BIBLE STUDY SERIES #572, 573 and 574

10 November, 2002

AN INTERLUDE OF REFLECTION

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

As I grow older, year by year, I have found that a day, a week, or a year apparently passes at a much faster rate than it did when I was young. I have a theory about this apparent phenomenon. I believe that our assessment of time's passage is a comparative one. If a person is very young, let us say, seven years old, then a year appears to last a very long time, for it comprises one seventh of the entire lifetime of those experiences which one has known, and also each day seems filled with new experiences which need to be, as our elders might have worded it, accumulated and assessed. If one is, on the other hand, seventy years old or more, then the passage of one more year is only one seventieth of one's past lifetime of years, and so that year seems to pass, accordingly, very swiftly, and be gone, one might say, almost too swiftly. This may, of course, be further compounded by the normal tendency towards a general loss of the ability to recall the things which have filled that year, and so, upon reflection, we think our year has evaporated before anything significant has been accomplished. Also, our routine tends to pass without our consciously attempting to accomplish new things for the first time, and so the repeated actions as day follows day simply overlap experience upon similar experience, and we move on without putting something new in the old memory box. Indeed, we think we have barely got into the year when a whole new year is upon us to replace that which we had only barely begun to experience and with it the need to learn to apply to letters or clippings the figures for the new year.

Normally, I would be writing of these things at the year's end; the time when we find ourselves considering the turning of the old year towards the new one, with the hanging up of a new calendar, but as I contemplated the fact that this broadcast would be aired at about the time of November 11th, Remembrance Day on the calendar, and as I had the honour, as a 'teen-ager, to serve among that one-tenth of all Canadians who were drawn to the colours in some form of service during the Second World War, I allowed my thoughts to rest upon such matters at this time.

The Bible has a well-known passage or two which might apply to such themes, and we might for a few moments consider some. Job's despondent prayer in Job 14:1-2 states "Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble. He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not." The words of Psalm 103:15-16 came to mind as I pondered these thoughts:

15. As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.
16. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.

Such words draw to mind the symbol of the red poppy and the services connected thereto. But we should not let these words terminate in such a mournful stanza without its continuation, for the verses which follow it read thus:

17. But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children,
18. To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them.

We might, further, recall the words of Isaiah the Prophet in Isaiah 40:6-8:

6. The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodness thereof is as the flower of the field.
7. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass.
8. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.

I Peter 1:24-25 yields to us a New Testament parallel. Peter writes:

24. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:
25. But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.

That ought to speak to us, as does the trumpet sounding on Remembrance Day, for it also calls us back, together as one nation, in one of the few occasions yet left to us without being tainted with the hint of being "politically incorrect." It is one day in our year when a Christian may express, as part of the whole nation, a sincerely Christian value which is drawn from the Resurrection. Those of us who formed the ranks that merged in time of war, in the years of our youth, in many cases came to the tasks assigned us with a ready good-will, and the intention, often as a Christian, to serve the Monarch and our neighbours by that youthful service in uniform which we offered. We were in many cases motivated by a patriotic zeal which was, in retrospect, born in part of media enhancement and exhortation and which reflected a patriotic view which had not yet been tested by unfulfilled expectation or tarnished by alien persuasions. Some came, it is true, for varied other personal reasons, some of which might only be of immediate interest to themselves, but others still cared for those dissipating values which today might again be revived but perhaps in new forms and under a different regimen. Many who answered the call of such an invitation did not return, or returned with grievous wounds in body and mind. For the rest, there is a fading life with less of motivating drive and health, and more of circumscribed associations.

With the advantage of hindsight we might question with deep thoughts, the motives of those whose collective leadership created war upon war in history, and consider what was lost, and what was gained. Who actually "won" such wars? Who benefited thereby? A lifetime grants us times of gravest reflections as the days become fewer and the years tremble towards yet another time when conflict beckons the innocent, and when technology has enhanced the power of a few to apply, with the stroke of a pen, vastly increased potential to kill.

