Welcome to Expound, a verse by verse study of God's word. Our goal is to expand your knowledge of the truth of God by explaining the word of God in a way that is interactive, enjoyable, and congregational.
So, Father, we bring our bodies before you as Paul said in Romans. To bring our bodies as living sacrifices, wholly and acceptable, which is our reasonable service. So with our bodies here, we bring our minds. We direct our focus and our attention upon the scripture at hand.
We are determined not to be distracted by texts or by emails that come or by other conversation, but to give you-- as part of our worship to you in declaring that you are more supreme than any other one or any other thing-- we give you our attention. We give you our time. We give you our very bodies in this place, as well as others around the country listening, around the world.
We pray you strengthen them, we pray that you bless them. We pray, Lord, that you'd answer questions for them, as well as for us. And meet us, Lord. Meet us on the pages of scripture, through these truths that we read. Make them relevant to us as we study together. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Well, up till now, the book of Joshua has been exciting. The stories have been miraculous. They have been phenomenal. They have been, in effect, the Sunday school version of the book of Joshua. Virtually everyone so far knows the stories that we have been covering in the first part of the book of Joshua.
The crossing of the Red Sea at flood stage, when the waters like the Red Sea parted and the priest stood on the banks, holding the Ark of the covenant as the people passed through, went to the other side. Then they gathered out in the plains toward Jericho and they celebrated the Passover together. Do you remember?
We made note that it was only the third time they ever celebrated the Passover as a nation. In all of those years, this is only the third occurrence. The first was the very night of Passover in Egypt, when the death angel passed over the homes that had the blood on them. The second one was one year later at Mount Sinai. And then, that it wasn't kept again all during the wilderness wanderings until now.
After the wanderings are over and they're in the land, before they have any battle, they pause together and they worship the Lord, celebrating the Passover. Then, the battle of Jericho, which really is a misnomer. Because it wasn't a battle. They didn't-- they did nothing. They blew their horns Woo hoo, big deal. That's about all their involvement was. They marched around it, looked at it, and blew a horn and the walls came down. So God gave them a great victory.
Miracle after miracle, phenomenon after phenomenon has happened. Those are the Sunday school stories that we've grown up hearing. Most people don't know much about the book of Joshua beyond those stories. That's where their knowledge begins and ends. You, of course, are a different breed. Like Matt was mentioning, you know your Bible. You love your Bible.
And you know that what happens next is failure. You know that this Sunday school story-ladened phenomenal miraculous set of events is going to take a dramatic turn beginning in chapter 7. Up till now, I mean, chapter after chapter, I can hear the music playing in the background. Boom, walls come down, river opens up. Until this chapter.
It says, but the children of Israel-- verse 1, chapter 7-- but the children of Israel committed a trespass regarding the accursed things. For Achan-- the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah-- took of the accursed things. So the anger of the Lord burned against the children of Israel.
Now, if you would, just to show you the comparison, go back to chapter 6. And look at the final statement made in that chapter. The last verse, verse 27. It says, so the Lord was with Joshua and his fame spread throughout all the country. And then the next word, but. That is not a great word after a sentence that we just read like that.
God was with him, but. Because it denotes a contrast, it denotes a moment. It's not going to stay the same. Now, things are beginning to change. That's what it was like, but now something different is coming. And it is true. Now, you will see in this chapter, the overcomers are overcome. The victors become the victims. There is a change of events. There's a change in the air.
In a high school locker room, there's a sign that reads, defeat is worse than death because you have to live with it. As we enter into this chapter, they get defeated. Now, they get both defeat and death. It is not what they expected. It is not what they anticipated. They anticipated what happened to Jericho to just happen again and again. And walls were falling down and this is easy, this is a cakewalk.
And so how the last chapter ends and this chapter begins, it is almost as though we are reading two different books altogether. But the children of Israel committed a trespass. Now we want to find out what they did wrong for a very simple reason. I can only speak personally. I want to find out what they did wrong because I don't want to repeat what they did wrong. Like that famous saying, I think it was Santayana who said, those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
I want to find out what they did wrong, because I don't want to do what they did wrong. I want to figure out what to do that's right. I don't want the defeat and the death that they had. Now, before we just jump right into this, Joshua is employing a strategy in conquering the land. It is the Lord's strategy. It's going to have a little bit of a downturn for this section. Then it's going to go back up.
But the strategy is simple. He wants to strike the land of Canaan right in the middle. So he's going to take Jericho, which he did, the Lord gave it to him. The next city is Ai. It's an A and an I, but it's not pronounced AI, it's pronounced Ai. He's going to take Jericho, Ai, Bethel, Gibeon. Those are the hill country cities right after Jericho in the plains in the desert.
