Joshua 7 Commentary
Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? Luke 14 verse 31. Joshua has read the gospel and applies it by sending the spies to go and spy out the region. The report informs him on the requirements for this battle. Only two or three thousand men would be required. It is a small battle.
Yes there was victory but it wasn’t for Israel. The enemy chased Israel, killing about thirty six of them. “At this the hearts of the people melted in fear and became like water.” Defeat can speak louder than victory. Joshua needed a solution, fast.
From our desks, we can sit down and do a postmortem while sipping coffee. For Israel, the destiny of a people hinged on this postmortem. Not to mention the sad news of lost husbands, fathers, cousins, brothers and sons. The nation was in mourning.
Israel appears to have mobilized for an assault on Ai without a marked involvement of the LORD, unlike Jericho. Their assessment of the task at hand wasn’t exactly faulty but you still sense a degree of arrogance. This is an example of what saints shouldn’t do on the battlefield. The process is simple. You belittle the enemy and conclude that you can handle the matter yourself. And we are almost always wrong. There can be a very thin line between arrogance and faith. The difference is important. Arrogance is always punished.
“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.”
This is part of the response from the LORD. Joshua and the elders had prostrated themselves before the LORD in prayer and fasting. Look who is now looking silly! The solution is right there in their midst. Bring back obedience and then we can move forward. Many problems that we saints face are based on disobedience. Rituals will not solve them; obedience will. Prayer without repentance is a waste of time. It can be strange that we want the LORD’s intervention while still holding on to disobedience. Stand up, the LORD would say. You have sinned. Clean house and then we can talk.
The punishment of Achan appears excessive until you look at the consequences of his sin. Thirty six men died and an entire nation stood on the brink. It hints on the ruthlessness with which we need to look at sin. The LORD would put it this way, if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. Ruthless. Let there be no mercy for sin. God help us.
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