Introduction: Have you ever been defeated at something? I was watching the football world cup match between Germany and South Korea. South Korea are already in the bottom of the chart and Germany had to win to advance. During the 6 minutes extra time, Korea scored twice and the Germans were shattered.
Failure hurts. To put it mildly, it’s a painful experience, one that many of us work tirelessly to avoid. Often, its effects can be long-lasting, leaving a mark in our minds, and creating a mental hurdle that can be difficult to overcome in later years.
But failure is also necessary. When we fail, we tend to ponder, searching for new meaning to our lives, exploring the potential for possible answers and solutions for achieving our goals. In fact, failure is a crucial part of our forward progress.
This morning I want to speak to you on the subject: Overcoming defeat with victory.
Israel has just been involved in the greatest military victory in their history. The people of Jericho are all dead. Nothing is left of Jericho but smoking rubble and ashes. They have just witnessed God’s defeat of the city of Jericho, and they are still basking in the glow of that event. The next day Israel needs to finish off a little nearby village, Ai. It is not a great walled city like Jericho. Ai is so small that Joshua’s captains recommend they just send a small detachment.
But no sooner than they invade they start sensing that God is not on their side. Up to this point God had been fighting for them and giving them the victory, but not today. Thirty six fighting men died and the name of God was disgraced.
Why were they defeated? The simple reason is there was sin in the camp! In the Bible, Ai is a typology of the flesh. The word “Ai” means, “a heap of ruins.” That is a good way to describe the flesh in which we live.
Israel thought all was well, that they were standing on the threshold of a great string of victories that would see them conquering the entire Promised Land. Yet, what they did not know was that there was a problem in the camp.
God was angry because all the spoils of Jericho were to be dedicated to the Lord. Joshua 6:19 All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the Lord and must go into his treasury. The riches and bounty of that place were to be placed in the treasury.
It’s the principle of first fruits for God. It says that the first of everything belongs to God. But verse one of chapter seven tells us that God is upset with the people. Joshua 7:1 But the Israelites were unfaithful in regard to the devoted things; Achan ……, took some of them. So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel. God was angry because of Israel’s sin and they got defeated.
1. Reason for the defeat.
a. Sin of covetousness.
When the Israelites destroyed Jericho, Achan of the tribe of Judah, coveted a beautiful Babylonian robe, gold, and silver and took it to his tent.
See the progression of this sin. Joshua 7:20-21 20Achan replied, “It is true! I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel. This is what I have done: 21When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”
This is sin of covetousness: He saw, he coveted, he took, and he hid. First there’s desire, then deed, then deception. It happened the same way for man in the garden. Eve saw, she desired, and she ate, and then they covered themselves with fig leaves. Look at the sin of David with Bathsheba. He saw her, wanted her, sent for her, then covered it up. And it happens the same today for us.
Joke: Three believer guys shared and bought a lottery ticket and they won the grand prize of 1 Crore. The first one said, “This is a blessing, but how much do we keep for ourselves and how much should we give to God?” After a few minutes he said, “We’ll draw a circle and throw the money up in the air, whatever lands out of the circle we’ll keep and whatever lands in the circle we’ll give to God.”
The second guy immediately prompted, “I think we should throw the money up in the air and whatever lands inside the circle we keep and whatever lands outside of the circle we give to God.”
The third guy was an accountant. He immediately said, “I have a wonderful idea. I think we should throw the money up in the air and whatever God wants he can keep and we’ll keep the rest for ourselves.”
We live in a very consuming world and we are never content with what we have. Many times we covet what we see and end up buying them. When we end up having things illegally or start buying items just because we liked it, we become guilty of the sin of covetousness.
b. Never consulted God.
Joshua and the Israelites never consulted God on dealing with Ai. It was their men who decided the strategy and the course of action. This tells us that anything we start, we must start with God or after much prayer. It maybe a simple thing as changing your jobs to starting a new course or buying a land or thing. Usually we go to God for big things, but God wants us to consult him even for minute things of our life and God is willing to guide us and lead us.
