Joshua 8. 1-29: First Victory
November 21, 2010 Series: Joshua: Lord's Army
Topic: Old Testament Passage: Joshua 8:1–8:29
I am Achan. I am Joshua
Open your Bibles to Joshua chapter 8. Last week, we saw the trouble and devastation that hidden sin can bring on a family and a family of families. The sermon centered on a man named Achan, a man, husband, father, church member, warrior, who chose to find satisfaction in a dress and a few coins over a pure devotion to God. And when confronted, though he confessed, he and his entire household shared the consequences of his sinful choice.
So we can see what it means to be Achan; but what does it mean to be Joshua? What if you’re the leader responsible to deal with the sin? Confronting sin is another person is difficult, especially in those that you love. I can empathize with Joshua’s role, as a leader, as a pastor, as a husband, as a Father, as a brother, even as a friend. I do not believe Joshua enjoyed what God commanded him to do. Achan was not a Canannite, he was a friend, a member of the family. When the lots fell to him, Joshua does not go, “Hey dumbass, tell us what you did or we’re going to kill you.” With the gentle but firm words of a Father, he says “My Son, tell me what you have done.”
It is very tempting to minimize, dismiss, or even ignore sin; to find ways to avoid confronting sin, or calling it what it is—rebellion. We’d rather redefine it so that we can encourage it away, excuse it so that we can psychologize it away, or close our eyes and hope it goes away. Any leader that does this is himself/herself, is guilty himself of rebellion. If it is in fact rebellion (sin), then it cannot be managed, it must be confessed and repented of. It is hard to call someone to confess and to repent.
As the story of Achan reveals, sin must be atoned for if it is going to be removed. Confessing and repenting of sin is a matter of life and death—the reason for sinless Jesus to come and die for sinners. You cannot love sin and love Jesus. Jesus himself said in Luke 16.13 13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. If you love Jesus you hate sin, in yourself and in the lives of those you love. If you serve Jesus, you will deal with the sin in your own life and confront sin in the life of those you love—should God reveal it.
V. 1-2 Do not fear
Gentle confrontation is the way to confession. And in today’s passage, we see that confession is the way to purity, and the purity is the way to strength. Purity always precedes power. Until we remove the sin through confession and repentance, we will be weak and spiritually discontented. With the removal of sin comes the promise and joy of victory over our enemies. VERSE 1: And the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not fear and do not be dismayed. Take all the fighting men with you, and arise, go up to Ai. See, I have given into your hand the king of Ai, and his people, his city, and his land. 2 And you shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king. Only its spoil and its livestock you shall take as plunder for yourselves. Lay an ambush against the city, behind it.”
Do Not Fear
After removing the sin from the camp, God is ready to fight for them again. He echoes the earlier charge to be “strong and courageous” reassuring Joshua NOT to fear in attacking the city of Ai a second time. He encourages Joshua in this way again, because of how apt men are to dwell on past defeats. Often, the pain, shame, or fear of a past sin can overwhelm us to the point of denying the truth of God’s Word. We become paralyzed, unwilling to move, unable to serve, powerless to fight, governed by sin Jesus has already forgiven. We tell ourselves I’m no longer competent or qualified then justify our refusal to GET UP with some kind of spiritual sounding high road. The truth is you’re not really believing the gospel. God says do not be afraid, get up, fight, move forward, and live in the future promises of God not in the past disappointments of men. Joshua moves.
V. 3-13 The Battle Plan
3 So Joshua and all the fighting men arose to go up to Ai. And Joshua chose 30,000 mighty men of valor and sent them out by night. 4 And he commanded them, “Behold, you shall lie in ambush against the city, behind it. Do not go very far from the city, but all of you remain ready. 5 And I and all the people who are with me will approach the city. And when they come out against us just as before, we shall flee before them. 6 And they will come out after us, until we have drawn them away from the city. For they will say, ‘They are fleeing from us, just as before.’ So we will flee before them. 7 Then you shall rise up from the ambush and seize the city, for the Lord your God will give it into your hand. 8 And as soon as you have taken the city, you shall set the city on fire. You shall do according to the word of the Lord. See, I have commanded you.” 9 So Joshua sent them out. And they went to the place of ambush and lay between Bethel and Ai, to the west of Ai, but Joshua spent that night among the people.
10 Joshua arose early in the morning and mustered the people and went up, he and the elders of Israel, before the people to Ai. 11 And all the fighting men who were with him went up and drew near before the city and encamped on the north side of Ai, with a ravine between them and Ai. (FLASHBACK) 12 He took about 5,000 men and set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai, to the west of the city. 13 So they stationed the forces, the main encampment that was north of the city and its rear guard west of the city. But Joshua spent that night in the valley.
