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<060801>Joshua 8:1-35 ENCOURAGEMENT AND DIRECTION “And the Lord said unto Joshua, Fear not, neither be thou dismayed: take all the people of war with thee, and arise, go up to Ai: see! I have given into thy hand the king of Ai, and his people, and his city, and his land” ( Joshua 8:1).
In the preceding verse we are told “the Lord turned from the fierceness of His anger,” and while there can be little or no doubt that Joshua would — after the matter of Achan had been dealt with — infer the same, yet he had not been given any token from Him that such was the case; but now he received from God a word of cheer, a word of instruction, and a word of promise for faith to lay hold of. “When we have faithfully put away sin, that accursed thing which separates between our God, then, and not till then, we may expect to hear from God for our comfort; and God’s directing us how to go on in our Christian walk and warfare is a good evidence of His being reconciled to us (Matthew Henry): that is, fellowship with Him is now restored. Note well that commentator’s “and not till then”: no purveyors of “smooth things” were the faithful and practical Puritans, nor did they entertain their hearers and readers with matters of no spiritual profit.
The Lord’s word “arise” intimates that, following the stoning of Achan and his family, Joshua again took his place on his face, or at least on his knees, before the Lord, seeking consolation and counsel from Him. Israel’s progress in their conquest and occupation of Canaan had been rudely interrupted, and though the hindering cause had been put away, yet Joshua dare not attempt any further advance until His Master gave fresh indication of His will. This teaches us that, after a sin has been unsparingly judged by us — be it the case of an individual Christian, or that of an assembly — there must be a humble and definite waiting upon God for guidance as to what He would have us do next. His “fear not, neither be thou dismayed” shows that the offense of Achan and its disastrous consequences had been a sore and unexpected blow to Joshua, making him almost ready to faint. “Corruptions within the church weaken the hands and dampen the spirits of her guides and helpers, more than opposition from without; treacherous Israelites are to be dreaded more than malicious Canaanites” (Matthew Henry).
That word, “fear not, neither be thou dismayed,” was designed not only for Joshua personally, but for the whole of the congregation. Israel had failed lamentably at their first assault upon Ai, had been deeply humiliated, and in consequence “the hearts of the people melted and became as water” ( Joshua 7:5), and though they had obeyed the Divine command of Joshua 7:15 in utterly destroying the culprit and all that he had, yet they were in real need of an intimation that they had been restored to God’s favor, and could count upon His leading them again to victory. Equally requisite is it that the penitent and humbled Christian should lay hold of this or some similar reassuring word.
When iniquities have prevailed against him ( Psalm 65:3) and the enemy has humiliated him, he is prone to be “swallowed up with over-much sorrow” ( 2 Corinthians 2:7) and suffer Satan to keep him in the slough of despond, which is not only needless and foolish, but dishonoring to God if he has sincerely and contritely forsaken his sins, then he should confidently reckon upon God’s mercy ( Proverbs 28:13) and appropriate His promise “He is faithful and just [to Christ’s atoning sacrifice] to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” ( 1 John 1:9).
The word of comfort or reassurance was followed by one of instruction: “take all the people of war with thee, and arise, go up to Ai.” Therein Joshua and the people under him received definite directions from the Lord what they must next do. Joshua was now to turn from the throne of grace and make for the field of battle, as the believer has to leave the place of secret prayer and go forth to conflict in the world. Linking the two words together, the Lord was bidding His servant not to be dismayed by the previous repulse at Ai, but to be strong and courageous. In like manner, He calls upon the restored backslider to renew the contest with his enemies. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Quit not the fight because you have been worsted, nor even if you were wounded. Though you were blameable for the failure, having confessed the same to God, resume the struggle. That is a part of what is included in perseverance in grace” or “the final perseverance of the saints.” “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy; when I fall, I shall arise” ( Micah 7:8). In its application to us individually the “take all the people of war with thee” means, See to it that all your powers and graces are exerted in a concerted effort. “See, I have given into thy hand the king of Ai, and his people, and his city, and his land,” That was spoken from the Divine purpose: it was not “I will,” but “I have given.” It was God “calling those things which be not as though they were” ( Romans 4:17), as when He told the aged patriarch with barren wife, “I have made thee a father of many nations.” And as that word to Abraham was addressed unto his faith, so was this one here to Joshua. “See, I have given into thy hand the king of Ai” signified, Regard it as an accomplished fact, behold the victory with the eye of your spirit as one already achieved. It is thus that the soldiers of Christ are to wage their spiritual warfare fully persuaded of the happy outcome. As the beloved, yet often hard-pressed, apostle expressed it. “I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air” ( 1 Corinthians 9:26) — having no doubt whatever of reaching the goal, nor of vanquishing his enemy. It is “the good fight of faith” to which we are called, but if we be regulated by our reason or feelings it soon becomes a fight of unbelief. This “see” (by faith) of Joshua 8:1, was similar to that of Exodus 14:13 and Joshua 6:2.
Ere passing on to the next verse let it be pointed out that the one we have just been pondering contains a timely message for the pastor, especially if he be discouraged and disheartened by the absence of any apparent success or fruit for his labors. First, he should search himself before God and test both his message and method by the Word, to see if he has in any way grieved the Holy Spirit and thereby prevented His blessing upon his ministry. Should such prove to be the case, his sin must be unsparingly judged and abandoned. If after diligent self-examination no hindering cause is revealed, then let him take these words of the Lord as spoken immediately to himself: “Fear not, neither be thou dismayed” — it is fear which causes dejection and dismay! Then let him say, “What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee” ( Psalm 61:3), or better, “I will trust and not be afraid” ( Isaiah 12:2). “Take all the people of war with thee”: earnestly solicit the prayerful cooperation of the saints, and, whether you have that or no, be sure to take unto thee “all the armor of God.” Further, eye by faith such promises as Isaiah 55:11; Matthew 28:20, for only thus will your fears be quietened. “And thou shalt do to Ai and her king as thou didst unto Jericho and her king: only the spoil thereof and the cattle thereof shall ye take for a prey unto yourselves: lay thee an ambush for the city behind it” ( Joshua 8:2).
No mercy was to be shown the enemy, no truce made with him, but all the inhabitants were to be “utterly destroyed” as in the former instance ( Joshua 7:21). This teaches us that the Christian must adopt an uncompromising attitude toward every form of evil, even abstaining from the very appearance of it ( 1 Thessalonians 5:22). On this occasion Divine permission was given Israel to appropriate the spoil and the cattle unto themselves. The cattle upon a thousand hills are the Lord’s ( Psalm 50:10), and He disposes of them as He pleases. In connection with Jericho Israel were forbidden to take anything unto themselves, the whole being “consecrated unto the Lord” ( Joshua 7:18), thereby intimating that He has a special claim upon “the first-fruits” ( Exodus 23:19; Proverbs 3:9), for that initial restriction was not again enforced. The grant here made may be regarded as a gracious reward for their obedience in Joshua 7:25, thereby exhibiting the folly of covetous Achan — we never lose by waiting God’s time, and only bring trouble upon ourselves if we attempt to anticipate it.
The method by which Ai was to be taken was quite different from the one used against the first stronghold of the Canaanites, which shows us, among other things, that God does not work uniformly. Thomas Scott pointed out that “Jericho had been taken by a miracle... in order to teach the people to depend on God, and give Him the glory of all their successes. But they seemed to have inferred that they might despise their enemies and indulge themselves. They were therefore, in the next instance, instructed that diligence, self-denial and the exercise of all their powers, both of body and mind, were required in order to secure success.” While fully agreeing with those remarks, yet they do not, we think, fully explain the case. Though God be absolute sovereign, so that He ever acts freely, yet His ways with men are not capricious, but generally accord with their own behavior.
Because of their rash conduct in the first attack on Ai, Israel had missed God’s best, and must now be content with His second best, is how we prefer to express it. The root cause of their failure was the flagrant offense of Achan, but more immediately it was due to the conceit of the spies and the folly of Joshua in acceding to their carnal suggestion. “So Joshua arose, and all the people of war, to go up against Ai; and Joshua chose out thirty thousand men of valor, and sent them away by night. And he commanded them, saying, Behold, ye shall lie in wait against the city, even behind the city: go not very far from the city, but be ye all ready” (verses 3, 4).
To how much trouble had Israel now put themselves in order to overthrow Ai! Ah, my reader, it requires no little pains in order to return to the path of blessing once we have departed from the same! In various ways God makes us feel the folly of leaning unto our own understanding or acting in self-will, and shows us something of what we bring upon ourselves by missing His best. Observe too how precisely the Lord corrected Israel’s failures, making them reverse their former policy. When the spies returned from the reconnoitering of Ai, they said unto Joshua, “Let not all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai.” That was in direct variance with the pattern which God gave to Israel in Joshua 6:3, and to which He now required them to return — “take all the people of war with thee” ( Joshua 8:1). The closing words of the spies “for they be few” in Joshua 7:3 showed they regarded Ai with contempt, as an easy prey, and the proposal that a single battalion of their fighting men would suffice was manifestly the language of conceit.
The Lord countered their pride by appointing a much more humbling method for capturing Ai than the one used in the overthrow of Jericho.
