Joshua 8

Joshua 8 – Preached @ Ebenezer church


We have been studying the book of Joshua and today we come to Joshua 8.

Chapter 8 describes how Joshua led Israel to defeat the city of Ai.

It is a long chapter and there are many lessons we can learn from this passage.

Today, I want to bring up just 4 points for us to meditate upon and these are as follows:

1. The certainty of victory with God’s Help

2. God will never leave His people “short-changed”

3. Joshua’s execution of his mission – a lesson in Christian Guidance

4. The centrality of the word of God for a blessed life

1. The Certainty of Victory with God’s Help

Israel first attacked the city of Ai in Joshua 7.

They lost the battle because of Achan’s secret sin.

After dealing with that sin, once again they attacked the City of Ai.

If you compare this battle with the battle at Jericho, you will find 4 differences:

1) Jericho was a much bigger city;

The city of Ai was small only 12,000 inhabitants.

2) Jericho was surrounded by walls and securely shut up;

The people of Ai came out to fight against Israel.

3) For Jericho, Israel marched round the city a total of 13 times.

Then its walls collapsed and they charged into the city.

For the city of Ai, a strategy of ambush was being used.

4) In Jericho, they were not allowed to take anything that was captured (Joshua 6:18).

For the city of Ai, they were allowed to do so (Joshua 8:2)

So we can see that the battle situations of Jericho and Ai were entirely different.

There is, in fact, only one similarity that I can find.

And that similarity is what God said to Joshua in Joshua 8:1

“….see, I have given into your hand the king of Ai, and his people, and his city, and his land”.

In Joshua 6:2, you will read the same words being said to Joshua:

“..see, I have given into your hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valor.”

When God grants such an assurance to Joshua, victory is certain.

The battle circumstances may be different.

The approach and strategy adopted may be different.

And yes, Joshua has to adapt to all these accordingly.

But the important thing here is that he has the assurance of God.

He has the special presence of God with him and with that, he will win.

So, with God’s presence, even the most difficult Jericho can be defeated without any difficulty.

Without God’s presence, even the smallest city of Ai will provide the worst resistance.

Friends, here’s a very important lesson in life.

You will meet with all kinds of different circumstances in your life.

You will meet with all kinds of different challenges.

But, if your focus is purely on adapting to circumstances in your life, you will miss the point.

Your focus ought to be to seek the special presence of God with you.

Your focus ought to be to seek the assurance of salvation in a felt manner.

That is the only constant that can make the difference between success or failure.

When you have come to grasp that, you will view success or failure very differently.

Your measurement of so-called success will not be how well you perform in certain things in life.

Rather, your measurement of success would be based on whether God was with you in what you did.

And you will realize the wisdom of the good old 1st question in the shorter catechism:

“What is the chief end of man?”

And it is “To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever”.

And to this end you will orientate your life altogether.

That was my first point “victory is certain with God’s help”; let us now move to our second.

2. God will never leave His people “short-changed”

Israel was told not to take anything from their battle at Jericho.

But in the battle at Ai, they were allowed to do so.

Why was there this change in instructions?

The answer is simple: it was a test of Israel’s priority and obedience to His word.

God never seeks to make His people poor.

When God’s priority is recognized, when His word is obeyed, He gives to his people most generously.

It is when His people lose sight of His generosity, His provision, His goodness…,

Then covetousness will begin to consume them.

In 1 Kings 17, God sent Elijah, His prophet, to a window and her son.

The widow was about to have her last meal with her son.

Elijah suddenly appeared and asked her to feed him first.

What? Our last meal and feed Elijah the prophet first?

But when she did just that and all the rest of her needs were taken care of.

So you see, Achan’s covetousness was not necessary at all.

If only he had trusted that God would take care of his welfare.

He would have been alive to benefit from what they captured from the city of Ai.

Achan fell into what I call “serpent/snake theology”.

In the Genesis 3, Eve was clearly told that she was not to eat of the fruit.

But Satan presented this instruction as something that will deprive her of some good.

In Gen 3:5 Satan said “For God knows that in the day you eat of this fruit, your eyes shall be opened, and you will be like the gods, knowing good and evil.”

If I paraphrase that, it sounds like this: “Hey, Eve… God is “short-changing” you.”

He emphasized the restriction God has imposed rather than the riches of the overall blessing.

If only Eve had believed that there was much greater blessing installed for her.

Much greater blessing compared to the need for a small obedience.

