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own tent some accursed thing, under the notion that they shall escape detection, merely because no man sees them! Whatsoever be our temptation, let us never forget, that all things are naked and open before Him with whom we have to do! However private our opportunity for sin may be, let us continually bear in mind our Saviour's words, “There is nothing covered that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known.” Luke 12. 2.
The transgression of Achan was brought to light by miraculous means. The transgressor was not however condemned and put to death, until he had made full confession, and the spoil of Jericho had been found secreted in his tent. This was doubtless done for the more full satisfaction of the people, that they might be doubly convinced of the power, and wisdom, and justice, of the Lord. And accordingly it is thus that Joshua charges Achan: "My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the Lord God of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done ; hide it not from me.” This must be one chief object of our full and free confession, whensoever we sin against God; it is giving glory to Him, as confirming the truth which He has declared of us in his word, that all we have gone astray. See Isa. 53. 6. How often must the strain of our confessions be much after the fashion of this of Achan ! First we see. Then we covet. Next we take. And lastly we hide. In any one of these stages we might stop, and turn; oh how much better than go on ! How much better, when we have taken, not to hide ; but to own, and if possible restore ! How much better still, if we have coveted, not to take; but to suppress the sinful desire! And oh how far best and safest, how only safe, and only good, not to covet at all, to see without coveting, nay, rather than covet, not to see at all!
When Achan suffered, there seems little room to doubt that his sons and his daughters suffered with him. First they were stoned to death; and afterwards their bodies were burned with fire; and lastly a great heap of stones was raised over their ashes, to remain as a memorial of their punishment. It may reasonably be supposed, that the children were accomplices in their father's crime. Or if not, this would be but one instance, amongst many, of the sufferings, which parents, by their own misconduct, entail upon their unoffending offspring. Who has not heard of hereditary diseases? Who knows not that we all inherit a spiritual sickness, and an eternal death? If God can allow this, nay order it; if we hold, as we do without shadow of doubt, that this our birth sin is justly stamped upon the nature of every child born into the world, that this order of things is consistent with the justice of a God all holy and all good, why should we be surprised to find the children of Achan perishing together with their father? why should we hesitate to admit that this must have been, if God commanded it, really and truly just ?
The Lord giveth orders for the taking of Ai, 1 And the LORD said unto Jo- Beth-el and Ai, on the west side shua, Fear not, neither be thou of Ai: but Joshua lodged that dismayed: take all the people of night among the people. war with thee, and arise, go up to 10 And Joshua rose up early in Ai: see, I have given into thy the morning, and numbered the hand the king of Xi, and his peo- people, and went up, he and the ple, and his city, and his land: elders of Israel, before the peo
2 And thou shalt do to Ai and ple to Ai. her king as thou didst unto Jeri- 11 And all the people, even the cho and her king: only the spoil people of war that were with him, thereof, and the cattle thereof, went up, and drew nigh, and shall ye take for a prey unto came before the city, and pitched yourselves : lay thee an ambush on the north side of Ai: now there for the city behind it.
was a valley between them and 3 So Joshua arose, and all the Ai. people of war, to go up against 12 And he took about five thouAi: and Joshua chose out thirty sand men, and set them to lie in thousand mighty men of valour, ambush between Beth-el and Ai, and sent them away by night. on the west side of the city.
4 And he commanded them, 13 And when they had set the saying, Bebold, ye shall lie in people, even all the host that was wait against the city, even behind on the north of the city, and their the city: go not very far from liers in wait on the west of the the city, but be ye all ready : city, Joshua went that night into
5 And I, and all the people that the midst of the valley. are with me, will approach unto 14 And it came to pass, when the city: and it shall come to the king of Ai saw it, that they pass, when they come out against hasted and rose up early, and the us, as at the first, that we will flee men of the city went out against before them,
Israel to battle, he and all his 6 (For they will come out after people, at a time appointed, beus) till we have drawn them from fore the plain; but he wist not the city ; for they will say, They that there were liers in ambusha fee before us, as at the first: against him behind the city. therefore wewill flee before them. 15 And Joshua and all İsrael
7 Then ye shall rise up from made as if they were beaten bethe ambush, and seize upon the fore them, and filed by the way city: for the LORD your God of the wilderness. will deliver it into your hand. 16 And all the people that were
8 And it shall be, when ye have in Ai were called together to purtaken the city, that ye shall set sue after them: and they pursued the city on fire: according to the after Joshua, and were drawn commandment of the Lord shall away from the city. ye do. See, I have commanded 17 And there was not a man you.