And in doing that, he is striking the nation of Israel, the land of Canaan right in the middle to divide them. The strategy is to divide and conquer. By driving a wedge and taking the territory in the middle, he can then station his troops in the center of the country. And then, he can enact a southern campaign to take the south part of the land and then turn northward in a northern campaign to take the north part of the land.
That's how the book of Joshua is going to go. His strategy is divide and then conquer. But before he does, he is defeated. Now, here's something to make a note of. This is the only time the children of Israel are defeated in settling the land in the book of Joshua. It's the only occurrence of their defeat, is here. And that defeat does not come from the outside, the problem comes from the inside.
There's somebody in the camp of Israel who has committed a sin and God holds the group responsible for it. So that's why it says, the children of Israel committed a trespass regarding the accursed things. For Achan-- remember that name, the son of Carmi, that's his dad; the son of Zabdi, that's his grandpa; the son of Zerah, great-grandpa-- of the tribe of Judah took the accursed things.
And so, the anger of the Lord burned against the children of Israel. Now, Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is beside Bethaven on the east side of Bethel. And he spoke to them, saying, go up and spy up-- out the country. So the men went up and spied out Ai. And they returned to Joshua and said to him, do not let all the people go up. But only about 2,000 or 3,000 men go up and attack Ai. Do not weary all the people, for the people of Ai are few.
It is estimated that the population of this city was much smaller than that of Jericho. About 12,000 people occupied Ai at this time in Canaan, at the time of the occupation of Joshua. So notice, the spies who-- we don't need a big group. I mean, look at Jericho. That was a piece of cake. So all we need is 2,000 or 3,000 people and we'll just mop this thing up very quickly.
And so, verse 4. About 3,000 men went up there from the people, but they fled before the men of Ai. The children of Israel are flushed with victory. They walked away from Jericho going, oh, man, this is great. I love being on God's side. I love being in the Israeli army. We got a tremendous, miraculous victory.
But the language of these spies sounds overconfident to me. It has the tone of pride and arrogance. We don't need many. This is easy. All we need is a few. When a person becomes arrogant or overconfident-- too confident in himself or herself-- there is a lack of leaning on the Lord. They stop depending so much on the Lord.
Pride leads to prayerlessness. Overconfidence that leads to arrogance takes a person away from leaning on the Lord, because hey, we don't need the Lord for this one. Jericho? Granted, that was a much bigger town and that was the first big deal. They were ready for us. But this small town. This is easy. Lord, stay back. We got this one. But it says, but the people, they fled before the men of Ai.
You remember in chapter 5, before the Battle of Jericho, something happened. Besides going out and marching and doing all that you know they did. The commander of the Lord's army appeared to Joshua. And we find Joshua kneeling and praying and trusting the battle to the commander of the Lord's army. The Lord Jesus Christ, we identified him as. A pre-incarnate, a theophany, a Christophany.
Joshua was in prayer. But now, they're prepped and they're primed, but they're not prayed up. There is no occurrence of Joshua even talking to the Lord at all so far. Do you want to know when you're most vulnerable? It's not when you're down and out. It's when you're up and in. When you're down and out, you cry out to the Lord. You depend on the Lord. But they're in the land already and they're up on top.
And so, you become more vulnerable at a time of victory rather than defeat. But if at that time of victory you don't depend on the Lord like you did when you were scared before you went to Jericho, you will suffer defeat. And so, they go and they come out with their tail between their legs.
Verse 5. And the men of Ai struck down about 36 men, for they chased them from before the gate as far as Shebarim. And they struck them down on the descent. Therefore, the hearts of the people melted and became like water. It's interesting. We have talked before about what fear does. Fear is what makes your enemy seem larger than he really is.
Fear is what stopped them 38 years before at Kadish Barnea, when they didn't want to go through the land and take it, because those big giants. Fear makes your enemy seem bigger than he really is. But we don't spend enough time talking about the flip side of that truth. And that is pride. While fear makes your enemies look larger than they are, pride makes your enemies look smaller than they really are.
Not a big deal. I got this. I'm overconfident, brash, braggadocios, boastful. But the enemies were real. And 36 of their men were killed. And it's interesting, in verse 5, it says their hearts melted and became like water. That is an interesting description, because the people of Jericho-- remember what Rahab the harlot said about the men of Jericho? Said, our hearts melted, melted, when we heard what your God did to those two kings and how he dried up the Red Sea. Our hearts melted.
Now, the hearts of the children of Israel melted. Then-- notice that word, then-- Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the Ark of the Lord. Should have started that way. Until evening, both he and the elders of Israel. And they put dust on their heads. And Joshua said, alas! I don't know how to translate that except alas is an old English word that means bummer. Or oh, man! It's a term of disgust and wonder.
