Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth before the ark of the Lord. He said to the Lord, “Why did you bring us here only to deliver us into the hands of our enemies to destroy us?”
Joshua had successfully led the Israelites to overtake the city of Jericho by obeying God. Joshua and the army didn’t even have to go to battle, they marched around the city for seven days and then shouted in unison, and the city walls fell. After that, the army just walked right into the city and took it over.
As they went on to take over the next city, the tables turned, and they ended up running away in fear from the bloody battle and lost the fight.
What happened? God had told them not to fear or be dismayed and to be strong and courageous because He would be with them in the fight.
Something went terribly wrong.
Listen to God
Here’s a quick recap of how Joshua ended up as the leader of the Israelites.
God chose Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, where they were enslaved people and foreigners, to the land of their ancestors, the promised land.
Unfortunately, due to the disobedience of the Israelites, the trip took 40 years. As a result, all the original people died in the wilderness, and Moses died within view of the promised land. So, God chose Joshua to lead the people over the Jordan river to the promised land by the city of Jericho.
There is so much to learn in chapters 6 – 8 of Joshua, I encourage you to read these three chapters and put yourself in the story. Think of yourself as Joshua, an Israelite or even a citizen of Jericho. What would you think, what would you do, what would you say?
The Lord instructs Joshua on how to take over the city of Jericho. He tells Joshua that He has given the city into his hands, to be strong and courageous, not to fear or be dismayed, and to follow this instruction. He was to lead a march around the city walls of Jericho once a day for six days.
The order of the march would be the priests first, the army, the ark of the covenant, and the rear guard last. They were to march in silence, not let a word proceed from their mouths until the day Joshua told them to shout. On the seventh day, they are to march around the city seven times. Then the priests will blow their trumpets with a long blast, and all the people will shout, and the city wall will fall.
Obey God even if it isn’t what you thought would happen
God gave him specific instructions, the order of the march, how many times and in silence. God is in the details. Every step and action is perfectly planned if only we would obey. Note the order they walked. The ark of the covenant was another symbol of the Lord to show the people this is who we are and who we follow.
I wonder what the army men thought about the march. “We’re here to fight, not march, and for seven days! The city is big! It’s a long walk. So, let’s just fight and get it over with already!”
The residents of Jericho were probably peering over the city walls at them, scratching their heads. The people must have thought this was strange. Why is the army marching around? They are intimidating! They are fools!”
Obey God, do not fear or be dismayed
Nevertheless, Joshua led the army and obeyed God’s detailed instructions. He didn’t care if people grumbled or complained or if the people of Jericho laughed or ran. He knew how important it was to obey God with his actions and words.
On the seventh day, before the march and shout, Joshua told everyone not to covet anything in the land they would occupy. They could only take the gold, silver, bronze, and iron for the Lord’s treasury. Any other item was banned. Taking an article under the ban would bring evil into the Israelite camp.
So, on the seventh day, the army walked around the city, and Joshua instructed them to shout. As the men shouted, the city walls fell, and they walked in and took over the city.
Consequences of not obeying God
A man named Achan was in the battle and coveted a few things he saw in the city. He saw and wanted a beautiful mantel, 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold which was 50 shekels in weight. He lusted with his eyes for something forbidden to him, took the items back to the Israelite camp, and buried them inside his tent.
God knew what Achan had done and His anger burned against Israel. Unknowing what Achan had done, Joshua led the army in taking over the next city of Ai. Unfortunately, they lost the battle and ended up running away in fear from the bloody battle and lost soldiers and the fight.
Joshua and the elders were in great distress and cried out to God. Why had this happened? We thought, Lord, that you would be with us.
The Lord told Joshua someone had taken items under the ban inside the Israelite camp, and now the camp was cursed. Therefore, the items must be discovered and destroyed, and they must consecrate or cleanse themselves of this evil. So, Joshua sent out word that the next day he was coming out tribe by tribe, tent by tent, and person by person until they found out who stole the items.
A missed opportunity?
Perhaps God gave Achan a chance to repent and cleanse himself, but Achan didn’t. Instead, he waited for Joshua to come and find him in his sin. Maybe Achan could have confessed his sin, destroyed his stolen items, and consecrated himself by following sacrifice rules to cleanse himself.
Well, as the story goes, when Joshua came up to Achan, he admitted that he coveted what he saw, took them, and buried them in his tent. But unfortunately, he, his family, and all his possessions were killed and destroyed.
two lessons for life
First, do not covet or lust after forbidden, unnecessary, or foolish things. Think about the why behind your desire. Does your heart desire this thing because someone else has it, or will it make you look good, or does it fill an empty hole in you?
Ask God for help to overcome the temptation.
Second, when we sin (we all do,) immediately ask for forgiveness and stop/get rid of the sin from your life. There are consequences for our sins, but to repent first is way better than never repenting.
You think you may be hiding your sin from everyone but not from God.
God gives us the winning strategy
Now that Joshua had the evil purged from the camp, he refocused on taking over Ai. Again, God told Joshua not to fear or not be dismayed and gave Joshua the winning strategy for his army to follow in the battle.
God told Joshua to ambush the city from behind and set up a decoy at the front gates to pull the people out of the city.
Joshua and the army did precisely as the Lord commanded, winning the battle. The strategy worked perfectly.
After winning the war, Joshua built an altar for the Lord and gathered all the people. He read the book of the law to all the people. There wasn’t a word of Moses not spoken to all the people that day.
Joshua took this opportunity to remind the people how they got there, who was responsible for their victory, and never to forget to worship and obey God.
Listen, obey God, show, and tell
The battle at Jericho is the story of listening, obeying, showing, and telling. They listened to God’s instruction, obeyed God by marching around Jericho, showed the people of Jericho who they were by carrying the ark of the covenant, and with their voices, told them who they were.
God gives us the winning strategy to fight against all our adversaries, but we must obey Him and be in His word daily to hear from Him. By God’s hand, battles are won, not men, not of ourselves or our grand ideas. Carry out the plan of God in obedience without fear, no matter what men say or the look on their faces. Take action and move forward without fear.
So we know God no longer speaks to us as he spoke to Moses or Joshua. So, how do we hear from God and understand His instructions? We read His word. Reading His word through the stories in the Bible is for our instruction.
Even though we live under a new covenant of grace through Jesus, the lessons shared in Joshua apply to us today. Take in God’s word through reading and studying the Bible, and then live out the His instructions in your actions and words.
Sweet bytes of life:
- Hear from God by reading His word.
- Obey God in your actions and then share God with your words.
- Do not covet or lust that which is forbidden for you.
- Repent, ask for forgiveness, and cleanse/remove/stop yourself of the sin and obey God.