There, Israel’s army had marched openly around the walls of that fortress; here, where a smaller and weaker city was involved, the humiliating strategy of a secret ambush was assigned in order for an attack from the rear. In the latter case, Joshua had failed to spread before the Lord the suggestion of the spies and seek counsel of Him, and disastrous was the consequence. The result was that he had to spend many hours “on his face” before the ark ere an explanation of Israel’s repulse was vouchsafed him; and later, he had to bow again before the Lord ere instructions were given for the new plan of campaign ( Joshua 8:1). The servant of God must not follow his own devices, but rather act according to the Word of his Master, for only then is he justified in counting upon His blessing. It is blessed to observe that however humbling the means which God now required to be used, both Joshua and those under him complied with the instructions God gave them. Having received an answer of peace from the Lord and an intimation of His will for them, they acted promptly in carrying out of the same. “So Joshua arose, and all the people of war, to go up against Ai.” That was not only an act of obedience, but, we doubt not, should also be regarded as one of faith — in response to Jehovah’s “See! I have given into thy hand the King of Ai.” Should any one be disposed to ask, “But since the Lord had made such an announcement, why was it necessary for Joshua and the whole of his army to go to so much trouble?” he would betray his ignorance both of God’s sovereignty and of man’s accountability. God’s predestination of the end does not render needless our use of means: rather does the former include the latter, and is realized by the same. When the Lord informed Hezekiah through one of His prophets that He would “add unto his days fifteen years” ( Isaiah 38:5), that certainly did not imply that the king might henceforth dispense with food, drink and sleep; any more than God’s assurance to Paul that there should be “no loss of life” of the ship’s contingent rendered it the less imperative to abstain from recklessness and to use means for their preservation ( Acts 27:22-24,31). God’s gracious assurances unto His people are not designed to promote indolence, but instead to stimulate and to encourage diligence, knowing that “our labor is not in vain in the Lord” ( 1 Corinthians 15:58).
While it be true that unless God gives the victory no efforts of ours can possibly achieve it nevertheless it is our bounden duty to make every effort.
Though the fall of Ai was certain, yet Israel were called upon to discharge their responsibility. God’s promises to us are not given to induce slothfulness, but to be a spur unto obedience to His precepts. Faith is no substitute for diligent and zealous work, but is to act as the director of the same. Hope is not to absolve us from the discharge of our obligations, but is to inspire unto the performing of the same. It is because victory is sure in the end that the soldiers of Christ are called upon to fight: that assurance is to be their incentive, from which they are to draw their energy. The genuine exercise of faith has a powerful influence both upon the Christian’s efforts to mortify the old man and to vivify the new. This is clear from Romans 6:11, and what follows: we must by the reckoning of faith account ourselves legally one with the Lord Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection before we can expect any success in subduing our lusts or developing our graces ( Joshua 5:13). Faith is indeed the victory “that overcometh the world” ( 1 John 5:4), yet as the previous verse clearly shows, it is a faith which is operative in the keeping of God’s commandments.
Thus, while Israel were called upon to exercise faith in the Divine assurance of success, yet they were also required to adhere strictly to the strategy which God appointed. Very definite were the orders Joshua gave unto the thirty thousand men who were to fall upon the city from the rear: “Ye shall lie in wait against the city, behind the city: go not very far from the city, but be ye all ready” ( Joshua 5:4): they were told where to go, what to do, and how to comport themselves.
Equally explicit are the instructions of the Christian in connection with the waging of his spiritual warfare, and the measure of his success will very largely be determined by how closely he sticks to them. Thus, after bidding believers “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might” (which can only be by the exercise of faith upon Him), the apostle bade them “Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the Devil” ( Ephesians 6:10,11), which plainly imports that unless they heeded his injunction they would fall before the enemy’s artifices. This is the more noticeable, because after enforcing his exhortation by informing us of the formidable forces which are under Satan’s control ( Joshua 5:12), he repeats, “Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having overcome all [margin] to stand” ( Joshua 5:13).
In our last we pointed out that in Joshua 8:1, the Lord gave unto His servant a word of cheer, a word of instruction, and a word of promise. His “fear not, neither be thou dismayed” was to graciously reassure Joshua’s heart after the dishonorable repulse Israel had met with upon their first assault on Ai — the reasons for their defeat having been shown. In its wider application, it was a message of comfort to the whole nation, after their elders had duly humbled themselves before the Lord, that they must not be unduly cast down nor suffer Satan to induce them to give way to a spirit of despair. The word of instruction was an intimation of the Divine will of what was now required from Joshua and those under his command: “take all the people of war with thee, and arise, go up to Ai.” Therein their presumptuous conduct in Joshua 7:3 was denounced, and an order was given for them to return to the Divine pattern which they had received in Joshua 6:3. The word of promise was addressed unto their faith: “See! I have given into thy hand the king of Ai, and his people, and his city, and his land.” That was spoken from the standpoint of the certainty of the Divine counsels, and faith was to receive it without question.
The word of instruction received amplification in the second verse: Ai and its inhabitants were to be utterly destroyed. In this instance Israel were given permission to take the cattle as a spoil unto themselves. Finally, the strategy to be followed was made known: an “ambush” was to be laid for the city from its rear. Next we are told, “So Joshua arose, and all the people of war, to go up against Ai; and Joshua chose out thirty thousand men of valor, and sent them away by night” ( Joshua 8:3).
That is to be regarded as an act not only of obedience but of faith too, or rather as “the obedience of faith” ( Romans 1:5, margin). It is a great mistake to suppose that faith in God renders needless our discharge of duty or the use of all lawful means: instead, it is to energize unto the one and to look unto God for His blessing upon the other. Confidence in God does not produce passivity, nor will the diligence which it evokes issue in selfconfidence.
True faith ever produces good works, yet those works are performed in a spirit of dependence upon the Lord. It is written: “The way of man is not in himself” ( Jeremiah 10:23), but it is written again: “This is the way, walk ye in it” ( Isaiah 30:21). Thus does Scripture always guard Scripture! “And he commanded them, saying, Behold, ye shall lie in wait against the city behind the city: go not very far from the city, but be ye all ready” ( Joshua 8:4).
Though victory was Divinely guaranteed, that did not preclude the discharge of their responsibilities. Faith in God was to operate in the performing of His commandments. Accordingly, Joshua issued very definite orders to those thirty thousand of his soldiers, telling them where to go and how to conduct themselves. As we said at the close of our last article, equally explicit are the instructions given to the Christian in connection with his spiritual warfare, and the measure of his success therein will very largely be determined by how closely he adheres to the same. It is to be noted that the force which was to lie in wait behind the city was “sent away by night” (verse 3), and thus its members were deprived of their rest, calling for self-denial on their part. That is the first and chief task appointed the believer: as Israel had to overcome and dispossess the Canaanites ere they could enter into their inheritance, so we have to get the victory over the flesh, the world and the Devil before there can be any present possessing of our possessions and enjoyment of the same. Before Christ can be followed, self has to be “denied,” and the cross (self-sacrifice) accepted as the regulating principle of our lives ( Matthew 16:24).
That to which we have just called attention receives confirmation in Corinthians 9:24-27, where Paul says, first, “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but only one receiveth the prize? So run that ye may obtain,” likening the Christian life unto the running of a race — which calls for rigorous training, vigorous exertion, and patient endurance. Then he informs them what is required, and is essential, in order to succeed therein’ “And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things”: that is, he puts a bridle upon his appetites, is abstemious in the use of comforts, and exercises a strict self-control at every point. Next, the apostle made mention of his own life, which exemplified what he had just said, and which sets before us an example to follow: “I therefore so run, not as uncertainly” — I myself practice such self-discipline as being absolutely necessary in order to ensure success. I conduct myself in such a manner and order my life in such a way that the outcome is not left in any doubt. I run within the lines marked out — keeping to the prescribed path of duty; pressing on till the goal is reached, exerting myself to the utmost unto the end.
Then, slightly varying his figure, and coming closer to what Joshua 8 has in view, the apostle added: “So fight I, not as one that beateth the air” — I conduct myself, and so observe the rules of the contest, that there can be no uncertainty that I shall be “more than conqueror through Him that loved us.” Paul daily denied himself, mortified his lusts, and consequently he knew that the crown of life was thereby ensured. He did not waste his energies or spend his strength for naught. All his efforts were directed to the grand purpose of subjugating the desires of the flesh and bringing all his members into subjection to God. Alas, how many professing Christians today are wasting their energies upon tasks which God has never assigned them! Then in verse 27 he frankly stated the awful alternative: if I fail to make my body the servant of my soul, by yielding its members unto God ( Romans 6:19) and fighting against the lusts of the flesh and temptations of Satan, then eternal disgrace will be my portion. Finally, let it be carefully noted that the apostle continues his exhortation to self-denial and caution in the tenth chapter (as its opening word indicates) from the case of Israel, who doubtless felt as they stood on the other side of the Red Sea, that all danger was past and their entrance into Canaan was certain; yet, because of yielding to evil lusts, they were destroyed in the wilderness (verses 1-15).
Thus we see how that the principles which were to regulate Joshua and his men were the same as those which are to govern Christians in connection with their spiritual warfare. “The two Testaments, like our two eyes, mutually enlighten and assist each other” (A. Searle). They were to proceed with the utmost confidence in God, yet with entire submission to Him. They were to act faith in His sure promise, and at the same time render implicit obedience to His precept. They were to go forward fully assured that Jehovah had given Ai into their hands, nevertheless they must adhere strictly to the strategy He had specified. So, though told “the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly” ( Romans 16:20), we are definitely bidden to resist him steadfast in the faith ( 1 Peter 5:9).
