Joshua 8:1-29 (Part 3) – If I Had Just Took My Bath The Right Way the First Time…

Posted: June 13, 2017 in 06-Joshua
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Joshua 8:1-29 (Part 3 of 3)

The Israelites Defeat Ai

I remember when I was in fifth grade and sixth grade, my family and I were living in Elgin, SC where my dad was serving two Methodist Churches in that rural community outside Columbia. Back in 1972-74, Elgin was truly a rural community made up of old farming families that had been there for generations. Now, it is has been swallowed up by the expansion of suburban Columbia, SC. The town does not even look the same now. But I digress. Back in those days, I was a huge Alice Cooper fan. His “Killer” album was just an awesome album to a 10-12 year old boy. I admit that I still love that album. I did not appreciate how well constructed the melodies of that album were and how it was almost a hard rock symphony of sorts where the album told this story in progression. It was quite simply a masterpiece of the hard rock era.


I played and played that album on my first real phonograph. Back in those days, there were no miniature speakers with the sound quality of huge speakers. There were no earbuds with high sound quality. There was simply whatever phonograph you happened to have and how loud you could play it without your parents yelling “turn that dang thing down!” Alice Cooper’s music was heavy metal but it was not guitars wailing for no reason. Every song had purposeful use of guitars, drums, and keyboard. I wore that album out which my cheap phonograph.


It was not until I was 15 years old, a couple of years later, that I actually had a decent stereo system. Back in the Elgin days, it was a cheap phonograph and transistor radios tuned to WNOK in Columbia. It was the hit music station and it played, at that time, all the heavy metal bands that I liked. I could not touch my dad’s console stereo on which he played his classical music, his fifties music, and that sickening pop music of the early 1970’s with the Carpenters, Chicago, and other pop drool that had no guts.


Back in those days, radio was king and vinyl albums were not just novelties but the currently common medium. Eight track tapes were just beginning to come in vogue and cassette tape car stereos had not even been thunk of yet (yes, that’s a Southern word, thunk, the past tense of think). Music videos or music video television channels had not come into being yet. So, the only way you could see your favorite artists was on random television specials, late night music shows such as the Midnight Special, occasional appearances on late night talk shows or variety shows and sometimes on the annual music award shows such as the Grammys. It was all very limited glimpses of your favorite popular music artists. There was no MTV. No video downloads. You had to take what the three network (ABC, CBS, NBC) realm of television was giving you. I remember in like the Winter of 1974 (just before we moved to Anderson the following June) when Alice Cooper was at the height of his early fame, I found out that he was going to be appearing and playing two of his “Killer” songs on the Grammys that night. I freaked out. Alice Cooper on TV. I could see him live. I was never old enough at the time to go to one of his concerts so this would be like such a special treat.


You remember when you were a kid. You had a set time by which you had to have your homework done, a set time for having your nightly bath done, and a set time for being ready for bed and in bed. But it was the Grammys and Alice Cooper was going to be live. The Grammys came on and I kept expecting Alice Cooper to come on at any minute. So, I kept putting my dad off about getting my bath, you know, as kids are famous for doing. Finally, he reminded me that he was doing me a favor by letting me stay up on a school night to watch the Grammys so I owed him one any way. Now, GO TAKE YOUR BATH! OOOooookaaay! If there was ever a land speed record for having taken a bath by a 12 year old boy, it was that night. Some people today might call it today a “whore bath” where you just wash the essential parts of the body and get back at it. I don’t think my bath could have lasted 10 minutes max from being fully clothed walking into the bathroom, disrobing, washing in the shower, getting out drying off (what water that may have hit my body that night), putting my ever necessary clean underwear that mother’s obsess about (what if you are in an accident…LOL), putting my PJs on and brushing my teeth. As you can see, that’s a whole lotta ground to cover in 10 minutes. But all the while, it was running through my mind that I was going to miss Alice Coopers performance.


But bam I was done. Back in the kitchen watching the black and white portable TV on the kitchen counter, waiting for Alice to come on. Yeah, I had made it. Still to Come the announcer said, blah, blah, blah of other artists names, and … Alice Cooper. Great I didn’t miss it. But there was a problem. My dad. He knew that this All-American boy who got sweaty and dirty every day even in the winter time. He knew that I had barely taken a bath. If I had used soap I do not remember. I may have just rubbed a wet wash cloth over parts of my body. My dad was a stickler about us obeying his commands and not taking shortcuts to do it. We had to do our chores exactly to his instructions or we would have to do them again. This bath situation was no different. Go take a real bath this time. But Dad it’s Alice Cooper. He’s coming on. I don’t care if it’s the Pope, Go take your bath and do it right this time.


You guessed it. Because I had not done it right the first time, my second bath was supervised by my dad hollering at me through the bathroom door about each thing that I must do to have taken the approved bath and follow-up activities. I was so mad at him. This bath must have taken 30 minutes because of the details that I had to follow that Dad would have just taken for granted normally. It seemed like an hour to me though. I was going to miss my chance to see Alice Cooper live on television. I wisked right by dad on the way to the kitchen and that portable TV. You guessed it. I almost completely missed Alice Cooper’s performance catching the tale-end of his second song. I was grateful to see what I did but I had missed out on the whole thing practically. Isn’t funny how when we don’t do things the right way the first time, we have to go back and do them again, and then miss the prize that we were seeking.