Throughout the ages, God's people of Israel, and here I have chiefly in view the vast numbers who have mainly descended as the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples out of the tribes of the Northern House of Israel, have been set against one another, sometimes by Satanic influences, but also at others, by the need to cleanse the land of idolatry. War among the tribal descendants of Jacob has sadly been all-too-common, and Biblical examples are not lacking. We can attest that, in the A.V. Bible, the first mention of the word "Jews" appears in II Kings: 16:5-6, where that tribal grouping is stated to be at war against Israel. Some wars, Israel won. These were times when The LORD fought for His people. At other times, His shield was lifted because there was sin in the camp of Israel, and disaster followed disaster until they had been driven from their land. Indeed, when sin had entered the land, there was danger that Israel would partially destroy itself. In Judges 20:11 to Judges 21:25 there is the example wherein the Tribe of Benjamin was all but wiped out over a sin which they would not correct.

More recent times have seen nation rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, exactly as Jesus Christ prophesied. Often wars in more recent times have also occurred between various nations whose lines of descent may well be derived out of those same tribes of ancient Israel, although the people involved often knew nothing of their past connections thereto, nor yet of the same connections with their opponents. Consider Matthew 24:7: "For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places." The parallel quotation from Mark's gospel also mentions that there shall be "troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows."

As we pass yet another Remembrance Day, let us recall that it was commanded in the Israel of our forefathers that trumpets of silver should be made to sound for assemblies. One trumpet would sound in the Camp of Israel if the leaders were to assemble at the Tabernacle, but two trumpets were to sound for a general assembly of the whole people of the nation. This ought to speak to us of the promise of God's "Last Trump" at which time He will move to do something which has seldom been done in former time. Biblical reports carry us back to the raising of Jairus' daughter mentioned in Mark 5:35-43 and Luke 8:49-56, and to the raising of Lazarus in John 11:1-45. Of course the Resurrection of Jesus, Himself, was the supreme act which validated all prophecy concerning the forthcoming Resurrection of those in the grave, and it is to recall these wonderful promised events that the trumpet calls us to a Silence on Remembrance Day.

We shall be returning to our regular series of Bible Studies next week, but as we are, in those studies, contemplating the result of the sin of Achan which brought a disastrous reverse to the army of Israel at Ai, our thoughts today are not entirely disconnected from the sequence that we have been following. We shall learn in the next study of the result after Israel was purged of that evil of Achan. Achan had stolen out of Jericho some silver and gold, and a garment of Babylon. It was hidden in his tent, and the LORD saw what was done, and demanded that the sin be judged. That was done, and prospects thereupon brightened. This forms a lesson for our people even in this present time, in which we are now living. We will learn more of these matters next week.

17 November, 2002

JOSHUA 8:1-29 - AI AMBUSH

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

We have been conducting the present series of Bible Studies for over ten years now; starting with a Study that began the sequence back in Genesis 12, with God's Call to Abram. With occasional digressions, we have taken up the Scriptures contained within the first five Books of The Bible consecutively from that point to the end of Deuteronomy and we had continued into the Book of Joshua.

We had reviewed the story contained in Joshua 7, and we had seen how The LORD had demanded that the sin in the camp of Israel, which had been done by the man called Achan, of the tribe of Judah must be judged and The LORD would refuse to continue His assistance to Israel until this had been accomplished.

Achan, in taking from the "banned" and destroyed city of Jericho two hundred shekels of silver, a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight and "a goodly Babylonish garment", had brought death to Israel's army when it next moved into battle against the small city of Ai. That silver and gold which Achan had buried in his tent belonged in the LORD's treasury, while the Babylonish garment ought to have been burned. The sin had allowed the unprotected army of Israel to suffer a defeat with the loss of about thirty-six men, so the penalty was that Achan, his family, and all that he had, perished by stoning, with the remains being burned and then buried under a great heap of stones. This happened in the valley of Achor, and a later prophecy by the Prophet Hosea indicated that this would become a doorway of return to Israel following the years of Assyrian deportation and wandering into the north west upon their escape. You may wish to have your Bibles open to chapter eight of Joshua as we consider what God's Holy Word would show us from today's readings.