Our confidence is “that He which hath begun a good work in us will finish it” ( Philippians 1:6) nevertheless, in the very next chapter we are exhorted “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (verse 12). Mighty foes and powerful forces are arrayed in the fight, but the ultimate issue is not in doubt: “forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” ( 1 Corinthians 15:58).
Unto the thirty thousand who were to lie in ambush behind the city Joshua had said, “go not very far from the city, but be ye all ready” — awake, alert, prepared promptly to make the most of any favorable opportunity which should be presented to them. Such must be the demeanor and spirit of the soldiers of Jesus Christ: “be sober, be vigilant” precedes the call to resist our adversary “steadfast in the faith” ( 1 Peter 5:8,9). Then Joshua added, “And I, and all the people that are with me, will approach unto the city: and it shall come to pass when they come out against us, as at the first, that we will flee before them” (verse 5).
How different was this policy from their boldly walking around the walls of Jericho! How humiliating, to proud flesh to have to turn their backs upon the Canaanites! Surely it is obvious from such a course of procedure that Israel had missed God’s best! True, the enemy was routed and utterly destroyed, and his city reduced to ashes, yet the method which the Lord here called upon Israel to adopt made it but too plain that they only entered into His second best for them. “For they will come out after us till we have drawn them from the city; for they will say, They flee before us, as at the first: therefore we will flee before them” (verse 6).
Those words expressed a deduction which Joshua drew from what the Lord had said to him in verse 1, for since His announcement that He had given the king of Ai and his people and his city into Israel’s hand was accompanied by instructions for them to lay an ambush for the city from the rear (verse 2), it logically followed that the success of such strategy depended upon the army of Ai being lured out of it. Yet in the light of the whole context it is clear that we have here something more than a mental inference, namely faith’s conclusion. Joshua was warranted in having the utmost confidence in the successful outcome of this plan, because he was employing the means which the Lord had appointed, and was resting on His promise in verse 1, and there-tore counted upon His blessing the same by drawing forth the forces of the enemy and thus leaving their city unprotected. This has been placed upon record for our learning and encouragement, particularly for ministers of the Gospel: if they adhere strictly to the methods and means God has appointed, and they look to Him for His blessing on the same, then whatsoever He has purposed shall assuredly be accomplished thereby.
From the above we see how that we should profit from past experiences, especially those wherein disaster overtook us. Note how in the fifth verse Joshua had declared, “they will come out against us as at the first.” That knowledge was now put to good use, and by availing himself of the same Joshua turned a previous defeat into a success. As Joshua perceived what course the king of Ai would follow, so Christians are told concerning their great adversary, “we are not ignorant of his devices” ( 2 Corinthians 2:11) — nor are we of the various allurements and snares of the world, and least of all of the treachery and wickedness of our own hearts. Great care needs to be taken and honesty exercised upon this point, for while on the one hand the Word makes it very plain that Satan tempts and assaults the saints, on the other hand we are all too prone to father upon him our own sinful brats. It may not always be easy to decide whether a solicitation unto evil originated with our own lusts or the Devil, yet this is sure, that he can gain no advantage over us without our own consent, and therefore whenever we yield to his seductions the fault and guilt are ours, and instead of blaming Satan we must unsparingly condemn ourselves and confess the same to God.
This is obviously the principal practical lesson for us to draw from this detail of verse 6: that our knowledge of the enemy’s policy and tactics should be turned to good account, or otherwise we fail to profit from God’s exposure of the same in the Word of Truth. “For we are not ignorant of his devices”: from what is revealed in Holy Writ, from what we observe by carefully noticing the falls of our fellows, and from what we learn from our personal experience, we are cognizant of his favorite methods, baits, subtleties, and lines of approach; and such knowledge increases our responsibility to be ever on our guard, to take measures to counteract the same, and, as Joshua here did, turn them to our advantage.
To be forewarned is to be forearmed and when we know beforehand from which direction the attack upon us is most likely to take place, we can not only forestall the same, but turn it to good account. The favorite devices of Satan are to prejudice unbelievers against the Truth and so engulf them in the pleasures of the world that they lose sight of the interests of their souls and the inestimable importance of the world to come, to mar the believer’s testimony for Christ, and to destroy the peace of Christian assemblies by fomenting a spirit of strife and jealousy.
Ere passing on from this point, let us remind the young preacher that he may gather a wealth of suitable material from the Scriptures themselves should he desire to make a sermon on “Satan’s devices.” In such case he should, of course, concentrate mainly on those which were employed upon Eve in Genesis in. and those upon our Lord in Matthew 4 Without furnishing a complete list, he may supplement them from the following.
Satan seeks to puff up ( 1 Chronicles 21:1), to stir up to rebellion against the Divine providences and encourage hard thoughts of God ( Job 1:11; 2:7-9), to produce a spirit of cowardice and induce us to betray Christ, as in the case of Peter ( Luke 22:31), to consort and bargain with the open enemies of Christ and lead us to betray Him ( John 13:2), to drive to despair and self-destruction ( Matthew 27:5), to foster the spirit of covetousness and attempt to impose upon the Holy Spirit ( Acts 5:3), to tempt to marital infidelity ( 1 Corinthians 7:5), to undue severity ( 2 Corinthians 2:6-11), to corrupt our minds from the simplicity which is in Christ ( 2 Corinthians 11:2), to pose as an angel of light and transform his ministers as the ministers of righteousness ( Corinthians 11:14, 15), to deny the Truth ( 2 Timothy 2:25,26), to intimidate ( 1 Peter 5:8), to slander God’s servants and saints ( Revelation 12:10). “Then ye shall rise up from the ambush, and seize upon the city: for the Lord your God will deliver it into your hand” (verse 7).
Joshua was still addressing the thirty thousand of his men who were to lie in wait behind Ai until the opportune moment arrived for them to fall upon it. That would be when the main force of Israel had made a frontal approach in order to tempt its defenders to come out against them, and on their being thus drawn out into the open Israel would pretend to flee, inducing them to pursue and leave their homes defenseless. “Then ye shall rise up,” seizing the favorable opportunity without delay. The success of the plan required the full cooperation of Joshua’s men. Not all of them were appointed to the same stations or allotted the same tasks, but each was required to play his part faithfully. Had those who were to accompany Joshua refused to turn tail when the men of Ai advanced upon them, those who formed the ambush had their long wait in vain; and unless they acted promptly in occupying the soldier-less city, then Joshua’s plan had failed.
Hence it was that Joshua had bidden them, “be ye all ready,” that they might immediately avail themselves of the great advantage which his ruse offered them.
The spiritual application to its of the above is obvious. The Lord’s people are called upon to act together in their spiritual warfare. Not all are assigned positions of equal honor, nor are they given the same tasks to perform, yet they must supplement one another and act in conjunction if the interests of their Master’s cause are to be furthered, and if they are not to be humiliated before the common enemy. Unless the pastor has the full cooperation of his church officers, he is placed at a most serious disadvantage, and unless the rank and file of the members cooperate with both, little success will crown their efforts. Nor is it sufficient for one local church to fulfill its spiritual functions: there must be mutual accord and concerted action on the part of the several battalions of Christ’s soldiers if the enemy is to be defeated. Is it not the deplorable absence of such united effort on the part of God’s people that explains the comparative impotency of modern Christianity? While a spirit of jealousy and discord prevails, and factions and schisms so largely obtain, corporate fellowship is impossible, and where there is no fellowship there can be no united front presented before the powers of darkness, and therefore no Ais captured to the glory of God.
Let us now observe and admire the blessed balance of Truth as exemplified in the passage which is now before us. In the last three or four verses which have engaged our attention, it is the human-responsibility side of things which is manifestly in view, the several duties which the different parts of Israel’s army were called upon to perform, and perform them they must if success was to attend their efforts. Nevertheless, Joshua was most particular in guarding the Lord’s glory, and in letting his men know that it was the Divine blessing upon their efforts which would make them prosperous. This is clear from his words: “Then ye shall rise up from the ambush, and seize upon the city, for the Lord God will deliver it into your hands.” There was the Divine-grace side of things! The two things are not contradictory but complementary, as in “the hand of the diligent maketh rich” and “the blessing of the Lord it maketh rich” ( Proverbs 10:4,22).
Both are consistent: the one reveals the primary cause, the other the subordinate and instrumental one. Neither will be effectual without the other. The sluggard looks for prosperity without diligence; the selfsufficient or practical atheist, from diligence alone: but the balanced Christian, from the blessing of God in the exercise of diligence. That wise combination keeps him both active and humble, energetic, vet dependent on God. “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it” ( <19C701> Psalm 127:1), yet if they build not there will be no “house”!
AMBUSH “And it shall be, when ye have taken the city, that ye shall set the city on fire: according to the commandment of the Lord shall ye do.
See I have commanded you” ( Joshua 8:8).
