Victory at Ai
March 6 - Nº 65 Joshua 8 – 9
The Israelites had dealt with the sin that resulted in their defeat at Ai. God was no longer angry with His people. So, he told Joshua, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Take the whole army and attack Ai.” He promised to give them victory, and He gave them a battle plan. That night, Joshua instructed 30,000 men to prepare to fight. He told 5,000 of them to sneak up to the city of Ai and hide on the western side. Then he led the remaining 25,000 men to the north side where they set up camp. The next morning, as Joshua and his soldiers came in from the north, the men of Ai came out to fight them. Men from the neighboring city of Bethel joined the soldiers from Ai. As the two sides engaged, the Israelites turned and ran. The men from Ai chased them, leaving their city unprotected. The Israelites lured them into the wilderness far from the city. Once the men were well away from the city, Joshua held up his javelin. As the blade gleamed in the sun, the 5,000 men who were hiding knew it was time to begin their ambush. With most of the men gone, it was easy to capture the city and set it on fire. The soldiers from Ai looked back and saw smoke rising from their city. It was going up in flames, and they were trapped by the Israelite army! They tried to escape, but they couldn’t. All the people of Ai were killed that day, and the city became a heap of rubble. Joshua built an altar to the Lord, the God of Israel, according to the instructions God had given to Moses at Mount Sinai. They offered sacrifices on it. Then Joshua re-copied and read all the commandments God had given them, reaffirming their Declaration of Dependence on God. All the Israelites listened intently, as did several foreigners like Rahab and her family (see #61 - March 2 and #63 - March 4) who had put their faith in the God of Israel. Most of the inhabitants of Canaan, however, were hostile to the Israelites and despised their God. They joined forces to drive the new nation out of the land. However, the Gibeonites were too afraid to fight against the God who had just destroyed Jericho and Ai. They came up with a plan to trick the Israelites into signing a peace treaty. They knew that the Israelites’ God did not want His people to sign treaties with any Canaanite nations. He would, however, allow them to sign a treaty with a foreign nation that wanted to worship Him. So, they dressed in worn out clothes and loaded their donkeys with sacks of dry, moldy food. They lied about where they were from and pretended to have come a long way to make peace and worship the Israelite God. Instead of going to God for wisdom and advice, the Israelites fell for the Gibeonites’ lies and signed the treaty. Three days later, the Israelites discovered they had been tricked into signing a binding treaty with a Canaanite nation! The Israelites put them to work as servants. They had to cut wood and carry water for the Tabernacle. But allowing the Gibeonites to live among them and serve them became a heavy responsibility for the Israelites.
It is easy to make the wrong decisions and get ourselves in serious trouble when we rely on our own impressions and senses. The Israelites found this out the hard way! We can only know what God wants us to do when we read His Word and spend time with Him in prayer.