I have read the book of Joshua many times but reading it the other day a new thought stood out to me concerning the defeat of the Israelites at Ai.
The defeat of Jericho fueled the enthusiasm of the Israelites. It was a victorious and enthusiastic win … now on to conquer Ai. God had given specific instructions regarding Jericho and Joshua thought all was well. However, what is hidden WILL be revealed. “Be sure your sins will find you out”! (Numbers 32:23).
The instruction from the Lord, through Joshua, was clear (6:18-19), “By all means abstain from the accursed things, lest you become accursed when you take of the accursed things, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it. But all the silver and gold, and vessels of bronze and iron, are consecrated to the Lord; they shall come into the treasure of the Lord.”
Unknown to Joshua, one of the Israelites, Achan, had taken a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels.
Achan didn’t just disobey but he stole from God! 6:19 makes it clear that all the gold, silver, bronze and iron were to go into the treasury of the Lord. This was the Israelites first battle and the first fruits belonged to God … spoils would come from later battles. The “accursed” thing was devoted to God and became “accursed” when stolen and taken for personal use.
Achan thought no one knew. But God sees all. God knows. God reveals. Discipline and punishment followed. There are always consequences to sin. In the Old Testament days Achan’s family also suffered the consequences of his sin. Achan alone defied the ban, but this disobedience is seen as that of the whole nation because of the Old Testament principle of corporate solidarity. No person sins alone … there are ripple effects.
After the victory at Jericho Joshua then sent men to spy out the city of Ai. It was a smaller city and the spies saw how easy it would be to conquer and even suggested a small amount of men to go fight. Joshua trusted his men, sent only 3000 men and the Israelites were soundly defeated. They were chased back and 36 Israelites were killed!
What happened? What caused this resounding defeat after such a great victory? Joshua fell before the Lord, tore his clothes then he and the elders put dust on their heads as an outward expression of deep sorrow and grief. Joshua even began to question if they should have even stayed on the other side of the Jordan! Joshua was concerned that when the other Canaanites and inhabitants of the land would hear about the Israelites turning and running … “what will You do for Your great name?” God’s reputation was at stake!
There was defeat in the land of victory! Defeat robbed God of His glory! The corporate body was held back because of one man’s hidden sin! Being defeated by their enemies was one of the consequences of disobedience.
Joshua was on his face before God but God told him to “Get up! Why do you lie thus on your face? Israel has sinned, (notice it’s corporate) and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. For they have even taken some of the accursed things, and have both stolen and deceived; and they have also put it among their own stuff.”
Sin held back the victory. Prayer alone, being on your face before God won’t “fix” it. There was sin in the camp and the sin had to be rooted out. Only then could victory be assured. The people were promised success and prosperity, but only if they acted in obedience (1:8,9).
Joshua “gets up” and follows the instructions God gave to find and deal with the offender. The people, to be consecrated to God, had to separate themselves from the offender. Achan was discovered to be the guilty one, he confessed but the punishment was severe … death for himself and his family!
God doesn’t play games!
Here is what God showed me …
What are the accursed things that we as individuals have brought into our lives from the world around us that God has said “NO!” about? Things that are keeping us from victory? Things that are hindering our families, our churches, and yes our nation … from the victory that God wants us to enjoy?
There are things that God has said are NOT permissible … being unequally yoked with an unbeliever, fornication, adultery, drinking to excess, lying, looking at pornography, homosexuality (OK, you get the idea!). Are we going places that are questionable? Have we become so enamored with the secular world that we want their things? Do we emulate their “stars”, their entertainment, their dress? I know I am sounding legalistic but where do we draw the line?
We take the world’s things, perhaps in secret, and think we can remain “holy” and yet when we take the things of the world and try to hide them that alone should tell us we know we are wrong.
Do we desire the things of the world more than the holiness of God? Do we want what the world has instead of being obedient to His Word? Who do we love more? Self? Things of the world? God? Who do we want to please? Self? The world? God?
There is a little chorus that I learned as a small child, “Oh be careful little eyes what you see (ears what you hear, feet where you go …) for the Father up above is looking down in tender love, O be careful little eyes what you see”.
There are steps that lead to sin … Achan saw, he coveted, he took, he hid. Eve saw, she coveted, she took, she hid. King David saw, he coveted, he took, he tried to hide his sin.
But God saw it all.
Achan, Eve, King David … you, me … all of us will suffer the consequences of sin. Yes, God forgives and then He FORGETS! But consequences follow. But here is the encouragement from the Lord … now “don’t be afraid, don’t be dismayed … arise, go, take possession”! And take the spoils!!
One man’s sin brought about this defeat and the loss of 36 mighty men. One sin is what caused Adam and the whole race to be under a curse. One sin brings the same result as committing all sins. One lie brought about the instant death of Ananias and Sapphira.
After the cleansing then the Lord spoke to Joshua again and told him to go and attack Ai and they would be victorious and this time they could keep the plunder and the livestock … Obedience brings victory AND reward.
Look at some of the promises …
Deut 28:1-2 “If you diligently obey the Lord your God, being careful to do all His commandments … the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth …”
Leviticus 18:5, “So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them; I am the Lord.”
Isaiah 1:19, “If you consent and obey, you will eat the best of the land.”
I Samuel 15:22, “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice …”
Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
Determine to root out the secret sin … the besetting sin. Confess, repent and let God begin to bless your life and bring about the victory you so desire!