Joshua 8

Sunday Evening Bible Study

April 4, 1999

Introduction

The book of Joshua is a book about receiving Godís promises.

The Israelites have taken 40 years getting through the wilderness, a journey that could have been done in two weeks. It was their lack of faith that made it last longer than it could have. But the point is that they are now ready to go in. Joshua is the man to lead them in.

They have now been through their first two battles. In the first battle, they took the city of Jericho. It happened in a bizarre way. After having marched around the city, they let out a shout and the walls came falling down. But as they wiped out the city, one man didnít pay attention to the warning Joshua had given them. The people were warned not to take any of the stuff in Jericho for their own, but Achan just couldnít resist a religious garment from Babylon, silver, and gold. As a result, the Israelites were defeated in their next battle at city of Ai because there was "sin in the camp".

Gaining victory in our lives is not just a matter of "waging war". Itís important that if we want Godís victory, that we learn to do things Godís way. I once had a person tell me that they were trying to handle a certain situation by using "Satanís weapons". Let me tell you it didnít work. Godís desire is that we learn to use His weapons and obey His commands.

(Eph 6:10-13 KJV) Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. {11} Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. {12} For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. {13} Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

After having taken care of the problem with Achan, Israel is now ready to try the city of Ai again.

:1-29 Second Time for Ai

:1 Fear not, neither be thou dismayed

Put yourself in the people's and Joshua's shoes.

Here they are in the Promised Land. They had one great victory. But what they really remember is the last battle, the one where they were humiliated in defeat.

What's our usual tendency under those kinds of circumstances?

We're usually a little scared to try anything new for a while.

Lesson

Don't be discouraged, get back in the saddle!

In Joshua's circumstance, their defeat was because they had a problem they had to deal with. But once you've solved the problem, get going again One defeat doesn't make you useless to the Lord.

Illustration

We get all kinds of things to discourage us:

You know it's going to be a bad year when:

* As the moving van starts to unload next door, the first four items down the ramp are dirt bikes.

* Your 14-year-old daughter insists Jesus never preached against pierced noses.

* Your new boss asks if they've filled your old position yet.

You know it's going to be a bad day when:

* It's a bad day when your horn accidentally gets stuck and you're following a group of Hell's Angels on the freeway.

* When your income tax check bounces.

But don't let discouragement stop you, get back in the saddle!

Example:

If you're witnessing to a friend, and they come up with some really good questions that you can't answer. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't be witnessing. It just means you need to find out the answers and go back and try it again.

Maybe you've been clean from drugs for awhile, and then your old friends drop by and invite you to a party. And you blow it. You figure you're no good to God anymore. That doesn't mean God can't start again with you!

Maybe you teach a Bible Study, and you give one of those real stinkers, where you pray for the end of the study so you can crawl out to your car and go home.

:2 the spoil

This time the rules were different concerning the spoil.

When they conquered Jericho, they couldn't take anything. That's what caused all the current problems, when Achan took from the forbidden spoil.

Now the Israelites are allowed to take of the spoil.

If Achan had not allowed his greed to get out of hand, he could have waited until Ai, and then he would have gotten his portion of the spoil.

:3 thirty thousand

Here's battle group number one. They would be stationed close to the city, but hidden. Ai was on a hill, with lots of rocks and valleys around it, making it possible to hide this large group.

They would be on the west, probably a bit to the south of the city. They were to be "behind" the city, vs.4, while the large group was "in front", ("before" in vs.11) or to the north. See map.

They were sent away at night, the first night.

:5 I, and all the people

Here's battle group number two. They would move to the north of the city and camp overnight, across the valley, so they would be seen by the men of Ai. See map.

Lesson

Come back stronger.

The first time against Ai they only took 3,000 men.

I don't think that was necessarily a mistake. God didn't rebuke them for using too few men. God rebuked them because there was sin in the camp. But this time Joshua is to take ALL the people with him.

Don't go back to the fight timidly, go back with more troops!

If you've been witnessing without answers, get the answers! Bring a friend next time!