In those words Joshua completed the orders given to thirty thousand of his men who were to lie in ambush behind Ai. He had already assigned the position they were to occupy. He had bidden them to be all of them ready to strike the blow while the iron was hot. He had explained the part which the major portion of his army would play, making their own task much easier. He had assured them the Lord God would deliver the city into their hands. And now he informed them how they must make a thorough job of and complete the task allotted them. Only half of it was accomplished when the city was captured: it must be reduced to ashes. This teaches us that there is to be no relaxing in the performance of duty when God has granted our efforts a measure of success, but a continuing to render full obedience unto all His commandments. Much easier said than done, declares the reader. True, we reply, but enabling grace is available if we seek it wholeheartedly. When the Lord is pleased to prosper our labors, instead of a complacent slackening on our part, it should serve as a spur and encouragement to attempt yet greater things in His name.
Observe the time-mark again: “when ye have taken the city, that ye shall set the city on fire.” There was to be no tardiness in executing the orders given them. Each of us should be able, by Divine grace, to aver, “I made haste, and delayed not to keep Thy commandments” ( <19B960> Psalm 119:60).
When our duty is clear it should be performed with alacrity. The more unpleasant it be, the sooner it is done the better. Least of all can we afford to trifle with sin or indulge our evil lusts: no quarter must be shown our enemies — Ai must be completely destroyed! The revealed will of God is to be complied with without any reservation on our part. As full obedience was here required from Joshua’s men, not only to take the city, but to destroy it, nothing less is required from the soldiers of the Lord Jesus.
There was a needs be for these men to carry out their part of the plan promptly, for the sight of the smoking houses would not only dismay and panic the king of Ai and his forces (verse 20), but was to serve as a signal to Joshua that his “ambush” had made themselves masters of the city, and therefore that he and his company might turn round and fall upon their pursuers. Thus we see that tardiness on our part acts as a hindrance to our brethren! “Joshua therefore sent them forth; and they went to lie in ambush, and abode between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of Ai” ( Joshua 8:9).
It speaks well for the spirit and loyalty of these men that they made no objection to their leader’s orders: that in view of the disaster which overtook their brethren on a former occasion ( Joshua 7:4,5), they raised no demur. Nor did they complain at being deprived of their rest through being sent away “by night” (verse 3). It is also to be recognized that the position assigned unto them was the real post of danger, for, isolated as they would be from the main body of Israel’s army, they ran the imminent hazard (humanly speaking) of being discovered by the enemy, and cut off and annihilated by them. It therefore says much for their courage, too, that they promptly complied with Joshua’s orders. From the Divine side of things we may perceive again that when God works He always works at both ends of the line: having assured Joshua of the certainty of victory, the Lord also wrought in these men, “both to will and to do of His good pleasure,” by inclining them to fulfill their mission faithfully. Incidentally, we may observe the minute accuracy of Scripture, as seen in the topographical harmony between this verse and Genesis 12:8, Bethel and Ai being in close proximity. “But Joshua lodged that night among the people” (verse 9).
He did not accompany the thirty thousand, for there was other important work to engage his attention. It was his evident duty to be with the principal body of his force, that he might maintain their morale, for only a day or two previously their hearts “had melted and become as water” when tidings of the initial failure reached them ( Joshua 7:4,5). He would therefore seek to inspire them with confidence and courage, and turn their minds from the defeat unto the Lord’s promise. Not only must discipline be enforced, but there were duties to be discharged which he could not suitably delegate to others, for he had to supervise all the arrangements which needed to be made for the morrow. Yet there is something more here. There is no reason to believe that Joshua had ever done otherwise: nowhere else is such a statement made. Why, then, this particular emphasis: “Joshua lodged that night among the people”? We believe it is because the Holy Spirit looked forward to the Antitype. The Lord Jesus was the homeless Stranger here, and “had not where to lay His head,” spending His nights upon the mountain-side ( John 7:53, and 8:1). So far as we are aware, the Gospels record but one exception: the last night but one before His crucifixion Christ lodged with His friends at Bethany ( Mark 14:3, and cf. 14:10 with John 13:3)! “And Joshua rose up early in the morning, and numbered the people, and went up, he and the elders of Israel, before the people to Ai” (verse 10).
As there was to be no slackness on the part of those whom he had sent away to ambush Ai, so there was no lazing or giving way to selfindulgence by their commander, but the setting before his men a pattern of alacrity and intenseness. “Those who would maintain their spiritual conflicts must not love their ease” (Matthew Henry).
The pastor should set his members an example of earnestness, diligence, and zeal. There was no neglecting of his duty on Joshua’s part, no treating casually the approaching engagement. All was done decently and in order, in preparation for the forthcoming march. By his “numbering of the people” we understand his marshalling of the host in their proper ranks, seeing to it that each man was in his correct place under his own tribal standard. Then he and the tribal heads took the positions of command.
Pastors must have the co-operation and support of their church officers, and they in turn inspire the rank and file with courage and unselfishness. It is to be observed that the “elders” were here accorded a position of honor, for those who humble themselves before God ( Joshua 7:6) are in due time exalted by Him. “And all the people, even the people of war that were with him, went up and drew nigh, and came before the city, and pitched on the west side of Ai: now there was a valley between them and Ai” (verse 11).
The whole fighting force of Israel, having been duly mustered, left the camp at Gilgal, where the women, children, and other non-combatants would remain until the return of the army. Once again we mark the geographical accord of the statement that they “went up” with Genesis 12:8, where, quite incidentally, we are told that Bethel and Ai were situate in a mountainous region. They “drew nigh and came before the city,” which was in fulfillment of the agreement Joshua had entered into with the thirty thousand (verse 5) — foreshadowing the fidelity of the Captain of our salvation to fulfill His engagements and make good His promises. It is blessed to see how the Lord overcame the fears of Joshua’s followers ( Joshua 7:5) and wrought in them a willingness to accompany their leader — which is to be regarded as a part of His gracious answer to the prayer of Joshua 7:7-12! The statement that “there was a valley between them and Ai” is not without spiritual significance — they lined up their forces on high ground, and Christians must regard themselves as “partakers of the heavenly calling” (Hebrews in. 1) and conduct themselves accordingly if they would be successful in the good fight of faith. “And he took about five thousand men and set them to lie in wait between Bethel and Ai on the west side of the city” (verse 12).
No hurried assault was made upon the enemy by Joshua, but first an orderly disposition of his forces was arranged. It seems strange that some of the commentators should boggle over this verse and be in doubt as to whether or not the five thousand men here spoken of were drawn from the thirty thousand, or were another company, for to us the narrative makes it quite plain that they were a separate force which was now assigned to another position. Joshua’s design therein was evident, for his project served a twofold purpose: it cut off Bethel sending any reinforcements to Ai, and it prevented the forces of Ai escaping in that direction when Joshua turned round and fell upon them. It was what strategists would term a flanking movement. Therein we behold the thoroughness of Joshua’s preparations, notwithstanding the Divine promise which he had received — “I have given into thine hand the king of Ai,” etc. (verse 1) — he took every possible precaution and spared no effort on his part to ensure victory. In other words he made the fullest possible use of all the means at his disposal. And we are required to do likewise. “And when they had set the people, even all the host that was on the north side of the city, and their liers in wait on the west of the city, Joshua went that night into the midst of the valley” (verse 13).
After their uphill march from Gilgal, Joshua decided that his forces should remain stationary until the morning — another illustration of the important principle. “he that believeth shall not make haste.” But though he had risen up early that morning there was no taking of his ease by Joshua that night.
No furloughs are granted the soldiers of Jesus Christ, for their enemies take none. Our spiritual warfare calls for incessant alertness. How Joshua spent that night we are not told. Some think it was to make a reconnaissance — to ascertain the lay of the land, its roads, etc. — but that was hardly likely by night. Others suppose he spent the time in prayer, asking God’s blessing on the forthcoming fight, yet advance no reason why he should leave the camp in order to do so. In any case it was a bold act on his part to venture alone so near unto Ai — an act in accord with the Lord’s words to him in Joshua 1:9. Turning from the type to the Antitype, we have here what confirms our remarks on verse 9. Our Lord’s last night before the great conflict was spent alone in “the valley” of humiliation — from Gethsemane to Pilate’s judgment hall! “And it came to pass, when the king of Ai saw it. that they hasted and rose up early, and the men of the city went our against Israel to battle, he and all his people, at a time appointed, before the plain; but he wist not that there were liers in ambush against him behind the city” (verse 14).
From the opening words of this verse it seems dear that whatever Joshua had done that night in the valley it was now visible to those in Ai as soon as day broke, and that it at once attracted their attention: something which appears to have constituted a challenge to them — reminding us again of our Lord, who so far from hiding from His enemies boldly “went forth” to meet those who had come to apprehend Him ( John 18:4). Their “rising up early” indicates their bloodthirstiness and eagerness for the fray, doubting not that an easy conquest would be theirs; possibly they thought to spring a surprise upon Israel by a dawn attack. Alas, how often are we surprised and overcome through failure to be constantly upon our guard. It is while Christ’s servants “sleep” that the enemy sows his tares ( Matthew 13:25). There is some difficulty in determining the meaning of “went out against Israel to battle at a time appointed”: possibly it signifies the same hour as when they were successful against Israel on a former occasion ( Joshua 7:5), deeming it a “lucky” one. “But he wist not that there were liers in ambush against him behind the city.” That appears quite a commonplace statement, yet in reality it is far otherwise. The success of Israel’s strategy depended upon their men in ambush being undetected, and that in turn depended upon the secret operations of God upon and within the king of Ai. It seems well-nigh impossible that no less than thirty thousand should remain concealed within so short a distance of the city, and not merely for a few minutes, but for forty-eight hours. It was a miracle, as truly so as the sun’s remaining stationary at the command of Joshua — the tenth chapter. It was due to the power of Jehovah, who prevented the king of Ai from sending out scouts and discovering the hostile force in his rear. “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord as the rivers of water:
He turneth it whithersoever He will” ( Proverbs 21:1) — sometimes to act wisely, at others foolishly; sometimes to deal kindly with His people ( Ezra 6:22), at others to hate them, as in the case of Pharaoh. What is before us in our present passage supplies a striking illustration of the dominion of God over all and His full control of the wicked, preventing this heathen monarch from taking the most elementary precautions for the safeguarding of his city and people.
