Scripture: Joshua 7:1-26
Observation: As the Israelites continued their conquest to conquer the land God had promised them, they were abruptly stopped by their defeat at the town of Ai. Full of fear by this sudden turn of events, Joshua and the Israelites elders begged God to reveal why they experienced defeat, and the Lord revealed that someone had stolen things that were set apart for him. Joshua set out to discover who had committed this sin – narrowing it down from a tribe to a clan to a family to an individual named Achan. Eventually, Achan was stoned for his crime.
Application: Remember getting disciplined as a kid? For me, it was always about cleaning my room (or, more accurately, not cleaning my room). The gentle reminders to clean my room turned to firm requests then to loud shouts then to some intense kid-friendly threats (i.e. if you don’t clean your room, you’re not allowed to eat ice cream before bed) and then eventually all-out battles complete with some screaming, tears, and completely unnecessary theatrics.
WHY SHOULD I MAKE MY BED IF I’M JUST GONNA SLEEP IN IT AGAIN TONIGHT?!?!
While I rarely enjoyed my parents’ discipline, it was necessary. Their discipline had a purpose; it helped me understand right from wrong, it taught me responsibility, and it showed me firsthand the power of consequences for our decisions. (Although I honestly still don’t understand why I have to make my bed if I’m just gonna sleep in it again that night… comment below if you have a compelling reason for this one.)
The Israelites learned a lot about discipline too. In this chapter of Joshua, we see how one man’s sin could bring down an entire group of people. After their victory at Jericho, the Israelites were feeling good – until they were decisively defeated at Ai. They responded by going straight to the Lord himself, and he revealed why they experienced that defeat:
“’Israel has sinned and broken my covenant! They have stolen some of the things that I commanded must be set apart for me. And they have not only stolen them but have lied about it and hidden the things among their own belongings. That is why the Israelites are running from their enemies in defeat.” (v. 11-12)
Achan sinned, stealing things that weren’t his to take; they were set apart for the Lord. And the Lord wasn’t very happy – not because he was power hungry, not because he was ruthless, but because he knew: sin separates us from him.
Sin – anything in our life that misses the mark, anything that isn’t God’s best for us – separates us from the powerful, loving, gracious Lord who created us. And because he wants the best for us, he demands – sometimes as publicly and forcefully as he did with Achan – that we remove anything in our lives that removes us from him.
God disciplines us because he loves us.
What sin separates you from God’s best for you? Is it selfishness, pride, greed, gossip, addiction, sexual immorality? Identify it and invite God to discipline you, to strip away anything that separates you from him.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” – Psalm 139:23
Prayer: God, thank you for being loving and gracious and merciful, even as we continue to struggle in our own sin. Search my heart and help me offer up anything that I’m doing or holding on to that separates me from what you have for me. Amen.