Alas, Lord God, why have you brought this people over the Jordan at all-- listen to Joshua-- to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites to destroy us? Listen to Joshua. Oh, that we had been content and dwelt on the other side of the Jordan. Who does he sound like? He sounds suspiciously like the 10 spies years before at Kadish Barnea-- which we just mentioned-- when the spies came and looked over the land.
Joshua was one of them, Caleb was another. And 10 others. And the 10 others said, let's just stay back. We can't take it. And it sounds like the children of Israel during the 40 year march, complaining to Moses. Why did we even leave Egypt, man? Here we are in the desert. This is Joshua, the man of faith. He sounds like the old guard.
And let me just say how quick we are to blame God when things don't go our way. I mean, this is so human nature. Something doesn't happen the way we anticipate or expect or we thought god was going to do this and he didn't. And then, we blame him for it. And listen, I'm not pointing the finger at you. I'm pointing the finger at me, because I've been there many times. I could tell you story after story where I blamed God.
And one was here at the church at a previous building, when we thought we were going to occupy. And we announced to the church, we're going to be in the new building next Sunday. Not this one, a different one. And we didn't get in, because the fire department shut us down, because the walls weren't thick enough. It wasn't up to fire code.
And I remember, after working day in day out with a couple of other guys in the church, hanging the drywall, thinking it was over. Just collapsing in a corner. And go, why, God, have you brought us here to this stupid building with this stupid drywall? And then, to make matters worse-- and you've done this-- not only did I complain, but I find myself in the awkward position oftentimes of counseling God.
Now, Lord, if you would have just done things a little bit differently, it could have worked out this way. Paul said, who has known the mind of the Lord? And who has been His counselor? Skip. I'm on that list. And I bet we could find your name on that list. It didn't do any good, my counsel to the Lord. He disregarded it completely, because the blame was on me. I take the blame for that one. It was my lack of oversight, crossing the Ts and dotting the Is. But Joshua cries out.
Verse 8. Oh, Lord, what shall I say when Israel turns its back before its enemies? For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it and surround us and cut off our name from the earth. Then, what will you do for your great name? Oh, Joshua's now counseling God. What are you going to do? You've really got yourself into a mess, God.
Now, on one hand, I like Joshua's style. Because ultimately, it is the Lord's problem. We are your people, Lord. You have to take care of us. You brought us out of Egypt. You brought us through the desert. And you brought us here, so ultimately, we really are your problem. And that is a good perspective. You're God's problem.
Now, you may make more problems for yourself and seemingly for the Lord. But ultimately as a child of God, a son or daughter of God. Since he bought you with a price, you belong to him. All of your problems are his problems. Think of your life that way. So tomorrow, when you have that big problem, say, God, you've got a big problem. Here it is. And then, lay it before him and leave it before him.
So Joshua falls down to the ground, tears his clothes, and he starts praying to God. If you don't mind, just to refresh your memory, go back to chapter 5. And look at verse 4-- verse 13. It came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and behold, a man stood opposite him. His sword was drawn in his hand. And Joshua went up to him and said, are you for us or for our adversaries?
So he said no, but as the commander of the Lord, I have now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshipped. That's how he should have started this battle with Ai. And said to him, what does my Lord say to his servant? The commander of the Lord's army said to Joshua, take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.
Now, if Joshua would have started the battle of Ai this way, the Lord then, in communion, could have told him-- and probably, no doubt, would have told him-- in prayer, there is sin in your camp. Let me tell you who it is. Let me tell you what happened. And he wouldn't have to send 2,000 or 3,000 men out and have 36 of them die fleeing from the men of Ai. In prayer, the Lord would have given him instruction. But he didn't begin that way.
If you fall before the Lord in dependence, you won't have to fall to the ground in defeat. First battle, great results. Second battle, not so great. So the Lord-- verse 10. So the Lord said to Joshua, get up. Why do you lie thus on your face? That's a whole sermon. I could develop that. I'm not going to do that. I do want to move on.
But that's a great question, actually. You know? It's, like, OK. I am glad to hear from you, Josh. But there is a time to pray and there's a time to move. Get up. Don't lie this way. Because he was groveling. He felt so defeated, he felt so downcast. Instead of saying, well, what's the next move to defeat the people of Ai? Why do you lie thus on your face?
Israel has sinned. They have also transgressed my covenant, which I commanded them, for they have even taken some of the-- now watch this language-- accursed things and have both stolen and deceived. And they have also put it among their own stuff. Therefore, the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turn their backs before their enemies. Because they have become doomed to destruction.
