Joshua 8:1 & 2

"Then the Lord said to Joshua, 'Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Take the whole army with you, and go up and attack Ai. For I have delivered into your hands the king of Ai, his people, his city and his land. You shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king, except that you may carry off their plunder and livestock for yourselves. Set an ambush behind the city.'" NIV translation

God gave Joshua the battle plan for Ai and encourages them that the outcome of the battle will be different this time. As we remember, they had attacked Ai before without the Lord's plan or help and were soundly defeated by the army of Ai. Now, God assures them that they will have complete victory because, once again, it is God who is in the fight on their behalf. The only difference between this attack and the successful attack on Jericho was that they were allowed to take the spoils from the battle. As Christians, we are reminded that the battle for Ai is a picture of our Christian walk and the battle we face with ourselves. If we trust in God and listen to His instruction through the Holy Spirit, we can be assured that He will give us the total victory as well.

Joshua 8:3-8

"So Joshua and the whole army moved out to attack Ai. He chose thirty thousand of his best fighting men and sent them out at night with these orders: 'Listen carefully. You are to set an ambush behind the city. Don't go very far from it. All of you be on alert. I and all those with me will advance on the city, and when the men come out against us, as they did before, we will flee from them. They will pursue us until we have lured them away from the city, for they will say, "They are running away from us as they did before." So when we flee from them, you are to rise up from ambush and take the city. The Lord your God will give it into your hand. When you have taken the city, set it on fire. Do what the Lord has commanded. See to it; you have my orders.'" NIV translation

This time, the entire army of Israel went out for the battle. We recall that the first time they had only sent a small force and they had been severely beaten. Now, all of the army is going and they are going with God. This is a picture of the three-stranded cord that King Solomon spoke of (Ecclesiastes 4:12). The same principle applies to our own battle with the flesh in this world. If we try to fight it alone, we will find that our "will power" only goes so far and then we fall again. We also see that, if we have only an army such as a recovery program of some kind and ourselves, we will fall as well. It is only through the presence of God and the encouragement of fellow believers that we are able to stay in the battle until the end and win the war. No retreat, no surrender!

Joshua 8:9-13

"Then Joshua sent them off, and they went to the place of ambush and lay in wait between Bethel and Ai, to the west of Ai - but Joshua spent that night with the people. Early the next morning Joshua mustered his army, and he and the leaders of Israel marched before them to Ai. The entire force that was with him marched up and approached the city and arrived in front of it. They set up camp north of Ai, with the valley between them and the city. Joshua had taken about five thousand men and set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai, to the west of the city. So the soldiers took up their positions - with the main camp to the north of the city and the ambush to the west of it. That night Joshua went into the valley." NIV translation

Israel went out to face Ai again but this time the entire army went with the leaders in the front. They had an ambush set and Joshua went to check on the men that night.

Joshua 8:14

"When the king of Ai saw this, he and all the men of the city hurried out early in the morning to meet Israel in battle at a certain place overlooking the Arabah. But he did not know that an ambush had been set against him behind the city." NIV translation

The king of Ai had watched as Joshua went into the valley so he knew there was an ambush there. He did not know about the trap that was set behind the city and so the men left the city unprotected and went out to face Israel. This is a reminder to us that the devil does not know everything.

Joshua 8:15-17

"Joshua and all Israel let themselves be driven back before them, and they fled toward the wilderness. All the men of Ai were called to pursue them, and they pursued Joshua and were lured away from the city. Not a man remained in Ai or Bethel who did not go after Israel. They left the city open and went in pursuit of Israel." NIV translation

Israel followed the plan that God had given them and the men of Ai and Bethel fell for it. It appeared that Israel was going to be routed again but that is because they did not see the whole picture.

Joshua 8:18 & 19

"Then the Lord said to Joshua, 'Hold out toward Ai the javelin that is in your hand, for into your hand I will deliver the city.' So Joshua held out toward the city the javelin that was in his hand. As soon as he did this, the men in the ambush rose quickly from their position and rushed forward. They entered the city and captured it and quickly set it on fire." NIV translation

Joshua gave the signal by raising his javelin and the men behind the city rose up and took the city. Why did God have Joshua hold out the javelin toward Ai? As we recall, Ai is a picture of man's struggle with the flesh and this reminds us that God gives us the victory but we have to grab onto it. God had told them how to capture Ai but they had to execute His plan and it involved them fighting for it. The same thing is true in our battle against our flesh as we must want to win the fight.

