In this life, we are taken through many twists and turns. Some of us have grown up outside of the church and Christianity is something that is new and refreshing in our lives. For others of us, we perhaps grew up in the church and maybe we have walked in the light but at times in our lives stepped away from the faith that once held us. Lastly, for some of us, we have maybe consistently come to church, perhaps have not experienced a new life in Christ but just fulfilled a “responsibility or check box” that we have grown up with. All of these are journeys within their many nuances to which many of us can identify ourselves within and all of us at least can relate to some portion of those experiences. Today, like the people of Israel, we as the people of God have stood the walls of Jericho in our lives and wondered at the miracles of God in our lives. However just like the people of Israel that day, some of us have unfortunately stepped away from the faith that once held us in some aspects of our lives. Perhaps there are some aspects of our lives where maybe we have never accepted the faith of God in that area? Whether it is a faith to believe that God will provide, a faith to lead, a faith that he has freed us, a faith that He is even there, a faith that He cares about me, a faith that he forgives or that he creates a new creation. These are just some of the many promises in our lives that we even having seen the miracle of God in our lives struggle to embrace as promise.
In Matthew 6:20 our Lord tells us to “….store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (NIV) The promise of God is a wonderful promise to which each of us as believers can experience. It is not a promise that was just given to Peter or John or Mary or Billy Graham or John Wesley, but it is a promise that is given to each of us as believers if we will just embrace the truth of God’s call upon our lives. However as these verses tell us in Matthew 6, too often we store our treasures in the moths and vermin of this world not in the treasures of heaven. The truth is that the treasures of heaven can be realized within our hearts today, but sometimes we give our hearts to the treasures of this world and not to the treasures of heaven. Some of us may be sitting here asking ourselves, Pastor Mark I know that there is promise in God. I know that he wants to do this amazing miracle in my life but I don’t know how to experience it as a believer. Perhaps you have begun to experience that promise that God but have stepped away from his treasures for the other trinkets of this life. Perhaps you are just saying to yourself, well I have been there as a believer and have not experienced the promise I thought would come. God is not a God who would give his son or daughter a snake when they asked for a fish. Today more than ever, God has promise for each of us whether we are Mark, Richard, Lynn, Ethan, Billy or anyone else who is here today.
So this morning let’s turn to Joshua 7 and lets discover how we can experience the promise that God gives each of us as believers. It doesn’t matter whether you have never experienced them or have turned away from them, or just lost hope in them, God has promise and today He has promise for you.
Joshua 7 (ESV)
Israel Defeated at Ai
7 But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel.
2 Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth-aven, east of Bethel, and said to them, “Go up and spy out the land.” And the men went up and spied out Ai. 3 And they returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not have all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and attack Ai. Do not make the whole people toil up there, for they are few.” 4 So about three thousand men went up there from the people. And they fled before the men of Ai, 5 and the men of Ai killed about thirty-six of their men and chased them before the gate as far as Shebarim and struck them at the descent. And the hearts of the people melted and became as water.
6 Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until the evening, he and the elders of Israel. And they put dust on their heads. 7 And Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord God, why have you brought this people over the Jordan at all, to give us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us? Would that we had been content to dwell beyond the Jordan! 8 O Lord, what can I say, when Israel has turned their backs before their enemies! 9 For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it and will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will you do for your great name?”
The Sin of Achan
10 The Lord said to Joshua, “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face? 11 Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings. 12 Therefore the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies. They turn their backs before their enemies, because they have become devoted for destruction. I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you. 13 Get up! Consecrate the people and say, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow; for thus says the Lord, God of Israel, “There are devoted things in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the devoted things from among you.” 14 In the morning therefore you shall be brought near by your tribes. And the tribe that the Lord takes by lot shall come near by clans. And the clan that the Lord takes shall come near by households. And the household that the Lord takes shall come near man by man. 15 And he who is taken with the devoted things shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he has transgressed the covenant of the Lord, and because he has done an outrageous thing in Israel.’”
16 So Joshua rose early in the morning and brought Israel near tribe by tribe, and the tribe of Judah was taken. 17 And he brought near the clans of Judah, and the clan of the Zerahites was taken. And he brought near the clan of the Zerahites man by man, and Zabdi was taken. 18 And he brought near his household man by man, and Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken. 19 Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the Lord God of Israel and give praise to him. And tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.” 20 And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and this is what I did: 21 when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”
22 So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent; and behold, it was hidden in his tent with the silver underneath. 23 And they took them out of the tent and brought them to Joshua and to all the people of Israel. And they laid them down before the Lord. 24 And Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver and the cloak and the bar of gold, and his sons and daughters and his oxen and donkeys and sheep and his tent and all that he had. And they brought them up to the Valley of Achor. 25 And Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble on us? The Lord brings trouble on you today.” And all Israel stoned him with stones. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones. 26 And they raised over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day. Then the Lord turned from his burning anger. Therefore, to this day the name of that place is called the Valley of Achor.