Neither will I be with you anymore, unless you destroy the accursed from among you. If you go back to chapter 6, you'll get an explanation in verse 17. Now, the city-- this is Jericha-- the city will be doomed by the Lord to destruction. It and all who are in it. Only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all who are with her in the house. Because she hid the messengers that we sent.
And you, by all means, keep yourselves from the accursed things, lest you become accursed when you take of the accursed things and make the camp of Israel accursed. God's using that word a lot, right? He wants him to know, hands off. It's cursed, and you trouble it. By the way, the word Achan means troubler.
Verse 19. But all the silver and gold and vessels of bronze and iron are consecrated to the Lord. They shall come into the treasury of the Lord. So here's the deal. The first fruits always belong to God. The first city that they took, Jericho, all of the spoils of war they couldn't keep. They had to give it all to the Lord, to the treasury of the Lord. The silver, the gold, everything. And destroy the rest. They couldn't keep the clothing or whatever. They had to destroy it all.
He calls it accursed, but he says, those things are consecrated to the Lord. And here is the principle. If you take something consecrated to yourself, it will become accursed to you. If it does not belong to you-- and in this case, it didn't belong to him, Achan. It belonged to God. He stole from God. He hid it in his tent, we'll see. He hid it among his own stuff. So that's the troubler.
So when Achan is walking towards you and somebody said, here comes trouble, literally that's what his name means. Trouble, troubler. And he did, he'd trouble the nation of Israel. Therefore, the children of Israel could not stand. So, verse 13, get up and sanctify the people. And say, sanctify yourselves for tomorrow, because thus says the Lord of Israel. There is a curse thing in your midst, O Israel, and you cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the accursed thing from among you.
I hope you are seeing a principle that is unmistakably embedded in this chapter. And this is it. You cannot sin in isolation. Your behavior as a believer, my behavior as a believer affects everyone. Everyone. We sin or we succeed together. So if there is somebody who says, well, my sin is my business and it's none of your business, and it doesn't affect anyone else, you are wrong, sir or madam.
The temperature of one Christian, if it lowers, if you become cold hearted, you lower the temperature of the body of Christ. Maybe slightly, but get enough people who are cold, and the whole group becomes the chosen frozen. If one member of the body suffers, we all suffer. If one is honored, Paul wrote, we are all honored together. So that is the mystery of the body of Christ, the church.
And so, God holds them all accountable. Says sanctify yourself, set yourselves apart. Verse 14. In the morning, therefore, you shall be brought according to your tribes. And it shall be that the tribe which the Lord takes shall come according to the families. And the family which the Lord takes shall come by households. The household which the Lord takes shall come man by man. So he's going to call them out and sift them out.
Then it shall be that he who is take taken with the accursed thing shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has. Because he has transgressed the covenant of the Lord and because he has done a disgraceful thing in Israel. So Joshua rose early in the morning and brought Israel by their tribes. And the tribe of Judah was taken. And he brought the clan of Judah and he took the family of the Zarhites.
And he brought the family of the Zarhites, man by man, and Zabdi was taken. And he brought his household man by man. And Achan-- the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah of the tribe of Judah-- was taken. I wonder what was going on through Achan's little mind as the announcement is given. We're going to go through the tribes and we're going to find out which tribe, which family. And he's probably thinking, yeah, yeah, whatever.
Now, we don't know what method was used to ascertain who it was. One possibility, my guess, is they used the urim and thummim. Remember those? The urim and thummim, the black and white stone. Lights and Perfections, it means in Hebrew. The high priest monitored a ceremony in which you could ascertain, determine the will of God by using this white and black stone.
It's sort of like-- I hate to say it, but sanctified dice. You would throw the stones out and they would reveal. And the difference between dice and urim and thummim is one worked. One was really of God. It wasn't just casting lots and seeing what happens. The Lord superintended it.
So I just I'm thinking about Achan as, you know, he goes, tribe of Judah. And he's going, huh, that's my tribe. And then he mentions his grandfather and he goes, uh-oh. And it gets closer. Father and then himself. And he is the one. So Joshua said to Achan, my son, I beg you. Give glory to the Lord God of Israel. And make confession to him and tell me now what you have done. Do not hide it from me.
And Achan answered Joshua and said, indeed, I have sinned against the Lord. You say, well this is good. He's making confession. He's glorifying God by making confession. It is good, but it's a day late and a dollar short. It's not real repentance. It's not real contrition. It's, like, oh, I'm busted. I've sinned. And this is what I have done.
Verse 21. When I saw the spoils of a beautiful Babylonian garment, 200 shekels of silver, a wedge of gold weighing 50 shekels, I coveted them and I took them. And there they are, hidden in the earth in the midst of my tent with the silver under it. It wasn't because he was poor. It's because he was prideful that he took this garment.
