Joshua Message #19 by Ed Miller
Before we look in the word I want to share a verse from Hebrews 4:2 and this is our indispensable principle, “The word did not profit them because it was not united by faith in them that heard.” It’s not only hearing the word but it’s believing the word and not believing anything that comes from a person, a man or a woman, but believing what comes from the Lord. I know God has given you His Holy Spirit so that you have insight to shut out anything I might say that is not from the Lord. It just will not ring true. As I heard one man say, “I eat the fish and set the bones aside.” So, if I give you any bones just set them aside and eat the fish.
So, let’s pray together. Our Father, we thank You this morning that we can gather as Your people and gather in Your name in order to behold the Lord Jesus in the word. Lord, we ask You now to guide us as we fellowship in the book of Joshua. We thank You that Your Holy Spirit is the one that puts the light on our Lord Jesus. Give us eyes to see it. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.
For several weeks we’ve been looking at Joshua 7 & 8 which we call “the loss and subsequent victory at Ai.” We’ve only looked at the first part so far; the loss at Ai. We’ve been several sessions just on that part. I’d like to finish that up this morning and then, Lord willing, we’ll look at the victory that God gave at Ai. Although two sins are mentioned in connection with the defeat at Ai, I want to remind you that those sins were not the cause of the defeat. Those sins were the occasion of the defeat. There are many occasions but there is only one cause.
Let me illustrate what I mean. Achan sinned, you remember, by stealing the spoils that represented the glory that belongs to the Lord. The spoils belong to the Victor. Joshua 7:20, “Achan answered Joshua and said, ‘Truly, I’ve sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel. This is what I did. When I saw among the spoil a beautiful mantel from Shinar and two hundred shekels of silver, a bar of gold fifty shekels in weight, I coveted them and took them. Behold, they are concealed in the earth inside my tent with the silver underneath it.” Achan sinned. He stole the spoil. The principle is that he stole God’s victories and God’s glory. He was claiming a victory that wasn’t his. But that was not the cause of their defeat. That was only the occasion of their defeat.
Let me give another illustration. Not only Achan but Israel also sinned. You see that in chapter 7:11, “Israel has sinned. They have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. They have even taken some of the things under the ban and have both stolen and deceived. Moreover, they have also put them among their own things.” However, you identify the particular sin of Israel, the point is that Israel sinned but that was the occasion of the defeat. They listened to the report of the spies and then they acted on self-confidence. Joshua 7:3, “They returned to Joshua and said to him, ‘Do not let all the people go up, only about two or three thousand men need to go up to Ai. Do not make all the people toil up there. They are few.’”
They tried to fight at Ai as if they had won at Jericho. But you know the truth. They didn’t win at Jericho. God won at Jericho. Again, robbing God of glory by self-confidence is the occasion of defeat but it’s not the cause. What is the only cause of defeat in my life and your life and in the life of any Christian? We’ve said it over and over and I won’t tire of saying it. The cause of defeat is when God stops fighting for you. When the Lord of Hosts puts His sword back in His sheath and you are on your own. That’s the cause of defeat. Occasions of defeat might cause God to put His sword in His sheath but you are defeated when you are on your own. Joshua 7:12, “The Sons of Israel cannot stand before their enemies. They turn their backs before their enemies. They have become a curse. I will not be with you anymore.” That’s the reason they were defeated. That’s the cause. Many occasions but one cause.
It’s terrible to contemplate that possibility. It’s record in a poetic way in Psalm 78:61, “He abandoned the dwelling place at Shiloh, the tent which he had pitched among men. He gave up his strength to captivity; his glory into the hand of the adversary.” When God abandons us and He stops fighting for us and when He gives His strength and glory to the enemy, we are finished. Deuteronomy 32:20, “He said, ‘I will hide My face from them. I’ll see what their end shall be. They are a perverse generation, sons in whom is no faithfulness.” When God sets aside, He says, “Let’s just watch. Where are they going to go now?” And they have to go down in defeat.
