Joshua 8: Lessons from the Battle of Ai for Turning Spiritual Defeat into Victory

God’s blessings are available when you repent and return to Him1

Introduction: In Joshua Chapter 7, the Jews suffered a humiliating defeat when they tried to take the small fortress of Ai without God’s help. Chapter 8 tells the story of God’s mercy and grace in leading the Jews to victory at the place of their prior defeat. Every believer will at times feel defeated in life. Like the Jews, sometimes you will be responsible for your own defeat. Other times, you will be defeated by forces beyond your control. In either circumstance, God does not want you to give up or become discouraged in your fight for Him. The enemy will seek to use your defeats to cause you to give up. God, however, wants to turn your defeats into opportunities to grow and become victorious in your spiritual warfare against the evil one. From the Jews’ victory at Ai, He reveals seven lessons for turning spiritual defeat into victory.

First, from God’s encouragement to the Jews after their self-inflicted loss at the first battle of Ai, He reveals that He wants you to trust in His mercy and grace when you suffer a defeat in your battles against the evil one. Second, through His instructions for Joshua to use an army of 30,000 of his best soldiers against a town of only 12,000 people (including women and children), He reveals that some spiritual strongholds require the coordination and cooperation of the entire body of Christ. Third, from Joshua’s meticulous adherence to God’s plan, He reveals that your victory will come when your faith in Him produces the fruit of obedience. Fourth, from the destruction of all of the residents of Ai (residents who symbolized the flesh), He reveals that you should make no provision for your flesh. Fifth, from His instructions for the Jews to seize the treasures of Ai before burning it, He reveals that He wants you to wait on your provision and destroy the evil strongholds in your life. Sixth, from Joshua’s obedient act of building a stone altar and writing God’s Law on uncut stones within it, He reveals that you can avoid spiritual defeat when you write His Word on your heart. His Word will give you hope when all seems lost. His Word will also guide you and convict you when you sin. Finally, from the ceremony at Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal where the Jews publicly vowed to keep His Covenant, He reveals that He wants you to confess your faith publicly and to be accountable to others.

1. Trust in God’s Mercy and Grace to Continue to Guide You in Battle. Josh. 8:1-2.

  • God’s encouragement to the defeated Jews. Because God is filled with grace and mercy, He encouraged the Jews not to give up after their defeat. He encouraged them to continue on with their conquest to seize the blessings that He had promised them: “1 Now the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Do not fear or be dismayed. Take all the people of war with you and arise, go up to Ai; see, I have given into your hand the king of Ai, his people, his city, and his land. 2 You shall do to Ai and its king just as you did to Jericho and its king; you shall take only its spoil and its cattle as plunder for yourselves. Set an ambush for the city behind it.’” (Josh. 8:1-2). The Jews did not need to worry about the outcome of their battle. Just as He had done at Jericho, He won the battle of Ai before it began: “The LORD said to Joshua, ‘See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and the valiant warriors.’” (Josh. 6:2). God also gave words of encouragement before the invasion of the Promised Land began: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (Josh. 1:9). He further continued to give encouragement as they faced new enemies: “The LORD said to Joshua, ‘Do not fear them, for I have given them into your hands; not one of them shall stand before you.’” (Josh. 10:8). “Then the LORD said to Joshua, ‘Do not be afraid because of them, for tomorrow at this time I will deliver all of them slain before Israel; you shall hamstring their horses and burn their chariots with fire.”’ (Josh. 11:6). When the Jews followed God, they prevailed in every battle.

Joshua encourages the Jews to place their trust in God2

  • Trust God when you face enemies or conflict. God’s promise of protection was not unique to the Jews. He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him: “Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.” (Prov. 30:5; 2 Sam 22:31). “No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; and every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their vindication is from Me,’ declares the LORD.” (Is. 54:17). When you are feeling defeated, God’s Word can be a source of comfort and encouragement to you as well (Ro. 15:4; 2 Cor. 1:3; Is. 40:1). If you are afraid of any physical or spiritual enemy in your path, are you taking refuge in Him and reading His Word for encouragement?

