Falling From our Own Steadfastness
The account of Israel’s devastating loss at Ai due to Achan’s error is one that bears repeating. Not only was the army defeated easily by a small force from a small town, but about 36 soldiers died, and it felt as though God had abandoned the people. After Joshua addressed the sin in the camp, and the people were prepared to follow God completely, He gave them a specific battle plan. They were to leverage the pride of the people of Ai, luring them out into the open and then attack from the rear, then attack from the rear flanks, and finally burn the town while the people were fighting. (Joshua 7-8)
While God did not need brilliant military strategies to win wars, we can see how effective this plan was, and how it relied on human weakness to work. God knows how humans operate, and He was able to give His people a resounding victory with that knowledge. This same weakness is also leveraged by Satan, who will use any advantage at his disposal. We must be careful not to become distracted, deceived, and defeated.
When Paul was addressing the Corinthians concerns about being able to eat meat sacrificed to idols, there seemed to be some who used their knowledge to feel secure in doing so. (I Corinthians 8:4-6) However, just knowing that an idol was not a real god was not enough, because “[k]nowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies.” (I Corinthians 8:1) Paul ends his three-chapter discussion with a warning that uses Israel’s pride that led them into idolatry, and an encouragement to use their failure as an example. “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.” (I Corinthians 10:11-13) We should not let our arrogance lead us away from safety, where we can easily be defeated.
When Peter wrote to saint who were dealing with “mockers” who doubted that there was judgment on the horizon (II Peter 3:3-7), he reminded them to focus on what they knew the scriptures encouraged them to do. There were some people, however, who were twisting Paul’s writing to distract the saints, “to their own destruction.” However, Peter encouraged them to, “be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness.” (II Peter 3:14-18) They were not to be arrogant in their understanding of scripture, but to focus on the kind of people who were prepared for a time of judgment, and “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
These warnings are not only for other saints, but us as well. We must always be careful to not let our pride tempt us away from our safety, only to find our lives aflame behind us, and we panic to our doom. We must always take heed, lest we let our praise be our undoing, and we fall for the schemes of the enemy. (II Corinthians 2:11)