Week beginning: 30th October, 2016 | By Caroline Eade | Cambridge
"Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies [...] I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction." Joshua 7 v 11-12 (NIV 2010)Joshua 7 v 11-12 (NIV 2010)
Joshua 7 is shocking on many levels. It starts with the defeat of an Israelite army by the men of Ai and ends with the stoning of a man called Achan, his children and all his possessions.
Joshua had complacently failed to ask for God's guidance in deciding whether to attack Ai and the miserable defeat that followed startled him into recognising that God's honour was at stake and drastic action needed.
Achan secretly defied God's command by stashing Canaanite goods from Jericho – by coveting what was forbidden. It's the oldest sin in the book. And in another echo of Adam, Achan's sin affected others.
In our professional lives, it is often a virtue to compromise on the little things so as to secure the main chance. How easily it creeps in; the same kind of prayerlessness as Joshua, prizing what the world values like Achan. But it stains the purity of God's bride, his church, and rightly provokes his jealous anger for our undivided hearts.
The chapter is a warning and reminder of our need for continual repentance. However the stoning of Achan in the Valley of Achor also points forward to the much more drastic action of the one man, Jesus. He stood where we would otherwise stand, facing God's wrath but, as Hosea prophesied, because of this we can have hope. As we turn back to God and away from sin we are received with open arms.
- Ask the Lord for conviction of sin and repentance – for ourselves, in our churches, and amongst our colleagues – and the courage not to compromise with sin in those areas where it is most difficult for us.
- Praise God that his drastic action in taking our place at the cross means hope for us, if we trust in Christ. Pray for opportunities to tell others about the hope of the gospel, perhaps as a direct result of our counter-cultural lives.