In chapter 6, the last verse says this, “So the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame was in all the land.” That’s the fulfillment of God’s initial promise to Joshua right there (Joshua 1:9). It’s a beautiful thing. It also highlights what happens later in chapter 7, though. Keep this in the back of your mind.
Israel is moving into the next battle with confidence early on in chapter 7. Why wouldn’t they? They just watched God hand them victory in Jericho, and they didn’t know there was any reason it wouldn’t continue. Verse 3 shows us just how confident they were - confident, not arrogant - as they suggested Joshua did not have to send the whole army up to defeat Ai.
It goes pretty sideways. Men die, the rest run in fear. Not exactly what anyone was expecting here.
>> When sin infiltrates the situation, things tend to go pretty sideways pretty quickly.
Things go sideways because when you invite sin in, you’re basically asking God to step out. God promised Joshua from the beginning that He’d be with them all the way - as long as they walked in obedience. Well, Achan transgressed the covenant and stole items under the ban. This presents a problem...
So in verse 12, when God says, “I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy the things under the ban from your midst” this is not God breaking His promise, this is God keeping His promise.
Sometimes we think grace means living however we want and having God pour out His favor and blessing anyway. We serve a gracious God, and sometimes He will, but that’s not an accurate picture of grace and that is not aligned with His character to do. Quite frankly, we’re fools to expect that.
>> In fact, sometimes God allows us to experience trials, loss, defeat to bring sin we tried to bury (v11) to the surface. That’s a gracious thing! He could very well just hand us over to our sin (Romans 1).
Now if we step back for a second, and look at Joshua’s conversation with the Lord, we can glean much.
After the people suffer defeat, Joshua is ignorant to the reason why at this point, and falls on his face in mourning where he has a very raw conversation with the Lord. He’s clearly frustrated, He’s clearly confused because this isn’t going how God promised. Joshua is basically saying, “God, I held up my end here, why are you letting this happen? This isn’t how I thought the promise would unfold.”
>> Ever been there? So done that you’re laying on the ground asking God why this doesn’t look how you thought it would? Me, too.
But more than that, even in this frustration, we see something very interesting. One of Joshua’s main concerns - and what I believe is the reason God responds how He does - was (v9) … “they will surround us and cut off Your name form the earth. And what will You do for Your great name?”
Joshua’s concern at the end of the day was not his pride, reputation, or even his people. It was the glorification of the Lord.
>> Let’s just pause for a moment and consider how much our lives would change if that was our greatest concern; the greatest cause of our frustration in life.
And the way this section of the story ends is a lesson we should inscribe on our hearts.
Joshua is on his face, talking - or sort of yelling - to the Lord. God meets him in that place, just as he is, and calls him to rise up. He explains that this happened because of sin, and gives him specific next steps to deal with it so they can proceed in victory and have God still be with them. What is Joshua’s response?
Immediate, complete obedience.
The result? Well, I’d encourage you to get into the book of Joshua and read through what happens next. Long story short, they make it to the Promised Land.
What we see in this passage is:
The damage sin causes to a person, to the body of Christ and even to a nation
A real, raw response to that sin from a man who is sold out and walking in obedience to the Lord
The graciousness and mercy of God displayed in a powerful way
The fruit of complete obedience
Ultimately we see that, regardless of our circumstance, when God speaks, our soul stands.