The Old Testament is full of stories. Exciting. Confusing. Bizarre. Unbelievable. Consider the nameless king of the small city of Ai. Because of Israel’s sin (which was theirs collectively, even though it was committed by an individual – hmm…), the army of Ai was able to open up a can of whup-cream on the Israeli’s, giving them a false sense of confidence. Well, Israel dealt with their sin (quickly, violently) and came back to Ai for round 2, only to completely destroy the town! And while Ai’s citizens were ALL killed in the field of battle, their king was designated to endure a different fate, as Joshua “hanged him” on a tree until evening (Joshua 8.29).
This was Israel’s second victory in as many cities and word of it must have been spreading, as five kings formed an alliance and used some political maneuvering to draw Israel into a battle with the hopes of defeating them by the strength of their united armies. This turned out to be a futile effort, considering God killed most of their armies with hailstones that were doubling as artillery (Joshua 10.11). At the end of this battle, the kings were gathered up and put in a cave, only to have Joshua “roll large stones against the mouth of the mouth of the cave and set men by it to guard them” (Joshua 10.18).
Interesting, no? I simply cannot help but see the Gospel in these stories! I rightfully shared the fate of these Gentile kings. I was God’s enemy. But rather than walk-out my death sentence by hanging on a tree, another king – Jesus – hung on a tree until evening for me. And I didn’t sit in a darkened cave behind large, guarded stones, but instead, Jesus was placed behind the stone (and guards!) only to be raised in newness of life that I now share with him! As unpleasant – no, horrific – as the fate of those Gentile kings may have been, their stories are precious because they point me to the heart of the Gospel: the Cross!