What has just been pointed out is far too little attended unto today even by the people of God, that the almighty Governor of the world exerts a restraining influence upon the wicked, and that for the good of His people.
Yet Scripture records many specific examples of the same. Thus when Abraham sojourned in Gerah, and from fear denied that Sarah was his wife, her honor was (humanly speaking) placed in the utmost jeopardy, for the king of that place sent and “took her,” yet “had not come near her,” for, as God said to him, “for I also withheld thee from sinning against Me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her” ( Genesis 20:1-6).
Had not the Lord, secretly but effectually, interposed, Abimelech had grievously wronged Sarah. Ah, my reader, how often hath thy gracious God withheld the wicked from touching thee — burglars from breaking into thy house, etc. Again we say, the restraining operations of the Most High are all too little perceived by us. Another notable instance is that of Balaam. He was hired by the king of Moab to curse Israel, and it is clear from the Divine narrative that he was anxious to do so, that he might earn “the wages of unrighteousness.” But the Lord prevented him, so that he had to acknowledge, “How shall I curse whom the Lord hath not cursed... He hath blessed, and I cannot reverse it” ( Numbers 23:8,20).
When Jacob was recounting the wrongs he had suffered at the hands of Laban, his father-in-law, who had deceived him and changed his wages ten times, he added. “But God suffered him not to touch me” ( Genesis 31:7), and received a further proof thereof in the immediate sequel (verse 29), when the Lord again held Laban back from venting his anger upon him. The brethren of Joseph hated him, and “conspired against him to slay him” ( Genesis 37:18), but Jehovah interposed and thwarted their designs. Nor is this restraining power of God limited to individuals, but is exerted upon whole communities and nations. Thus we are told: “The terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them, and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob” ( Genesis 35:5).
Centuries later the Psalmist was moved to make reference to that phenomenon, “When they were but a few men in number; yea, very few, and strangers in it. When they went from one nation to another, from one kingdom to another people, He suffered no man to do them wrong” ( <19A512> Psalm 105:12-14), bridling their lusts and causing the wolf to dwell with the lamb and the leopard to lie down with the kid. “Neither shall any man desire thy land when thou shalt go up to appear before the Lord thy God thrice in the year” ( Exodus 34:24).
When the men-folk were no longer present to defend their farms, God restrained the covetous desires and designs of the surrounding heathen.
We consider that what has been alluded to in the last two paragraphs casts much light upon the incident which is here before us, that it was due to the restraining operations of God that the king of Ai failed to send out scouts in all directions ere he led forth the whole of his army from the city, and left it defenseless. Instead, “they hasted and rose up early, and the men of the city went out against Israel to battle” (verse 14). Infatuated by his previous success, filled with self-confidence, he rushed forward to complete disaster. Thus it was with Pharaoh and his hosts when they pursued the Israelites through the Red Sea and perished therein. Before God destroys the wicked, He first gives them up to a spirit of madness.
Should these lines be read by a Christ-less soul who is yet in his sins, we beg him to pause and heed the solemn warning which is here presented to him. Let not his previous immunity from Divine judgment fill him with a false sense of security: “they are most in danger who are least aware of it” (Matthew Henry). ‘The king of Ai was blind to his own interests — are not you the same? He failed to take the most obvious precautions — are not you guilty of similar folly: hastening unto eternity and utterly unprepared to meet your God? O “seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near” ( Isaiah 55:6). “Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your heart” ( Psalm 95:7,8). “And it came to pass, when the king of Ai saw it, that they hasted and rose up early, and the men of the city went out against Israel to battle, he and all his people, at a time appointed, before the plain; but he wist not that there were liers in ambush against him behind the city” ( Joshua 8:14).
In Scripture those words, “it came to pass,” are something more than a formal manner of prefacing a narrative or introducing an incident, signifying the accomplishment of the Divine foreordination, that it occurred precisely as God had decreed, for He has predestined the actions of the wicked equally with those of the godly. Exactly what it was that they “saw” we know not, but they failed to investigate it, and, being regulated by their senses rather than by reason, precipitately rushed forward to death.
Infatuated by his previous success ( Joshua 7:5), unconscious that he was fighting against the Almighty and flinging himself upon the thick bosses of His bucklers ( Job 15:26), the king issued forth to what he confidently believed would be an easy victory, yet only to fulfill God’s purpose ( Ecclesiastes 3:1). Upon further reflection, we are now satisfied that that is the meaning of the clause which has puzzled the commentators — “at a time appointed,” i.e. of God, for He has fixed the hour of every man’s death ( Job 7:1). “And Joshua and all Israel made as if they were beaten before them, and fled by the way of the wilderness” ( Joshua 8:15).
They pretended to be filled with terror, and instead of making a firm stand against these Canaanites they gave ground, and probably fled in some disorder toward the wilderness. Yet however distasteful and degrading it was for the main body of Israel to feign themselves cowards, it was necessary for them to do so if their plan was to succeed. In like manner, there are times when some Christians are required to act a humble part, perhaps a humiliating one, if the task which is assigned others of their brethren is to be duly accomplished. All cannot occupy positions of equal honor in the church, any more than can all the servants of a king’s household be equal — scullery maids are as essential as lords in waiting. In the days of David there were some who girded on their swords and accompanied him to the battlefield, while there were others who were required to remain behind and guard the provender; but it is blessed to observe that when the spoil was to be divided he gave orders, “as his part is that goeth down to the battle, so shall his part be that tarrieth by the stuff: they shall [take] part alike” ( 1 Samuel 30:24). “God hath set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased Him — And the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of thee; nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.
In our remarks upon Joshua 8:9, we pointed out how admirable was the self-sacrificing, obedient, and courageous spirit displayed by the thirty thousand: how that they murmured not at being deprived of their rest through being sent away “by night,” or at the dangerous post assigned them. Equally praiseworthy was the conduct of this force which accompanied Joshua. They might have asked, Is it for this that thou hast brought us from Gilgal? Have we had a long uphill march only to turn tail as soon as the enemy advance toward us? Or, Since the Lord has delivered Ai into our hands [verse 1], what need is there for us to play so ignominious a part and cut so sorry a figure before the heathen? Instead, they meekly complied with their orders and loyally supported their leader.
But in that to which we have just called attention we should recognize the secret power of God at work, overcoming their natural scruples and inclining them to co-operate fully with their brethren, and thus fulfill His will. This too should be regarded as a part of His gracious answer to the prayer of Joshua 7:6-9. How wondrously He acts when we truly humble ourselves before Him and are concerned for the honor of His name! He makes things work smoothly, yea, work together, when He shows Himself strong in our behalf. Yet how often we miss perceiving the same through failing to observe closely His providences and connect the same with our previous cries unto Him for help. For the sake of our more hyper- Calvinistic readers it may be well for us to point out here that there is nothing more “inconsistent in admiring the virtues of these men of Israel while ascribing the same unto the gracious operations of God than there was in the apostle’s telling the Colossians that he “rejoiced” in their orderliness and the “steadfastness of their faith” ( Joshua 2:5), when he knew full well that God was the Author of those spiritual fruits. Because there are no official powers or authorities “but of God,” that does not preclude our rendering “honor to whom honor is due” ( Romans 13:1,7)! “And Joshua and all Israel made as if they were beaten before them, and fled by the way of the wilderness.” Once again there is something more here than that which is of historical interest, or even of practical instruction for our hearts. Little as it may appear at first glance, yea, utterly incongruous as it may sound, Joshua’s conduct on this occasion — when considered in the light of the immediate sequel — plainly and strikingly foreshadowed Him who though He was rich vet for our sakes became poor, that we through His poverty, humiliation and suffering might be rich. “What Joshua did in this strategem is applicable to our Lord Jesus, of whom he was a type. Joshua conquered by yielding, as if he had himself been conquered: so our Lord Jesus. when He bowed His head and gave up the spirit, seemed as if death had triumphed over Him, and as if He and all His interests had been routed and ruined; but in His resurrection He rallied again, and gave the powers of death a total defeat; He broke the serpent’s head by suffering him to bruise His heel. A glorious strategem”! (Matthew Henry).
How wonderful are the ways of God, who not only set the sun in the heavens, gave to the lamb its characteristics, appointed the fruit-bearing vine to be a figure of Christ but also shaped Old Testament events so as to prefigure His person and work! “And all the people that were in Ai were called together to pursue after them: and they pursued after Joshua, and were drawn away from the city” (verse 16).
This too was “of the Lord,” and it should be marvelous in our eyes.
