International Sunday School LessonStudy Notes
Lesson Text: Joshua 7:1, 10-12, 20-26Lesson Title: Dealing with Disobedience
The seventh chapter of Joshua presents a drastically different picture from that of chapter six. Up until this point everything had gone smoothly for the nation of Israel. God had provided them a new leader in Joshua after the death of Moses. The Lord had strengthened and encouraged Joshua to follow Him and it is obvious that Joshua’s courage had a positive influence upon the faith of the people. The people were properly prepared for the crossing of the swollen Jordan River and followed the Lord’s instruction and were taken across on dry ground. The closing words of chapter 6 are fitting and serve as a summary statement. “So the Lord was with Joshua; and his fame was noised throughout all the country” (Joshua 6:27). Those words kind of say it all at this point in the journey.
The children of Israel had won the battle of Jericho with relative ease as they totally depended upon the power of God for victory. God’s instructions were followed to the smallest detail and everything went according to plan. It was a picture of obedience of faith and what God could do for the nation if they would follow His plan and rely on him. The city of Jericho was besieged, taken, and destroyed. What better way to enter Canaan and begin occupation of the Promised Land. However, chapter seven begins with the word “But” (Joshua 7:1). The word “but” is a signal that things are about to change.
Illus. On November 16, 1776, Fort Washington fell to the advancing British troops and General George Washington was forced to retreat. Secure in his victory, British General Howe chose not to pursue Washington and the Continental army, but ordered his men to stand down in their winter quarters. On Christmas night, Washington took his troops across the Delaware and mounted a surprise attack on the British. They were caught off guard and more than a thousand soldiers were taken prisoner. On the heels of victory, the British suffered a stunning defeat.
Joshua and the children of Israel had a similar experience. After an overwhelming victory at Jericho, they suffered a tragic and embarrassing defeat at Ai. While the defeat was brought about by disobedience and sin in the camp, the attitude of the leadership was actually worse than the disobedience and sin. Arrogance, conceit and overconfidence all played a part in this sad chapter of Israel’s history. Often the same can be said of us.
The Record of Disobedience (Joshua 7:1)
“But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing…” is connected with Joshua 6:18, “And ye, in any wise keep yourselves from the accursed thing, lest ye make yourselves accursed…” In the taking of Jericho orders were given by God that they should neither spare any lives nor take any treasure to themselves. This was God’s clear command. Ordinarily the soldiers shared the spoils of war after a victory (Deuteronomy 20:14). But that was not the case at Jericho. Since this was the first victory, God viewed the spoils as a type of the first-fruits, so everything there belonged to the Lord and was put into His treasury (Deuteronomy 13:16; 1 Kings 7:51).
The disobedient individual who “committed a trespass in the accursed thing” was “Achan.” Achan’s name means “trouble”; and he was from the tribe of Judah (Joshua 7:16). It is interesting to note that while Achan is the individual who disobeyed the Lord and sinned, “the anger of the Lord was kindled,” not just against Achan, but against all of “the children of Israel” (Joshua 7:11). In fact, the “children of Israel” is mentioned twice in the verse. Why would God blame the whole nation for the disobedience of only one soldier? "Because Israel was one people in the Lord and not just an assorted collection of tribes, clans, families, and individuals. God dwelt in the midst of their camp, and this made the Jews the Lord's special people (Exodus 19:5-6). Jehovah God walked about in their camp, and therefore the camp was to be kept holy (Deuteronomy 23:14). Anyone who disobeyed God defiled the camp, and this defilement affected their relationship to the Lord and to one another." (from The Bible Exposition Commentary: Old Testament © 2001-2004 by Warren W. Wiersbe. All rights reserved.) Perhaps that's why we don't read of any command coming from God regarding how Joshua should attack Ai. The plan seems to come from Joshua himself.
Why did Achan disobey? Perhaps the environment of victory led to presumption. Perhaps Achan thought the Lord would never find out what he did. After all, one man among millions taking a few spoils of war. What’s the harm? Could Achan have thought the command of God was a little much given the circumstances? There are people today who think God’s commandments are grievous (1 John 5:3). We live in the “lighten up” age. All these “do not’s” and “thou shalt not” are so restrictive and depressing. Achan fought so he believed he should share in the spoils. Put all that together and you have a recipe for disobedience, disaster, and death. Disobedience always leads to sin and sin leads to trouble. The victorious children of Israel are in trouble!
The Response to Disobedience (Joshua 7:10-12)
Before the dust had settled from the fallen walls of Jericho, “Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai” to “view the country” (Joshua 7:2). After spying out the city of Ai, the men returned and said to Joshua, “Let not all the people go up; but let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai; and make not all the people to labour thither; for they are but few” (Joshua 7:3). They somehow formed the opinion that the number of men in their army had some influence on their power to conquer the enemy. They were quite wrong. If God was not with Israel, they could not defeat anyone. To their surprise, “the men of Ai smote of them about thirty and six men” (Joshua 7:5) and chased them home.
