The Taking of Ai Spiritualised
Joshua 8:1-2
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…

1. It appears, in the first place, that in going out to battle with anything that is doomed we must have a right character and a right cause. The Lord would not allow a blow to be struck at the city by a wicked hand; He will have judgment executed by righteousness; He will have the law proclaimed by lips that have been circumcised and anointed. The first great inquiry of man is a moral inquiry, not an inquest about numbers, places: and possible issues — but, "Is this thing right? and am I right who attempt to do the work?" That being the case, go forward.

2. The next great lesson of this incident is that we must all advance upon the doomed institution. When the idea of taking Ai was first broached, there were clever men in Israel who said, "Let two or three thousand of us go up and take the city." "I, and all the people that are with me, will approach unto the city" (ver. 5). That must be the rule of the Church in all its great moral wars. The battle is not to be handed over to a few persons, however skilful and zealous. The work of teaching the world and saving the world is a work committed to the whole Christian body. The living Church of the living God is one. When the Church realises its totality, when every man is part of an army and not an isolated warrior, then every Ai doomed of Heaven shall reel under the battering-ram which the Church will employ. There are to be no mere critics; there are to be thousands of active soldiers.

3. This being so, the incident brings before us in a very suggestive and picturesque manner the fact that we must excel the enemy in shrewdness. The Church is to be shrewder than the world, believers are to be keener of mind and more active in every energy than unbelievers. It is evident, moreover, that if we are to do any real work in the world in the name of God and in the cause of Christ we must be about our business night and day. In ver. 10 we read, "And Joshua rose up early in the morning"; in ver. 13 we read, "Joshua went that night into the midst of the valley." How useful some men might be if they had the spirit of consecration: what time they have on hand!

4. We should miss one great lesson of this story if we did not note that we are bound to set fire to every devoted abomination. Ai was burned. We are not called to compromise, to paltering, to arranging, to expediency where ignorance is concerned, or slavery, or vice, or wrong. Things must be so burned down that they can never grow again. And after destruction, what then? Positive religion comes next: "Then Joshua built an altar unto the Lord God of Israel in Mount Ebal" (ver. 30). It is no use building your altar until you have burned the abomination. A great destructive work is to be done first, and in the doing of it, there will be great outcry about change, and novelty, and reprisal, and revolution. If you have not been faithful in the work of destruction, you cannot be faithful in the work of construction. It is lying unto the Holy Ghost to build an altar upon the basis of a rotten life. So we are called to thoroughness of work. There is to be no superficial action here. And after the altar, what? The law — the law of righteousness, the law of God. Ver. 32 reads, "And Joshua wrote there upon the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he wrote in the presence of the children of Israel." This is complete work-destruction, the erected altar, the inscribed law. This is healthy work.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

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