Although we were looking at the defeat at Ai, I attempted before the Lord to try to look at the defeat in a positive way. I was in the process of showing you many indications of the grace of God in the defeat at Ai. I will not go through all the scriptures but I will recall to your mind that He turned the valley of trouble into the door of hope and a resting place. It was by His grace He turned the valley of tears into a valley of spring. It was the grace of God to use the situation to instruct and to warn His people. For example, the defeat at Ai by the way of warning taught them not to live by sight. It taught them not to listen to worldly council. It taught them how to pray and when to pray and when not to pray. It taught them to be open to relearn the same truths that God had taught previously and sometimes many years before.
Revelation is when God teaches us something brand new. Quickening is when God takes an old truth and makes it alive again. We need revelation and we also need quickening. We need God to revive us and make us alive. It was grace that was demonstrated in the defeat at Ai.
In addition to transforming defeat into victory, the valley of trouble and the valley of tears and so on, and to deliver people by teaching from self-confidence and so on. There’s one more evidence of God’s grace in the defeat and I wanted to mention that before we moved on to the victory. That’s where we left off in our last session.
Just for interest, as far as the geography is concerned, Ai was a necessary battle to win because Ai was a mountain pass into interior Palestine. For them to get into Palestine, that was like a door. They had to go through Ai but there was a certain way to go through that door and that’s what they had to learn.
The principle I want to share is that God makes victory, uses defeat to bring victory. It’s actually part of the victory. Joshua 7:4, here is what the defeat looked like, “So, about three thousand men from the people went up there. They fled from the men of Ai.” What did defeat look like? The answer is that it looked like God’s people are fleeing from the enemy. That’s what defeat looked like. What did the victory look like? Joshua 8:15, “Joshua and all the people pretended to be beaten before them and they fled by the way of the wilderness.” So, defeat looked like people fleeing. What did victory look like? The answer is that it looked like people fleeing. Of course, they were pretending and faking it. Here is the question, “If Israel hadn’t fled in the first assault, in the defeat, when it was real, would Ai have emptied itself and leave the whole city unprotected and chase after Israel’s army?” I would say, “No way.” They would not have done that because the army was overwhelming the second time and they would have postured themselves in a defensive position. The army would have only worked because they had already been defeated. That’s an amazing truth. That’s my final illustration. The loss at Ai actually helped them win the victory at Ai. It’s an amazing truth that after we repent, God will actually take our mess-ups, our defeats, and use them for victory.
It brings us back to the principle we’ve stressed many, many times and that is that all things in the sovereign hand of God are redemptive. It’s by the Lord that the valley of trouble can be transformed into a valley, a door of hope. It’s by the Lord that the valley of tears can become a valley of springs. He swallows defeat in victory.
To drive this home, let me make a little difference. I’m not going to spend a lot of time here. You are going to find both of these in your life. Sometimes joy follows sorrow. Sometimes sorrow is turned into joy. That sounds like the same thing but it’s not. For example, technically, Romans 8:18, “I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worthy of being compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” The apostle just talks about the sufferings of the Christian life; what you go through in the pilgrimage that you are taking. It’s not compared to the glory. Notice that. He doesn’t say, “Compared to the trouble here, heaven will be wonderful.” He says that the troubles here are not worthy to be compared. This is not a comparison. It’s a contrast. He’s not comparing what you go through here to what you are going to have.
The point is that in this case, glory and joy follows suffering. Whatever you go through here, it’s followed by joy. But there is a sorrow that is not followed by joy but sorrow is actually turned into joy. John 16:20, “’Truly, truly,’ Jesus said, ‘I say to you, you will weep and lament and the world will rejoice. You’ll grieve but your grief will be turned into joy.” Whenever a woman is in labor, she has pain because her hour has come. When she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world. Jesus’ illustration is labor pains; the travail of a woman having a baby. That’s not like if a woman breaks a leg and then has a baby. There’s not connection between the suffering of a broken a leg and having a baby. But the suffering of travail is closely, organically tied to the joy of having a baby. Sorrow there is turned into joy. The sorrow was necessary in order to have that baby.
I think the greatest Bible illustration, aside from our Lord Jesus, is Joseph in the Old Testament. Look at the suffering he went through and many sorrows in Joseph’s life. But those sorrows were not just followed by joy. They were necessary in order to have that joy. Genesis 50:20, “As for you’, Joseph said, ‘you meant evil against me but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.’” And then in Genesis 45:5, “Do not be grieved or angry with yourself. You sold me here but God sent me.” You sold me; God sent me. All that he went through, it wouldn’t have worked out that he would become the bread of life for the whole world, unless he went through those sorrows. He had to be thrown in prison. He had to meet the butler and the baker. All of that was part of the joy that followed.