After the defeat we see Joshua drastically diverted from his assigned purpose. His reaction was neither strong nor courageous. Thirty-six Israelites died at the hands of Ai, but Joshua reacted as though all of Israel had been wiped off the face of the earth and that they should never have entered Canaan (Joshua 7:7). Obviously, Joshua had lost his sense of purpose, and he says as much in verse 7. This cry of desperation bears a striking resemblance to the murmuring of the Israelites some forty years prior (Numbers 14:3). Joshua just dumps everything on the Lord when it seems he had lost it all. You can sense that Joshua feels sorry for himself and he has concluded that because of this defeat that the name of Israel and God’s great name would be forgotten (Joshua 7:9).
“And the LORD said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face?” It doesn’t take God long to respond to Joshua. God doesn’t want Joshua on his face but rather he wants him to stand up so he can speak to him. God is about to tell Joshua what the problem is.
The problem is “Israel hath sinned…” As stated earlier, only one person, Achan, actually sinned. But his individual sin had an effect on the entire nation and everyone is guilty. The sin is by one man, but it is viewed as if the entire nation has stolen that which belongs to God. “For they have taken the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff.” Notice how their sin is described by God to reveal its sinfulness. First, “they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them.” It was understood that God should have all the spoil of Jericho, and they should have the spoil of the rest of the cities of Canaan; but, in robbing God of his part, they transgressed this covenant. Second, “they have even taken of the accursed thing” in contempt of the curse which was denounced against him that should dare take what belonged to God. Third, “they have also stolen.” What they took wasn’t theirs to take. Fourth, “they have dissembled also.” This means that when the battle of Jericho was over, Joshua called all the tribes, and asked them whether they had faithfully disposed of the spoil according to the divine command, and charged them, if they knew of any transgression, that they should discover it, but Achan joined with the rest in saying all was well. In other words, Achan lied! Fifth, “they have put it even among their own stuff” as if to think they could conceal it from the divine omniscience.
“Therefore” or, because of Achan’s sin and the nation’s disobedience, “the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies.” Stop and think about that statement. What took place at Ai is taking place in multitudes of churches and Christian lives today. Because of our disobedience we are overcome by the enemy instead of overcoming the enemy. Israel now “turned their backs before their enemies” instead of facing their enemies and trusting God for victory. Is there not a spirit of coldness and apathy among the churches? Serving the Lord is a chore. Prayer meeting is hardly attended and Sunday School is a dread instead of a delight. The convicting power of the Holy Spirit is hardly ever operative and sinners are unconverted. And it’s all because of disobedience! It would be like David running away from Goliath instead of running at him (1 Samuel 18:48-51). Disobedience and sin does matter.
The Results of Disobedience (Joshua 7:20-26)
In the verses that are not in today’s text, Joshua orders the people to consecrate themselves, for the guilty party is to be identified through a series of drawing lots that will lead to the selection of one man (Joshua 7:14-15). That drawing lot process is revealed in the words “taketh” and “taken.” Each tribe was “taken” and when it was revealed as to whether or not they were guilty, the other tribe would be called into question. It must have been a terrifying and tense process. Joshua’s instructions specify that the guilty person and the accursed items are to be “burnt with fire” (Joshua 7:15). God’s procedure is followed, and Achan is identified as the guilty person, whose primary sin is disobedience. In spite of the seriousness of this sin, we see a tender side of Joshua in Joshua 7:19. Achan has been identified; Joshua addresses him as “my son,” and then asks him to confess. Disobedience has its consequences, and the penalty must be administered, but doing so may produce sorrow and repentance.
When Joshua called upon Achan to give “glory to the LORD God of Israel…” (Joshua 7:19)Achan had to confess his sin. “And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Indeed I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done.” This is Achan’s statement of guilt. "When he said 'I have sinned,' he joined the ranks of seven other men in Scripture who made the same confession, some more than once, and some without sincerity: Pharaoh (Exodus 9:27; 10:16), Balaam (Numbers 22:34), King Saul (1 Samuel 15:24,30; 26:21), David (2 Samuel 12:13; 24:10,17; Ps 51:4), Shimei (2 Samuel 19:20), Judas (Matthew 27:4), and the prodigal son (Luke 15:18,21)." (from The Bible Exposition Commentary: Old Testament © 2001-2004 by Warren W. Wiersbe. All rights reserved.)
