Readers of this blog will know that I usually keep the scripture short and to the point. But my reading for today led me to this fascinating story in Joshua 7. I encourage you to read the entire story, but first let me give 500 years of backstory in a paragraph.
The Israelites had been slaves in Egypt when Moses obeyed God’s will to leave the palace of the Pharaoh and to lead the people out of the slavery and into the wilderness. What should have been a short trip to a promised future turned out to be a prolonged wandering through the desert because the people failed to obey God’s will. Therefore, the original Israelites all died off, and Joshua took the next generation through the Jordan River into the promised land. As they began to take possession of God’s land, He helped them conquer Jericho through a miraculous feat. This new crop of Israelites had received what they were promised by God and began to settle in. That is when we come to chapter 7.
So, in a way, things looked like they had been heading in a tremendously successful direction for the Israelites, from slavery through a wilderness period and into the promised land. They were learning along the way to devote themselves and their lives to God–trusting Him to provide even their basic nourishment. In the promised land, however, things changed–and we discover that the real enemy is within.
From this story, I can see the temptation of pride creeping into our lives through our misaligned success.
7:2 Joshua had been instructed by God to capture Jericho…He sent the spies to Ai without the Lord’s direction. He was going to lead boldly…but without God.
7:3 Joshua had calculated that this would not require much effort, but the fact that they faced any resistance shattered their immature faith.
When Joshua surveyed the city of Ai, he thought they could easily overtake this puny town, and told the people to take it easy and “do not weary yourselves, for only a few men are there.” As a leader, he let them down because he made it sound too easy.
They had just captured Jericho–a stronghold–with very little effort; this time, they came strutting into town. However, when 3000 men went up to take Ai, “they were routed by the men of Ai.” We are then told 36 of the 3000 were killed. Not much of a “rout,” however for the burgeoning pride of Israel the fact they lost any soldiers crumbled their ego–it should have been easy and not required any effort. They weren’t used to losing, and neither was Joshua.
7:7 In the face of calamity, Joshua starts to question God’s plan and to feel sorry for himself, whining “Why me God?”
7:10-12 God responds with a harsh word, not the gooey-Hallmarkian response people expect from the all loving Lord. He tells them to Stand Up, and then to search themselves to destroy whatever idols they have been relying on other than Him.
7:26 In the end, the Israelites build a stone memorial for Achan–who had caused the defeat due to his plundering the treasures of Jericho, a contrast to the stone monument built in verse 4:9. Both remain to this day…one reminds the people of our human tendency for disobedience, greed and self-preservation; the other reminds the people of God’s provision and persistent pursuit of us.
What type of memorial are you building with your life?