A Babylonian garment was a status symbol in ancient times. It was designer, man. It was like the best of the best. And he saw that, he says, why should this go to waste? Why burn this? This is going to look really good on moi. Maybe even put it on in Ai, stood sideways. Said, oh, I like that profile. Fits perfect. Come on, man. It's like you have a free suit. So it was a status symbol.
And notice something in verse 21. Notice the three verbs. And I think it'll remind you of something. When I saw, I coveted and I took. See those three? I saw, I coveted, I took. Does that sound familiar? Like Genesis 3? When Eve saw that that tree was good for food and it was pleasant to the eyes and desirable to make one wise? She saw it, she wanted it-- she coveted it-- and she took it.
James, in the New Testament, tells us that there are distinct levels to yielding to temptation. When you and I get tempted, we want something or we want someone, we're discontent with who we are or what we have. And we look at something or someone or some position of status, perhaps. We go through a series of little steps that lead us to outright action of sin.
And I'm going to read it to you. This is James chapter 1, verse 13. Let no one say when he is tempted, I'm tempted by God. For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desire and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin. And sin, when it is full grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.
I saw. I wanted, I coveted. And I took. And I'm almost certain there was a rationale. I'm almost certain he thought, well, you know what? I've been deprived for like 40 years. I've been suffering in the desert. I kind of deserve this. Who's going to miss it? He rationalized his own sin.
Here's the clincher. If he only would have waited. If he would have obeyed God-- burned the Babylonian garment, kept the silver, taken it to the treasury of the Lord and not done this, and just waited on the Lord and obeyed him-- God would have given him more. More.
Because in Chapter 8, verse 2-- and I'm not certain when we're going to get to this-- but it says, and you shall do to Ai and it's king as you did to Jericho and its King. Only its spoil and its cattle you shall take as booty or plunder, treasure, for yourselves. Lay an ambush for the city behind it. All of that, you get to keep and take to your tents and have a heyday with it. It's yours. Have as much as you want. It's all yours. But Jericho is mine.
He disobeyed. He should have waited. He should have obeyed. He would have been abundantly blessed. Probably in his rationalization, he saw, he coveted, he took. And he put the silver in the midst of his tent, hidden in the earth. He probably cut a hole right in the middle-- put under his tent. So, I mean, this is intense. I mean, literally, he had to take the treasure out of the tent and show it off before Joshua and the others.
So Joshua sent messengers. They ran to the tent. And there it was, hidden in the tent, the silver under it. And they took them from the midst of the tent, brought them to Joshua, unto all the children of Israel, and laid them out before the Lord. Then, Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan-- the son of Zerah-- the silver, the garment, the wedge of gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent, and all that he had. And brought them to the valley of Achor.
And Joshua said, why have you troubled us? The Lord will trouble you this day. So all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire after they stoned them with stones. And they raised over him a great heap of stones. And they're still there to this day. So the Lord turned from the fierceness of his anger, therefore the name of that place has been called the valley of Achor, which also means trouble, until this day.
This story has been criticized by many people, who in reading that not only Achan but his family was the recipient of this punishment, they go, this is so horrible. This is so severe. He blew it and they got the blame for it. Well, there's a couple of things. Number one, it was in the tent, in the midst of it, hidden. Which suggests that they-- the family-- also knew about it and were complicit in what he had done.
Because the Bible flatly says that a son is not to be held accountable for the sin of his Father. But this one is. And it implies that there was knowledge of this whole family. And there was some kind of a cooperation with the sin of Achan. There's something else to consider as well. This is a new chapter in Israel's history.
And what you have here-- and it's not only isolated to this. You find it at different periods of time. I'll explain in a moment. Sometimes, when there is a new period of history, a new era that God's people are entering into, there will be a severity like this. A severe reaction to an unholy action. And that's what you are seeing. On one hand, they were probably all part of the conspiracy. But on the other hand, it is God's holy reaction to man's unholy action. And it's severe. It sends a message. It gets people's attention.
For example, during the days of the Tabernacle, in the wilderness before they got into the promised land, there were two guys-- Nadab and Abihu-- who brought strange fire before the Lord. These were priests of God. God killed them. Got everybody's attention.
Later on, during the monarchy. After King Saul, when David becomes King, and he wants to bring the ark from the center of the country down to Jerusalem. And they put it on a cart and it starts to topple. And a guy named Uzzah puts out his hand to steady the ark. You know what happened to Uzzah? Dead on the spot. God killed him. You go, that's Old Testament. OK, keep following me.
