JOSHUA 7:1 – 9:27 and LUKE 3:1–38
It does not take long for sin to enter into the camp. The warning of taking the accursed thing from the previous chapter was not taken seriously by all the people (Jos 6:18). Is this not true of us? A warning is given and we take immediate heed. It does not take long however for one’s guard to be let down. God was on the move and in short order there was sin in the camp. We will see that through the sin of one man all the camp will be affected. It is a picture of what happened when Adam sinned in the garden. This was a significant moment in God’s dealings with man. The Apostle Paul emphasizes the consequence of the sin of one man (Adam) in Rom 5:15-19. Through one man’s offense, judgment came upon all (Rom 5:18). This sin was not known publicly as yet however God took note, and He was angry (vs 1).
The children of Israel just experienced a dramatic victory at Jericho and are now poised to move against a much smaller foe (Ai). In verses 3-4 the men tell Joshua not to send any more than 3000 men. Look at the immediate pride and presumption on display here. There was no reverence for the presence of God; He was being taken for granted. Already, it is not hard to believe something like the following being said: Jericho was formidable but Ai is a piece of cake, a walk in the park.
Verse 5 sums up the battle by showcasing the rout of Ai over Israel. How could this be? How is it possible for this little enemy to so thoroughly rout the forces of Israel? It must be remembered that Israel and Joshua are not aware of the sin that was in the camp. This must have been very difficult for them to reconcile how this happened. It was so discouraging to Joshua that he said to the Lord that it would have been better to be content while staying on the other side of Jordan. This was not a complaint like the children of Israel registered against Moses; this was total disbelief in what just took place. Sin is no trivial matter; especially at a time when the presence of God is fully in the midst of God’s people (The Ark). Joshua as well as others fell before the Ark and rent their clothes. Joshua was well aware in how this would look before the enemies of God. He was also conscious in what this would do the Lord’s name (vs 9). This is a similar posture that was assumed by Moses when Israel was in rebellion. It was at a time when God was willing to destroy all of Israel and make of Moses a great name. Moses, who knew the ways of God, understood that this would be a reproach to the name of God (Exo 33:12).
In verses 10-15 the Lord makes clear to Joshua that there is sin in the camp. He also gives instruction in how to flesh out and address the sin. It was because of this that they could not stand before their enemy at Ai. The accursed things as well as the person(s) involved were to be burned by fire due to the transgressing of the covenant. Joshua immediately seeks to follow through in what God commanded. It is by lot that the guilty party was discovered. It appears that no one owned up to the sin. It is clear however that man cannot hide from sin, especially while in the presence of a holy God.
Num 32:23 But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out.
The lot eventually fell upon the tribe of Judah and then on to Achan. It is here where Achan acknowledges his guilt and gives the reason why he stole the goods. He coveted the silver and gold. It was the sin of covetousness that gripped Judas while in the presence of the Lord. We must be very much on guard regarding this sin of covetousness due to its ability to grip a heart. It is one of the Ten Commandments which was engraved in stone which was now accompanying Israel within the Ark (Exo 20:17). This was a direct violation and affront to the God of Israel who was fighting on their behalf. This left Israel exposed before this seemingly weak enemy. It is a lesson we need to heed especially as we look forward towards revival.
After the sin of Achan was uncovered and addressed, the Lord again speaks to Joshua that he is not to Fear; the Lord was about to give Ai and all that is there into his hand. The Lord gives the battle plan which involves an ambush of the city. Once again the method and plan for battles are not always the same. What worked before may not be the method that will work in future. God must be sought at all times for His plan, His timing and the battles of which we are called to engage in. If not we can begin to trust in methods which can result in God being left out of the picture. There must be a daily communing with God whether we are called to a battle or for guidance for the day. This battle at Ai will require 30,000 men of war whom were sent by night to prepare for the ambush. Joshua and the others will approach Ai and draw out the men of Ai to come after them.
It is interesting to note the place where these men waited in preparing for the ambush upon Ai. It is between Bethel and Ai (vs 9). This appears to be the same place where Abraham built an altar and called upon the Lord (Gen 13:4). You may recall that in the early journeying of Abraham he came to a plain between Ai and Bethel and there built an altar (Gen 12:8). Due to a famine he travelled down to Egypt where it took the intervention of God to spare him from judgement. He returned to that same place and called upon the Lord afresh. It was there where Abraham made a fresh consecration to God. It was here where Abraham and Lot separated in fulfilment of God’s earlier directive (Gen 12:1-3). Once again God is moving afresh under the leadership of Joshua. The initial assault upon Ai failed due to sin existing in the camp. There was disobedience to the Word of the Lord; to the Law that God had established. The men of war under Joshua are now between these two cities in that same plain where Abraham built an altar many generations before. I find it interesting that Israel under Joshua is once again brought to this place. It was the place of the 2nd chance for Abraham and it is now the place of the 2nd chance for Joshua and Israel. It is here where a fresh consecration was made unto God. We truly serve a God of the 2nd chance. It is important however to heed the significance of this plain between Bethel and Ai. The name Bethel speaks of the “house of God”. Ai has the connotation and symbolism of the “world.” This plain where they were at was located between the two cities. The two cannot co-exist when God is moving onward. Abraham went to Egypt and was rebuked of the Lord. He returned to that place, called upon the Lord and allowed his vision to be aligned with God’s.
Heb 11:10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God
Lot allowed his vision to wander towards Sodom and we know how that ended up. Joshua went up against Ai unaware that there was sin in the camp. Once this sin was uncovered they were able to go up and prevail against Ai. The unique battle plan that God gave in this battle allows us to appreciate the truth concerning the place where the men of war waited as they prepared for their ambush (Bethel and Ai-vs 9). There must be separation from the world (Egypt) and the things that pertain to the world; like covetousness as was seen in Achan.
Joshua fully executed God’s plan against the city of Ai (vs 26). He then builds an altar at Mt. Ebal which is the fulfilment of what God spoke through Moses (Deu 27:3-5). This altar was to serve as a reminder as to what God had done and to re-instil the Fear of the Lord amongst the people. Secondly, he wrote upon the stones a copy of the Law of Moses; doing this in front of all the people. When this was completed he read from the Book of the Law in its entirety. The message should be abundantly clear to all that God and His Laws are to be revered and taken seriously. The reading of the Law is similar account as to when Ezra the priest read the Law before all the people as they were being restored after their Babylonian captivity (Neh 8:1-10). The Word of God is consistent from Genesis through Revelation. The parallels between Abraham’s days to Joshua’s are yet reminders to us in how we are to approach these last days. The Law of God is not irrelevant like many portend; it is the living way that will ensure our success in God. Once again, it is first adherence to the Law via the priesthood that allows for true kingdom advancement.
The battles that have been won against Jericho and Ai are now coming to the attention of other nations. These nations now join hands and seek to unite against Israel. This is a principle seen throughout the Word of God as well as in life. People or nations who do not get along will unite together when they feel threatened. This is something that will be seen in the last days with regard to Christianity. Already, it is taking place. Religions that normally do not associate together are finding areas of agreement where they can blend and flow together. The issue of same sex marriage is aligning some liberal based church congregations to join hands with today’s secular agenda. Over time there will be churches that will come under great pressure to conform to the norms of society. Standing for that which is right will alienate the true church from the masses. Churches are dividing and will further divide over doctrine. The principles that God gave to Israel via Moses is that which will endure. The principles that were re-established at Ai will be those which will enable the church of the last days to stand. We must be warned that it will be a tactic that the enemy will use to alienate churches from one another. The various nations that are now banding together as seen in verse 1 (The Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites) are not just secular foes, they represent elements that work in the church as well. They will unite against the message and vision of Zion. Today we are beginning to see a melding of New Age Mystical type religion with Christianity. We must be discerning and vigilant.
There is another enemy that is showing itself to be craftier than the others. It is the Gibeonites. In verses 3-15 they feign themselves to be strangers from a distant land. They recount the testimony of what God had done through Israel to the other nations. They desired that Joshua and Israel would make an agreement with them whereby they would look after one another’s interests. The Gibeonites had a reputation for being likened to a serpent. We see here a tactic that was used in the garden when Satan tempted and seduced man. Joshua took these men at face value and as a result made an alliance with an enemy that they should have destroyed. A few days after this incident Israel came to Gibeon and it was there where they discovered who these strangers were. As a result they could not destroy them due to the oath that was made between Israel and the men of Gibeon. The men of Gibeon confessed what they did and why they did it to Joshua. As a result Joshua made them labourers in the fields along with the responsibility of being drawers of water for the congregation. Interestingly, there was a curse pronounced upon Canaan as a result of Ham’s exposing of his father’s (Noah’s) nakedness.
Gen 9:25 And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.
