Yesterday we got to see the thrill of victory, even if it didn’t come as expected or immediately, an incredible victory was given to those who did it God’s way. And the walls came a-tumblin’ down at the battle of Jericho.
Today’s lesson is in the agony of defeat – and what happens when we don’t do it God’s way.
The story of Achan and Ai rarely makes it into anyone’s Top 10 stories of the Old Testament. I don’t believe it has a VeggieTales episode or children’s Sunday School song devoted to it. We much prefer talking about victory and Jericho than sin and Achan. But when we don’t talk about it, it’s so much easier to fall into the pit ourselves.
With their confidence bolstered from the impressive win at Jericho, the Israelites send a small delegation to bring down the little town of Ai. But, instead they are met with strong resistance and lose 36 men in their forced retreat.
Even strong and courageous Joshua crumbles at the news. Defeated, already. Why God? Where were you? Why were we even trying to follow you? What will people say of us now?
Doubting and blaming God comes so naturally. It’s often the first response to tragedy and difficulty. But, God was not impressed with Joshua’s line of thinking. I love God’s answer (perhaps I love it a little less when it is directed toward me, though).
Joshua 7:10-12 (NIV)
The Lord said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.
We were having such a good pity party while pointing the finger at God. But, He will have none of it. Israel has sinned. They have violated God’s covenant. They have brought this upon themselves. And they won’t see victory again unless they destroy what has led them into sinning against God.
It is powerful to remember how the sins of one affects so many. My sins have the power to destroy not just me. My sin has tentacles that reach out to negatively impact and harm and destroy those closest to me – my family, as well as my church and my community and even sometimes my nation.
So it was with Achan when his greed led him to steal a few of the treasures of Jericho, just for himself. But as he hid them in his family’s tent, he was utterly destroying their chance for blessing as well. Even the 36 Israelites who died fleeing from Ai would not have perished if God had been blessing their mission. The devastating effects of this sin could have continued to snowball if the sin and the sinner were not revealed and dealt with quickly.
Of course, every tragedy suffered in your country is not a direct result of your own personal sin. But when we turn to blaming God we would be wise to check ourselves first. Perhaps He would tell us, too – “Stand up! _________ has sinned.” Perhaps blessings and victory are being withheld because there is sin in your life, your family, your church, your community, your nation that must be dealt with. Can we trace the defeats of our nation to the sins of our nation? It is easy to think like Achan, that we can hide sin and it will only affect us. But, we are wrong. Sin is serious and it has serious long-reaching effects on many. What are we trying to hide that has led us into sin? It is time to dig it up and destroy it. When we deal with sin, we can have another chance at victory.