Engaging the Word- Joshua 7
Devoted Things – Breaking Faith
In Joshua 7, the people have just watched as the walls of Jericho have crumbled not by the bulldozers or battering rams of the people but by the presence of God having circled the sin within their land and laying waste to that which sought to draw them away from the presence of God. As they watched the power of God realized our Lord specifically instructed them in Joshua 6:18 that they were not to keep for themselves anything that resided within the city of Jericho as it would bring trouble in their lives. However even having seen the power of God in their midst, some of the people of God still chose to disobey his commandment and take that which carried with it sin, into their lives and homes. It is for this reason that we see here in Joshua 7 that the people of Israel are defeated at Ai within their journey. At the beginning of Joshua 7 we see that people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things within Jericho. In other versions of this chapter in Joshua it says that the people of God acted unfaithfully or were unfaithful.
When we consider the devoted things within Jericho it had nothing to do with its wealth. Some in the world would argue that it is only natural to want to take something of worth from a destroyed city. However, it has nothing to do with the worth but rather it has everything to where we place our treasure as believers. God created gold and all things of worth, He has streets paved with gold, God does not need anything of worth, all he desires is that he has our hearts. So here in Joshua 7 it had nothing to do with worth of what they took but that which was devoted. There are two aspects to this, one of which tells us that what resided within Jericho was sin in itself and needed to be purified by the presence of God, but instead the people of God chose to take it for themselves. The other aspect of this truth is that these items were devoted for God and were not to be taken by the people of God.
These two truths are imperative to understand to experience the promise that God has given us. Firstly, too often our inability to experience the promise of God in our lives too often resides because our Lord destroys the sin within our lives but we go back to those areas and pick up elements of the sin that pull us back. We want to experience the great miracles of God but sometimes hold onto the little hang-ups and sins that draw us back into the life that we have been freed from. Experiencing God’s promise is not about just experiencing the great miracles but it is realized when we give even the little sins and struggles to the presence of God. It is in this truth that the second illustration is evident here. God desires to have not just portions of our hearts, mind and strength but all that we are as his children. Too often we hold back from God those areas that we hold as precious in our lives. They might not be what we would define as precious but rather by their very nature and the fact that we hold onto them, our treasure is defined. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
The Pride that Prevents
In verse 3 of this passage we see as the people of God go to Joshua and tell him that they didn’t need all the people to conquer the people of Ai, but just three thousand men because it is just a few of them. As I read this I remembered the scripture from Proverbs 16:18 “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” We often wonder why we don’t experience the fullness of God’s promise in our lives. Many say, well pastor I have been given freedom from unforgiveness in my life but I really struggle with loving my neighbor. Or I have been freed from the sin of lust and gossip but I struggle with anger. These are just illustrations, that first God is still working on each of us as believers, but also that too often we hold onto certain aspects of our old self out of the pride of self. These aspects in our lives as aspects that define us. The truth is, strength of men and women, or the measure to which that strength is drawn from too often paves our way to destruction. The promise of God is only fully experienced in our lives when we place the pride of our self-identity, our past into his hands so that He can reside in every aspect of our lives. No this does not mean that you have to reside at the church 24-7, rather it is a presence of spirit, a presence of mind which is sold out to the person of our Lord and Savior. Paul did not become they man of God that he did because of how great he was or the history that he brought with him. Rather it is was his sold out nature to the person of his Lord. It was a willingness to go to any measure to experience of fullness of Christ in his life, even if it meant to die for the case of Christ.
Today if you have found yourself struggling with a particular aspect within your spiritual life, we need to ask ourselves. Does this aspect of our life define us as individuals, do we hold onto its significance because we are scared that we will lose our identity? Do we allow this aspect of our lives to draw us back not because of how it makes us feel but rather its familiarity within our lives? When Daniel was hurled into the lions, do you think he felt comfortable about it? When Shadrack, Mishake and Obendigo were tossed into the fire, do you think they were excited about lay before them? Yet in that moment when they gave all to God, God performed a promise, a miracle in each of them that beyond anything they could ever comprehend.
In verses 10 and 13 of this passage we see as the people of God are called to get up and consecrate themselves. The people of Israel had fallen because they had allowed aspects of their sin to creep into their lives even after they had experienced the mighty hand of God. That day, the people of God realized that there is a consequence to the sin that they entertain and they also learned that God gives forgiveness. God’s promise is there for all of us today if we will just embrace of a life of confession and repentance. Now what do I mean by that? A life of confession and repentance is not embraced every Sunday rather it is when experienced in truth provides hope and freedom for all eternity. Colossians 1:9 tells us “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Our Lord did not come and die on the cross for you and me today so that we can experience only the portions of his promise in our lives but so that we live a life worth of our Lord pleasing him in every way. God’s promise is full and glorious for each of us as believers if we will just embrace his fullness in our lives.