Day 28  Joshua 7 ... Slow Learners

The Bible does not record history for its own sake.  Rather, it selects and highlights certain events that yield practical and spiritual lessons.  For example, the book of Joshua, which spans a period of approximately seven years, devotes only a few sentences to some extensive military campaigns.  But other key events, such as the fall of Jericho, get detailed coverage.  That battle established an important pattern:  The Israelites would succeed only it they relied on God, not military might.

Perhaps inevitably, the Israelites got cocky after Jericho.  Since they had conquered a fortified city without firing an arrow, the next target, the puny town of Ai, should pose no threat at all.  A few thousand soldiers strolled toward Ai.  A short time later those same soldiers-minus their dead and wounded-were scrambling for home, thoroughly routed.

Clearly, the juxtaposition of these two stories, Jericho and Ai, is meant to convey a lesson.  If the Israelites obeyed God and placed their trust in him, no challenge was too great to overcome.  On the other hand, if they insisted on their own way, no obstacle was too small to trip them up.

Significantly, Ai stood near the original site where God had appeared to Abraham and revealed the covenant centuries before.  A humiliating defeat in that place shook Joshua to the core.  He dissolved in fright, earning God’s stern rebuke, “Stand up!  What are you doing down on your face?”

Without God’s protection, Joshua realized, the Israelites were hopelessly vulnerable.  After the painful lesson of Ai, he went back to the basics.  The public exposure of Achan’s sin underscored the need to follow God’s orders scrupulously, even in the earthy matter of warfare.  God would not tolerate any of the lying or looting typical of invading armies.

In the next chapter, Joshua is shown fulfilling the orders Moses had given before his death.  He read aloud all the words of the covenant with God, wrote them in large letters on stones, and divided up the tribes to shout out the blessings and cursings Moses had pronounced.  Already, the Israelites needed a refresher course on the law of God.

Point to Ponder: Why would such a seemingly "little" sin, Achan's deceit, have such major consequences?