Not Exactly “As at the First”
Joshua 8:3-5 So Joshua arose, and all the people of war, to go up against Ai….And he commanded them, saying: “Behold, you shall lie in ambush against the city, behind the city. Do not go very far from the city, but all of you be ready. Then I and all the people who are with me will approach the city; and it will come about, when they come out against us as at the first, that we shall flee before them.
Joshua had tried to take Ai earlier, but was defeated because there was sin in the camp (see Joshua 7 and the sin of Achan). It was a terrible sin that ended in great defeat for the people of God and in complete annihilation for Achan and his family. Once that sin was taken care of in judgment, God gave new instructions to take the city, which was a successful effort.
In his instructions to the people, Joshua tells the people to approach the city, and to flee when the inhabitants “come out against us as at the first.” Notice what’s not there in Joshua’s reference to that painful incident: no reproach, no guilt, no taking anyone to task. It’s a simple reference to a historical fact with nothing else attached.
On the one hand, Joshua’s words are a simple instructional reference to the soldiers going into battle. But it’s more than that. It’s an inclusion of a “failure” of their past into the plan for a successful future. God has taken a disaster and stripped it of any weight of guilt or ill feeling. Joshua’s reference here to “as at the first” is an example of God’s redemption.
What do you have in your past that you would rather forget? Remember, as the Lord wiped all guilt away from His people by a complete judgment of Achan, He has wiped away all our guilt by the judgment that fell upon Jesus Christ. When God looked at His people here in Joshua, He didn’t see the sin of Achan anymore. When Joshua makes a reference to the earlier battle experience, it’s devoid of any sting of guilt. Not only that, it’s a useful reference point for those going into battle.
Micah 7:18b-19 says, “[God] does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy. He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.”
If you have experienced the forgiveness of Jesus, your sins have been forgiven and forgotten. Of course our omniscient God remembers that we sinned, but doesn’t remember our sin against us when he relates to us. In fact, He redeems our past so much that He can actually use it to help us and give us direction because He has stripped it of all guilt and judgment.
Don’t be afraid of remembering if God turns your attention to your past. If it’s been forgiven, the sin and guilt of it has been forgotten in God’s heart. If He brings a painful memory to mind, it’s only to strip the pain away and free the memory from false guilt and condemnation—and perhaps use it to help you.
Prayer: Lord, I confess that I have often pushed away memories because I haven’t completely believed that I’ve been fully forgiven. I repent of my unbelief and thank You that when You say that You have forgiven and forgotten, You mean it.