From Jericho to Ai

“ And Joshua said, “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? Oh, that we had been content, and dwelt on the other side of the Jordan! O Lord, what shall I say when Israel turns its back before its enemies? For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear it, and surround us, and cut off our name from the earth. Then what will You do for Your great name?


So the Lord said to Joshua: “Get up! Why do you lie thus on your face?  Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. For they have even taken some of the accursed things, and have both stolen and deceived; and they have also put it among their own stuff.” 


                                                            Joshua 7:7-11         


I started reading the book of Joshua after Jack had shared the name of their new band in church a couple of weeks ago. The awesome destruction of Jericho under the mighty hand of the Lord happens in chapter 6, positioning Israel as a force to be reckoned with and Joshua, a battle strategist whose fame “spread throughout all the country” because the Lord was with him. Chapter 6 ends on a very high note.


With a sense of foreboding, chapter 7 starts off with the word “But”, introducing a shift and invoking the tagline from the ABC Wide World of Sports “the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat”, with the footage of the downhill skier missing his jump (I know I’m dating myself with that reference but still… the memories, hmm?). We learn that one of the Israelites took something from the spoils of the defeat of Jericho, something he was expressly forbidden to take as the Lord had declared it “accursed,” and so the Lord “burned against the children of Israel.”


We read how Joshua sent a small contingent of men to attack the city of Ai, on the advice of his scouts, that 36 men were killed by the men of Ai, and how the remaining 3,000 men retreated from the battle. Unsurprisingly, Joshua reacted to the defeat in despair, tearing his clothes and falling prostrate before the ark, and implored the Lord for an explanation for His abandonment of Israel (verse 7 above).

How many of us can relate? How many of us have stepped out under the direction of the Lord, have experienced victory over something with His help, and then faced a situation that turned out completely different to what you expected, though you were certain you were following His lead? What gives?


You’ll notice that the Lord’s response is one of objective fact: someone disobeyed the His commandment to not take anything that was accursed, which was a sin. He then instructs Joshua to sanctify the people the next day and bring them tribe by tribe, clan by clan, all the way down to man by man before the Lord. Joshua did so, and the person who took the items confessed his sin. He paid the price for His sin with his life, as the Lord said would happen if someone took of the accursed spoils.


What struck me when I read this passage was the thought of how quick we are, like Joshua, to question the Lord’s motives for changing the plan or understanding, when the very thing that caused the change of plan was some sin within us? The Lord is constant and unchanging. His word is everlasting. He says what He means and He means what He says. If He says don’t do something, and we do that thing, we were the ones who caused the plans or things to change.


Sometimes, however, it’s not always that easy to recognize our sin, or we’ve justified it somehow, or hidden deep down inside of us. Sin’s very nature separates us from God, so it’s not a surprise that “plans change” when we sin, because we have caused them to change.


The beauty of where we are as people living within the New Covenant is that we can ask the Holy Spirit to help us identify the sin that is keeping us from a closer walk with Him. The Holy Spirit can convict us of that sin, and the Lord Jesus’s death on the cross has taken away sin’s penalty of death and everlasting separation from God.


Prayer Requests

  • For those reading this whom we’ve not seen in church for a while. We miss you, pray for you, and hope to see you soon, and if not, we hope that you have found a church home and are continuing in your faith walk. Please know that there is no judgment or guilt in this statement.
  • For caretakers who selflessly take care of loved ones
  • For those who are consumed with worry – may it not be so, and may they find peace and trust in our heavenly Father
  • For unity within the body of Christ
  • For us to be His church and follow His will, regardless of the cost


I would do well to follow God’s objective statement of fact when Joshua failed against him. My very human response would have been something like, “Now look here, dude! I’m not the one who did anything wrong—you did! Capiche?”




“Legalistic remorse says, “I broke God’s rules,” while real repentance says, “I broke God’s heart.” — Tim Keller


“I wonder how many Christian people could have their biographies condensed into this line: ‘He lived to make Christ known.’”                                                                                                      –Charles Spurgeon