If you've been fighting drugs, drag some Christian pals into the fight with you. I don't mean taking them to the party. I mean confess your sin to them, have them pray for you, and change friends!

If you've had a dud of a Bible Study, then spend more time studying and praying, and get back at it!

:9 Bethel and Ai

Here's our first mention of Bethel being included with Ai. Ai was 2 miles SE of Bethel. Apparently the people of Bethel had sent a contingent of soldiers to help out their neighbors at Ai. See map.

:9 Joshua lodged that night among the people

The first night, Joshua spends with the people

:11 pitched on the north side of Ai

They moved battle group two in front of the city, where they could be seen.

This happens on day two, after battle group #1 had already departed.

:12 five thousand

Here's the final group, battle group number three

This group is sent out on day two, to camp out between Ai and Bethel, on the west.

It seems that from the language, this group might have been on the northwest of Ai, while group #1 was more southwest, being "behind" the city. See map.

This group is also not told to stay close to the city as the first group was. The first group's purpose was to take the city.

This group's purpose is probably to cut off the road back to Bethel, in case anybody wants to escape to Bethel.

 

:13 Joshua went that night into the midst of the valley.

Night number two. All three battle groups are in position. Joshua moves down the opposing hillside into the valley. He's right in plain sight for all of Ai to see. After their defeat last time, this must seem pretty inviting to the people of Ai.

:15 Joshua and all Israel made as if they were beaten

Battle group number two pretends to run in retreat. It looks to the men of Ai as if they're going to have a repeat of the last battle.

:16 all the people ... in Ai were called together to pursue

It looks as if this enemy is beaten again. They all better get out there and finish them off for good!

:17 not a man left in Ai or Bethel

Apparently at least some of the men of Bethel had been summoned to help Ai, and so they must have spent the night in the city of Ai. When Joshua began to flee, all the warriors, from both cities, left Ai unprotected.

We don't really know what happened to the men of Bethel.

This is the only place they are mentioned in this battle. It's possible that these men were destroyed too, since the ambushers were stationed between Ai and Bethel, possibly to cut off their retreat. We do know that Bethel wasn't taken yet, at this time. This battle was only for Ai.

:18 stretch out the spear

or, javelin

This was apparently the appointed signal for the ambush to begin. The men in ambush had to be situated just right so they could keep their eyes on Joshua.

Note: It's the Lord that tells Joshua when to hold out the spear.

Joshua is letting God take care of all the timing!

Lesson

Be flexible.

I mentioned during the battle of Jericho that we're going to see many different ways in which God is going to bring victory.

In Jericho, the people only had to march around the wall, and God brought the walls down. Then the people finished the work, destroying the rest of the city.

In Ai, the Israelites are going to do all of the physical, tangible work.

Yet God is still in charge. God does the planning. God does the directing.

Lesson

Keep God in charge!

You may find in some of your life's struggles, that you're going to have to do a lot of the work yourself. God may not just make the enemies disappear on you.

But you must always keep God in charge! Don't take matters into your own hands!

(Prov 3:5-6 KJV) Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. {6} In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Illustration

Get directions first

The famous Professor Huxley was attending a convention of scientists in Ireland, and was late for the meeting one morning. He hailed a carriage and said to the driver, "Drive fast, for I am in a great hurry." The driver started off at a mad pace and after a few minutes the professor began to be shaken up. "Do you know where I want to go?" he asked the driver. "No yer 'onor," answered the driver. "You didn't tell me where to go, but anyway, I am driving fast." Be sure your destination is decided.

-- Donald Grey Barnhouse, Bible Truth Illustrated, Keats Publishing , Inc., 1979, p. 5.

Sometimes we get to thinking that if God wants us to be handling our problems, then we'd better get moving fast. But we first need to be getting directions from Him.

:20 the people that fled to the wilderness

Namely, Joshua's contingent, Battle Group Number Two. They had fled in mock retreat, and now they turn to fight the men of Ai.

:22 the other issued out of the city against them

Battle Group Number One comes out of the city, trapping the men of Ai between themselves and Group Number Two.

