“Do not let all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and attack Ai. Do not weary all the people there, for the people of Ai are few.” Joshua 7:3
This is the counsel that Joshua received from the spies he sent to assess the strength of Ai. This is the pragmatic approach to serving the Lord. It ended with the deaths of thirty six men and the humiliation of the nation. How is it that from the glorious triumph over Jericho Israel slumps rapidly complaining that God should not have brought them across the river Jordan?
Unlike his approach to Jericho Joshua did not wait before the Lord. It is possible in both our personal life and the communal life of our church that we follow Joshua’s example and wonder why we have the same result that he did. Unfortunately we nearly always end up blaming someone else. We find our “Achan” by the same means we evaluated our “Ai.” Instead we should take to look inward at our own motives and actions.
We probably have no idea how many times we have made decisions and choices and acted on them without having a thought of consulting the Lord. When we do think to consult Him we are prone to hurry on without waiting for His answer. Instead of waiting for the Lord’s response we act pragmatically. We act according to our own logic based on previous experience and hope the Lord will bless the choice made. That would not have worked against Jericho, it didn’t work against Ai and it won’t work in our walk with Jesus either.
The pragmatists in Israel complained when they were trapped between the sea and the army; they complained when they had little food and water; they refused to enter “the rest of God” because the men of Canaan were too big and the walls of the cities too strong. They could argue their case with evidence but Moses could not argue a case for looking at a bronze serpent on a staff as a remedy for a poisonous snake bite. The pragmatic person would have thought it ridiculous, not heeded the remedy and died. The woman who gave her last meal to Elijah was not a pragmatist and neither was the woman who gave her last two coins into the temple’s treasury.
The Christian who thinks in a pragmatic way will follow the examples we observe in Israel during their wilderness wanderings. They successfully debate the spiritual person because they can argue their point of view with human logic. The spiritual person thinks and acts on the plain of obedience to God derived from a close and intimate relationship. Generally there is no logical argument that will persuade the pragmatic Christian to agree with them. There is a gulf between the two and confusion in “language” comparable to that at Babel.
The reason for Israel’s defeat at Ai was not lack of numbers or wisdom in battle. Neither of these had helped against Jericho and neither would help as Israel entered the Promised Land and the “rest of God.” The pragmatic approach to Christian living and service will not succeed but will result in failure and complaint.
“’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts higher than your thought.’” (Isaiah 55:9).