“Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. And they have even taken some of the things under the ban and have both stolen and deceived. Moreover, they have also put them among their own things. “Therefore the sons of Israel cannot stand before their enemies; they turn their backs before their enemies, for they have become accursed. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy the things under the ban from your midst. “Rise up! Consecrate the people and say, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, for thus the LORD, the God of Israel, has said, “There are things under the ban in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you have removed the things under the ban from your midst.” ‘In the morning then you shall come near by your tribes. And it shall be that the tribe which the LORD takes by lot shall come near by families, and the family which the LORD takes shall come near by households, and the household which the LORD takes shall come near man by man. ‘And it shall be that the one who is taken with the things under the ban shall be burned with fire, he and all that belongs to him, because he has transgressed the covenant of the LORD, and because he has committed a disgraceful thing in Israel.’” (Joshua 7:11-15).
Without this last point, there would be no hope for any of us. Although God is holy, He is also compassionate. He reaches out to the sinner and tells how to return. He picks us up in our defeat and despair. Even more, the Lord goes far beyond this by providing help when needed.
1) Revealing of sin
The first thing the Lord does is to clearly state Israel’s sin. “Israel has sinned.” Sin means that the people of God have broken the covenant by which they are brought close to God. They have breached the contract. God has clearly given them a command and they broke it. He identifies what the particular breach in contract was and its consequences. Remember when the covenant was made, the Lord promised both blessings upon their obedience but also curses upon their disobedience.
It is interesting that the Lord uses the word ‘they’ here to refer to the Israelites as a whole. Was it more than one person? It actually seems to be one person that has actually committed the sin. This is seen in the long process of identifying the culprit later in the chapter. But a sin by one of God’s people affects the whole community. We might think this is not fair but it was fair. God made a contract with the Israelites. We need to remember that this fact is also true in the New Testament. Your sin as an individual Christian will affect the larger community of God’s people. We should never fool ourselves and say that our sin only affects us. Achan’s sin led to the loss of 36 lives and greatly hurt their families. They no longer have a father.
The next time you hear the words ‘(1) That it is only a little sin. (2) No one will notice. (3) It doesn’t really matter,” you had better shout out the truth. (1) Every sin is a large sin because at heart it defies God and His will. (2) Whether people notice the sin itself is truly unimportant because God does notice it. Who would think that God had any real concern for what Achan stored away under his tent. Is a little gold really that important? It is not the gold that God needs but the worship that He demands and the faithfulness of those within His covenant. Those who hold back in their giving to the Lord are essentially being rebellious. (3) Lastly we see that it really does matter. How foolish to think our private sin doesn’t trouble anyone. The Apostle Paul boldly said,
“For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself, if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. But if we judged ourselves rightly, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord in order that we may not be condemned along with the world” (1 Corinthians 11:29-32).
We must never think that sin doesn’t matter. The Lord here pulls back His support from the Israelites because of one man’s sins. People die. It is kind of the Lord to help us know how much He expects us to obey Him. Be sure it is the devil who is whispering in your ear that it doesn’t matter.
2) Clarification of consequences (12)
The Lord tells us why He recorded verse 7:1 in the scriptures. He wants us to know why things went wrong. If verse 11 gives us ‘what’ went wrong, it is here we have the ‘why.’ “Therefore the sons of Israel cannot stand before their enemies; they turn their backs before their enemies, for they have become accursed. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy the things under the ban from your midst. (Joshua 7:12).
What has happened is that when the Israelites took the stuff that was accursed, they themselves became accursed. God judges such things and the people associated with it. Let me list four obvious consequences here mentioned in verse 12.
- Defeat: Can’t stand before your enemies.
- Fear: They run from their enemies.
- Accursed: Grace is withdrawn.
- Ongoing: Continue on until repent & obey.
So here the Israelites are under God’s curse. As a result the Lord says He will not be with them unless they eliminate the things that are under the ban. We need to remember that the Lord could have judged the whole nation. He is being patient and trying to lead them to repentance.
