The entire book of Joshua is a picture of Jesus as the captain of our Salvation. He is the one who leads us in victory and takes us into the Promised Land. In the eighth chapter we encounter the second battle scene where the small town of Ai is still standing after having routed the Israelites because of Achan’s sin.
The message from the previous chapter is really very simple, when blatant sin exists in the life of believers the church is hindered and the people of God suffer defeat. But in this story, we find a people who have dealt with their sin and are now gun shy about going forth into the territory of the enemy. As the old adage goes, “once burned, twice shy.” So how does God meet the Israelites in their situation? He encourages them and promises them victory over the evil king and his people:
“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.” (Joshua 8:1)
As the people of God follow the directions of the Lord, they are promised the spoils of battle and as the chapter unfolds, victory is gained and the confidence of the people reestablished. God is indeed with his people. And the people are reminded of this in no uncertain terms as the nation renews the covenant on the slopes of Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim. Everyone is included in this reminder as men, women, children and aliens are all present hearing the word of God and the promises of God once again proclaimed in their midst.
So how does this relate to Jesus? Certainly Jesus is the one who calls us to obedience and faith. When we stray and sin and experience defeat, Our Lord summons us to repentance and then bolsters our confidence in the promises of the gospel. We are victorious. We will be victorious and the forces of evil will not stand against a people devoted to the Lord. The word of God has spoken it and the Son of God has secured it. And when we walk in unity with the Son, remaining in him, we bear much fruit and triumph over sin, as the Apostle John records.
And like the people of Israel who return to the Lord after such a battle, we too return to our Lord and his word. We rest in his promises of life and look forward to the day when our Promised Land will be completely occupied by a people wholly devoted to the Lord.