Summary: Joshua, Pt. 5
ONE BAD APPLE (JOSHUA 7)
Three churches – Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian – worked together to sponsor a community-wide revival. After the revival concluded, the three pastors were eagerly discussed the results with one another.
The Methodist minister said, “The revival worked out great for us! We gained four new families.” The Baptist preacher said, “We did better than that! We gained six new families.”
The Presbyterian pastor said, “Well, we did even better than that! We got rid of our ten biggest troublemakers!”
The most troublesome, bothersome and wearisome enemies of Israel in their conquest of the Promised Land were not Gentile kings, foreign armies, powerful weapons, the local weather or the rugged terrain, but invisible but stubborn enemies: sin, disobedience and unfaithfulness in the camp. Nothing had created so much havoc, caused so much loss and brought so many tears. The most potent enemy the new generation had ever faced was secret, unconfessed sin, which cost them so much turmoil. The battles before and after Ai were plain sailing compared to the battle of the heart. Crossing the Jordan River (Josh 3), entering Jericho (Josh 6) and battling the coalition of five Amorite kings (Josh 10) or any other allied kings, tribes and armies (Josh 11) was a breeze compared to dueling with sin. Waging war against sin was bruising, but the reward was worthwhile. In fact, Joshua’s army would be unstoppable in their march to the Promised Land after sin was dealt with and the episode settled.
Why is unconfessed sin so odious and reprehensible in God’s eyes? What can a minor offense or transgression do to a successful and unbeatable army?
Sin’s Presence Cancels Prime Performance
7:1 But the Israelites acted unfaithfully in regard to the devoted things; Achan son of Carmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of them. So the LORD’s anger burned against Israel. 2 Now Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth Aven to the east of Bethel, and told them, “Go up and spy out the region.” So the men went up and spied out Ai. 3 When they returned to Joshua, they said, “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.” 4 So about three thousand men went up; but they were routed by the men of Ai, 5 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. (Josh 7:1-5)
Two travellers were on the road together, when a bear suddenly appeared on the scene. Before he observed them, one made for a tree at the side of the road, and climbed up into the branches and hid there.
The other was not so nimble as his companion; and, as he could not escape, he threw himself on the ground and pretended to be dead. The bear came up and sniffed all round him, but he kept perfectly still and held his breath: for they say that a bear will not touch a dead body. The bear took him for a corpse, and went away.
When the coast was clear, the traveller in the tree came down, and asked the other what it was the Bear had whispered to him when he put his mouth to his ear. The other replied, “He told me never again to travel with a friend who deserts you at the first sign of danger.” (William J Bennett, Book of Virtue 272-273)
It’s been said, “One bad apple spoils the whole barrel.”
Achan was not a friend or comrade in the true sense of the word. His ally was mammon. The trouble with caving in to sin is that it reverses all the good that has been done, undermines all the progress that one has made and imprisons those guilty or innocent in its path. Somebody paid the price for Achan’s sin, suffered the consequences and took the fall. Israel’s past success counted for nothing, her celebration was muted and her victory turned to defeat. Others were casualty when God withdrew His protection from Israel for the violation of God’s covenant.
This was the only time the new generation had provoked the anger of the Lord and the results were disastrous. Sadly, the first casualty was not the thief, but the warriors. Thirty-six warriors (v 5), maybe the best of the lot and the cream of the crop, died because of Achan’s self-centeredness, greed and indulgence. The warriors were hunted like deer, rounded like sheep and slaughtered like pigs. They were not outmaneuvered, outnumbered or outfoxed but they were definitely outran and out-fought.