Josh 8:1-4 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. 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." 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 with these orders: "Listen carefully. You are to set an ambush behind the city..."
Having dealt with the problem of sin within, Joshua was ready to re-launch an attack on Ai. Notice that the last time, they were self-confident and sent only 3,000 men against Ai. This time, the Lord's instructions to Joshua illustrate three important common-sense principles for success in any type of endeavour - whether in the marketplace or ministry:
(1) Practical Wisdom ("Take the whole army with you"): Just because God is with us does not mean we should slacken and act without conventional wisdom. God instructed Joshua to bring the "whole army" into battle - not to underestimate the enemy's capacity but to overwhelm the enemy's strength. God's promise of victory does not mean we should commit less resources to the work - in fact, God's promise of victory should motivate us to commit even greater resources to achieve His purpose. The "whole army" turns out to number a total of 30,000 men, unlike the last failed campaign of only 3,000 men.
(2) Sound Strategy ("Set an ambush behind the city"): Here there is no suggestion to march around the city like before in Jericho. Instead, God instructed Joshua to set up an ambush - a classic texbook military strategy. Joshua ordered 5,000 of his best fighting men to set an ambush behind the city: "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. 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. 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, you are to rise up from ambush and take the city. The Lord your God will give it into your hand. When you have taken the city, set it on fire. Do what the Lord has commanded. See to it; you have my orders" (Josh 8:4-8). Joshua led the main force in a frontal attack to lure the men of Ai out of the city by pretending to flee.
I was once admonished by a church leader that I should not apply the same standard of discipline and diligence of the marketplace into church ministry because "this is church--a place of love and grace." To this brother, grace means being "gracious," overlooking ill-discipline and complacency in the ministry. I don't see this attitude displayed by Joshua: despite the promise of victory, he selected 30,000 of his best fighting men to go into battle. Grace is not an excuse for indolence and indifference, but rather grace energizes us to give our very best for the Lord.
(3) Clear Communication ("Hold out toward Ai the javelin that is in your hand, for into your hand I will deliver the city."): Whatever work or ministry we are involved in, clear communication is absolutely essential. Joshua held up his javelin at the right moment to signal the ambush party to enter the city. Good leadership requires clear communication at the appropriate moment. People need to have clear guidelines and values to perform excellently within the given framework.
God's promise of victory does not mean we should ignore conventional leadership principles of practical wisdom, good strategy and clear communication. Whether in the marketplace or church, we need all three princples to achieve success in our endeavour.
Lord, what a privilege to serve You because You do not abandon us to our own devices. But yet You do not ignore the common-sense principles of leadership when You give us instructions. May our ears be always open to Your instructions that we might have victory in our every endeavour. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.