Only the young crossover. The sons of Israel, the men of war who came out of Egypt, had all perished “because they did not listen to the voice of the Lord…” (Deut. 2:4) This first generation who left Egypt failed to rely on Divine intervention. Man leaning on his own understanding reacts only to his own fears. Yet, God brought this second generation, children born on the Wilderness journey, into the Promised Land. There they celebrated the first Passover. The next day, the men submitted themselves to circumcision as a symbol of their covenant relationship with God, and to “roll away the reproach of Egypt…” (Josh. 5:9).
These sons of all the families who walked with Moses 40 years in the wilderness had learned to follow his God without the doubts, questions, and disobedience of their fathers. For these young men, too, had walked across dry land from the parting of the waters (the Jordan River crossing, Joshua 3:13); they too, had eaten the manna until the day after Passover in the Promised Land, and they, too, had to trust in God’s anointed, now Joshua, to intercede for them and to lead them.
So, when God instructed Joshua to take Jericho with Divine intervention, not one of the men argued or hesitated to obey. The armies of Israel marched once around the city of Jericho for six days, and then seven times around Jericho on the seventh day. They marched silently as instructed. Then on the completion of the seventh circling, the priests blew the trumpets, “and when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, that the people shouted with a great shout and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight ahead, and they took the city,” (Joshua 6:20). What a picture of fearlessness and confidence in their God! And “the Lord was with Joshua and his fame was in all the land,” (Joshua 6:27).
But during the victorious rout, one man tarnished the image of Israel’s faithfulness. Achan, from the tribe of Judah, hid a beautiful mantle, two hundred shekels of silver, and a bar of gold fifty shekels in his tent. In all the twelve tribes of Israel, only this one warrior disobeyed Joshua’s warning to “keep yourselves from the things under the ban, lest you covet them…so you would make the camp of Israel accursed and bring trouble on it,” (Joshua 6:18). Because of this man’s disobedience to the ban of hoarding the spoils of war, God’s presence was missing among the camp of Israel in the next battle waged against the city of Ai. There was no victory for Israel, and the Amorites sent thousands of Israelites running, killing at least thirty-six men during the failed attempt to invade their city. Confusion and doubt could have settled over the camp of Israel. However, Achan’s sin was not to be hidden long. The tears and prayers of Joshua and the elders of Israel were heard by God, and Achan was identified by a systematic ruling out of all others.
How fearful to all that one man was responsible for this loss of God’s Divine intervention and protection. The solemnity of the investigation must have been tense. The Lord identified the tribe by lot, then the family, then the household, and finally the man. The innocent feared what God had told Joshua, “I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy the things under the ban from your midst,” (Joshua 7:12). The man who committed the sin feared only the wrath to come upon him. He did not confess until he alone was singled out by lot. Then he heard Joshua speak these words, “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,” (Joshua 7:19).
I paused when I read these gracious words. Achan may have known what was to come, but for me, the unexpected, swift punishment seemed incongruent to Joshua’s earnest quest for truth that began with, “My son.” For then “… Joshua and all Israel with him, took Achan…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…to the valley…And all Israel stoned them…burned them…and covered them with a great heap of stones.”
I pondered this ending. Did Achan’s death give glory to God? Was Achan and his family able to praise God with cries for forgiveness? After the death of Achan and the destruction of the things under the ban, Israel was again right with God. “And the Lord turned from the fierceness of His anger,” (Joshua 7:26). I have lied on occasion; I have coveted what was not mine; I have born a false witness; and I have cowardly allowed another to take my deserved punishment. So, I am struck with the ferocity of His justice.
I live in an age of grace through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I live in a world where social expectations are far less strict and exacting; where we joke about or rationalize away our simple and serious lies, insensitive remarks, and defensive behaviors. Holy Spirit, convict me of whatever I think, speak, or do that would have deserved a punishment so severe. I fear only that I would grieve You, dear Lord God. Let me not think I can hide anything from You, and instead watch You watch me. Not in dread or in fear, but in confidence that You love me today. You rolled away my reproach when You came out of the tomb. Though I am far removed from that generation of Your chosen people who crossed into the Promised Land, I am young in my understanding of how You are changing me. But my delight is in the law of the Lord, and in Your law will I meditate day and night (Psalm 1:2). Keep me from temptation and evil. Be with me in my meditations, prayers, and daily walk. I pray for this, in Your great name, Jesus Christ, my Lord.