That’s what I thought of this morning as I read through Joshua 8:1-29 for the third of three times. Let’s read the passage together this morning:


8 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Take the whole army with you, and go up and attack Ai. For I have delivered into your hands the king of Ai, his people, his city and his land. 2 You shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king, except that you may carry off their plunder and livestock for yourselves. Set an ambush behind the city.”


3 So Joshua and the whole army moved out to attack Ai. He chose thirty thousand of his best fighting men and sent them out at night 4 with these orders: “Listen carefully. You are to set an ambush behind the city. Don’t go very far from it. All of you be on the alert. 5 I and all those with me will advance on the city, and when the men come out against us, as they did before, we will flee from them. 6 They will pursue us until we have lured them away from the city, for they will say, ‘They are running away from us as they did before.’ So when we flee from them, 7 you are to rise up from ambush and take the city. The Lord your God will give it into your hand. 8 When you have taken the city, set it on fire. Do what the Lord has commanded. See to it; you have my orders.”


9 Then Joshua sent them off, and they went to the place of ambush and lay in wait between Bethel and Ai, to the west of Ai—but Joshua spent that night with the people.


10 Early the next morning Joshua mustered his army, and he and the leaders of Israel marched before them to Ai. 11 The entire force that was with him marched up and approached the city and arrived in front of it. They set up camp north of Ai, with the valley between them and the city. 12 Joshua had taken about five thousand men and set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai, to the west of the city. 13 So the soldiers took up their positions—with the main camp to the north of the city and the ambush to the west of it. That night Joshua went into the valley.


14 When the king of Ai saw this, he and all the men of the city hurried out early in the morning to meet Israel in battle at a certain place overlooking the Arabah. But he did not know that an ambush had been set against him behind the city. 15 Joshua and all Israel let themselves be driven back before them, and they fled toward the wilderness. 16 All the men of Ai were called to pursue them, and they pursued Joshua and were lured away from the city. 17 Not a man remained in Ai or Bethel who did not go after Israel. They left the city open and went in pursuit of Israel.


18 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Hold out toward Ai the javelin that is in your hand, for into your hand I will deliver the city.” So Joshua held out toward the city the javelin that was in his hand. 19 As soon as he did this, the men in the ambush rose quickly from their position and rushed forward. They entered the city and captured it and quickly set it on fire.


20 The men of Ai looked back and saw the smoke of the city rising up into the sky, but they had no chance to escape in any direction; the Israelites who had been fleeing toward the wilderness had turned back against their pursuers. 21 For when Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had taken the city and that smoke was going up from it, they turned around and attacked the men of Ai. 22 Those in the ambush also came out of the city against them, so that they were caught in the middle, with Israelites on both sides. Israel cut them down, leaving them neither survivors nor fugitives. 23 But they took the king of Ai alive and brought him to Joshua.


24 When Israel had finished killing all the men of Ai in the fields and in the wilderness where they had chased them, and when every one of them had been put to the sword, all the Israelites returned to Ai and killed those who were in it. 25 Twelve thousand men and women fell that day—all the people of Ai. 26 For Joshua did not draw back the hand that held out his javelin until he had destroyed[a] all who lived in Ai. 27 But Israel did carry off for themselves the livestock and plunder of this city, as the Lord had instructed Joshua.


28 So Joshua burned Ai[b] and made it a permanent heap of ruins, a desolate place to this day. 29 He impaled the body of the king of Ai on a pole and left it there until evening. At sunset, Joshua ordered them to take the body from the pole and throw it down at the entrance of the city gate. And they raised a large pile of rocks over it, which remains to this day.


From this passage, we see that the conquest of Ai was very important to the Israelites. Only 11 miles away from Jericho, Ai was a key stronghold for the Canaanites and a buffer fortress for Bethel. If the Canaanite kings had gotten wind of an Israelite defeat at Ai, they could have united in a coordinated attack. They did not know that God had restored His power and protection to Joshua’s troops. We must depend on God with absolute obedience to be sure of the victory that He promised.


That was the thing that struck me here was that night that I missed out on what I considered a blessing (seeing my favorite artist live on television in an era where heavy metal artists rarely made it to mainstream television) because I took a shortcut on something my father expected of me. He had granted me grace by letting me stay up and watch the Grammys that night but I abused the privilege by not doing what he required of me. I ended up losing that night because I had to retake the bath and missing most of my favorite musician’s set on the show that night.


We see the same from Israel in this passage, they did not seek the Lord after their victory in Jericho. They thought they had this when it came to little old Ai. It was nothing. We don’t need to consult God on this one. It’s an easy victory. We don’t even need to send the full army (kind of like me taking a “whore bath” instead of the full bath). They got beaten badly at the first battle of Ai. Why? Because they took shortcuts just like I did in my bath. They did not do what their Father in heaven expected of them. He had led them by His power and might and they should have seen what great grace they had been given to be God’s people. They should have sought His instruction at every turn. When you have been given great grace, there should be dependence on our Father in a way that we want to obey His every command. But we are rebellious. We think we can do it our way. We think we can take shortcuts on obedience to God’s commands. We think we skirt obedience or give seeming outward obedience to His commands so that we can do things our way and get what we want.


We always have to go back and clean up the mess that comes from disobedience to our Father in heaven. We have to go back and do things the right way. We pay the price for our disobedience. We miss out on the blessing because we take shortcuts to get things the way we want them or think that we want them. Then we miss what God had intended for us. Why can’t we just be a people that obeys God the first time around. We would save ourselves a lot of heartache and a lot of backtracking in the process.


Amen and Amen.

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