You get to the book of Acts. A couple named Ananias and Sapphira pretend to have sold their land for so much money. And they're giving it all to the Lord's work. They kept some of it back. Nothing wrong with keeping all of it back. It's that they said they were giving all of it to the Lord, but they weren't. They were keeping part of it for themselves. So people thought, oh, how generous. How marvelous. These people are awesome. And they were awesome, but not that awesome. God killed them.
It's a holy reaction to an unholy action. It doesn't mean Ananias and Sapphira went to hell. It doesn't mean Achan went to hell. I anticipate seeing Achan in heaven. So a divine action like this does not necessitate eternal destruction. It is sending out a message. And Achan-- and Ananias and Sapphira-- were whisked away to heaven. But it sent a strong message to God's people. A holy reaction to an unholy action,
I think that's what we have here. And they're stoned with stone. So the Lord-- verse 26-- turned from the fierceness of his anger. Therefore, the name of that place has been called the valley of Achor until this day.
Now, I'm going to throw something else out at you, because when-- we are in the New Testament now, right? We're now living in the New Testament era. Paul the Apostle writes to the Corinthians.
And he tells them, listen, when you take the Lord's supper, you need to do it with care. You need to do it with preparation. You can't do it flippantly. You can't do it in an unholy manner. He says, because many among you are weak and sick and have died. Died, because you have not discerned the Lord's body. Doesn't mean God killed them and sent them to hell. He killed them and sent them to heaven.
But it's holy reaction to an unholy action. And by the way, that is not unheard of. That's not the only place. In the fifth chapter of that book, Paul talks about people in the church who are dabbling in sin. And it's pretty gross sin and it's unrepentant sin. And though they're saved, he says, deliver them to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that their spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Intimating that it's God's mercy to take their life physically, so that they don't fall deeper into sin and walk away from God and hurt other people in the process. It's an interesting thought. And it deserves greater study than this. And we have done that. And we will, if the Lord ever allows us to go through that book again on a Wednesday night.
But now we're in chapter 8, verse 1, and we have just 15 minutes to get through it. The Lord said to Joshua, do not be afraid nor be dismayed. Take all the people of war with you, arise, and go up to Ai. See I have given into your hand the King of Ai, his people, his city and his land. And you shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king. Only its spoil and its cattle you shall take as plunder-- treasure, booty-- for yourselves. Lay an ambush for the city behind it.
Don't be afraid, Joshua. He was afraid. God tells Joshua what God told Joshua in chapter 1. Don't be afraid, Josh. God tells Joshua what Moses told Joshua in Deuteronomy 31. Don't be afraid, Joshua. Don't be dismayed. The Lord is with you. So don't be afraid nor be dismayed, Joshua had heard at least twice before in his life. Now he's hearing the same message a third time.
Maybe Joshua is thinking, when the Lord said this to him, I already know this sermon. I've heard it before. I heard it before in chapter 1. You're telling me the same thing you did in chapter 1. Moses told me this sermon back in Deuteronomy 31. The Lord's telling him the same thing 3 times. Why? It's pretty obvious why. He's forgotten.
The circumstances of life have blinded his eyes to see the truth, that God is with them. That's why some truths bear repeating. What Peter said in his book, he said, I will not be negligent to remind you of these things, though you know them already and are established in the present truth. I know you know this stuff. Let me repeat.
Paul in the book of Philippians, we're going to get to that on Sunday mornings. Rejoice in the Lord always. And I'll say it again, rejoice. Some truths bear repeating. And there are some truths that bear repeating because we forget them, because the circumstances of life blind us to the truth. So we walk into situations fearful. Though he says, don't be afraid. Don't be dismayed.
Verse 3. So Joshua arose, and all the people of war, to go up against Ai. And Joshua chose 30,000 men, men of valor, and sent them away by night. Now, hold onto your seat belts. I'm going to read a whole chunk of this. We'll sum it up, because it's pretty obvious.
And he commanded them, saying, behold you shall lie in ambush against the city, behind the city. Do not go very far from the city. But all of you, be ready. Then I-- and all the people who are with me-- will approach the city. And it will come about when they come out against us, at first, that we will flee before them. For they will come out after us till we have drawn them from the city.
For they will say, they are fleeing before us as at the first. Therefore, we will flee before them. Then you shall rise from the ambush and seize the city, for the Lord your God will deliver it into your hand. And it will be, when you have taken the city, that you have set-- that you shall set the city on fire. According to the commandment of the Lord, you shall do. See, I have commanded you.
Joshua, therefore, sent them out. And they went to lie in ambush and stayed between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of Ai. But Joshua lodged that night among the people. Then, Joshua rose up early in the morning and mustered the people and went up-- he and the elders of Israel-- before the people, to Ai. And all the people of war who were with him went up and drew near.
