Summary: Joshua’s posture was one of grief and prayer. God saw it as inappropriate. There is a time when it is a sin to pray. It is that time when God expects us to act.
Who has a monopoly on God?
Everyone likes to think that God is on their side.
9/11 (2001) remains etched on our minds. Many people praised the Lord crediting Him with interrupting their normal routine so that they were not at work when the jet liners ran through the towers bringing both towers to the ground. I can understand though why that doesn’t make sense to grieving spouses, children and parents, whose loved ones were on time that day and lost their lives.
German emperor Wilhelm the First adopted a motto with his generals – “GOTT MIT UNS” or “God with us.” On the American front the northern preachers who supported Abraham Lincoln during the civil war at a time when the war hung in the balances, made the same declaration to President Lincoln that God was on their side. Lincoln quickly replied, “No, friends, rather pray that we may be found on God’s side.”
God is never on our side. The real issue is whether or not we are on his. To argue life from the perspective of whose side God is on is to suggest that God is not on everyone’s side; that he favors some, while at that same time he despises others. God does not choose one over another because God is for us all! He does however give us the the privilege of choosing whose side we will be on. Our subject, Joshua said himself in 24:15 “if you are unwilling to serve the LORD, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the LORD."
Joshua and the people of God soon learned a valuable lesson about not having a monopoly on God. Joshua and the Army just came through a tremendous victory – defeating Jericho. We are told that it was a “Place of fragrance, a fenced city in the midst of a vast grove of palm trees, in the plain of Jordan, over against the place where that river was crossed by the Israelites (Joshua 3:16). Its site was near…Elisha’s Fountain (2 Kings 2:19-22), about 5 miles west of Jordan. It was the most important city in the Jordan valley (Numbers 22:1; 34:15), and the strongest fortress in all the land of Canaan. It was the key to Western Palestine.” http://www.searchgodsword.org/dic/ebd/view.cgi?number=T2036
With this amazing conquest, Joshua and the people made a mistake – they believed God was on their side. Such was their confidence that they became over-confident when they discussed taking the next objective – Ai. It was quite small compared to Jericho – 7:3…
• Accurate deduction and conclusion logistically but not in terms of understanding God’s heart and position.
• Imagine how humiliated they felt when they were completely embarrassed as only a few thousand of them were defeated by a much smaller force.
• After this defeat we see a prostrate and apparently holy Joshua falling before God.
Our greatest battles are not fought against the looming obvious enemies of the soul. Our battlefront is most often the things that we think are small, manageable and do not require too much effort. We’re so sure of being in control that we may even decide we don’t need to bother God with this one because we can handle it ourselves.
Then, the boom falls; the disillusionment of strength and God’s favor gives way to disbelief and disgrace at being defeated by what was perceived to be insignificant. Everything goes wrong and we quickly look for answers and a way out.
One of the first responses when things aren’t going right is to blame God and wonder what He is doing wrong.
- “Why did you bring us…” v7
- “What am I to say now…” v8
- “What will happen to the honor…” v9
Another response is to re-evaluate our own place in the reality so that our only perceived mistake is having loved God so much that we would follow him in the first place– “If only we had been content to stay…” (v7) E.g. “I don’t even know why I bother”
Finally, God spoke and clarified a few things.
It has been suggested that there is a time when it may be sinful to pray. It is that time when God requires action, not words.
- Broken covenant (went back on their word), theft, cover up
- Battle of Jericho – not to take any booty for themselves. Achan and his family didn’t pay attention and took booty.
Disobedience has always been the hallmark of humanity’s sorry estate, the war that often seems impossible to win.
- Adam and Eve. God said “don’t eat” but you know humanity – “they ate” (Genesis 2/3).