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The wisdom of the preparations appears, in that they secured, II. The fall of the city
The manner in which it was taken was indeed surprising
[The armed men were appointed to go round the city in perfect silenced, once every day for six successive days; and, on the seventh day, they were to compass it seven times. In the midst of this procession the ark was to be carried by the priests, and to be preceded by seven priests with “ trumpets of rams' horns,” (or rather with the trumpets of jubilee, which they were to sound during the whole procession. On the seventh day, at the seventh time of compassing the city, the army, on a signal given, were to shout: and behold, no sooner did they shout, than the walls on every side fell down flat, opening a ready way of access for the hosts of Israel, and causing the disconcerted men of Jericho to fall an easy prey to their invaders.] It is also replete with instruction
[We are not warranted perhaps to speak of this event as typical: nevertheless it was doubtless intended to convey most important instruction to all succeeding ages; and to shew to them, how easily God can make a way for the accomplishment of his own purposes, and for the salvation of his own people. If it did not typify, it certainly well illustrates, the victories which the Gospel was to obtain over all the principalities and powers of earth and hell. No human force was used: nothing but the sound of the gospel trumpet prevailed for the subversion of Satan's kingdom. Though preached by men of no education, it proved effectual for the destruction of idolatry, and the establishment of the Redeemer's power, throughout the earth. In like manner at this time it prevails over the lusts and prejudices of mankind: the publication of it is committed to weak and sinful men, who go forth in Jehovah's name to subdue the world to the obedience of faith: and though "the weapons
of our warfare are not carnal,” nor such as appear likely to be wielded with success, yet are they "mighty through God to the pulling down of strong-holds,” and to the “bringing” of, not only the actions, but even “ the thoughts, of men, into captivity to the obedience of Christ'.” As for the weakness of the instruments, God has selected such on purpose, " that the excellency of the power may appear to be of him.”
d ver. 10.
• Rams' horns being solid, would be unfit for the purpose. other seems the preferable translation. See Numb. x. 1—10. f 2 Cor. x. 4, 5.
8 2 Cor. iv. 7.
His voice to us is the same in all his wonders both of providence and grace; “ Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts h."]
The next thing which calls for our attention is, III. The destruction of the inhabitants
[With the exception of Rahab and her family, for whose preservation the word of the spies was pledged, every human being, old and young, male and female, was destroyed. Even the beasts also of every kind were destroyed, and the whole city was burnt with fire. Nothing was preserved but the silver and gold, and brass and iron, which were to be put into the treasury of the Lord for the use of his sanctuary.
Now in this indiscriminate slaughter we are apt to find occasion of offence, as though we thought ourselves more merciful than God. But were not these people the enemies of Jehovah? and had he not a right to cut them off in any way he pleased? If he had taken them away by an earthquake or a pestilence, or had cut them off, as he did the Egyptian first-born and the Assyrian army, by the hand of an angel, we should have bowed to his sovereignty, and confessed him just: but because he used his own people as the executioners of his vengeance, we are ready to accuse both them and him of inhumanity and injustice. But we are sure that the Judge of all the earth will do right; and that whatever is done by his command is right, whether we can discern the reasons of that command or not. With respect to this particular act, if there was severity in it towards them, there was goodness in it, yea great goodness, towards the world at large: for it has shewn the danger of unbelief and impenitence in such awful colours, that the proudest and most obdurate must tremble. The inhabitants at first were certainly filled with terror and dismay: but probably when they saw for six successive days nothing but an empty parade, they would begin to think themselves secure. At the appointed time however the judgment came; and that in a way that they did not at all expect. And thus will it be towards impenitent transgressors. They may imagine that the delay of God's judgments warrants them to expect impunity in the ways of sin: but “when they are saying, Peace and safety, sudden destruction will come upon them as travail upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape."] From this part of divine history we may LEARN, 1. The excellence of faith
[What was the principle which enabled the Israelites to manifest such composure in the presence of their enemies, and
h Zech. iv. 6.
to forbear the use of all common means either for the
preservation of themselves or for the destruction of their enemies? It was faith. And so says an inspired writer; By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days'.” This is the principle which will carry us through all difficulties, and enable us to triumph over all our adversaries. Under the influence of this, our first care in every situation will be to serve and honour God. In the path of duty, we shall feel no fear about our ultimate success. The means which God has appointed we shall use, and none other. If they appear wholly unsuited to the end, we shall not on that account despond; but shall expect his gracious interposition in his own time and way, assured that He will make the weakest and most contemptible of beings to confound the honourable, and to overcome the mightyk. Let us then cultivate this principle, and go forth to our warfare “strong in the Lord and in the power of his might."]
