Joshua 7 Israel Defeated at Ai / Achan’s Sin

“But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel.

After specifically being told to destroy everything and keep nothing for themselves (see Joshua 6:18), Achan disobeys.

Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth-aven, east of Bethel, and said to them, “Go up and spy out the land.” And the men went up and spied out Ai. And they returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not have all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and attack Ai. Do not make the whole people toil up there, for they are few.” So about three thousand men went up there from the people. And they fled before the men of Ai, and the men of Ai killed about thirty-six of their men and chased them before the gate as far as Shebarim and struck them at the descent. And the hearts of the people melted and became as water.

There is no mention in the above passage about consulting with God on what to do.  Joshua listens to the advice of the people, rather than asking God what should be done about Ai.  Had Joshua consulted the Lord prior to searching out Ai, he might have known that God was angered, and that this sin needed to be dealt with before Israel would have it’s next victory.

Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until the evening, he and the elders of Israel. And they put dust on their heads. And Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord God, why have you brought this people over the Jordan at all, to give us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us? Would that we had been content to dwell beyond the Jordan! O Lord, what can I say, when Israel has turned their backs before their enemies! For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it and will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will you do for your great name?”

Joshua now falls into despair and disbelief of what God promised.  He prays in the same way that Moses prayed; angered and saddened by the people.  Though he is dismayed that the promises will now not be realized, he still clings to them.

10 The Lord said to Joshua, “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face? 11 Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings. 12 Therefore the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies. They turn their backs before their enemies, because they have become devoted for destruction. I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you. 

In verse 1 we see that ‘the anger of the Lord burned against Israel’.  God’s anger is a holy and righteous anger, nothing like what we experience.  God is intolerable of sin, and because He is holy, the sin must be dealt with and paid for if the people wish to have God leading them and with them.

13 Get up! Consecrate the people and say, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow; for thus says the Lord, God of Israel, “There are devoted things in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the devoted things from among you.” 14 In the morning therefore you shall be brought near by your tribes. And the tribe that the Lord takes by lot shall come near by clans. And the clan that the Lord takes shall come near by households. And the household that the Lord takes shall come near man by man. 15 And he who is taken with the devoted things shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he has transgressed the covenant of the Lord, and because he has done an outrageous thing in Israel.’”

God is very forceful with Joshua because He is holy and this sin needs to be handled right away.  Although God already knows who the perpetrator was, He tells them to come and be separated by lot (like drawing straws), so all of Israel will know that God has seen this sin.  Drawing by lot was customary for them in knowing God’s will in those days.  God announces that all that belongs to the man who has sinned will perish, as opposed to Rahab, who was able to save all that belonged to her through her faith.

God tells Joshua that Israel will not be able to stand before her enemies until the devoted things are removed.  So often I find that the words of scripture are exactly the application I need.  What do I need to remove before I can stand for God?  What is hindering me from my walk with Him?  Am I losing battles in His name because the people I am trying to help can see that I am no better than they?

16 So Joshua rose early in the morning and brought Israel near tribe by tribe, and the tribe of Judah was taken. 17 And he brought near the clans of Judah, and the clan of the Zerahites was taken. And he brought near the clan of the Zerahites man by man, and Zabdi was taken. 18 And he brought near his household man by man, and Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken. 19 Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the Lord God of Israel and give praise to him. And tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.” 20 And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and this is what I did: 21 when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”

Now Achan must come clean about what he had done.  Just prior to the capture and destruction of Jericho the people were given 1 command: do not keep anything for yourselves.  There is a direct correlation to this story of Achan and the story of the fall of man in the garden of Eden (see Gen. 3).  Eve heard God’s command to not eat of the tree of good and evil.  She saw that the fruit was pleasing to the eye.  She coveted the fruit for food and knowledge.  She took the fruit and gave in to temptation and the sin of disobeying God.  Achan heard the command to not take any spoils for himself.  He saw that the items were pleasing.  He coveted them for wealth.  He took them and gave into temptation and the sin of disobeying God.

22 So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent; and behold, it was hidden in his tent with the silver underneath. 23 And they took them out of the tent and brought them to Joshua and to all the people of Israel. And they laid them down before the Lord. 24 And Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver and the cloak and the bar of gold, and his sons and daughters and his oxen and donkeys and sheep and his tent and all that he had. And they brought them up to the Valley of Achor. 25 And Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble on us? The Lord brings trouble on you today.” And all Israel stoned him with stones. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones. 26 And they raised over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day. Then the Lord turned from his burning anger. Therefore, to this day the name of that place is called the Valley of Achor.”

Just as Adam and Eve were forced out of the garden, and died a spiritual death and separation from God, so Achan was forced out of the company of the Israelites (God’s chosen people), and experienced eternal death.  If only Achan could have waited on God.  In the next chapter we will see that God allows the people to take plunder for themselves.  As Paul wrote: “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” Romans 15:4

Just as Eve and Achan experienced sin, we today will go through the same struggles.  Often times our minds are not on the promises of God and we wander to the things around us that are pleasing to our eyes.  We see something we like, we covet it.. pondering on how awesome it would be to have it.. and then we take it.  What do we gain except separation from God because our eyes and hearts are not fixed on Him?  No where in this vicious cycle do we ask God what He would have us do.  These things become idols because we place them before God.

Application: What are some things that I have placed before God?  What do I spend most of my time thinking about or working towards?  If it is not of God, it is not eternal.

Principle: The things of this world are momentary, and will be burned up in the fire.  Only the things of God will sustain us and be eternal.

“6 Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.” We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel. 11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10

Lord help me to be aware of the things in my life that I place before you.  I desire to give my whole life to you, to obey you, and to follow you.  Show me how to live a life devoted to you, and not the things of this world.

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