Therein we behold the success which God gave to Joshua’s ruse, when his men made a feint as though they were beaten; or rather to his obedient compliance with the orders he had received from the Lord. Not only had the king of Ai gone out with the whole of his military force — sallying forth with the exultant cry: “They flee before us, as at the first” (verse 6) — but when Israel was seen in flight the non-combatant citizens were summoned to join in their pursuit; thereby rendering still easier the task assigned the thirty thousand. It is obvious that Without the Divine blessing on this plan such a considerable body of men could no more have remained concealed than could Jacob’s device in Genesis 30:37-43, have prospered. “See how the prosperity of fools destroys them and hardens their hearts to their ruin” (Matthew Henry).
Because God had used the king of Ai on a former occasion to chastise Israel, he and his people were puffed up with conceit.
Note carefully the precise expression used here by the Holy Spirit: the inhabitants of Ai were “drawn away from the city.” Those words set forth another of the secret operations of the Most High in His government of this world. In our last, we called attention to the restraining influence which He exerts upon men; here His impelling vower is seen. To His people He says, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee” ( Jeremiah 31:3), yet not with physical force, but a moral suasion which overcomes their native enmity and frees the will from the dominion of sin. “I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love” ( Hosea 11:4): not by external force, such as is used on brute beasts, but by cogent arguments, tender inducements, constraining motives and obligations, such as are suited to work on the understandings, affections and wills of rational creatures; the same being rendered effectual by the supernatural power and application of the Spirit. Such Divine drawing is absolutely essential in order to the saving of sin’s slaves and the freeing of Satan’s captives, for as the Lord Jesus so plainly declared, “No man can come to Me except the Father which hath sent Me draw him” ( John 6:44) — a truth so repugnant to the proud heart of the natural man, that when Christ uttered it, “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked no more with Him” ( John 6:65,66).
Not only does the Word of Truth make known this drawing power of God upon His elect, but it reveals Him putting forth the same upon the nonelect, though in their case He presents a very different set of reasons and inducements before their minds. “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart that he shall follow after thee” ( Exodus 14:4) — impelling Egypt’s king to pursue His people unto the Red Sea. So too with the other kings of Canaan: “For it was of the Lord to harden their hearts that they should come against Israel to battle, that He might destroy them utterly” ( Joshua 11:20).
Unto Barak Deborah announced that the Lord God of Israel had declared: “I will draw unto thee to the river Kishon Sisera, the captain of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude: and I will deliver him into thine hand” ( Judges 4:7). “I will bring them against My land, that the heathen may know Me” ( Ezekiel 38:16) in the power of My fury (verse 18). “I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat” ( Joel 3:2).
So it was with the Aites: the Hebrew word rendered “draw away” in Joshua 8:16, is translated “pluck” in Jeremiah 32:24, “pull out” in Jeremiah 12:13, “be rooted out” in Job 18:14. “And there was not a man left in Ai or Bethel that went not out after Israel: and they left the city open, and pursued after Israel” (verse 17).
Further proof was this that the king of Ai had been given up to a spirit of madness, employing every male at his disposal to pursue Israel, leaving none to guard the city or secure his own retreat in case of emergency. It is hard to conceive a greater piece of folly unless it be that of Pharaoh, who, after witnessing such manifest demonstrations of the power and wrath of Jehovah upon Egypt, should, immediately after the death of all the firstborn, pursue Israel, and then attempt to march through the Red Sea.
The one equally with the other was blinded by pride and obstinacy. Yet observe well that those in verses 17 “went out” of their own volition! Thus does Scripture uniformly present together the two sides of man’s free agency and God’s invincible operations, without any philosophical explanation of the “consistency” of the two things. God “draws” irresistibly, yet without the slightest violation upon man’s will or the least impairment of his accountability. If we deny either the one or the other, then we flatly repudiate what is clearly revealed in Holy Writ.
What has just been alluded to is certainly profoundly mysterious, vet that is no valid reason why we should reject it, for if we believe only that which we can fully understand our creed will be a very small one. Even our consciousness bears witness that we act voluntarily, and the ungodly will themselves, at times, admit that a “higher power” constrained them to follow such and such a course; nor do they feel that they were reduced to “mere machines” in so being. Viewing the contents of verse 17 in connection with the warfare of the saint, we are there shown that the hand of every man of this world is, spiritually speaking, against him. Many of them are indeed kind-hearted, generous, and benevolent unto a Christian in temporal things; but (all unconscious to themselves) they are antagonistic to his eternal interests. Their influence is entirely earthly, and never heavenly. What was the attitude of the world toward Christ? Without a single exception, hostile. Pharisees and Sadducees, priests and scribes, politicians and the common people, the Roman soldiers, and even the crucified malefactors, reviled Him, until a miracle of grace transformed one of them into a worshipper. If we were more like Christ we should experience more of the world’s enmity and persecution. “And the Lord said unto Joshua, Stretch out the spear that is in thy hand toward Ai; for I will give it into thine hand. And Joshua stretched out the spear that he had in his hand toward the city” (verse 18).
He had waited for a further word from Jehovah before taking this action.
As it was at Jericho, so here at Ai: each stage of the process in the capturing and destroying of the city must be ordered by the Lord. Thus it was with Moses in every project in which he engaged. So also with the apostles, teaching us that the servant of Christ must not do anything without His authorization. It is indeed blessed to observe here that Joshua’s hand was the first one to be outstretched against Ai. Is not the lesson for us therein plain? It is when the antitypical Joshua stretches forth His hand on our behalf that the best time has come for us to act. The need for the Lord to inform Joshua when to stretch forth his hand is obvious, for it served as a signal to those in ambush, and that required to be precisely timed — when the men of Ai had left the city — so that they might swiftly seize their opportunity.
The Lord did not fail His servant, but at the crucial moment gave him the word of command: “Stretch out the spear that is in thy hand.” That action was not only designed as a signal to his men in ambush, but, as verse makes clear, by the same He directed the whole engagement, until complete victory was achieved. Now was drawing near the hour of Joshua’s triumph, for he was on the point of leading Israel to conquest, of which his outstretched spear was the symbol. That too was a foreshadowing of our blessed Savior. It seems evident from verses 22 and 24 that throughout the contest Joshua must have occupied some position of eminence, from which he gave orders to his troops, and therein he was a figure of Christ on high. The last night but one before the fight, lodging among the people (verse 9), as did Christ with His friends at Bethany. The next night alone in “the midst of the valley” (verse 13) — the symbol of deep, humiliation ( Isaiah 40:4: Luke 1:52). as our Lord spent His in Gethsemane and the judgment halls of the Jews and Romans. Then fleeing before the foe as if beaten (verse 15). as Christ, in apparent defeat, was out to death by His enemies. Now assured by God of victory (verse 18), as He has promised to make Christ’s foes His footstool.
In concluding this article we propose to consider more closely the lines of typical teaching in Joshua 8. In the course of our comments we have indicated some of the practical applications to be made of its contents, and have pointed out the several respects in which Joshua again foreshadowed our Lord. But now we must inquire. What contribution to the particular theme of this book is made by the capturing and destroying of Ai: what are the principal lessons there for us concerning the Christian’s warfare? That question is more easily asked than answered, late must acknowledge we have experienced more difficulty here than when pondering what was before us in Joshua 3 and 4. But that is to be expected.
First , because Israel here was only enjoying God’s second best, and where that be the case His showing Himself strong on our behalf is curtailed, and acts of folly on our part raise, as it were, a cloud of dust, which prevents our perceiving so clearly the workings of God.
Second , because the human side of things is more prominent. At first the babe is carried, but the time arrives when it must learn to use its own feet: so with the saint, who has to develop his graces and subdue his lusts.
Both in the crossing of the Jordan and the capturing of Jericho, the Lord did all for Israel, working miracles on their behalf; but in connection with Ai much more was required from them. Thus it is in the spiritual life.
Regeneration is a miracle of grace, wherein we were entirely passive; but in order to our growth in grace and spiritual progress, all our faculties have to be called into action. The “lambs” Christ carries in His bosom ( Isaiah 40:11), but the “sheep” are required to follow Him ( John 10:27).
Immediately after conversion the power of God is so put forth that usually the believer experiences a season of peace from the assaults of Satan and the stirrings of his inward corruptions. But soon he becomes conscious of the serpent’s enmity and is made painfully aware of the powerful enemies within his own heart; and the fight of faith gradually becomes fiercer, and he meets with some humiliating falls in the contest. Yet we can discern the wisdom of God therein, promoting our good. If He continued to do all for us without our active concurrence, and if nothing but victory was our uniform experience, we should quickly become proud and self-sufficient — as was the case with Israel after Jericho! But under Divine chastenings, and through His instructions, we are taught how to turn former defeats into successes — by using the means appointed and counting upon God’s blessing the same.
WORSHIP IN VICTORY “And the king of Ai he hanged on a tree until eventide. And as soon as the sun was down, Joshua commanded that they should take his carcass down from the tree, and cast it at the entering of the gate of the city, and raise there a great heap of stones, that remaineth unto this day. Then Joshua built an altar unto the Lord God of Israel in mount Ebal... an altar of whole stones” ( Joshua 8:29-31).
It can scarcely be doubted that there is a designed contrast between those two events. In the former we see the ignominy of Ai’s king, here we behold the worship of the King of kings. The one marked the grave of a malefactor, the other recognized the claims of the Holy One. Great indeed is the contrast between the dead body under the stones and the accepted sacrifice upon the altar of stones. That bore witness to the carrying out of the curse of the Law, on this was inscribed its precepts. The former was at “the gate” of Ai (the place of judgment — Amos 5:10), the latter was in a mount. That was intended as a solemn warning unto evil-doers, this was for the instruction of those who desired to do well. “Then Joshua built an altar unto the Lord God of Israel in mount Ebal.”