In the present day just think of Joni Ericksen, the paraplegic and hundreds of thousands of people have come to Christ because God allowed her to become a paraplegic. Her sorrow, and she had it, it’s in her testimony. She tells about her sorrow but now she can’t thank God enough. That’s been turned into joy. Psalm 30:11&12, “You’ve turned for me my mourning into dancing. You’ve loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness. My soul may sing praise to You and not be silent. Oh, Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.” That is the defeat at Ai. He transforms our valleys and He teaches us and He reteaches us and He gradually calls us to repentance and He uses defeat as part of the victory and turns our sorrow into joy. There is no God like your God and there are no people like you. Praise God for the revelation of Himself.
That brings us this morning to the actual battle, the victorious conquest at Ai. What I’d like to do is look at the same facts twice. First, I’d like to look at it literally. In other words, look at what actually took place, what actually happened; the history, the details of the strategy. Then when we’ve looked at the literal picture, I want to look at the same record and show you the spiritual significance. God has fossilized His truth into that historical event. I want to show you the spiritual side; how God sees it.
First the literal and in order to do this let me point out several facts that in a quick reading we might overlook these facts. One is that we call this victory at Ai but technically it’s bigger than that because the neighbors of Ai, Bethel, actually joined in the fight against God’s people. Listen to Joshua 8:17, “Not a man was left in Ai or Bethel who had not gone out after Israel. They left the city unguarded and pursued Israel.” The army of Bethel, we don’t know how large it was, but it joined with the army of Ai and so it’s the battle of Ai and Bethel. We don’t know how large the army of Bethel was but after the seven year war God gives a catalogue of all the victories they had during that time. Joshua 12:16 we read about Bethel, “… the king of Makkedah, one; the king of Bethel…” At least it was large enough to have a king. I don’t know how large the army was but Bethel was a little kingdom. This is the victory over Ai and Bethel.
To get the scene somewhat accurately before you, I’m going to start off joining the confession of Godly men and women from every corner and that is, there are references to different numbers here and Godly men and Godly women have understood this strategy in slightly different ways. So, I’m not one hundred percent sure. I always like what Vernon McGee said one time, “Friends, if you don’t agree with me, you are in good company. So, you are going to have to make a decision. Do you want good company or do you want the truth?”
So, this is how I think it went down but let me just give you the references to the numbers. Joshua 8:1, “Now the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Do not fear or be dismayed. Take all the people of war with you and arise and go up to Ai. See, I’ve given into your hands king of Ai, his people, his city, his land.” In that verse it says to take all the people of war. How many is all the people of war? Well, we know from the trans-Jordan tribes, the two and a half tribes from the east of Jordan, Reuben, Gad and half the tribe of Manasseh. Remember when we were in Joshua 4:13 it says that they provided forty thousand fighting men of armor that came over. So, that’s forty thousand. That’s not the whole army of the trans-Jordan tribe. That’s one third. They left the other two thirds to protect their homeland. So, only one third came over.
If you take that same ratio to all the remaining tribes, the very minimum is two hundred thousand fighting men and add to that the forty thousand, as many as five hundred thousand. I don’t know how many all the troops are. There is another reference and I’m not even sure if the troops weren’t accompanied by the people of Israel because we’ll have other verses that indicate that. We’ll say between a quarter of a million and a half a million people.
The second number is Joshua 8:3-4, “Joshua rose with all the people of war to go to Ai. Joshua chose thirty thousand men, valiant warriors, and sent them out at night and commanded them saying, ‘See, you are going to ambush the city from behind it.’” So, thirty thousand are set aside for an ambush. That’s the second number.
But there’s a third number, Joshua 8:12, “He took five thousand men and set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai on the west of the city.” So, there’s thirty thousand set for an ambush and then five thousand on the west. The question remains unanswered, “Were these five thousand taken out of the thirty thousand, leaving twenty five thousand or were they taken out of the larger group.” Again, God’s people differ on that but whether you take thirty or thirty five thousand, it makes no difference to the spiritual point. I’m not going to worry about it and I’ll invite you not to worry about it either.