2. Through the Spirit, Act With One Accord With the Body of Christ. Josh. 8:3-9.

  • God’s command to defeat Ai’s population of 12,000 with 30,000 soldiers. God’s battle plan was very different from His battle plan for Jericho. Instead of using a few troops to be His instruments in a miracle, He would have the Jews win the war through conventional warfare using both cunning strategy and overwhelming troop strength: “3 So Joshua rose with all the people of war to go up to Ai; and Joshua chose 30,000 men, valiant warriors, and sent them out at night. 4 He commanded them, saying, ‘See, you are going to ambush the city from behind it. Do not go very far from the city, but all of you be ready. 5 Then I and all the people who are with me will approach the city. And when they come out to meet us as at the first, we will flee before them. 6 They will come out after us until we have drawn them away from the city, for they will say, ‘They are fleeing before us as at the first.’ So we will flee before them. 7 And you shall rise from your ambush and take possession of the city, for the Lord your God will deliver it into your hand. 8 Then it will be when you have seized the city, that you shall set the city on fire. You shall do it according to the word of the Lord. See, I have commanded you.’ 9 So Joshua sent them away, and they went to the place of ambush and remained between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of Ai; but Joshua spent that night among the people.” (Josh. 8:1-9). This battle plan reveals that God does not always use a visible miracle to win your battles. For example, on multiple occasions, God helped the Jews defeat their enemies through conventional military ambushes (Jdgs. 20:29, 32; 2 Kgs 7:12; 2 Chr. 13:13). He does not need to part the Red Sea or the River Jordan to show that He is fighting for you. He also may not work in the same way when He intervenes in your life. But the basis for victory is always the same. It includes trusting God. When you are attacked, are you putting your faith and hope in Him to deliver you?

  • Satan will use the same spiritual attacks against you until you change your response. God told Joshua to draw the king out in the same way the Jews had done before by marching up to the front gate and allowing the king’s men to chase them. Just as the king used the same strategy to try to defeat the Jews, Satan will use the same strategy to entrap believers until they change their response to his attacks. If you place yourself in a place where you are weak, Satan will charge after you to entrap you. If you have fallen into sin, have you removed yourself from environments where you may fall to the same sin?

  • Lure out those caught in sin from their spiritual strongholds. Jesus tells every believer to be as wise as a serpent and as harmless as a dove: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matt. 10:16). We are to be harmless like a dove toward others. But we must be cunning in the spiritual warfare battles to free friends, family, and the nation from sin. Like Joshua, believers must lure those trapped in darkness out of their spiritual strongholds to share the good news with them. They will not hear the message while in a stronghold like a bar, a casino, or other places that appeal to the flesh. But a believer may be able to free a trapped soul by drawing them out into God’s territory. Are you inviting nonbelievers to Christian venues where they might understand the good news that you are sharing?

  • Victory requires the body of Christ to work together. In most of the stories where the Jews prevailed in a battle, God limited the size of the Jewish army to make sure that the glory for the victory went to Him. What makes the story of the battle of Ai unique is the fact that He ordered Joshua to send an army multiple times larger than the force that they were attacking. Just as there are different kinds of military campaigns, the battle of Ai reveals that there are different kinds of spiritual warfare as well. In some circumstances, the enemy can be rebuked through faith and prayer in Jesus’ name. But there are many spiritual strongholds that cannot be broken without the help of other believers. This requires that churches have times of prayer and fasting in coordination with others to pray for the nation. Christians should also act together in the political arena to be salt and light in the world. As salt, the Church must sting in the wound of sin. Are you praying and fasting with others for the nation? Are you voting for God-fearing leaders?

  • Your testimony regarding a spiritual defeat can bring victory to another. This story also illustrates how God can transform a place of defeat into a place of victory. You also can bring a story of your defeat to warn others not to follow in your mistakes. If Jesus has delivered you from a stronghold where you faltered in your walk, you can also use your testimony to allow another to find victory in Jesus. Are you sharing your testimony?

