It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. In fact, it was supposed to be easy peasy. The Israelites were flying high after the miraculous defeat of Jericho, and now on to the little wee town of Ai. The scouts even told Joshua not to take too many men as it would be an easy victory.
But it didn’t happen that way.
The troops went up to attack it, and this small town attacked back and sent Israel running. They even managed to kill “about 36” men, which meant others were hovering perhaps between life and death.
Joshua and the Israelites were devastated. They knew if they lost to a small town, the rest of the peoples of the land would gain hope, unite together, and utterly destroy them. They could not turn back and flee as where would they go? Would they beg Egypt to take them back as slaves?
They poured out their heart to the Lord in questioning angst:
“Oh, Lord God,” Joshua said, “why did You ever bring these people across the Jordan to hand us over to the Amorites for our destruction? If only we had been content to remain on the other side of the Jordan! What can I say, Lord, now that Israel has turned its back and run from its enemies? When teh Canaanites and all who live in the land hear about this, they will surround us and wipe out our name from the earth. Then what will You do about Your great name?” (Joshua 7:7-9).
It may seem easy to blame God when things don’t go right. Especially when something easy just became impossible.
But then the Lord turned the tables.
“Stand up! Why are you on the ground? Israel has sinned. They have violated My covenant that I appointed for them” (Joshua 7:10).
The next day Joshua brought the representatives of the tribes before him and the Lord showed them the tribe of Judah had the guilty offender. Then the clans of Judah came forward and the Zerahite clan was chosen. Then the family heads of the Zerahite clan came forward and Zabdi was chosen. And then the men of Zabdi came forward and Achan was selected.
Achan confessed. When they had gone into Jordan, he had taken some gold, silver and a Babylonian cloak which was against the command of the Lord. He said this:
“I coveted them and took them,” (Jos 7:21).
Envy and coveting is one of those sins we forget about. It tends to not make the list in our hearts.
But Joshua had to do as the Lord commanded him. He took Achan and all that was with him and they were stoned to death.
That seems harsh. Except if you understand the moment.
I’ve been in times and seasons with others where God is moving in a mighty way. And I’m not just talking about a powerful worship service. But where God is actually doing something new and shifting how things are done.
During those times, from my own personal experience I’ve come to understand that these moves of God are holy, sacred and powerful. And the smallest of sins becomes a massive issue, stopping the flow of the Lord. I’m not sure I can explain it but if you’ve experienced this, you know what I mean.
I think that this is one of those moments. The Lord was doing something extraordinary in their midst. And it without question required a higher degree of obedience, righteousness and holiness, following the commands and decrees of the Lord.
It also begs to our minds that when we pray, when we serve, when we seek to listen and see God move, that holiness matters. It’s easy to jump into prayer and intercession and forget to examine our own hearts. Harder yet is to commit to going to another person to try to reconcile.
In the early days of the ministry I worked with, when they would gather as a group, they would stop and spend time before the Lord. They would ask him if they had anything in their hearts against anyone else, and if they did, they needed to deal with it right there if they could. When everyone’s heart was free of offense, they then began a time of listening and leaning into the Lord.
Perhaps we all need to come back to this. We might not carry in our tents the bars of silver and gold stolen from others, but we often carry in our hearts an offense towards another. A “germ” of resentment.
During this coronavirus I’ve had several situations where my heart has succumbed to housekeeping. It’s been very messy, but it has lifted things in my prayer life. I’m not arrived, but am in process.
Let’s all go there and work towards consecrating our hearts towards him.