War stories: the Old Testament is full of them. In these stories I read about a side of God that I don’t understand. I mostly see and experience Him as gracious and loving, so it is difficult for me to read about wars where kings are impaled and children are destroyed. This doesn’t shake my faith in God’s goodness, but it is a period of history and a facet of God that leaves me confused.
Recently, through my Bible reading plan, I read Joshua chapters six through ten. And what do you know, in the midst of these war stories, I could see past the unrelatable and find lessons even for me—for us—living in the 21st Century.
SOMETIMES IT’S AS SIMPLE AS SIN
God specifically commands Joshua and his warriors to destroy all of Jericho (chapter 6). Simple, right? Hard to destroy all that good stuff, and on their first victory too, but still a simple order. Simple as in: easy to understand, not necessarily easy to obey. But Achan is looking out for good ol’ “Number One.” He sneaks just a little loot. It is too good to pass up and surely it won’t harm anything. Why would God withhold good things from His people? Of course, Achan can’t really enjoy his prizes because they are forbidden, so he has to hide them.
What Achan doesn’t realize is that after the very next battle, the Lord will let them keep stuff. Loot away, boys! Enjoy yourselves! Achan, not seeing the future, seems to think he needs to handle things on his own. Of course he is found out because nothing is hidden from the Lord. Achan and those he loves are destroyed as a result of coveting one robe and six pounds of gold and silver.
The lives of loved ones for a little loot: was it worth it?
But let’s go back to before the discovery of Achan’s sin. Joshua feels confused. Joshua thinks the situation is more complicated than it really is. He experiences victory at Jericho, but defeat at Ai. God wasn’t making sense. He begins to question God when actually the problem is as simple as sin—Achan’s sin.
Is it the same for you and me? Do we hide sins that keep us from victory?
There are devoted things among you, Israel. You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove them. (Joshua 7:13)
According to the note in my Bible, devoted things referred to the “irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the Lord; often by totally destroying them”.
A robe and a little gold and silver seem harmless, right? But in Achan’s case, it didn’t matter what the actual object was, they belonged to God and were destined to be “devoted.” It’s worth the time to look into our own lives to see if there is anything that is not BAD per se, but neutral. Even good things—if God asks us to give them over to Him—belong to Him and not to us.
Let’s take the time to examine our own hearts. Do you need to remove anything from your life (whether sinful or neutral) before you can stand against your enemies in Jesus’ power?