There’s another number in Joshua 8:25, “All who fell that day, both men and women, were twelve thousand, all the people of Ai.” So, twelve thousand is identified, not just as the fighting force but the whole population of Ai; men, women and children equals twelve thousand and we’re left in the dark how many died from Bethel. We don’t know. How do we understand those numbers? I want you to hold that a minute, please.
Let me give you another set of descriptions that set the scene for the victory. Joshua 8:4, “He commanded them saying, ‘See, you are going to ambush the city from behind. Do not go far from the city. All of you be ready.” We need to identify what is behind the city. The thirty thousand are to ambush from behind. Joshua 8:12, “He took five thousand men and set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai on the west.” So, you have some ambushing from behind and some from the west. Joshua 8:13, “So, they stationed the people, all the army, on the north side of the city, it’s rear guard on the west side and Joshua spent the night in the midst of the valley.” Now you’ve got the whole army on the north, you’ve got behind the city evidently on the south and then you’ve got the west.
Joshua 8:11, “Then all the people of war who were with him went and drew near and arrived in front of the city and camped on the north.” You see the north is the front of city and that’s where the gate was and that’s where the main army who are going to pretend to flee is where they are. That’s enough detail, just to familiarize yourself with some of those facts.
Now, the strategy; the strategy is from the Lord. It’s not man’s idea. Joshua 8:1-2, “The Lord said to Joshua, ‘Do not fear or be dismayed. Take all the people of war with you and rise. Go up to Ai. See, I have given it into your hands, the king of Ai, his people, his city, his land. You shall do to Ai and its king just as you did to Jericho and its king. You shall take only its spoil and its cattle as plunder for yourselves and set an ambush for the city behind it.” That’s the strategy. There’s going to be an ambush.
The actual plan… I think it will help if I read the actual scripture here. It will save me time than trying to weave in all these facts. Joshua 8:2, “’You shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho, only take its spoil, it’s cattle, it’s plunder for yourselves. Set an ambush for the city behind it.’ So, Joshua rose with all the people of war to go up to Ai. Joshua chose thirty thousand men, valiant warriors, sent them out at night and he commanded them saying, ‘See, you are going to ambush the city from behind it. Do not go very far from the city. All of you be ready. I and all the people who are with me will approach the city and when they come out to meet us as at the first, we’ll flee before them. They’ll come after us until we have drawn them away from the city and they will say, “They are fleeing before us,” at the first. So, we’ll flee before them. And you shall rise from your ambush, take possession of the city, for the Lord Your God will deliver it into your hands. Then it will be when you’ve seized the city, you shall set the city on fire. You shall do according to the word of the Lord. See, I’ve commanded you.’ So, Joshua sent them away and went to the place of ambush and remained between Bethel and Ai on the west of Ai. Joshua spent that night among the people.”
At this point I’m going to ask you to glance at the map that I handed out. Notice in the center, locate Ai and Bethel. The arrow that is north of Ai is where the main army was stationed and they are going to pretend to flee. Joshua 8:11, “All the people of war with him went up and drew near and arrived in front of the city and camped on the north side.” The dotted line to the west of Ai and Bethel locates the ambush of five thousand. That’s where they are located. The only thing not indicated on the map by arrows is the thirty thousand behind Jericho or in the south or twenty five thousand. Joshua 8:3-4, “Joshua rose up with all the people of war to go up to Ai. Joshua chose thirty thousand men and sent them out at night. He said, ‘See, you are going to ambush the city from behind it.’” So, as far as I understand the strategy, and this is where you can choose good company or the truth, it was at night when the ambush snuck in. So, you can picture the thirty thousand or twenty five thousand to the south, five thousand stationed themselves there to the west and the rest of the army went up north. Still, nobody knows they are there. This is all a secret mission.
They were discovered in the morning. Joshua 8:14, “It came about when the king of Ai saw it, the men of the city hurried and rose up early and went out to meet Israel in battle, he and all the people at the appointed place before the desert plain. He did not know there was an ambush against him behind the city. You see that the pretense worked. Joshua 8:15, “Joshua and all Israel pretended to be beaten before them and fled by the way of the wilderness and all the people were in the city were called together to pursue them. They pursued Joshua and were drawn away from the city. Not a man was left in Ai or Bethel who had not gone out after Israel. They left the city unguarded and pursued Israel.
