[Read Josh 7:1-6, 10-15, 19-21]
This is one chapter most people would like to omit from their books. No one likes to talk about failure or defeat, about their greed and sin.
• Up to this point, Israel had been experiencing victories, one after another, from chapter one to six.
• The possibility of a defeat was furthest from their minds, particularly right after Jericho. They were probably feeling superior.
Sadly chapter 7 opens with a BUT. “But Israelites acted unfaithfully…”
• They failed God. They sinned against God and transgressed His clear command.
• It would be easy for Joshua to drop this chapter and move on to chapter 8. It would be quite seamless, actually, if you see how chapter 6 ends and chapter 8 begins.
• No one would have noticed. But Joshua did not. God would not. This book is inspired by His Spirit. God has a purpose.
Without chapter 7 we would missed out on God’s lesson for Israel, and more importantly, for us today.
BE VIGILANT, BECAUSE WE ARE ALL VULNERABLE
1 Cor 10:12 “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”
We are all prone to temptation and sin. We are all capable of disobeying God’s Word.
No one is immune.
• James 1:13-15 “When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”
• The Word says WHEN tempted, not IF. It will come, and very often, at a time when we are least expecting it.
• And we are not careful, we can allow our desires to run freely without checks, with no reference to what God said.
I saw TWO DRIFTS here in chapter 7 – two drifts away from God.
• First, we see the soldiers gaining confidence. They had crossed the un-crossable river and overcome the insurmountable Jericho.
• Ai was next, but Ai was nothing compared to Jericho. It was a small city, with less people.
• The spies’ verdict was: “Not all the people will have to go up against Ai. Send two or three thousand men to take it…” (7:3).
• They were talking about numbers. They were referring to their strength. In the army, when we say “report strength” it means count the number.
That was their first drift. They started to take their eyes off God and began to look at their strength and capabilities.
• The danger begins when we start to put confidence not in WHAT GOD CAN DO but in WHAT WE ARE CAPABLE of achieving.
And then came the second drift – moving away from God’s clear instructions.
• One man, Achan, took what was forbidden by God – the “devoted things”.
• The command was given in Josh 6:18-19 “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. 19All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the LORD and must go into His treasury.”
• No reason was given for this. But it is clear that no one gains materially from these wars personally. Israel must continue to trust God to supply their needs.
One man decided to go against God’s command. Achan took a beautiful Babylonian coat, 200 shekels of silver (2.26kg), and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels (565gm).
• 7:21 “When I SAW in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I COVETED them and TOOK them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath."
• You see, you feel and you act. This pattern has not changed.
Adam and Eve had the same experience in the Garden of Eden.
• Gen 3:6 “When the woman SAW that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also DESIRABLE for gaining wisdom, she TOOK some and ate it.”
King David had the same experience on the roof of his palace (2 Sam 11:2-4).
• He SAW a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful and he WANTED her. David sent messengers to GET her.
The lesson is clear, be vigilant. Be careful what you see. Watch what you allow into your mind. Don’t just take in everything on the internet.
• What we see affects our affections and desires. If we take in garbage regularly, we will end up like trash. Garbage in, garbage out.
• Prov 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”
• Phil 4:8 encourages us to think about that which are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable; things that are excellent and praiseworthy.
Sin is present, God is absent. Israel lost, to a smaller city and a weaker enemy.
• Yesterday’s victory did not guarantee today’s, it won’t. Our past victories will not ensure today’s. We need depend on God constantly and stay faithful to Him.
DON’T COMPROMISE, BECAUSE WE WILL LOSE OUT
You can never gain from compromising. The abundance we experience in life today, can only come through the cross, where sin is eradicated.
• Every compromise is a step backwards.
Listen to what the Lord says - Josh 7:11-13
11“Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. 12That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.
13"Go, consecrate the people. Tell them, “Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow; for this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: That which is devoted is among you, O Israel. You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove it.”
Israel has to make right what they have done wrong.
• Tell the people, this is what God says – this is the reason for your defeat – “That which is devoted is AMONG you, O Israel. You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove it.” You cannot move on until you resolve this.
• Think about this. If you are feeling stuck in your life, not growing, not moving, you’ve lost the peace in your heart or the joy of life, ask yourself this. Is there something I’m holding on to, some sin or bad habit or a wrong relationship that I cannot let go of?
• The key is to come back to God and, with all honesty, agrees with Him. He knows it. There is nothing to hide.
Achan brought this punishment to himself. He was not willing to let go.
• GOD SHOWED HIS GRACE. God gives Achan the chance to repent but he did not take it up. I see God’s grace in at least two places.
• One is in verse 13. God made the announcement: TELL THEM, consecrate yourselves in preparation for TOMORROW…
• They were told, but it’s going to be TOMORROW that God starts the sifting. TODAY they are going to consecrate the people.
• Achan has the chance. I believe if he owns up TODAY, he would be among the people “consecrated”. God would have forgiven him. But he did not.
The next morning, the sifting starts, done according to God’s way.
• Joshua begins this long process of identifying the culprit, scanning the nation tribe by tribe, clan by clan, family by family, and then man by man. God revealed the selection at every step.
• He could have cut the whole process short and simply tell Joshua the identity of the man, directly. God did not. Here again we see God using unusual ways and not giving us any explanation.
• But one thing is clear, Achan was the time to repent. This process buys him time. God is merciful.
Achan was caught. He had remained silent throughout the time. God has given him the chance, but he did not take it up.
• Treasure every opportunity we have to do the right thing, the good thing, and the righteous thing.
My mom looked after my niece when she was very young, and so I spent lots of time playing with her. That was before I got married. When her parents came to bring her home, she was often reluctant, wanting to stay and play with me.
I remembered once I told her, “All right, I’m going with you. I’m going to your house.” I was just pretending. I walked her out the house, down the corridor, and just as they were about to step into the lift, I turned around and dashed home. It was kind of fun, but then I heard her cries in the lift lobby.
The Lord convicted me. I responded immediately, “That would be the last time I’m going to do that!” Two things I did badly. One, I lied to her. I played it out by pretending. Two, I just taught her what a lie is and set her a very bad example.
This incident bugged me for quite a while. Now it stays in my memory.
• It never pays to compromise on God’s Word. You lose the joy and peace and the blessings of life.
Let me close with this. You know what God said next? Listen to the tone here:
• Josh 8:1-2 “Then the LORD said to Joshua, "Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Take the whole army with you, and go up and attack Ai. For I have delivered into your hands the king of Ai, his people, his city and his land. 2You shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king, except that you may carry off their plunder and livestock for yourselves. Set an ambush behind the city."
• Take the whole army with you (you underestimated them the first time).
• This time around, you can take the plunder and the livestock for YOURSELVES.
Just do it God’s way, we will be blessed. It pays to heed His Word.