We are going to spend a little
more time in the seventh chapter of the Book of Joshua. As you
know, this chapter tells the story of a tragic defeat in the life
of the people of God. There had been a wonderful experience of
victory at Jericho, and that victory shows that it was God's will
for His people to go on from victory to victory. We have seen
that Jericho represented a complete victory over all the enemies
in the land, and it set the standard for all the future, so when
we look at Jericho and the great victory there we see what God
intended to be the history of His people. But at the very next
city they met with defeat - the victory was turned into defeat.
We have already seen the main
factor in that defeat: the people had left the real ground of
victory. Spiritually they had gone back on to the old ground on
the other side of the Jordan. We spent a lot of time on that, but
it was not the only reason for this defeat. We touched upon
another factor, and it is that upon which we are going to dwell
more fully now.
First, there are one or two
things connected with that which we must notice.
The two most prominent factors
in this story are the ark of the testimony and Joshua. We have
seen that the ark is a type of the Lord Jesus and all that God
has made Him to be as a testimony for His people, so that it
represents the greatness and the glory of Jesus Christ. We need
not stay longer with the ark just now, and we will pass on to
After the death of Moses Joshua
is always seen to be associated with the ark. Now, we must
understand what Joshua represents. The ark represents the
greatness and glory of Jesus Christ, and Joshua represents the
energy of the Holy Spirit. He is not a type of the Holy Spirit,
but he represents the energy of the Holy Spirit. You
remember that when the people had crossed the Jordan Joshua
lifted up his eyes and saw a man. He went up to this man, who had
his sword drawn, and said: "Art thou for us, or for our
adversaries? And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the
Lord am I now come" (Joshua 5:13,14). So far as the Church
is concerned, the Holy Spirit is the man with the drawn sword.
The Apostle Paul speaks of "the sword of the Spirit"
(Ephesians 6:17), and the Holy Spirit is the one with the sword,
and the one who is the Captain of the hosts of the Lord. On
another occasion Paul said: "Where the Spirit of the Lord
is, there is liberty" (2 Corinthians 3:17). It is the
sovereignty and lordship of the Holy Spirit in relation to the
people of God.
"And Joshua fell on his
face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith
my lord unto his servant?" (Joshua 5:14). Joshua, therefore,
absolutely submitted himself to the Holy Spirit, and was under
His dominion for all that lay ahead. Thus he becomes a
representation of the Holy Spirit's energy.
One characteristic of Joshua as
representing the energy of the Holy Spirit was that he was always
forward-looking in relation to the testimony of Jesus, and the
attitude of the Holy Spirit is one of always looking onward,
anxious to go on with the testimony of Jesus. If you study the
history of Joshua you will see that that was true of him all his
life. When the twelve men went out from the wilderness to spy out
the land, ten of them brought back an evil report and discouraged
the people from going forward, but Joshua and Caleb said:
"Let us go up at once" (Numbers 13:30). It was Joshua
who went over, and here we find him still looking forward. He
never looked back, for it was contrary to his very disposition.
He could not accept defeat.
Another characteristic of
Joshua was that he was always a man for a fight, for a battle. He
had led the battle in the wilderness, when Amalek came out
against the Lord's people, and here he is in the land leading in
In these two ways Joshua
represents the energy of the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit has
His way in our lives we will always be going forward, and we
shall neither look back nor shall we stand still. Joshua was like
an old war-horse. I remember reading about one once. It was in
the days when men went to war on horses, and this one had been in
many battles. He came to understand the meaning of the sound of
the bugle, and whenever it sounded the Advance he put his ears
back and stood erect, ready for the battle. The time came when
that old horse was too old to fight any more, and so he was
turned out into a field, to spend the rest of his life quietly at
rest. One day, after he had been there some time, a coach came
along the road by the field, and sitting at the back of the coach
was a man with a long trumpet. As the coach passed that field the
man put up his trumpet and blew a long blast. The old horse put
up his ears and made a rush right across the field to the road.
He was ready for the battle again! But the coach went past, and
after a little while the old horse put down his head and his
ears, turned round, and walked away. He was very sad! I think
Joshua was very much like that - or shall I put it the other way?
