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Victory at Ai (Part B)

Cross Reference Radio / Pastor Rick Gaston
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October 8, 2020 6:00 am

Victory at Ai (Part B)

Cross Reference Radio / Pastor Rick Gaston

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October 8, 2020 6:00 am

Pastor Rick teaches from the Book of Joshua (Joshua 8)

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He built an altar, and he worshiped God, because that's what Abraham did.

If we remember Abraham for nothing else, I think two outstanding things are about Abraham to me. One is that he prayed for Sodom. He said, you know, Lord, you're going to wipe Sodom out? And God says, yeah, you know what's in that city.

You don't want to go near it yourself. Yeah, but I think about fire and brimstone. What a man. And the other one is, wherever you read it, Abraham moved, he left an altar behind. This is Cross-Reference Radio with our pastor and teacher, Rick Gaston. Rick is the pastor of Calvary Chapel Mechanicsville. Pastor Rick is currently teaching through the Book of Joshua.

Please stay with us after today's message to hear more information about Cross-Reference Radio, specifically how you can get a free copy of this teaching. But for now, let's join Pastor Rick in the Book of Joshua, Chapter 7. Today, Pastor Rick will continue with his message called Victory at Ai in Joshua, Chapter 8. God said, the land which you cross over to possess is a land of hills and valleys. Well, you're going to use those hills and valleys to hide the forces. And so, as I said, God is the author of confusion upon his enemies.

It is his prerogative to be such. We'll come across such tactics again in Judges, Chapter 20. God says, I will send them strong delusion because they did not have a love for the truth but a lie. Verse 8, and it will be when you have taken the city that you shall set the city on fire.

According to the commandment of Yahweh, you shall do. See, I have commanded you, leaving nothing for the enemy to reoccupy. God says, I want you to take the city, kill everyone in it, take the spoil for yourself, burn it down, leave nothing for the enemy. In modern warfare, it's a scorched earth doctrine where they just break the will of the enemy to recover.

They get them so focused on trying to survive because they burned up and stolen everything that anybody can use. I know I'm in the south, but Sherman, that's how he marched to the sea, and that's what he did, and it was effective. Verse 9, 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.

How suggestive. Bethel means the house of God. Jacob gave it that name. Lutz was the name originally, and the locals may not have called it Bethel, but the Jews knew it as Bethel, the house of God. Ai, as we discussed, means ruins, and Joshua at the end of it all will make a play on the words. A step away from the house of God or in the other direction to the east, ruins.

It's a suggestive language, is it not, of the life in Christ, of life outside of Christ. Every life is between Bethel and Ai, and every life has to make a choice which one matters most. What do you do if you find yourself between the house of God and ruins? Abraham found himself in this very spot when he lived in the land between Bethel and Ai.

What did he do? He built an altar, and he worshiped God because that's what Abraham did. If we remember Abraham for nothing else, I think two outstanding things are about Abraham to me. One is that he prayed for Sodom. He said, you know, Lord, are you going to wipe Sodom out? And God says, yeah, you know what's in that city, you don't want to go near it yourself. Yeah, but I think about fire and brimstone.

What a man. And the other one is, wherever you read it, Abraham moved, he left an altar behind. Imagine leaving that kind of a punch on your neighborhood. Imagine when you packed up everybody and said, there's a void here. There was a godly person that lived here, now they're gone.

These lessons in scripture just take up everything about us. Here he is, a general amongst his troops, enduring the same inconveniences that they are enduring. It's not always possible, nor is it always wise, but in this case, to find himself there with the people is just what needs to take place, especially after the defeat. In verse 10, as 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 here again, he's rising up early. You know, sleep around this guy.

He's just always up and gone. And pulling everyone else with him, as mentioned before, he is such a model of obedience. Reoccurring virtues are associated with this sort story of the book of Joshua, his obedience, his diligence, and his zeal. You could be a hard worker and you can be obedient, but are you zealous? And so you take a hard worker, maybe you work with other people and they're hard workers, they do what they're told, but they complain every step of the way.

