Joshua 8:1, 2
And the LORD said to Joshua, Fear not, neither be you dismayed: take all the people of war with you, and arise, go up to Ai: see…
Frequently does Scripture describe the Christian life as a warfare. We are to war against the evil in ourselves and around us. In the management of our forces for the conflict we may derive comfort and rules of action from the narrative before us. It was not unintentionally recorded. It shows how God fulfils His word, going forth with His people conquering and to conquer; His presence makes the feeble strong, and lends wisdom to the simple.
I. THE PREPARATIONS FOR THE BATTLE.
1. The putting away of known sin may lead us to expect the favour of God. Whilst Achan's theft defiled the Israelites there was no hope of winning the fight. The soldiers of the cross must not entangle themselves with the affairs of this life (2 Timothy 2:4). Those must be clean who are to bear the vessels of the Lord. Sin purged, the light of God's countenance again shone upon His people, and His encouragement - "Fear not" - sounded in their ears. We need be afraid only when doing wrong. Without God we are "without hope," helpless and undone; but when He is our light and salvation whom shall we fear? Advance to the strife courageously!
2. All our strength must be brought to bear upon the contest. So confident had the Israelites been that they deemed 3,000 men sufficient to capture the place. This time no foolish security must be displayed; a second defeat would be disastrous. "All" the people must attack Ai; that is to say, a fully representative force, in contrast with the few who previously made the assault. The help of the Almighty does not release us from the necessity of "bestirring" ourselves (see 2 Samuel 5:24). And what we do we must do with our might. He who is always reserving his power for some future occasion will grow feeble, and when he at length essays a strenuous effort will discover his weakness. Nor must we underrate the strength of the enemy. "We wrestle against principalities, powers, rulers, spiritual wickedness in high places;" wherefore let us take to ourselves "the whole armour of God."
3. Prudence an ingredient in the Christian warfare. A detachment was appointed to lie in ambush. (Several reasons render it probable that vers. 9 and 12 refer to the same ambuscade, composed of 5,000 men; the larger number in ver. 3 being a copyist's error. The same position is assigned in each case; in the account of the battle only one party of men ambushed is mentioned; and 30,000 would be too large a force to remain concealed near the city, even in a valley.) The lawfulness of stratagem in war cannot be disputed, nor does the Bible know anything of that excessive refinement which will hide nothing but requires the blunt truth to be always stated. See 1 Samuel 16:2, where the adoption of a fair pretext to prevent bloodshed is sanctioned - yea, proposed - by the Lord. There must be no falsehood or deception practised; but it is allowable to be "wise as serpents," and to try to win men to the truth by innocent devices. Christian tactics are permissible without pleading the goodness of the end as sanctifying the means employed. Our Captain demands the use of our discretion as well as of our valour.
II. THE BATTLE ITSELF.
1. Temporary success blinds the workers of evil. Joshua well knew that the enemy would exultingly exclaim, "They flee before us as at the first," and rush to their doom. Misplaced assurance is the bane of God's enemies. For a season they may flourish and swell with hope and pride, but consider their end! "How are they brought into desolation as in a moment!" What terms can set forth the delusion of those who fight against God?
2. Fidelity to commandment ensures the Christian's triumph. The emphatic assertion, "See, I have commanded you," reminded the troops of their duty, and of obedience as essential to success. All orders were faithfully executed and victory crowned their arms. If we pretend to greater wisdom than our Captain, or think fragmentary adherence to precept will suffice, the battle may be the Lord's, but it will not be ours. Constant study of our war manual and a resolute determination to observe its instructions can alone secure us the victory. Our ears must be attentive to the notes of the clarion, and whither we are sent we must go. Romans 13:11-13 and Ephesians 6:10-18 must be pondered and put into practice.
3. Diversity of position not incompatible with union. In the occupation by the two forces of Israel of separate posts an illustration is afforded of a truth sometimes overlooked. There are different regiments in the Christian army, and to a soldier in the ranks it may appear as if there was a want of connection with any other division. But there is real working unanimity perceptible to the chief, and when the signal is given the enemy shall be attacked on many sides. The end desired is one and the same, the extermination of the empire of evil.
4. No reason for discouragement if at first the battle goes against us. It may be part of the plan that the enemy should be demented by success prior to his overthrow. However distressed, we may, like David, encourage ourselves in the Lord our God.
III. THE DESTRUCTION OF THE ENEMY.
1. Prophetic of the final overthrow of Satan and his host. Jesus, "the Son of God, was manifested that he might destroy the works of the devil." "Death, the last enemy, is being destroyed."
2. Indicative of the Divine hatred of sin. The men and women of Ai were slain and their city set on fire; their king hanged, and a heap of stones his sepulchre. Thus would the Divine wrath extirpate idolatrous abominations. All His judgments were not purifying, this sentence was penal. What a warning to the Israelites! Dull consciences must be aroused by flashes of fire. Granite hearts must have the inscription cut with toil and pains. Inattentive or forgetful scholars must have the teaching imprinted on their minds by irresistible examples, The preceding chapter proves how needful to Israel was the ocular demonstration of the hatefulness of sin. Conclusion, "Who is on the Lord's side?" If this is our position, secure and blissful, diligent and courageous we may be. May we "endure hardness as good soldiers." But if numbered amongst those hostile to God, what terms can describe the dread future that awaits us, unless we repent betimes and seek forgiveness, and receive change of heart and state through Jesus Christ? - A.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the LORD said unto Joshua, Fear not, neither be thou dismayed: take all the people of war with thee, and arise, go up to Ai: see, I have given into thy hand the king of Ai, and his people, and his city, and his land:
WEB: Yahweh said to Joshua, "Don't be afraid, neither be dismayed. Take all the people of war with you, and arise, go up to Ai. Behold, I have given into your hand the king of Ai, with his people, his city, and his land.