The New Bible Dictionary, under the item "Ai" states that the name is always written with the definite article in Hebrew, ha'ai, the heap, ruin. The city lay east of Bethel and the altar which Abram built (Gn. xii. 8) adjacent to Bethaven (Jos. vii. 2) and north of Michmash (Is. x. 28). The Israelite attack upon it, immediately following the sack of Jericho, was at first repulsed, but after Achan's sin had been punished a successful stratagem was employed. The people of Ai were killed, their king executed, and their city burned and made into 'an heap' (Heb. tel; Jos. vii. 1-viii. 29). It became an Ephraimite town (I Ch. vii. 28, 'Ayyah', RSV) but was inhabited by the Benjamites after the exile (Ne. xi. 31). Isaiah pictured the Assyrian armies advancing on Jerusalem by way of Ai (Is. x. 28, 'Aiath'). Let us read the opening verses of Joshua 8:

1. And the LORD said unto Joshua, Fear not, neither be thou dismayed: take all the people of war with thee, and arise, go up to Ai: see, I have given into thy hand the king of Ai, and his people, and his city, and his land:
2. And thou shalt do to Ai and her king as thou didst unto Jericho and her king: only the spoil thereof, and the cattle thereof, shall ye take for a prey unto yourselves: lay thee an ambush for the city behind it.
3. So Joshua arose, and all the people of war, to go up against Ai: and Joshua chose out thirty thousand mighty men of valour, and sent them away by night.

We might note that, whereas the first attack, which the men of Ai had repulsed, consisted of three thousand men. This time, we see that ten times that first number were to comprise the main party forming the ambush. Again, the term "mighty men of valour" could indicate men selected for strength, might, efficiency, or perhaps even wealth. The New Bible Commentary indicates that one explanation for the appearance of 30,000 men here, and 5,000 men in verse 12, on the west side of the city might be that there were two ambuscades, one of 30,000 in the hills nearer to Bethel, and the other of 5,000 close to Ai.

4. And he commanded them, saying, Behold, ye shall lie in wait against the city, even behind the city: go not very far from the city, but be ye all ready:
5. And I, and all the people that are with me, will approach unto the city: and it shall come to pass, when they come out against us, as at the first, that we will flee before them,
6. (For they will come out after us) till we have drawn them from the city; for they will say, They flee before us, as at the first: therefore we will flee before them.
7. Then ye shall rise up from the ambush, and seize upon the city: for the LORD your God will deliver it into your hand.
8. And it shall be, when ye have taken the city, that ye shall set the city on fire: according to the commandment of the LORD shall ye do. See, I have commanded you.

This is, of course, the classic form of the ambush. The Companion Bible note at the following verse, which makes reference to the location "between Bethel and Ai" points out "The place of Abraham's altar (Gen. 12.8: so that the place where the promise of the Land was made, is the place where it began to be fulfilled. Abraham had come down from Sichem: Joshua goes up to Sichem, and builds his altar on the same spot where Abraham had built his. Cp. Gen. 12.6-8 with Josh. 8.30-35 and Deut. 11.30." At verse 10, it notes "Numbered = inspected or mustered."

9. Joshua therefore sent them forth: and they went to lie in ambush, and abode between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of Ai: but Joshua lodged that night among the people.
10. And Joshua rose up early in the morning, and numbered the people, and went up, he and the elders of Israel, before the people to Ai.
11. And all the people, even the people of war that were with him, went up, and drew nigh, and came before the city, and pitched on the north side of Ai: now there was a valley between them and Ai.
12. And he took about five thousand men, and set them to lie in ambush between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of the city.
13. And when they had set the people, even all the host that was on the north of the city, and their liers in wait on the west of the city, Joshua went that night into the midst of the valley.
14. And it came to pass, when the king of Ai saw it, that they hasted and rose up early, and the men of the city went out against Israel to battle, he and all his people, at a time appointed, before the plain; but he wist not that there were liers in ambush against him behind the city.

The Companion Bible notes that the word "wist" used in that last verse, "wist not = knew not. Anglo-Saxon witan, to know." I might add that there will probably come to mind some other connected English words such as "wits" "witness" and "witch."

15. And Joshua and all Israel made as if they were beaten before them, and fled by the way of the wilderness.
16. And all the people that were in Ai were called together to pursue after them: and they pursued after Joshua, and were drawn away from the city.
17. And there was not a man left in Ai or Bethel, that went not out after Israel: and they left the city open, and pursued after Israel.
18. And the LORD said unto Joshua, Stretch out the spear that is in thy hand toward Ai; for I will give it into thine hand. And Joshua stretched out the spear that he had in his hand toward the city.

The Companion Bible notes "spear = a short javelin." and it adds that this is the first occurrence of the Hebrew word "kidon."

