And the ambush arose quickly out of their place, and they ran as soon as he had stretched out his hand: and they entered into the city…
A Jewish proverb says there are three men who get no pity - an unsecured creditor, a henpecked husband, and a man that does not try again. This faculty of trying again is one of the qualities of noble natures. Napoleon at once blamed and praised the English for never knowing when they were beaten. Here Joshua exhibits the same kind of quality. He gathers from his defeat humility, purity, prudence, but never thinks of gathering from it despair. If they have been defeated before this once, they must try again with purer hands and in stronger force. And, trying again thus, they succeed grandly. Let me say a little on "trying again." In the spiritual as in the carnal warfare - indeed, in all parts of our manifold life - we need to learn this lesson. I therefore ask you to consider one or two reasons why we should always try again.
I. Because NO FAILURE IS ALTOGETHER LOSS, AND ESPECIALLY NO FAILURE OF FIRST EFFORTS. If you ask why a first effort is so often a failure, you will find one great reason is, that in it we are trying to learn too many things at once. If it is a first effort to make a toy for a child, how many things are to be learned while making it; the qualities of the material with which we work, the use of our tools, an eye for form and size, the way to combine effectively the various parts. Now, if in the making of it we had only to learn one thing instead of four, we might manage; but to learn simultaneously all of them is beyond our power, and so we fail. But the failure does not mean total loss of time and material; for though we have not learned all we need in order to effect our object, we may have learned half, and learning the other half the second trial we then succeed. So here; there were some things Joshua and Israel had to learn: e.g., not to despise an enemy; to conquer brave foes as well as timorous ones; not to act on the suggestion even of the wisest captains without first inquiring of God; that victory without purity was impossible. Here, elate with their success at Jericho, Joshua does not ask the counsel of God, which would have forbidden movement till the stain of Achan was removed, and sends only a "few thousands" to perform a task for which a much stronger force was requisite. And God mercifully lets him make a failure on a scale easily retrieved, and so prevents a failure through similar mistakes, which, from its magnitude might have been irretrievable. In almost every case of failure, the great cause of it is that there were some things the learning of which was essential but had not been attained. We had not the measure of the obstacles to be overcome - a knowledge of our own weakness, an acquaintance with the methods by which the result desired could be alone effected. And the art of life consists very much simply in turning such failures to good account. It is all but impossible to avoid making them. A child cannot learn to walk without some fails; and we are but children of a larger growth, who learn through improving our failures. And the wisest man is not he who makes fewest failures, but he who turns the failures that he makes to best account, addresses himself to learn their lessons. A failure is a schoolmaster, who can teach the art of succeeding better than any one else can do it. Do not yield, then, because you fail once, or even many times. Failures are never entirely losses. Secondly, observe -
II. THOSE WHO USE WELL THEIR FAILURES FIND THEM FOLLOWED BY GRAND SUCCESS. Joshua, learning from the first failure to hallow the people, to consult God, to take His way, to send a larger force, when he tried again took Ai without the slightest difficulty. Moses failed on his first attempt to raise Israel against their oppressors. He was going to do it in the strength of his youthful enthusiasm, and expected to find they would hail him as a judge and a deliverer. He failed, was rejected of Israel, and had to become a fugitive from Pharaoh. But in his second effort, going at God's command, in His way and with His backing, he succeeded in the grand emancipation. Israel failed in its first attempt to enter the promised land through their fear and faithlessness; repairing these faults, their second was successful The disciples failed to cast out the devil from the child; learning the need of deeper sympathy (prayer and fasting), their next efforts were crowned with complete success. Mark broke down in his first missionary effort, leaving Paul and Silas to pursue it alone. But prayer and gracious shame so retrieved the failure that he was Paul's truest comrade in the pains and dangers of his last imprisonment. Peter failed in his first effort to confess his Master among his foes; but learning lowliness and prayer from failure, he lived to retrieve it grandly. It is so in all departments of life. Alfred the Great and Bruce, for instance, both learned the art of victory from the experience of defeat. Great inventors have rarely hit on their great secrets the first time they have attempted to achieve their purpose, The story of almost all great inventions has been failure well improved. The first efforts of poets do not always give the promise of their later powers. So is it in all directions of Christian life. If in your effort to confess Christ you fail, try again, and success will come with the greater earnestness and humility of your second effort. If you make a resolution and break it, try again with more of prayer, and the second effort will succeed. If you make some effort to do good, but your "'prentice hand" bungles, and shame covers you, the next effort you make on a smaller scale, perhaps more wisely, modestly, and earnestly, will be a blessed success. And if it is not one but many efforts have failed, and life itself seems one long mishap and unsuccessful effort still, do not despair.
"Deem not the irrevocable past
As wholly wasted, wholly vain;
For, rising on its wrecks, at last
To nobler greatness we attain."
Longfellow's 'Ladder of St. Augustine.' Therefore let us always "try again." - G.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the ambush arose quickly out of their place, and they ran as soon as he had stretched out his hand: and they entered into the city, and took it, and hasted and set the city on fire.