Summary: This story has much to teach about the devastating effects of sin.
A Study of Joshua
Sermon # 6
“THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A SECRET SIN”
The seventh chapter of Joshua opens with the ominous word “but.” The use of the little conjunction of contrast is designed to drive home the reality that victory is often followed by the threat of defeat. Suddenly we are presented with a series of failures that stand in striking contrast to the victories of the past six chapters. Israel had just experienced a miraculous victory over Jericho, “but” now they are going to experience defeat. The gladness of victory was soon replaced by the gloom of defeat, all this because of the disobedience of one man. This story has much to teach about the devastating effects of sin.
“But the children of Israel committed a trespass regarding the accursed things, for Achan the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed things; so the anger of the LORD burned against the children of Israel. (2) Now Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is beside Beth Aven, on the east side of Bethel, and spoke to them, saying, “Go up and spy out the country.” So the men went up and spied out Ai. (3) And they returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not let all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and attack Ai. Do not weary all the people there, for the people of Ai are few.” (4) So about three thousand men went up there from the people, but they fled before the men of Ai. (5) And the men of Ai struck down about thirty-six men, for they chased them from before the gate as far as Shebarim, and struck them down on the descent; therefore the hearts of the people melted and became like water.
Joshua sends out spies to Ai, who returned with the report that it would not be necessary to send the entire army to the battle at Ai, two or three thousand men should be sufficient. The crucial difference is that this time God was not with them. The troops of Israel quite literally had to run for their lives. Thirty-six men were lost in this battle. These may not seem significant losses in a army of 3,000 but the defeat described here is the only defeat recorded in Joshua and the only report of Jews slain in battle.
Several explanations are advanced by the commentators as the reasons for the defeat at Ai such as Self-Confidence, and a lack of prayer. Being a little over confident and resting too much on the victory at Jericho, Joshua perhaps failed to take the time to get alone with the Lord to seek His direction and His strength. At the very least Israel was guilty of overestimating her own power and underestimating the strength of the enemy. There is still to much of a tendency on the part of the people of God to rush off without taking time to draw near to the Lord.
When Joshua sent out the troops to take Ai he was unaware of Achan’s sin or of God’s displeasure. I have to wonder that if he had consulted with the Lord before making his plans if he would not have learned about both. Likewise many of our personal failures could be avoided if we first took our plans and concerns to God in prayer. Christian would do well to spend time consulting with God before making decisions that may have a major impact both their own lives and the lives of others.