Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Do you view prayer as a last resort or a first step? Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: In your personal life or in your family, your marriage, your church, with your children, when there’s an attack of the evil one—you can see it, but you don’t know why—do you go and get on your face? Or do you go and ask somebody else for help? Or do you go and get a book? Or do you go and ask a therapist? What’s your first resort?

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, October, 6, 2014.

The life of an Old Testament military leader has so much to teach women in the 21st century. We’ve been discovering that during Nancy’s in-depth teaching on the life of Joshua. Here she is in the series "Lessons from the Life of Joshua (Part 10): Rising from Defeat." 

Nancy: Have you ever found yourself having this great spiritual victory, some mega-high point in your life, only to find yourself falling flat on your face within hours or days of that mountaintop experience? I see a lot of heads nodding, and I think to experiences in my own life. I was like in the portals of heaven for a little bit there. And then within moments, it seems, I’m in the flesh as if I never knew the Lord.

You can be having your quiet time and just have the most precious time with the Lord and God speaks to you, and then moments later you’re screaming at your kids and panicked about your schedule. That is probably not an unusual experience, and it’s something that we find illustrated here in the book of Joshua.

Chapter 6, we studied the fall of Jericho. This was an awesome victory, won by the Lord God Himself. There was such evidence of the supernatural power of God. And chapter 6 ends on this great high note. The last verse of the chapter says, “So the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame was in all the land” (v. 27).

The Israelites are riding high. Everybody is ecstatic. God has just done this great thing. Then we come to Joshua chapter 7. If you have your Bible and haven’t turned there yet, let me invite you to turn to Joshua chapter 7, verse 1. We come to this little three letter word—but. But something happens. The victory is quickly eclipsed by a defeat, and it’s a significant defeat.

This little word but and what follows reminds us that we are never in greater danger and never more vulnerable spiritually than when we are on the heels of a great victory. It’s a pattern. You can expect it. Remember after Jesus got baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist and the Holy Spirit descended on Him. What’s the very next verse tell us?

The Holy Spirit directed Him into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Battles and blessings seem to go together. You can’t have the blessings without the battles. Andrew Bonar, who was a great Christian writer of the last century, said, “Let us be as watchful after the victory as before the battle.”

Some of my praying friends know that. So they pray for me not only before I go into the battle, not only when I’m in the battle, but some of them know me well enough to know that I really need prayers after the battle. That’s when the defeats can be so great. And no matter how many victories we’ve had, we are never invincible. We never come to the place where we are immune to failure.

We’re never so close to God that we’re not just one little decision away from having a great distance between us and God. One commentator said it this way, “Sin lurks in the very shadow of faith’s victory.” And I have found it to be true many, many times in my own life.

Verse 1 of chapter 7 reminds me of some TV crime shows where you see the first scene where the crime is committed and you see the crime committed. You know what happened. But the whole rest of the story, the police and the detectives and the judge—they’re sorting through all the evidence and trying to figure out what happened, trying to figure out who committed the crime.

That’s a little bit of what we have. God gives us this viewpoint in verse 1 of what happened, but Joshua and the Israelites don’t know what we’re told in verse 1 until much later.

Verse 1 in chapter 7, “But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things." Remember what the devoted things were? Those were the things in Jericho that God said these are devoted to destruction. They are herem. They are under the ban. They are anathema. They are accursed. You are not to touch any of them. Everything has to be destroyed except a few articles that are to go into the treasury of the Lord.

And the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan, the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the LORD burned against the people of Israel (v. 1).

So we are told what happened, but Joshua and the Israelites don’t know. The only one who knows what we just read is Achan. Oh, and one other person—God. God knows it. God has seen what Achan thinks he has done in secret and in private. God knows. And that’s going to prove to be very important.

Verse 2—now we’re going back to Joshua and his point of view. He doesn’t know what we just heard about Achan. “Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai,” which is about fifteen miles west of Jericho. It’s

Near Beth-aven, east of Bethel. And he said to them, "Go up and spy out the land." And the men went up and spied out Ai. And they returned to Joshua and said to him, "Do not have all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and attack Ai. Do not make the whole people toil up there, for they are few" (vv. 2–3).

Now they’ve just been through Jericho. They’ve seen what God has done, and these men go and look at Ai and they say, “Compared to Jericho, it’s a piece of cake. We’ve got it made. We don’t even need to send the whole army.” What we don’t see them doing is asking God, “What should we do?”

Remember who is the Commander of the Lord’s hosts? Joshua had met Him in chapter 5. We talked about that. Jesus Himself appeared to Joshua as a Christophany, a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ. He said, “I’ve come to take over.”

So Joshua knew that he needed to ask the Lord, “What’s the battle plan? Do you want us to do the same thing we did in Jericho? Do you want us to do something different?” There’s no evidence. It’s conspicuous by its silence that the people did not ask God what to do apparently. Verse 4,

So about 3,000 men went up there from the people. And they [that is, the Israelites], fled before the men of Ai, and the men of Ai killed about thirty-six of their men and chased them before the gate as far as Shebarim and struck them at the descent. And the hearts of the people melted and became as water.

We’ve seen that phrase earlier, but it related to the Canaanites, whose hearts had melted and became as water when they saw the victories that God was winning through the Israelites. Now who is terrified? Now it’s God’s people whose hearts are fainting and melting as water.

This defeat at Ai is the only recorded defeat in the book of Joshua. It’s the only time we read about the Israelites suffering loss of life in any of these battles. This was a humiliating defeat right on the heels of this great victory at Jericho.

  • How did they get defeated?
  • Why did they get defeated?
  • What happened?

Well, I think there’s several things that probably played in there, several factors. One, it seems to me that they had probably become over-confident following the defeat at Jericho. Had they forgotten how that battle was won, without (so-to-speak) the Israelites firing a shot?

It wasn’t the Israelite army that defeated Jericho. It was God’s army. It was those angelic hosts. The Children of Israel never raised a spear. I mean, the walls fell on their own. There wasn’t any great military strategy here that brought down these walls. God did it.

The Israelite army had no more capacity to destroy Ai than they had to bring down those walls of Jericho. Did they somehow in the vanity of their hearts become intoxicated with their success and think, We can do this?

If so, then they learned the hard way, we cannot do anything apart from God. So we learn as we look at this passage, don’t overestimate your own strength. And we learn don’t underestimate your enemy’s strength. How did they do that?

Well, when the spies came back to Joshua, remember they said to him, “Don’t send all the army up. Just send up two or three thousand men to attack the Ai. Don’t make the whole people go, for they are few. The people in Ai are few.”

That’s what the spies thought, but it turns out they were wrong. It turns out the city was not as small as they thought it was. In verse 25 of chapter 8, we read there were at least 12,000 people in the city. So whatever they saw, they saw wrong. They underestimated the opposition. It appears that they overestimated their own power.

That’s a good reminder for us that the smallest temptation is impossible for us to overcome apart from the grace and the power of God. We know we can’t handle the big ones. But we need to remember we can’t handle the little ones.

The smallest temptation we cannot overcome apart from His grace and power. Don’t forget that the same One who gave you the initial victory can also cause you to be defeated by your enemies if He withdraws His hand of blessing and protection. We are never, ever, ever at a place where we can afford not to be dependent on God.

Sometimes we remember that better when we’re younger Christians or when we’re first trying some new undertaking or effort for the Lord. I can remember in my early days of teaching the Word of the Lord, the early days of Revive Our Hearts radio. I just had this sense of utter desperation. I knew I could not do this without God.

So I was on my face crying out to the Lord, asking Him for grace, asking Him for strength, crying literally at times, saying, “Lord, I cannot do this without You.” And many of you have heard me tell how that has been true.

But I’m no more capable today of doing what God has called me to do than I was years ago when we started this ministry. I have no more strength or capacity apart from Christ now then I did then. I've grown in the Lord a lot. The Lord has been gracious to me. There are areas of temptation that are not as powerful in my life as they once were. But I still cannot overcome even the smallest area of sin in my life apart from the Lord.

I never get to the place where I can do it without Him. I’ve asked the Lord over the years to remind me of that. I've asked the Lord as it relates to teaching, never to get to the place where I can minister the Word to others without having a sense of my own inadequecy, and the Lord has been very faithful to answer that prayer. Time and time I get up to teach or to a conference or to write a book and I'm overwhelmed with the sense of my own inadequecy apart from the power of God. I need Him. You need Him. You need Him as much for your sixth child as you did for your first child, maybe more.

God has ways of reminding us how greatly we need Him. Not only did the Israelites apparently overestimate their own power and apparently underestimated the power of the enemy. But it’s apparent as we already mentioned that they failed to seek the Lord in relation to this battle. There’s no evidence that they asked the Lord what shall we do, how shall we do this?

And again, just a reminder, we never get to the place where we can say, “Lord, I’ve got this figured out. I think I know how to handle this. We’ve done it this way before. We’ll do it this way again.” This is a reminder that we constantly need to be asking the Lord, “How do you want us to go about it this time?” What is your direction for this battle?