3. Be Obedient to God’s Direction in the Spiritual Battle. Josh. 8:10-17.

  • The Jews’ victory through obedience to God’s battle plan. After revealing the battle plan, Joshua showed his faithfulness and obedience by following every detail of God’s plan: “10 Now Joshua rose early in the morning and mustered the people, and he went up with the elders of Israel before the people to Ai. 11 Then all the people of war who were with him went up and drew near and arrived in front of the city, and camped on the north side of Ai. Now there was a valley between him and Ai. 12 And he took about 5,000 men and set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of the city. 13 So they stationed the people, all the army that was on the north side of the city, and its rear guard on the west side of the city, and Joshua spent that night in the midst of the valley. 14 It came about when the king of Ai saw it, that the men of the city hurried and rose up early and went out to meet Israel in battle, he and all his people at the appointed place before the desert plain. But he did not know that there was an ambush against him behind the city. 15 Joshua and all Israel pretended to be beaten before them, and fled by the way of the wilderness. 16 And all the people who were in the city were called together to pursue them, and they pursued Joshua and were drawn away from the city. 17 So not a man was left in Ai or Bethel who had not gone out after Israel, and they left the city unguarded and pursued Israel.” (Josh. 8:10-17). There are many times in the Bible where God gave instructions and then recorded how the Jews meticulously followed His instructions. The building of the Tabernacle is one example. In these circumstances, God could have said, “and the Jews did as He commanded.” By recording the details of their acts of obedience, He stresses the importance of being obedient to all of His commands for you, not just the ones that you like or agree with. When the Jews walked in obedience, they defeated every enemy that they faced. By contrast, they lost battles when they were disobedient. Are you being obedient to all that is commanded of you in the Bible? Or, are picking only those verses that you agree with?

The Jews prevail by trusting in God’s battle plans3

  • Your obedience shows your love for Jesus. Today, Christians are no longer “under the Law” in the sense that they must comply with it to be saved (Gal. 5:18; Ro. 7:6; 8:3). By “fulfilling” the Law, Christ freed us from the impossible task of trying to obtain salvation through the Law (Matt. 5:17). But Jesus also says that, if we love Him, we will keep His commandments: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (Jo. 14:15, 21; 15:10; 1 Jo. 5:3; 2 Jo. 1:6). Jesus is the great “I AM” who gave Moses the Ten Commandments at Mount Horeb (Jo. 8:58; Ex. 3:14). His “disciples” were the “disciplined ones” in keeping His commandments. As bondservants or freed slaves, they were obedient out of love, not obligation. Whether you follow the Law out of love instead of obligation is also a test for whether you really know Him: “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.” (1 Jo. 2:3). “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God.” (1 Cor. 7:19). Is there any area in your life where you are being disobedient to God? Are you living by His Ten Commandments out of love?

4. Make No Provision for the Flesh in Your Spiritual Battle. Josh. 8:18-26.

  • The Jews’ destruction of the Ai and its 12,000 residents. After winning the battle, the Jews acted as God’s instrument of justice and judgment against the people of Ai: “18 Then the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Stretch out the javelin that is in your hand toward Ai, for I will give it into your hand.’ So Joshua stretched out the javelin that was in his hand toward the city. 19 The men in ambush rose quickly from their place, and when he had stretched out his hand, they ran and entered the city and captured it, and they quickly set the city on fire. 20 When the men of Ai turned back and looked, behold, the smoke of the city ascended to the sky, and they had no place to flee this way or that, for the people who had been fleeing to the wilderness turned against the pursuers. 21 When Joshua and all Israel saw that the men in ambush had captured the city and that the smoke of the city ascended, they turned back and slew the men of Ai. 22 The others came out from the city to encounter them, so that they were trapped in the midst of Israel, some on this side and some on that side; and they slew them until no one was left of those who survived or escaped. 23 But they took alive the king of Ai and brought him to Joshua. 24 Now when Israel had finished killing all the inhabitants of Ai in the field in the wilderness where they pursued them, and all of them were fallen by the edge of the sword until they were destroyed, then all Israel returned to Ai and struck it with the edge of the sword. 25 All who fell that day, both men and women, were 12,000—all the people of Ai. 26 For Joshua did not withdraw his hand with which he stretched out the javelin until he had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai.” (Josh. 8:18-26). The destruction of the people of Ai was in keeping with God’s command to cleanse the Promised Land of the sinful people within it: “Only in the cities of these peoples that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, you shall not leave alive anything that breathes.” (Dt. 20:16). “Then you shall gather all its booty into the middle of its open square and burn the city and all its booty with fire as a whole burnt offering to the LORD your God; and it shall be a ruin forever. It shall never be rebuilt.” (Dt. 13:16). “So Israel made a vow to the LORD and said, ‘If You will indeed deliver this people into my hand, then I will utterly destroy their cities.’” (Nu. 21:2). The javelin in Joshua’s hand symbolized God’s judgment. In a similar way, God had Moses raise his staff to save the Jews and crush the Egyptians at the Red Sea (Ex. 4:16). His raised staff also brought judgment upon the Amalekites in battle (Ex. 17:9, 11-12). Although God will never again call upon believers to destroy entire cities, He does at times call upon believers to be His avengers against evil: “for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.” (Ro. 13:4). Today, this role is reserved for those who act in an official capacity. He also cannot use you to condemn sin if you are also polluted by sin. Have you kept yourself pure for Him to use you as an avenger against evil?

