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24 When Israel had finished killing all the inhabitants of Ai in the open wilderness where they pursued them, and all of them to the very last had fallen by the edge of the sword, all Israel returned to Ai and struck it down with the edge of the sword. 25 And all who fell that day, both men and women, were 12,000, all the people of Ai. 26 But Joshua did not draw back his hand with which he stretched out the javelin until he had devoted all the inhabitants of Ai to destruction. 27 Only the livestock and the spoil of that city Israel took as their plunder, according to the word of the Lord that he commanded Joshua.
Verses 24-27: Two words can sum up this military victory: total annihilation. According to verse 25, the only casualties would appear to be on the side of Ai. There might be some wounded among the Israelites, but the camp would be in great spirits after this lopsided victory. Joshua kept his javelin raised until every last inhabitant of Ai had been defeated, following through on what led them to their early success. It could have been tempting to lower his arm, after all things were going great. At some point things would have progressed to where it was a guaranteed victory for the Israelites. Yet he persevered, and as a result all of his men were spared on that day. We should be more like Joshua in this aspect. When we need God, we are eager to turn toward Him and throw our dependence upon Him to carry us out of disaster. Yet there comes a point, every time, where it seems that things are recalibrating to a sense of normality again. Where we are confident that we can retake the reins and navigate things on our own again, placing God back into the passenger seat. Are you letting God lead your life, through the good times as well as the bad, or is He where you turn when something isn’t going right? God has plans for you, yet how can they come into effect if you are the one steering the ship? Relinquish control and let God display the great things He can work through you.
28 So Joshua burned Ai and made it forever a heap of ruins, as it is to this day. 29 And he hanged the king of Ai on a tree until evening. And at sunset Joshua commanded, and they took his body down from the tree and threw it at the entrance of the gate of the city and raised over it a great heap of stones, which stands there to this day.
Verses 28-29: Just like Jericho before it, Ai became ruins in the aftermath of the battle. This was a very visual way to remember that if God is for us, then who can stand against us? Time and time again throughout history men and nations have gone to war believing God on their side, and we can see in this book exactly what happens when God is firmly on one side of the battle.
Joshua Renews the Covenant
30 At that time Joshua built an altar to the Lord, the God of Israel, on Mount Ebal, 31 just as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded the people of Israel, as it is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, “an altar of uncut stones, upon which no man has wielded an iron tool.” And they offered on it burnt offerings to the Lord and sacrificed peace offerings. 32 And there, in the presence of the people of Israel, he wrote on the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he had written. 33 And all Israel, sojourner as well as native born, with their elders and officers and their judges, stood on opposite sides of the ark before the Levitical priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, half of them in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, just as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded at the first, to bless the people of Israel. 34 And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessing and the curse, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law. 35 There was not a word of all that Moses commanded that Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, and the women, and the little ones, and the sojourners who lived among them.
Verses 30-35: What an impressive display of thanksgiving shown by the Israelites. After the battle, instead of looking ahead to the next task or celebrating with drinking and feasting, Joshua and the Israelites build an altar for god, offer Him sacrifices, and have the entire Book of the Law read. How often do we prioritize other things above the reading of Scripture? How often do we stick to the same passages or books in the Bible, choosing to stay where we’re comfortable rather than venturing into some of the more challenging books? You don’t have to be like Joshua and read all the Books of the Law aloud in one session, but could there be merit to reading the first five books of Genesis aloud to our families? Consider this a challenge: select a book of the Bible you haven’t read in a long time (or, in some cases, ever) and read through it. Take it one section or subheading at a time and march through at a slow, yet steady, pace. I will be visiting Jeremiah starting tomorrow, the major prophet book I enjoyed the least and have avoided since my first reading of the Bible. What book will you be venturing through?