Israel was at a high point in Joshua. They were following the LORD and about to take over Canaan. Joshua 7 shows that we can be doing all the right things, walking in the Spirit and following the LORD’s guidance exactly, and someone can still mess it up for everyone.
Hello Readers, hope all’s well. Time for another post.
Today’s post was inspired by a thought that came to mind while reading through Joshua in my one-year Bible reading plan. Joshua of course covers the events after Moses’ death in Deuteronomy. Joshua is the story of Israel following the LORD into Canaan and establishing themselves. Most of this was done through warfare. Joshua followed the LORD like Moses did and listened to His instructions.
But even though Joshua followed the LORD, and the people of Israel were on God’s good side still—the idolatry, child sacrifice, and other evils that come later in the Old Testament hadn’t happened yet—mistakes were still made, and Israel suffered. There’s one event in Joshua 7 that made me think of how despite our best intentions and how diligently we follow the LORD, someone in our group can still mess everything up.
Our human nature is flawed; no one is perfect here on earth. Any time people are involved in anything, serious blunders can and will happen. It doesn’t matter how holy the people or their mission is, somebody can and will get things wrong. Like we can see with Old Testament Israel in Joshua 7.
So let’s take a look at that chapter today, and see if we can learn anything.
One Man Sins, a Nation Stumbles
We’ll start in Joshua 6. This is the story where Israel defeats Jericho after circling the walls as the LORD instructed. In verse 19, Joshua tells Israel all precious metals and weapons belong to the LORD and must go to His treasury. This order came from the LORD Himself and Joshua relayed it. In verse 24 it appears Israel followed the instruction.
(15) On the seventh day, they got up at dawn. They circled the city in this way seven times. It was only on that day that they circled the city seven times. (16) The seventh time, the priests blew the trumpets. Then Joshua said to the people, “Shout, because the LORD has given you the city! (17) The city and everything in it is to be utterly wiped out as something reserved for the LORD. Only Rahab the prostitute is to stay alive, along with everyone with her in her house. This is because she hid the messengers we sent. (18) But you, keep away from the things set aside for God so that you don’t desire and take some of the things reserved. That would turn the camp of Israel into a thing doomed to be utterly wiped out and bring calamity on it. (19) All silver and gold, along with bronze and iron equipment, are holy to the LORD. They must go into the LORD’s treasury.” […]Joshua 6:15-19, 24 (CEB)
(24) They burned the city and everything in it. But they put the silver and gold, along with the bronze and iron equipment, into the treasury of the LORD’s house.
But!! What Israel didn’t know was that some rank-and-file trooper had taken some of the precious plunder for himself. This random rank-and-file soldier disobeyed the LORD’s Command (which came through Joshua). The LORD was now furious with Israel, and took His protection away from them. When Joshua went for Israel’s next target, Ai, the result was a disastrous defeat for Israel. Israel’s courage melted and they fled from their enemies.
(1) The Israelites did a disrespectful thing concerning the items reserved for God. Achan was the son of Carmi, grandson of Zabdi, great-grandson of Zerah. He was from the tribe of Judah. He took some of the things reserved for God. So the LORD was furious with the Israelites.
(2) Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth-aven to the east of Bethel. He said to them, “Go up. Scout out the land.”
So the men went up and scouted out Ai. (3) They came back to Joshua and said to him, “There is no need for all of the people to go up. Two or three thousand men could go up and strike Ai. Don’t make all of the people bother going there. There are just a few of them.” (4) So about three thousand men from the people went up in that direction. But they fled from the men of Ai. (5) The men of Ai struck down approximately thirty-six of them. They chased them from outside the gate as far as Shebarim. They struck them down on the slope. Then the hearts of the people melted and turned to water.Joshua 7:1-5 (CEB)
Joshua tore his clothes fell to the floor in anguish. He prayed to the LORD and asked why He had abandoned Israel. The LORD responded, and told him what was wrong. Someone in Israel had sinned, keeping some of the plunder the LORD demanded for themselves. The LORD told Joshua to “go and make the people holy.” In other words, to go and correct this mistake, right this wrong. And then the LORD instructed Joshua how to do it.
(6) Joshua ripped open his clothes. He, along with the elders of Israel, lay flat on their faces before the LORD’s chest until evening. They put dust on their heads. (7) Then Joshua said, “Oh no, LORD God! Why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan? Was it to hand us over to the power of the Amorites, to destroy us? If only we had been prepared to live on the other side of the Jordan! (8) Please forgive me, LORD. What can I say now that Israel has retreated before its enemies? (9) The Canaanites and the whole population of the land will hear of it. They will surround us and make our name disappear from the earth. What will you do about your great name then?”
