Joshua 8:1-9 Trust and obey, for there is no other way
Now the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not fear or be dismayed. Take all the people of war with you and arise, go up to Ai; see, I have given into your hand the king of Ai, his people, his city, and his land. 2 You shall do to Ai and its king just as you did to Jericho and its king; you shall take only its spoil and its cattle as plunder for yourselves. Set an ambush for the city behind it.”
3 So Joshua rose with all the people of war to go up to Ai; and Joshua chose 30,000 men, valiant warriors, and sent them out at night. 4 He commanded them, saying, “See, you are going to ambush the city from behind it. Do not go very far from the city, but all of you be ready. 5 Then I and all the people who are with me will approach the city. And when they come out to meet us as at the first, we will flee before them. 6 They will come out after us until we have drawn them away from the city, for they will say, ‘They are fleeing before us as at the first.’ So we will flee before them. 7 And you shall rise from your ambush and take possession of the city, for the Lord your God will deliver it into your hand. 8 Then it will be when you have seized the city, that you shall set the city on fire. You shall do it according to the word of the Lord. See, I have commanded you.” 9 So Joshua sent them away, and they went to the place of ambush and remained between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of Ai; but Joshua spent that night among the people.
The chapter opens with the Lord encouraging Joshua, “Do not fear or be dismayed”. Joshua knew better that the wisdom of God ranked higher than the suggestion of the spies and his presumption concerning the integrity of his people. This time, the Lord left nothing to chance but dictated the battle strategy and its execution to the tee. Today’s passage teaches us the dangers of youthful impetuousness and presumption. Believers must progress beyond the elementary notion of God’s promises to the attitude of trust and obedience to His word.
Do not fear or be dismayed. Take all the people of war with you and arise, go up to Ai.
Having put the incident firmly behind them, the Lord encouraged Joshua with the same words as spoken numerous times before, “Do not fear or be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 31:8). These words were indication that circumstances were again as they used to be. God’s favor and divine assistance that was jeopardized by Achan’s disobedience had now been fully restored. This time, however the Lord commanded differently, “you shall take only its spoil and its cattle as plunder for yourselves.”
Apparently, the rhetoric of giving Ai to Joshua goes hand in hand with careful planning with the deployment of a ruse. Hence, the Lord Himself shall dictate the battle strategy and its execution. No doubt, in the previous campaign, Joshua did act on his own accord sending only 3000 men to engage Ai. Here, the Lord instructed Joshua to take all the people of war with him.
See, you are going to ambush the city from behind it.
30,000 troops were involved in this second assault. Most of the troops would serve as decoy while 5,000 would lie in ambush. The main troops would move toward the city while the ambush would remain at its backside. This would lure the men of Ai to pursue and engage the men of Israel. And while Israel pretended to flee, the troops laying in ambush would arise and take possession of the city.
Even with the promise given, strategy and execution remains key to success. Even as God had promised victory for Israel: See, I have given into your hand the king of Ai, his people, his city, and his land. It remained for Israel to obey every word that God had spoken: You shall do it according to the word of the Lord. Israel’s victory was contingent upon Israel’s obedience to God’s instructions concerning strategy and execution. The word of promise represents God’s intention as well as his divine assistance. However, the fulfillment of the promise is contingent upon the believer’s trust and cooperation. Hence, there are two essential parts leading to the fulfillment of a promise:
- God’s intention and divine assistance, and
- man’s trust and obedience to His word.
Many churchgoers hang onto God’s promises and declare them often but could not obtain it because they did not trust Him nor obey His word. For many could not progress beyond the elementary notion of God’s desire to bless. While it is God’s responsibility to work out His promises in our lives, it is our responsibility to trust and obey. Jesus said to doubting Thomas,
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” John 14:6
Thomas wanted to see the revival of God’s kingdom but was not told specifically the way to obtain it. What Jesus said to Thomas was mind-boggling: “I am the way…” Thomas needed to arrive at the place of complete trust in Jesus, and not to be in control all the time. Jesus would through His Spirit lead Thomas into the revival of God’s kingdom. When believers come to the place of acknowledging God’s unconditional desire to bless and His wisdom to do so, we will learn to trust Him to lead us into His Kingdom.
God gives detailed instructions because He does not leave anything to chance. The Lord gave detailed instructions to Joshua not because He craved absolute control over all things, but because the right execution was key to Israel’s victory over Ai. He wanted Israel to have access to the mind of God Himself. Because God absolutely wanted Israel to succeed, He would not leave anything to chance. Hence, God being the supreme military strategist laid out His battles in favor of Israel; He dictates Israel’s battle resources, the strategy and the timing of execution as we later observe.
It is human instinct to want control over how and when things should be run. Man desires victory in all his endeavors but would not always admit that God’s ways are higher than his. Thus, many ran ahead of God and suffered unnecessary setbacks. There will always be noble men and women who desire to establish God’s kingdom but find it hard to submit to God’s expressed schedule and instructions. Joshua took Ai in one fell swoop because he trusted God and obeyed His every word. However, readers will soon find out in the later chapters the youthful impetuousness and presumption of Joshua concerning the Gibeonites.
Man’s distrust of God predominantly arises from the lack of revelation of God’s love. The revelation of God’s love comes to one whose heart is yielded to Him. Here, the Spirit impresses upon his heart concerning God’s ordination over his life. However, it first requires for the eyes of man’s heart to be enlightened by the Spirit. The apostle Paul said,
“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.” Ephesians 1:18-19
Dear Lord, I desire to understand your plans for my life. I believe that your plans and ordination, though incomprehensible are the best for me. Cause my eyes to be opened to your unsearchable ways. Imbue into my spirit the ability to trust you and obey your every word. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.