JOSHUA 7 - 8
Did you enjoy the victory? The victories are easy when the Lord is your Commander. It was amazing to watch the walls just tumble down after the six days of marching around the city with the Ark of the Covenant and the trumpets blowing and then the final seven circle march, the final blow of the trumpets and the SHOUT that caused the walls to fall down. (God was the actual cause. The shout just being the Israelites final act that God commanded of them.) The Israelites were able to walk right in and take the city - just as God had told them would happen. The citizens of Jericho were killed and the battle was over.
But not quite. The battle over the city was waged and won. But there was another battle to be won - over Satan. And Achan lost. I don't know the age of Achan, but he was of fighting age so he must have been through 20-39 years of wilderness wanderings with the other Israelites. His sandals and clothes had not worn out. Manna had been the staple of his diet. He would have grown up with Moses and Aaron as his leaders. He would have heard Moses' teachings and warnings as many times as anyone else. He was of the tribe of Judah - a very honored and blessed tribe. He crossed the Jordan on dry ground. He went through the same purification as the other Israelites. He participated in the recent Passover feast. He put in his days of marching around that city. He helped defeat the Jericonians. But, after the victory, Achan was achin' for some of the materialism--the loot--and Satan won the battle in Achan's heart.
After Jericho, no mention is made of Joshua talking to God about the next step in the conquest of Canaan. Perhaps if Joshua and elders had taken time to approach God in prayer, Achan's sin would have been revealed before the disaster at Ai. But, the Israelites, full of confidence, attack the little city of Ai next - and thirty-six countrymen are killed. Thirty-six husbands would not come home that night to be cooked for and socks be picked up after. Perhaps thirty-six daddies did not tuck their little ones into bed that night. Or brothers to hug their little sisters. Israel was feeling the loss. It hurt.
God said, " I will not stay with you any longer unless you completely rid yourselves of this sin. Purify yourselves. You cannot defeat your enemies until you DEAL WITH THIS SIN."
After the sin is routed out of the camp and Ai dealt with properly - God's way - it is time for the Israelites to regroup, reflect on the recent events and be reminded of God's words spoken through Moses. The entire Israelite people retreat to Mt. Ebal.
Anyone who has lived as long as we have knows human nature to some degree. I think you will all agree that it is surprising that only ONE Israelite fell victim to Satan's fiery darts that day. I feel somewhat certain that if God contracted a similar deal with Americans today, more than one of my countrymen would succumb to temptation and take what they thought was rightfully theirs - or at least what they thought they could get away with.
I am not an authority on world sociology, but I have lived outside of our country and visited outside of our country enough to look at my country and compare it with others. I have to admit I have not seen a more materialist minded country than ours. I did not come today to "bash you over the head" with that news. You are probably aware of the fact, too. Instead of pointing a finger at Achan and saying, "Oh, what a sinner! Shame on him. After all he had seen the Lord do for his nation, He should have known better!," let's see what the others learned. I want us to look at what the Israelites learned in the wilderness that made such a difference in this nation that only ONE of their countrymen fell to temptation.
Turn to Deuteronomy 10:12. Deuteronomy is the book of the Law that is mentioned at the end of our lesson today that Joshua read. They had heard all of this while in the wilderness. And as they have begun to take the land of Canaan, they've had a couple of decisive victories, but they are in mourning over the loss of one battle and their thirty-six countrymen. Perhaps they are confused still, humbled to say the least. Everyone makes the journey up the ravine to Mt. Ebal. It is retreat time. It is time to hear these laws again and the consequences of obeying them or not obeying them.
Deuteronomy 10:12, "And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul."
In Deuteronomy chapter 11, verses 1 and 8, the Israelites are told to keep all the commandments always. Verse 13 begins the blessings that will occur if they do. Verse 16 begins the curses that will occur if they do not. Verses 18-21 tells them how extensively they are to know them and to teach them to their children. "Put these words in your heart and soul. Teach them when you are sitting, walking, rising, lying down," etc. The blessings of such are enumerated again and reminded of the curse. And they are told to set the blessings and curses on Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Ebal in verse 29 when they take the land.
Chapters 12 - 25 of Deuteronomy expound the principle laws they had to follow to receive God's blessings. Laws about the altar, not listening to false prophets, clean and unclean animals, offerings, tithing, slaves, the Passover, the Feasts, the justice system, the criminal laws, laws about how to go to war, sexual relations, helping the neighbor, many incidental laws.
Then in Deuteronomy chapter 27 they are told what to do when they get to Mt. Ebal. In verses 1 and 10 they are told to keep the commandments. Verse 15 begins the readings of the curses the people participated in.
Chapter 28:1-14 the blessings of obedience. Verses 15-68 the curses if they do not obey.
In chapter 30:15-18 blessings and curses restated. And then in verses 19 and 20, "I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live;"
What did Achan not hear and understand? Did he not hear the same curses, and understand their consequences? He was among the children of God. Perhaps he didn't listen to the blessings of being a child of God. Did he get tired of hearing the curses and want them stopped? What blessings have we not heard and understood? What curses? Now we understand that, with the sacrificing of God's Son, His GRACE will wash our sins away if we have come in contact with His blood.
Now we could get into a discussion from Hebrews 10 about allowing deliberate sin to remain in our lives after we have accepted Jesus as our sacrifice and how that nullifies His sacrifice for us. What pain do we cause the Heavenly Father if we put other things before Him? What other gods have we followed after? What materials have we coveted? What has been our transgression against a God who only wants to give us life, if we but choose life? God told the Israelites, "You cannot defeat the enemies until you DEAL WITH THIS SIN."
I'd like to close with Deuteronomy 6:4-9:
"Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord of God with all your might. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. And you shall bind them as a sign upon your upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."And continuing (cf. Deuteronomy 6:10-13):
And when the Lord our God brings us into the Land of Grace that He has promised to us and to all who believe and obey, when He brings us into Forgiveness which we did not deserve, when He purifies us with cleansing we could not provide, fills us till we are full with the Holy Spirit, then take heed lest we forget the Lord, who brought us out of the land of Sin and the house of bondage. You shall fear the Lord your God; you shall serve Him.
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR