In our adult Sunday school class, we have been doing a survey of the many books of the Bible. Each week, we review many of the important stories from the books being studied and glean truths that we can learn and apply to our lives. This week we looked at Joshua, the great leader who took over leading Israel after the death of Moses. He had pretty big shoes to fill. In many ways, he was a gifted leader, but like the people he led, Joshua had his faults.
Mark Twain wrote in an era in American history when war was a realistic memory in most people’s minds. He understood the attitude required to fight were not the whole of what it meant to be courageous. He wrote, “It is curious that physical courage should be common in the world and moral courage so rare.” Such was the case with Israel after their great battle and victory over Jericho. In a sense, their pride; their bravado, got the best of them.
I think many of us remember the story of Israel’s battle with the city of Jericho. God commanded them to march around the city for seven days. In the end, the walls of the city fell down and they had the victory. Now when most armies win a battle, they take advantage and plunder the city. They take all the riches and resources for themselves.
But after their victory over Jericho, God instructed the people to take the gold, silver, bronze and iron and put it into the Lord’s treasury. All the rest was to be burned. But Achan, one of the soldiers, took some of the treasure of Jericho and saved it for himself. He hid it under his tent not thinking there would be any consequences.
It is interesting to note that based on the language of 7:1, Achan’s sin is extended to the entire nation of Israel. in essence, Achan’s sin had a detrimental effect on everyone. After this happened, the Scriptures say that the Lord’s anger burned against all of Israel. That might be a reason why God didn’t give the army specific instructions in how to attack Ai as He did with Jericho?
So as Israel moved onto its next battle, things changed. We see in the story from Joshua 7, there were only a few men in Ai. The rules for natural logic would lead us to believe that even if the Lord wasn’t with Israel, Ai would not prove to be a problem. Unfortunately, their confidence got the better of them. The plan to attack Ai seems to be Joshua’s idea and here we see a mistake in their battle plans. When the battle took place, Joshua sent only 3000 men to capture the city. It seemed logical, but you need to remember that their last victory was through a miracle of God. In the end, they discovered that if God was not with them, they could not defeat anyone.
After Israel lost to the small group in Ai, Joshua couldn’t figure out what went wrong. He didn’t realize that he had drastically diverted from his assigned purpose. He went from being strong and courageous, depending on God for guidance, to leading through his own wisdom and skills. Thirty-six Israelites died at the hands of Ai, but Joshua reacted as if all Israel had been wiped off the face of the earth. At this point, Joshua even regrets entering into the Promised Land.
It is quite obvious that Joshua had lost his sense of purpose. We see that in Joshua 7:7. Joshua cries out to God, even wishing they hadn’t gone into the Promised Land. In many ways, this is similar to the grumbling of the Israelites from Numbers 14:3. There the Israelites said, “Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?”
At this point, Joshua had a choice. He could continue and follow his way with most likely the same results as what had happened at Ai, or turn back to the Lord and seek His face and direction. Of course, we know from history that Joshua made the right decision and followed God and they took the Promised Land. History shows that Joshua turned out to be one of the greatest leaders in the entire Bible, but we still need to remember that he was still only a man.
As we think about purpose, we need to know that God hasn’t designed us to succeed on our own. The bulk of the Bible is spent proving that truth and that we can’t do anything significant for His glory on our own. Joshua’s life exhibits that, at times painfully, but powerfully.
So if we want to live a life where God can work in and through us, we should look at Joshua’s life of an example. In him, we see someone whom God did amazing things through. As we yield our lives to Him and allow His almighty hands work in and through us I believe we will see the same results in our lives.