Joshua 8 Study Guide

Continuing our “Taking Ground” study, this past weekend Pastor Doug shared from Joshua 8. In this message, we saw Joshua and the Israelites learn from their previous failure at Ai and listen to the Lord on their way to a sweeping victory. We also saw them renew their covenant with God as we discovered why failure is such a good teacher and how it demonstrates our need to be fully dependent upon God.

Watch the video below to see a few highlights from the teaching and share it with your friends via social media. To watch the message in its entirety, click here.

For the Note Takers

Failure Isn’t Fatal (Joshua 8:1–2): Winston Churhill once said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” You see, failure has a tendency to separate people into two camps: those who fail backwards and those who fail forward. What’s the difference?

Failing Backwards: Blaming others; repeating the same mistakes and expecting not to fail this time; quitting.
Failing Forward: Taking responsibility; learning from mistakes; embracing failure; persevering.

Here’s the thing about humans . . . we tend to have tunnel vision. We often get stuck within our own situation, our own successes or failures, our own trials and triumphs, and we have trouble seeing beyond it. We can only see the chapter we are in that we often forget there is more to the story. The lesson in this passage in Joshua is that we should never give up on our story because of the chapter we’re in. Last week, Joshua and the Israelites were defeated in battle and defeated mentally. Joshua threw himself a pity party, afraid this was the end for Israel, that God’s people and His name would be forgotten. They couldn’t read ahead to see how the story would turn out, and neither can we. But we must listen to God’s advice to Joshua: “Get up!”

Failure Teaches Us to Listen (Joshua 8:3–8): The previous time Joshua and the Israelites tried to take Ai, they rushed in without waiting upon the Lord. They didn’t listen to His voice; they just went. This time, they slowed down and listened to the Lord before, during, and after the battle. We must heed the example of Joshua and the Israelites in chapter 8 as opposed to chapter 7. We mustn’t rush into the battle called life without listening to the Lord and seeking His direction.

Failure Teaches Us New Approaches (Joshua 8:9–29): Henry Ford, a man who failed many times in his life, once said, “A mistake is a way to begin again, only more intelligently.” There was clearly a false presumption amongst the Israelites that with God every victory is guaranteed. But they failed to recognize that they actually had to listen to the Lord and follow His direction. They had to honor and obey Him. So this time, they didn’t presume; this time, the Israelites listened to the Lord and implemented a strategy that, in many ways, was taking a page out of Ai’s playbook.

Failure Teaches Us the Danger of Overconfidence: The king of Ai presumed the Israelites were enacting the same strategy as their first failed incursion, and that what worked for them the first time would work again. They were overconfident after their first victory, much like the Israelites were when they first tried to attack Ai. But God was going to use the failure of the Israelites as they learned from their overconfidence, and now they were going to use it against the enemy.

Failure Leads to Victory: God doesn’t waste our failures. He works all things, even failures, for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes. He taught the Israelites a lesson about overconfidence and disobedience (Achan), and then He used their failure to bring them to a place of obedience, listening to His voice, and ultimately to victory.

Failure Creates a Holy Dependence (Joshua 8:30–35): After the victory, the Israelites could have kept going and continued to conquer the surrounding wicked kingdoms, but instead they stopped, made themselves vulnerable, and worshiped the Lord. They made the 30-mile trek from Ai to Scechem, to the space between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerazim to reestablish their covenant with the Lord, to read the law of Moses, and to offer sacrifice.

What an example this should be to us! The time to lift up and honor the Lord, the time to praise Him for what He’s already done and is currently doing, and offer up worship for what we in faith expect He will do . . . that time is always RIGHT NOW! Even if it seemingly leaves us exposed, the reality is that when we stop and praise Him, regardless of what we’re in the midst of, regardless of whether or not we’re in victory or trial, we’re in the right place. Theologian Matthew Henry wrote: “We must not think to defer covenanting with God till we are settled in the world; nor must any business put us from minding and pursuing the one thing needful. The way to prosper is to begin with God.”

Quote to Remember: God wastes nothing.—Pastor Doug Sauder


As you think about this weekend’s teaching, here are a few questions to reflect on and consider on your own, with your family, or in your group.

1. What area of your life do you need courage to continue?

2. How can you listen to the Lord in the midst of failure?

3. How has failure caused you to adjust and try new approaches?

4. How might God use your failures?

5. How are you living in holy dependence right now?


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Join us on Wednesday as Pastor Chris Baselice explains what the Bible tells us about second chances. Discover how to break free from self-inflicted suffering and how to walk the road of recovery and redemption.

Then on the weekend, Pastor Doug will share from Joshua 9. In this message, we’ll explore the deception of the Gibeonites. We’ll learn why we shouldn’t be so hasty to make oaths or promises, the importance of keeping our word, and why community matters.

About the Author

Danny Saavedra

Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.