Joshua didn’t pray about Ai. Later when he started to pray about Ai, showed him what was wrong and gave him a strategy. If he had prayed before God would have showed him the sin and they would not have been defeated.
Man do the exact same thing. Man wait until he make a mess of things and then we go to prayer. Prayer should be our first thought, not the last resort. All our failures are prayer failures.
c. Trusted in self power.
This time Israel did not go to battle with God’s presence. They didn’t take the Ark of the Covenant into battle. The Ark of the Covenant symbolizes the presence of God. When they crossed Jordan they had the Ark of the Covenant. When they rounded about Jericho, they had the Ark of the Covenant. They thought they can overcome Ai with their power and they failed. When you have God with you, you have success, without God even the smallest task becomes an herculean task.
When God gave them victory over Jericho, they thought they could easily get victory over the remaining nations. See the proud report of their men: Joshua 7:3 They said, ‘Not all people will have to go up against Ai. Send two or three thousand men to take it and do not weary all the people, for only a few men are there. They forgot that Jericho was God’s victory.
Illustration: There was a woodpecker who was working on a tree when, unknown to him. Soon, lightning struck the tree splitting it in half. He flew away and got his friends and brought them to the tree and said, “See what I have done to this tree. Look, right over there!”
Our temptation when blessed so much is to think that we somehow are responsible for our situation.
1 Corinthians 10:12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall.
Proverbs 16:18 Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.
They assumed that God was with them. There’s no power of Satan too great for us to overcome in the power of the Spirit of God, but there’s no power of Satan so small that we can overcome it in the power of our flesh.
Remember, it is not the Jericho’s that defeat most Christians, it’s the Ai’s when we presume we can handle it. Song of Songs 2:15 Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards.
Illustration: In 1961 Boxing Champ Mohammed Ali was preparing to fight Joe Frazier. He said, “There’s not a man alive that can whip me. I’m too smart, I’m the greatest, I’m the king. I ought to be a postage stamp, it’s the only way I’ll ever get licked.” The next night Frazier beat his brains out. Why? Because there’s a difference between confidence and presumption.
Many of us are good at presuming that things are fine. Pride is the father of presumption.
2. The effects of sin.
When Israel was defeated Joshua and the elders of Israel tore his clothes and fell face down to the ground before the ark of the Lord and remained there until evening. They put dust on their heads and cried out to the Lord and in Chapter 7 God started to reveal them about their sin and it effects.
a. Sin robs God’s presence.
Sin takes away God’s presence from us. Isaiah 59:2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.
Joshua 7:12 That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction. God removes his presence from his when we sin.
b. Sin destroys the individual.
Joshua 7:15 Whoever is caught with the devoted things shall be destroyed by fire, along with all that belongs to him. He has violated the covenant of the Lord and has done an outrageous thing in Israel!
If you read this chapter further Achan was destroyed because of his sin. Joshua 7:25-26 25Joshua said, “Why have you brought this trouble on us? The Lord will bring trouble on you today.” Then all Israel stoned him, and after they had stoned the rest, they burned them. 26Over Achan they heaped up a large pile of rocks, which remains to this day. Then the Lord turned from his fierce anger. Therefore that place has been called the Valley of Achor ever since.
Sin has got a very destructive nature. The Bible says Romans 6:23 The wages of sin is death. Sin eventually destroys.
c. Sin affects those around us.
Proverbs 14:34 Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people.
Because of Achan’s sin, the entire nation suffered loss. Sin has a national effect. Sin has a family effect. Because of the sin of an individual, the entire family suffers in one way or the other
3. Sin must be dealt with.
God is calling us to reason with him about our sin. Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.
The Lord spoke to Joshua: Joshua 7:11 Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep.
