AS AT THE FIRST
Joshua 8:3 So Joshua arose, and all the people of war, to go up against Ai: and Joshua chose out thirty thousand mighty men of valour, and sent them away by night. 4 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: 5 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, 6 (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. 7 Then ye shall rise up from the ambush, and seize upon the city: for the LORD your God will deliver it into your hand. 8 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.
Imitating Their Failure
Do you realize just what the battle plan was for taking the city of Ai, and the mercenaries of Bethel (v.17) with whom it had become confederate? It was that Israel should imitate their failure which they had experienced upon their first attempt! Can you imagine that as a battle plan? “Lets do again exactly what we did as at the first!” Someone said that doing the same thing again while expecting a different result is the definition of insanity! But God’s ways are not man’s. For they are higher than man’s ways; as high as the heavens are above the earth! (Isaiah 55:8-9).
Well, that was the battle plan, except with one small exception, which the Lord had given to Joshua as listed in verse two of this chapter. And that one thing would assure them, by God’s help, the victory over this city on the second attempt.
We must first notice that in this day, the city walls were the greatest protection against would-be conquerors. That is what we find concerning Jericho! Joshua 6:1 Now Jericho was straitly shut up because of the children of Israel: none went out, and none came in. This is the reason for God’s battle plan against it. The children of Israel were to just march around it, making no sound, and launching no attack against it. Then the Lord caused their wall to fall down flat (6:20), exposing them all to the swords Israel’s army. But at issue here were not just Jericho’s walls, but Israel’s faith and absolute obedience.
And the Lord does not follow a set pattern! At Jericho he rendered their wall useless in his protection of Israel, by destroying it! But in Ai he renders their wall useless in his protection of Israel, but leaves it standing in good order! For true, spiritual Christianity is never about learning and perfecting a routine, but about perfecting one’s personal relationship with the very Person of God! God expresses his grief with a people who have seen his works, but have erred in their heart in not knowing his ways! (Psalm 95:9-10).
In fact, establishing and entrenching one’s self into religious routine hinders the commands of God! Matt. 15:3 But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? 6 And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. For salvation is in knowing the person of God, never solely in the practice of religious tradition! Tradition did not hang on the cross! The Person of the very Son of God did! And redemption is only in the personal relation with him by the Holy Spirit! John 17:3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
Let us remember that this was God’s plan, and not Joshua’s! Joshua 8:1 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: 2 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.
Those words, lay thee an ambush for the city behind it, spoken to Joshua by God, conveyed to him the understanding that this time the issue would not be the walls of Ai, as with Jericho, but the arrogance of Ai! For now the iniquity of these Amorites before God, had become full! Genesis 15:13 And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; 16 But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.
This issue would also include the acting out of the effect of Israel’s previous sin, which was, fleeing from their enemies! But it would also cause Ai’s entire army to voluntarily exit themselves from the safety of their city and its walls! So Israel gets humbled, imitating their previous failure, and Ai, and those of Bethel, have spent their last night on earth when the sun arises on this day of battle.
Well do we read in 1 Corinthians 10:12, Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. And in Proverbs 16:18 we read, Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.
Sin Precedes Mercy
Mercy is the manifestation of God’s glory! Exodus 33:18 And he said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory. 19 And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy. And as is God, his mercy is eternal! Psalm 136:1 O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.
Therefore in order to reveal this attribute, or this portion of God’s character, (and he is willing to make his person known – Rom. 9:22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: 23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,), a guilty object is essential. For mercy is useless without an object of guilt on which it may display itself!
And this is most certainly set forth in this account of Israel’s warfare with the Canaanites! For it was Israel’s cowardliness, caused by sin in the camp, which makes them turn and flee from Ai at the first. And that was exactly what made these Canaanites so arrogant, as to open up their city gates and leave it completely unguarded, causing their utter destruction. Therefore Israel’s sin was required in the plan and purpose of God to bring destruction down upon these Amorites!
For although we are to abstain from the very appearance of evil (1 Thes. 5:22), and are expressly instructed to sin not (1 John 2:1), yet we find that sin, coupled with the law is used by God to cause grace to abound! The Apostle Paul states, for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. (Romans 7:7). The law causes the awareness of sin to be highly manifest! (Romans 7:13).
And when the Holy Spirit presents both the law and effectual repentance to the elect sinner, he is made aware of, and thankful for, the abounding grace of God. Sad that among those professing religionists of our day, there seems to be only the shallow esteem of a ‘two for a nickel’ Jesus! For only those who are forgiven much, loveth much! And it is only those true, blood-bought souls that are recorded as worshipping the Lamb of God, by saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; (Rev. 5:9).
As At the First
Eccles. 1:9 The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. 10 Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.
In verses five and six of our above listed text we have the phrase providing our title. And we have already mentioned Israel’s being required to imitate their failure in order to bring them into a humble subjection before the Lord, and for Ai to be conquered. But let us look farther into this important phrase. For this is exactly how the Lord defeated Satan!
We see it in that sin entered by the first Adam, and the bringing of righteousness entered with the last Adam! 1Corin. 15:45 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Let us look to the Apostle Paul’s glorious handling of this matter in the fifth chapter of his letter to the Roman believers.
Romans 5:12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: 17 For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) 18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. 19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
As it was by the first man Adam that sin entered into the realm of men, so it was by the last Adam that sin was dealt with to God’s satisfaction (Isaiah 53:11). Therefore the Lord God deceived Satan in the same manner by which he deceived the Amorites of Ai and Bethel, in order to bring them to their appointed doom!
And our Lord brings this war tactic out concerning his being lifted up on the cross as Moses’ brazen serpent was in the wilderness. John 3:14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. That which first killed the Israelites, i.e. the fiery serpents, was that emblem, by which the cross work of Christ is set forth! For that which was the malady now becomes the remedy!
Hebrews 2:14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; 15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. The malady was that sin had brought death! But the remedy was that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death! Death of the innocent Lamb was used to relieve the elect of God from the power of death!
Nothing else could have accomplished the task. The law couldn’t do it due to man’s inability to keep the law! So since man cannot attain to the heights of righteousness, the God-man had to stoop to the likeness of sinful flesh! Romans 8:3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
This necessitated his becoming like unto his brethren! For he had the unbelievable task of being like the fallen sinner, but as Holy God! Hebrews 2:17 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. Hebrews 4:15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
And as this tactic drew those of Ai out of their seemingly secure position, so it was most ‘successful’ (if that term can be applied to God!), in the destruction of Satan and his forces! 1 Corin. 2:6 Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: 7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: 8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
Knew Not Till the Smoke Appeared
Joshua 8:19 And the ambush arose quickly out of their place, and they ran as soon as he had stretched out his hand: and they entered into the city, and took it, and hasted and set the city on fire. 20 And when the men of Ai looked behind them, they saw, and, behold, the smoke of the city ascended up to heaven, and they had no power to flee this way or that way: and the people that fled to the wilderness turned back upon the pursuers.
Before the Amorites of Ai and Bethel knew of their doom, their city was ablaze and they had no where to hide! That is exactly what shall happen in the last ticks of the clock, ending time on earth! Matthew 24:39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 44 Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.
In Noah’s day it was the appearance of rain and the waters of the fountains of the deep flooding the earth that signaled that it was already too late! In Ai’s day it was the smoke of their already blazing city! Let us all take warning! Rev. 18:9 And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning,
Pastor Gene Breed, Jan. 8, 2012