Joshua 7:1-5 Impulses and consequences
1 But the sons of Israel acted unfaithfully in regard to the things under the ban, for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah, took some of the things under the ban, therefore the anger of the Lord burned against the sons of Israel.
2 Now 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.” So the men went up and spied out Ai. 3 They returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not let all the people go up; only about two or three thousand men need go up to Ai; do not make all the people toil up there, for they are few.” 4 So about three thousand men from the people went up there, but they fled from the men of Ai. 5 The men of Ai struck down about thirty- six of their men, and pursued them from the gate as far as Shebarim and struck them down on the descent, so the hearts of the people melted and became as water.
Following the victory at Jericho, Joshua took advantage of Israel’s elation to launch another attack on Ai. However, he over estimated the integrity of his people and was oblivious to the divine wrath that was simmering. Indeed, the people came to realize that the sin of one man could cause the defeat of the entire nation. Today’s passage teaches us that sin does not pay and there will be consequences to intentional violation of God’s covenant. Therefore, we must always think of the consequences before we act upon our impulses.
But the sons of Israel acted unfaithfully in regard to the things under the ban.
God’s immediate response towards sin is wrath. And God’s wrath brought a curse upon the people. The victory over Jericho was short lived and gladness was soon replaced by the gloom of defeat. Israel was defeated because they overlooked the destructive power of sin. Jericho was the first fruits of Canaan and everything living was to be put to death and valuable objects were to be dedicated to the Lord’s treasury. However, the temptation was just too strong for one man who helped himself to the booty. This showed the power of sin: through the sin of one man (Achan), God’s wrath burned against the entire nation. At the inception of Canaan’s conquest, God wanted to etch the principle of solidarity into the minds of the people.
Do not let all the people go up; only about two or three thousand men need go up to Ai.
Joshua demonstrated the folly of presumption for he was eager to take advantage of the people’s elation given their recent victory at Jericho. He made preparations for the next battle by sending spies to Ai. The spies returned with great confidence and suggested that Ai could easily be taken with only two or three thousand men. However, the spies were wrong, for Ai actually had 12,000 men and women. Later on, God instructed Joshua to take the “the whole army” instead (see Joshua 8:1). Israel underestimated the strength of Ai and overestimated their own prowess. With 3,000 men, Israel was sadly routed, pursued and 36 soldiers were slain. The report of the defeat demoralized the people and their hearts melted and became as water.
Christ’s work on the cross cannot immunize man from divine discipline due to sin. Therefore, we must always think of the consequences before we act. There will be divine consequence for intentional violation of the covenant. At the same, there will be eternal reward for those who keep His covenant. Sins committed out of ignorance (without malice or premeditation) can be wiped away through the cross without the need for divine discipline. However, where there is intentional violation of the covenant, there will be added discipline for the sinner. Divine discipline is necessary for it instills discipline into the people and reinforces the truth that sin does not pay.
Some churchgoers suppose that Christ has paid the penalty for their sins, continue in their sinful lifestyle thinking they are exonerated from all consequences. But God has in mind the sanctification of believers towards holiness as part of their salvation. Therefore, God sets out to discipline his children so that through suffering, they may understand that sin inevitably leads to painful consequences. Israel paid the price of Achan’s sin by their defeat at Ai. Even as Israel was brought to her knees by the sin of one man, they understood that sin regardless of its magnitude brings a definite consequence for everyone.
However, God because of His patience chooses to withhold discipline in hopes that they may turn back through the warning of the prophets. However, many choose to take God’s patience for granted and ignored the warnings. The apostle Paul said,
Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? Romans 2:4
In other words, God’s patience and kindness in withholding discipline is to spur man towards repentance. Nevertheless, there will be grave consequences for incessant violations of God’s covenant. In the same breath, there will also be eternal reward for those who keep His covenant. Paul added,
God will render to each person according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. Romans 2:6-8
Are you accustomed to testing God’s patience by violating the more “minor” aspects of the law? Like arriving late for church worship, gossiping, exaggeration of the truth, and failing to deliver on promises made? God is displeased regardless of the “severity” of the offenses for God looks at the heart.
Dear Lord, cause me to be sensitive to the Spirit so that I may not sin against God. I am willing to submit myself to your loving discipline. Mold me and prepare me for greater tasks ahead. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.