The Gibeonites, having come from this area may well be the fulfilment of the above verse. They had access to the congregation of Israel. They also represent a picture or an emblem of how one day the Gentile will be part of the congregation of the Lord. The Gibeonites now had opportunity to hear the Law of God as well as grow in knowledge. Though Joshua let down his guard regarding this matter, God was still able to use it for good. It is a costly price to pay. In later generations we will find the restorers like Ezra and Nehemiah who learned from this example. They did not make the same mistakes that Joshua and Israel made here. Ezra discerned the intent of the sons of Esarhaddon when they feigned interest in building alongside them for the restoration work (Ezra 4). Nehemiah was also discerning of the wiles and tactics of Sanballat and his band of evil men as they sought numerous ways to undermine the rebuilding of the city.
The church in the last days must have an ability to discern. The Bible makes clear that Satan is able to transform Himself into an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14). What really is the true condition of the church today? Are there alliances being made with worldly elements so as to maintain the crowds? When the standards and statutes of God are lifted up it will draw the fire and opposition of the enemy. The opposition may well be blatant and obvious at first. If the enemy does not succeed initially then his tactics will change. Last but not least it will be in the area of doctrine where many of the attacks will come. It is here when church may be pitted against church due to a differing on standards. It starts subtly by lowering standards; once achieved it is then only a matter of time before the walls come down completely. Who in the end will be on the Lord’s side (Exo 32:26)?
We are now introduced into the ministries of both John the Baptist and Jesus. The majority of this chapter covers the ministry of John. This is a most unique moment seeing that there is taking place the fulfilling of Biblical prophecy. John was spoken of in Isa 40:3, “a voice crying forth in the wilderness.” What was his primary message? It was that of repentance and preparing the way of the Lord. There were many years of preparation in the life of John that brought him to this moment in time. These years are not known, they were hidden. We can pretty much say the same thing about the Lord as well. The key here is timing. In verse 2 it mentions that the Word of God came upon him in the days of Annas and Caiphus who were the high priests at the time. He was not a typical religious type person however his message had traction. He was one who did not mince words. He took issue with those who went through the formalities of religion. If they were to be baptized they had to bring forth fruits to demonstrate that they were repentant. He also was a New Covenant messenger as seen in the following verse:
Luk 3:9 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
Jesus would further build upon this truth when he would speak of the Law. The axe being laid to the root is a picture of the Law getting to the root of where all sin originates which of course is in the heart. What is the New Covenant? It is the law of God being written on the fleshly table of the heart. The Law gets to the root. If you get to the root you can remove or eradicate that sin. John’s message resonated with publicans, (vs 12) soldiers (vs 14) as well as the common people. The anointing was strong upon John that many wondered if he were the Christ (vs 15). We have noted earlier in other commentaries how John was characterized as a type of Elijah; one whose future ministry will flow in the area of power and restoration (Mal 4:5-6). John also made clear that there was yet one to come who will baptize with fire and in the Holy Ghost. John knew who he was; he knew his mission and ministry. There will be those who follow John who will later struggle in transitioning to the new move of the Father through Jesus (Math 9:14). The danger in not being able to transition may be an aligning with forces that in the end oppose the work of God. Look who the disciples of John were beginning to connect with:
Mat 9:14 Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not?
John did not have this problem. When the Lord’s time came he recognized that He (Christ) must increase while I (John) must decrease (John 3:30). John was truly a great man. We also see how he stood firm in the matter of Herod and his desire to marry his brother’s wife. This resulted in his imprisonment and death. His earthly end was obscure and without fanfare. His heavenly and eternal reward is more than worth the price paid.
In verses 21-23 we are introduced to Jesus. He is baptized of John and simultaneously the heavens open up with the Holy Ghost descending upon Him in the shape of a dove. The voice of the Father affirms His Son. He is very well pleased at the preparation that the Son experienced that brought Him to this moment. There is something about the affirmation of a Father. It brings security, peace and a sense that all will be well. The true affirmation of father’s is sorely lacking in today’s world. Without it, a people can become rudderless with little or no sense of identity. It is the heavenly Father that gives identity to His people. It is the affirmation of father’s that can help bring identity to a lost and wandering world. We also see a beautiful picture of the Trinity at work. The voice of the Father affirming His Son who would become the sin offering for the world while the Holy Spirit comes upon Him to empower Him for His task.
In verses 24-38 Luke flows right into the lineage of Christ, as the Son of man and traces it back to Adam. This authenticates that Jesus as the Son of God is also by miraculous conception through Mary, the Son of Man.