Everything connected with the incident prefaced by that statement is of deep importance and interest, calling for our closest attention. A further word upon the Spirit’s time-mark. This act of worship followed immediately upon the destruction of Ai and all its inhabitants. We should naturally expect that after Israel’s capturing of Jericho and Ai they had continued to advance, proceeding to the further occupying of Canaan.
Now that they had made themselves masters of its frontier towns, it would appear the only sound policy to forge ahead while their terror was upon the foe, and penetrate into the very heart of his country. Instead, a long and difficult journey was taken unto mount Ebal, that a solemn religious ordinance might be observed. In the midst of their military campaign a lengthy pause was made in order that Jehovah might be honored. “The camp of Israel was drawn out into the land not to engage the enemy but to offer sacrifice, to hear the Law read, and to say Amen to the blessings and curses. It is a remarkable instance of the zeal of Israel for the service of God and for His glory” (Matthew Henry).
The offering of burnt offerings and peace offerings to Jehovah upon this occasion was an acknowledgment of His blessing upon their arms, and a rejoicing before Him in the successes which His power and goodness had vouchsafed them. At Rephidim Israel had been taught that victory over Amalek was obtained by the hands of Moses being lifted up toward the throne of heaven, and as a monument thereto he erected an altar, naming it “Jehovah-nissi.” which signifies “the Lord my banner” ( Exodus 17:15).
So here, as the captain of their salvation, Joshua had not only “stretched out the spear that he had in his hand” ( Joshua 8:18), but had kept it raised and extended until victory was complete (verse 26), and now he expressed his gratitude by erecting this altar to mark the same. That is clearly, evident from the opening “then” of verse 30. Yet his act on this occasion imported something more.
As yet Israel had conquered but a very small section of Canaan, and here they journeyed upwards of another hundred miles, and upon reaching mount Ebal Joshua built this altar. It was therefore a remarkable act of faith, a claiming of the whole land for the Lord — men only build on land which is their own! Thus, instead of waiting until Israel’s victory was complete, Joshua anticipated the same in a sure and certain hope! This is the first time that any “altar” is mentioned in the book of Joshua, and there are some very striking parallels between it and the one mentioned in Exodus 20:24. Both were erected upon a mount; both of them at the express command of the Lord, and not merely by the spiritual impulses and promptings of Moses and Joshua. Both of them were designed to magnify the Divine Law, and to exemplify the grand fact that grace reigns through righteousness. On both of them were sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings ( Exodus 24:5). The one was shortly after Israel’s supernatural exodus from the house of bondage and crossing of the Red Sea, the other soon after their miraculous crossing of the Jordan and entrance into the promised land. In the course of these articles we have frequently emphasized the fact that in his actions Joshua (as one of the outstanding types of Christ) was constantly regulated by the written Word of God.
In the book of Deuteronomy many instructions were given the children of Israel near the close of their sojourn in the wilderness as to how they must conduct themselves upon their entrance into the land of promise. Therein we find that which explains the incident recorded in the closing verses of Joshua 8.It had been said unto them, “Therefore it shall be when ye be gone over Jordan, that ye shall set up these stones, which I command you this day, in mount Ebal; and thou shalt plaister them with plaister. And there shalt thou build an altar unto the Lord thy God, an altar of stones: thou shalt not lift up any iron tool upon them. Thou shalt build the altar of the Lord thy God of whole stones: and thou shalt offer burnt offerings thereon unto the Lord thy God; and thou shalt offer peace offerings, and shalt eat there, and rejoice before the Lord thy God “These shall stand upon mount Gerizim to bless the people... and these shall stand upon mount Ebal to curse” ( Deuteronomy 27:4-7,12,13).
The “altar” was the meeting-place between God and men. In its construction it was of the most simple and unpretending character, no place being allowed for the exercise of human art. This may appear strange when we remember that both rich materials and elaborate skill were expended upon the tabernacle and its internal furnishings — the outercourt vessels alone excepted. But when we call to mind the purpose of the altar and its leading object, the difficulty vanishes, and the propriety of its extreme plainness at once appears. It was there the Holy One and the fallen creature transacted concerning sin and salvation: that the alien might be reconciled, the guilty pardoned, the cleansed one have fellowship with the Lord. Therefore did He appoint that man should there be reminded of his utter unworthiness and impotency as he came before the One who deigned to meet with him. His curse rested on the ground for man’s sake ( Genesis 3:15), and by no effort of his can man remove it. For the altar to be made of ornamented plates of costly metal would have misrepresented the object for which it was designed, and disposed man to forget his vile condition. So, in the general direction for the formation of altars, God ordained it should be a rude mound of earth, or of unpolished stones ( Exodus 20:24,25; and cf. 1 Kings 18:31,32).
The altar, then, must be of God’s workmanship, unbeautified by man’s skill, so that he could not glory in his own production. That chosen meeting place of God with man as a sinner must be such as would convey the impression of a direct contact between the God of heaven and the earth which He had made — on a “mount,” but the altar naked, simple, unadorned; thereby emphasizing His own condescension and the poverty of the sinner. The leading idea designed to be set forth by the materials of the altar was confirmed by its name. Departing from the common usage of antiquity, Scripture employs a term which vividly enunciates both the humbling element on man’s side and the grace on God’s. That name is misbeach , which means place of slaughter, for it was thither the victim was brought and slain. And thus, from the beginning, God taught His people the solemn fact that there could be no communion between Himself and fallen creatures save by the shedding of blood; that the sentence of death must be executed upon the guilty. Later, when a stationary altar was appointed for the sanctuary, it was ordered to be made not of gold and silver, but of wood overlaid with brass. “Then Joshua built an altar unto the Lord God of Israel in mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of the Lord commanded the children of Israel. As it is written in the book of the Law of Moses: an altar of whole stones over which no man hath lifted any iron. And they offered thereon burnt offerings unto the Lord and sacrificed peace offerings” ( Joshua 8:30,31):
In addition to what has been said above, it should be pointed out that the “altar” prefigured our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the sole meeting place between the thrice holy God and guilty sinners. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name given among men whereby we must be saved” ( Acts 4:12).
None comes unto the Father but by Him. They who look to the merits of the apostles or the mediation of Mary to give them access to God, and their prayers and works acceptance before Him, are miserably deluded; and it is but charity to tell them so. Christ Himself is at once the antitypical Altar, Sacrifice for sin, and acceptable Offerer. While those three things may be distinguished, both in shadow and substance, they must not be separated, for they all meet in Him. As it is “the altar that sanctifieth the gift” ( Matthew 23:19), so the dignity of Christ’s person gives infinite value to His offering. Furthermore, He is our “Altar” ( Hebrews 13:10) to whom we bring our sacrifices of praise ( Hebrews 13:15), and presents the same, perfumed by His merits, unto God ( Revelation 8:3,4).
The pile of stones on mount Ebal was not gathered to be thrown in judgment at sinners, but for an altar on which was to be offered a sacrifice for sinners. Very express was the prohibition concerning the stones of the altar: “Thou shalt not lift up any iron tool upon them. Thou shalt build the altar of the Lord thy God of whole stones.” Those unpolished but whole stones set forth both the humiliation and perfection of the Savior, as He appeared respectively to men and to God. To the natural eyes of Israel He possessed “no form nor comeliness,” and when they saw Him, they perceived no beauty in Him that they should desire Him. But in the sight of the Father He was “a precious corner-stone,” and in Him He delighted.
Nothing was to be hewn off the life of Christ, for it was perfect. None of His actions needed any modification. Yea, as Exodus 20:25, declared, “If thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it.” Not a single deed of Christ’s could be bettered, and if one had been missing from His entire life the whole had been spoilt. Much the same thing was borne witness to here as was symbolically shadowed forth in our Lord’s coat, which was “without seam, woven from the top throughout” ( John 19:23).
More noteworthy than either the time when the altar was erected or the materials of which it was composed was the place where it was set up, namely mount Ebal. There were two mountains to which Israel were now brought — Gerizim and Ebal — and we should naturally have expected to find the altar on the former, for it was there the blessings of the Law upon the obedient were pronounced ( Deuteronomy 11:29), whereas it was on the latter that its curses were published. But “as for God, His way is perfect” ( 2 Samuel 22:31), and everything was ordered here so as to foreshadow the most terrible yet most blessed event of all history. The vicarious offering sacrificed on Ebal prefigured the Head of the Church entering the place of the curse, yea, being made a curse for His members.
So that what we have here is very similar to — and equally unexpected and precious as — the altar on mount Sinai ( Exodus 24:4) (see our “Glorious Sinai” article in the April issue). A reference to Deuteronomy 27:4-7, shows the analogy between the two is yet more complete: the Lord gave orders that after the offering of sacrifice they should “eat there [of the peace offering] and rejoice before the Lord thy God,” as their fathers before them had done on Sinai ( Exodus 24:11). How remarkably did Divine grace shine forth there! Who had thought of rejoicing on the mount of the curse! “And he wrote there upon the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he wrote in the presence of the children of Israel” (verse 32).
