— Elder Tim
Preparation for battle (Chapter 5)
Right after the people had crossed the Jordan, God told Joshua to circumcise all the sons of Israel who grew up in the desert. This command to Joshua is to let the people know that they are a separated people of God and they need to depend on Him to inherit the Promised Land. Although the circumcision is physical but the meaning of it is a matter of the heart. They are to separate themselves from the world with their hearts.
They are reminded not to intermingle themselves with the enemy. They need to be separated so that they would not be led to worship other gods. With every battle we take on we need to make sure that we need to separate ourselves from the things of the world, be fully committed to the Lord. We need to circumcise out hearts to be faithful to God only as a way for us to prepare to do any work for God.
Soon after the people were healed from circumcision, the people observed the Passover. After the people were reminded that they are the chosen people of God with His promise to Abraham for them to inherit the promised land, they were reminded of how God saved them and brought them out of Egypt with His great power. This observance of the Passover is a good reminder for us to remember what God has done for us to build up our faith in Him to guide us for the future.
We see from verse 13 that Joshua lifted up his eyes as he draws near to Jericho. He must be thinking of how to take down the city of Jericho, then the commander of the army of the Lord appeared standing before him. Joshua was reminded that the fight to take over Jericho is not his but the battle belongs to the Lord. Often times in our lives when we face tremendous challenges in our ministries, we have a tendency to figure out what to do by ourselves. We often easily forget the work we are to do is what God wants us to do. We need not be anxious about how we should do it. We need to just trust the Lord to lead us step by step.
Battle of Jericho (Chapter 6)
It was very interesting how God led the people in taking over the city of Jericho. Jericho was a heavily fortified fortress. I found a drawing depicting the double walled city would have been practically impenetrable by any enemy.
It would not have been an easy fight, even with an army of 600,000 army of Israel. God did not give them a plan to break down the gates, scaled the walls and launch catapults of stones. He instead showed the Israelites that this battle is totally led by Him. The hardest part of this battle is to break through the walls and He did it by a test of the people’s obedience with irrational instructions. Who would have thought of the way to break down the walls was by marching around it once a day with blowing of horns for 7 days and on the 7th day march around the city 7 times ending with everyone shouting. I could just imagine what was going on in the minds of the people thinking, “What the heck is Joshua doing?”
God want us to be able to have strong enough faith to “see” what He wants to give us. Moreover He wants us to see that he has already given it to us even though we do not have it in hand. This is the faith we need to take on difficult task ahead of us (6:2). When we do “see” what God has given us, it does not mean that everything will happen without us lifting a finger. God wants us to see that we need to do as He commands us even when things do not make sense. We need to have faith, patience and trust in Him of His ways (6:13-16)
Perhaps we can also learn from this incident that we as followers in the church should consider following the guidance of the leaders even when the actions to be taken does not make sense to us. As long as the actions does not conflicts the biblical principle, we need to learn to trust our leaders.
Defeat & victory at Ai (Chapters 7 & 8:1-29)
Soon after the victory of Jericho, Israelites drew near to the town of Ai. Joshua instructed some men to spy out the city similarly to what was done with Jericho. The spies reported back that they only need two to three thousand to fight the people of Ai. They may have leverage of their strength in the victorious battle of Jericho and overestimated the task. Their biggest mistake that Joshua made was not enquiring the Lord. Little did Joshua know that no matter how many people he sends to battle, the outcomes will be disastrous because God is not with them. Someone has sinned that effected the whole congregation.
In our lives, we often do similar things as Joshua when taking on a task in the church. We think we can do it without any problems since it is something we have done many times before. We end up not even praying for direction from God. In such cases, we may easily suffer defeats. Whenever we face defeats, we need to step back and enquire God what happened. Is it because of our sins we need to deal with or is it just that we were not clear of God’s guidance before we started.
We cannot stand when we are living in sins. Our defeats are often caused by our own pride & arrogance of our own abilities, claiming credit that is really due to God. Our defeats are often caused by our impatience of not waiting for the confirmation of God’s guidance and His instructions resulting walking before God. We must not blame our defeat on God (7:6-9)
As we see from Chapter 8, when Joshua sought God and God told him to clean up the sins of the people and instructed them on how to fight, the people delighted in their victory. We too can savor such victories when we always seek God first and do what he tells us.
Remember & honor God after victories (Chapter 8:30-35)
Joshua built an alter to the Lord after the Ai victory. And they offered burnt and peace offering to God. And afterwards he read all the words of the law in the Book of the Law to the people. This is a very good way to help people remember the blessings of God, honor Him for who He is and be reminded of all the words of the law to follow in our lives, especially in times of victory.
We must not get cocky and promote ourselves with victory dances. We must go back to His words for humility, thankfulness and anticipation of His guidance for the future. We must not forget the victory belongs to the Lord. “The battle is the Lord’s” (I Samuel 17:47)