VICTORY ON GOD’S TERMS
Lord, thank You for a second chance.
Read JOSHUA 8:1–17
8 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. 2 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.”
3 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 4 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 the alert. 5 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. 6 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, 7 you are to rise up from ambush and take the city. The Lord your God will give it into your hand. 8 When you have taken the city, set it on fire. Do what the Lord has commanded. See to it; you have my orders.”
9 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.
10 Early the next morning Joshua mustered his army, and he and the leaders of Israel marched before them to Ai. 11 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. 12 Joshua had taken about five thousand men and set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai, to the west of the city. 13 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.
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. 15 Joshua and all Israel let themselves be driven back before them, and they fled toward the wilderness. 16 All the men of Ai were called to pursue them, and they pursued Joshua and were lured away from the city. 17 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.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,” who was, and is, and is to come’ (Rev 4:8).
Attack on Ai, take two: Action! Joshua receives reassurance from God and then a battle plan. God tells Joshua, ‘I have delivered into your hands the king of Ai, his people’ etc (1), speaking in the past tense of a future event to assure Joshua of the certainty of victory. This time, Joshua avoids the mistakes of the earlier failed campaign. He seeks the Lord’s help and follows the Lord’s plan. And, of course, the sin which had blighted the people’s relationship with God has been dealt with and God’s anger removed. The whole army is not really needed, but just as the whole community has been affected by Achan’s sin, so the whole army is restored to a right relationship with God and now proceeds together.
We need to avoid the temptation to see Joshua 8 as a well-researched history textbook. The writer probably compiled this account from more than one ancient source. The difficulty of reconciling verses 3–8 and 10–13 or how the 5,000 relate to the 30,000 would not have bothered him and should not distract us from the main message of the chapter: namely, that Israel achieved a great victory because they obeyed God, and He was with them.
The passage sheds light on what we might call ‘God’s part’ and ‘our part.’ Joshua and the army must fight the battle. They must implement the military strategy but ultimately, they win as God delivers the enemy into their hands because they are doing what God has told them to. The way God works has not changed. ‘God’s sovereignty and our responsibility are not polar opposites … but different sides of the same spiritual reality’ (Jackman, 2014, p89). Our gifts and abilities come from God, but we are responsible for how we use what God has given us.
Reflect on the relationship between God’s part and ours. How do we balance using our gifts and abilities against waiting for God’s leading?
Lord, our enemies fall when we Your people follow Your marching orders.
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