Jos_8:26. Joshua drew not his hand back, wherewith he stretched out the spear, until he had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai.
WHATEVER instruments God is pleased to make use of, it is by his hand alone that any thing is wrought: and he will be seen in his works. For this end, he has frequently appointed such means to be used, as had, in reality, not the smallest degree of fitness to the end proposed; and which were of no other use, than to direct the eyes of men to him as the true agent, and to constrain them to acknowledge him in the effects produced. The stretching forth of Moses’ rod neither had, nor could have, any direct influence in producing the plagues of Egypt, or in opening a passage through the depths of the sea: but it marked, in the most signal manner, the power of Almighty God, who had engaged to accomplish his wonders by those means. Thus it was, that God decreed to give to Joshua the victory over Ai, by the stretching forth of his spear. The Israelitish host had been repulsed before Ai: but now they were ordered to attack it again. Means of every kind were to be used, as if the victory were to be gained by human skill and valour. Thirty thousand men were to be placed in ambush: and a feigned retreat was to be made, in order to draw the people of Ai from their strong-holds, and to seize upon their city whilst they were pursuing the retreating hosts of Israel. All this was well, according to the arts of war: and all this was to be rendered subservient to the end proposed. But still it was not by this that success was to be obtained. Joshua must stretch forth his spear: and, though that could be no signal to direct the operations of his army, (for he was alone, and at a distance from the army,) it was the signal by which, if I may so speak, God would act: for at the moment that Joshua, according to the divine appointment, stretched forth his spear, God stirred up the hosts that were in ambush to execute the concerted movement; and thus a speedy and entire victory was gained [Note: The second night before the battle, Joshua was with the army, arranging the plans of attack: but the night preceding the battle, and the whole time of the battle, Joshua was alone with God in the valley. Compare ver. 9, 13. For the order given by God to Joshua, and its instantaneous effects, see ver. 18, 19.]. But God would still have it seen that the success was owing to him alone: and, therefore, Joshua must still keep his arm and spear extended, till all the people of Ai were completely destroyed.
Now, in this significant act, Joshua was both a type and an example: and in it we see,
How our Great Captain interests himself for us—
Joshua was a very eminent and distinguished type of Christ—
[To him was committed the office of leading God’s chosen people into Canaan. Moses might conduct them through the wilderness; but he could not bring them into the promised land. He represented the Law, which serves as a rule of conduct, but can give no man a title to heaven. He must give up this honour to Joshua, who was raised up of God for this purpose, to subdue their enemies before them, and to put them into the possession of the promised inheritance. His very name was changed, in reference to his appointment, from Osea to Jehoshua; which is a compound of Jah Osea, and signifies ‘divine saviour [Note: Num_13:16.].’ His name, thus altered, is the very same with that of Jesus, whose type he was. And no less than twice in the New Testament is his name translated “Jesus,” when it should rather, for distinction sake, hare been translated “Joshua [Note: Act_7:45 and Heb_4:8.]:” and both times in reference to his conducting the children of Israel into Canaan. He was the ostensible leader of the Lord’s people: but the Lord Jesus Christ was the real “Captain of the host:”and before Joshua had fought one battle in the land, the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to him in a visible shape as a warrior, and made known to him, that he held but the second place, and that the Messiah himself was, in truth, “the Leader and Commander of the people [Note: Jos_5:14 with Isa_55:4.].” Agreeably to this appointment, the Lord Jesus Christ is called “the Captain of our salvation [Note: Heb_2:10.],” and is declared to be “exalted of God to be a Prince, and a Saviour, that he may give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins [Note: Act_5:31.].” In fact, it is through him alone that any of “the sons of God are brought to glory [Note: Heb_2:10.].”]
He was a type of Christ in the very act we are considering—
[He was at a distance from the immediate combatants, and in the presence of his God, with whom he was, no doubt, engaged in fervent intercession for the people: and through him was the victory obtained. To the eye of sense, he did nothing; but to the eye of faith, he did every thing. Thus it is that the Lord Jesus Christ is gone into heaven, “there to appear in the presence of God for us [Note: Heb_9:24.].” There is he “our Advocate with the Father [Note: 1Jn_2:1.],” and never ceases to make intercession in our behalf; and on that very account “he is, and shews himself, able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him [Note: Heb_7:25.].” True it is, that we must fight, as if all depended on ourselves: but still it is through him alone that we can prevail: and whoever he be that is finally made a conqueror, he is made so altogether “through him that loveth him [Note: Rom_8:37.]:” “God giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ [Note: 1Co_15:57 and 2Co_2:14.].”]
From the same significant action we may see,
How we are to engage in combat for ourselves—
Behold the attitude of Joshua, his spear stretched out from the very commencement of the battle to the close. Who sees not in this his determined purpose, and his confident expectation of success ? Thus, then, must we fight the Lord’s battles against our spiritual enemies;
With determined purpose—
[A command is given us to destroy them: and, as in God’s purpose they are all devoted to destruction, so they must be in ours. No truce is to be made with any of them; not one is to be spared. We have enlisted under the banners of our Lord Jesus Christ; and his battles we must fight, till every enemy is subdued before us. Under whatever discouragements we may fight, we must approve ourselves “good soldiers of Jesus Christ;” never retreating through fear, never fainting through weariness, never relaxing our efforts in any respect, nor ever dreaming of rest, till “Satan and all his hosts are bruised under our feet [Note: Rom_16:20.].” The posture of Joshua was no doubt painful to maintain; even as that of Moses had been on a similar occasion, when he held up his rod on the hill in Horeb [Note: Exo_17:9.]. His hands were heavy, and he needed the assistance both of Hur and Aaron to hold them up. Through their help, however, he did hold them up till the going down of the sun, and till Amalek was discomfited before Israel [Note: Exo_17:10-13.]. Such resolution must we also possess; and never draw back our hand, till the victory is complete.
