Summary: The Barrier that sin causes
Joshua 7 – The Barrier sin causes.
I remember once in secondary school I had my tie stolen during a swimming lesson. No one would own up to stealing it. The teacher asked for the return of the tie but no one stepped forward. Now there were about three classes swimming that day. The teachers went through each class and asked each person to bring their tie up – unbeknown to the boy who had stolen my tie my mum had written my name on it in indelible ink. Well the culprit was soon found and the tie was returned. In this passage we have a similar story from the book of Joshua. Chapter 6 has ended on a great note of victory and triumph. The people of Israel have captured Jericho and in 6.27 we read ‘that God was with Joshua as He was with Moses.’ The people of Israel are soon brought back down to earth.
Let me firstly give you the structure of the passage because that will help us to see where we are going:
Verse 1 God’s wrath is turned towards Israel
V’s 2-5 Disaster for Israel.
V’s 6-9 Leaders before God.
V’s 10-12a – The problem is revealed by God.
V 12 – mid-point in the chapter.
V’s 13-15 – the solution is revealed by God.
V’s 16-23 – Israel before God.
V’s 24-26b - Disaster for Achan.
V 26b – God’s wrath is turned away from Israel.
Now I do not know if you noticed but the one thread running right through this chapter is God’s anger or wrath at sin. We encounter it in verse 1 and we encounter it again at the end in verse 26. The wrath of God at sin encapsulates the whole chapter, it forms brackets around the other 24 verses of the chapter. So let us look a little more closely at the chapter.
God’s wrath is emphasised – Verses 1- 5.
In 618 Israel was instructed by God that when they had captured Jericho they were not to keep any plunder because it was all to be devoted to the Lord God. In verse 1 we read that they disobeyed this – by the end of the chapter we will become aware that it was Achan who had disobeyed this command of God. Joshua at this point is totally unaware of this fact and he sends out spies to spy out Ai the next city to be captured. They report back that a large army is not needed to capture such a place. I want you to note that we do not read anywhere in these first five verses that Joshua or the people sought the face of God in prayer about this battle – their pride at the victory over Jericho and a presumption that they would win again led them to attack Ai – the result a resounding defeat. In fact the very words used to describe the heart of the people of Canaan at the defeat of Jericho is now used to describe the people of Israel – their hearts were like water.
Verses 6-12 Joshua before the Lord God.
Well we read that Joshua now seeks God’s face in prayer for this defeat. Notice will you the despairing cries of Joshua to God in verse 7. Not a cry of disbelief but a cry of despair. Joshua complains to God but not at God. He has no one else to turn to in this situation for an answer. He is completely mystified why after the promise of 310 and 627 the people of Israel have now been defeated. Notice too will you that Joshua’s concern is for the Name of the Lord God before the nations of the world. He is not concerned with his own glory but the glory of the Lord God. Do we have a similar concern when we are defeated? Is our concern with our own hurt pride or with the name of the Lord when we fall into sin and are defeated?
In verses 10-12 God reveals the reason for the defeat at Ai – the people have sinned before Him. God reveals sin in the midst of His people. He points out to Joshua that the people of God cannot win victories, cannot stand before their enemies if there is sin in their midst. Then at the end of verse 12 comes the threat which must have sent a shiver of fear down not only Joshua’s spine but also the spine of every Israelite - 12b. God had promised to go with the people of Israel. In Exodus 3315-16 Moses would not go forward unless God went with him. God had promised Joshua He would be with him but here God is threatening to remove His presence. That is a dreadful and fearful thing – the removal of God’s presence from His people. The reality of this is that they would cease to be His people. They would just be like any other nation around about them. But God in His mercy gives them a solution to the problem of this sin in their midst.