Joshua 8:20-22

"The men of Ai looked back and saw the smoke of the city rising up into the sky, but they had no chance to escape in any direction; the Israelites who had been fleeing toward the wilderness had turned back against their pursuers. For when Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had taken the city and that smoke was going up from it, they turned around and attacked the men of Ai. Those in the ambush also came out of the city against them, so that they were caught in the middle, with Israelites on both sides. Israel cut them down, leaving them neither survivors nor fugitives." NIV translation

The men of Israel surrounded the men of Ai and cut them down. This is a reminder to us all that, as Christians, we are not alone. We have God on our side which is the greatest thing of all but we also have our fellow Christians that are in the fight with us. As we see here, this is an active involvement with us in our battle of the flesh. Our fellow Christians can help us to avoid temptations as well as encouraging us when we stumble.

Joshua 8:23-26

"But they took the king of Ai alive and brought him to Joshua. When Israel had finished killing all the men of Ai in the fields and in the wilderness where they had chased them, and when every one of them had been put to the sword, all the Israelites returned to Ai and killed those who were in it. Twelve thousand men and women fell that day - all the people of Ai. For Joshua did not draw back the hand that held out his javelin until he had destroyed all who lived in Ai." NIV translation

It sounds kind of harsh but Israel hunted down and killed all of the people of Ai. As we have already seen, Ai represented a battle of the flesh and the death of all of the people reminds us that we have to continue the fight until the end.

Joshua 8:27

"But Israel did carry off for themselves the livestock and plunder of this city, as the Lord had instructed Joshua." NIV translation

God had allowed Israel to take the spoils of this battle and so they did. This is a reminder of the fact that our battle is an internal one and not a battle against the things of this world. God created things for us to enjoy as long as they do not rule our lives.

Joshua 8:28 & 29

"So Joshua burned Ai and made it a permanent heap of ruins, a desolate place to this day. He impaled the body of the king of Ai on a pole and left it there until evening. At sunset, Joshua ordered them to take the body from the pole and throw it down at the entrance of the city gate. And they raised a large pile of rocks over it, which remains to this day." NIV translation

The king of Ai was hung on a pole until evening and then was buried at the city gate under a pile of rocks. It is remarkably similar to the manner in which Jesus died for our sins. The pile of rocks was a memorial and it reminds us that the key to this continuing battle is to remember the victories of the past. We remember that it is Jesus Christ who has given us the victory over the flesh both in the past and in the future.

Joshua 8:30-32

"Then Joshua built on Mount Abal an altar to the Lord, the God of Israel, as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded the Israelites. He built it according to what is written in the Book of the Law of Moses - an altar of uncut stones, on which no iron tool had been used. On it they offered to the Lord burnt offerings and sacrificed fellowship offerings. There, in the presence of the Israelites, Joshua wrote on stones a copy of the law of Moses." NIV translation

One of Moses' final acts as the leader of Israel was to share these instructions with the Israelites (see Deuteronomy 27). God had given the Israelites the land and that was an unconditional promise but their actual presence in the land was to be based on their obedience to God. This altar was a reminder of this fact and the offerings were to allow them into the presence of God.

Joshua 8:33

"All the Israelites, with their elders, officials and judges, were standing on both sides of the ark of the covenant of the Lord, facing the Levitical priests who carried it. Both the foreigners living among them and the native-born were there. Half of the people stood in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of the Lord had formerly commanded when he gave instructions to bless the people of Israel." NIV translation

Moses had told them how God had wanted the ceremony for the covenant. These two mountains are a wonderful object lesson in the concept of blessing and curses. They share the same land, water, and wind conditions but are opposites. Mount Gerizim is a prosperous mountain where many plants grow while Mount Ebal is barren.

Joshua 8:34 & 35

"Afterward, Joshua read all the words of the law - the blessings and the curses - just as it is written in the Book of the Law. There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded that Joshua did not read to the whole assembly of Israel, including the women and children, and the foreigners who lived among them." NIV translation

While they were there, Joshua read the terms of the covenant and the blessings and curses that Moses had told them. By being there, the people were agreeing to the terms of their residing in the land.

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