Now, those are all—I think—reasons probably for the defeat at Ai. But the Scripture is clear as to the primary reason for the defeat at Ai, and that was disobedience. We saw in verse 1 that one man in the Children of Israel, Achan, had taken for himself some of the things that God had said were to be devoted over to destruction. Again, this is a very familiar story.

I don't know anybody today naming their children Achan. It's a name that . . . when you think of Achan, it has a negative connotation. It's got something evil. You think of the man who stole, who lied, who covered, who hid, who got stoned. Nobody wants to be an Achan. Even today if you talk about an Achan in the midst, that's not a good term. You don't want to be an Achan.

But I want us to examine over the next several sessions how Joshua and the Children of Israel dealt with the defeat at Ai and with the situation related to Achan. First of all, remember that Joshua doesn’t know what has happened. All he knows is that they’ve been defeated terribly at the hands of the army in Ai. So what does Joshua do?

He turns to the Lord. He cries out to God for answers. You read this in Joshua 7, starting in verse 6. “Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord before evening.”

Remember we said that the Ark of the Lord is a symbol of the presence of God? Where did Joshua go? To God. He falls on his face to ask God, “What’s the problem? What happened here?”

He and the elders of Israel gathered together before the Ark of the Lord.

They put dust on their heads [a sign of humiliation]. And Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord God, why have you brought this people over the Jordan at all, to give us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us? . . . For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it and will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will you do for your great name?” (vv. 7 & 9).

So we see here a man, a leader who is discouraged. “Lord, You brought us here to do this? To destroy us?" He's perplexed. How did this happen? Things had been going so well. He's been following the Lord. He's been meditating on His Word. He's been seeking the Lord. God has been blessing Him, empowering Him, enabling Him. And how this inexplicable defeat. "Lord, what has happened?” He can’t see what the problem is. He doesn’t know what the problem is. He hasn’t seen what we’ve been told about Achan. So he turns to intercession. He turns to the Lord.

Is that where you turn when your life turns topsy-turvy and you’re defeated for reasons that you cannot understand? In your personal life or in your family, your marriage, in your church, or with your children, when there’s an attack of the evil one—you can see it, but you don’t know why—do you go and get on your face, or do you go and ask somebody else for help? Or do you go and get a book? Or do you go and ask a therapist? What’s your first resort?

For so many of us, the Lord is our last resort after we’ve tried everything else and haven’t been able to get any answers. Joshua models for us that the servant of the Lord turns first to the Lord and says, “Lord, what is going on? Help me understand.”

Then we see that Joshua is jealous for the name and the reputation of God. That’s his motivation. “Lord, the Canaanites, they’ll hear about this. They will cut off our name from the earth, and what will You do for Your great name?”

He says in effect, “Lord, do you know if they wipe us out, that’s not such a big deal. That’s our name. But Lord, it’s Your name that we’re concerned about. You sent us to this land to represent You, to shine forth Your glory, to show forth Your name. What will they say about Your name if they wipe us out?”

He is jealous for God’s reputation. If God’s covenant people were wiped out, how would the name of the Lord be proclaimed throughout the earth. In Joshua’s intercession here, you see the same heart that Moses had that we’ve seen in the past where Moses cried out to the Lord and said, “Lord, I’m dispensable. But I’m concerned about what people will think about You.”

That has got to be the motive as we pray about these areas of defeat, as these perplexing issues arise in our lives. “Lord, what do people think about You?” Not, "what do people think about my marriage? If I get a divorce, I’m going to look bad." No, it’s not that we’ll look bad. The question is, how will God look in this situation?

So Joshua turns to the Lord, and then God in answer to prayer reveals the issue to Joshua. Verse 10,

The LORD said to Joshua, "Get up! Why have you fallen on your face? Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I have commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings” (vv. 10–11)

This is the first knowledge Joshua has of this situation. It’s interesting that God says to Joshua, “Israel has sinned.” We read in verse 1, “the people of Israel broke faith with God.”

You see how God held the entire nation collectively responsible for one man’s sin? And you see how God withheld His blessing from the entire nation until that sin had been dealt with. Achan was the one who sinned, but because the nation of Israel was a covenant community, the whole nation was impacted. One sinner brought guilt and consequences on the whole nation.

You think about it just in human terms. If a man steals something, you don’t say, “Oh, he didn’t steal it. It was just his hand that stole it.” His hand is not separate from his body. His hand is a part of his body. Sin is never a private matter. You cannot sin in any way without affecting the whole church.

