I continued my reading in Joshua today and found a very interesting story of what happened after the fall of Jericho. This is my attempted abridged version. Stick with me here. In the book of Joshua, the Israelites move on to take down Ai. Meanwhile, a man among them has sinned; he has taken a robe from Babylonia and has hid it inside his tent, along with riches that he coveted. This man, Achan, did one sin among many faithful Israelites yet it had a lasting impact on the group. Not knowing God was angry because of Achan’s sin, the Israelites sent only a portion of their men to go up against Ai. The result- about thirty-six of their men were killed, and they had to flee back to camp. After learning of this news, Joshua tore his clothes and fell face down, begging to know why God led them across the Jordan if they couldn’t go any further than Jericho to claim their entire Promised Land. God’s response was a command that all the Israelites gather tomorrow to determine which of the men has sinned. Who ended up being discovered and stoned to death? You guessed it- Achan.
After reading this one chapter (yes, this all occurred in one chapter, Joshua 7), I was a bit confused. It was a pretty good story, the ending was a bit gruesome, but I didn’t know what to make of it. Thank God for student Bibles! Alongside this chapter in my hot pink student Bible is a small passage that clarifies the meaning of Joshua 7 and helps its readers better understand how to apply it to their lives.
“Inevitably perhaps, the Israelites get cocky after Jericho. Since they have conquered a fortified city without firing an arrow, the next target, the puny town of Ai, seems to pose no threat at all. A few thousand soldiers stroll toward Ai. A short time later those same soldiers- minus the dead and wounded- are scrambling for camp- thoroughly routed.
Clearly, the juxtaposition of these two stories, Jericho and Ai, is meant to convey a lesson. If the Israelites obey God and place their trust in Him, no challenge is too great to overcome. On the other hand, if they insist on their own way, no obstacle is too small to trip them up.
This humiliating defeat, coming so quickly after the great victory of Jericho, demoralizes even Joshua. Realizing that without God’s protection the Israelites were hopelessly vulnerable- trapped without possibility of escape- Joshua momentarily loses all courage.
The trouble at Ai comes because of the deeds of a single man who greedily disobeys God’s battle commands. His punishment is drastic. Evidently the fledgling nation needs a strong lesson regarding the consequences of taking God’s word lightly.
After the painful lesson of Ai, Joshua relearns an important lesson in leadership. The public exposure of Achan’s sin underscores the need to follow God’s orders scrupulously, even in the earthly matter of warfare. God will not tolerate any of the lying or looting that is typical of invading armies.”
Now, how can Joshua 7 be used to teach US a lesson? Below, I’ve taken note of a few things that I think are essential to truly understanding the purpose of this chapter.
1) When you face obstacles in your life, it is important to not lose courage.
When Joshua learned of the Israelites’ failures, he suddenly became very afraid. He lost hope and even went so far as to say to God, “Ah, Sovereign Lord, why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us?…What then will you do for your own great name?” (Joshua 7:7,9) Like Joshua, you may have encountered a situation where nothing makes sense. It seems like God is against you and there’s no way out. Little did Joshua know, there was a thief and liar among the Israelites, the cause of the Lord’s anger. I am not concluding that every time something goes wrong it is because God is angry with you or wants to bring wrath down upon you. Far from it. Sometimes God causes us to stumble to refocus our gaze on Him. When this happens, do not lose courage. Take a step back and reevaluate where you’re standing in terms of how close you are to God at the moment. It’s easy to let yourself become distracted and not take notice of the sins holding you back. Sometimes it’s necessary for God to shake things up a bit to remind you who’s really in charge.
2) There may be a sin in your life interfering with your relationship with Jesus.
Our Father loves us and wants to provide for us, yet we so often get distracted by a sin in our lives that interferes with our relationship with Him. In Joshua, Achan’s sin was holding the Israelites back from claiming their Promised Land. Because one of them had strayed, the whole group got taken down as well. This is quite similar to sins in our own lives. A sin is a sin, no matter how large or small, but it’s easy to excuse one as “no big deal.” It’s easy to assume that one sin couldn’t possibly impact God’s work through you. Yet it does. “That which is devoted is among you, O Israel. You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove it.” (Joshua 7:13) God has great things in store for us, but sometimes He withholds blessings and success from us because He wants us to wake up to the things in our lives that are holding us back from living entirely for God.
Our loving Father offers mercy and forgiveness to those who repent and believe that Jesus died for our sins and then rose again. This is the basis of our salvation. He knows that we are perfect, and He doesn’t expect us to be, but let us not forget that He is our Father. We are His children. Just like your parents would be hurt if you disobeyed them, God does not delight in seeing His children being led astray by sin and ignorance. We get distracted and blinded to where we should be. When we eliminate the sin potentially holding us back from living inside His will for us, remarkable things will happen.
“When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:20-23)