Joshua 7:13 Go, consecrate the people. Tell them, ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow; for this is what the God of Israel says: That which is devoted is among you, O Israel. You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove it.
Beloved, sin causes problems. It causes them for the sinners and for everyone else around them. Our sin must be dealt with. Joshua 7 tell us that God has a prescription for an Achan heart.
4. The Remedy for sin.
b. Pray for forgiveness.
Joshua prayed. Joshua 7:6 Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell facedown to the ground before the ark of the Lord, remaining there till evening. The elders of Israel did the same, and sprinkled dust on their heads.
Joshua 7:8 Pardon your servant, Lord. What can I say, now that Israel has been routed by its enemies?
b. God always has a remedy for man’s sin.
God always has a way out for man’s sins. When man sinned in the garden and became naked, God sacrificed an animal and clothed him. God gave the first gospel as a provision for man to come back to him in the garden in Genesis 3:15.
Here in the book of Joshua, God is giving them a plan for Israel for the sins to be forgiven. Joshua 7:14 In the morning, present yourselves tribe by tribe. The tribe the Lord chooses shall come forward clan by clan; the clan the Lord chooses shall come forward family by family; and the family the Lord chooses shall come forward man by man. God gave them a plan where sin could be exposed and expelled from the community.
Today, there is a remedy for our sin. Jesus Christ is remedy for sin. Like Achan, we too sin from time to time. Thank God for his plan to give us Jesus Christ who has taken our destruction on the cross of Calvary. Today, God has a plan for all our sins and iniquities. 1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. Come to Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins today.
5. Result of overcoming sin.
Chapter 8 of Joshua finds Israel facing the same city, the little city of Ai. The first time Israel went to battle with Ai, they lost, and 36 of them were killed. Sin caused their defeat. Now they are back and it is time for Ai to be faced once again and God gives them the victory.
a. God promises victory.
Joshua 8:1 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.
Joshua 8:19 They entered the city and captured it and quickly set it on fire.
Today, God is promising you victory in the areas you are defeated. The same enemy that defeated you is going to be defeated because of God.
b. God blesses us.
Joshua 8:2 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.
Joshua 8:27 But Israel did carry off for themselves the livestock and plunder of this city, as the Lord had instructed Joshua.
It is in God’s plan to bless us. Achan coveted and stole for his own prosperity. This time God says they can have all the spoils. If Achan had just waited on God he could have had far more than he took in disobedience.
6. Preserve your victory with Devotion.
Joshua 8:30-31 30Then Joshua built on Mount Ebal an altar to the Lord, the God of Israel, 31as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded the Israelites. He built it according to what is written in the Book of the Law of Moses—an altar of uncut stones, on which no iron tool had been used. On it they offered to the Lord burnt offerings and sacrificed fellowship offerings.
Joshua 8:34-35 34Afterward, Joshua read all the words of the law—the blessings and the curses—just as it is written in the Book of the Law. 35There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded that Joshua did not read to the whole assembly of Israel, including the women and children, and the foreigners who lived among them.
It is very important as to how we deal with victory. Most of the people fail or fall, when you hit peak. Here is a reminder to preserve your victory with devotion.
Conclusion: The fact is, most of us are guilty of being like Achan from time to time. When we allow sin into our lives and when we try to hide ours sins and try to cover them up, we bring pain and trouble to our lives. Yes, we are all Achans from time to time, and when we are, our sin causes aching in our lives.
Today, some of you need salvation. You need to be born again. Receive Jesus into your hearts.
If you already believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, today is a good day to come before the Lord and seek His help in dying to self and living in Him. Friend, I warn you that if you keep letting the flesh feed itself and grow stronger there will soon come a day when the flesh takes over your life and you’ll lay dead on that trash heap of life. Won’t you come to the Lord this morning and seek His help in reckoning your flesh dead?
I don’t know what your need is this morning, but I do know a God that can help you. Just come to Him and seek what you need to be able to live your life in a manner pleasing to Him.
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