(Updated with the correct link. Argh!)
This week we encounter one of the hardest problems in the Scriptures —corporate imputation of individual sin. We don’t spend a ton of time resolving the problem, however, in our pursuit of the events surrouding Israel’s first defeat in the Conquest, the defeat at Ai.
And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and this is what I did: when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath.” -Joshua 7:20-21
The story of Israel before Ai, with it’s initial defeat, repentance from sin, purging of sin, and finally taking the stronghold, is one of the most fascinating in the entire tale of the conquest —even more so than the falling of the walls of Jericho, or the many lists of kings defeated and cities taken. Here we have a tale of desire followed by taking which impacted the entire nation of Israel.
The words Achan uses when he admits his sin before the Lord are exactly the ones Adam and Eve used in the Garden. They saw, they desires, they took, and then they hid. But the similarity doesn’t just end there; it stretches into our current world, with implications for our own spiritual lives.
What was it about the few simple items Achan took that were so important? It’s not the value of the objects that are emphasized in the Scriptures, but rather their status. These items were under the ban of destruction; the robe should have been burned, and the silver and gold given to the treasury of the House of the Lord. Why did Achan take them for himself?
I believe it’s because he didn’t have faith.
Israel is entering a new land, a new place. Here they will settle, and make their lives, and the lives of their children. But what if God isn’t good to me? What if I don’t get the best piece of land? What if I don’t have enough to build a farm in the first few years? We left Egypt with gold and silver, and over time we’ve lost that gold and silver through various sins. We have the shoes on our feet, and the clothes on our back, and the blessing of God, but what if these aren’t good enough?
So, look, there, there’s a chunk of gold, and some silver, and a nice new set of clothes. Those would certainly be enough to get my family’s feet on the ground. Those would certainly be a good guard against the future for my wife and children, for my aging parents and my sisters. No-one is looking, so I’ll just wrap it up and take it back to camp. I’ll bury it, and no-one will ever know…
Achan’s sin cost 36 men their lives at the first battle of Ai, and his entire family their lives in the ensuing days. Achan reached out for security from this world, “just a little, in case God doesn’t come through,” and he found death.
The lesson for today? We should not be afraid of honest gain to make a life for our families into the future. We should not be afraid to work hard and make something of ourselves. But we should be on our guard, for it’s all too easy to reach one step too far, to reach beyond faith, and to take that which God hasn’t given.
To count on the world, rather than God.
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.” And the men went up and spied out Ai. And they returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not have all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and attack Ai. Do not make the whole people toil up there, for they are few.” -Joshua 7:2-3
Israel just crossed the Jordan a few weeks back, and is riding high on the defeat of Jericho. There are three more strongholds they must conquer before they can claim the high ground of the central ridge running through the Land, a strong point impervious to chariots, easy to defend, and difficult to take.
So Joshua sends out some spies to check out Ai —”a ruin”— and see what sort of military force is going to be needed. The spies come back and say, “just send a couple of thousand men, this will be easy peasy.” Joshua sends the men required…
And they are routed.
We learn, in Joshua 8, that 12,000 Canaanites are killed at Ai. Joshua sent 3000 to oppose them. How could they have been so wrong?
And so the world we live into day. Our leaders send out forecasters into the future, trying to figure out the lay of the land, and what’s going to be required to make it through the next ten years. And just like Joshua’s spies, these forecasters consistently underrate the problems, and consistently send in too few men to do the job at hand. Like Joshua, our leaders are misled by experts and spies, taking the wrong turn every time they get the chance.
Maybe the situation in Israel before Ai is closer to America in the 21st Century than we’d like to believe. Maybe God is giving up the leadership we deserve. Maybe God is ensuring our leadership is consistently getting the wrong information, so we are ultimately faced with the consequences of our sin.
Maybe, just maybe, it’s about time we started seeing America for what it really is —a nation of people who shake their fist in the face of God each and every day. We think we’re getting away with it, because we’re still rich, because our plans still “work,” because we’re still the greatest country on the face of the Earth.
We like to point to the Preachers and Pastors of the 1700’s, and show how they called the people around them to greatness. To the political speakers of the Second World War, and how they called the people of a nation to greatness.
What we miss is the intermixed calls to repentance. The call to morality, the call to self control, the call to individual independence, the fountain of national independence.
The next time the spies who foray into the future come back and say, “we only need a couple of thousand men to defeat that stronghold,” remember Joshua at Ai, and the sin of Achan that caused the best laid plans of an entire nation to be defeated.
This week we’re talking about the fall of Jericho, including the appearance of the Captain of the Armies of the Lord, and the problem of the devotion to destruction.
This week we’re passing over the Jordan Rover with Joshua. We’ll discuss the first Passover in the Land, the Circumcision of Israel, the Memorial Stones, and a few other things in preparing for the first big battle at Jericho.
This week we covered two amazing stories in the preparation for Israel’s crossing of the Jordan, and beginning their conquest of the Land God promised them. You might remember Joshua sent two spies —why? They don’t seem to have accomplished a lot. And what’s up with Rahab lying to the King’s men about these very same spies? What’s going on here?
We have a strong sense of what justice means. A traditional view of justice states that you are held responsible for your actions, and yours alone, that you are not held responsible for the actions of a group. The “modern” view of justice (social justice) is that everyone receives the same output, regardless of their input. God’s view of justice clearly runs towards the first, rather than the second definition, in the sense that we are given what we deserve, unless God’s mercy intercedes. But the individualistic part of this picture is still quite challenging, in view of various illustrations we have of God’s justice in the Scriptures themselves.
Here, for instance, Dr. Dean is talking about the incidents of Joshua chapter 7 and 8, in which Israel decides to take the city of Ai. What no-one knows, other than God, is that Achan had taken something from Jericho, contrary to God’s express commandment. Joshua doesn’t know anything about this sin, nor does anyone else in Israel, apparently. And yet this single sin is attributed to the entire Nation of Israel, and his entire family is eventually destroyed for his actions.
There is a sense in which our actions, as representatives of our countries, communities, churches, and families, is reflected in blessings on all those things we represent.=http://thinkinginchrist.com/albums/audio-clips/dean%20on%20justice.mp3,downnload