In the battle of Jericho, God gave the Israelites a battle plan that any military leader would consider foolish, but in the second battle of Ai, God gave them a strategic military plan. In the battle of Jericho, they were to take no plunder, and Achan’s failure to obey led to loss of life, but in this battle, God allowed them to take the plunder.
The contrast between the battles highlights an important lesson for us: God desires a relationship with us. Although He provided the law, it was never intended to be a checklist to avoid interaction with Him. It was always about a means of establishing relationship. Of re-establishing the relationship with His creation that was disrupted by the fall.
Our pastor used the analogy of a set of train tracks this weekend — the law provided the tracks that lead to relationship with God, but it didn’t provide us the power to get there. I’ll take the analogy a little farther than he did, but hopefully I won’t lose you along the way. When Christ came and died for us, He removed the obstacle (our sin) from the tracks, and provided the power to propel us toward the Father through the gift of the Holy Spirit when He rose from the grave. But if we’re constantly riding with one hand on the brake (doubting the Holy Spirit, quenching His leadership in our life), sending sparks flying on the tracks, or setting the engine in reverse and heading back toward territory already covered (returning to sin from which God has granted us freedom), it makes for a long, uncomfortable, difficult ride. If we have trusted Christ, the end of the line is secure and certain, but what we believe about that relationship will impact our experience along the way.
To get back to our pastor’s point, “Our salvation had to be more than just paying off our sin debt.” We needed the power to live by faith, because on our own we would be like the rusted out hulls of trains that litter the salt flats in Bolivia’s train graveyard. “Christ in me” means that “His resurrection power fills me and empowers me to live by faith.” As Paul said in Galatians 2:20, “Therefore I am crucified with Christ, therefore, I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
What does all that have to do with Ai? The Holy Spirit leads us in whether we are to follow a plan that appears utterly foolish, but is God-led and God-powered for success or to follow a plan that is brilliantly clever, intricate, and strategic – and also God-led and God-powered for success. If we implement foolish plans that are not from God, they will clearly fail. Even if the same wacky plan worked before for us or someone we know. If we follow the most brilliant plan devised by man, but it is not from God, it will fail, even if by all logical predictions it may seem fool-proof and fail-proof. Because God’s purpose is not for our success or our failure, but for relationship with us. God’s plan for the Israelites was to give them the Promised Land – but only as a mean to His end of having relationship with them and eventually with all tribes and nations through them.
What was the last thing you absolutely knew God was calling you to do? Was it something you had to depend on His Holy Spirit to accomplish?