(Recommended Reading: Joshua chapters 6, 7 & 8)
All quotes from The Message Translation
One of the Bible stories I heard as a child that I always loved, was the story of Joshua and the “battle” he and the Israelites “fought” at the city of Jericho as they moved into Canaan to claim the land God had promised to them. (In fact, I also remember singing about it in the song “Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho”.) I have also continued to love the story as an adult – every time I read it – seeing another nugget of wisdom.
I wrote an article that was published on June 28, 2020 titled “Patience + Persistence Pays” based on Joshua chapter 6. Then I wrote one published on July 26, 2020 titled “Making a Deal With the Devil” based in part on Joshua chapter 7. (You can go back and read them if you want to see what other tidbits I gleaned from it.)
This morning my daily reading was again from Joshua. As I read the story about Jericho, something a bit different stood out to me aside from what I have already written about it.
Joshua 6:16b & 17 says: “…Joshua signaled the people, ‘Shout!—God has given you the city! The city and everything in it is under a holy curse and offered up to God.’” Verses 18-19 say: “‘As for you, watch yourselves in the city under holy curse. Be careful that you don’t covet anything in it and take something that’s cursed, endangering the camp of Israel with the curse and making trouble for everyone. All silver and gold, all vessels of bronze and iron are holy to God. Put them in God’s treasury.’” Verse 24: “…they burned down the city and everything in it, except for the gold and silver and the bronze and iron vessels—all that they put in the treasury of God’s house.”
So it sounds as though they were obedient to Joshua’s (God’s) directions and all should have been well with them. However, four verses later in chapter 7:1 we read this: “Then the People of Israel violated the holy curse. Achan…took some of the cursed things. God became angry with the People of Israel.”
There we can see that because one person (Achan), out of selfish desires, chose to “do his own thing”, the entire population of Israel was viewed as guilty in the eyes of God for disobeying the straight-forward directions they had been issued. (They had been specifically warned it would fall on them all if anyone sinned.) Then, as a result, after spying out the city of Ai, Joshua was told that only a small army was needed to defeat that city. He only sent out 3,000 men and they were chased and soundly defeated.
You can imagine that Joshua was very confused because he had had many assurances from God that He would be with them and they could confidently move in and easily take the promised land. This defeat drove him and the other leaders to their faces, crying out their questions to God about why it had happened, after all the assurances of victory they had received from Him.
Chapter 7:10-12 clearly explains what the issue was: “God said to Joshua, ‘Get up. Why are you groveling? Israel has sinned: They’ve broken the covenant I commanded them; they’ve taken forbidden plunder—stolen and then covered up the theft, hoarding it up with their own stuff. The People of Israel can no longer look their enemies in the eye—they themselves are plunder. I can’t continue with you if you don’t rid yourselves of the cursed things.’” Again we can see how the entire population is being blamed.
I imagine that it would be difficult being a leader, observing a battle and believing that all had been done according to the very clear directions that had been given. There was no way he could have known that one person had selfishly disobeyed and brought a curse down on them all. But God clarified it. In 7:13b: “‘…this is what God, the God of Israel, says: There are cursed things in the camp. You won’t be able to face your enemies until you have gotten rid of these cursed things.’”
At this point, God could have easily let them know who the perpetrator was so that they could have directly dealt with that person. But, He chose to give them directions on how to handle it by narrowing it down by tribes, then clans, then families, then the specific guilty party. This was a very public way to expose the guilt. Achan was called out and confessed what he had done. He was then killed for the trouble he had knowingly brought down on them all.
I have written before about how we need to be aware that when we sin, it can easily affect others around us. It is easy to think that we only have to worry about ourselves and if we get caught doing wrong “Oh well” I will just pay the price. But those closest to us – our families – can (and likely will) be affected; and, it can even spread into our community. This should be a deterrent to us knowingly doing wrong. The result of righting a wrong can be harsh and far reaching.
However, when that wrong has been righted we can be assured that God forgives us and allows us to move forward to victory in our lives. We are shown that in Joshua 8:1-2a: “God said to Joshua, ‘Don’t be timid and don’t so much as hesitate. Take all your soldiers with you and go back to Ai. I have turned the king of Ai over to you—his people, his city, and his land. Do to Ai and its king what you did to Jericho and its king. Only this time you may plunder its stuff and cattle to your heart’s content.’”
So, what lessons are to be learned from this passage? That we need to think carefully about our decisions, considering how it will affect not only our life but the lives of those around us. Then, if we should make a bad decision we need to be assured that God still loves us and still wants the best for us. Provided we can get real and confess our sins, He will guide us forward to victory.
We need to always be prepared to right any wrongs in order to live the best life possible.
Written by Karran Martin – March 13, 2021