Life-Study of Joshua, Judges & Ruthby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In this message we will consider Joshua 7 and 8. These chapters give the account of the destruction of Ai.
The first time the children of Israel went up to destroy Ai they suffered a defeat. There were four reasons for this defeat. First, Israel sinned. God’s people were to be holy, sanctified, especially during the time of war. But one of the men of war from the tribe of Judah sinned by stealing something that was devoted to destruction. Second, they lost the presence of the Lord. Third, they trusted in themselves. Fourth, they lost their oneness with God.
God can do everything without man, but according to the record of the book of Joshua He wants man to be one with Him. In keeping with the principle of incarnation, God wants to do everything through man, with man, and even in man. At Jericho Israel marched around the city with the ark, a type of Christ as the embodiment of the Triune God, on the shoulders of the priests. The spiritual significance of this scene is that it is a picture of a corporate God-man, God and man, man and God, walking together as one person. This was the way the children of Israel crossed the river Jordan, and this was the way they destroyed the city of Jericho. God and Israel were fighting together. Actually, however, God did the fighting, and Israel simply shouted, proclaimed, and testified and then occupied the city.
This scene should have continued through all the taking of the land. But after the destruction of Jericho, Israel sinned by taking something from Jericho that was devoted to destruction (6:18-19). Although this sin was committed by an individual, Achan, it affected the entire body of God’s people. For this reason God said to Joshua, “Israel has sinned” (7:11a). Because of this sin God stayed away from them, withdrawing His presence from them. This was the reason that Joshua and all the children of Israel became foolish, proud, and blind in attacking Ai.
At Jericho, according to God’s economy, Joshua sent out spies, not for fighting but to gain Rahab. In the destruction of Jericho, no fighting was needed. But at Ai, because they lost the presence of the Lord, Joshua sent out spies for fighting (v. 2). The spies returned to Joshua and said that because the enemies were few, not all the people needed go up. They suggested that about two or three thousand men go up and strike Ai. Because of their foolishness, pride, and blindness, they despised their enemy. Nevertheless, Joshua received the report from the spies and sent three thousand men of war against Ai. But when Israel was defeated by the people of Ai and thirty-six men were slaughtered, Joshua realized that something was wrong. He then fell to the ground upon his face before the ark of Jehovah until evening (vv. 6-9).
God spoke to Joshua, telling him that unless they judged the sin, He would not be with them anymore (v. 12). Joshua called the people together, and through the Urim and Thummim he found the tribe (Judah), the family (Zerah), and the person (Achan) who had sinned (vv. 16-18). The children of Israel then stoned and burned Achan and all that he had. In this way Israel was cleared up and brought back to God to be one with God again.
We all need to learn a lesson from this account. We, the people of God, should always be one with our God. Today, especially in the New Testament, our God is not only among us but also within each one of us. Therefore, every one of us is not a solitary individual, a person alone. On the contrary, we are men with God, God-men. Do you realize that, as a believer in Christ, you are a God-man, that God is a part of your being and that you are a part of God’s being? We come from many different countries, but we all are the same kind of person. We all are God-men. For this reason, we must realize that whatever we do, wherever we go, and whatever we are should not be by ourselves. We should not act, behave, or do things by ourselves but with God.
The report of the spies to Joshua indicates that Israel had set God aside. They forgot God and knew only themselves. At that time they were not one with God but cared only for themselves. Thus, God stayed away from them, and He said to Joshua, “I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy that which was devoted to destruction from among you” (v. 12c). It is a very serious matter for God no longer to be with us. Nothing can replace Him. I can testify that without God I cannot live. Apart from Him I cannot have any being.
Israel was separated from God because of their sin. This sin caused them to become foolish. Israel should have asked God what He wanted them to do against Ai. This was the secret for their victory. Joshua should have said to the people, “Do not forget what we experienced at Jericho. We did not fight, but instead we walked with God as one. Let us do the same thing at Ai, walking around the city with the ark.” If Joshua had said this, he would have been a wise man, and the children of Israel would have followed his wise counsel.
The secret of Israel’s defeat at Ai was that they lost God’s presence and were no longer one with Him. After this defeat, Joshua learned the lesson of staying with the Lord before the ark. Eventually, the Lord came in to speak to him and to tell him what to do. The principle is the same with us today. If we have God’s presence, we have wisdom, insight, foresight, and the inner knowledge concerning things.
As we study the intrinsic significance of this part of Israel’s history, we need to learn the secret of walking with the Lord. Today we should not merely follow the Lord but walk with Him, living with Him and having our being with Him. This is the way to walk as a Christian, to fight as a child of God, and to build up the Body of Christ.
We need to remember that we are God-men and to practice being one with the Lord. Concerning this, the Lord Jesus said, “In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you” (John 14:20). This word reveals that we are a people of “ins”: we are in Christ and He is in us (15:4). Therefore, whatever we do should not be done by ourselves but should be done with and by another One.
In my youth I was taught various ways to overcome, to be victorious, to be holy, and to be spiritual. However, not any of these ways worked. Eventually, through more than sixty-eight years of experience, I have found out that nothing works but the Lord’s presence. His being with us is everything.
Let us now consider Joshua 7 and 8 in a more particular way.
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