left in Ai or Beth-el, that went 9 Joshua therefore sent them not out after Israel: and they left forth: and they went to lie in the city open, and pursued after ambush, and abode between Israel.
LECTURE 375. Against presumption and being off our guard. Jericho was taken by a miracle. Ai is to be compassed by the usual course of warfare. And no less than thirty thousand mighty men of valour” are ordered to lie in wait against a city, of which it had been said by the men who went to view it, « Let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai; and make not all the people to labour thither; for they are but few.” Ch. 7. 3. Surely God would here instruct his people, that in order to succeed, they must never be inclined to spare toil or skill, they must never underrate the power of their enemies, never use less than all the strength they have at their disposal. This at least is a lesson which we may profitably learn, from the passage of Scripture before us. And it is a lesson much needed by very many, who seem to think the way to heaven so easy, and the gate so broad, that they may enter without difficulty wheresoever they have a mind. But no, the gate is narrow, and the way is hard to find, The enemies who oppose are vigilant and active. And it requires all the strength we have, and all the wisdom, it requires all to be exerted with the least possible delay, in order to make sure of succeeding, in order to have the victory over sin and death. Far then be from us the vain conceit, that we may 'repent, and believe, at any future time, just as easily as now; and that this will do quite as well for making peace with God, and ensuring happiness in the world to come! Far be from us the idle expectation, that slight exertions, half measures, and the reluctant service of a divided heart, can win for us the conqueror's crown, can make us partakers in the triumph of our Lord !
But what may we learn further from the ambush here commanded? And how can it be, that God gave order for the practice of such a stratagem in war? Certainly every ambush, all lying in wait, must partake of the nature of deceit; even as all war, in all its details, must partake of the guilt of bloodshedding. And yet God, who has so solemnly denounced murder, must have ad full right to use the sword of his people, for the execution of his just judgments against nations that delighted in war. And in like manner He might think fit to punish their gross deceitfulness and treachery, by commanding his own army to lie in wait ; and He might purposely thus bring it to pass, that in the same net, which they had oftentimes laid privily, their own feet were taken. See Ps. 35. 8. And if in our own warfare with sin and Satan no method of ambush can be properly or profitably employed, we may at least do well to remember here, that our enemies use this stratagem continually. Whichsoever way we walk they lie in wait behind us, they rise up before us, they encompass us with wiles on every side; determined, if possible, to take us captive in their snares. If therefore we would be safe, let us take pains no less diligently, never to be off our guard.
Ai is taken and destroyed. 18 And the Lord said unto 24 And it came to pass,
when Joshua, Stretch out the spear Israel had made an end of slaying that is in thy hand toward Ai; all the inhabitants of Ai in the for I will give it into thine hand. field, in the wilderness wherein And Joshua stretched out the they chased them, and when they spear that he had in his hand to- were all fallen on the edge of the ward the city.
sword, until they were consumed, 19 And the ambush arose that all the Israelites returned quickly out of their place, and unto Ai, and smote it with the they ran as soon as he had stretch- edge of the sword. ed out his hand: and they entered 25 And so it was, that all that into the city, and took it, and fell that day, both of men and hasted and set the city on fire. women, were twelve thousand,
20 And when the men of Ai even all the men of Ai. looked behind them, they saw, 26 For Joshua drew not his and, behold, the smoke of the city hand back, wherewith he stretchascended up to heaven, and they ed out the spear, until he had uthad no power to flee this way or terly destroyed all the inhabitthat way: and the people that ants of Ai. fled to the wilderness turned back 27 Only the cattle and the spoil upon the pursuers.