Question: When was the last time you heard someone confess, “I have sinned?” When was the last time you confessed, “I have sinned?”When was the last time you disobeyed the Lord and sinned?
This verse is a classic illustration of the pathway of sin in all of our lives. I have boldfaced four key words in this verse that illustrates how sin operates. “When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it.” I saw, I coveted, I took, and I hid. Isn’t that the way disobedience and sin usually happens? You see it. You want it. You take it. And then you spend the rest of your life trying to cover it up.
“I saw” means that Achan wasn’t satisfied with the provisions God had given him. When Achan went into Jericho he wanted something different from what God had given him. And that is the core problem in our Christian lives and churches today. Men aren’t satisfied with the one wife God has given them so they take it upon themselves to go take another man’s wife. That is called adultery (Matthew 5:27-28, 32; 19:9). “I coveted” speaks of the lust that developed in Achan’s heart. Coveting is somehow connected with having things (Luke 12:15; 1 Timothy 6:8-10). Covetousness is America’s sin. We want bigger, better, and more. We find it almost impossible to be content with what we have (Philippians 4:11; Hebrews 13:5). “I took” is the outward manifestation of what had been going on in Achan’s heart. “I hid” is the only choice Achan had because he certainly couldn’t wear the clothes or spend the money (Proverbs 28:13).
“In the midst of my tent” are chilling words. Isn’t it staggering to think that what was buried in a little hole under Achan’s tent had resulted in the deaths of thirty-six men and had literally paralyzed an entire nation that just days before had witnessed God flatten the walls of Jericho. How long since you prayed about what was going on in “the midst of your tent.”
As you read these verses it is hard to imagine the seriousness of these events and this moment in Israel’s history. Compare these two verses with Joshua 6:27 which says, “So the LORD was with Joshua; and his fame was noised throughout all the country.” All of Israel were gathered together and the “messengers” went to Achan’s tent, found the stolen items, returned to Joshua “and laid them out before the Lord.” Sooner or later that is what happens to all of us (Numbers 32:23). The sin you have covered or hidden today will be revealed someday (1 Corinthians 4:5). You cannot hide your sin.
According to these verses, Achan, the stuff he stole, his family, his cattle, his tent, and all that he had was brought unto “the valley of Achor” and they were “stoned with stones” and “burned with fire.” The first question you might have when you read these verses is why did they have to die? The answer is because God doesn’t take sin lightly. Also, when God is about to do a new work or a great work among His people, He deals with sin rather quickly and often severely. For instance, in the New Testament church, God killed Ananias and Sapphira for lying about their offering (Acts 5). If God killed the hypocrites and liars in the church today there wouldn’t be many of us left! What God is saying with Ananias and Sapphira and what God is saying with Achan is that you can’t play with God and get away with it.
Another question is why did Achan’s children have to die? Were they not innocent? And did not God protect the innocent (Deuteronomy 24:26)? Yes. But maybe Achan’s family was not innocent. The stuff was hidden in Achan’s “tent.” It would have been hard to not notice what was in the tent. When you sin you always bring someone down with you. You never sin alone. God was justified in punishing Achan and his family.
The place where Achan and his family was stoned was “Achor.” “Achor” means “trouble.” The “heap of stones” raised over Achan and his family would be a reminder that God demands obedience from His people. And if we fail to obey, He will judge. “So the LORD turned from the fierceness of his anger” means Israel was once again restored to God’s favor.
There is a sequel to this sad story. Once disobedience was punished, God said to Joshua, “Fear not, neither be thou dismayed: take all the people of war with thee, and arise, go up to Ai: see, I have given into thy hand the king of Ai, and his people, and his city, and his land” (Joshua 8:1)
God’s people are most vulnerable when we have experienced a great victory. Disobedience often follows great success. When God’s people disobey we lose our courage and victory. In Joshua 2:11, Rahab told the spies, “And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage.” Interestingly, after Achan and the children of Israel sinned, the Bible says, “wherefore the hearts of the people melted, and became as water” (Joshua 7:5). The fear that was in the heart of the Canaanites is now in the hearts of the Israelites. Sin always does that when we disobey and live outside the will of God.
Joshua was one of the greatest leaders in the Bible, but he was still just a man. So were Achan and the rest of the children of Israel. And so are we. A large portion of the Bible is spent proving that man can do little if anything on his own. Joshua exhibits that truth painfully but powerfully. Let’s remember to not take for granite the victories God has given and ask the Lord to help us remember that only through his plan and power can we be victorious. It is still right to obey.
Contact Information Office: 828-758-2818Click to contact me.
Physical Location311 Abington Rd. N.W. Lenoir, N. C. 28645
Mailing Address311 Abington Rd. N.W. Lenoir, N. C. 28645
Designed by TTM Consulting