19. And the ambush arose quickly out of their place, and they ran as soon as he had stretched out his hand: and they entered into the city, and took it, and hasted and set the city on fire.
20. And when the men of Ai looked behind them, they saw, and, behold, the smoke of the city ascended up to heaven, and they had no power to flee this way or that way: and the people that fled to the wilderness turned back upon the pursuers.
21. And when Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had taken the city, and that the smoke of the city ascended, then they turned again, and slew the men of Ai.
22. And the other issued out of the city against them; so they were in the midst of Israel, some on this side, and some on that side: and they smote them, so that they let none of them remain or escape.
23. And the king of Ai they took alive, and brought him to Joshua.
24. And it came to pass, when Israel had made an end of slaying all the inhabitants of Ai in the field, in the wilderness wherein they chased them, and when they were all fallen on the edge of the sword, until they were consumed, that all the Israelites returned unto Ai, and smote it with the edge of the sword.
25. And so it was, that all that fell that day, both of men and women, were twelve thousand, even all the men of Ai.
26. For Joshua drew not his hand back, wherewith he stretched out the spear, until he had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai.
27. Only the cattle and the spoil of that city Israel took for a prey unto themselves, according unto the word of the LORD which he commanded Joshua.
28. And Joshua burnt Ai, and made it an heap for ever, even a desolation unto this day.
29. And the king of Ai he hanged on a tree until eventide: and as soon as the sun was down, Joshua commanded that they should take his carcase down from the tree, and cast it at the entering of the gate of the city, and raise thereon a great heap of stones, that remaineth unto this day.

We will save some comments on these and the rest of the verses in the chapter for our next Bible Study. We might end by noting the total contrast between Israel fighting without The LORD's protection, and, after the sin was removed from their camp, the total victory which followed. May this lesson be learned by God's people even today. It is important, and deserves our meditative thought.

24 November, 2002

JOSHUA 8:17-35 - AI AND EBAL

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

We have been conducting the present series of Bible Studies for over ten years now; starting with a Study that began the sequence back in Genesis 12, with God's Call to Abram. With occasional digressions, we have taken up the Scriptures contained within the first five Books of The Bible consecutively from that point to the end of Deuteronomy and we had continued into the Book of Joshua.

We had recently reviewed the story contained in Joshua 7, and we had seen how The LORD had demanded that the sin in the camp of Israel, which had been committed by the man called Achan, of the tribe of Judah must be judged and noted that The LORD would refuse to continue His assistance to Israel until this had been accomplished.

Achan, in taking from the "banned" and destroyed city of Jericho two hundred shekels of silver, a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight and "a goodly Babylonish garment", had brought death to Israel's army when it next moved into battle against the small city of Ai. That silver and gold which Achan had buried in his tent belonged in the LORD's treasury, while the Babylonish garment ought to have been burned. The sin had allowed the unprotected army of Israel to suffer a defeat with the loss of about thirty-six men, so the penalty was that Achan, his family, and all that he had, perished by stoning, with the remains being burned and then buried under a great heap of stones. This happened in the valley of Achor, and a later prophecy by the Prophet Hosea indicated that this would become a doorway of return to Israel.

As this broadcast marks the eight-hundredth wherein I have sought to bring God's word to our people, I feel that I can not do better than to draw their attention to commitments made by their fathers in old time, which have subsequently been broken, for Jesus Christ commanded His followers, saying, "If ye love me, keep my Commandments."

We had read the words of the Scripture passage in Joshua 8 down to verse 29 on our last Study, but we had left some notes on these verses for today's review. The New Bible Commentary note on the "Capture of Ai" began by stating that "The way was now open for a renewed attack on Ai, and Joshua made use of an ambush to take and destroy the city." After some notes concerning the figures quoted and the matter of dispositions to guard against an associated attack from Bethel, this reference continued by noting: "The ambush proved entirely successful: the city was occupied and set on fire; the inhabitants, attacked in front and from the rear, were put to the sword; their king was slain and his body hanged on a tree until sunset (cf. Dt. xi. 23), and then buried under a great heap of stones at the gate of the city; and Ai (meaning 'stone heap') became like its name. It is noteworthy that the cattle and the spoil were this time given to the Israelites (27). Achan might have waited for his booty."

