Joshua Chapter Eight

You Are Not Alone

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In our study of Joshua chapter eight, we see that, if we are walking in faith, we do not walk alone. In chapter 7, we saw that our walk of faith involves battling our own will and the flesh. Now, we will look at the Battle of Ai and see that God does not leave us alone to fight the flesh.

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Joshua 8:1 & 2

ADONAI said to Y'hoshua, "Don't be afraid or fall into despair! Take all the people who can fight with you, set out, and go up to 'Ai; because now I have handed over to you the king of 'Ai, his people, his city and his land. Do to 'Ai and its king as you did to Yericho and its king; but this time, take its spoil and cattle as booty for yourselves. Ambush the city from behind."

God gave Y'hoshua 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 Y'hoshua set out for 'Ai with all the people who could fight. Y'hoshua chose 30,000 men, the most courageous of his troops, and sent them out by night. He instructed them, "You are to lie in wait to ambush the city from behind. Stay close to the city; and all of you, be ready. I and all the troops with me will approach the city; and when they come out to attack us, as they did before, we will run away from them. They will chase after us until we have drawn them away from the city; because they will say, 'They're running away from us, as they did before'; so we'll run away from them. Then you will jump up from your ambush position and take possession of the city, for ADONAI your God will hand it over to you. When you have captured the city, you are to set it on fire; do according to what ADONAI has said. Those are your orders."

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

Y'hoshua sent them out; and they went to the place for the ambush, staying between Beit-El and 'Ai, to the west of 'Ai; while Y'hoshua camped that night with the people. Y'hoshua got up early in the morning, mustered his men and went up to 'Ai ahead of the people, he and the leaders of Isra'el. All the troops marching with him went up, advanced, arrived in front of the city and camped on the north side of 'Ai, with a valley between him and 'Ai. Then he took about 5,000 men and set them in ambush between Beit-El and 'Ai, to the west of 'Ai. Thus the people arrayed themselves, with all the army to the north of the city, and their rearguard lying in wait to the west of the city. Y'hoshua spent that night in the valley.

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 Y'hoshua went to check on the men that night.

Joshua 8:14

The king of 'Ai saw this, so the men in the city hurried out early in the morning to battle against Isra'el, he and all his people, at a meeting-place facing the 'Aravah. But he was unaware that behind the city an ambush had been laid against him.

The king of Ai had watched as Y'hoshua 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

Y'hoshua and all Isra'el made as if they had been defeated before them and ran off on the road to the desert. All the people in 'Ai were summoned together to pursue them, so they chased Y'hoshua and were drawn away from the city. Not a man was left in 'Ai or Beit-El who had not gone after Isra'el; pursuing Isra'el, they left the city wide open.

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 ADONAI said to Y'hoshua, "Point the spear in your hand toward 'Ai, because I will hand it over to you." Y'hoshua pointed the spear in his hand toward the city. The men in ambush jumped up quickly from their place; the moment he stretched out his hand, they ran, entered the city and captured it; and they hurried to set the city on fire.

Y'hoshua gave the signal by raising his javelin and the men behind the city rose up and took the city. Why did God have Y'hoshua 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

When the men of 'Ai looked behind them, they saw it - there was the smoke from the city, rising to the sky; and they had no power to flee this way or that - at which point the people who had run off toward the desert turned back on the pursuers. When Y'hoshua and all Isra'el saw that the ambush had captured the city and that the smoke of the city was going up, they turned back and slaughtered the men of 'Ai; while the others came out of the city against them too; so that they were surrounded by Isra'el with some on this side and some on that side. They attacked them, allowing none to remain or escape.

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 Y'hoshua. When Isra'el had finished slaughtering all the inhabitants of 'Ai in the countryside, in the desert where they had pursued them, and they had all fallen, consumed by the sword, then all Isra'el returned to 'Ai and defeated it with the sword. Twelve thousand men and women fell that day, everyone in 'Ai. For Y'hoshua did not withdraw his hand, which he had used to point the spear, until he had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of 'Ai.

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

Only the livestock and the spoil of that city did Isra'el take as booty for themselves, in keeping with the order ADONAI had given Y'hoshua.

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 Y'hoshua burned down 'Ai and turned it into a tel forever, so that it remains a ruin to this day. The king of 'Ai he hanged on a tree until evening; at sundown Y'hoshua gave an order, so they took his carcass down from the tree, threw it at the entrance of the city gate and piled on it a big heap of stones, which is there to this day.

The king of Ai was hung on a pole until evening which speaks of shame and then he was buried at the city gate under a pile of rocks. A city gate was a place of judgement and the pile of rocks was a memorial. This reminds us that the key to this continuing battle is to remember the victories of the past. We remember that it is Yeshua Messiah who has given us the victory over the flesh both in the past and in the future.

Joshua 8:30-32

Then Y'hoshua built an altar to ADONAI, the God of Isra'el, on Mount 'Eival, as Moshe the servant of ADONAI had ordered the people of Isra'el to do (this is written in the book of the Torah of Moshe), an altar of uncut stones that no one had touched with an iron tool. On it they offered burnt offerings to ADONAI and sacrificed peace offerings. He wrote there on the stones a copy of the Torah of Moshe, inscribing it in the presence of the people of Isra'el.

One of Moshe's 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

Then all Isra'el, including their leaders, officials and judges, stood on either side of the ark in front of the cohanim, who were L'vi'im and who carried the ark for the covenant of ADONAI. The foreigners were there along with the citizens. Half of the people were in front of Mount G'rizim and half of them in front of Mount 'Eival, as Moshe the servant of ADONAI had ordered them earlier in connection with blessing the people of Isra'el.

Moshe 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

After this, he read all the words of the Torah, the blessing and the curse, according to everything written in the book of the Torah. There was not a word of everything Moshe had ordered that Y'hoshua did not read before all Isra'el assembled, including the women, the little ones and the foreigners living with them.

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

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