God led the Israelites to go round Jericho once a day in a particular order. On the seventh day, they were to go round the walled city seven times after which Joshua should ask the people to shout (having been preserving their voices for seven days). Their shout of praise to God was thunderous enough to crumble the mighty walls of Jericho like a kid squeezing cookies! With their mighty fence crumbled to rubbles, Jericho inhabitants perished except the household of Rahab!
Israel thus gained confidence to fight the next city, Ai. Little did they know that a man of Judah called Achan had taken some of the forbidden stuffs from Jericho and hid them in his tent. Unfortunately, Israel had to run from the foe which was a rude shock to them and Joshua in particular. Thirty Six Jews (perhaps three from each tribe of Israel) were brought down by the foes!
After dealing with Achan according to the Law of Moses, they had to go back and fight Ai. God’s instruction on the fight of Ai was completely different from the instructions on how to fight Jericho. If Joshua had relied on the experience garnered while fighting Jericho, it would have been a total blundered.
Rather than match round the city with songs of praise, they were to be wisely divided into groups. Some were to be in ambush round the city while Joshua was to lead some men who would allow themselves to be pursued by the people of Ai so that the men in hiding would take over the city, pick the approved spoil of war and set the city on fire. Thereafter, the fleeing Israelites would turn back and have the foes of Ai shout “chai” on realising that they were sandwiched between the Jews they were pursuing and their brethren who were assigned to rise from ambush and destroy the city.
Ai was a fortified city as Jericho. The terrain was very similar. The natural thing to do would have been to simply go the way of Jericho. This is where many often miss it. No matter how similar a battle may look, experience has taught the wise that it is not the best to learn by experience. As long as the battles are different, the strategy has to, at the minimum be adjusted. A lot of damage has been done to the body of Christ by leaning on experience.
In the churches in Nigeria today, we have copied so much of the western culture that it is affecting us negatively. Some of our core values as Africans are eroded because we want to conquer Ai the way Jericho was conquered. We copy the programmes / activities of other churches without considering their peculiarity and even the environment.
Does it mean we should never regard experience? If experience is useless, why do employers ask for varying years of experience for posts in organisations? Does it mean ten years pastoring experience gained in “Glory to God” parish is totally useless in pastoring “To God be the Glory” parish when both are located in the city of Lagos?
There is surely a place for experience. It was the experience that David had in fighting the lion and the bear that emboldened him to trust the Lord to give him victory over Goliath. This means in a sense, experience could be a good teacher bearing in mind that even the scripture talks about our senses developed to discern between good and evil by the reason of use. Heb 5:14.
For people in the lower level of cadre in any church, ministry or work place, they may really need not more than experience in fulfilling their daily routine. We need to realise nonetheless that robots are fast snatching jobs from such. Why? Since they are not using more than experience in whatever they do, the experience can be expressed in computer programming and a robot can be assigned their roles with much higher level of accuracy. Machines are easier to manage than men!
However, for any general in the shoes of Joshua, to learning from or leaning on experience alone is dangerous! That is the reason for stagnancy in ministry, business etc. The leader occupies a strategic role and must be able to wait on God and receive direction. Years before I came to know the Lord, I was pastored by a priest who was a master in recycling the same messages strictly following the church calendar. After two years in the church, I knew the points and scriptures he would use to preach on Sundays earmarked as Advent, Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, Trinity etc. How? By experience, I was used to what he would say! Nothing fresh, the same meal recycled years after years!
When I began to preach, I decided that anytime I am to minister, I would wait on God for fresh unction and direction on the particular scriptures to use, points to use and areas to emphasise, arrangement of the points etc. Different strokes for different folks they say. Even as a musician, if I am to play a song 3 times, it is rare (except where notation has to be adhered to strictly) for me play the same notes all through! Experience has taught me that the best experience can do for me is to perform better and always stay at the winning position. To maintain this stand, divine support, guidance and direction continually is required!
While travelling abroad may appear to be the best way of escaping the economic hardship in Nigeria, let every intending youth know that it is not every Nigerian that travels abroad that is not regretting it! It is in computer and other robotic machines that “Copy and Paste” approach works! The same God who warned Joshua to ensure everything in Jericho was destroyed except Rahab and her household (for preserving the two spies) and even punished His people because of the sin of one of them in disobeying, is the same God that told the people to take spoil in the case of Ai after killing all the people!
Joshua 8: 2 And thou shalt do to Ai and her king as thou didst unto Jericho and her king: only the spoil thereof, and the cattle thereof, shall ye take for a prey unto yourselves: lay thee an ambush for the city behind it.
The writer of the evergreen hymn, “What a friend we have in Jesus” wrote:
O what peace we often forfeit
O what needless pains we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer.
Why experience is not the best teacher is because even if you have a hundred year experience in a matter, it does not mean you know everything about it! Goliath was well kitted but there was a hole in his helmet that could accommodate David’s divinely directed stone! There is always a gap in the knowledge of men and that is why we are not infallible. That tiny gap is enough to lose out in life. Like someone wrote, never work with half-truth since the half you are working with could even be the false one! Therefore in order to avoid frustration let us obey God’s specific instructions. Why? Read what the wise king Solomon wrote in Pro 21:31.
The horse is prepared against the day of battle: but safety is of the LORD
Strategy is more important than anything when it comes to any war. That is why the Wisdom of God, Jesus asked some rhetorical questions from his followers in Luke 14.
28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?
31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace.
Planning is good and experience is very useful in any planning activity. But please, never plan without knowing the mind of God. The omniscient God has experience on every matter that is more than what all the brains of every man that ever lived can accommodate. He is the Alpha and Omega meaning that He knows the end even before the beginning!
Israel never lost a war as long as they followed divine direction and directives. If experience is to provide any leverage at all, let it be that it is of little relevance without divine guide!
Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Pro 3:5-6