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In this chapter we have an account of the renewal of Israel's victories. The Lord encourageth Joshua, and the holy army conquereth Ai: the king of Ai is taken and hanged: Joshua erects an altar to the Lord: writes the law on stones; causeth the repeatal of the blessings, and cursings, and of the law to be read in the ears of the people.
Observe, the renewal of the friendly intercourse between God and his people, begins on God's part. If we love him, it is because he first loved us. Probably Joshua paused on the further prosecution of war, after what had happened, of Israel being chased by the men of Ai: the Lord therefore encourageth him. Reader! it is sweet amidst all our doubts and fears in our spiritual warfare, to hear the voice of Jesus calling us to come on. Song of Solomon 5:2 .
How gracious the Lord promiseth! Is it not so, in all our wars? The final issue is not doubtful. Romans 16:20 . Observe how the Lord giveth the spoil and the cattle now to Israel, not as in the case of Jericho. See Joshua 6:19 . And observe, moreover, that the Lord graciously condescendeth to teach Joshua, by an ambush, how to war. The prophet Isaiah, ascribeth the knowledge of the husbandman to the Lord's teaching. And David refers all his power and might in war to the same source: compare Isaiah 28:24 to the end, with Psalms 144:1-2 . It is most sweet and precious, to refer all our powers, of what kind soever they may be, unto the Lord. Isaiah 42:16 .
How beautiful to observe piety blended with valor. No doubt, after Joshua had arranged and formed the disposition of his army, according to the command of God, he retired to this valley, where he lodged that night among the people, to enjoy communion with God in prayer. Like another Jacob, who, when he had sent his little army over the brook, stayed to wrestle with his Covenant-head and God in prayer: or, like a greater than Jacob, and of whom Joshua was a type, after he had sent the multitudes away, went up into a mountain apart to pray. See Genesis 32:23-24 ; Matthew 14:23 .
I pass over, in a short remark, the mercy of the Lord vouchsafed Israel in this victory, to call the Reader's attention, to the manner in which the Lord was pleased to appoint the victory should be obtained; and that was, seemingly, in being overcome. Israel for awhile appeared as routed, and become an easy prey, and the enemy triumphed with an high hand. Reader, is it not so with our Almighty Joshua and his army in their warfare? Do not his people seem to flee before their enemies? When they fall, doth not the foe cry, Aha! so would we have it: and like that monster of old, who, was a type of the devil, doth he not still say, "I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil." But, our Jesus conquers, even by apparently being overcome. By dying and by death he overcame death. And by his cross he spoiled principalities and powers, and triumphed over them openly. Oh! thou glorious Captain of our salvation, to thee belongeth the whole victory. In becoming weak thou hast conquered the strong: and in poverty opened the true riches. By thy humiliation in taking upon thee our nature, and by thy death and passion, thou hast gotten thyself the victory. Lord, lead me on in all my spiritual warfare, under thy guidance and protection: for thou art my strength and my song, and art become my salvation. Isaiah 12:2 .
The sacred historian relates in those verses, the improvement which Israel made of their victory; and a glorious one it was; because there was nothing done here, but what was agreeable to the divine appointment. If the Reader keeps in view, the spiritual sense of those wars he meets with in the holy word, and recollects while reading those accounts, that these things were typical of Jesus and his army, subduing all the enemies of our salvation; his mind will be led to this most certain conclusion, that the victory cannot be complete, until the Lord Jesus hath put all his enemies under his footstool. See 1 Corinthians 15:25-26 , compared with Hebrews 2:9; Hebrews 2:9 .
Observe, how lovely it is, when even war is not suffered to interrupt religious services to God. Though Joshua was now getting more and more into the heart of the enemies' country, yet he will pause to bless God, Oh! that all the victories of Israel now, were thus followed up with praise!
The Reader will find this command twice given. Deu_11:29-30; Deu_27:2 . And what day so proper, as the day made remarkable by a plenitude of mercies!
Observe, the ark is particularly noticed. And when the sacrifices were offered, and the law of curses was read, and the altar itself set up, upon the very spot Mount Ebal, where the curses were to be pronounced, who doth not see, or will not behold, how sweetly all these things pointed to the ever-blessed Jesus, whom that altar represented, and who is expressly said, to be made sin for us, and to have redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. Is he not the ark and the altar, the high priest and the sacrifice? Galatians 3:13 ; 2 Corinthians 5:21 .
It is a most profitable thing to have the law often read, in order that, by viewing the universal condemnation of it, the precious delivery from it by the law-fulfilling, law-expiating, and sin-atoning merits, and blood of Jesus, might become more exceedingly precious. For certain it is, the Holy Ghost hath been pleased to leave it upon record, that by the law is the knowledge of sin, and it becomes a blessed schoolmaster to Christ. And I venture to think, that it is on this account, the Ten Commandments are placed over the altars of our churches, and read every Lord's day, in order that true believers in Christ, may see and confess the justice of their condemnation, in the very moment they are looking up to that precious blood of Jesus, as represented at the table, being shed to wash away the sins of all his people. Romans 7:7 ; Galatians 3:24 .
BLESSED Jesus! while I behold Ai and her king, and everything appertaining to her subdued, brought down, and destroyed, under thy servant Joshua, as thy type and representative, oh! give me to see, and as firmly to believe, that all the Ai's of the present moment, shall bow down and be vanquished, which oppose the salvation of thy people. Lead me on, blessed Captain, conquering and to conquer: from grace to grace, and from strength to strength. And like thine army, which I here behold, teach me by thy Holy Spirit, to pause over the several victories and the redemptions which thou workest for me, to offer my sacrifice and to bless my God, as I go on, even in the presence of my foes. Do thou, blessed Jesus, who hast with thine own arm, gotten thyself the victory; do thou only hold me up, and bear me on, and carry me through, until thou shalt bring me in to the full possession of the Canaan which is above; be thou my sun and my shield, my hiding place and my covert, and then shall I assuredly know, that my God which giveth grace, will assuredly give glory.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Joshua 8". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent