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
Fearful, apprehensive, and distressed, I opened the computer case in front of me. The hard drive in my computer had failed with years of important data on it, and now it needed to be replaced. Yes, there were backups, and I had all of my software to reload, but the knot in my stomach would not leave. I opened the box for the new hard drive and began to read the installation instructions.
Slowly I began to follow the list: Step 1: Turn off system power. Step 2: Remove system cover. Step 3: Verify jumper settings on the hard drive. The list went on and on until it was time to install the formatting software. I remember not breathing a sigh of relief until the final reboot of the operating system software. As the familiar soft whir of the hard drive started, I realized the computer was working normally again. A daunting task had been successfully completed because instructions were followed to the letter!
Joshua was feeling fearful, apprehensive, and distressed the day the Lord spoke to him and told him to go back to Ai and take the city. The earlier defeat at Ai had been swift and humiliating, and lives had been lost. Sin had been found in the camp, and punishment rendered. Now the Lord encouraged Joshua on to the assignment, and Joshua set out to do just what the Lord commanded. We can and should do the same! When the Lord tells us not to be afraid or dismayed, we can step out on his Word in confidence.
Joshua followed God’s instructions to the letter and found victory! Ai was defeated, the city burned, and the spoils of war went to the people. When we are exact in following God’s instructions, we too can have spiritual victory. God honors obedience, and Joshua did not forget who gave the victory. He built an altar unto the Lord, where the people offered sacrifices unto God. Thanksgiving unto the Lord should be the natural outflow when we receive spiritual victories.
Maybe God has given you specific instructions regarding something in your life. Don’t let fear or discouragement stop you from following those instructions to the letter, even if you have tried and failed before. Keep pressing on; God will give the victory!
In our text today, the campaign against the city of Ai was completed. We see God’s hand continue to work for Israel, as they learned to trust Him. They were recovering from their initial defeat at that city, which was an important city to take because it controlled the high ground between Jericho and the rest of Canaan. In the first battle, Joshua had relied on the word of his spies and his own assessment, sending only part of his army to fight.
This time God gave the instructions, and the tactical maneuvers employed to capture the city were brilliant. God told Joshua to send 30,000 men away by night to make the thirteen-mile trek to the city and to position themselves on the west side. They were to wait there in a position of ambush, and on the next day, Joshua and the main army of Israel would approach on the north side of Ai. When the inhabitants of Ai saw the armies on the north, they would engage them, and Joshua’s army was to pretend to flee. As the armies of Ai pursued them, the 30,000 soldiers on the west would be free to move unhindered into Ai.
The plan of God, obediently followed, brought complete victory. Not a man was left of the armies of Ai — they had been delivered into the hand of Israel by the hand of God.
When the victory had been won, Joshua moved to the base of Mount Ebal in the central section of Canaan, where he built an altar unto the Lord as an indication of thankfulness for the defeat of Ai. There he inscribed a copy of the law of Moses on a stone, and read it aloud to the people, so they would recognize that their victory was because of their covenant with Jehovah.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
I. The land contested
B. The history of the conquest
1. The central campaign
b. The fall of Ai
(2) The conquest of Ai (8:1-29)
(a) The encouragement of Jehovah (8:1-2)
(b) The strategy of Joshua (8:3-13)
(c) The destruction of the city (8:14-29)
c. The altar erected at Mt. Ebal (8:30-35)
Distress over the past, and fear of the future are often contributing factors to failure. The answer to our distress and fear is hearing and believing God’s Word. Take hope and encouragement that God will never fail you. If we obey His commands, we can claim His promises of spiritual victory.