GET UP. WHY DO YOU CRY?
The fear of God’s people had fallen on all nations. Here is a mighty army of people! They were slaves in Egypt. There was no United Nations (UN) to negotiate their freedom; no Human Rights Commission to question the atrocities they were subjected to. But they were very miraculously delivered from the Egyptians, a mighty nation with chariots and horses in those days. It was not only their deliverance that was miraculous; their journey towards the Promised Land was equally miraculous. The news of their crossing the Red Sea on dry land and the drowning of the Egyptian army in the same Red Sea had spread far and wide. They had miraculously defeated every nation who went to battle with them on their way. Their whole journey all the way was a bundle of miracles. Manna in the desert, provision of meat overnight for a whole month, and water from the rock to quench their thirst were all miracles.
Balak, the Moabite king, hired Balaam to curse God’s people because the Moabites were afraid of them. Though Balaam could not curse them, he counselled to Balakon ways to bring a curse on them (Rev.2:14;Num 25:1).
Rahab’s words to the men who went to spy out Jericho also tell how afraid the people of Jericho were of the children of Israel. She says, “I know the Lord has given you the land; that the terror of you has fallen on us; that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you. For we have heard how the Lord has dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you.” And then she makes her personal faith statement,“For the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.”
But along with the miracles was another aspect, their holiness and their separation. During their long journey of 40 years, every sin was punished. The rebellion of Korahand party, and the offering of strange fire by Dathan and Abiram were all judged and punished immediately. They were afflicted with a plague whenever the children of Israel murmured, instead of trusting God for their needs.
With such diverse experiences, they finally arrived. The conquering of Jericho was even more amazing. They just walked around the city once every day for six days and seven times on the seventh day and then a loud shout; the invincible wall of Jericho city just fell flat. They conquered the city so easily. The people were exuberant. Their first battle in the land was won so easily.
But it was no time to relax. There are many more battles to be fought and won, and many more cities and nations to be conquered. So Joshua, their leader at this time, sent men to Ai, the next country to be conquered. Their report of spying was very encouraging. “There are very few people in Ai. Don’t trouble all our people. About two to three thousand is good enough.”So three thousand men from Israel went to fight Ai. But, to their utter horror, they lost the battle. They had to retreat. Thirty six of their men got killed. A most unexpected defeat! An unbelievable blow! “The heart of the people melted and became like water.”
Joshua thought it was the Lord who brought the defeat. He asked, “Alas Lord God, why have You brought this people over the Jordan at all, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us?” (Josh.7:7).
Do you also do the same? Blame God for your failures?
Joshua knew that it was a question of their survival and the name of the Lord. The surrounding nations, when they hear about the defeat of Israel at the hands of Ai, they would surround them and completely destroy them. He said, “Then what will You do for Your great name?” (Josh.7:8, 9).
Then the Lord spoke to Joshua. He said, “Get up! Why do you lie thus on your face?” The need of the hour is cleansing and not crying. He said there was sin among the people and that had caused that terrible defeat. God said, “Israel has sinned. They have stolen and deceived.” Also God told them that His presence could not be with them as long as sin remained among the people. So God said, “Get up, sanctify the people.They cannot stand before their enemies until they take away the accursed thing from among them.”
The culprit turned out to be one of their own, a man named Achan, from the tribe of Judah. The people had been strictly commanded not to take any spoil from Jericho. “You shall byall means abstain from the accursed thing, lest you become accursed when you take of the accursed things and make the camp of Israel a curse and trouble it” (Josh.6:18). But when Achan saw the beautiful Babylonian garment and the silver and gold bars in Jericho it was too much temptation for him. He ignored the command, like most of us when faced with a temptation, and took some booty and hid it in a pit in his camp.
The greed of one man brought about a terrible defeat to God’s people which could have possibly wiped them out from the face of the earth. The result of such a wilful disobedience was that Achan, the garment, the silver, the gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent and all that he had were destroyed at the valley of Achor (Josh.7:24). It was only after this cleansing that Joshua and the people could defeat and conquer Ai. They went to battle at the command of the Lord and won a terrific victory.
Romans 15:4 says, “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning that we, through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope.”
So, what do we learn from this incident?
1. One man’s sin is the sin of the whole assembly. God said, “Israel has sinned! ‘They’ have also transgressed the covenant which I commanded them. ‘They’ have even taken some of the accursed things.”
2. Maybe, what we need is cleansing, more than crying. So, stop crying, and do some introspection and cleansing.
3. No one is an island. Every one of us is a link in a chain. The chain is only as strong as the weakest link. Whatever each one does affect a whole lot of people; sometimes the very people for whose sake one is committing the very sin e.g., Achan.
4. God and sin do not co-exist. God’s power and presence cannot be with us when there is sin in our lives. The sin has to be dealt with and removed.