with the problem and move on. The lessons we learn from our failures should make us better able to handle the same situation the next time around. Because God is eager to forgive, the only way to lose is to give up. We can tell what kind of people we are by what we do after our failures. In this passage, the Lord gives Joshua the city. Yesterday’s defeat becomes today’s victory. Once sin is dealt with, forgiveness and victory lie ahead. With God’s direction, we need not stay discouraged our burdened with guilt. No matter how difficult a setback your or my sin may bring, we must renew our efforts to do God’s will. Our setbacks can become our ministry. Joshua and Israelites show us proof that through repentance and forgiveness, we can demonstrate that God redeems our failures and makes them victories.


I can certainly identify with the message of this passage. It is redemptive. It is about letting something other than God become your focus and letting it rule your life. It is about making something other than God the most important thing in your life. It is about being addicted to something other than God and letting rule your life – even when you know that your drug is causing you to do things that you would not normally due as you slowly decline into a complete loss of godly morality. It is only when our gods chew us up and spit us out on the sidewalk that we can see what our god, our addictions, have done to our lives and come humbly before the Lord to redeem. And the Lord will redeem. He is eager for us to have an intimate relationship with Him. He is eager to have us put Him in His rightful place in our lives, on the throne of our heart. He is eager to forgive and willing to redeem us and make us new. He is eager to give us a new life and new perspective. He is eager to get us to see our past for what it was and help us to use it to reach others through the message that comes out of our mess. He made us each with our own stories to tell so that we can reach certain people as only you or I can. He uses our mess turned into a message to reach similarly situated people to show them that God does redeem. Through Jesus Christ, we can have new life, a life where we seek to give Him glory for just the way that He saved us from the horribleness that was us before salvation.


Let you mess become a message through Jesus Christ and His saving and redeeming grace. Let us be so thankful that Jesus Christ does redeem. What I was before Him disgusts me, but it is my mess than is part of my message of redemption through Jesus Christ and process of sanctification through the Holy Spirit that is perfecting us daily from our iniquities one by one, day by day, adding to the message that we have to offer others of just what God can do!


Amen and Amen.

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