Joshua 7: The Thrill of Victory. The Agony of Defeat.

Joshua 7:  The Thrill of Victory. The Agony of Defeat.

The book of Joshua is comparable to the New Testament book of Ephesians in that both books have to do with our inheritance in the Lord. In Joshua, we see the nation of Israel entering into Canaan to take possession of their inheritance. In Ephesians, Paul tells us what we have inherited in Christ Jesus and what is rightfully ours.  Canaan represents the fullness of our salvation, the abundant spirit-filled life.

It is also important we understand- Jericho is a picture of the world. Ai, the small town, which we will read about today represents the flesh. There is the thrill of victory in Canaan, the Promised Land. But there is also the agony of defeat in the land of Canaan. And we will see how Ai can defeat us, if we are not careful.

How do we overcome the world? “..For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” (I John 5)

How do we deal with the flesh? “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature (the flesh): sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed which is idolatry. (Colossians 3)

We will do well to remember these verses as we observe what happens in today’s lesson.

In our last lesson, we left Joshua and the nation of Israel making their last march around the city of Jericho.  Joshua had given some last minute commands and instructions regarding the sparing of Rahab and her family, and the admonition to not take any of the valuables, (gold and silver) or otherwise they would bring about their own destruction and make the camp of Israel liable to destruction.

Verse 21 tells us: “They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it- men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep, and donkeys.”  This is a most difficult passage for us as Christians.

We do not like to read this account do we? Our old nature, the flesh, wants to rise up and say this is too harsh.  We must understand as best we can- God’s Wrath, and God as Judge. We tend to separate the God of the Old Testament from the God of the New Testament as pictured in the life of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. But we cannot escape the fact which tells us God is the same today as He was yesterday, including in the Old Testament, and will be the same tomorrow.  We will approach God’s role and position as Judge first then His wrath.

We view God as our Heavenly Father, loving, kind, wise and merciful.  We view Him as a King and we are His subjects.  He is our Shepherd and we are the sheep of His flock.  We even view Him as our Bridegroom and we are his bride.  Yet God is Judge. He is Judge of the earth, He is judge of all.

A judge is a person with authority. The Lord Jesus will be our final judge and He claims all authority has been given to Him on earth and in heaven.

A judge is a person identified with what is good and right. Only God, alone, is good.

A judge is a person of wisdom who can discern truth. God has all knowledge, all power, all wisdom and majesty. Nothing can escape Him; He knows the heart of men, He cannot be deceived.

A judge is a person who has the power to execute the sentence.  God is always just and fair.

Let us consider God’s past judgements:

In Genesis we see: God judged Adam and Eve for their disobedience.  God judged the corrupt world in the day of Noah and destroyed all except for Noah and his family. God judged Sodom and Gomorrah. In Exodus God judged Egypt with the ten plagues- and they received warning after warning. God judged His own people, the Israelites for the Golden Calf incident and had the Levites killed 3,000 with their swords. (Now if you will be honest with yourself, you will probably discover you are more offended by this passage in Joshua than you are the fact God destroyed all of mankind except for 8 souls in the Flood. Why is that?  Because we think of floods and destructive storms as something different. Impersonal. Yet insurance companies refer to these disasters as ‘Acts of God.’ And these actions in Joshua 6 are also ‘acts of God. )

And here in Joshua, we read: “They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed every living thing in it, – men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.”  The wages of sin is death. And death is 100% in every generation.  When someone dies we usually associate a condition with their death: accident, sickness, i.e., cancer- heart attacks, stroke, etc. Yet there is only one reason for death and only one cause of death- sin. God is the author of life and only God has the right to take a life.

Perhaps when you read these verses or similar verses- you cringe that God has done this.

Now you might be thinking- well those are all Old Testament stories.  Yet in the New Testament, the coming wrath of God is a common theme. And in Revelation we see the wrath of God poured out upon the earth.

In Matthew 21, Jesus speaking to the chief priests and the elders tells them they have rejected the capstone and here is their judgement: “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God is taken away from you and given to the people who will produce fruit. He who falls on the stone will broken in pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.” Matthew 21: 42-44) God judged Ananias and Sapphira for lying to God and struck them dead in Acts 5.  The Christians at Corinth were struck with sickness, some fatal, for their gross irreverence in connection with the Lord’s Supper.

Jesus as Judge over all is clearly portrayed in Matthew 25 (Jesus speaking): “The Son of Man will sit on a throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, take your inheritance. Then He will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire.’

The wrath of God is a subject we do not like to talk about.  However, a study of your concordance will reveal there are more references to God’s anger, fury and wrath than there are to references to His love and tenderness.

Wrath is defined as: “deep, intense anger and indignation.’ Anger is defined as ‘stirring of resentful displeasure and strong antagonism, by a sense of injury or insult’. Indignation is defined as ‘righteous anger aroused by injustice and baseness.”   Wrath, righteous anger, is an attribute of God.

God’s anger is not a lack of self-control. It is not, as we often refer to it, as ‘blowing your stack.’ God is angry where anger is called for. His wrath is not cruel. His wrath is measured and judicial.

