Chasing the Wrong Enemy
17 There was not a man left in Ai or Bethel who did not go out after Israel; they left the city open, and pursued Israel.
The people of Ai had already defeated an overly self-confident group of Israelites in battle. This time however, the Israelites took the time to discern God’s leading and strategy for his people. The result was a small group of Israelites who came out in front of the city, while another group waited in ambush behind. The men of Ai went out to fight the Israelites who were in front of the city, thinking the same small band had come again to try and attack them. When the men of Ai approached, this group ran back into the wilderness and every man in Ai chased them. No man was left in the city, nor was there anyone left on their temple mount — Bethel — to protect their place of worship. They chased this group of detractors far from home.
In the meantime the entire city of Ai and their temple were left unprotected. Joshua lifted his sword and the group in ambush knew it was time for them to move. They entered the city and did as they had been commanded — destroying it all. The smoke of the burning city finally caught the attention of the men of Ai and they discovered their folly. Everything was lost because they were chasing the wrong enemy.
One of my greatest concerns for Christianity these days is our hunger to devour our own. I’m afraid that we, at times, wait for one of our own to publicly make one little mistake and then we turn them into our enemy, spending all our time and energy in bringing them down.
Could this be the ambushing plan of the enemy?
When we become distracted with fighting our own we just may leave the entire city (church) unprotected. The men of Ai left the city open while they thought they were pursuing an enemy. The result was complete and total destruction. Within the body of Christ, if we spend our time and energy pursuing the wrong enemy we will leave ourselves completely unguarded. We may think that we are doing a great thing and zealously go after people who aren’t quite doing things the way we think they should but in that pursuit our time and energy may be depleted for the real spiritual battle — our own. Our unprotected lives then become fodder for the enemy and it can all go up in smoke.
Paul’s focus of life was radically changed. He was a man who fought the wrong enemy, actually persecuting Jesus Christ in his zealous religious behavior. In the end he became a man who prayed continually and wanted to know only one thing — Christ!
The plan of the enemy is to distract us from what is really important. Falling in love with the Lord day after day will leave us in the loving arms of God. This is where we find ourselves surrounded by on-going and eternal protection. We won’t fall for a decoy. We won’t be ambushed. We won’t be left open for God will be with us.
Don’t be caught unprotected, chasing the wrong enemy!
Lord, may the focus of my life today be on you. Please help me not to become distracted by what could be a wrong enemy. Amen.