Joshua 7:6–7, 10–13, 16–21, 24–26 comment (0)
September 14, 2006
By Jerry W. Batson
Related Scripture: Joshua 7:6–7, 10–13, 16–21, 24–26
Bible Studies for Life
Associate Professor of Divinity, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University
The Agony of Defeat
Joshua 7:6–7, 10–13, 16–21, 24–26
Every Christian knows something about spiritual failures. All of us have experienced some failure in our Christian life. However, failure does not have to be fatal. While spiritual failures may be costly or embarrassing, they do not need to be the last word. Joshua found himself God’s instrument charged with taking the lead in dealing with the spiritual defeat of God’s people. This study is about how a leader dealt with that defeat.
The defeat happened at Ai on the heels of a signal victory at Jericho. Perchance pride and overconfidence prompted the spies to suggest to Joshua that they could capture Ai with only 3,000 men. For sure, they did not factor in God’s wrath over one of their number having disobeyed God in taking for himself some spoils from Jericho. The defeat at Ai came as a disciplining judgment of God upon Achan’s flagrant act of disobedience.
Failing but not Blaming (6–7)
Neither leaders nor those who follow leaders should allow themselves to blame God for spiritual defeats. Those who seek to shift blame often begin their laments with, “If only … .” In Joshua’s case, the lament was addressed to God, “If only You had not brought the people over Jordan, this would not have happened.” While engaged in the blame game, Joshua added, “If only we had been content to remain east of the Jordan.” To his credit, Joshua threw himself into prayer before the Ark of the Covenant, thereby seeking God’s presence for his lament. To his discredit, Joshua attempted to lay the people’s defeat at the feet of God as God’s fault. Most of us are probably not so brazen as to blame God directly for our failures. However, we are adept at finding others or our circumstances to use as a scapegoat upon which to pass the blame. Shifting blame is never a substitute for confession and humble repentance.
Failing yet Reconsecrating (10–13)
God took the unusual step of commanding Joshua to stop praying, even though he was prostrate upon his face. In the face of a member of the community having violated his or her covenant with God, no amount of praying would avail until the sin was brought into the open and dealt with.
When God tells a person to stop praying, we can be sure something serious is afoot. When he stopped, Joshua heard God instruct him to begin consecrating the nation anew to God. Renewed devotion to God would entail dealing with Achan’s act of disobedience. Short of doing so, the people would not be able to stand against their enemies.
Failing and Being Confronted (16–21, 24–26)
Needed confrontation began on a wide scale and narrowed from tribe to clan to family. In the end, Achan and his family suffered severe punishment for the calamity brought on all the people by his sin. After being confronted, Achan confessed in a series of acknowledgements, “I saw … I coveted … and took” (21). You might recognize these verbs as similar to those used in Genesis 3:6 to describe Eve’s act of disobedience in the garden.
Although he was specific about what he had taken and forthright in his confession, sadly, Achan’s confession was too late. As a consequence of his actions, he and his family perished under a pelting with stones, followed by their bodies being burned with fire. The outcome emphasized God’s absolute demand for holiness for His people. The memorial that was raised over Achan consisted of a heap of stones, a monument to monumental disobedience. The place was named the Valley of Achor, meaning “valley of trouble.”
Spiritual defeat usually rides on the coattails of acts of disobedience. Sooner or later, awareness of that defeat dawns. At that point, we must make a choice. We can embark on blame-placing in an attempt to absolve ourselves of responsibility for our defeat, or we can confess our sins, accept God’s promised forgiveness and consecrate ourselves afresh to living in obedience to God’s revealed standards and commands. In choosing the latter course, we see the agony of defeat replaced by new prospects for the thrill of victory.