The Jews destroyed the enemy’s stronghold4

  • The foreshadow of God’s destruction of mankind’s counterfeit system of government. Just as God judged the governments of Jericho and Ai, He will also judge the counterfeit governments of mankind during the end times. Everything of this world will be destroyed and replaced with a perfect government under Jesus’ reign. Are you warning nonbelievers what awaits them if they fail to repent and accept Jesus?

  • Ruthlessly destroy the unholy desires in your life. This story also has symbolic meaning. The people of Canaan symbolize the desires of the flesh. Like the Jews, you also must show no mercy towards the desires of your flesh. If something is causing you to stumble, you must cut it out of your life: “If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.” (Matt. 5:29-30; 18:8; Mk. 9:43). If your television, your computer, alcohol, or something else is causing you to sin, will you cut it out?

5. Reclaim Your Inheritance without Rebuilding the Enemy’s Strongholds. Josh. 8:27-29.

  • Wait on God’s timing to receive your provision. Unlike the battle of Jericho where the Jews could not keep their plunder, God allowed the Jews to take the plunder of Ai: “27 Israel took only the cattle and the spoil of that city as plunder for themselves, according to the word of the Lord which He had commanded Joshua.” (Josh. 8:27). Unless otherwise prohibited, the Law allowed the Jews to keep the plunder that they received in time of war: “Only the women and the children and the animals and all that is in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as booty for yourself; and you shall use the spoil of your enemies which the LORD your God has given you.” (Dt. 20:14; Nu. 31:11, 53). The battle took place at the exact same location where God promised the land to Abraham (Gen. 12:8). Thus, the Jews were not stealing from the people of Ai. They were reclaiming what God had previously promised to them. Ironically, if Achon would have waited, he also would have received these blessings. But he was unwilling to wait upon God and instead let his covetous desires control him. Are you waiting upon God’s timing to receive the material things you need? Are you using His blessings for His kingdom?

The Jews were allowed to loot the property of Ai before burning it5

  • Don’t allow strongholds of evil to be rebuilt in your life. Like the fortress of Jericho, the Jews burned the remains of the city: “28 So Joshua burned Ai and made it a heap forever, a desolation until this day.” (Josh. 8:28). Satan will use any opportunity to rebuild a stronghold of evil in your life. You might renounce an evil vice and stay true to your vows. Satan will, however, look for opportunities to rebuild those strongholds brick by brick when your guard is down. If you are not vigilant, he will cause you to keep adding bricks back until you imprison yourself again in sin. Are you staying vigilant in keeping yourself free from the things that once imprisoned you?

  • Satan’s future judgment. After destroying the city of Ai, Joshua hung the king of Ai on a tree: “29 He hanged the king of Ai on a tree until evening; and at sunset Joshua gave command and they took his body down from the tree and threw it at the entrance of the city gate, and raised over it a great heap of stones that stands to this day.” (Josh. 8:29). Moses warned that any person who hung upon a tree was subject to a curse: “If a man has committed a sin worthy of death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his corpse shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day (for he who is hanged is accursed of God), so that you do not defile your land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance.” (Dt. 21:22-23). The curse of the king of Ai symbolized the curse that Satan will receive in the end times. The curse that the king of Ai took was also the same curse that every person would receive if it were not for Jesus: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us-- for it is written, ‘cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.” (Gal. 3:13).

