Joshua
Introduction 1 The Sin of Achan 2-5 The Defeat at Ai 6-9 Joshua Calls to the LORD 10-15 The Answer of the LORD 16-18 Achan Appointed 19-23 Achan Acknowledges His Sin 24-26 Achan Judged
Introduction

In this chapter we see the consequences of sin in the people of God. There is one man in Israel who has sinned, but God says that the whole people have been unfaithful and have transgressed (verses 1,111But the sons of Israel acted unfaithfully in regard to the things under the ban, for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah, took some of the things under the ban, therefore the anger of the LORD burned against the sons of Israel.11Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. And they have even taken some of the things under the ban and have both stolen and deceived. Moreover, they have also put [them] among their own things.). If sin is present in His people, God cannot go on with them. Israel discovers that to its loss. Ai is so small in their eyes, that according to them the whole people do not have to go up against it. Their previous victory over Jericho and the sin committed in their midst make them self-confident and independent of God.

By their defeat Joshua goes to the LORD to ask Him for the cause of it. The answer is that it comes from sin in their midst and that it must first be removed. Even in this day and age we can only count on the presence of the Lord Jesus in the church if we respond to the instruction: “Remove the wicked man from among yourselves” (1Cor 5:13b13But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.).

The difference between Joshua 6 and Joshua 7 is that in Joshua 6 we see the power of God and in Joshua 7 we see the weakness of man, also of the believer. The weakness of the people is expressed in two ways: Achan takes from what is under the ban and Joshua under-estimate the enemy.

The walls of Jericho did not fall by the power of man, but by faith in the power of God. They had to experience for a week that a victory does not depend on them, but on God. This has been an encouraging start. But the impression that the people gained there was short-lived.

It is with it as with us. We can have a beautiful religious experience one day and fail the next. The presence of Him Who gives the victory also asks for holiness.


The Sin of Achan

1But the sons of Israel acted unfaithfully in regard to the things under the ban, for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah, took some of the things under the ban, therefore the anger of the LORD burned against the sons of Israel.

The people are only just in the land or sin reveals itself. That is how it went in the church as long when it has only just come into being: Ananias and Sapphira cheat the church and lie against the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:1-31But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property,2and kept back [some] of the price for himself, with his wife’s full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet.3But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back [some] of the price of the land?). So it has always gone with everything that God has given to man for good and in grace. When something is trusted to the responsibility of man, he has corrupted it after a short time. We see this, for example, in paradise and at the institution of the Priesthood.

Achan violates the commandment (Jos 6:1818But as for you, only keep yourselves from the things under the ban, so that you do not covet [them] and take some of the things under the ban, and make the camp of Israel accursed and bring trouble on it.) and does not think about the consequences for his family and for the people. When sin is committed, others are often dragged into its consequences. You do not go the way away from God alone. Often the condition of the believer is also a reflection of the family from which he originates. He is formed by it. Maybe that is why the whole family of Achan is mentioned.

We can also remember that in Achan the whole people commit this act of unfaithfulness. Anger burned against the whole people. The principle is that what one of us does is not without consequences for others. The mass must pay if such evil is present among the people. It defiles the whole people.

This evil appears when the whole people are weak. These things are connected. Where there is weakness, evil gets a chance and when there is evil, the power is gone. The previous day’s trust in God is no guarantee of trust for today. Achan can do this because the whole people are weak. When evil manifests itself, we must ask ourselves how it has been possible, in which we have failed.


The Defeat at Ai

2Now Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth-aven, east of Bethel, and said to them, “Go up and spy out the land.” So the men went up and spied out Ai. 3They returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not let all the people go up; [only] about two or three thousand men need go up to Ai; do not make all the people toil up there, for they are few.” 4So about three thousand men from the people went up there, but they fled from the men of Ai. 5The men of Ai struck down about thirty-six of their men, and pursued them from the gate as far as Shebarim and struck them down on the descent, so the hearts of the people melted and became as water.