And they came before the city and camped on the north side of Ai. Now, there was a valley between them and Ai. And so, he took about 5,000 men and set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of the city. And when they had set the people-- all the army that was on the north of the city, and its rear guard on the west of the city-- Joshua went that night into the midst of the valley.
Now, it happened, when the king of Ai saw it, that the men of his city hastened and rose early and went out against Israel to battle. He and all the people at an appointed place before the plain. But he did not know that there was an ambush against the city. And remember the day before? The people of Israel fled before them and 36 were killed.
Now, the king of Ai sees Israel coming back and they go, oh, they want more? You want some of this? You want round two of this? And so, they go out, not knowing it's an ambush. And Joshua and all of Israel made as if they were beaten before them. And they fled by the way in the wilderness.
So all the people who were in Ai were called together to pursue them. And they pursued Joshua, were drawn away from the city. There was not a man left in Ai or Bethel who did not go out after Israel. So they left the city open and pursued Israel. Then the Lord said to Joshua, stretch out the spear that is in your hand toward Ai, for I will give it into your hand.
And Joshua stretched out the spear that he had in his hand toward the city. So those in ambush arose quickly out of their place. They ran as soon as he had stretched out his hand. And they entered the city and took it and hastened to set the city on fire. And when the men of Ai looked behind them, they saw. And behold, the smoke of the city ascended to Heaven.
So they had no power to flee this way or that way. And the people who fled to the wilderness turned back on the pursuers. Now, when Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had taken the city and that the smoke of the city ascended, they turned back and struck down the men of Ai. Then the others came out of the city against them.
So they were caught in the midst of Israel, some on this side, some on that side. And they struck them down, so that they let none of them remain or escape. But the king of Ai, they took alive and brought him to Joshua. It came to pass when Israel had made an end of slaying all the inhabitants of Ai in the field, in the wilderness, where they pursued them, and when all had fallen by the edge of the sword until they were consumed, that all the Israelites returned to Ai struck it with the edge of the sword.
So that all who fell that day, both men and women, were 12,000. All the people of Ai. For Joshua did not draw back his hand with which he stretched out the spear until he had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai. Now does that sound familiar? He's stretching out his hand during the whole battle. Who else did that? Moses did that with both his hands. No spear in it, just his hands were up. When they fought the Amalekites and his hands got tired, so a couple of guys came and hoisted up his hands until the battle was done.
Where did I leave off? Thank you. Only the livestock-- verse 27-- and the spoil of the city, Israel took as booty. You know, I like the word plunder better than that, because unfortunately, that word has been ruined. No explanation needed. According to the word of the Lord, which he had commanded Joshua. So Joshua burned Ai and made it a heap forever, a desolation to this day.
And the King of Ai, he hanged on a tree until evening. And as soon as the sun was down, Joshua commanded that they should take his corpse down from the tree, cast it at the entrance of the gate of the city, and raise over it a great heap of stones that remains to this day. Now Joshua-- we'll finish this off and comment a little bit in the next few minutes, on the last part.
Joshua built an altar to the Lord God of Israel in Mount Ebal. Mount Ebal is next to another mountain called Gerizim or [? Gerizim. ?] Two hills that mark the geographic center of the land of Israel. It is here, years before, where Abram came and built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord. And it was there, in that place, that the Lord God first told Abraham his promise for the land that he was giving him and his descendants after him.
So Joshua built an altar in that same spot. But notice this. As Moses, the servant of the Lord, had 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 had wielded any iron tool. And they offered on it burnt offerings to the Lord and sacrifice peace offerings. And there, in the presence of the children of Israel, he wrote on the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he had written.
Then, all Israel, with their elders and officers and judges, stood on either side of the ark before the priests, the Levites, who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord. The stranger as well as he who was born among them. Half of them were in front of Mount Gerizim, half of them in front of Mount Ebal, as Moses, the servant of the Lord, commanded before that they should bless the people of Israel.
And afterward, he read all the words of the law. The blessings and the cursings, according to all that is written in the book of the law. Wow. What a labor to write, no computers, no typewriters, no paper. They probably wrote on stones, whitewashed stones, as Moses commanded the words of the law. That would have taken a long time. And all of the words were recorded.
Now, it says it was the commandment of Moses. You say, where was it the commandment of Moses? In Deuteronomy chapter 27. Before Moses kicked the bucket, before he died, he told Joshua, he told the people of Israel these words. It shall be, on the day when you cross the Jordan to the land which the Lord your God is giving you, that you shall set up for yourselves large stones and whitewash them with lime.
