Forward With Prayer and Repentance
One reason for Israel’s failure was prayerlessness. We read how Joshua rent his clothes and fell on his face before the Lord, both he and the elders of Israel (Joshua 7:6). This was a good indication of repentance on their part. But other things were not right. Notice how Joshua prayed. “And Joshua said, Alas, O Lord GOD, wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? would to God we had been content, and dwelt on the other side Jordan!” This does not sound like a Joshua; it sounds more like the people of Israel in the desert. What we must remember is that the old man or old nature was still in Joshua’s life.
The Lord answered Joshua right to the point as we read in Joshua 7:10-11—“And the LORD said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face? Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff.”
There was prayer on the part of Joshua, but it was at the wrong time. He prayed after the defeat at Ai instead of praying before he ever sent the soldiers.
It is a wonderful thing when we are in trouble to go to the Lord. This we should do. At the same time however, if we would make proper preparation ahead of time in prayer, there are many mistakes we would not fall into. Had Joshua made preparation for the taking of Ai as he had for Jericho, God would have revealed to him that there was sin in Israel. This would have meant that the soldiers would not have been sent until the sinful cause had been removed.
Perhaps the greatest temptation to neglect prayer comes after a God-given victory. There is always a certain amount of hidden pride within us. We are not always aware of it, but it is there nevertheless. However, if we will come humbly before God, whether before or after such conditions, He will give us grace. This is the promise in James 4:6-7. God gives more grace, for he “resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” So when we submit ourselves to God and resist the devil, the evil one flees from us. It is good that we can go to God at any time; but we should remember to go to Him first, regardless of what is facing us.
A failure to pray always makes us insensitive to sin. If we do not take time to pray, we will often not recognize sin for what it is. When we will pray in the time of victory, we will not have to plead in a time of defeat.
When Joshua bowed his head in prayer following Israel’s defeat, the Lord told him to get up and do something. God was simply telling Joshua that that was not the time to pray in the way he was praying. Israel had sinned; it was Joshua’s responsibility as a leader to erase this thing from Israel’s life. The fault for this military reverse did not lie with God but with Israel.
How often we, like Joshua and the elders of Israel, are inclined to blame God when things go wrong. We sometimes think when reverses come that God has forsaken us. Some people harden their hearts against God and blame Him for things not going as they thought they should go. Yet had those individuals gone to God in the first place, they would have been directed in the proper way. God knows from the very beginning what He is doing and why He is doing it. He knows all the underlying causes that are related to all the incidents in our lives. There is nothing hidden from Him.
The Lord also used this occasion to point out another reason for Israel’s defeat. It was due to disobedience concerning God’s portion of the treasures of Jericho. Covetousness had entered Achan’s heart and led to his disobeying God’s instructions. Achan actually stole from God, a sin not uncommon among Christians today.
We read of just a sin in Acts 5:1-2—“But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles' feet.” There is no reason for them not keeping back part of it, if they so wished. Their sin lay in professing to be giving all of the money they had made from the sale of the land. This was pretence and hypocrisy and in this way they actually stole from God. They kept something for themselves that they said they had to given to God.
Let us all remember that “All things are naked and open unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Hebrews 4:13). One of the greatest sins a believer can possibly commit is a sin of stealing from God. This is clear from Joshua 6:18-19. “And ye, in any wise keep yourselves from the accursed thing, lest ye make yourselves accursed, when ye take of the accursed thing, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it. But all the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are consecrated unto the LORD: they shall come into the treasury of the LORD.”
After Jericho, the Lord allowed the Israelites to keep the spoils for themselves, but all the silver, and gold and vessels of brass and iron from the city of Jericho, were set aside for the Lord.
Not only had Achan sinned, but God also said that Israel had sinned. One man fails, and the whole army is defeated. There is really no such thing as a private sin. We are all members one of another. We know that so far is a physical body is concerned, when any part of it is hurt, the whole body feels it. The same is true with regard to the body of Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:26 reminds us “And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.” It is also for the sake of the body of Christ that we are to reject sin. Ephesians 4:25 says, “Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.” Thirty-six men in Israel lost their lives because of Achan’s sin.
As we study the Scriptures we cannot help but see the progress of sin. It acts with all as it did with Achan. In the case of the first sin committed, Eve first looked, then desired, then she took of the fruit, ate it and finally gave it to her husband. It was the same in Achan’s case. He saw the treasure and coveted it. Then he took it and hid it. The Bible says concerning temptation that “every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” It is not a sin to be tempted. The sin lies in giving way to the evil suggestion and thus letting the sin nature reign in our bodies.
“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.” (Romans 6:12).