It diminishes performance and makes work harder. Now you've got to lift your spirits in addition to whatever else you're lifting. Joshua doesn't come off that way. He comes off as a zealous character.

What's next? God says, I need you to do this, and he is, yes, doing it. It is a high and noble calling to be a follower of a good leader. Everybody cannot lead. Everybody can follow. Not everybody can follow well.

Many leaders are plagued by people that just do more harm than the enemy seems almost. But here in this story of Joshua, we find the right combination. There's a rhythm between the leader and those being led, right up to the point where Caleb reenters the story and Caleb is still coming to Joshua and says, let me take this land over here, Joshua. He doesn't just do it, break off and do it on his own. I don't care what God said. I know what he told me. I don't need Joshua.

He doesn't come off that way at all. Just a lot of these little things fly out of the scripture that teach us how to behave ourselves because we need to learn. Well, obedient, hardworking, and zealous all at the same time. Verse 11, 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 a valley lay between them and Ai. Verse 12, so he took about 5,000 men and set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai on the west side of the city. Well, you have Ai and then to the west is Bethel. Bethel is going to enter the fight against the Jews.

They're going to join those of Ai. And Joshua knows this, so he sets up a flank guard. And that's, he says, he takes a regiment of men and he says, you sit over here. He just knows what he's doing. Again, Christians just jump into things not knowing what we're doing and expect to have good results. Some industries, if you try to fake what you're doing, you get killed. You don't know anything about electricity.

You want to work with electricity and without supervision and listening, you can find yourself in a bad spot. Verse 13, and when they had set the people, all the army that was on the north side of the city and its rear guard on the west side of the city, Joshua went that night into the midst of the valley. So you have these forces that have been divided, but yet they're joined together.

I mean, they're not separated. They are covering the war zone under the cover of darkness and readiness. At daylight, Joshua's nighttime marshaling is going to pay off. So he's got a battle coming and he has a plan and he executes his plan and he has done everything he is supposed to do for this encounter. He has tried to leave nothing to chance. That's what brings the victory.

He knows God is with him and God can see that Joshua is with God, doing what he is supposed to do as a commander. And we look at this and we just, for me, reading it as a Christian in a devotional way, I read this and I come away as I'm going to keep fighting my flesh. I'm going to keep making plans against it. I'm going to stay a step ahead of it.

I'm going to take advantage of these lessons that have been preserved for us. Verse 14, now it happened when the king of Ai saw it, that the men of the city hurried and rose early and went out against Israel to battle, just like the flesh. He and all his people at an appointed place before the plain, but he did not know that there was an ambush against him behind the city. So at dawn, he sees the armies, his men rise to the occasion, just like the flesh, not going to just lie over, you're going to have to work to get it out. Comes out against Israel to battle, a mistake that nations have been making to this day, but he did not know the ambush was in place, we are told, and this is precisely why it is called an ambush. So the other side does not know that you are lying undetected, ready to pounce. Verse 15, and Joshua and all the people made as if they were beaten before them and fled by the way of the wilderness, so all the people who were in Ai were called together to pursue them, and they pursued Joshua and were drawn away from the city.

So a successful military faint tactic, knowing what you're doing matters. The king of Ai and his forces said, we've got them again, now we're going to finish them off, and the ones we don't kill, we will so break their spirit, they'll never come back here again. That is what they were thinking.

They will never return home. Verse 17, 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. Just that little mention of Bethel joining the fray had to be on signal of some sort.

I mean, there's about a mile that separates them, and yet they get the word to join it. The enemy is organized, but the enemy makes mistakes. Ai or Bethel, who went out against Israel, Joshua's flank guard will take care of Bethel. We read about in verse 12 that also called a rear guard here by the translators, but modern day would be you're covering yourself. Verse 18, then Yahweh said to Joshua, now I got to pause right there here. In the midst of the battle, God is speaking to his man. So Joshua has the plan, and yet he is still dependent on the Spirit of God, and that is crucial to fighting for the Lord. And the Lord said to Joshua, stretch out the spear that is in your hand toward Ai, for I will give it to your hand. So Joshua stretched out the spear that was in his hand toward the city.