Joshua gives a command without consulting the LORD. He also sends men out from Jericho and not from Gilgal. Is this already an indication of the cause of sin? The sinful flesh comes to light, also in Joshua. Here we read what happens to the people when they are not led by the LORD. The lesson for us is that we often pretend not to need prayer when, in our eyes, there are small problems. But then we forget that behind small problems lie enormous powers. The humiliation does not fail.

Ai means ‘mess’. It is at Beth-aven that means ‘house of evil’. After the spying out of Ai a conclusion of the human mind follows. Did they not learn from Jericho that everything depends on God? Has the enemy now become so weak that they can handle it themselves and need little effort to do so? No one is killed in Jericho, but in this small city a great defeat is suffered. They lose the battle against Ai who also costs the lives of about thirty-six of their men.

In the number thirty-six we can recognize the government of God. Thirty-six is three times twelve. Three is the number of the triune God and twelve is the number of government. We can apply this to the abuses in the church in Corinth of which Paul, in view of the reign of God, says: “For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep” (1Cor 11:3030For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep.). Nor are they necessarily the most to blame. It is about learning from our failure, a failure that sometimes kills others.

Now the hearts of the people of God and not of the enemies melt (cf. Jos 2:9,119and said to the men, “I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before you.11When we heard [it], our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.; 5:11Now it came about when all the kings of the Amorites who [were] beyond the Jordan to the west, and all the kings of the Canaanites who [were] by the sea, heard how the LORD had dried up the waters of the Jordan before the sons of Israel until they had crossed, that their hearts melted, and there was no spirit in them any longer because of the sons of Israel.). Fear melts the heart if we do not go our way with the Lord.


Joshua Calls to the LORD

6Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the LORD until the evening, [both] he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust on their heads. 7Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord GOD, why did You ever bring this people over the Jordan, [only] to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? If only we had been willing to dwell beyond the Jordan! 8O Lord, what can I say since Israel has turned [their] back before their enemies? 9For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it, and they will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will You do for Your great name?”

In the conquest of Jericho the ark took the central place. When attacking Ai we hear nothing of the ark. After the defeat Joshua seeks the ark to humiliate himself before the LORD. He lies before the LORD in humility and prays till the evening, if the LORD will make it clear what is going on.

Yet his prayer also shows some reproach, as if God is responsible for the defeat. This does not come from faith. As if God does not have the best for His people, but wants to kill them. In the same way, we can also react to difficulties that affect us, which is due to going our own way.

Joshua also speaks of the name of Israel as an important name, although He also points to the “great name” of God (verse 99For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it, and they will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will You do for Your great name?”). What happens by our name is our own fault, but it is only truly embarrassing when the Name of God is also insulted by our behavior. The enemies may think that God is not strong enough to help His people.


The Answer of the LORD

10So the LORD said to Joshua, “Rise up! Why is it that you have fallen on your face? 11Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. And they have even taken some of the things under the ban and have both stolen and deceived. Moreover, they have also put [them] among their own things. 12Therefore the sons of Israel cannot stand before their enemies; they turn [their] backs before their enemies, for they have become accursed. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy the things under the ban from your midst. 13Rise up! Consecrate the people and say, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, for thus the LORD, the God of Israel, has said, “There are things under the ban in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you have removed the things under the ban from your midst.” 14In the morning then you shall come near by your tribes. And it shall be that the tribe which the LORD takes [by lot] shall come near by families, and the family which the LORD takes shall come near by households, and the household which the LORD takes shall come near man by man. 15It shall be that the one who is taken with the things under the ban shall be burned with fire, he and all that belongs to him, because he has transgressed the covenant of the LORD, and because he has committed a disgraceful thing in Israel.’”

