But the sons of Israel acted unfaithfully in regard to the things under the ban, for Achan, … from the tribe of Judah, took some of the things under the ban, therefore the anger of the Lord burned against the sons of Israel.
Now 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.” So the men went up and spied out Ai. They returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not let all the people go up; only about two or three thousand men need go up to Ai; do not make all the people toil up there, for they are few.” So about three thousand men from the people went up there, but they fled from the men of Ai. The men of Ai struck down about thirty-six of their men, and pursued them from the gate as far as Shebarim and struck them down on the descent, so the hearts of the people melted and became as water.
Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until the evening, both he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust on their heads. Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord God, why did You ever bring this people over the Jordan, only to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? If only we had been willing to dwell beyond the Jordan! O Lord, what can I say since Israel has turned their back before their enemies? For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it, and they will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will You do for Your great name?”
So the Lord said to Joshua, “Rise up! Why is it that you have fallen on your face? 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. 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 7:1-15 NASB
The hindrances which stand in the path of spiritual advancement are most often self-inflicted. They are obstructions of our own making. It may be some secret, hidden sin buried deep within our hearts we believe no one will see, or the lack of prayer and dependence upon God. These impediments to spiritual growth and fruitfulness may not seem to be an issue at the moment, but when the battles of life come, and they will, these are to us, in reality, self-inflicted roadblocks because we are in deliberate disobedience to God.
Joshua and Israel did not seek God’s leadership in the battle to capture Ai. The spies reported there were few enemies and only a few men were needed to capture the small city of Ai. There was an attitude of dependence upon their own military strength and no one fully comprehended who won the victory at Jericho. However, God’s judgment was upon Israel for the sin of one person for stealingthings under the ban from the battlefield at Jericho.
The Israelites were promised success in Joshua 1:8-9, but only if they were obedient to God. Achan’s trespass was deliberate disobedience to God, leading to disaster and the loss of thirty-six lives; however, the attitude of self-reliance shadowed the path of the men as they approached Ai. Further, Joshua and the people had not inquired of the Lord before they acted. Prayer is a life saver enabling God to instruct us. The result of defeat: “the hearts of the people melted and became as water.” Here we see a faithless Israel!
Can the deliberate sin of one person bring judgment onto a nation? The Western world view of individualism is not a biblical reality. God judges individuals and nations with justice and righteousness and makes no distinction between a singular person and nation. Where sin resides, the protection and presence of God is lifted. Sin is contagious and a reproach to any nation. The sin of one person can bring God’s wrath on an entire nation.
Joshua tore his clothes, a sign of great distress, and fell upon his face before the ark until evening, praying and interceding for God’s intervention. He recognized the Lord had not been with Israel’s troops in battle. Joshua’s reaction was to doubt God for bringing Israel into Canaan. He even accused God of delivering Israel into the hands of the Amorites and reasoned Israel would have been better in the wilderness. He questioned God passionately: “And what will You do for Your great name?” He failed to realize there was sin in the camp that needed to be judged and cleansed!
God’s response was quick and sharp. “Rise up! Why is it that you have fallen on your face? Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them.” The judgment was issued before the sin of Achan was discovered and known. Judgment waits for all of us. The sentence for sin has already been issued, the penalty is death. However, there is only one way to escape the penalty of a death sentence: Jesus Christ.
God’s word is a spiritual sword bringing judgment and revealing sin (Heb. 4:11-13). However, Christ is victor over all (Eph. 1:18-23).