You can learn the most interesting things from children. This past Sunday in Junior Church, I was teaching the lesson of how Joshua and the Israelites actually conquered Ai. Many remember the story just before on how they failed to conquer Ai since Achan had sinned. But once they purged the sin from the congregation, God allowed them to be victorious in conquering the city that they failed to conquer before.
The scenario went something like this. God instructs Joshua to secretly place an army that will ambush the city on the exact opposite side that Joshua will be attacking from. Joshua chooses 30,000 and sends them away by night to lay in wait in the west side of the city, as Joshua will be attacking from the east. Joshua leads the rest of the army toward Ai, spends the night just on the other side of the valley that separates them, then gets up early in the morning to take care of business. He takes an additional 5,000 and instruct them to wait for an ambush as well.
Then Joshua marches to attack. The entire army travels across the valley, but as they get to the army of Ai, they feign defeat. They begin to flee, just as they had the first time when God was not with them. When those in Ai see this, they summon every person out of the city to chase after Joshua and the Israelites. At this point, those waiting in ambush come into the city and set it on fire.
But here’s the part that the kids have an idea about that surprised me because I had never seen it that way. God instructs Joshua to stretch out his spear that is in his hand toward Ai and shortly after this the city goes up in flames. I asked the kids what they would think if they were people from Ai and had left to fight the Israelites only to see Joshua stop fleeing, stretch out the spear, and then watch your city go up in flames. I thought I would get responses like, "they would be scared", "they would be sad", or "they wouldn’t know what to do." But you never know what kids are going to say.
One child responded that it would look to these people like Joshua was magic. That really struck me. I went back over the text to see if this was a possibility. Joshua had not coordinated with the other Israelites ahead of time concerning a sign to burn the city. God had not told Joshua ahead of time that he would stop and stretch out the spear. God interrupted Joshua’s flight and instructed him at that point in time to stretch out the spear. It so happened that the Israelites moved in to burn the city at just that point in time. The people of the city knew nothing of those waiting in ambush. This would make it appear as if Joshua was some powerful being to these people. As he pointed the spear at their city, it went up in flames. They knew nothing else about it.
This would be similar to what God said He would do to Moses in the eyes of Pharoah, elevating him to a god-like status with Aaron as his prophet. Joshua was Moses’ successor and would seem to the Canaanites as if he is "magic" in making the walls of Jericho fall down, causing a city to burst into flames by stretching out a spear, and making the sun stand still in the sky.
My whole perspective on the book of Joshua changed this past Sunday.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman