104-108-Joshua Chapter 7
In Joshua 6:18 the Israelites were commanded not to take the accursed things. These were the things that the people of Jericho used in their worship of their false gods. Yet Achan, who was from the prominent family of Judah plundered some of these things. Israel had been sent by God not to plunder the land of Canaan but to take possession of it. To God they were a sacred instrument to be used for His purpose. God’s purpose was to bring judgment to a society who were ripe for the judgment of God. Achan’s plundering of the things of the Canaanites worship caused the anger of the Lord to burn against the children of Israel. Israel could not be defeated by the Canaanites but they could be defeated by alienating themselves from the plan of the Lord and His purpose.
Joshua accepting the recommendation to send only a few troops, this could have been a response to faith or an act of self-confidence. It was probably the latter as Joshua did not consult God before sending his men to attack Ai. But whether he sent the three thousand men or had sent one hundred thousand men it would have made no difference because of Israel’s disobedience towards God’s Word. The town of Ai had a population of 12,000 men, women and children. (Joshua 8:25) Israel cannot conquer their enemies unless they are first conquered to God. It order to have God on our side we must first be on His side. The Israelites must first be obedient to God’s Word.
The spies had advised Joshua two or three thousand but Joshua sent the larger number. This was wise on Joshua’s part but it made no difference as the defenders of Ai came out of the city and attacked them directly. The three thousand men of Israel fled from the defenders of Ai.
There losses at Ai was thirty-six which in military terms is an insignificant amount but it was thirty-six more that they lost at Jericho. Jericho was a much more difficult city for them to have conquered. What this showed the Israelites is that they could be defeated by the Canaanites in the Promised Land.
The lesson of Ai was the numbers of men is not where an army’s strength lies. The strength lies in having God’s help in all endeavors. If the Christian soldier marches forward without the help of God he will be defeated by his foe. The hearts of Israel melted with fear and with good reason. If God was not going to fight the battle for them they had nothing to expect but defeat.
Joshua along with the elders of Israel tore their cloths and put dust on their heads. This was a common practice to express grief and dismay in the Far East. It was not just the mourning of the thirty-six men lost in the battle but the concern that they had lost the guidance of God.
Joshua was moving on the faith that victory was assured by God and now they had been defeated by a small town. To Joshua this was a national calamity. Being defeated by Ai is not something that Joshua and the elders were able to take in stride. Every battle is important in obtaining the final victory and to be defeated in what was to be a minor conflict must have a reason beyond his understanding.
Joshua does not really mean that they should not have crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land but that if God is not with them they would have been better off to remain where they had come from. His plea is that if God will not deliver them then all will be lost. As now the Canaanites know that Israel can be defeated and they will be emboldened. This is not different from Christianity today. We have become so dependent upon our own programs and power that we often do not accomplish that which is before us. We must not forget that we need the Lord’s blessing and guidance in everything we do in His name.
The Christian must always be attuned that it is not for our glory but for God’s glory. Joshua shows here that this is his greatest concern, the glory of God. This should be ours as well. That when we stumble and fall in our endeavors for the Lord we have possibly caused reproach to the name of God.
Joshua received a strong response for God. God commanded him to get up. If favor from God was to be restored to Israel that Joshua must act quickly. The good news was that God had not failed Israel. The bad news was that the defeat of Israel was because of sin. This is true in many circumstances we face in life. The problem is not that God has failed us but that we have failed God. So God tells Joshua to get up, as he doesn’t need to beg God to change His heart towards Israel because God is faithful towards His people. Joshua must get up and change Israel’s heart toward God.
It is God’s plan for us to live a life of victory. But if we do not trust in Him completely He will allow defeat. Man has free will and therefore God has made it possible for man to sin against Him, which Israel did even though they did not have to.
It staggers the mind that the whole nation of Israel was found guilty of the sin that had happened through Achan and his family. That thirty-six men had lost their lives as a result. The Apostle Paul speaks to a similar problem in the Church. “Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?” (1 Corinthians 5:6) Even a small amount of sin in the Family or Church can affect the whole group. As a whole we cannot accept even a little sin as we often learn that this tolerance is worse than the sin itself.
We must understand the exact sin that Achan and his family had committed. They had taken the things that were devoted to God. The things they had taken from God were the things that were to be given to the Tabernacle or to be destroyed. The command that God had given was clear. Achan and his family had stolen from God in the same way that we might sin by not giving to God that which He has directed us to give. “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.” (Malachi 3:8)
The following Scriptures teach that if you want to keep something that belongs to God you have to pay a 20% penalty. (Leviticus 22:14 Leviticus 27:15 Leviticus 27:19 Leviticus 27:31) This is the same penalty for restitution if you have stolen from your neighbor. (Leviticus 6:4-5) Also in the New Testament we are taught that our giving to God should be regular and in proportion to what He has given us. (1 Corinthians 16:1-2 2 Corinthians 9:6-8) If we do not abide in these commands of God then we are in need of repentance for our sin against Him. As we shall see the wages for sin is death.