If only Achan had realized that God would give him greater treasures than what he could see at Jericho.

If only Achan could remember that God said in Joshua 1:8 – this book of the law shall not depart from your mouth but you shall meditate on it day and night so that you may be careful to do all that is written therein. And then you will make your way prosperous and then you will have good success.

Friends, this lesson is relevant to us even in this day and age.

Very often, we are put to the same tests.

For example, you may say: “my salary is already so low, why do I still have to give tithes and offerings to the Lord?”

I am already so short of time, why do I have to observe the Christian Sabbath & serve the LORD?

I am already so short of time, why do I still have to read and study the bible?

I am already so short of time, why do I still have to come for prayer meeting?

Why is it that I can’t do this and I can’t do that as a Christian?

Why are there are so many restrictions in the Christian faith?

Friends, don’t let “serpent theology” get into you.

Instead, listen to what Jesus has to say in Luke 18:29-30.

“So He said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present age, and in the age to come, eternal life.””

No one who sacrifices for the sake of the Kingdom of God is going to be left “short-changed”.

Our God is a generous God and He gives to His people generously.

You will “receive many more times in this present age, and in the age to come, eternal life.”

The test set upon us is our priority towards God.

Once you have overcome that, you will indeed see the riches of God’s blessings.

And please note that these blessings need not come in the form of material comforts or rewards.

“The peace of God that transforms all understanding” (Phil 4:7)

This “peace of God” is more blessed than any material blessing.

Are you struggling with your commitment to Jesus?

Are you struggling with the obedience God requires of you?

Your struggles are very real and I will not undermine them.

But I want to encourage you that you must never give in to “serpent-theology”.

It is Satan who will short-change you if you take his short-cut to pleasure.

So Christians, be encouraged; your God knows your needs and your self-denial.

And He will reward you accordingly in His own ways and time.

3. Joshua’s execution of his mission – a lesson in Christian Guidance (9-29)

The description of the battle in Joshua 8 may be a little difficult to follow.

So, let me briefly describe the battle strategy here to make my point.

Joshua was to divide his army into 2 forces.

For simplicity, let’s just call them force no. 1 and force no. 2.

Force no. 1 consisting 25,000 men were to be stationed north of the city of Ai.

Force no. 2 consisting 5,000 men were to be stationed west of the city of Ai between Bethel & Ai.

Force no. 1 was tasked to “attract” and draw the defenders of Ai out of their city.

Force no. 2 was to act as the “ambush” force.

Once the defenders of Ai came out to pursue force no. 1, force no. 2 was to strike the undefended city of Ai.

When that had taken place, the defenders of Ai would be confused and not know what to do.

Force no. 1 was then to turn around and fight the pursuing defenders of Ai from the north.

Concurrently, force no. 2 that had destroyed the city was to attack the defenders of Ai from the south.

In this way, the defenders of Ai would be sandwiched between the 2 forces of Joshua’s army.

So, that was the battle strategy to be adopted.

There are 2 things here that I want you to notice:

In verse 1 of Joshua 8, God had already told Joshua that He had given the city to him.

In other words, victory was already assured.

In the last part of verse 2, Joshua was told to “lay an ambush behind the city”.

In other words, God Himself directed and endorsed the strategy to be used.

So, if you look at it from a certain perspective, Joshua really need not have done anything.

His victory was already assured.

But in spite of this fact, Joshua still went through great efforts in executing the strategy.

From verse 3 to 13, he was so busy positioning his troops so that everything was carried out as planned.

Then, suddenly, the last part of verse 13 says “…Joshua went that night into the midst of the valley”.

After all the co-ordination and when the action is about to start, what is Joshua doing?

What was Joshua doing alone at night in the midst of the valley?

The Bible is silent about this, but it is not at all difficult to guess.

In Luke 6:12, our Lord Jesus did the same thing.

“Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God”.

Jesus continued all night in prayer.

What was happening the next day?

He chose the 12 disciples and He preached the “sermon on the mount”.

He chose the 12 disciples who would lay the foundation of the New Testament Church.

He preached the sermon on the mount which will transform the lives of believers.

The more important the task on hand, the longer our Lord would spend in prayer.

Friends, there is a great lesson we can learn here as we live in this very busy world.

We make all kinds of plans based on the wisdom we are given from the bible.

We plan for our family, we plan our mortgages.

We plan for our future and we buy life insurances.

We plan our children, where they should study, what they should study.

We even plan what we should cook today.