3) Cleansing from the curse (13-15)
Verse 11 says the ‘What,’ verse 12 says the ‘Why,’ and verses 13-15 give us the ‘How.’ Again we see God being so gracious. He gives them a step by step process so that they would correct their predicament. Sometimes in our impatience we do not graciously help the other know what is wrong and how it can be solved. Are you a wife with a cold shoulder? You are very upset with your husband but refuse to graciously talk with him about what needs to be done to straighten things out. Are you an employer who is hard on your employees expecting them to know how to rightly correct things? Are you a former friend who never told your friend why you wouldn’t talk to him or her anymore? These actions to not reveal the mercies of God We need to take the extra time to spend helping people know how to recover and put aside our anger and spirit of revenge. God is firm about getting things right, but He is very gracious in the way He helps us straighten things out.
It is amazing how Jesus died on the cross for our sin. We were like the city of Jericho fit to be destroyed. But God provided one place where we could find refuge. He then appointed us to tell others where they can find refuge from God’s judgment. This is God’s mercy. Do we extend His grace as He tells us or are we complacent huddled about in the designated house just waiting doing our own thing? God is seeking us out. He wants us to be saved. He gives us a way to be saved through the blood of Christ. We need to be gracious like our Master. If God calls you as a missionary or evangelist, then go. Don’t stay in your way. We are the means by which we pronounce the cure from God’s wrath.
There is another spiritual teaching here in this verse. Notice that in verse 15 that the one who takes the things shall be cursed with them. “And it shall be that the one who is taken with the things under the ban shall be burned with fire, he and all that belongs to him, because he has transgressed the covenant of the LORD, and because he has committed a disgraceful thing in Israel.” This shows how the wrath of God must go forth. You can argue with God that He should not do such a thing but spurn Him, but you will only perish. You can state that God is not that way, but in the end you will perish with the world. The curse is inclusive and shows us how the world is already under judgment. We are inherently under the curse.
But it is exactly here that we see the largeness of God’s grace. God sent His only begotten Son Jesus to become a curse for us. “For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO DOES NOT ABIDE BY ALL THINGS WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF THE LAW, TO PERFORM THEM.” (Galatians 3:10). Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us--for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE”-- (Galatians 3:13). (Some might want to excuse themselves from this curse but Paul in Romans 2 speaks of the moral law revealed in our conscience that we have not fully fulfilled.) Do you see that God wanted so much to make a way for us rebellious ones under the curse to find relief? So He had His only Son take the curse on Himself. This is why Jesus died. Jesus took our sins upon Himself. When He did this, He took our curse.
Do you see that it is wrong to question God on the rules? Don’t minimize the rules He sets. Don’t lessen the effect the sin has on our life and our relationship with Him. Don’t adopt a perspective of God that is different than what the Bible says about Him and matches what you want to feel. Instead run to the gracious provision that God Almighty has given to us in Christ. It is only here that we can find relief from the effects of the curse. Only Christ can save us, but we need to repent and take refuge in Him.
As long as we deny the effect of the curse on our lives, we will not find the need and love of God in Jesus. We might be religious. We might even be able to pad the guilt of our sins from our minds a bit, but it will not satisfy the wrath of God. We will perish. Oh that we all might confess our sins and run to the Savior.
God wants us to succeed. He has a design for each of our lives. He is totally involved in all that we do and has laid out for us the path to this success. Unfortunately some of us have fallen. We have become discouraged and even despair. We don’t think we can change. This Battle of Ai was recorded for you. Two things are clearly taught. First of all it shows us the foolishness of remaining in our sin. It shows that we have a greater love for our sin like Achan did for the gold than for the Lord and His ways. Secondly, we find the enormity of God’s grace. He reaches out to the very people who have despised His ways.
We must not think thinks are well if behind our religiosity that we harbor disobedience. This disobedience is like a horrible smell that is before God. Our religious pretense and prayers all the more become a reproach. If there is any lesson, we must repent. And if we have something to repent for we must again find comfort in the forgiveness of CHrist who has died in our place. But the greatest and most horrible stench before God is if a person has religious words that I believe in Jesus but remain in disobedience.
“For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES”. (Hebrews 10:26, 27, NASB).
Here are some summary application questions.
A) Falling into Failure (Joshua 7:1-5)
• Do you trust God when making plans?
• Are you living in defeat from some sin?
B) Staying in Disgrace (Joshua 7:6-10)
• Are you trusting a religion or Christ?
• Are you disobedient in one or more areas?
C) Road to Recovery (Joshua 7:11-15)
• Are you harboring some sin now?
• Do you graciously lead people out of sin?
=> Bible Study Questions on Joshua 7