Because of this sin, the theft of what belonged unto the Lord, Israel would not be able to stand before their enemies. Israel would not be able to stand and fight in the power and presence of the Lord unless they were obedient to His Word. The nation of Israel were in covenant with God which promised blessing for their obedience. For their disobedience the covenant promised curses. The Christian is under the New Testament and therefore it is not by works of the law but the work of Jesus on our behalf. To have God’s power and presence in our battles we must keep the, line of fellowship with the Lord unhindered by sin in our lives. Our position with God is secure before God because of the work of Jesus but our fellowship with God is hindered by sin in our lives. “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” (1 John 1:6) Our wellspring of power is our fellowship with God in the Spirit of Truth.
It is a sobering thought to realize that we have no power before our enemies. Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual evil forces, (Ephesians 6:12) and we need the power of His fellowship in the Spirit. Repentance is a daily need of the Christian as it keeps the power of God flowing in our Christian walk.
When God is working in our lives against a particular sin, and we resist His work, we lose His mercy and will fail in our battle. It is a most dangerous time for us when we think we are winning with our own self-efforts.
Why did so many of Israel’s soldiers die at Ai because of Achan’s sin? Why did the Israelites stone Achan’s family along with him? A significant part of the answer to these questions comes by understanding the concept of communal responsibility.
If Achan’s family knew of his theft, they were accomplices and shared Achan’s guilt. A community becomes responsible for sin when people either actively participate in an act of sin or silently condone sinful actions or attitudes.
But what about Achan’s children who were too young to understand or these who had no knowledge of his theft? What about Israel’s soldiers who died at Ai because Achan stole what belonged to God?
To understand, we have to go back to the beginning. The sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve, (Genesis 3) was at least two fold. First they chose not to trust God, even though He was their true and intimate friend. Instead, they listened to the voice of a stranger. Second, though they were unsuccessful, they declared their independence from God by trying to become gods themselves. Because we all make the same choice for ourselves, no one is truly innocent.
Thus, we are all subject to consequences of sin in the world. We may die as a result of another’s sin, carelessness, or ignorance, or as a result of our own. Because one person drives under the influence of alcohol, someone else might die on the highway. Because one person wants to maximize profits, others can suffer in wretched conditions. And because Adam sinned, others in Israel died at Ai. None of this is fair. However, God promises to bring perfect justice in His own time. God’s justice will be mediated through His grace and mercy, brought to us through Jesus’ death in our place.
Joshua did not know the identity of the family that had sinned, but God knew. Secret sin is scandalous to God. Therefore, our lives should be lived transparently that everyone can see our actions. If the Christian is a just person he should have no fear before man or God. Once the guilt was brought out and dealt with then the blessings of the Lord could once again fall upon Israel.
This must have been a stressful time for Achan as the lots were cast for each group until finally he was taken out. How much better it would be for a man to walk in obedience to God. For the day will come to each to give account unto God for our time, talent, treasure, word and deed. I am sure the value of what Achan had taken faded as the line of recognition came closer and closer to him. I am sure at one point Achan had wished that he had not taken what he did from the Lord. I envision this as the day the lost are judged. How then they will wish they had taken heed to the truth. How much better for us to regret sin before we sin rather than after we sin.
At the time of our temptation the sinful act before us may seem attractive and full of pleasure. Taking what Achan took may at the time seem good to possess and brought comfort to him. When we consider the penalty of sin, both within and upon us, it should outweigh the false profit of our sinful actions.
Joshua. As well as Achan, knew that the penalty of his sin would be death. Still in Joshua’s compassion he implored Achan to give Glory to God and confess his sin. Even when we have a hidden sin we still can give glory to the Lord and confess our sin. Keeping our sins hidden has a special power over us.
The plunder of Achan was insignificant in comparison to the lives of thirty-six men and the welfare of the entire nation. To covet, our greed for things that are not ours, is a strong force against us and if we do not resist we will make fatal decisions. (1 Timothy 6:10) Man has the ability to reason and therefore is able to rationalize his actions. Achan may have thought, “No one will know. No one will miss these things. No one will be hurt by me having these things.” The excuses we can make to cover our sinful deeds are endless. But they all fall short when we have to face the consequences. Many times I have said to myself, I wish I had that moment back. But we never can. It would be much better to think through our actions before we commit to them.
The sons and daughters of Achan had knowledge of what Achan had done. It would not be possible to bury that much under the tent without their knowledge. Therefore the family and all possessions were destroyed and buried beneath a pile of rocks. The place where they were buried was named the Valley of Achor. Which means the Valley of Trouble.
Once justice was done the Lord’s anger ceased. Once sin is dealt with it can become a springboard to victory. Now once again Israel was in the position to walk in the presence and power of God. Now that they were once again conquered by God they would march forward under His guidance.
As Christians we need to be dead to sin. Only in death of sin can we receive victory. “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:24)