We do not hear much preaching about the wrath of God. Nor do we want to draw attention to such verses as we find in Joshua 6.  The subject of God’s Wrath is not popular in our modern society.  I believe our reluctance to talk, preach, teach and discuss the wrath of God has created a lack of fear of God’s judgement not only among unbelievers, but Christians as well.

Why the reluctance to discuss this attribute of Holy God?  Do we believe His wrath makes God look bad? Cruel? Angry?  He is angry, but it is a righteous anger.  Consider the fact those children who had not reached the age of moral accountability would be received into heaven, whereas, if they had lived, God knew they would have been indoctrinated into the depraved culture of their parents.

Should not people be warned of the wrath to come?  Of course they should. And they are.  This is why each person will be held accountable.

“Those who experience the wrath of God chose it for themselves. Before hell is an experience inflicted by God, it is a state for which the person himself opts by retreating from the light which God shines in his heart to lead him to Himself. When John writes, “Whoever does not believe in Jesus stands condemned (judged) already because he has not believed in the name of Gods’ One and Only Son,” he goes on to explain in the following verse: “this is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light, because their deeds were evil.: (John 3: 18, 19) No one stands under the wrath of God except those who have chosen to do so. (Knowing God, J.I Packer, Chapter 15, The Wrath of God)  

The wrath of God had been revealed to the citizens of Jericho.  They knew what the God of Israel had done in Egypt.   Rahab told the spies they knew about the God of Israel  and had  heard how their God had dried up the Red Sea and what they had done to the kings of the Amorites.

Paul tells us in Romans 1: “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the ungodliness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what might be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.”   Paul goes on to say for this reason they are without excuse.

Now my question is how is the wrath of God being revealed?  There are 3 ways: 1. Universal death. No one gets out of this life alive. 2. Frustration. Romans 8:20 tells us God subjected creation to futility. 3. God has given many over to depravity. We see the degradation of our society and mankind worldwide. The actions of the Nazis in WWII revealed the depth of man’s depravity. Pornography is rampant as the personal computer has created a sewer through which filth flows into our homes. Entertainment has to be rated in order for one to know whether they will be bombarded by nudity, sex, violence or strong language- usually all of the above.

In Deuteronomy 20: 10-15; the Lord gave the nation of Israel the ‘divine law of war.’  The Lord gives instructions on how to deal with the enemy who was far off and those who were in the land of Canaan where Israel would dwell.  Before attacking a city outside of Canaan, they were to offer peace to the people and make them subjects if they surrendered. However, for those cities within Canaan, where the Israelites were to dwell they were to destroy their cities and the people. Why? For one thing the people of Canaan were unspeakably wicked. God did not want His people to be contaminated by their neighbors. God knew His plans for the nation of Israel, they were to be a channel for His blessing the to nations of the world. The Messiah would come from the nation of Israel. This is a chess game between Satan and the Lord. Satan is constantly doing everything he can from the Garden of Eden to Calvary to pollute the nation of Israel and prevent the coming of the Messiah. And today the enemy blinds the minds of millions with deceitful lies. He also does everything he can to keep Christians from taking possession of what is rightfully theirs.  His ally is our old nature, the flesh.

In spite of this, Jericho has received enough light regarding the power of Israel’s God. Any could have repented and turned to the Lord as Rahab and her family had done.  They had knowledge of the True and Living God. They were not ignorant. They had a flood of light, but preferred darkness.

Think about this: we were given an insight into God’s judgment in Genesis when Abraham asked God to spare Sodom and Gomorrah if there were 10 righteous men in the city.  There was not even 10 righteous men, so God destroyed the city, although Lot and his family escaped.

Bottom line:  God is at war with sin. He will break down every idol.  He will cast out every foe. God is a consuming fire.  The more you know about the nature of sin and God’s wrath, the more you will cherish the Gospel.  The Gospel delivers us from the wrath of God, which God has revealed in the past, is revealing today and will reveal in the future when He destroys the earth with fire.

Take note of the transition from the end of Chapter 6 to the beginning of Chapter 7. Joshua 6 ends with this verse: “So the Lord was with Joshua and his fame spread throughout the land.”

Joshua 7:1- “ But the Israelites acted unfaithfully in regard to the devoted things, Achan, son of Carmi, …took some of them. So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel.”  But – the conjunction used to denote contrast and the words ‘acted unfaithfully’ tells us the story of the upcoming defeat.

What a contrast between the end of chapter 6 and the beginning of chapter 7.   As a result of Achan’s sin, 36 Israelite soldiers were killed when they attempted to take Ai, a small village.

Jericho is a picture and symbolical of the world, and Ai is a picture of the flesh.  The enemy within.

Why does God hold the nation of Israel accountable for the actions of one man? God viewed the nation of Israel as one unit.  One nation under God, in a covenant with Holy God. Is not the church the body of Christ? And the local body a part of the larger body of Christ.  The sin of one person impacts the whole body.  Just as Paul says a little leaven, leavens the whole lump of dough. One bad apple spoils the whole barrel.  Unjudged sin contaminates the whole body.