6. To Win the War, Keep God’s Word Written on Your Heart. Josh. 8:30-32.

  • The Jews’ pilgrimage and building of the altar at Mount Ebal. After defeating Ai, the Jews took a pilgrimage to Mount Ebal where Joshua built an altar for the Jews to inscribe God’s Law: “30 Then Joshua built an altar to the Lord, the God of Israel, in Mount Ebal, 31 just as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded the sons of Israel, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, an altar of uncut stones on which no man had wielded an iron tool; and they offered burnt offerings on it to the Lord, and sacrificed peace offerings. 32 He wrote there on the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he had written, in the presence of the sons of Israel.” (Josh. 8:30-32). Just before his death, Moses commanded the Jews to build this altar after they reached Mount Ebal: “So it shall be when you cross the Jordan, you shall set up on Mount Ebal, these stones, as I am commanding you today, and you shall coat them with lime.” (Dt. 27:4). Joshua showed his obedience by following Moses’ instructions. For this journey, Joshua took the entire nation on a march of between 20 to 30 miles northward up the Jordan Valley to the mountains near the city of Shechem. A military commander would have advised Joshua to finish his conquest of the Promised Land before taking this journey. But even though the Jews were vulnerable while traveling with their women and children, they were not attacked during this journey. This again showed that God was faithful to protect the Jews as they were faithful and obedient in honoring Him. When you undertake a task to honor Him, He will honor you and protect you from attacks as well.

  • The uncut stones. God had previously prohibited the use of tools in building altars of worship (Ex. 20:25; Dt. 27:5; 1 Kgs. 6:7). He prohibited the use of tools because He knew that people would use those tools to create prohibited idols in the places of worship. He also did not want people to marvel at the works of a person’s hand when their focus needed to be on His Word. The uncut stones also had symbolic meaning. Every believer is a “living stone” for God’s use in the kingdom He is building: “you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet. 2:5). Like the altar that the Jews built, He also promised to write His Law on His believer’s hearts: ‘“But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,’ declares the LORD, ‘I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’” (Jer. 31:33). The uncut stone symbolizes the fact that no one can add or take away from the Word that God has written. You cannot earn your salvation. You also cannot change what He requires of you. Is your life a blank slate for God to write on? Or, are you trying to mold your life as you see fit?

  • Create your own stones of remembrance. On multiple occasions, the Jews created similar “stones of remembrance” to remind them of God’s faithfulness. For example, Jacob set up a stone pillar and poured oil on top of it (a symbol of the Holy Spirit) to remember what God had done when he came to what is now called “Bethal,” the house of God (Gen. 28:18-19). He later set up another pillar of stone and poured oil on it to remind him of a place where God spoke directly to him (Gen. 35:14). Joshua had also previously taken 12 stones from the Jordan River and brought them into the Promised Land for the Jews to remember that God had fulfilled His promises (Josh. 4:20-22). The stories of the Jews were meant for your instruction (1 Cor. 10:11). Thus, you can learn from these examples. Like the Jews, God has delivered every believer. This includes being saved from eternal damnation, answered prayers, deliverance from an illness, an addiction, or restoration of a broken relationship. Remembering what God has done for you is important for your faith and your testimony. Are you creating journals or “stones of remembrance” to remember, celebrate, and share what God has done for you?

  • The burnt offering. The ceremony also included a burnt offering (Josh. 8:31). The burnt offering pointed to the need of the Jews to repent and atone for the sins that became exposed under the Law. God chose blood to atone for sin for several reasons. First, it lets us know how gross our sins are before God. Second, blood is the agent of life for all the organs in the body. It brings life giving oxygen. Third, blood is also a cleansing agent. It carries impurities from the body to the kidneys where the impurities are filtered and removed from the body. “[T]he life of every creature is its blood.” (Lev. 17:14). “[You must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it.” (Gen. 9:4). Fourth, the shedding of the blood symbolized the exchange one life for another life: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.” (Lev. 17:11). The rule requiring that the blood or life of one be used to pay the price of another still applies in the New Testament: “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Heb. 9:22). Jesus was the one-time blood offering for our sins (Heb. 10:12-14). There is nothing that you can offer God to atone for your sins. All you can do is have faith in Jesus’s sacrifice for you. If there were another way to God, Jesus died needlessly. For “if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.” (Gal. 2:21).