As the men of Ai and now Bethel has joined them pursuing Israel, they were emboldened by their previous victory. Don’t forget there is a smaller army, even with Bethel added. They are chasing maybe a quarter of a million people or even a half a million people. What made them so brave? They think they are chicken hearted. They lost the first time. “Nobody stay in this city. Let’s wipe them out now while we can.” So, everybody left the city.
As they were drawn out of the city, Joshua 8:18, “The LORD said to Joshua, ‘Stretch out the javelin in your hand toward Ai and I’ll give it into your hand.’ As they fled, Joshua stopped and he took his javelin and he turned around and he pointed it toward Ai and he also pointed it toward God in heaven. When he stretched out the javelin, many think that was the signal for the ambush. He just pointed that javelin and that was the signal. Joshua 8:19, the twenty five or thirty thousand from the south went and set the city on fire.
We know because of that strategy the men of Bethel and Ai were trapped in the middle. Joshua 8:20, “When the men of Ai turned back and looked, behold, smoke in the city ascended to the sky. They had no way to flee, this way or that, for the people who had been fleeing from the wilderness turned against the pursuers. When Joshua and all Israel saw that the men in ambush had captured the city, the smoke of the city ascended, they turned back and slew the men of Ai.”
You see they are trapped. They set the city on fire and then they come out and then the army that is pretending to flee turns around and goes after them. They try to go around to the west and here’s the ambush from the west, so there is no way back. They are trapped on every side.
When it was over, Joshua 8:22, “The men came from the city to encounter them and they were trapped in the midst of Israel, on this side and some on that side. They slew them until no one was left of those who survived or escaped. Joshua 8:25, “All who fell that day, both men and women, were twelve thousand, all the people of Ai. Joshua did not withdraw his hand with which he stretched out the javelin until he had utterly destroyed the inhabitants of Ai.” As far as I understand the account, that’s the literal, that’s what happened. That’s the history. I hope you don’t come to a Bible study just to learn those facts. You could do that by just taking the facts and writing them down.
But let me tell you the same story again from God’s viewpoint. It’s a whole different story. This is not only a victory for Israel. The victory at Ai is a parable. It’s a spiritual parable. It’s instructive, a mighty object lesson and it’s a parable that’s going to hold throughout the seven year war. Before I tell you the parable, I want to just take the facts apart and give you five facts of the parable. Jesus did this in the parable of the sower. Luke 8:11 He said, “The seed is the word of God.” Then in verse 12 He describes the soil, “The thorny soil is this, the wayside soil is this, the thorny soil is this,” and so on. The birds that came in that, “That’s the evil one coming to steal the seed.” Matthew 13:22, what are the thorns? “The one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word and the worries of the world, the deceitfulness of wealth choked the world and it becomes unfruitful.” So, Jesus took the facts; the sower is God, the seed is the word of God, the soil are the conditions of men’s heart, the birds are the enemy, the thorns are the cares of the world. He explained, so I’m going to try to do that with the facts this victory. I’m going to give you five facts.
Fact #1, Joshua 8:1. I won’t read the verses. I’ll just give you the facts even though they are on the sheet. Fact #1, all the people, “take all the men of war”. Fact #2, Joshua 8:15, the feigned retreat, the pretense, running away. Fact #3, the stretched out javelin. Joshua 8:18. Fact #4, the ambush. Joshua 8:2. Fact #5, the large section, Joshua 8:20-23, is the victory itself. Let me mention those five facts again. All the people, the feigned retreat, the pretense, the javelin, the ambush and the victory. Let me give you the spiritual principles connected with those five facts. Then after I give you the spiritual principles I’ll tell you the parable of the victory of Ai.
Fact #1, Joshua 8:1, all the people. Joshua 8:10, “Joshua rose early in the morning, mustered the people and he went up with the elders of Israel.” Joshua 8:21, “Joshua and all Israel saw the men in ambush had captured the city. The smoke of the city ascended and they turned back and slew the men of Ai.” This “all Israel” is in contrast with the defeat at Ai. Joshua 7:3, “They returned to Joshua and said, ‘Do not let all the people go up, only two or three thousand men need to go up. Do not make all the people toil up there. They are few.’” All the people versus a handful of people. The principle seems to be this, and we need it in our understanding of God’s way. The principle is that victory is not local. Victory is not for a few. Victory is for all the people, all the church, the whole body, every tribe. At Ai they said, “We only need a few to go up.” There should be no mavericks and no lone rangers in the church of God. It’s for all the people. Everybody is the same. Nobody has a monopoly on the LORD. You have as much of the LORD as any other Christian has of the LORD. Don’t let anybody talk you out of your union with Jesus Christ. I need you and you need me and we need us. It’s the body; all the people of God. That’s the first spiritual principle.
