This is one for the annals of all your terrible detours from righteousness that God used as shortcuts later on down the road. You can file it with your car wreck that made you a better driver, and the firing from your first job that converted you into a punctual employee.
Israel had such an easy victory over Jericho (they literally just had to walk around the city walls a few times and the walls fell down) that when the next target was Ai, Commander Joshua thought it best to send out a scant force of 2,000 to 3,000 men against it (Joshua 7:3). What Joshua didn’t know was that there was defilement in the camp: a man named Achan had made off with forbidden plunder (Joshua 7). Israel was ignominiously routed, and stunned.
After Achan had been eliminated, God sent Israel back against Ai. A now cocky Ai thought they would whup Israel as they had done before. Joshua smartly capitalized on this hubris:
“… Joshua chose 30,000 mighty men of valor and sent them out by night. … ‘Behold, you shall lie in ambush against the city, behind it. … [R]emain ready. And I and all the people who are with me will approach the city. And when they come out against us just as before, we shall flee before them. And they will come out after us, until we have drawn them away from the city. For they will say, “They are fleeing from us, just as before.’ So we will flee before them. Then you shall rise up from the ambush and seize the city …” (Joshua 8:3-7).
God does not waste a thing in your past. (This does not mean, young whippersnapper, that you should sin so that God can use your past sins to do good. See Romans 6:1-2. It is always best to obey God the first time.) God very evidently uses the failure at the first Ai debacle to beat Ai at the second battle. There is nothing in your life, Christian, that God cannot redeem for some purpose that will make you joyful, if you trust Him with it. David Berkowitz was a New York City serial killer who became a Christian in the penitentiary. He has rejected opportunities for parole because God has parlayed his past tragedy into the specialized ministry of bringing Christ to men behind bars.