Joshua, you got to love this guy. He's ready to kill or be killed. He's a commander, and he's not going unarmed, and he's not, you know, like I mentioned, he doesn't have a dagger.

He's got a spear, and probably wearing a sword also. This is our Lord fighting for us, and when we get to heaven, there'll be no more of this stuff, but we're not there yet. Verse 19, so those in ambush arose quickly out of their place. They ran as soon as he stretched out his hand, and they entered the city and took it, and hurried to set the city on fire. So the battlefield literally heats up. Well, they make it at the battlefield. Verse 20, 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 had fled to the wilderness turned back on the pursuers. So those who drew these troops out, the Jews that drew them out, acting like they were retreating, well, they were retreating, but it was a feint, now turned back around and are attacking those from Ai, joining up with Joshua's other forces.

So they're literally in a bad spot, the people from Ai, and so they had no power. Verse 20, to flee this way or that way, the people who had fled to the wilderness turned back on the pursuers. Now when Joshua and all Israel, verse 21, 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. Verse 22, there's a lot happening here. Can you not see yourself part of this?

Well, if you say no, I can't, so my imagination is on other things. Well, but you can see yourself fighting your flesh. Verse 22, 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.

Well, this was brutal. It was a bloodbath. It was less a massacre and more of a judgment, this whole campaign of taking the promised land. Israel's diversion force again turned back, joining the main force, and they wiped out the army. Verse 23, but the king of Ai they took alive and brought him to Joshua, verse 34, and 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 they all had fallen by the edge of the sword until they were consumed, that all the Israelites returned to Ai and struck it with the edge of the sword.

Verse 25, so it was that all who fell that day, both men and women, were 12,000 and all the people of Ai, and Bethel, of course, is just bundled into that Ai being the principal city, and the writer doesn't keep mentioning Bethel. Of course, the naysayers will come along and say, oh, this is so brutal. It's like, grow up, man.

This is life. This is so easy to shoot that argument down, but they usually don't stay for the answers. Verse 26, 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. Sort of Moses-esque like when Moses held up his arms praying, and there Aaron and the man named Her holding his arms up while Joshua was then on the battlefield doing the actual fighting, and here Joshua has the spear out as God told him to hold it out, and he keeps it out. And, of course, when his right hand gets tied, he just puts the spear in the other hand, just lets the other one rest.

All right, let's go back to this. This large force of 30,000 probably made quick work of this operation with their swords. Now, during the Gulf War in 1990, you might, some of you may recall the highway, the highway of death, I think it was called, yeah. For those of you who don't know, the Iraqi army under Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.

Well, the coalition forces led by the United States drove them out, and when they were coming to drive them out, the Iraqi army retreated back to Iraq from Kuwait along this highway number 80, and the coalition forces bombed them to smithereens. And, of course, the journalists were there with their little cameras, taking as many pictures of the burnt carcasses as they could, and that brought up this mock pity in some foolish people. Oh, it was so horrible, you shouldn't have done that. These people were monsters who they didn't murder, they mutilated and maimed and molested. These were not troops in retreat, these were criminals in uniforms with the strength of an army, and they were judged and destroyed.

This is a similar situation. These people here were spiritual and moral reprobates, and God said concerning the Canaanites, I have had enough. He had given them centuries to correct their ways, and they did not. Judgment fell, and the Jews were the ones that brought it. And sin has a wicked fruit, and the gospel message is that you can find a place in heaven where there is no more sin if you receive the invitation, of course. So no mercy is shown to them, and no mercy is to be shown to our flesh. There's no redeeming feature about our carnal nature to say, yeah, but you know, no, no I don't, because the Spirit is superior. And when we are on our best behavior, we are on our best behavior.

It's simple enough. So Joshua, a thorough commander, obedient as a servant of God, verse 27, only the livestock and the spoil of that city Israel took as booty for themselves, according to the word of Yahweh, which he commanded Joshua. So Joshua, verse 28, burned Ai and made a heap over it forever, a desolation to this day.

