Week 3, Day 6
READ: Joshua 5:13-7:26
BACKGROUND: This is an interesting section to read because it includes both a great victory and a great defeat. The battle of Jericho was one of the most famous and most incredible military victories for the nation of Israel in their entire history, but the subsequent defeat at Ai was one of their most humiliating moments. These battles, though, give us an incredible window into who God is and how he works in our lives and in our world.
5:13 – This individual was definitely a heavenly being of some sort. It may well have been a Theophany or a Christophany (God himself, or Jesus appearing in human form) or it may have been an angel God put in charge of his armies.
14 – “Neither” What a crazy response to Joshua’s question. If Israel was the chosen people and God was about to deliver Jericho into their hands, shouldn’t the answer have been “You guys?” No. It was important to convey that God doesn’t serve Israel, Israel serves God. The accomplishment of God’s plan, through Israel, was for God’s glory not Israel’s. Thus, “neither.”
6:1 – As we learned from Rahab in Chapter 2, Jericho was very afraid of the Israelites.
2-5 – What a silly way to conquer a city. Why this way, without even fighting? To demonstrate that it is God who conquers and accomplishes victory. That it is his power and might at work and not those of the Israelites (hence the centrality of the Ark of the Covenant in the following verses).
17 – “The ban” or “The devoted things.” This comes from Leviticus 27:28-29. All of the spoils of war were to be devoted to God and not kept by individuals (God was the conqueror after all). All the people of Canaan were to be destroyed. And destroying all the people of Canaan wasn’t just bloodlust on God’s part – it was an active work of destroying idolatry. They had chances to repent, but they continued to be wicked.
20 – The walls may originally have been about 30 feet high.
7:1 – “Acting unfaithfully” literally means violating God’s law directly by taking for themselves the “devoted things” or “things under the ban.”
3 – By “few” they meant about 12,000. It’s amazing how confident they were about their chances for victory after watching what God did at Jericho. With God, they knew they could easily defeat 12,000 at Ai with only 2,000 Israelites.
5 – Basically, they got whupped.
11 – Achan’s sinned is imputed to the whole nation of Israel.
19 – Notice Joshua’s tender heart towards Achan. Joshua reflects God here. Sin is serious and it must be punished, but God still loves the sinner. God loves the sinner as a child even though the punishment for the sin is death.
21 – Notice the 3 verbs in Achan’s confession (in order): I saw, I coveted, I took. So often, this is the exact same path that sin takes in our lives!
24 – Sin is serious! God hates it! Sin earns death! Too often, we minimize it.
24 – I think this is a huge verse because it helps us understand sin in a way we often overlook. We tend to think of sin as personal. Or secret. And we like to think that it only affects us or pass it off by saying “Well, it didn’t really hurt anybody.” Nothing could be further from the truth. The thing about sin is: Even when we can’t see how, it profoundly affects us but it also affects our families (Achan’s family suffered for his sin) and it affects our entire communities (all of Israel suffered for Achan’s sin – 36 people lost their lives in battle.) Sin isn’t just personal. It is relational and communal as well.
THINK: What About Bob? is, in my opinion, one of the most brilliant and hilarious movies ever made. I think that many of us can see at least a little bit of ourselves and our own insecurities in the neurotic character of Bob Wiley. In one of my absolute favorite scenes from the movie, Bob has just tracked down Dr. Leo Marvin, his psychiatrist, at his vacation home and he’s begging for a session – just a little bit of therapy. When Dr. Marvin rebuffs his efforts and refers him back to the book, Baby Steps, that he gave him, Bob starts to freak out and he yells, “I’m doing the work, I’m baby steppin’, I’m not a slacker…Gimme, gimme, I need, I need, I neeeeeeeed!”
I’m especially drawn to this interaction because I feel like it paints a pretty accurate picture of the dynamic between God and me. In fact, I pray that sentence from Bob (to God, not Leo Marvin) every single day as I drive across Bunker Lake Blvd headed north to church. “I’m doing the work, I’m not a slacker! Gimme, I need!” Most of the time this prayer simply serves as a humbling reminder of my utter and complete reliance upon God to accomplish anything worth accomplishing – in ministry and in life. But, I have noticed that on certain occasions those words take on a different flavor. When things aren’t going well and when I’m not seeing the results that I so desperately desire, I get frustrated. When success seems fleeting and my vision for what God can accomplish isn’t playing out the way I had hoped and expected, it gets discouraging. And then the prayer becomes not a prayer of humility but a prayer of entitlement. It’s as if I’m saying, “Hey God, I’m doing what you told me to do. How come you’re not holding up your end of the bargain? Come on man!”
I think we’re all prone to do this – to think and pray this way and even to become angry with God – when things don’t work out the way we want. Especially when we feel like God isn’t delivering on his promises. We act as if, somehow, our relationship with God is one of quid pro quo. That if we do something good for him (like say “hi” to the weird kid in the lunchroom) then he owes us something good in return (like the new car we really want). This is really dangerous for a couple of reasons. The first is that God simply doesn’t work like that. If he worked on a quid pro quo system then the only thing he would owe all of us is death! That’s the only thing we earn. He is holy and sovereign and that simply isn’t how he works. The second reason, I think, is harder for us to see – and harder for us to really put into practice. It is this: often, we don’t experience what God desires for us because of the sin in our own lives.
Joshua faced into this in Joshua chapter 7. Right after the defeat at Ai, he got mad and prayed, “God, why did you even bring us here if we’re not going to win? Seriously, I thought you were fighting for us, but now we just lost and everybody is gonna hear and they’re gonna kill us! What’s up with that?” And God let him know, “It’s sin. It’s not that I don’t want to give you the land. I promised you that land. It’s not that I am not going to conquer Ai – and everyone else too – it’s that the sin in Israel (Achan’s sin) preventing you from experiencing what I want for you.” I think this happens in our lives. We make poor choices and we sin and then we just expect God to deliver us from the consequences. And we get mad at him if he doesn’t – as though it’s a failure on his part and not ours. There are times in all of our lives where we want to just pray ourselves out of situations we’ve behaved ourselves into.* It’s important for us to humbly confess our sins before God, to trust that he is working all things for our good, and to understand that experiencing his best for us and experiencing the fullness of relationship with him means repenting and getting rid of the sin in our lives.
ASK: Do I get frustrated or mad at God when he doesn’t do things the way that I think is best? Do I have sin in my life that is keeping me from being who God is calling me to be and preventing me from fullness of relationship with him.
* One of my all-time favorite Randy Discher-isms.