The feigned retreat, Joshua 8:15, “Joshua and all Israel pretended to be beaten before them.” It’s all a pretense. It’s a decoy. It’s not true. It’s not real. It’s fake. It’s a part of the strategy. They are pretending to flee. Picture in your mind’s eye two hundred thousand to five hundred thousand pretending to flee. But this is a parable and God is speaking and God is saying, “There you are running from the enemy. You are smiling because you know it’s a fake but what if it were real? What if a few enemy could chase the people of God like that. What if a handful of enemy could chase all the people of God?”
God didn’t want them to get the idea the reason they lost the first time was that they had too few men and the enemy had too many. They didn’t want them to get the idea this time, “You are guaranteed to win because you have an overwhelming force and they have only a few.” You didn’t lose because you had too few and they had too many and you didn’t win because you had so many and they had so few. What you see in this parable of the victory of Ai is that feigned retreat, that pretense, would be a sad reality if God stopped fighting for them. It would be reality that a handful of the enemy could chase all the people of God. Do you realize that we would all be fleeing from the enemy? Not a game, not a strategy, not a pretense; we’d all be fleeing from the enemy if the LORD stopped fighting for us. We need God to write that in our heart. We don’t ever have to despise the enemy’s weakness and trust our strength. And on the other side we don’t need to fear the enemy’s strength and despise our own weakness. In the reality when the LORD of hosts is fighting for us we will not be retreating.
The third fact; the stretched out javelin. The principle is faith; trusting in the LORD. We spoke of that when I reminded you last week how Joshua had to be reminded of a truth he had learned forty years before illustrated by Moses. Many think, and I’ve already called attention to it, Joshua 8:18-19, many think that the raising of the javelin was a sign for the ambush. So, when they saw the javelin they would ambush. The problem is that Joshua was way up in the north running away and no one from the ambush in the south could see that javelin. That’s for sure. My commentators try to solve that problem. They explain it by, “There were pre-arranged sets of scouts and they got closer and closer to the ambush. When he raised the javelin, somebody was close enough to see it and he raise a javelin and someone was close enough to see it and finally they were close enough so that the ambush would get the signal and they would attack.
The problem with that is, and understand this because it’s tremendous, the javelin was not part of the strategy. It was a surprise. Nobody knew that was going to happen. Joshua did not know that was going to happen. Joshua 8:18, “The LORD said to Joshua, ‘Stretch out the javelin that is in your hand toward Ai and I’ll give it into your hand.’” That command came in the middle of the war. It was not planned. When you read God giving the strategy He never mentioned the javelin. There could not have been scouts preassigned to posts in order let the ambush know. God didn’t tell them in advance. This is a sign, no doubt, but it’s not a sign from men. It’s a sign for the LORD. When he lifted up that javelin he was saying to the LORD, “We’re going to trust You to win this battle, just like Moses did in the battle of Rephidim.” It was a sign to the LORD. It was the sign of faith when they pointed that dead stick toward God and heaven and the enemy to be defeated. What made the ambush know? That’s not a problem. God did. He prompted the ambush. There’s no problem with that. You didn’t need scouts to tell them that. The raised javelin was saying to the LORD, “LORD, we’re going to trust You in this battle and we’re not trusting our great numbers. We’re trusting You. WE aren’t trusting our skill. We’re trusting You. We are not trusting this clever strategy.”
Hold that for a moment because that’s part of the great parable that He is telling; all the people, body truth, the feigned retreat. What if it weren’t pretense? What if it were real? The raised javelin, the simplicity of faith. What is pictured by the ambush? It’s very clear. The ambush is the secret work done behind the scenes that the enemy knows nothing about. This is what God does behind the scenes and how He make the worldly wise look foolish. The eye of flesh can’t see and doesn’t take into account what God is doing behind the scenes. The people, the feigned retreat, the javelin, the ambush and finally the fact of victory.