If you grow cold spiritually, you affect the temperature of the whole body. Oh, ladies, that’s why we need to help each other. That’s why we need to exhort one another daily lest any of our hearts become hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

It’s not just enough for me to know that my walk is doing okay. I need to be concerned about your walk with God, and you need to be concerned about my walk with God. And we need to know each other well enough and be in each other’s lives enough to know if people are hiding, if they are pretending, if they are covering.

I’m afraid in most of our churches and small groups we just speak pleasantries to each other, and people are really dying or sinning inside. Who knows? Who’s asking? Who’s caring? You’ve got to care. This is a matter that affects the whole body. Verse 12, God says,

Therefore the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies. They turn their backs before their enemies, because they have become devoted to destruction.

Did you catch that? The Children of Israel, having taken the things that were devoted to destruction, they themselves became devoted to destruction. They took the things that were under the ban. Now God says, "Now the Israelites are under the ban." That’s why they got defeated at Ai.

And God says, “I will be with you no more unless you destroy the devoted things from among you” (v. 12). You see, until we deal with sin in the body of Christ (and we’re going to talk more about that in the days ahead) we forfeit the presence of God. God says, “I will be with you no more,” and we cannot stand before our enemies.

We will live defeated lives individually and corporately until we deal with the issue as God reveals it. So God reveals the issue and then God reveals the action that needed to be taken.

Verse 13, God says to Joshua,

Get up! Consecrate the people and say, "Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow; for thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘There are devoted things in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the devoted things that are among you.’”

So at this point God does not tell Joshua who "done" it. God doesn’t point out the man. We’re going to see in the next session the process by which God brings that to light. God says, “First, I’m going to deal with the whole nation.”

Everyone needs to consecrate themselves together. Everyone needs to search his or her own heart and say as the disciples did around that last supper with Jesus, “Lord, is it I?”

Could there be something in my heart, my life, something hidden in my tent that is keeping you from blessing your people.

You say, “I don’t know of anything.”

God says, “Ask everyone to consecrate their own heart, to search their own heart.” And then by that process of searching, God is going to bring to the surface the thing that needs to be dealt with.

Leslie: We all know what defeat and failure feel like. Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been showing us how to respond. She’ll be right back to pray.

I’m thankful for a biblical model in Joshua, of humble response to failure. I need that example. I’m also thankful for the way Nancy can clearly explain the story of Joshua and help me apply it to my life. We’ve heard from many listeners who feel the same way. One wrote,

I just want you to know that your study on Joshua has had the biggest impact on my life in the last few weeks. It is transforming me into a woman of faith, instead of a woman that walks in fear. And I have not had this much peace in a very long time.

You can help us call women away from fear and into a growing relationship with Christ. In fact, we can’t provide Revive Our Hearts to women each day without the support of our listeners. 

When you make a donation to the ministry here in October, we’ll say thanks by sending you the Revive Our Hearts 2015 Wall Calendar. The theme this year is “Peace in the Storm.” 

Each month you’ll read quotes from Nancy on this topic or from friends of the ministry like Joni Eareckson Tada or Janet Parshall. 

And you need to see the artwork on this calendar. Timothy Botts interpreted each of these encouraging quotes in his signature calligraphy, and then he added other artwork to the background. This calendar will beautify your home and it will encourage you to trust God’s promises no matter what. 

We’d like to send you this 2015 wall calendar when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size. Ask for the “Peace in the Storm” calendar when you call 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

After a defeat, there’s nothing like the joy of forgiveness. We’ll hear about that tomorrow. Now let’s pray with Nancy.

Nancy: O Father, I pray that even this day You would cause us as Your children to humble ourselves, to consecrate ourselves afresh to you, and to let You search our hearts and ask, "O Lord, is there some thing that I have been holding on to that doesn’t belong to me? Is there something I have touched that is Yours? Is there something I will not let You have that belongs to you. Is there some issue, some sin, some way where I have broken faith with You and my sin is affecting not only my life but my family and the body of Christ?"

O Lord, I pray that as we examine this passage over these days, You would help us to take this familiar story and to have it ring in a fresh way to each of our hearts. And Lord, would you purify Your bride, purify the church. Consecrate us, O Lord. Cleanse us.

We confess that we are falling against our enemies, and we have this sense that Your presence is being withheld in our midst today. O Lord, we long for You to be able to come back and to be free to work in our midst and to give victory over Your enemies.

But Lord, first You’ve said we need to get off our faces and consecrate ourselves and examine and see where we have broken faith with You.

O Lord, help us to take it seriously that Your presence, Your precious sweet, gracious presence might be restored among Your people once again. We pray it in Jesus’ name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

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