Joshua receives an answer while he is still speaking (cf. Isa 65:2424It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear.; Dan 9:2020Now while I was speaking and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God in behalf of the holy mountain of my God,). God tells him to rise up. The matter has become clear, as has Joshua’s mindset. Now is the time to act. God is going to reveal evil. The people have sinned and must get rid of evil from their midst.

Sin is never just a matter for the person alone. If sin is not judged, it defiles the whole. We are not only dealing with ourselves. The Lord’s Table is precisely the expression of unity. Therefore, the evil must be removed (1Cor 5:13b13But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.), otherwise the Lord can no longer be in the midst of His people. If they let exist the ban in their midst, God can no longer be in their midst (verse 1212Therefore the sons of Israel cannot stand before their enemies; they turn [their] backs before their enemies, for they have become accursed. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy the things under the ban from your midst.).

Sin is present and therefore the power of God is no longer found with them. God cannot make Himself one with sin. God does not say that they will remain weak, but that Israel will not be able to stand before their enemies. This is a sad change, for God has said before: “No man will [be able] to stand before you” (Jos 1:55No man will [be able] to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.). Removing sin means standing on God’s side in relation to evil. When that happens, the relationship between God and the whole is restored to its normal state.


Achan Appointed

16So Joshua arose early in the morning and brought Israel near by tribes, and the tribe of Judah was taken. 17He brought the family of Judah near, and he took the family of the Zerahites; and he brought the family of the Zerahites near man by man, and Zabdi was taken. 18He brought his household near man by man; and Achan, son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah, was taken.

Again Joshua, as we regularly read of him, arises early (verse 1616So Joshua arose early in the morning and brought Israel near by tribes, and the tribe of Judah was taken.; Jos 3:11Then Joshua rose early in the morning; and he and all the sons of Israel set out from Shittim and came to the Jordan, and they lodged there before they crossed.; 6:1212Now Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the LORD.; 8:1010Now Joshua rose early in the morning and mustered the people, and he went up with the elders of Israel before the people to Ai.). There should not be waited with this case. What happened in Israel can also happen in our conscience. If God makes something clear to our conscience as sin, it will paralyze us if we do not condemn it immediately.

To reveal evil, God goes a certain way. By the way He does so, each member of the whole people is personally placed before God. We see this in the “man by man” (verse 1717He brought the family of Judah near, and he took the family of the Zerahites; and he brought the family of the Zerahites near man by man, and Zabdi was taken.). We also see it with the disciples, after the Lord has said that one of them will betray Him. They then ask each one of them personally: “Surely not I, Lord?” (Mt 26:21-2221As they were eating, He said, “Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me.”22Being deeply grieved, they each one began to say to Him, “Surely not I, Lord?”). When there is evil in the church I have to ask: ‘What is the situation with me? Is there also evil in our house?

To make sin public Joshua follows exactly the directions the LORD has given (verse 1414In the morning then you shall come near by your tribes. And it shall be that the tribe which the LORD takes [by lot] shall come near by families, and the family which the LORD takes shall come near by households, and the household which the LORD takes shall come near man by man.). Achan cannot escape his discovery. From the beginning he had the opportunity to come up with his evil instead of waiting for the moment he had to confess it. Then there is no longer question of any voluntary action. He is forced to do so. Therefore the confession of Achan has not much value.

While each time the lot is cast, Achan follows its course. He sees how his indication as the guilty one is coming ever closer. Yet he waits till the lot points him personally out. Sin hardens and blinds us to the infallible course of God’s righteousness. Sin will always think that there is a way out to prevent sin from being made public. Sin does not take God into account and even believes that God does not see sin (Psa 94:77They have said, “The LORD does not see,
Nor does the God of Jacob pay heed.”
).

Achan belongs to the royal tribe of Judah. The fact that this sin has happened among them will save them from boasting of their importance. Blots in families that are held in esteem must work a humble mind.


