So Joshua arose, and all the people of war, to go up against Ai: and Joshua chose out thirty thousand mighty men of valor…
I. Consider THE ADVICE OF THE SPIES which led to such a shameful defeat (Joshua 7:3).
1. Here we shall have to deal with the error of supposing that a part only of the Church will be sufficient to perform the work of the whole.
2. In Joshua's day this error sprang up among the Israelites because, on account of their sins, God was displeased with them. When God is in the midst of a Church He guides its counsels and directs the hearts of men to go about His work in the wisest manner. Even upon the Lord's own people a measure of judicial blindness may come. You may depend upon it that when it becomes a doctrine that only special classes of men are to be expected to work in the Church there is some great wrong in the background.
3. Furthermore, this evil policy arose out of presumption engendered by success. The full sail needs much ballast, lest the boat be overset. We must be more sensible of weakness, more mindful that the conversion of souls is the work of Omnipotence, or we shall see but little done. We must ourselves believe more fully in the need of earnest work for God, and put forth all our strength, and strain every sinew for Him, knowing that it is His power that worketh in us mightily when we strive with all our hearts.
4. Let us not forget that these children of Israel were forgetting their commission and violating the command of God. As they all expected to have a dwelling-place in Canaan, so they were all expected to conquer the territory by their own exertions. They were all an enlisted host for God, and He never ordained that a part only should go forth in His great controversy with the condemned Canaanites. If we ever neglect to render universal service as a Church in the cause of Christ we shall depart from our trust and call, for the Lord has sent all His disciples to testify of Him and contend against sin.
5. These Israelites, in the new fashion which they were trying to set up, were departing from their own model. That model was, doubtless, the siege of Jericho. In that siege there was much dependence upon God, but there was no neglect of instrumentality; and, though all they did was to go round the city and shout, yet in so doing they were literally fulfilling orders, and doing all that was commanded. What, then, is our model as a Church? Is it not Pentecost? In that day did they not break bread from house to house, all of them? Did they not sell their lands and lay the price of them at the apostles' feet? Was there not a burning enthusiasm throughout the entire company of disciples? I suppose there is not one person present who heard that famous sermon by Matthew Wilks upon the universal service rendered by idolaters to their false gods, from the text, "The children gathered wood, and the fathers kindled the fire, and the women kneaded their dough to make cakes to the queen of heaven." The preacher's argument on that occasion was that which I would now press upon you, that all should take part in the work of the Lord. Distinct offices but united aims; diverse operations but the same spirit; many and yet one — so let it be.
6. Again, this error which we are carefully to avoid was no doubt the dictate of carnal wisdom. Spies were norm" of much use to Israel — two only of the first twelve were faithful — what did Israel want with spies? Better far had it been to walk by faith. To Ai they must needs send spies instead of going up at once in. the confidence of faith: evil came of it, for these spies counselled that only part of the people need labour up the hill. And the best ministers of Christ, worthy of all honour, would be the cause of great mischief if once their carnal wisdom should make them think that they can supersede primitive plans with wiser inventions.
7. These children of Israel, in sending to the war only part of the men were breaking in upon the Divine design. The Lord never intended to have two peoples, but one; and so we read that the Beubenites and the Gadites came over Jordan to the war, although their portion was already conquered. It was the Divine intent that they should be one army of the living God, each separate son of the seed of Abraham belonging Go that army and fighting in it; He meant that not some only, but all should see the mighty works of His hand, working with them to overthrow their adversaries. I am sure it is so with the Church of God to-day. Our Lord means to keep all His chosen ones as one army, and to instruct them a]l as one band. And when are we most manifestly one? When we get to work.
II. THE COMMAND THAT ALL ISRAEL SHOULD GO FORTH TO THE FIGHT: "Take all the men of war with thee." We must have all our Church members go to the war. We want to turn out the drones, and we need an increase of true working bees. How is it to be done?
1. We must be ourselves deeply impressed with the evil brought upon idle Christians by their idleness, and the evil which they bring upon the rest of the Church. Indolence is temptation. Certain of our Churches are suffering from unsound teaching, but they are suffering as much from want of work. The moss is growing upon them, the rust is eating them up; the gold becomes dim, the silver is losing its brightness, and all for want of use.
2. We need to be impressed with the mischief which idlers cause to others. One sickly sheep infects the flock; one member who does nothing lowers the tone of the whole body. The indolence of prominent professors is not merely the waste of their own labour, but of that of scores of others. Every man in an army who is not efficient and really serviceable is on the enemy's side.
3. Moreover, we must hunt out the sin which leads to the evil against which we contend, and I believe it is want of vital godliness in many cases. It is often the sin which grows out of too much ease, self-indulgence, and luxurious living. It seems as if the more God gives a man the less return he is inclined to offer. Whatever the secret sin of the Church may be, let us try to discover it, and then by the aid of the Holy Spirit endeavour to educate all our members to work for the Lord.
4. There must be a continual insisting upon the personal obligations of Christians. "What art thou doing for Christ?" is a question to be asked of all. No one must appear before the Lord empty, but either by active or passive service must prove his gratitude to God. And then, while each is responsible, neglect by one is injurious to the common service of the whole. I saw a cart standing this morning on the roadside with one wheel chained; there was no fear of its moving with that one wheel fast. Sometimes one chained wheel in a Church will hinder all.
5. Dwell upon the importance of the enterprise in which we are engaged; and so act as to make others feel its importance. We must make men feel that to save a soul is better than to possess all knowledge, or even to gain the whole world! While others are making a new gospel let us labour to save souls by the old one.
6. Above all, let us pray for more grace. Napoleon used to say, "Conquest has made me what I am, and conquest must maintain me"; and it is so with Christians. You must advance; you must outdo the exploits of the past, and eclipse the deeds of your sires, or you will show yourselves unworthy of them.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.