You shall write on them all the words of this law when you have crossed over, that you may enter the land, which the Lord your God has given you, flowing with milk and honey. Therefore, it shall be when you have crossed over Jordan, that on Mount Ebal, you shall set up these stones which I command you today. Whitewash them with lime. And there, you will build an altar to the Lord your God, an altar of stones. You shall not use any iron tool on them. You shall build with whole stones the altar of the Lord your God.
So they are doing exactly what the book says. They are doing exactly-- they believe in the literal interpretation of scripture. They're not spiritualizing it. Well, what could that mean? How can we apply this to our lives? I'll tell you how we apply it. We actually get stones, whitewash them, and write the words on it. So they did it.
And Moses commanded the people on the same day, saying-- I'm a few verses down, in Deuteronomy 27, verse 11. There you shall stand at Mount Gerizim to bless the people when you have crossed over the Jordan-- Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, and Benjamin. Six tribes on one side. And these shall stand at Mount Ebal to curse-- Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan, and Naptholi.
Now, it's interesting. They're divided into two. One are the descendants of Jacob through his two wives, Rachel and Leah. And the other were the descendants-- the six tribes-- were the descendants of Jacob through the handmaids, Bilhah and Zilpah. Two different allotments, two different sections. One shouting out the blessings, one shouting out the cursings. The law of God written down and people saying amen to it. Amen.
Amen, as the blessings and cursings were read. We won't read them all. We've read them already in Deuteronomy. They would listen to it and they would say Amen to it. This is like a national bar mitzvah. A bar mitzvah or a bat mitzvah, depending if you're male or female, is where the son or daughter becomes a child of the commandment, a son or daughter of the commandment. That's what bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah means.
It means they become responsible for obeying God themselves. At age 12-- going onto 13, age 13-- they're now a full fledged adult in the Jewish community, that rite of passage. And they assume responsibility before the Lord. So the whole nation, now, is making this kind of national bar mitzvah, this covenant of responsibility before the Lord.
So they worshiped before the battle in chapter 5. Now they worship after the battle at the end of chapter 8. And verse 35, we'll close it off with. There was not a word of all that Moses commanded which Joshua did not read before all the congregation of Israel, with the women, the little ones, the strangers who were living among them.
I'm following Joshua's lead. There's not one word that we don't read and apply to our lives on our Wednesday night Bible studies. We believe the whole Bible for the whole church for the whole of history. We believe in the whole counsel of God. So all the law that had been given so far was written. It could be referenced, it could be applied. They were a textual community. They were enjoying fellowship around the text of scripture that God had given them.
Now, let me close by saying this. As Israel stood between two mountains, Ebal and Gerizim-- blessing and cursing-- you and I, as New Testament believers, we stand between two mountains. Mount Calvary, Mount of Olives. If I was in Jerusalem, I'd point to both of them. We stand between Mount Calvary-- where Jesus died for our sins-- and we stand between that and the Mount of Olives, upon which Jesus will return. He'll come back, his foot touching the Mount of Olives.
We live between the first coming of Jesus paying for our sins and the second coming to redeem the world, in terms of taking over the world. As we stand between those two mountains, there are blessings and cursings for us. You will be blessed or you'll be cursed, depending on how you live.
If you live for your own pleasure, for your own satisfaction, it's always about you, you'll be accursed. You can be a believer and live for yourself and not enjoy the full benefit of God. Or you can live for Him who died for your sins. You can realize, I'm bought with a price. I'm not my own. I'm going to live for Him and His pleasure. And you'll be blessed. You'll be blessed.
Father, thank you for the blessings that are announced, promised throughout your word. Thank you, Lord, for a time and a place where we can gather to not just reflect on a verse or two-- a Psalm or a New Testament verse or principle-- but we can take verse by verse, chapter by chapter, book by book. Consider the holy writ, consider here the Old Testament, the very words of the apostles and Jesus and the New Testament believers. That was their Bible. We're reading their Bible.
And Lord, I pray that we would take these grand principles of blessing and cursing and realize that we can be blessed in our cities and blessed in our needing troughs and blessed as we go out and come in. Or we can be cursed in all those areas. I pray that we'll trust you. I pray that we'll walk with you. I'll pray that we'll tell others about you.
I pray, Lord, that as we enter this summer and we have different opportunities of different people we meet, that we would be faithful to tell others about the Savior who came to bless the world with salvation by dying for sins on Mount Calvary, but is coming again. And His foot will touch down on the Mount of Olives. What a blessing to be instructed by you and to live for you. In Jesus' name, Amen.
For more resources from Calvary Albuquerque and Skip Heitzig, visit calvaryabq.org.