of that city Israel took for a prey 21 And when Joshua and all unto themselves, according unto Israel saw that the ambush had the word of the LORD which he taken the city, and that the smoke commanded Joshua. of the city ascended, then they 28 And Joshua burnt Ai, and turned again, and slew the men made it an heap for ever, even a of Ai.
desolation unto this day. 22 And the other issued out of 29 And the king of Ai he hangthe city against them; so they ed on a tree until eventide: and were in the midst of Israel, some as soon as the sun was down, Joon this side, and some on that shua commanded that they should side: and they smote them, so take his carcase down from the that they let none of them re- tree, and cast it at the entering main or escape.
of the gate of the city, and raise 23 And the king of Ai they took thereon a great heap of stones, alive, and brought him to Joshua. that remaineth unto this day.
The end of God's enemies. Ai is taken; the city which discomfited Israel, which put three thousand men to flight, and slew six and thirty of their number, and made the hearts of the people to become as water, and tempted even Joshua to despond. Let us not then be discouraged by defeat at first. If we fall, God will raise us up. He will finally beat down Satan under our feet. Ai is taken ; the city which all Israel would in vain have assaulted, as long as any portion of the spoils of Jericho lay hid in the tents of Achan. Let
us do all that in us lies, to put away from ourselves them that sin against the Lord. Let us run no risk that we can help, of being accounted partakers of other men's sins ; lest the face of the Lord be set against us. Ai is taken. For Joshua has stretched out his spear, and the men in ambush have arisen and set fire to the city, and the people that seemed to fly have turned back upon the pursuers; all have acted in concert as Joshua commanded; and he, as he was instructed by the Lord. Let us work together as men under authority, united by firm discipline, bent upon one object, and trusting to no other method for success, except that which God has appointed; and then how much more reasonably might we hope to attain to the utmost heights of holiness and joy, which God invites us to partake of.
Ai is taken. And the spoil thereof is given up by God to Israel, “ for a prey unto themselves.” It was not then that He grudged Achan the wedge of gold, the shekels of silver, or the goodly Babylonish garment. It was not that He could not have spared all the spoils of Jericho, as readily as all the spoils of Ai. But He must needs be implicitly obeyed. The habit of obedience was better for the Israelites than all the spoils of all the cities in the land. It is not that God grudges us the free enjoyment of all the pleasures which earth can yield. But He knows it to be our gain, if we withhold our hands from partaking of those which He forbids. He knows it to be our gain. And we ought to be thankful to know, that if we obey his word, this is at once our gain, and his glory. Let us then refrain, when He requires, from the trifles of a moment. And behold, He is prepared to give us the riches of eternity. Ai is taken. 6 And Joshua burnt Ai, and made it an heap for ever, even a desolation unto this day. And the king of Aí he hanged on a tree until eventide.” In the morning that king had gone forth as to victory, and all the inhabitants of that city had thought to spend a triumphant night. Warned in vain by the end of Jericho, elated by their first partial success, they were again in full pursuit of Israel, and were again, as they supposed, conquerors of the people of the Lord. But let those take warning, whom God sometimes uses for his instruments, to humble his true servants, and chastise them in their sins. It is one thing to be overtaken in a fault against God. It is another thing to live without God in the world. It is one thing for the godless to have some little ground of triumph, against such as serve God in sincerity. It is another thing, a thing that will never happen, for the godless to be best off in the end. day they prosper. To morrow they encounter desolation and disgrace. In the morning they go forth in their glory. Ere the night they are made an heap for ever.”
Oh that God may give us grace to be always on his side ! And however often He may see fit to chasten us as his children, oh that He may never have to discomfit us as his enemies !