Joshua 8:21, “When Joshua and all Israel saw the men at ambush and captured the city, the smoke of the city ascended and they turned back and slew the men of Ai.” What a wonderful principle is the victory. It’s a turn around. They are no longer fleeing from the enemy. They are now chasing the enemy. They are now pursuing the enemy. When did they turn around? The answer is when that javelin was held up. As soon as they took the step of faith, God turned everything around and now they are pursuing the enemy.
The LORD Jesus said of the church that He is building, that the gates of hell would not prevail against it. Do you see who the attacker is? It’s not Satan attacking the church. It’s the church attacking Satan. The gates of hell will not prevail against the church. We’re the ones going after the enemy. They are not coming after us. There’s not only the turnaround but in Joshua 8:24, “When all Israel had finished killing the inhabitants of Ai in the field and in the wilderness where they pursued them, all of them were fallen by the edge of the sword until they were destroyed. All Israel returned to Ai and struck it with the edge of the sword.
There are a lot of critics who don’t see spiritual principles and they read about terrible wars; men, women, children. How could God be so cruel and kill men, women and children? The inhabitants of Canaan, men, women and children, illustrate that which God has cursed and needs to be destroyed. Out natural hearts want to spare the women and we want to spare the children. But if you know it’s what God has cursed. We say, “Oh, such an innocent child.” There is no such thing as an innocent sinner. We have compassion on the little things in our life. Victory is not only pursuing the enemy. Victory is having absolute and no truce with the enemy, whether it’s men, women or children. In Proverbs it says, “Every weight on the scale is God’s concern.” Every weight; the weight of a thumb on a scale is all of God’s concern; men, women and children.
Finally we read in Joshua 8:2, that victory included this time the sharing of the spoils. God says, “It’s my victory but I want you to share in it.” Verse 27, “Israel took only the cattle and the spoil of the city as plunder for themselves, according to the word of the LORD which He had commanded Joshua.” So, those are the facts. The people equaled the whole body of Christ, the retreat illustrates, praise God it’s only a pretense and not real, the javelin is a picture of faith, the ambush is a picture of the hidden work of God and the victory is turning everything around and having no truce with the enemy and no compromise and sharing in the spoils of the LORD.
Listen as I give you the parable of the victory at Ai. Here’s all those facts put together, as if the LORD were saying it. Regardless of your numbers, dear saints, or the strength or the strategy, victory belongs to every child of God and all the people of God and all the tribes and all their differences. The people of God do not need to be chased by the enemy. In fact, the exact opposite is true. “If in the middle of your battle you will take the simple step of faith and point that javelin toward the LORD and toward heaven and toward God, at that moment I will turn everything around for you and you will then pursue the enemy and have victory and because of the secret work that I did behind the scenes I will give you a complete victory and we’ll all sit down and enjoy the spoils together.” I think that is the parable of the Ai.
One last thing before we close this lesson. The first two battles are done; Jericho and Ai. Those battles are one picture. There are thirty one different battles that are going to take place. God only gives us the details of four of those battles. We still have to look at two more; the Battle of Beth-Heron and the battle at the water of Maran. We’ll look at that in the days to come. Those two battle contain every truth of spiritual warfare.
Let me illustrate what I’m talking about. It’s interesting that in the seven year war, thirty one kings, only one time the ark of the LORD leads the way. Wouldn’t you expect the ark of the LORD to go up with every battle? But it doesn’t; just Jericho. That’s the only time the ark of LORD leads the way because God is setting down a principle in the first battle that the victory belongs to the king, the ark of God, the throne of God. That’s battle #1. Battle #2, the javelin. It’s not by how many men and it’s not by how few men. Everything changes with faith. Battle #1 is the victory if God’s. Battle #2 is that the victory is mine by faith in the LORD. That sets the stage now for all the other battles that are going to take place.
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your precious word. Lord, we know that we’re only scratching the surface and we could mine these great truths forever. LORD, work in our hearts what You want us to know and take us forward at the pace You want us to go forward. Thank You, LORD, for these wonderful stories and redemptive history that You’ve put in the Bible in order to teach us how to possess the land. Work it in our hearts we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.