That also was in obedience to Deuteronomy 27:8, and was equally remarkable. That altar was built as a monument of the Divine mercy to Israel’s victories, yet it was not an account of their triumphs but a copy of the Ten Commandments that was inscribed upon it! The grand practical lesson for us therein is that the best way to remember God’s mercies is not to forget His Law. As Gurnall well said, “God counts those mercies forgotten which are not written in legible characters in our lives.”
For Israel, that writing of the Decalogue upon the stones of the altar was a reminder to them that they were taking possession of Canaan not only on the ground of the promise to Abraham but also according to the terms of that Law which they solemnly covenanted themselves to keep ( Deuteronomy 11:29-32). The two things must not be separated: in presenting their offerings upon the altar, they spoke to God; in the writing of the Law upon its stones, He spoke to them, enforcing His holy claims upon them. Christ died to deliver His people from the penalty of the Law, but not from obedience to its precepts.
On Deuteronomy 27:8, John Gill rightly said, “The Law being written on stones denotes the duration of it, which continued not only during the times of the Old Testament dispensation, and to the times of John, and had its fulfillment in Christ, but stilt continues; for though Christ has redeemed His people from the curse and condemnation of it, yet it is in His hands as a rule of direction to them, as to their walk and conversation.
Nor is it made void by any doctrine of the Gospel, and nothing more strongly enforces obedience to it than the Gospel. The moral law is immutable, invariable, and eternal in its nature, and it is in the matter of it.”
Alas, that so many of Mr. Gill’s admirers have departed so far from his teaching thereon. Thomas Scott also said, “We must rest our hope on the atonement of the great Redeemer, and keep the holy Law of God continually before us as the rule of our grateful obedience. We only deceive ourselves if we suppose that our praise unto God is sincere for the gift of His Son, unless we also delight in His Law and serve the same ( Romans 7:22,25). God will not be bribed by the worship of rebels (see Samuel 15:22; <19A612> Psalm 106:12,13).
Ere giving a brief exposition of the verses that follow, let us further admire the striking and blessed prefiguration of Christ in what has been before us.
No less than three times has the Holy Spirit recorded the Divine prohibition that the altar must be built of unhewn and unadorned stones — in Exodus 20:25; Deuteronomy 27:5; Joshua 8:31 — so carefully did He guard the glory of Christ. In sharp contrast with us, who, though “living stones,” yet need much shaping, there were no rough or sharp edges in the character of Christ; no polishing of His life was required to render it well pleasing to the Father, So much did He resent anything which marred a type that when the sons of Aaron offered “strange fire” upon the altar they were immediately consumed by fire from heaven ( Leviticus 10), and when the ark was set upon a cart instead of on the shoulders of the priests, judgment fell upon Uzzah ( 2 Samuel 6). God was exceedingly jealous of the honor of His beloved Son, bidding Moses, again and again, to make all things in the tabernacle according to “the pattern” which He showed him ( Exodus 25:9, etc.), for everything therein pointed to and set forth the person and perfections of the Mediator. The writing of the Law on the stones of the altar tells of Christ’s sustaining the honor of the Law, that in Him alone is it “established” ( Romans 3:31). “And all Israel, and their elders, and officers, and their judges, stood on this side of the ark and on that side before the priests the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord; as well the stranger, as he that was born among them: half of them over against mount Ebal; as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded before, that they should bless the people of Israel” (verse 33).
A most solemn and auspicious assembly was this, when the whole nation, with their responsible heads, were gathered before the Lord. The “ark of the covenant” — mentioned here for the last time in Joshua — was brought out of the tabernacle on this momentous occasion. The original tables of the Law were preserved therein, and now its statutes had been written on the stones of the altar. That which here took place is to be regarded as a solemn ratification by the new generation of Israel of the covenant entered into by their fathers at Sinai. The sanctions of the Law were now proclaimed in the hearing of the whole congregation, and by their repeated “Amen ( Deuteronomy 22:15,16, etc.) all Israel consented to the terms of the covenant. The mention of “the stranger” here anticipated the gathering of the Gentiles into the Church.
It must have been an exceedingly impressive sight as the entire congregation of Israel assembled in the valley between those two mountains. There had been nothing like it since their solemn gathering on Sinai forty years previously: in fact what took place here was virtually a repetition of what had occurred there — Israel solemnly covenanting to keep God’s Law. As the former had been preceded by wondrous displays of God’s grace and power on their behalf, so it had been here; and thus, in each instance, submission and obedience to Him was to be an expression of their love to Him and gratitude for His favors. Such is precisely the place which the Law is to have with the Christian. Because the Lord Jesus has borne his sins and reconciled him to God, he is to express his thankfulness by receiving God’s Law at His hand ( 1 Corinthians 9:21) and thereby respond to His injunction: If ye love Me, keep My commandments” ( John 14:15).
The scene which is set before us in the closing verses of Joshua 8 is equaled only by that which is exhibited in Exodus 24: The events described therein are parallel in every way, the latter being explained by the former.
Each was transacted upon a mount, where an altar was erected, the Divine Law prominently honored, and the people ate before Jehovah. The difference between them is that in the former it was the first generation of Israel which had recently emerged from Egypt that was concerned; while in the latter it was the first generation of those who had shortly before entered Canaan. The claims of Jehovah were now made known unto this new generation in a striking and impressive manner, and they were required to aver their recognition of those claims and affirm subjection to the same.
First an altar had been erected and sacrifices offered thereon. Most appropriately had “the peace offering” a place, for a portion of it was for the Lord and a portion of it was eaten by the offerer ( Leviticus 7:32,34), for a covenant is a mutual engagement between two parties, and thus the Lord and His people here communed together.
In His teaching He had fully maintained its authority ( Matthew 5:17), in His life He rendered perfect obedience to it, and in His death He endured its awful penalty. Practically, we are there taught that the redeemed are to receive the Law from the Redeemer. Christ did not keep the Law for His people in order that they might be freed from its holy requirements, but to honor God therein and leave them an example that they should follow His steps. In order thereto, He has not only brought them under the deepest possible obligations of gratitude unto Himself, bidding them to express their love unto Him by keeping His commandments, but has also procured for them the priceless gift of the Holy Spirit, who puts His laws into their hearts and writes them upon their minds ( Hebrews 10:16): that is, implanting a love for them, and impressing them with their importance, authority, and spirituality. And therefore it is that the truly regenerate delight in the Law of God after the inward man, and with their minds serve the same ( Romans 7:22,25).
It is to be duly noted that in the Holy Spirit’s description of the company convened on that auspicious occasion express mention is made of “as well the stranger as he that was born among them” ( Joshua 8:33), which, as previously pointed out, anticipated the time when the Gentiles would also be brought into the congregation of the Lord. The various references made to “the stranger” in the law of Moses have not received anything like the attention they should by Christian commentators. Provision was made for “the stranger,” upon his circumcision, to partake of the Passover feast; yea, it was enacted: “One law shall be to him that is home-born, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you” ( Exodus 12:48,49); yea, even the cities of refuge were available to him equally with the Israelite ( Joshua 20:9)! Commandment was given unto Israel that “the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself” ( Leviticus 19:34).
As he shared Israel’s privileges. so he had to share their obligations also, by entering into covenant with God ( Deuteronomy 29:11,12), and therefore if he blasphemed the name of the Lord the same penalty was inflicted upon him as upon a guilty Hebrew ( Leviticus 24:16). “And afterwards he read all the words of the Law: the blessings and cursings, according to all that is written in the book of the Law.
There was not a word of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua read not before all the congregation of Israel, with the women, and the little ones, and the strangers that were conversant among them” ( Joshua 8:34,35).
Thus the entire assembly came under the sound of the just requirements of their Benefactor and Governor. As Deuteronomy 27 informs us, as each of the solemn curses of the Law was uttered by the Levites “with a loud voice” (not an apologetic whisper!), it was required that “all the people should answer and say, Amen (verses 14, 15), thereby solemnly concurring therewith. As Matthew Henry pointed out, “It was (1) a profession of their faith in the truth of them. (2) An acknowledgment of the equity of them. (3) An imprecation upon themselves as strongly obliged them to have nothing to do with those evil practices upon which the curse was here entailed.”
What an example was this occasion of the importance of the public reading of lengthy sections of God’s Word, and that its most unpalatable portions must not be omitted! The reading of the Law to “the strangers” again intimates that the Gentiles are under it. No further mention of “the ark” is found in Joshua, for the covenant had now been ratified by the second generation of Israel.
Israel had marched into Canaan led by the written Law of God ( Joshua 3:11-17), for the ark of the covenant was the Divinely appointed chest in which were deposited and preserved the tables on which the Lord’s own finger had inscribed that Law which Israel had covenanted to keep. The same Law had been borne around the walls of Jericho ( Joshua 6:4), being the minister of vengeance unto the idolatrous Canaanites. That same Law had now been written on the stones of the altar on Ebal ( Joshua 8:32), thus becoming the Law of the Land. Was not this God’s very object, in enabling Israel to conquer Canaan: that He should have not only a people in obedience to Him, but a country in which the blessedness of their obedience should be exhibited before the surrounding nations? Beyond question, for Moses declared, “I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the Lord my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it. Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people” ( Deuteronomy 4:5,6; and cf. 1 Kings 10:8,9). As Jehovah reminded their descendants centuries later, “Ye are My witnesses” ( Isaiah 43:10; and cf. Malachi 3:12).