After the fall of Jericho, Joshua’s fame spread rapidly through the country. The next place to attack was Ai, as it blocked the passage into Canaan’s centre. Read carefully Joshua 7, noticing the elements of failure, and then let us take note for ourselves that there are consequences of disobedience to God.
A plain warning was given in Joshua 6:17-18 that everything was to be destroyed and nothing taken that was meant for destruction. Only Rahab and others in her house should be spared.
In the following chapter we see deliberate disobedience against this command. To sin is to disobey God (see 1 John 3:4), and in this instance all of Israel was affected by this act of disobedience.
The result is that Israel were soundly defeated at Ai and they became paralysed with fear. Sin weakened them. They did not seek God’s counsel, but rather relied on their own strength. The effect was that their courage melted away.
Joshua then called on the Lord, speaking of himself, the people, and then God’s honour. Jesus would later teach that we are always to seek FIRST the Kingdom of God (see Matthew 6:33).
God points out to Joshua that:
Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings. (Joshua 7:11)
Yet wasn’t it only ONE person who had sinned? God uses the word “they.” Could it be that one person’s sin has weakened the whole nation? Might the message for each one of us be that the church – the people of God are not as powerful as they could be due to your/my sin?
Verses 12-15 record the remedy. There has to be a separation. There can be no toleration of intentional sin among God’s people. To be cleansed of sin we need to confess it (1 John 1:9) otherwise judgment is unsparing and complete, bringing only death (see Romans 6:23).
There was sin in the camp of Israel! The sin of the one affected the whole nation, making them helpless before their enemies. What must have been the feeling as the search narrowed itself down to Achan? We would do well to heed the warning, “be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23). And if not in time, then in eternity!
Look at Joshua 7:20-23 and notice the steps in Achan’s sin:
- He saw (see Genesis 3:6; 1 John 2:16).
- He coveted (see 1 Timothy 6:9-10).
- He took.
- He hid (see Hebrews 4:13).
The punishment is seen in Joshua 7:24-26. The fate of Achan is very solemn, but it was surely a much needed lesson. If we are not getting the victory over sin in our lives, do not blame God, but search your own heart.
If we truly believed that sin will be punished, would it be so prevalent in our lives? Do we really think the church can be powerful and effective whilst sin is merely hidden out of sight? The lesson of Achan tells us that we and our congregations and the church as a whole have our witness weakened when sin is unconfessed and not dealt with. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)
This article is from BiBloS, a teaching resource of the British Bible School. To read more articles or download the whole of Issue 3, click here.