Summary: The impact of one person’s sin has an effect on the whole nation.
Hidden Sins, Damaged Lives
Nobody likes problems. The fact is, though, that problems and struggles make us more dependent on God. They force us to turn to Him for help. When my finances are low, I pray for help. When my body is broken by illness or injury I ask the Lord for healing, or for strength to accept the thorn I’ve been given. Whenever there is a crisis or struggle we turn to the Lord.
On the other hand, there is also a danger in success. Success breeds carelessness. When everything is going smoothly I get the mistaken idea that I can handle things in my own strength and I leave behind my trust in the Lord. One man described the danger of success with these words: For every thousand who can handle adversity, only one can handle success.
This morning’s text from the book of Joshua illustrates this truth.
Think about the recent history of the nation of Israel. God had helped them defeat the kings of Sihon and Og, established a new leader in Joshua, stopped the flow of the flood-swollen Jordan River so that they can cross on dry ground, and finally, he defeated the powerful city of Jericho by miraculously collapsing their fortified walls. All of this was a sign to the nation of Israel that God was with them. One victory after another had boosted their confidence to dangerous levels. Here is the first lesson we need to learn,
Lesson # 1: We’re extremely vulnerable to temptation in moments of apparent success.
The next city on their agenda is Ai. Joshua sends men to spy out Ai, and they send back the message, Not all the people will have to go up against Ai. Send two or three thousand men to take it and do not weary all the people, for only a few men are there. 7:3
Ai was a weak city. This was supposed to be an easy battle. But look what happened: 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. 7:4-5
Notice the sequence of events:
1. (v. 5) the hearts of the people melted and became like water.
2. (v. 6) Joshua falls down and prays to God. Listen to Joshua’s prayer (v. 7-9) Joshua and the people have last their former confidence. They are melting in fear before the weaklings of Ai. Think about it: it wasn’t some great and powerful nation who routed them. It was the wimpy little weakling city of Ai. It’s amazing sometimes, how we can be victorious over some of the strongest and most powerful temptations you can imagine, but allow the weakest and smallest, most insignificant temptations to eventually become our downfall.
The defeat at Ai brought them to their knees before God. Their confidence in God, which had produced their success and victory, can very quickly turn to self-confidence.
3. Notice God’s reply to Joshua’s appeal. (v. 10) Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? God will not tolerate Joshua’s discouragement and pessimistic attitude. God had given them victory after victory and then, after one defeat, they’re down on their knees blubbering about how they should have been content to stay on the other side of the river, (read: we want it to be easy), how their enemies are going to hear about this and they will wipe us out (read: your not going to take care of us anymore, are you God?). Do you know somebody like that? We need to hear God’s words to Joshua again, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face?”
Yesterday’s victory is not an assurance of victory today, but one defeat doesn’t mean the end. Get up, brush yourself off, and find the reason for the defeat. That’s what God is trying to tell Joshua. There was a reason for the defeat. Joshua seems to imply in his prayer that the whole idea of conquering Canaan was a bad idea; they should have been content to stay on the other side. He seems to give the idea that this defeat was caused by God just as a whim. The Lord looked down and said, “I think it’s time these guys were defeated.”
God lets Joshua know there’s a reason for their loss to Ai. (v. 11) “Israel has sinned.” God doesn’t wink at sin. Sin corrupts. Jesus warned his disciples, “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees.” And what is done in private has a public effect. (explain about the dedicated things from 6:18-19, and how Achan had taken some of these things.) Here is lesson #2,