WHEN IT ALL GOES WRONG
Lord, remind me that I must do things Your way.
Read JOSHUA 7:1–9
7 But the Israelites were unfaithful in regard to the devoted things[a]; Achan son of Karmi, the son of Zimri,[b] the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of them. So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel.
2 Now Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth Aven to the east of Bethel, and told them, “Go up and spy out the region.” So the men went up and spied out Ai.
3 When they returned to Joshua, they said, “Not all the army will have to go up against Ai. Send two or three thousand men to take it and do not weary the whole army, for only a few people live there.” 4 So about three thousand went up; but they were routed by the men of Ai, 5 who killed about thirty-six of them. They chased the Israelites from the city gate as far as the stone quarries and struck them down on the slopes. At this the hearts of the people melted in fear and became like water.
6 Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell facedown to the ground before the ark of the Lord, remaining there till evening. The elders of Israel did the same, and sprinkled dust on their heads. 7 And Joshua said, “Alas, Sovereign Lord, why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us? If only we had been content to stay on the other side of the Jordan! 8 Pardon your servant, Lord. What can I say, now that Israel has been routed by its enemies? 9 The Canaanites and the other people of the country will hear about this and they will surround us and wipe out our name from the earth. What then will you do for your own great name?”
A. Joshua 7:1 The Hebrew term refers to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the Lord, often by totally destroying them; also in verses 11, 12, 13 and 15.
B. Joshua 7:1 See Septuagint and 1 Chron. 2:6; Hebrew Zabdi; also in verses 17 and 18.
New International Version (NIV)
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‘Just as I am, without one plea / but that Thy blood was
shed for me’ (Charlotte Elliott, 1789–1871).
In the first six chapters of Joshua we read of God’s promise to Joshua that He will give His people their own land. Joshua tells the people ‘the LORD will do amazing things among you’ (Josh 3:5). Then they cross the Jordan and God gives Jericho into their hands. Chapter 6 ends with the statement: ‘So the LORD was with Joshua, and his fame spread throughout the land’ – but by the middle of chapter 7 he is on his face in desperation. Everything was going so well and the first six chapters report only success – but then it all goes wrong.
There are several factors in the defeat. There is complacency and overconfidence in sending a small army. (Some commentators suggest that 3,000 may be a copying error for 300, as the loss of 36 out of 3,000 would not have seemed unusual in ancient battles.) The attack on Ai is described in terms of a human initiative, with no reference to waiting on God or following God’s plan as they did in the later successful Ai campaign. Verse 1 gives us a spiritual key to unlock the narrative that follows. The main reason for the defeat is that the Israelites have been unfaithful. The reversal is a timely reminder that the conquest of Canaan is dependent on God’s grace and presence, not on their ability.
More important than the military defeat, the incident has sapped Joshua’s confidence in God and God’s promise to give them the land. Most of us will recognize the despair Joshua feels when we remember an occasion in which our failure or some incident outside our control has left us praying, as he does, ‘Why… if only…’ (7). We need to learn from Joshua to come to God honestly, to plead – but also to listen.
When things are going well, there is always the temptation to become complacent. How do we ensure that we keep our focus on God?
Lord, Your people understand that You have a reason for all that You
command us to do. Teach us to bear this in mind as we continue to
walk with You.