The Bible is often described as a picture book which contains many accounts of historical narrative. But we also see these pictures as illustrations of Christian life which we can apply to our own lives today. There is a spiritual element to everything.
Here in Joshua 7 we see that sometimes the Israelites did not fully see and understand what was happening but they knew God was sovereign. The fall of Jericho came about as a result of the Israelites simply following God’s instructions. The occupation of the Promised Land now starts to be fulfilled.
Joshua dealt with difficulty. What was it? In verse 2 we read that Joshua sent out scouts to do a recce on the next target – Ai. Joshua is taking on some of Moses’ responsibilities, following what God declares he should do (Numbers 27:21). Sending out scouts was normal for an attack, so Joshua followed the normal procedure. The spies report back that 2,000 – 3,000 men would be sufficient to take the city. Joshua chose 3,000 men, but they were defeated. ‘The hearts of the people melted and became like water.’ (Joshua 7:5). This was the same phrase used by Rahab. I wonder what Rahab would have thought of this attack? Why didn’t this attack succeed? We find the answer in verse 11, ‘Israel has sinned.’ It had stolen and lied. Even if Joshua had sent the entire fighting force against Ai, they would still have been defeated (v.13).
Defeat was certain because there is sin in the camp. God had given the people strict instructions not to take anything from the fall of Jericho (Joshua 6:18) because it would be ‘accursed’. It is a corporate responsibility that runs through scripture. However, accursed items had been taken.
How does Joshua respond to it? Initially, in verse 6, he is shocked and grieved. He and the elders came before the Lord. They recognised the attack should have worked and realise failure has come from God (v.7). Joshua knows God has brought about defeat. Joshua’s concern is for the glory of God’s name (v9).
Sometimes, in our fallen world, life just hurts. We need to turn to God to heal our pain.
God tells Joshua the consequences of sin in the camp (v12). They are ‘doomed to destruction.’ His chosen people, after the glory of the victory of Jericho, are now doomed. The sin of one man now accursed Israel. It is Eden all over again. In order to be sanctified it needs the removal of the accursed thing.
What did Joshua do? He simply obeyed the Lord. God tells Joshua exactly what needs to happen. Achan had coveted what rightly belonged to the Lord, therefore, he and everything that belonged to him had to be destroyed (v25). Achan and his family were stoned and their remains burned.
Achan confessed his sin yet he was still killed. Why? It was not God’s will that Achan died. God had given a warning not to take anything from Jericho yet Achan coveted. When Achan took items, he didn’t confess until the last moment. He continued to seek to deceive, putting himself before the nation. 36 men died as a direct result of his sin. The items he stole were set aside for the Lord’s service. Even if Achan had not confessed at the last moment, his tent would have been searched and the items found. However harsh we consider this punishment (similar to Acts 5), Achan maintained his deception.
In this case Israel was in its initial stage. This sin had the potential to derail Israel. Achan had to be destroyed. Achan’s heart was selfish; he wanted riches for himself, he didn’t care for others. Where are our hearts? Achan’s heart was set on physical treasure but it should have been set on God. Our hearts should be set on heavenly treasure.
Even as Achan’s sin had severe damaging consequences for Israel, his death had consequences for Israel – the sin was removed. The Israelites are told not to be afraid – God is with them. God tells them He has given Ai into their hands (Joshua 8:1). Everyone went to war. God wanted everyone to witness it. The riches were there for all.
Difficulties will afflict us all. We need to come to God and come to Him in prayer. Often we can help the situation ourselves. Everything we do should be based on God’s Word. Prayerfully consider God’s Word. We need the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to apply it to our lives.