Summary: This is the fourth in a series on the life of Joshua. This message focuses on the fallout from the defeat at Ai.
Heroes—The Secret (Part 4)
THE “HEREM” FACTOR AT JERICHO
The city [Jericho] and all that is in it are to be devoted to the Lord. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent. Joshua 6:17 (NIV)
Why would God order Joshua and Israel’s army to completely destroy the people of Canaan?
For God to establish Israel as a faith incubator in which the Messiah would eventually be born, it was necessary to destroy the peoples of Canaan, as terrible as that was.
In times of combat a chaplain learns that he spends most of his time with the corpsmen or medics. And quickly you learn this word that you were happily ignorant of before…triage. Triage is the process by which medical personnel determine who can and can’t be saved. In a matter of moments they tell you whether someone is too far gone to be helped. That way, they can focus their attention on those who can be saved. God triaged Canaan and Israel. God determined that the Canaanites had to be destroyed in order for Israel to be saved…a difficult but necessary decision.
DETESTABLE PRACTICES OF THE CANAANITES
Completely destroy them--the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites--as the Lord your God has commanded you.  Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the Lord your God. Deuteronomy 20:17-18 (NIV)
No question the Canaanites believed differently from Israel—one God vs many gods, idolatry vs worship in Spirit, sexual immorality vs. sexual purity to name a few. But detestable? What was so bad that God labeled them detestable and triaged them as a culture that was too far gone to be saved.
Ray Vanderlaan addresses that in this video.
Roll Video “Innocent Blood” Here
God wasn’t being capricious when he marked the Canaanite culture for destruction. There’s evidence that even the Romans thought the Canaanites were “out there.”
So God warns Joshua and all his soldiers that Jericho is “Herem.” It is devoted to God…everything is to be destroyed except the precious metals and 100% of them is to go to God’s treasury.
AN OMINOUS WARNING
But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it.  All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the Lord and must go into his treasury." Joshua 6:18-19 (NIV)
God clearly spells out the expectation and he clearly spells out the consequences of messing around with the “herem.” If you take them you will seal your own destruction and make Israel liable to destruction and trouble.
So with this warning echoing in their ears, the soldiers marched around Jericho for seven days. And events unfolded just as God said they would.
JERICHO: THE THRILL OF VICTORY
When the trumpets sounded, the people shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the people gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so every man charged straight in, and they took the city. Joshua 6:20 (NIV)
So everything looks great! The soldiers return from Jericho confident. They had been untested. They had struggled with doubt, but they did what God ordered them to do and it couldn’t have turned out better.
News spread throughout Canaan that Joshua and the people of Israel had destroyed the impregnable fortress of Jericho after only a seven day siege.
Joshua must be thrilled. He knows now that God is fighting on his behalf and it’s just a matter of time until the enemy is completely eliminated and Israel can get down to the business of living life in the Promised Land.
But Joshua doesn’t know that something is wrong…something is terribly wrong. Joshua doesn’t know it yet, but something has changed in the unseen world. Something horrible has happened that will affect the entire nation of Israel.
But right now Joshua is happily ignorant of what has happened. He orders a recon team to check out their next military objective a little town at the top of mountain called Ai.
The recon team checks out Ai and returns to Joshua with encouraging news. Ai is no Jericho. It’s a small town and only a few battalions of soldiers will be necessary to take it down.
Joshua orders 3000 men to attack Ai…he doesn’t know it yet but he’s about to experience the agony of defeat.
AI: THE AGONY OF DEFEAT
So about three thousand men went up; but they were routed by the men of Ai,  who killed about thirty-six of them. They chased the Israelites from the city gate as far as the stone quarries and struck them down on the slopes. At this the hearts of the people melted and became like water. Joshua 7:4-5 (NIV)