Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth-aven, east of Bethel, and 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.” -Joshua 7:2-3
Israel just crossed the Jordan a few weeks back, and is riding high on the defeat of Jericho. There are three more strongholds they must conquer before they can claim the high ground of the central ridge running through the Land, a strong point impervious to chariots, easy to defend, and difficult to take.
So Joshua sends out some spies to check out Ai —”a ruin”— and see what sort of military force is going to be needed. The spies come back and say, “just send a couple of thousand men, this will be easy peasy.” Joshua sends the men required…
And they are routed.
We learn, in Joshua 8, that 12,000 Canaanites are killed at Ai. Joshua sent 3000 to oppose them. How could they have been so wrong?
And so the world we live into day. Our leaders send out forecasters into the future, trying to figure out the lay of the land, and what’s going to be required to make it through the next ten years. And just like Joshua’s spies, these forecasters consistently underrate the problems, and consistently send in too few men to do the job at hand. Like Joshua, our leaders are misled by experts and spies, taking the wrong turn every time they get the chance.
Maybe the situation in Israel before Ai is closer to America in the 21st Century than we’d like to believe. Maybe God is giving up the leadership we deserve. Maybe God is ensuring our leadership is consistently getting the wrong information, so we are ultimately faced with the consequences of our sin.
Maybe, just maybe, it’s about time we started seeing America for what it really is —a nation of people who shake their fist in the face of God each and every day. We think we’re getting away with it, because we’re still rich, because our plans still “work,” because we’re still the greatest country on the face of the Earth.
We like to point to the Preachers and Pastors of the 1700’s, and show how they called the people around them to greatness. To the political speakers of the Second World War, and how they called the people of a nation to greatness.
What we miss is the intermixed calls to repentance. The call to morality, the call to self control, the call to individual independence, the fountain of national independence.
The next time the spies who foray into the future come back and say, “we only need a couple of thousand men to defeat that stronghold,” remember Joshua at Ai, and the sin of Achan that caused the best laid plans of an entire nation to be defeated.