(10) The LORD said to Joshua, “Get up! Why do you lie flat on your face like this? (11) Israel has sinned. They have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the things reserved for me and put them with their own things. They have stolen and kept it a secret. (12) The Israelites can’t stand up to their enemies. They retreat before their enemies because they themselves have become a doomed thing reserved for me. I will no longer be with you unless you destroy the things reserved for me that are present among you. (13) Go and make the people holy. […]Joshua 7:6-13 (CEB)
Joshua got to work right away, to follow the LORD’s Command and fix the sin of Israel.
Old Testament Justice
This being the Old Testament, the thief got a dose of Old Testament justice. These people never had the chance to hear Jesus teach the Sermon on the Mount. They never received the Christian message of Forgiveness, turning the other cheek, and not throwing the first stone. But these were the times they were living in.
The Israeli trooper Achan’s sin was found out. He admitted to it, the stolen goods were taken, and Achan was executed (along with his family, it seems).
(16) Joshua got up early in the morning. He made Israel come forward tribe by tribe. The tribe of Judah was selected. (17) He made the clans of Judah come forward. He selected the clan of Zerah. He made the clan of Zerah come forward as individual soldiers. Zabdi was selected. (18) He made each soldier of his family come forward. Achan was selected. He was a son of Carmi, grandson of Zabdi, great-grandson of Zerah, and of the tribe of Judah. (19) Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the LORD the God of Israel. Tell me what you have done. Don’t hide anything from me.”
(20) Achan answered Joshua, “It’s true. I’ve sinned against the LORD, the God of Israel. This is what I have done: (21) Among the booty I saw a single beautiful robe in the Babylonian style, two hundred shekels of silver, and a single gold bar weighing fifty shekels. I desired them and took them. Now they are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver on the bottom.”
(22) Then Joshua sent messengers. They ran to the tent. There it was, hidden in his tent, with the silver on the bottom. (23) They took the things from inside the tent. They brought them to Joshua and to all the Israelites and emptied them out before the LORD. (24) Then Joshua seized Achan, Zerah’s son, along with the silver, the robe, the gold bar, his sons and daughters, his cattle, donkeys, flocks, tent, and everything that belonged to him. All Israel joined Joshua. They brought them up to Achor Valley. (25) Joshua said, “You have brought disaster to us! May the LORD bring disaster to you today!” Then all Israel stoned him. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones.Joshua 7:16-25 (CEB)
We have to remember that the brutality of this punishment (I think they killed Achan’s family too) was not because of the value of the items he stole. It was because Achan disobeyed the LORD, cursing Israel in the process. This was a Spiritual matter, not a monetary one.
But, once this gruesome deed was done, the LORD returned His protection to Israel and fought for them again. Israel began to prevail once more. Things returned to normal, although it was not the last mistake Israel would make in the Book of Joshua. But again, whenever you’re dealing with people … that’s just how it goes.
Here’s what I say we can learn from this incident in Joshua 7:
Israel was at a high point in Joshua. They were following the LORD and about to take over Canaan. Joshua 7 shows that we can be doing all the right things, walking in the Spirit and following the LORD’s guidance exactly, and someone can still mess it up for everyone. It could be someone on our team, in our church, our family, anybody. We can be doing everything right. But it can all go wrong anyway, because of human weakness.
When that happens, we should follow the procedure we see in Joshua 7. Joshua first went to the LORD to ask Him what went wrong. We must do the same. When the LORD told him of the theft, Joshua wasted no time in rooting it out. And we must do the same.
It’s a simple two-step process. Ask the LORD what went wrong, then take care of it.
Of course, “take care of it” means something much different now that we have the New Testament!! Jesus taught us to Forgive those who trespass against us, and not to throw the first stone. Jesus doesn’t condemn us, even for sins that carry the death penalty (John 8:11). Since He Forgives us, we too must Forgive and turn the other cheek.
We must take immediate action to correct a sin in our ranks, like we see Joshua do in this story. But we no longer give out Old Testament justice like the brutal execution in Joshua 7. We follow Christ, who teaches a different way.
It’s frustrating, annoying, and even infuriating when someone on our team messes everything up and angers the LORD. But that’s just how it is when dealing with people, because people are always imperfect. These things happen. So remember that, relax, turn to the LORD for further guidance, and Forgive.
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Until next time, be strong and do good!
Your new best friend in Christ,
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