Achan Acknowledges His Sin

19Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, I implore you, give glory to the LORD, the God of Israel, and give praise to Him; and tell me now what you have done. Do not hide it from me.” 20So Achan answered Joshua and said, “Truly, I have sinned against the LORD, the God of Israel, and this is what I did: 21when I saw among the spoil a beautiful mantle from Shinar and two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold fifty shekels in weight, then I coveted them and took them; and behold, they are concealed in the earth inside my tent with the silver underneath it.” 22So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent; and behold, it was concealed in his tent with the silver underneath it. 23They took them from inside the tent and brought them to Joshua and to all the sons of Israel, and they poured them out before the LORD.

If the lot has appointed Achan, Joshua doesn’t ask if Achan did it. It is clear, for God has spoken. But Joshua doesn’t start cursing him, nor does he address him with ‘thief’. It is not appropriate to approach in this way a member of God’s people who is deluded by sin and even hardened. Such an approach reveals a total lack of self-knowledge. Indignation over sin must not lead to a loss of self-control.

By addressing Achan as “my son” Joshua lets hear the connection in which he sees himself to Achan. He doesn’t feel better than Achan. Yet sin must be acknowledged and judged. If Joshua urges Achan to give God the honor, it is more a command than a request. God is honored when the whole truth is confessed. Every human being will be forced to do this (Phil 2:10-1110so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,11and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.).

In the confession of Achan we see the way on which one comes to sin. It is ancient history: seeing, coveting and taking (Gen 3:66When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make [one] wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.; 1Jn 2:1616For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.; Jam 1:14-1514But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.15Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.).

The LORD only says that there is stolen (verse 1111Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. And they have even taken some of the things under the ban and have both stolen and deceived. Moreover, they have also put [them] among their own things.), but He does not say what has been stolen. He wants the transgressor to do this. Achan mentions the stolen goods by their name (verse 2121when I saw among the spoil a beautiful mantle from Shinar and two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold fifty shekels in weight, then I coveted them and took them; and behold, they are concealed in the earth inside my tent with the silver underneath it.”). God does not want a general confession, but He wants us to mention sin by its name. In this way someone is forced to give back to God what he has stolen from Him (Job 20:1515“He swallows riches,
But will vomit them up;
God will expel them from his belly.
).

What belongs to the LORD, Achan has stolen for himself. Just as it was in the wrong hands with Jericho, so it is in the wrong hands with Achan. Just like the world, the people of God can also use the things that belong to the LORD for themselves. The Lord gives gifts, abilities. He wants us to use them for Him, to add them to the treasure of the LORD (Jos 6:1919But all the silver and gold and articles of bronze and iron are holy to the LORD; they shall go into the treasury of the LORD.”). The sin of Achan can also be found with us. Then we adorn ourselves with what belongs to the Lord, we draw attention to ourselves, seek our own honor, we want to please people and not the Lord.

The first thing Achan calls, is “a beautiful mantle from Shinar”. His words seem to reveal that even now he still regrets having to return this mantle. Although he does not apologize, there is no evidence anywhere that he regrets his act. This kind of people worries more about the fact that they have been discovered than that they see what they have done. They also have no eye for the harmful consequences that their actions have for others.

Pride and haughtiness are connected with Shinar or Babel. We can see that from the city and the tower that was built there (Gen 11:4,94They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top [will reach] into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”9Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth.). In Babel lies also the origin of idolatry: she is “THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH” (Rev 17:55and on her forehead a name [was] written, a mystery, “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.”). The term “abominations” refers to idols. The “mantle from Shinar” speaks of a religion that is practiced only for the satisfaction of the flesh. It has a beautiful appearance, but there is no life out of and for God present. We cloth ourselves with a “mantle from Shinar” when we give our religion a beautiful shape that is attractive to people of the world.