Nothing escapes the all-seeing eye of God. One can be sure, your sin will find you out. God deals with the sins of His children in the following methods:  rebukes, chastens and scourges. For whom the Lord loves, He chastens. He disciplines his children as a father disciplines his children.


Joshua had experienced the thrill of victory and now so soon after a great victory, we see a humiliating defeat at the hands of an inferior, smaller enemy.  Joshua is so dismayed, so defeated and depressed over this defeat. He is in agony over their defeat.

He his clothes, a sign of his distress and grief. He falls facedown before the Ark of the Lord and begins to pray.  His prayer is a prayer seeking wisdom and understanding.  Did you notice where he went face down in prayer?  Before the Ark of the Lord. What does the Ark contain?  The Word of God. Aaron’s rod. Manna. And the Mercy Seat.   Prayer and the Word of God go together. The rod, the manna, and the mercy seat are reminders of what God had done.

The Lord Jesus is our Great Shepherd. His rod and his staff comfort us. He is the True Bread come down from heaven.  He is the Lamb of God who entered into the Holy of Holies in heaven and placed His precious blood on the mercy seat.   He, who knew no sin, became our sin and redeemed us with His Precious blood.

The Lord speaks to Joshua to tell him what the problem is and what he must do to correct it. When we seek His face, and turn to his word, the Lord will reveal the root cause of our problems. Whenever we suffer defeat in our life as Christians, the Lord has a reason for allowing this defeat. To teach us a lesson, to uncover a wrong pattern in our lives.


The search begins as God instructs Joshua how to proceed  with the stern warning, He will not go with them until they destroy whatever is among them which is devoted to destruction.  Anyone devoted to sin is devoted to destruction. They are to go through the camp, family by family to discover the one who took those things devoted to God.

So the search begins and Achan knows it is a matter of time until they find him out.  Sure enough, the morning comes with Achan standing before Joshua and confesses to what he has done.

Achan describes the process which led him to take the plunder. “When I saw the beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them.”  Do you see the process? He saw- lust of the eyes.  He coveted- lust of the flesh, desire. He took- pride of life. He wanted those things for himself.

Achan was a man who sought to satisfy himself with the things of the world.  He would find his significance in the possession of riches and fine goods.

I wonder when the Lord told the parable of the rich fool, He thought of Achan.  In the parable found in Luke 12, Jesus tells us: “A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”  The rich man in the parable found his satisfaction and significance in the abundance of his possessions. God warns him, “You fool: This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?”  What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul?

The enemy of God and of your soul, wants you to enter the broad way and advertises this as the solution to all your problems. This is the way to go which will provide the most pleasure. The abundant life is found, says the father of all lies, in this direction. Many enter in by the wide gate and start down the broad way.

The world beckons you to take this direction. Your flesh sees all the pleasures and covets them and before you know it- you have taken the wrong direction

Ask all those who laughed at Noah what they would do if given a second chance in life. Or ask those who lived in Sodom and Gomorrah in the time of Lot.  Ask Achan- what would he do if he had it to do over again?  Ask the rich man in the story Jesus told in Luke 16, how would he live his life given a second chance, knowing what he now knew in a place of torment.

I believe we are all born with a desire to have a happy, successful life. And the Lord Jesus told us He came to give us the abundant life.  It is here the confusion arises.  What is the abundant, happy, successful life?  This is why we must know the enemy and his schemes. From the very beginning he has deceived us in what would give us this sense of self-worth.  A life of meaning and purpose and security. Satan wants us to believe he has what we desire and can give our lives what we are looking for.

The question is where do we find this life? What is really going on here? You look at the news, you see all the tragedies, the stories of horrible things and we wonder what in the world in going on?

We need our eyes opened to see what is happening.  Open the eyes of my heart Lord, that I might see.  There it is – the eyes of our heart need to be opened.

Let us go back to the day Jesus started his ministry and read from the scrolls in his hometown synagogue: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom to the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind.” (Luke 4- quotes from Isaiah 61) Then Jesus told them – “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Do you see what his mission was?  To proclaim freedom to the prisoner and to make the blind to see. Three and half years later, he would announce on Calvary- It is finished. Mission accomplished.

Jesus warned us. Before He promised us the abundant life, he told us there was a thief who would try to steal, kill and destroy our life.

What caused their defeat at Ai? A thief.

Paul prayed we would have the eyes of our heart enlightened that we might see.

Proverbs 4:23 tells us:  “Above all else guard your hearts for it is the wellspring of life.

“In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. “(John 1:4)

“Come to me and have life. (John 5:40, Jesus speaking)

We are at war, as surely as Joshua and the nation of Israel were long ago in Canaan. There was a war to keep us in Egypt. There was a war to get us out of captivity. There is a war raging today to keep us out of the Promised Land. There is a war to hold on to what we possess in the Promised Land.

The world is against us. Our flesh is against us. We overcome the world by faith and we put to death the flesh.

Paul said as he came to the end- I have fought a good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.

Pray the Lord will open your eyes. Do not lose heart!


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