The importance of this determination of heart will appear by the effects produced by the want of it in Joash king of Israel. The prophet Elisha being sick, the king of Israel went to visit him. The prophet announced to him God’s gracious intention to destroy the Syrians, his powerful and bitter enemies. The prophet bade him take a bow and arrows; to shoot with an arrow, which should mark the speed with which they should be destroyed; and to strike the arrows on the ground, in token of the extent to which success over them should be obtained. But the king, being but languid in his desires of victory, and not very sanguine in his expectations, smote the ground but thrice; when he should, with determined purpose and joyful confidence, have smitten it five or six times. For this lukewarm conduct he was severely reproved; and his success was limited to the measure of zeal which he had expressed [Note: 2Ki_13:15-19.]. So shall we find that our success will exactly correspond with the zeal with which we prosecute our endeavours. Let us determine to conquer, and the victory is ours: let our efforts never be relaxed, and they shall infallibly succeed at last [Note: Gal_6:9.].]
With confident expectation—
[It is clear that Joshua entertained no doubts of final success: he was well assured that the event would be such as God had given him reason to expect. It is true, he could see no connexion between his holding forth a spear in the valley, and the success of combatants at a distance from him: to the judgment of sense it would appear, that he would have been better employed at the head of the army, animating and directing his men. But he knew Who alone could give the victory, and that a compliance with God’s command was the surest means of obtaining help from him. Hence, without any apprehensions about the issue, he maintained his stand before God, and held forth his spear till all his enemies were destroyed. Such is the confidence which we also must maintain, in all our conflicts with sin and Satan. God has promised us success; and “what He has promised, He is able also to perform.” There may appear to us but little connexion between our poor efforts and the destruction of such mighty foes: but we are not to be listening to the suggestions of unbelief; but to “be strong in faith, giving glory to God.” We should even now, by anticipation, see all our enemies subdued before us, and the crown of victory set upon our heads. “If God be for us, who can be against us?” should be our triumphant boast: and we should hurl defiance at our enemies, in the name of the Lord of hosts. Though we be only as David, a stripling, with a sling and stone, going forth against Goliath fully armed for the combat, we should know in whom we have believed, and advance as to certain victory. Trusting assuredly in the promise of our God, “we shall not be ashamed or confounded world without end.”]
Let me, in conclusion, say to all of you,
Think not lightly of the spiritual warfare—
[Every one amongst us has a warfare to maintain. Notwithstanding Canaan is the gift of God, it must be obtained by a manly and continued conflict with our spiritual enemies. The world, the flesh, the devil, are all combined against us, as much as ever the seven nations of Canaan were against God’s people of old; and we must go forth against them in the name of our God. We must not despise any as too weak, nor fear any as too strong. Joshua erred in sending only about three thousand men against Ai in the first instance, because the warriors in Ai were but few. His success against Jericho had led him to indulge an undue confidence in the prowess of his men: and he forbore to impose on any greater number what was deemed both by him and them an unnecessary burthen and fatigue. But this unhallowed confidence was punished with defeat: and afterwards he proceeded with his whole force, and with a careful attention to all the stratagems of war. We, too, must follow him in this respect. There is no enemy so weak, but he will be able to overcome us, if we indulge a careless habit, or confide in an arm of flesh. We must fight the good fight of faith, and quit ourselves like men upon the field of battle: but we must, also, be much and often with our God “in the valley [Note: ver. 13.]:” there must we be holding forth our hands in prayer; nor must we ever draw them back, so long as one single enemy survives. In this respect we cannot do better than follow the steps of David: “Plead my cause, O Lord, with them that stave with me: fight thou against them that fight against me. Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for mine help: draw out also the spear, and stop the way against them that persecute me: say unto my soul, I am thy salvation [Note: Psa_35:1-3.].” If you hold forth your spear, and prevail on God to draw forth his, it will be impossible for any enemy to stand before you.]
Cease not to prosecute it, till your victory is complete—
[As to “run well for a season only” is the sure way to lose the prize; so to fight, however well, for a season only, will ensure nothing but defeat. You are told, that when Moses’ hands hanged down, Amalek prevailed: and it was only by their being held up till the evening, that ultimate success was gained. “Be ye then faithful unto death, in order that ye may obtain the crown of life.” “If any man draw back, it is to certain and inevitable perdition [Note: Heb_10:39.].” Take the great Captain of your salvation for your pattern: he never ceased from his work, till he could say, “It is finished.” Or, if you would have for your pattern a man, “who was of like passions with yourselves, then set Joshua before your eyes; and let his posture in the presence of his God be the continued posture of your souls.]