I think the Holy Spirit is like that: always in the spirit of the
Joshua had never been defeated
in battle until he came to Ai. That was the first time in his
life that he had been defeated in battle, and we can understand,
therefore, why he was so distressed. It says: "And Joshua
rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the
ark of the Lord" (Joshua 7:6). He cried unto the Lord and
said: 'Oh, Lord, why have You allowed this? All Your enemies who
hear of it will say that You have been defeated. Lord, what will
You do for Your great name?' And the Lord said: 'Why are you
calling to Me? Israel has sinned. They have taken of the
forbidden thing.' Then it says that Joshua arose early the next
morning and set to work to find out what the sin was. That is the
thing with which we have already dealt, and we now come to the
You see, the Holy Spirit was
grieved at Ai, and the energy of the Holy Spirit could not go on
while He was grieved. I must remind you that here in the land
over the Jordan the people were in a new position altogether. I
have said that they were in the position of the Letter to the
Ephesians, and in the Letter to the Ephesians (so-called) we have
the key to this defeat at Ai. There everything is set in the
realm of spiritual conflict. Three things comprise victory or
defeat. The three things are: 1. Separation from the ground of
the authority of darkness, the prince of this world. 2. The unity
of the people of God. 3. The absolute dependence upon God, and no
When the Lord said to Joshua
that "Israel hath sinned" - not Achan, you notice - He
first of all meant that a link had been made, by Achan, between
all the people and the ground of this world where Satan has his
kingdom. It was the disastrous effect of a sinister and subtle
return, in principle, to the old Egypt and wilderness ground,
from which both the Red Sea and Jordan had meant redemption by
Divine power. This opens up the immense matter of the Church's
weakness and helplessness before "the world rulers of this
darkness" because of a 'world' ground in the Church. The
effect is weakness, defeat, and shame. The first step toward
recovery has to be a heart-quest to know where and how the devil
has found his occasion.
Then in "Ephesians"
the unity and solidarity of the Church are an essential basis for
ascendancy. Israel's responsible men had said that - Ai being so
much less than Jericho - only 'some' of the fighters need
go up against it. Thus the principle of oneness was violated or
ignored. They lost sight of the fact that the prince of this
world is the same in a local and particular situation as he is in
the greater and more universal, and that the Divine principles
are the same however 'small' the situation may appear to be. It
was proved and demonstrated at Ai that we cannot have great
universal ideas of the Church and its principles, big conceptions
and teachings about the Church, and then neglect to observe them
in local and - what we might think to be - lesser situations.
Achan may have been just a local matter, but he could not be
isolated from the general spiritual laws of all Israel. God does
not so regard it! "The body is one", and what applies
to the whole applies to each and every member, whether individual
or corporately local. Achan's family was an affecting factor.
Parents, or a parent, may raise serious "Church" issues
if they have not - at least - been very clear, definite, and firm
as to the home and family situation, so far as Divine principles
are concerned. They may fear to lose something by such a course,
but there comes a point where faithfulness to God involves God in
faithfulness, sooner or later. Yes, sooner or later, failure in
spiritual principles will find us out and disqualify us before
God; in the meantime detrimentally affecting the body corporate.
Ai says that God's eyes are watching.
Then, this attitude of Israel's
soldiers was presumption. It was an attitude of 'We can do
it'. That was the essence of Satan's temptation of Adam and the
defeat of humanity. It is the very terrible snare of any
humanism. We are as much dependent upon Almighty God in a 'minor'
issue as in a major, and failure to recognize this may make a very
major issue of what we thought was minor.
Now note: Joshua entered into a
great travail over this matter. Shall I put that in another way?
The grief of the Holy Spirit was registered in Joshua's heart,
and until things were put right for the Holy Spirit the people
could not go on.
I am putting my finger upon
something very important as to the people of God. There is
nothing more important in this universe than the honour of the
Name of the Lord, and that became the focal point of Joshua's
distress. It was no less a matter than the honour of the Name of
the Lord: "Lord... what wilt thou do for thy great name?"
Joshua was afraid that the Name of the Lord would be dishonoured
because of this defeat, and the causes of defeat were those we
have mentioned. The Holy Spirit is very sensitive to spiritual