The second thing Achan calls, is silver. The atonement money is half a shekel of silver (Exo 30:1515The rich shall not pay more and the poor shall not pay less than the half shekel, when you give the contribution to the LORD to make atonement for yourselves.; 38:2525The silver of those of the congregation who were numbered was 100 talents and 1,775 shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary;). Silver refers to the price paid for redemption. In the hands of Achan this means that there is a profession of being saved, while there has been no repentance of sins and no conversion to God. It applies to Christians who presumptuously claim to have been saved by virtue of fulfilling certain institutions, such as baptism and Supper, or by belonging to a certain denomination or covenant.

The third thing Achan calls is a bar of gold or ‘a golden tongue’. Gold represents the glory of God. To ‘a golden tongue’ the thought of speaking about the things of God without the heart having a part in them is connected. Liberal theologians have “a golden tongue”, but “With their tongues they keep deceiving,” “The poison of asps is under their lips” (Rom 3:1313“Their throat is an open grave, With their tongues they keep deceiving,” “The poison of asps is under their lips”;). It sounds pleasant and biblical to speak of a God of love, but if one does not speak of God as being light, one speaks with a ‘golden tongue’.

Achan has “concealed” these things “in the earth”. This speaks of a use of things for oneself, in connection with life on earth, without seeking the rights of the Lord. He resembles the unfaithful slave, about whom the Lord Jesus speaks in a parable (Mt 25:1818But he who received the one [talent] went away, and dug [a hole] in the ground and hid his master’s money.). Achan also suffers the fate of that slave, who the Lord calls “wicked, lazy slave” and also “worthless slave” (Mt 25:26,3026“But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no [seed].30Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.).


Achan Judged

24Then Joshua and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, the silver’, the mantle, the bar of gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent and all that belonged to him; and they brought them up to the valley of Achor. 25Joshua said, “Why have you troubled us? The LORD will trouble you this day.” And all Israel stoned them with stones; and they burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones. 26They raised over him a great heap of stones that stands to this day, and the LORD turned from the fierceness of His anger. Therefore the name of that place has been called the valley of Achor to this day.

All of Israel is defiled and must now clean itself. That can only happen, because all exercise judgment. In the same way, the removal of the evil from the midst of the church is a matter for the whole church (2Cor 2:66Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which [was inflicted] by the majority,; 7:11b11For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter.). All are responsible for it, each must act accordingly after personal exercise before God and ask Him how things as to their own mind and their own life.

It is good to keep in mind the difference between discipline in Israel and Christian discipline. Christian discipline always has the recovery of the soul in mind. Even if the evil person is to be surrendered to Satan by Paul, it is “for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus“ (1Cor 5:55[I have decided] to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.). This is a powerful reason to exercise discipline according to the measure of our spiritual strength, because we cannot go beyond that. We always have to humble ourselves before God, before and so that evil is removed.

Achan has the stolen stuff concealed in his tent. Because all his family members have to die with him, they will have known about it and therefore become co-responsible. Everything that is connected with Achan is judged. The execution of the judgment takes place in the valley of Achor, which is named after this event. Achor means ‘misery’. This is what Achan brought among the people. Achan means ‘he who brings confusion, restlessness’. He was “the troubler of Israel” and brought misery upon the people (1Chr 2:77The son of Carmi [was] Achar, the troubler of Israel, who violated the ban.).

But in Hosea the LORD speaks about that He will give “the valley of Achor as a door of hope” where the people will sing “as in the days of her youth, As in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt” (Hos 2:1515“Then I will give her her vineyards from there,
And the valley of Achor as a door of hope.
And she will sing there as in the days of her youth,
As in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt.
). Where judgment has been exercised, the door is opened to a hopeful future. In the future God will spiritually bring His people back to that valley. The people will judge themselves, acknowledge their sins and be accepted again by God as His people. Hope is always present where people are aware of their misery and take refuge to the Lord Jesus.

We must fear sin, but let us never fear the bitterness of its discovery, nor the discipline. For from that moment on God wants us to receive His blessing again. If there is faithfulness and obedience, God will never fail to reveal and take away what prevents the blessing of His people.


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