The word is tel in the Hebrew. It's ruins. It means ruins, and so it's a play on the words Ai and the heap, play on the two words in the Hebrew for ruins. Verse 29, 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 the corpse down from the tree, cast it at the entrance of the gate of the city, and raise over it a heap of stones that remains to this day.

Well, of course, the location of Ai is just a giant mound and who knows what's underneath it, and I believe if archaeologists ever excavate it, they'll discover a pile of stones over what would have been a body, maybe even a skeleton. Anyway, who knows what's going to happen with that, but that's how the story ends. Joshua is compliant with God's word concerning wrongdoers. When they're hung on a tree, they're not to stay there overnight. They're to be brought down, and so he does that even to the king of Ai, and we know there are connections to the cross and the Lord not being on it overnight, but that would take up another 40 minutes. Verse 30, now Joshua built an altar to Yahweh, God of Israel in Mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of Yahweh 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 has wielded an iron tool, and they offered on it burnt offerings to Yahweh and sacrificed peace offerings. So there, Joshua built an altar, and he now joins a group of great believers said in the scripture to have built an altar, Noah built an altar, Abraham built an altar, Moses built an altar, Isaac, you know, so, and here we read, and Joshua built an altar.

Well, there were some scoundrels that did too, but that's another story. This Mount Ebal is about a little under 25 miles from this battlefield, so they head north where Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal are, and there's a lot of lessons here. You say, why Mount Ebal? Why did they not go to Mount Gerizim? Because Moses commanded, when you get into the Promised Land, you're going to split the tribes in two, one will go up Mount Gerizim, one will go up Mount Ebal, and facing each other, you will recite into the valley the blessings from Mount Gerizim and the curses from Mount Ebal, and this is what they're now doing. So of the two mountains, why don't they choose the mountain of blessings?

Mount Gerizim, why did they go up Ebal? Because the curses, the curses were associated with the altar. The altar is for those under the curse.

That's, that's what's happening there, so I don't know if I confuse you, because it can be a lot if it's new information. The curses were read from Ebal, not Gerizim. That's where the altar was put, because the altar is for those under the curse. Our altar is Jesus Christ. Our sacrifice on the altar is Jesus Christ.

He consumes both of them. He takes the whole thing, the whole burnt offering, it all belongs to him. And so we read, as Moses the servant of Yahweh had commanded the children of Israel, there it is, that gallant, you know, Moses the servant of God. So many of us, we, to say I'm a servant of God, it's just hard to say that. Jesus said that you're, you know, to say it this way, you are unprofitable servants, because next to a holy God who can really serve him. And yet, we do serve him and we are rewarded for our service.

It's kind of humbling. It's what I'm trying to get out, to read Moses the servant of Yahweh. It should stand out to us, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses.

Of course it's God's law, but Moses is the law giver. So the altar that they built, it expressed belief in God. That's, when you put an altar up, you say I believe in God, but I also believe I need God, because I'm a sinner and I'm a created being. It speaks also of submitting to him. For the Jewish believer, it says I built an altar because I need him, I believe in him, and I'm submitted to him.

But probably most importantly it says I desire him. See, that's the example Abraham left behind. God does not always have to say to Abraham, how about building me an altar?

Abraham did, because he loved God, he wanted to, he was God's friend. And so the altar on Mount Ebal, the place of the curse, is saying these things to God in the presence of the curse, in the presence of sin, and everything that's wrong. Thanks for tuning in to Cross Reference Radio for this study in the book of Joshua. Cross Reference is the teaching ministry of Pastor Rick Gaston of Calvary Chapel Mechanicsville in Virginia. If you're interested in more information about this ministry, please visit our website,

You'll find additional teachings from Pastor Rick available there. We also encourage you to subscribe to our podcast. By doing so, you'll be notified of each new edition of Cross Reference Radio. Just search for Cross Reference Radio in iTunes, Google Play Music, or your favorite podcast app. You can also follow the links at We're glad we were able to spend time with you today. Tune in next time to continue learning from the book of Joshua, right here on Cross Reference Radio.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-22 07:22:46 / 2024-02-22 07:32:06 / 9

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