Summary: A call to repentance based on Achan’s sin
A Painful Lesson - Joshua 7
A scientist, unjustly accused and convicted of a major crime, found himself sentenced to
hard time in a prison out in the Arizona desert. His cellmate turned out to be another scientist.
Determined to escape, the first man tried to convince his colleague to make the attempt with him.
He refused. After careful planning the scientist made his escape.
Before long the heat of the desert, the lack of food and water, and complete disorientation
in the hostile wilderness almost drove him mad. He was soon forced to return to the prison. He
reported his terrible experience to the other scientist who surprised him by saying, "Yes, I know.
I tried it too and failed, too, for the same reasons."
The first scientist responded bitter, "For heaven’s sake, man, when you knew I was going
to make a break for it, why didn’t you tell me what it was like out there?"
His cellmate responded with a shrug, "Who publishes negative results?"
There is some truth in that little story. Even in the church, we often don’t talk about sin.
And when we ignore that, we condemn others to make the same mistakes and suffer hardship.
Today we are going to look at Joshua 7, a very blunt chapter about sin and its consequences. Let
me set the context:
The Israelites are across the Jordan and have begun the conquest of the promised land.
God has promised them victory, and has promised to be with them at every step of the journey.
Today, in chapter 7, something goes desperately wrong. Let’s read the chapter to find out what
that was and what we can learn from it for our lives today.
Read Joshua 7.
Verse 1 gives us an overview of the basic plot. Then the rest of the chapter provides us
with the details.
To understand what is happening here we need to glance back at chapter 6:17-19. Joshua
gave clear instructions, and fair warning, to all the Israelites about the plunder of the city of
Jericho, which as we read in chapter 6 God miraculously delivered into their hands. In keeping
with Jewish worship, the first and best were to be offered to the Lord, and that is why the plunder
of Jericho was off limits. There is a whole sermon in that point alone - do you give God your
best or your left-overs? - but I’ll save that for another day... We know that Joshua had
dedicated everything in the city to the Lord, and we also know from verse 1 of chapter 7 that
Achan disobeyed. He sinned, and essentially stole from the Lord.
But Joshua doesn’t know this yet, so he simply continues the conquest of the promised
land, sending some spies up to the next city. They report that this next city is going to be a
breeze, a cakewalk. "only send up 2 or 3 thousand men". But as we read, those soldiers were
driven back, defeated, and 36 of them were killed.
Don’t miss the contrast. The Israelites had just defeated the mighty walled city of Jericho
- they burned it to the ground. Everyone had heard about it; the Israelites were un-beatable!
They were undoubtedly on a great national high, convinced of their invincibility, sure of victory.
And then this little skirmish turns into a national disaster. Men die, at the hands of a far weaker
enemy. The spies said "2000 or 3000" - Joshua went high and sent 3000 just to be sure. And
they were soundly thumped by a smaller and weaker army: a "few men" (7:3).
The people melt back in fear. Joshua turns immediately to God, throws himself to the
ground in front of the Ark of the Covenant. And he prays, a rather self-centered prayer - listen:
(7:7-9). It is actually a very defeatist prayer, assuming the worst, assuming it is all over. God has
left them there and maybe even played a cruel joke on them to bring them all this way only to
deliver them into death at the hands of their enemies. He feels (rightly) that God has abandoned
them and turns in desperation to God.
Have you ever felt that way? Abandoned by God. Alone, in danger, defeated, even
tricked cruelly by God? Felt like saying, "OK God, you told me to do this, you commanded me
to obey, I did what I was supposed to, now where are You???" If you have, you are not alone -
that is clearly how Joshua felt.
I love God’s response to Joshua: "Joshua, get off your face." Pretty blunt! To the point!
"Stop feeling sorry for yourself, quit wallowing in self-pity and this poor-me nonsense. There is