THEME: The Way to Victory
This week’s lessons recount Israel’s victory in their second attempt to conquer Ai.
SCRIPTURE: Joshua 8:1-29
It is interesting that they had to do it again. You know, in the Christian life when you and I run into difficulty, we have a tendency to think that probably what the Lord is teaching us is that this isn’t the way we should go. We should bypass the difficulty in order to find an easier road. I think younger people today are particularly susceptible to that kind of thinking, but it’s not that way in the Christian life. God’s way is a difficult way in some respects and easy in others. It’s easy if we depend upon Him because He prepares the way for us. He provides the victories, but He doesn’t shortcut the battles. These still have to be fought.
So even though Israel had investigated and dealt with the sin after their defeat, Ai was still up on the mountains. They still had to take this city before they could go forward. I pointed out some studies ago something of the geography of the land and how the military strategy unfolded. Palestine was a hilly country. The main road is a north/south road that runs along the high point of the country. Whoever can control that road can control the land. So taking that high road was obviously Joshua’s strategy. But to do that, he had to force a wedge with his army up from the lower Jordan Valley to the heights. Jericho stood at the base, and anybody who wanted to reach the high road had to take Jericho. And Ai, the smaller fortress, stood at the top. So, in order to take the road, divide the country, and proceed with the conquest, Joshua had to take Ai next.
As we come to chapter 8, we find God telling him to renew the attack. At this point, Joshua must have been discouraged and afraid because God tells him not to be. The Lord said to Joshua in verse 1, “Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged. Take the whole army with you. And go up and attack Ai for I have delivered into your hands the king of Ai, his people, his city, and his land.” Joshua then proceeded with the conquest.
Now, as I study this, the first obvious thing that stands out about this campaign is that, unlike Jericho, it did not involve a miracle. Here was a city that had to be taken, and Joshua proceeded against it as any military commander might have, no doubt at God’s instruction. Joshua laid an ambush behind the city. He came up with his armies before it and feigned an attack. He then drew the defenders out as he and his armies fled back down the ravine toward the Jordan. When the city was emptied of its defenders and the gates were open, the men who were hidden in ambush went in and burned the city. As soon as Joshua saw the fire rise from the city, he raised his spear as a sign to advance. They turned around, caught the defenders of Ai in a squeeze, and annihilated the army.
What was different about Israel’s experience with Ai than it had been with Jericho?
Why did God need to provide encouragement to Joshua before the second attack?
Are you in a situation now where there are spiritual battles to be fought, but you wish God would simply provide the victory without the struggle? What might God be trying to teach you through this difficult experience? How can you use this to help others?