And the LORD said to Joshua, Fear not, neither be you dismayed: take all the people of war with you, and arise, go up to Ai: see…
I. These words were spoken TO GIVE ENCOURAGMENT. God began His address with the exhortation, "Fear not." This indeed constitutes the burden of comfort which it contains. God would renew Joshua's confidence; for this is always essential to success in the work of the Lord. Without holy confidence there can be no good hopes, no wise plans, no buoyant energy, no patient endurance, no successful campaign. The fact that this was an old exhortation made it doubly dear. Israel's sins had been confessed, acknowledged, judged, therefore God is faithful and just to forgive it, thoroughly, absolutely. These words of God also contain a promise. "Ai is thine"; this is the pledge given. It was sure, for God's Word is never broken. And it was as sweet as it was sure. It was the encouragement of a perfect love that had long been experienced and enjoyed; a new outpouring of its glory most grateful and precious.
II. But God thus addressed Joshua in order TO REPROVE AN ERROR. The spies had said, "Let not all the people go up," &c. Here God says, "Take all the people with thee, and arise, go up to Ai." Here God points out the error of division in His work, the error of thinking that part can do the work designed for the whole. The policy of the spies was a policy of pride. They were elated with their marvellous success at Jericho, with that brilliant victory so easily won; and therefore when they came to look at Ai their hearts were filled with contempt. And the feelings which influenced them still possess the human heart. How dangerous is success to the individual, to the congregation, to the Church I The policy of the spies was also one of ignorance and disobedience. It was opposed to the Divine design and command. So is it now. God has never said to any of His children, "Son, go to church, enjoy the services, criticise the sermons, bury yourself in business and pleasure from Monday till Saturday." No, but He does say, "Son, go work." And He says that to every son whom He acknowledges. No Christian can shake off his responsibility for personal service. And no one can buy himself off, for the conscription is universal. We must each put our hand to this work as we have opportunity, and if we do not, we show ourselves ignorant or prove ourselves disobedient. Moreover, this policy of the spies was a policy of inconsistency. In adopting it Joshua fell from his own model. He had begun in the spirit and was continuing in the flesh. The taking of Jericho was the pattern for faith to follow. What is the model set by God before His Church in the prosecution of the campaign of salvation? Without dispute, the Day of Pentecost. And what were the characteristics of that day? Unity of spirit, unity of labour. Likewise, this policy sprang from presumption. Joshua in listening to the advice of the spies acted according to the dictates of carnal wisdom. If all the people go against Ai they will tread on each other and be a hindrance rather than a help. If all the people quit the camp there will be a useless expenditure of energy. It is absurd to use 50,000 men when 5,000 are quite capable of doing the work. So they argued; and so the modern descendants of these wise spies say, "Not all the people." If all are engaged in this work, many mistakes will be made, much energy will be wasted, much folly will be wrought, much injury to the good cause will be done. What! Has not God ordained that all are to take part in this campaign? Let us take heed, then, lest in our wisdom we perchance become guilty of presumptuously opposing God, who has ordained by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. Certainly it is delightful to see zeal well directed, but any zeal for the good of souls is better than lethargy, indifference, death. Still further, this policy of the spies was a policy of infatuation. That Joshua entertained this proposal and acted on it was a sign that for the while he was left to himself on account of that sin which had defiled all Israel. Its unanimous adoption by the people (for both those who went to Ai and those who stayed in the camp signified their approval of it) was a clear token of the Divine displeasure, and brought its own punishment in the universal disgrace which followed. Thus does God often deal with men when they will not hearken to His voice. He makes them eat of the fruit of their own ways. May we ever be saved from such infatuation. Let us fall every one into the ranks of this great army of salvation. Let us buckle on the sword of the Spirit. Let us march to the attack on Satan's citadels with united front; and we also, like Israel, will divide the spoil and share the glory of the victory.
III. God gave this command to Joshua in order TO TEACH A LESSON. Jericho was taken in one way, Ai in another: therefore methods may vary; they are not stereotyped, cast-iron rules, which cannot be altered. There are essential and there are non-essential elements in the mode of conducting the Divine work. It is essential that all God's people should take part in the work. All were employed at Jericho; all were to be employed at Ai. It is essential that there be organisation and arrangement. It was an army, not a rabble, which did the work at Jericho; so was it at Ai. But there are non-essentials also. There are great diversities of operation in this army of the Cross. God does not always act exactly in the same way. He has different modes of reaching the human heart and conscience in different ages, in different countries, and among different classes. What is suitable in one set of circumstances may be very unsuitable in another.
(A. B. Mackay.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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:
WEB: Yahweh said to Joshua, "Don't be afraid, neither be dismayed. Take all the people of war with you, and arise, go up to Ai. Behold, I have given into your hand the king of Ai, with his people, his city, and his land.