Bible Lesson: The defeat of Ai (Joshua 8)

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Joshua 8 Battle of Ai
Our church recently began The Gospel Project for adults and children. The following lesson was inspired by curriculum and their approach of showing how every story relates back to Jesus. The students discover that God blesses those who obey Him by faith. This lesson was adapted for an older elementary class.

Bible Passage: Joshua 8
Bible Story Title: The defeat of Ai
Target Age Group:  Ages 9-11 (3rd-5th Grade U.S.A.)
Target Time Frame: 60 Minutes
Original Teaching Context: Sunday School
Credits: Image courtesy of Sweet Publishing and Distant Shores Media

Supply List:  Bibles, copies of word puzzle, pens/pencils, visuals for the lesson (our students love legos so these pictures were used, Joshua gives commands, Joshua’s battle plan
Learning Goal:  Students will learn that when people choose to obey God by faith He blesses them.
Learning Activity #1: Joshua 8 Word puzzle
Test: Review Questions
Memory Verse:  Joshua 24:15 “But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living.  But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

Bible Lesson:  The Defeat of Ai (Joshua 8)

(Before class write on the board the question.  When writing the answer leave blanks for blesses and obey.  God _ _ _ _ _ _ _ people who _ _ _ _ Him in faith.  As an introduction to the lesson discuss this question and have students guess what goes in the blanks.)
What does God do when we obey Him?
God blesses people who obey Him in faith.
What would be the opposite of this statement?
What does God do when we disobey Him?
God punishes people who disobey Him.
Let’s open our Bibles to Joshua 8.  We are starting a new series of lessons this morning.  In order to understand Joshua 8 we need a brief summary of what took place in chapter 7.  Many of you most likely remember the story of the battle of Jericho.  (Allow students to share if they remember) God commanded His people not to take any of the items that were left when Jericho was destroyed.  A man named Achan disobeyed and no one but God knew that he had taken things God commanded not to and buried them under the ground in his tent.
God had given the Israelites a great victory when Jericho was destroyed.  The next city that they were preparing to fight was called Ai.  Men from Joshua’s army told him that not many soldiers would be needed to attack Ai.  Joshua sent 3,000 men and when they went to attack Ai, the army of Ai chased them back and killed 36 Israelite soldiers.  This defeat frightened the Israelites and Joshua cried out to God.  God told Joshua why they had been defeated.  Joshua 7:11-12 “Israel has sinned; they have violated My Covenant, which I commanded them to keep.  They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions.  That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction.  I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.”
It was revealed that Achan was the one who disobeyed.  Joshua and all Israel took the things Achan had stolen, his entire family and all his possessions and they were punished by death.
God is holy and must punish sin.  (The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ. Romans 6:23.) The Israelites had been given God’s laws and His promise to bless them and be with them if they obeyed.  He also told them that if they disobeyed they would be punished.
Now we can begin chapter 8.  If you were an Israelite how would you feel after seeing your army defeated by the enemy and an entire family put to death because of disobedience?  (Allow answers)
Let’s read 8:1-2.  Based on these verses what do you think Joshua’s emotions were? (Afraid and discouraged) What does God tell Joshua to do?  (Take your whole army with you and attack Ai) Why can Joshua fight Ai with confidence? (God told him that He has delivered the city into his hands) What could the soldiers keep? (Plunder and livestock) What was the battle plan God gave Joshua? (Set an ambush behind the city)
What is an ambush? (A surprise attack)
Joshua obeys God’s instructions and chooses 30,000 of his best fighting men.  He tells them the battle plan that God has given to defeat the city of Ai. Let’s read verse 7-8.  Joshua says, “Do what the Lord has commanded.”
When people do what the Lord has commanded they are obeying Him.  What does God do when we obey Him?  (He blesses those who obey Him in faith)
With defeat fresh in the Israelites minds it may have been difficult to imagine how this plan could work.  Whether they thought it would work or not wasn’t important.  It was important for them to obey God’s command.
Joshua sent some of his soldiers off into the night to hide to the west of the city Ai.  Joshua and the other soldiers stayed at the Israelite camp.  Early in the morning Joshua gathered his soldiers and the leaders of Israel and marched up toward Ai.  They set up camp north of Ai and in the evening they moved into the valley.
Somehow the king of Ai could see Joshua and his men.   Early in the morning the king quickly gathered his army and marched down to meet Israel.  Joshua and the men with him began to run toward the desert.  The king and all the men of Ai chased them and left their city unprotected.
Let’s read verse 18-19. When the men of Ai saw the smoke rising from their city they knew they had been attacked.  They had nowhere to go and the Israelites that had run away from them turned around and attacked the men of Ai.
Joshua and the Israelites obeyed God by faith and He blessed them and gave them a great victory over the city of Ai.
In the Old Testament the promised Savior had not come.  Since we have the New Testament we know that God kept His promise and sent Jesus as the Savior of the world.  However, in the Old Testament Jesus had not come and died on the cross to take away all our sins. God’s people had to sacrifice animals and use the blood to have their sins covered by God. When they made these sacrifices God’s people were putting their faith in God and obeying His commandments.
In the New Testament God’s promised Savior, Jesus came into the world.  He taught people how to live a life that pleases God and performed miracles.  According to God’s plan, Jesus who never sinned was arrested and crucified on a cross.  He was buried and rose again on the third day.  Unlike the animal’s blood that only covered people’s sins, Jesus blood completely forgives and cleanses us from our sins.  When a person puts their faith in Jesus they are made right with God and do not have to face the punishment for their sin.
When a person believes in the Lord Jesus, God the Holy Spirit comes into his/her life and lives.  He empowers believers to obey God.
In the Old Testament God’s presence with the Israelites was dependent on their obedience.  Jesus promised that He would always be with those who believe in Him (Matthew 28:20).  When a believer disobeys God, He never leaves us or forsakes us (Hebrews 13:5).  Our sin affects our relationship with Him and keeps us from being a good reflection of what Jesus looks like to others.  When we confess our sins, God forgives us and cleanses us of our sins (1 John 1:9).  If we choose to continue to disobey God, He will discipline us just as our earthly father disciplines us when we disobey his authority (Hebrews 12:6-11).  When we choose to walk daily in obedience to God by faith in His Word we will be blessed.
Let’s close in prayer.
Review Questions:

  1. Why was Israel not able to defeat Ai the first time they attacked? (Achan had disobeyed God and took treasures for himself)
  2. What instructions did God give Joshua about attacking Ai? (God said that He has delivered the city into his hands, Soldiers  cab keep plunder and livestock, set an ambush behind the city)
  3. True or False Joshua obeyed God’s instructions. (True)
  4. What new truth or reminder about God did you learn today?  How will this truth change your life this week?
  5. In what area of your life do you need to obey God by faith so you can experience His blessing?

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