A Different Strategy
Like Jericho, God promises to give the city into their hands. Unlike Jericho, God puts forward a more conventional military-like strategy to conquer the city. Where the battle of Jericho reveals God’s power, the second battle of Ai reveals his cleverness. Where the battle of Jericho shows us that God doesn’t need us to fight; Ai shows that God wants us to fight. God’s plan is to set an ambush hidden on the west side of the city of Ai. The main force would encamp north of Ai, positioned to meet Ai in the open for battle. On the morning of the battle, the main force would attack, as they had before, then fake a retreat, as they really had before, with the hope of drawing all of the fighting men away from their city. Meanwhile, while the warriors are away, the small ambush would seize the city and set it on fire.
Throughout the last two chapters, there is a clear emphasis on the unity of God’s people. The sin of one man brought “trouble” on the entire community. Joshua is told not that Achan sins, but that “Israel” has sinned, again emphasizing the importance of community. Once Achan is identified, though Joshua is called to lead, the entire family is expected to deal with their family business.
- § 6.24 – Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan…and they brought him to the Valley of Achor
- § 6.25 – All Israel stoned him with stones…they burned them….they raised over him a heap of stones
- § 7.3 – Joshua and all the fighting men arose
- § 7.9 – Joshua spent that night among the people
There are very things in this world that are accomplished alone Most often, victory, success, or healthy is dependent upon unity in the community. In Ephesians 4, Paul writes that the church’s goal is unity, being built together in Christ. When we say our church is a family of families, we mean it. That is beyond having people over for dinner, it believing AND living as if you believe that another family member’s weakness, struggle, or brokenness not just as a problem “they need to fix” but an issue we are all responsible for. You take responsibility for and participate in the community. Confronting sin is a communal experience—it is not pitting the elders against the congregation—it is the family protecting its shared purity. The same goes for all of the communities we live in. One spouse alone cannot fix a marriage. One parent alone cannot shepherd the family. One 7ft Dutchman with a plan cannot plant a new church. It is still not good for men to be alone and it is part of God’s’ plan that we are a family of families concerned for and battling with one another. They go up together.
V. 14-23 The Battle
14 And as soon as the king of Ai saw this, he and all his people, the men of the city, hurried and went out early to the appointed place toward the Arabah to meet Israel in battle. But he did not know that there was an ambush against him behind the city. 15 And Joshua and all Israel pretended to be beaten before them and fled in the direction of the wilderness. 16 So all the people who were in the city were called together to pursue them, and as they pursued Joshua they were drawn away from the city. 17 Not a man was left in Ai or Bethel who did not go out after Israel. They left the city open and pursued Israel.
18 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Stretch out the javelin that is in your hand toward Ai, for I will give it into your hand.” And Joshua stretched out the javelin that was in his hand toward the city. 19 And the men in the ambush rose quickly out of their place, and as soon as he had stretched out his hand, they ran and entered the city and captured it. And they hurried to set the city on fire. 20 So when the men of Ai looked back, behold, the smoke of the city went up to heaven, and they had no power to flee this way or that, for the people who fled to the wilderness turned back against the pursuers. 21 And when Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had captured the city, and that the smoke of the city went up, then they turned back and struck down the men of Ai. 22 And the others came out from the city against them, so they were in the midst of Israel, some on this side, and some on that side. And Israel struck them down, until there was left none that survived or escaped. 23 But the king of Ai they took alive, and brought him near to Joshua.
Victory after Defeat
The trap is set and Joshua proceeds to coax the warriors of Ai to the battlefield. Pretending to be beaten, Joshua flees to the wilderness resulting in ALL of the fighting men of Ai pursuing him. Unlike the fortified and closed up Jericho, Ai is left open and vulnerable because the men disregard their primary duty—which is what sinful men, husbands, and fathers often do in their pride—leave their families vulnerable. God then commands Joshua to signal the men laying in ambush to enter and burn the city with fire. When the men of Ai see smoke coming from their homes, they run home only to be struck down by Israel. Other than the King, no one survives.
We should not ignore the fact that God grants victory against an enemy that once defeated them. We have all been defeated by some sin in our lives, perhaps more than once, perhaps over many years. And though God promises victory in our own battles against sin—but we don’t always feel victorious. As we saw with Achan, sometimes the absence of victory over sin or growth spiritually, is the result of hidden sin somewhere else. BUT SOMETIMES, IT IS NOT. If we live with a pure conscience before our God, if we have confessed the sins we know to confess, if we are walking in the light and not in the darkness, how do we explain being defeated again and again and again?
- § Some Battles are Tougher than Others: Sometimes we are battling in our own strength. One thing we must admit is that there while sin is sin is sin the eyes of God, there are those sins that are more difficult to defeat than others. When his disciples failed to cast a demon out of a young boy, Jesus himself said this kind was difficult and only driven out by prayer and fasting.
