Joshua chapter 7 is a narrative of Israel’s attempt to take down the city of Ai, after having destroyed the city of Jericho. As those who are seeking to walk closer with the Lord in this New Year, several things in this passage are worth our attention.
The Lord had graciously and miraculously given the city of Jericho into Israel’s hands (Joshua 6). He spared the life of a prostitute named Rahab, who had provided shelter of hiding for the spies Joshua sent to spy out the city. Rahab later shows up in the lineage of Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father. The Lord also, through the city’s destruction, provided for the people of Israel a reputation among the inhabitants of the land as people to be feared. Additionally, He provided for His treasury gold and silver, vessels of bronze and iron—these were to be holy to the Lord. Everything else was to be devoted to destruction.
Achan, one of the members of the community of Israel disobeyed the command of the Lord contained in verse 18:
But you, keep yourselves from the things devoted to destruction, lest when you have devoted them you take any of the devoted things and make the camp of Israel a thing for destruction and bring trouble upon it.
This takes us to chapter seven. God’s anger is kindled against Israel because of Achan’s sin. Joshua sends men to spy out Ai, not knowing that God is angry at Israel because of Achan’s sin. The spies returned with an over-optimistic report, either with presumption of God’s continued favor and support of them, or without feeling the need for it. The counsel given by them to Joshua did not include seeking the Lord's will in the matter. God had given them specific instructions regarding the means for destroying Jericho. However, neither the spies, nor Joshua, seemed to think it necessary to consult Him regarding Ai. Had they consulted Him, they likely would have found out that sin was in the camp and spared the lives of the slaughtered thirty-six men sent to take Ai.
What's the real problem here? Surely, Joshua and the spies should have consulted the Lord. That, indeed, is a problem. Presumption is a sin that is ever a temptation for all of us. Because we are God’s people, part of His family, we can easily ignore our continuing need for His enabling grace to conquer the foe of sin inside our hearts, as well as the multitude of those outside of us. But the main point of Joshua seven seems to be the covetous sin on Achan’s part that resulted in such horrible consequences.
Note is verse 21: “. . . when I saw . . . then I coveted and took them”. Achan admitted his sin (verse 20) and that it began with looking and coveting. Covetous hearts lead to sin. And a covetous heart is a discontented heart. And sin always leads to devastating consequences—sooner or later. And discontentment always relates back to God.
What is the lesson here for us? Our hearts need to learn contentment, lest they remain in a sinful state of discontentment leading to sin. Paul writes in Philippians 4:11, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” In the next verse he indicates that he has learned the secret of contentment. I don’t know about you, but this is a secret that I seem to learn and forget quickly. We need constant reminders about how we become content and frequent warnings about the dangers of covetousness. Contentment, then, is really not so much a secret to be learned, but one to be reminded of. Contentment comes only through valuing the most valuable, that is, God’s Himself, manifestly in His provisions of grace in His Son, Jesus. Seeking Him for how God intended for us to find satisfaction is really what it means to pursue Him.
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
So, as we begin this New Year, let’s pray like David and live like Paul. Let’s begin with prayers that the Lord will be our satisfaction, our joy. Let’s pray that we will trust Him for these things. Let’s be thankful for all that He is and has done for us. Let’s remember that everything else will leave us unsatisfied and craving for more. Let’s encourage each other to find satisfaction in the Lord. Let’s graciously warn one another of the folly of materialistic quests for satisfaction and the emptiness of worldly pursuits. Let’s encourage prayer by praying for and with each other, asking the Lord to fill us with Himself. Let’s make this a year that the Lord is our satisfaction and that we are content in Him.