2. The benefit of enlisting under the banners of Christ
[Christ revealed himself to Joshua under the appearance of a man, and professed himself “the Captain of the Lord's host?.” It was he who directed Joshua how to conduct the siege, and “ gave the city of Jericho into his handm.” And who but He is “ the Captain of our salvation?” Who but He can guide us aright in our spiritual warfare, or give us success in it? Truly, if we be made “
conquerors, it must be through Him that loved us "," and gave himself for us. To him will we direct
warfare. Do nothing without first asking counsel of him; attempt nothing, but in his strength: and doubt not but that in all your conflicts you shall have reason to say, “ Thanks be unto God who hath always caused us to triumph” hitherto, and will “ give us everlasting victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."]
i Heb. xi. 30. k 1 Cor.i. 27, 28. 1 Josh. v. 13-15. m ver. 2. n Rom. viii. 37. • 2 Cor. ii. 14. and 1 Cor. xv. 57.
CCXLIX. ISRAEL DISCOMFITED BY THE MEN OF AIA. Josh. vii. 8. O Lord, what shall I say, when Israel turneth
their backs before their enemies! UNINTERRUPTED prosperity is not to be expected in this changeable and sinful world. Even
a Fast-day Sermon for disappointments and defeats in war.
the most favoured of mankind must have some trials; nor is there any season when they can presume to say, “ My mountain standeth strong; I shall not be moved.” If at any time Joshua and Israel might adopt this language, it was immediately after they had entered on the possession of the promised land, and had received an earnest of the complete enjoyment of it by the miraculous destruction of the walls of Jericho. Yet behold, scarcely had they tasted the first-fruits of God's mercy, before a cup of bitterness was put into their hands; which made them regret that they had ever attempted the conquest of the land.
In an attack upon Ai, a detachment of Israelites had been defeated with the loss of thirty-six men: and this filled them all with such terror and dismay, that the whole nation, not excepting Joshua himself, gave way to despondency. Of this we have an account in the passage before us : to elucidate which, we shall notice, 1. The discomfiture of Israel
Their mode of proceeding to the attack of Ai was far from right
[Having so easily vanquished a much larger and stronger city, they held Ai in contempt, and concluded of course that God must interpose for them just as he had done in the former
Hence they say, “ Let us send only about two or three thousand thither, and not make all the people to labour thither.” Now in this they were guilty of very great presumption. To confide in God was right; but to expect his aid, whilst they neglected to use their own endeavours, was highly presumptuous. And what excuse had they; what plea? None, except that they did not choose to fatigue themselves with the march. They did not even consult God respecting it; but acted purely from their own conceit. What was this, but to tempt God? And how could they hope to succeed, when acting in such a way?
However favoured any man may have been with divine succour and protection, if he presume upon it, and enter into temptation without necessity, and conceive that because his spiritual enemies appear weak, he shall of necessity overcome them; if he neglect to use the proper means of grace, such as searching the Scriptures and prayer to God, he shall fall: God will leave
him to himself, that he may learn by bitter experience his own weakness, and “no more be high-minded, but fearb”- -] But their discomfiture was owing to another cause
[God had forbidden that any one should take to himself any of the spoils of Jericho: but one man, (how astonishing was it that only one amongst all the hosts of Israel was found to transgress the command !) tempted by the sight of a costly Babylonish garment and some silver, and a wedge of gold, secreted them for his own use. This sin was imputed to the whole nation, and visited upon them all. God had declared, that, if any such iniquity were committed, the whole camp of Israel, as well as the guilty individual, should be accursed, and now the curse was inflicted upon all; so that if the whole host of Israel had gone against Ai, they would have been discomfited, even as the small detachment was. To this the failure of the expedition is ascribed by God himselfe.
And to what are we to ascribe the calamities inflicted on our nation, the reverses experienced, and the losses sustained, in this long-protracted war? Is it not to our sins, which have incensed God against us? We all acknowledge the greatness of our national sins, but forget to notice our own personal iniquities; whereas, if we saw every thing as God sees it, we should probably see, that our own personal guilt has contributed in no small degree to bring down the divine judgments upon us. Because we are mere individuals, we think that our transgressions can have had but little influence in matters of this kind : but did not Saul's violation of the covenant he had made with the Gibeonites, occasion, many years afterwards, a famine of three years' continuance'? And did not David's numbering of the people occasion a pestilence, to the destruction of seventy thousand of his subjects 8? But these offenders, it may be said, were kings; whereas we are obscure individuals. And was not Achan an obscure individual? Yet behold, how one single act of sin, an act too which would not have been considered as very heinous amongst ourselves, stopped in a moment the course of Israel's victories, and turned them into shameful defeat! Let this point be duly considered in reference to ourselves; and let us learn, that abstinence from sin is an act no less of patriotism, than of piety.]
• This is taught us in Phil. ii. 12, 13, which says, “Work, &c. and God will render your efforts effectual : but work, not with selfconfidence, but with fear and trembling, because all your strength is in God; and if by pride or negligence you provoke him to withhold his aid, you can never succeed.” c ver. 21. d Josh. vi. 18.
e ver. 11, 12. f 2 Sam. xxi. 1. & 2 Sam. xxiv. 10–15.