:25 all that fell that day, both men and women ...

Twelve thousand people of Ai died. This sounds pretty cruel and unfair, doesn't it?

We talked about this with chapter 6 (you could get the tape).

In Summary:

The people living in the land had a wicked, violent, perverse society. Israel was God's method of bringing judgment on these wicked people, just as He rained fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah. Their beliefs were so perverse that if Israel didn't destroy them, their culture and religion would destroy Israel.

:26 Joshua drew not his hand back

As long as Joshua kept the spear in the air, the troops knew that they needed to keep fighting.

It kind of brings to mind a previous incident when Moses was in charge, and Joshua was simply the leader of the troops, fighting against the Amalekites:

(Exo 17:11-12 KJV) And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. {12} But Moses' hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.

Lesson

Finish the fight

We have a tendency to leave too many things half done. We start something, get a little victory, and then put it on the back burner.

Quote:

"The quality of a man's life is in direct proportion to his commitment to excellence, regardless of his chosen field or endeavor.... I firmly believe that any man's finest hour -- his greatest fulfillment to all he holds dear -- is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle, victorious."

-- Vince Lombardi

Paul wrote at the end of his life:

(2 Tim 4:7 KJV) I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:

Perhaps youíve had a specific call from God to do a specific thing. But for some reason or another, you've put it aside. Maybe you had a defeat, and are afraid to keep going. Maybe you just got too busy. But get back to it. Finish it.

It may be a sin that you've never really gotten victory over.

It may be a ministry that you've never fully realized.

One of my life verses, one that God has brought to me over and over again is:

(Col 4:17 KJV) And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it.

Get back into the battle. Don't withdraw your hand until the fight is finished.

:29 hanged on a tree until eventide

This whole proceeding where the king is taken alive, then hung on a tree, gives the air of a judicial process.

We talked about how Israel was God's form of judgment on the wicked people of the land.

We find this validated in the law:

(Deu 21:22-23 KJV) And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree: {23} His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.

And so, God's judgment continued to fall upon the Canaanites.

Interestingly enough, this law also has been applied to Jesus:

It shows us how Jesus became a curse for us, by hanging on a tree, or, a cross.

(Gal 3:13 KJV) Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:

The curse of the law has to do with the just punishment that comes when we sin. The ultimate curse of the law is separation from God, eternal death. But in taking the curse upon Himself, Jesus has paid the debt we owed to God for our own sins. This is a free gift of God, that God offers to every one of us, complete forgiveness for our sins. All we need to do is to receive the gift.

:30-31 Worship at the Altar

:30 altar ... in mount Ebal

After having begun the campaign to conquer the Promised Land, rather than moving to secure the immediate area from further attack, Joshua takes the people on a spiritual pilgrimage. Ebal is about 22 miles to the north of Ai.

:31 an altar of whole stones , over which no man hath lift up any iron

They are following exactly what Moses had commanded them to do when they got into the Promised Land.

In Deut.27:1-8, Moses commanded the people to do this as soon as they crosssed the Jordan:

Use great stones, covered with plaster. Write all the Law on them. Use whole stones, untouched by iron tools. Offer burnt offerings, peace offerings, and rejoice before the Lord.

:32-33 Blessings and Curses

:32 a copy of the law of Moses

The stones were whitewashed with plaster, and he writes on the plaster. Opinions vary as to how much is written here.

Some feel it was just the Ten Commandments.

Some feel it was at least Deut.5-26, which is the portion of the Law previous to when Moses gave the command about recording it on the stones at Ebal.

There are similar inscribed pillars that have been found in the Middle East, the Behistan Inscription in Iran is three times the length of Deuteronomy.

:33 half of them ... Gerizim ... half of them ... Ebal

Again, the people are following the instructions Moses gave for this specific time. (Deut. 11:29; 27:11-14)

Half of the people would be on one side, on Mount Ebal, half on the other, on Mount Gerizim. The priests would be in the valley in between, reading the Law.

I think this presented a huge illustration to the people of the difference between walking in obedience to the Lord and in disobedience.

There is a huge natural amphitheater here, between these two mountains, which would make it possible for all the people to hear what was being read.

As the priests would read the curses, all those on Mount Ebal would respond with "Amen". Then as the blessings were read, all those on Mount Gerizim would answer with "Amen".

Lesson

Fellowship's Two Sides: Blessing and Cursing

A healthy relationship with other believers will involve:

Times of encouragement

Blessing others in our relationships with them, reminding each other of God's goodness, reminding each other of God's love, etc.

Illustration

For years William Wilberforce pushed Britain's Parliament to abolish slavery. Discouraged, he was about to give up. His elderly friend, John Wesley, heard of it and from his deathbed called for pen and paper. With trembling hand, Wesley wrote: "Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them stronger than God? "Oh be not weary of well-doing! Go on, in the name of God and in the power of his might, till even American slavery shall vanish away before it." Wesley died six days later. But Wilberforce fought for forty-five more years and in 1833, three days before his own death, saw slavery abolished in Britain. Even the greatest ones need encouragement.

-- Carol Porter in Fresh Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching (Baker), from the editors of Leadership.

Times of warning

Cursing in the sense of warning each other when we need a word of correction.

(Prov 27:17 KJV) Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

I remember reading this and thinking, "I sure wouldn't have wanted to have been on the Mount Ebal side". But that's just as important as the other side.

We need to be aware of the warnings as well as the blessings.

(Prov 10:17 KJV) He is in the way of life that keepeth instruction: but he that refuseth reproof erreth.

(Prov 12:1 NLT) To learn, you must love discipline; it is stupid to hate correction.

(Prov 13:18 KJV) Poverty and shame shall be to him that refuseth instruction: but he that regardeth reproof shall be honoured.

(Prov 15:31-32 KJV) The ear that heareth the reproof of life abideth among the wise. {32} He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding.

Illustration

You Are a Lousy Football Player

During a practice session for the Green Bay Packers, things were not going well for Vince Lombardi's team. Lombardi singled out one big guard for his failure to "put out." It was a hot, muggy day when the coach called his guard aside and leveled his awesome vocal guns on him, as only Lombardi could. "Son, you are a lousy football player. "You're not blocking, you're not tackling, you're not putting out. As a matter of fact, it's all over for you today, go take a shower." The big guard dropped his head and walked into the dressing room. Forty- five minutes later, when Lombardi walked in, he saw the big guard sitting in front of his locker still wearing his uniform. His head was bowed and he was sobbing quietly.

Vince Lombardi, ever the changeable but always the compassionate warrior, did something of an about face that was also typical of him. He walked over to his football player and put his arms around his shoulder. "Son," he said, "I told you the truth. You are a lousy football player. You're not blocking, you're not tackling, you're not putting out. However, in all fairness to you, I should have finished the story. Inside of you, son, there is a great football player and I'm going to stick by your side until the great football player inside of you has a chance to come out and assert himself." With these words, Jerry Kramer straightened up and felt a great deal better. As a matter of fact, he felt so much better he went on to become one of the all-time greats in football and was recently voted the all-time guard in the first 50 years of professional football.

We're not going to be balanced if we only hear the fluffy stuff.

Trying to ignore the curses of disobedience won't keep us from reaping the pain as we disobey the Lord.

:34-35 All the words of the Law

:35 a word of all ...

Joshua read the entire Law

He didn't skip anything.

Lesson

Read the whole Book

We should be reading the entire book too!

Not just the New Testament. Not just your favorite chapters, but everything!

Understand the whole Book

The words were to be understood as well as read:

(Deu 27:8 KJV) And thou shalt write upon the stones all the words of this law very plainly.

It's not enough to just read, but we need to read it "plainly", it should be clear to us what we're reading. Itís not that weíre always going to understand every thing in Godís Word, but donít read just for the sake of reading, read to hear what God is plainly saying to you.

For the whole family!

Did you notice in verse 35, "with the women, and the little ones"? Everybody, even the women and children were taught the Law.