So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they captured the city.
What an exciting victory the Israelites witnessed as they obeyed God’s command!
Jericho was the first city that Israel conquered after they entered the promised land. God gave them specific instructions about clearing out the land, how to battle against Jericho (very unusual strategy), and what to do with the spoils of war. This was not just one battle to be faced; it was the beginning of consecrating the land to God.
You can read the amazing story beginning in Joshua 5:13 when Joshua encounters the commander of the Lord’s Army. Joshua chapter 6 gives the narrative of God’s instructions and the ensuing battle of Jericho, a battle like no other.
The people were following God’s instructions to destroy everything except the gold, silver, bronze and iron, which was to go into the treasury of the Lord. An example of His requirement to give the first of everything they received as they settled the land, God laid claim to the treasures of Jericho.
But you, keep yourselves from the things devoted to destruction, lest when you have devoted them you take any of the devoted things and make the camp of Israel a thing for destruction and bring trouble upon it. But all silver and gold, and every vessel of bronze and iron, are holy to the Lord; they shall go into the treasury of the Lord.” Then they devoted all in the city to destruction, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys, with the edge of the sword.
Joshua 6:18-19, 21
The people followed God’s instructions and didn’t save anything for themselves, not even the animals. They were confident as they approached the next battle to be fought. But, there was one problem – not everyone adhered to God’s commands, and God’s anger burned against Israel.
But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel.
Previously, God had made it clear that if anyone among the people disobeyed His commands, they were to be dealt with severely. There were specific consequences for specific sins. God put these in place so that the people would understand that they were to keep themselves holy as the chosen people of a holy God. God’s holiness is not to be mocked.
A short time later, Joshua sent men to spy out the land of Ai. The men came back confident that Israel would overcome Ai, and told Joshua not to send the whole army since the city was small. So, 3000 men were sent to overcome Ai, but were surprised when the men of Ai gave chase and killed 36 Israelites. Not only did the men of Israel flee, but “…the hearts of the people melted and became as water. “ (Joshua 7:5)
How did they go from such confidence to such fear?
It can be easy to gain confidence in ourselves when God is the One who brings the victory. We can become so confident that we choose to go forward without going back to Him first. Joshua and the leaders did this later when men came from Gibeon under false pretenses to form a peace treaty.
So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the Lord. And Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them, to let them live, and the leaders of the congregation swore to them.
It’s a dangerous thing to try to battle in our own strength
instead of with God’s anointing and power.
God is merciful
After the Israelites suffered defeat from Ai, Joshua went back to God to plead their case. God’s answer seems like Joshua should have known the cause of what had happened. Thankfully, God is merciful and offers a way of salvation.
The Lord said to Joshua, “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face? Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings. Therefore the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies. They turn their backs before their enemies, because they have become devoted for destruction. I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you. Get up! Consecrate the people and say, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow; for thus says the Lord, God of Israel, “There are devoted things in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the devoted things from among you.”
God called for consecration, repentance, and obedience. He also laid out the consequences if they did not obey. He gave them the choice.
I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you. (verse 12)
You cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the devoted things from among you. (verse 13)
God is Holy
God deals with sin severely. Why? Because He is holy.
Joshua and the people obeyed God, and God revealed who the guilty person was. Achan admitted his guilt. His greed led him to steal a fancy cloak, some silver, and a bar of gold. His greed led to the death of himself and everyone in his household. His greed had also led to the death of 36 of his countrymen who were lost in the battle. His greed led to the shaking of the nation. No wonder God dealt severely with his sin.
And Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver and the cloak and the bar of gold, and his sons and daughters and his oxen and donkeys and sheep and his tent and all that he had. And they brought them up to the Valley of Achor. And Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble on us? The Lord brings trouble on you today.” And all Israel stoned him with stones. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones. And they raised over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day. Then the Lord turned from his burning anger.
After the people obeyed and God turned from His anger, He commissioned Joshua to continue to take the land.
And the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not fear and do not be dismayed. Take all the fighting men with you, and arise, go up to Ai. See, I have given into your hand the king of Ai, and his people, his city, and his land.
God kept His promise. He continued to fight for Israel as long as they continued to reverence and obey Him.
Later, Israelite reminded each other of what had happened.
“Did not Achan the son of Zerah break faith in the matter of the devoted things, and wrath fell upon all the congregation of Israel? And he did not perish alone for his iniquity.” Joshua 22:20
How does this story apply to our lives today?
We can’t lean on yesterday’s victories when we saw God do incredible things. Yesterday’s victories serve as a reminder of who God is and that He is our source and our confidence. He never changes.
Today’s victories come when we continue to trust and obey Him. This includes completely removing sinful obstacles from our lives, whatever they may be. If we have truly given ourselves to God and received His salvation, we can’t play with compromise.
God is holy and He calls us to be holy.
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The ESV text may not be quoted in any publication made available to the public by a Creative Commons license. The ESV may not be translated into any other language.