  • The peace offering. The ceremony further included a peace offering (Josh. 8:31). The peace offering symbolized the ultimate goal for a person who had atoned for their sin; fellowship with God. Atonement was a necessary step (but not by itself a sufficient step) for a believer to restore true fellowship with God. The reason why atonement does not automatically bring fellowship is that we were “enemies” of God before we were reconciled through Christ’s blood (Ro. 5:10; Phil 3:18-19). Enemies don’t automatically become friends when they end their hostilities. For Christians, Jesus’ death ripped the temple “veil” and gave us direct access to God. (Matt. 27:51; Mk. 15:38). But your “access” to God does not automatically mean that you have “fellowship” with God (Rev. 3:20). The Shalom or peace offering symbolized a believer who was in fellowship with the Lord. It is not a temporary condition. It instead is a state of being. This offering was the only offering that was voluntary. It was also the only offering where the believer could eat a part of the sacrifice that was given to God. It symbolized a higher walk with God. Jesus also offered to believers that they could enjoy spiritual intimacy with Him, symbolized by dining together with Him: ‘“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”’ (Rev. 3:20). Christ offered this so that we could find both fellowship and peace through Him (Jo. 16:33). Sadly, many believers have been led to believe that being saved is the end all be all of being a Christian. But it is only the first step in a person’s walk with Jesus. If we want true peace and fellowship with God, we must accept Jesus’ knock on the door of our hearts. Are you seeking to draw ever closer to Jesus to be in true fellowship with Him?

7. To Maintain His Victory in You, Be Accountable to the Body of Christ. Josh. 8:33-35.

  • God’s requirement that the tribes bear witness to each other’s vows. Finally, after they built the stone altar, the Jews publicly swore an oath to keep God’s Covenant. This included their agreement to be bound by its curses if they broke it: “ 33 All Israel with their elders and officers and their judges were standing on both sides of the ark before the Levitical priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, the stranger as well as the native. Half of them stood in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, just as Moses the servant of the Lord had given command at first to bless the people of Israel. 34 Then afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessing and the curse, according to all that is written in the book of the law. 35 There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded which Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel with the women and the little ones and the strangers who were living among them.” (Josh. 8:33-35). The reciting of this oath also fulfilled a commandment that Moses gave before his death: “It shall come about, when the LORD your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, that you shall place the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Ebal.” (Dt. 11:29; 27:11-14). Joshua again showed that he was obedient in every command that he received. By repeating their vows to each other, the Jews confirmed their promises to be true. They also became accountable to each other.

Joshua led the Jews in a covenant of renewal at Mount Ebal6

  • Don’t forsake the fellowship of other believers. To keep each other accountable, believers are warned against “forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Heb. 10:25). Satan is a “roaring lion.” (1 Pet. 5:8). Like a predator in nature, he strikes those who have strayed from the protection of the herd. Are you in a small group of believers where you are accountable to others? Are you mentoring someone else?

  • The blessings and curses under the Law. The actual ceremony involved the Jews alternating between the blessings and the curses (Talmud Bab., 'Sotah,' p. 7; Targum Hieros., in loc.; Surcnhus., 'Mishna,' 3:262). Any person who broke any other Law of God’s Covenant was subject to a curse: “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, “Cursed is the man who does not heed the words of this Covenant.” (Jer. 11:3). “‘Cursed is he who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’” (Dt. 27:26). Although the Jews made a vowed to keep God’s Law, they could not do so. “And do not enter into judgment with Your servant, for in Your sight no man living is righteous.” (Ps. 143:2). “[A]s it is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one;”’ (Ro. 3:10). “[B]ecause by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.” (Ro. 3:20; 4:15). Without a means to atone for their sins, they were subject to the curses under the Law: “For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the Law.’” (Gal. 3:10). “[N]evertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.” (Gal. 2:16). These curses also can apply to nations. As America moves away from its religious roots, it should not expect to enjoy God’s blessings forever: “58 If you are not careful to observe all the words of this law which are written in this book, to fear this honored and awesome name, the Lord your God, 59 then the Lord will bring extraordinary plagues on you and your descendants, even severe and lasting plagues, and 60 He will bring back on you all the diseases of Egypt of which you were afraid, and they will cling to you. 61 Also every sickness and every plague which, not written in the book of this law, the Lord will bring on you until you are destroyed.” (Dt. 28:58-61). Are you praying for America to repent and return to God?

  • Only faith in Jesus can free you from the eternal consequences of breaking the Law. By faith in His atoning death, you are no longer judged under the Law as a condition for your salvation: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (Jo. 3:16; 10:9; 11:25; 14:6). “Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, ‘The righteous man shall live by faith.’” (Gal. 3:11; 5:18; Ro. 7:6; 8:3). If you are grateful for your unearned salvation, what are you doing to show your gratitude? (Ro. 12:1-2). If you know the value of your salvation, are you spreading the Word to save others?