That reference continues with a discussion on the question of archaeological evidence, quoting several authoritative views.

From verse 30 to 35, our Scripture passage moves us to another scene. Back in Deuteronomy 11, the words of Moses are recorded as he spoke to Israel concerning their future invasion of the Promised Land and it might be suitable at this time to read these verses as an introduction to this new section.

Back in Deuteronomy 11:1, after speaking concerning the Law, Moses had stated: "Therefore thou shalt love the LORD thy God, and keep his charge, and his statutes, and his judgments, and his commandments, alway." He had then continued to review Israel's experiences in Egypt, and how The LORD had responded to Israel's needs subsequently in the Wilderness. Moses had then turned to a review of the experiences ahead, as Israel began to occupy that Promised Land with all its blessings. It might be well for us to review some of that passage starting at verse 16 for within them we find a commission to Israel which can have application right down to the present day. Keep in view that it is these words which the Israelites, under Joshua, were seeking to uphold as their advance proceeded:

16. Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them;
17. And then the LORD'S wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit; and lest ye perish quickly from off the good land which the LORD giveth you.
18. Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes.
19. And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
20. And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates:
21. That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth.
22. For if ye shall diligently keep all these commandments which I command you, to do them, to love the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, and to cleave unto him;
23. Then will the LORD drive out all these nations from before you, and ye shall possess greater nations and mightier than yourselves.
24. Every place whereon the soles of your feet shall tread shall be yours: from the wilderness and Lebanon, from the river, the river Euphrates, even unto the uttermost sea shall your coast be.
25. There shall no man be able to stand before you: for the LORD your God shall lay the fear of you and the dread of you upon all the land that ye shall tread upon, as he hath said unto you.
26. Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse;
27. A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you this day:
28. And a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known.
29. And it shall come to pass, when the LORD thy God hath brought thee in unto the land whither thou goest to possess it, that thou shalt put the blessing upon mount Gerizim, and the curse upon mount Ebal.
30. Are they not on the other side Jordan, by the way where the sun goeth down, in the land of the Canaanites, which dwell in the champaign over against Gilgal, beside the plains of Moreh?
31. For ye shall pass over Jordan to go in to possess the land which the LORD your God giveth you, and ye shall possess it, and dwell therein.
32. And ye shall observe to do all the statutes and judgments which I set before you this day.

We note therein the specific duties to "write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates", and again, that they shall 'put the blessing upon mount Gerizim, and the curse upon mount Ebal. As they had entered the Promised Land across the Jordan River, they had, nationally, moved to do this by taking up twelve stones from the bed of the river, to heap up in Gilgal as it were to mark their gateway, which God had provided to them in opening the way across the river bed, and directly thereafter they had accomplished the completion of the rite of circumcision in order to re-establish their commitment to God's Covenant. Doubtless they would also write the law on plaistered stones as Deuteronomy 27:2-3 had directed, for now, they are to fulfil the command of The LORD in going directly to Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal to fulfil God's directives. At this point, therefore, we shift our attention once again to the Israelites as they move to complete the divine order:

30. Then Joshua built an altar unto the LORD God of Israel in mount Ebal,
31. As Moses the servant of the LORD commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, an altar of whole stones, over which no man hath lift up any iron: and they offered thereon burnt offerings unto the LORD, and sacrificed peace offerings.
32. And he wrote there upon the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he wrote in the presence of the children of Israel.
33. And all Israel, and their elders, and officers, and their judges, stood on this side the ark and on that side before the priests the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, as well the stranger, as he that was born among them; half of them over against mount Gerizim, and half of them over against mount Ebal; as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded before, that they should bless the people of Israel.
34. And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessings and cursings, according to all that is written in the book of the law.
35. There was not a word of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua read not before all the congregation of Israel, with the women, and the little ones, and the strangers that were conversant among them.

At that point, I cannot but contrast that moment in the history of Israel with the actions taken by the Governments, the Law Courts, the Schools, and indeed, all corporate society today as it reflects a national purpose, for those very commitments are being expunged from every official act. How long will it continue before Our LORD takes some action to drive home to us our dereliction of duty? The generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon descendants of those tribes of Israel have sinned in this, our own day, and we stand in jeopardy of judgment for so doing.

May our listeners meditate prayerfully concerning this matter, that we may seek His blessings, and fall not under such a curse.

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