We are all so busy planning and making sure that everything is carried out as planned.

Now, don’t misunderstand me friends, I say these are all necessary as part of our responsibility.

But, your plans will all come to nothing.

Unless, like Joshua, you quieten yourself and learn to commit them all to the Lord.

Look at Joshua.

He followed the example of our Lord Jesus.

He was already assured of victory.

Does he still need to do spend time praying about it?

The battle strategy was directed by God Himself.

Surely it will come to pass, wouldn’t it?

In a sense it would.

But not without Joshua earnestly committing it all in diligent prayer.

This is the mystery of prayer.

This is what it means to pray according to God’s will.

This is the fine balance between the responsibility of man and the sovereignty of God.

Proverbs 19:21 “There are many plans in a man’s heart, Nevertheless the LORD’s counsel – that will stand.”

Friends, your life rests in the hands of our Almighty God.

Yet you have the responsibility to plan and manage your life based on the principles laid down in the scriptures.

We need to seek the guidance of God in everything that we do.

We need to constantly quieten ourselves and commit our plans to the Lord in prayer.

The busier you are, the more you need to do this.

The busier you are, the greater the likelihood and the greater the temptation of lacking in this.

But it is only by doing this, that you will be able to sense God’s leading every step of the way.

Only by doing this will you know God’s will for your life.

Learn from Joshua, my friends.

He had clear guidance from God.

He worked hard and carried out his mission based on that guidance.

And he accompanied this hard work with diligent prayer.

And his success was indeed sweet.

He had the special presence of God with him as he went into the battlefield.

And notice now in verses 30-35 how he attributed his victory to God which is our final point for today.

4. The centrality of the word of God for a blessed life (30-35)

What do you do when you get a promotion at your job?

What happens when you win in a competition?

Most of us will be involved in some form of celebration treat.

In the army, we always have what we call a “happy hour” after a major exercise.

But look at what happens after Joshua won a convincing battle at Ai.

He brought the people of Israel together.

It was not for a happy hour or a party.

Instead, it was for worship.

And what did they do as part of this worship?

They offered a sacrifice as a nation.

They read the word of God in the hearing of the entire nation.

Every single instruction passed down by God through Moses was read to the whole nation.

And what was the purpose of this?

It was to remind them that their victory was not because how well they fought.

It was because the Lord blessed as they obeyed His word.

It was to remind the people that the word of God had to be central in their lives.

This was not just for the 30,000 soldiers who fought at Ai.

Everyone in Israel was present, including the children.

The entire family was involved.

The parents, the children, the grandparents, everyone!

Including those who were called “sojourners”, at the end of verse 35.

Herein lies the secret to a blessed life, as a family and as a Church:

When all in the family pay attention to the word of God without question.

Let me ask you: Were the children there rowdy and fidgety as they listened to the Word of God?

Nothing of this nature was recorded.

It appears that they were well under the control of their parents.

You will find the same orderliness in the book of Ezra.

There, the word of God was read in the presence of all Israel in the same manner.

They did not have the comfortable air-con room like ours to sit in.

Yet, they all concentrated; they all listened intently.

How can we be a more blessed Church?

I suggest that as a people, we need to pay more attention to the word of God.

In our families, we need to bring everyone in our household regularly together over the word of God.

When we give due attention to the Word, our lives will be transformed according to the Word.

And when our lives are transformed, then the blessing comes.

To the parents in our midst, I need to sound the reminder of the importance of family worship.

If you are struggling with family worship, do not hesitate to ask our Pastor for help.

Talk to him if you need help in conducting your family worship.

There is nothing to be embarrassed about for these are spiritual matters.

On the contrary, there is much to lose if we are not bothered about having the “centrality word of God in our lives”.

Let me now just repeat the 4 points for today as I close:

1. The certainty of victory with God’s Help

Even the most difficult Jericho can be defeated without any difficulty if God is with us.

Without God’s help, even the smallest city of Ai will give the worst resistance.

Our aim, therefore, ought to be to seek God’s presence with us in everything we did.

2. God will never leave His people “short-changed”

When we give our priority to God, we will never lose out;

God will take care of our welfare.

3. Joshua’s execution of his mission – a lesson in Christian Guidance

Joshua was very busy ensuring that every detail he planned for was carried out.

But he took time to be away in solitude prayer to commit all his plans to the Lord.

4. Finally, we need to remember the importance of “The centrality of the word of God for a blessed life”.

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