Obedience to God Requires Strategy

Joshua 8

Jerry A Collins




*               Why is strategy necessary in our obedience to God?

*               What kind of commitment must we make against sin?

*               How does God bless us today in the age of the church?


I was reading the United Kingdom National Archives webpage where they had a link to recent document releases pertaining to the 40th anniversary of Sir Winston Churchills funeral January 24, 1965. The documents reveal 12 years of planning that had gone into his funeral. It all began in 1953 when the queen instructed her top civil servants to begin confidential planning for Churchills funeral that was on a scale befitting his position in history. This planning was codenamed Operation Hope Not. Documents reveal that over the next 12 yrs family members were regularly consulted as plans emerged--undertakers contacted and secured, the BBC radio and TV briefed and prepared. In 1958, the master paper on Procedure on the death of Sir Winston Churchill was produced and then revised 8 times thru 1964. Contingency arrangements were made in case his death happened overseas in Europe or the Americas. Churchill himself was unwilling to address himself to the subject and even changed his mind about his final resting place causing the plans to be revised once again. Speeches of tribute were prepared and drafted years in advance for the Prime Minister and the Queen. The funeral invitations were even printed in advance with date of death left blank to be handwritten. There was even a minute by minute account of the funeral procession from 8am until noon. All of this planning and strategy at the command of the Queen for Churchills funeral compares to the command of God and strategy Joshua developed for Israel at Ai. God told Joshua not to fear but to go up to Ai in vs 1. He would do to the king of Ai what he did to the king of Jericho. There is no ban on the city this time, but only take the cattle and the property. Kill the people. They were to set up an ambush behind the city. God gave only a basic idea of an ambush while Joshua fleshed this idea out with a strategy and a three-fold plan to execute it in the battle at Ai.


Israel had just experienced a humiliating defeat at Ai in chp 7. After dealing with Achan the Lord is now leading once again. The command is to go back and fight using an ambush unlike the way God told them to fight in Jericho. Unlike Jericho, God left the details and strategy up to Joshua. Going back to a place of defeat and recovering lost ground may not be easy. Morally and spiritually it requires confession, repentance and restoration before there is hope of regaining and rebounding. The consequences of defeat may not go away but a renewed effort is possible when following Gods Word.

Joshuas 3-fold plan 3-9 His plan included (1) Draw the Ai army out of the city with a false retreat 5-6. (2) Destroy the city with the army of 30,000 hiding behind it 3-4. (3) Surround and destroy Ai while preventing Bethel from interfering 9. We can see the careful planning and strategy following the initial defeat at Ai compared to the casual planning before the first battle of Ai. Also, Ai is the first line of defense geographically for Bethel which sits up on the Central Benjamin Plateau and the staging ground for invasions both north and south. Bethel is prominent on this ridge and Ais position as a first line of defense is significant for everyone involved. Now much of the spiritual life requires a strategy. Gods commands require a strategy we develop for the purpose of obedience. God gives us some general commands like Romans 12:1-2 which states that we present our bodies as living sacrifices but the specifics are up to us. It takes a lot of thinking and strategy for instance, to stay out of debt Romans 13:8. It requires thinking and strategy for husbands to love their wives or for wives to submit to their husbands and respect them Eph 5. It requires thinking and strategy to manage our households well. God commands to make disciples of every nation. He commands us to obey our government. We are not to walk in the flesh but in the Spirit. We are to pursue love, to clean ourselves from defilement, walk in a manner worthy of our calling, abstain from sexual immorality, discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness, Live with our wives in an understanding way, and obey our parents. All of this requires thinking and strategy-the specifics we work out in our particular life situations. How should we do that? This is what Joshua figured out and applied to his particular situation to follow and obey the command of God. He did the same with Jericho. 2. THE ONLY WAY TO DEAL WITH SIN IS TO DESTROY IT

In this section is the actual battle strategy carried out against Ai. 10-17 Josh pretends to run and the king of Ai follows 18-20 Ai is ambushed by Israel 21-29 Ai and inhabitants killed, city burned, king executed and buried. The only way to deal with sin is to destroy it. (1) God amazingly patient with Canaanites. 400 yrs the cup of the amorites had been filling Gen 15:16 but when cup is full judgment comes. Happened in Noahs day Gen 6:5. Happened in Sodoms day Gen 19. One day Christ will come again as judge of all earth Rev 19. God not unjust to these. There comes a time when Gods mercy ends. When mercy is no longer an option. There comes a time when God no longer can be merciful. Not like his characterGod can never stop being omnipotent or holy or infinite or sovereign. This is His character and never ends but his work can. (2) There are more important things than human life and only God can determine that since He is its author and creator. Namely, that is when Holiness is at issue. Even believers can face untimely death because of sin and rebellion (Annanias/Sapphira). God sheds human blood for reasons He tells us in His Word. Innocent people were not slaughtered (S&G righteous delivered 1st, Rahab and family delivered, Isrealites delivered before destruction of Jerusalem Eze). Any sensitive person must wonder about the cup of sin in the modern world. God promises to judge that too. (3) Ai, king and inhabitants, knew of Israel and her God and observed the deliverance but like Jericho refused to acknowledge God of Israel as God. They could have repented, initiated a response in faith like Rahab but their advance against Israel tipped their hand and brought their destruction. (4) This was a religious war commanded by God to Israel under the Law in the OT. Today, biblically speaking, all religious wars are wrong. Christians are commanded to make disciples of all nations not to make war with them Rom 13:18-21 Heb 12:14. Crusades foolish unbiblical example of Christian religious war. No xian should join a religious war but we should war against sin to destroy it. That is impossible in this life because we have a sin nature and the battle is within us Rom 7. But each spiritual battle should have in mind the eradication of sin not some compromise. 3. CAREFULLY OBEY ALL OF GODS WORD First, Josh builds an altar at Mt Ebal. Second, he wrote copies of the Law so anyone who wanted a copy could make one 32. There was not a word of all that Moses commanded that Josh did not read 35. It is important to not leave things out, things we may consider unimportant or inappropriate for our culture when giving the Word of God. Third, they read the blessing and cursing according to the Law. These were for this life in the land of Israel. In the OT the blessings of God were physical, earthly, temporalusually in land of Israel. For the church, in the NT, there are no physical blessings promised for this life. All blessings of God are spiritual, heavenly and eternalnot earthly prosperity. Blessing today is reaping the benefits, that is, prospering in the next life. (1) See ministry as involving all people 8:1 not just clergy or those described with jobs in our religious organizations including churches. Danger of missions is considering a persons ministry as insignificant if it is not something described by our organization. (2) We need to think thru our life situation and plan how to be obedient to God. (3) The Word of God is written for everyone to read, learn, obeymake it available to others.