The Outstretched Spear
Joshua 8:3-29
So Joshua arose, and all the people of war, to go up against Ai: and Joshua chose out thirty thousand mighty men of valor…

A spear outstretched, outstretched by Divine command, outstretched till the doom of Ai was sealed — what means it?

I. IT WAS THE SIGNAL OF PRUDENCE. Plans had been carefully prepared for the capture of Ai, and that spear, probably with a pennon hanging from its head like the weapon of the Lancers, was a pre-arranged signal for the carrying out of these plans. The outstretched spear would have been useless, meaningless, apart from the plans to which it referred. But it was most important when these are taken into consideration. In the great war we wage against evil within and without, God desires us to use all the appliances of wisdom and prudence. How wary is the fisher as he angles on the stream, taking advantage of every bush and tuft of grass, of every passing cloud and gentle ripple; and the more the waters are fished the more wary and ingenious is he. Oh, for a holy ingenuity, a sanctified sagacity in winning souls! Oh, that the dictates of prudence were more faithfully carried out in the sanctification of the scull

II. IT WAS THE SIGN OF OBEDIENCE. While much was left to human prudence, certain Divine principles clearly laid down must not be traversed. Joshua must not in every respect do as he pleased. There was a circle within which wisdom might have free and full play, but beyond that circle he dared not go at his peril. But not only was there a general obedience to this Divine command, there was also a very special and definite act of obedience in connection with the outstretched spear. Joshua did not do this when he pleased, but waited patiently till he got a clear intimation of the Divine will that the time had come for striking the decisive blow. Thus Joshua's act in stretching out the spear was well-timed. We need the same patient and punctual obedience which Joshua manifested. We must not be like the horse, going before, or the mule lagging behind, and therefore requiring the bit and the bridle of God's providences. We must not be like Moses, who when he was forty was too fast, and when he was eighty was too slow, to obey the Divine command. Let us be like Joshua here, led by the eye of God to a well-timed obedience.

III. IT WAS ALSO A SIGNAL OF ATTACK. Its waving pennon cried to those in ambush, "Up and at them!" It called to those who were retreating, "Turn and smite!" And it shouted to all of them, "Retrieve your lost honour, win back your laurels." How many deeds of daring were the answer to that signal. Every common soldier in Israel was a hero that day, a noble brother of the man who waved that spear aloft. Oh, for like courage and energy in the wars of the Lord, for noble deeds done against deadly sins!

IV. IT WAS ALSO THE MARK OF CONFIDENCE. He did not think because he had once failed that he would fail again. He had no foreboding of defeat. Not with nervous, trembling, fearful hand did he hold it aloft, but with the firm, sure grasp of perfect confidence. From the vantage-ground on which he stood, he ordered the fight, as again an assured victor. Thus should we engage in the war to which we are called — with sublime confidence, sure of victory, aye, even after we have experienced defeat. So should it be in the inner fight, for He who has begun the good work will perfect that which concerns us to the praise of His glorious grace. And so should it be in the outer. Never let us dishearten ourselves or our neighbours with the thought that we are fighting a losing battle. The very idea is blasphemous; as if man or the devil, or both, were stronger than the Almighty.

V. IT MAY BE ALSO LOOKED UPON AS A MEMORIAL OF MERCY. As certainly as Amalek fled before the Lord's hosts, so certainly will the men of Ai. Victory is sure. In the spiritual warfare how stimulating is it to bring to mind past victories; to remember how David and Paul, Luther, Calvin, and Knox, Wesley, Whitefield, and McCheyne, wrestled with evil and prevailed. But above all, the remembrance of hard-won victories in our own experience is pre-eminently fitted to encourage.

VI. IT WAS THE SYMBOL OF PERSEVERANCE. NO doubt Joshua remembered how the battle with Amalek swayed forward and backward as the rod of Moses was elevated or depressed; and this perhaps explains the fact that he never drew back the spear till the work was finished. As if his hand had been glued to that spear he held it aloft, and thus he urged his soldiers to look like himself to the God of Sabaoth, who alone giveth victory. We have seen the battle well begun, with prudence and obedience, courage and confidence. See it nobly continued and ended with stubborn perseverance. Oh, for such a spirit in the fight of faith! Alas! how few endure to the end.

VII. IT WAS ALSO THE OMEN OF DOOM. It hung over Ai like the great sword of the angel over Jerusalem. And it is worthy of notice that these men were not without resources. They showed great zeal and enthusiasm in defending their city, rising early to go out to fight. They also displayed far greater courage than the men of Jericho, for they marched against overwhelming odds. They also showed considerable wisdom in acting on the offensive, and not waiting to be attacked like their neighbours. It was also plain that they believed that union was strength, for they got the men of Bethel to unite their forces with theirs in the attack on Joshua. They also had great confidence in their success, emboldened as they were by their previous victory. They had all these qualities, good in themselves, but all useless because on the wrong side. The all-important question is, On which side are you? Are you on the wrong side? Then cast down your weapons of rebellion. "Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little." Are you on the right side? Then "Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life."

(A. B. Mackay.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: So Joshua arose, and all the people of war, to go up to Ai. Joshua chose thirty thousand men, the mighty men of valor, and sent them out by night.

Joshua's Address to the Soldiers of the Expedition
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