- § Some Battles Need Special Strategies: Sometimes we need a special strategy. Some people experience a Jericho moment of freedom from slavery to sin—we let go and let God—and the walls fall. Let’s be real, that doesn’t happen for all of the sins that captivate us, at least not for that ONE you are thinking of right now. The fact that God uses a battle plan to defeat Ai can teach us a lot about the discipline required for our own battles against sin. Sometimes we wrongly try to march around Ai and try to strategize at Jericho. There are some battles that God expects us to exercise some discipline in defeating sin as he fights for us. This can include attending church, scheduled prayer, disciplined Bible reading, participation in a study, seeing a counselor, going to rehab, or even having formal accountability. (ADDICTION – Anthem/Setting Captives Free).
- § All Battles need TWO battle plans: One of the most common mistakes we make is that we fight the same battle over and over again unnecessarily. We do this because we misunderstand true repentance. Genuine repentance is a two part process—one part of resistance to idols, the other is pursuit of God. When we “turn from sin” we must “turn to God.” We often do a “half turn” where we fight to resist sin through rules or white knuckled will. Victory is not just ceasing to worship and find satisfaction in other idols, it is actively worshipping and find satisfaction in God.
V. 14-27 the Aftermath
24 When Israel had finished killing all the inhabitants of Ai in the open wilderness where they pursued them, and all of them to the very last had fallen by the edge of the sword, all Israel returned to Ai and struck it down with the edge of the sword. 25 And all who fell that day, both men and women, were 12,000, all the people of Ai. 26 But Joshua did not draw back his hand with which he stretched out the javelin until he had devoted all the inhabitants of Ai to destruction. 27 Only the livestock and the spoil of that city Israel took as their plunder, according to the word of the Lord that he commanded Joshua.
Jesus doesn’t save us to make us pure party-poopers devoid of pleasure in this life. Though God does not guarantee prosperity or success in this life, he did make this world for us to enjoy—to His glory. Knowing that, when Israel finished destroying all of Ai’s inhabitants, unlike Jericho, God commands Joshua and the Israelites to enjoy the spoils of the city for themselves. Jericho had been a first fruits sacrifice to God, where the first of the fruit of the land was set before the LORD as an act of worship. Giving of time, money, energy, resources are to be joy-filled responses to God’s provision. We don’t play financial math games with God where we give him 2% of our time, 3% of our money, and 5% of our good will. God demands the first fruits of all aspect of our lives—10% of our time, of our money, of our service, of our resources…And the rest, is for us to enjoy.
CONCLUSION V. 28-29 Death of a King
28 So Joshua burned Ai and made it forever a heap of ruins, as it is to this day. 29 And he hanged the king of Ai on a tree until evening. And at sunset Joshua commanded, and they took his body down from the tree and threw it at the entrance of the gate of the city and raised over it a great heap of stones, which stands there to this day.
Death of a King
The narrative ends with the execution of the King. God had commanded in Deuteronomy, how to deal with criminals like the King. Deut. 21.22-23 22 “And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23 his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance. Joshua commands and they follow God’s Law to the letter. This seemingly barbaric act is a demonstration of God’s judgment on all of sin and rebellion just as it had been with his own people. Without question, the hanging is gruesome, but the stark image should not cause us to feel empathy, as much as fear God and flee from the rebellion that necessitated it.
Another King that Hung on a Tree in my place
The truth is that ALL OF US are condemned by the Law of God in the same way. I you have sinned, the Bible says that the penalty for sin is death. No matter how much good you have done in your life, you are still guilty by nature and by choice—you are a lawbreaker. The Law of God justly condemns our rebellion. But, instead of you being hung on a tree, there was another King, a perfect sinless King, who hung on a tree you might be forgiven. In speaking about Jesus, Paul references this Law in Galatians 3.10-14 10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
Another King was Buried, but he Rose
The law condemns me as a sinner. Sinners are not saved because we are able to do right or wrong, good or bad. Sinners are not saved because we never stole from God. Sinners are not accepted because, we have the perfect battle plan, or when we die, we have more victories over sin than we do defeats. Sinners are not saved because of anything good in themselves. Sinners are saved by putting faith in Jesus Christ and what he right he did, how he glorified God, and the victory that he had. I am saved because my perfect law-abiding King hung on a tree for me, a lawbreaker.
And like the King of Ai, our king was also buried under a stone—but it was a monument that lasted only three days. On the third day he rose again. And in doing that, he proved that he had conquered all of sin and all of death—that he had the power, authority, and willingness to give me new life. In him, I have strength. In him, I can fight. And whether I feel like I win or lose, in him, I win 1John 5.4 4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
Romans 6.5 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.