“But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against the children of Israel.” (Joshua 7:1)
God had commanded, “And ye, in any wise keep yourselves from the accursed thing, lest ye make yourselves accursed, when ye take of the accursed thing, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it. But all the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are consecrated unto the LORD: they shall come into the treasury of the LORD.” in Joshua 6:18-19. The people had obeyed God’s command, except for one greedy man, Achan. I’m sure he believed that the little he took wouldn’t make any difference, but little things can make an amazing difference.
Numerous times space shuttle flights had to be scrubbed and once several astronauts died because a single rubber “o” ring failed to hold. Achan’s disobedience brought the wrath of God against Israel. Like the failed “o” rings, the problem wasn’t immediately apparent.
“And Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is beside Bethaven, on the east side of Bethel, and spake unto them, saying, Go up and view the country. And the men went up and viewed Ai. And they returned to Joshua, and said unto him, Let not all the people go up; but let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai; and make not all the people to labour thither; for they are but few. So there went up thither of the people about three thousand men: and they fled before the men of Ai.” (Joshua 7:2-4)
Like he had done at Jericho, Joshua sent spies to see what they faced. It was a good decision. It is always good to know what one is facing. Since Ai was such a small town, only about twelve thousand people, the spies recommended that only a small force of about two or thee thousand make the attack. They saw no reason to make the entire camp move such a short distance for such a small objective. Depending on their advice, Joshua made one of the worst decisions he ever made. He didn’t ask God what He wanted because they could easily defeat such a small village. Because he didn’t ask God, he didn’t know there was a problem that needed to be dealt with first. It was a complete rout.
“And the men of Ai smote of them about thirty and six men: for they chased them from before the gate even unto Shebarim, and smote them in the going down: wherefore the hearts of the people melted, and became as water.” (Joshua 7:5)
Knowing that the walls of Jericho had proven a liability when they fell, The men of Ai didn’t wait for Israel to attack them, killing thirty six men. Until this time, Israel had never lost a man in battle, and they panicked at the shock. Excited by their victory, the men of Ai chased them more than a mile, increasing their fear. Fear is contagious and it spread quickly.
“And Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the LORD until the eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads. And Joshua said, Alas, O Lord GOD, wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? would to God we had been content, and dwelt on the other side Jordan! O Lord, what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies! For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land shall hear of it, and shall environ us round, and cut off our name from the earth: and what wilt thou do unto thy great name?” (Joshua 7:6-9)
Joshua and the other leaders were devastated that they could be so easily defeated by such a small opponent. Like most people, their first response was to doubt God. Why had he brought them out here in such a miraculous fashion and then allowed such a defeat? Had they been wrong in crossing Jordan and trying to take the land? Wasn’t the failure going to reflect on God’s ability to provide? Even Spirit filled men like Moses and Joshua experience moments of doubt.
“And the LORD said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face? Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff. Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they were accursed: neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you.” (Joshua 7:10-12)
Romans 14:23 states, “…for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” God rebuked Joshua for his attitude, ordering him to get up and deal with the sin. It was not God’s failure that caused them to be defeated, but the people’s sin. They could not succeed, and would not receive God’s blessings any more until the sin had been corrected.
Many times Christians today are, like Joshua, praying desparately, when what God wants them to do is stop praying and begin to correct the sin that is preventing them receiving his blessings.
“Up, sanctify the people, and say, Sanctify yourselves against tomorrow: for thus saith the LORD God of Israel, There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you.” (Joshua 7:13)
The first step in straightening things out was for the people to begin to prepare to hear what God had to say by sanctifying themselves and recognizing that there was a problem on their part. Until they had dealt with their sin they would not be successful.
The instruction here is the equivalent of instructing them to seek the Lord and get back into church so they could find out what they needed to do.
“In the morning therefore ye shall be brought according to your tribes: and it shall be, that the tribe which the LORD taketh shall come according to the families thereof; and the family which the LORD shall take shall come by households; and the household which the LORD shall take shall come man by man. And it shall be, that he that is taken with the accursed thing shall be burnt with fire, he and all that he hath: because he hath transgressed the covenant of the LORD, and because he hath wrought folly in Israel.” (Joshua 7:14-15)
God doesn’t always instantly reveal the either the problem or the solution. They would have to go through a process of letting him show what the problems was step by step. By going step by step, they would learn how to deal with future problems, and not to just jump to conclusions. God frequently holds off on the answer to the problem to teach other important ideas.
“So Joshua rose up early in the morning, and brought Israel by their tribes; and the tribe of Judah was taken: And he brought the family of Judah; and he took the family of the Zarhites: and he brought the family of the Zarhites man by man; and Zabdi was taken: And he brought his household man by man; and Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken.
And Joshua said unto Achan, My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the LORD God of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me.” (Joshua 7:16-19)
Only by following the exact protocol God had given were they able to determine where the guilt lay. Achan was obviously not telling what he had done. In fact, even after going through the process as directed, Joshua still had to ask Achan what he had done so God would get the glory. Taking shortcuts or jumping to conclusions would have neutralized what God intended. Too often people settle for temporary relief because they have not dealt with the root of the problem.