Victory In Surrender
1 But the sons of Israel acted unfaithfully in regard to the things under the ban, for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah, took some of the things under the ban, therefore the anger of the Lord burned against the sons of Israel. 2 Now 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.” So the men went up and spied out Ai. 3 They returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not let all the people go up; only about two or three thousand men need go up to Ai; do not make all the people toil up there, for they are few.” 4 So about three thousand men from the people went up there, but they fled from the men of Ai. 5 The men of Ai struck down about thirty-six of their men, and pursued them from the gate as far as Shebarim and struck them down on the descent, so 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, both he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust on their heads. 7 Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord God, why did You ever bring this people over the Jordan, only to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? If only we had been willing to dwell beyond the Jordan!
8 O Lord, what can I say since Israel has turned their back before their enemies? 9 For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it, and they will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will You do for Your great name?” 10 So the Lord said to Joshua, “Rise up! Why is it that you have fallen on your face? 11 Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. And they have even taken some of the things under the ban and have both stolen and deceived. Moreover, they have also put them among their own things. 12 Therefore the sons of Israel cannot stand before their enemies; they turn their backs before their enemies, for they have become accursed. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy the things under the ban from your midst. 13 Rise up! Consecrate the people and say, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, for thus the Lord, the God of Israel, has said, “There are things under the ban in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you have removed the things under the ban from your midst.”
Joshua 7:1-13 NASB
Has God ever told you to give up something in your possession? Furthermore, that thing God told you to give up, was it something He forbid you from having in the first place, but you disobeyed and took hold of it anyway? A major component of our fallen human nature is our tendency to believe and act as if we know more and better than God does! We may not admit to this verbally, but our occasional disobedience validates this tendency that we often do not want to admit. By nature, we doubt God and lean to our own wisdom and understanding. Therefore, as it pertains to things He has commanded us not to do, say, or think, we naturally want to defy His instructions, especially if the thing that He forbids us from having or pursuing is something that we really want and see no harm in possessing for ourselves. This is true even more so when we or others around us do not immediately suffer the consequences of our disobedience.
Joshua 7 illustrates this type of scenario plainly. In the previous chapter, Joshua led the nation of Israel to victory as they conquered the land of Jericho, a feat they accomplished because they obeyed the Lord’s instructions. On the seventh and final day of marching around the city wall of Jericho, Israel marched around seven times. On the seventh time around, Joshua instructed the armies of Israel saying,
16 … “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city. 17 The city shall be under the ban, it and all that is in it belongs to the Lord; only Rahab the harlot and all who are with her in the house shall live, because she hid the messengers whom we sent. 18 But as for you, only keep yourselves from the things under the ban, so that you do not covet them and take some of the things under the ban, and make the camp of Israel accursed and bring trouble on it. 19 But all the silver and gold and articles of bronze and iron are holy to the Lord; they shall go into the treasury of the Lord.” (cf. Joshua 6:16b-19)
Per the Lord’s instructions communicated via Joshua, everything in the land of Jericho belonged to the Lord; all of the recovered items were subject to a ban. Therefore, the Israelites were forbidden from keeping any of the possessions from Jericho for themselves. Joshua even warned Israel that if any of them kept any of the items under the ban for themselves, they would bring trouble upon the entire nation.
While Israel successfully conquered Jericho, Achan, as it is revealed in verse 1, disobeyed the Lord’s instructions by taking some of the items from under the ban and hid them under his tent. (It is later revealed that Achan stole a beautiful robe from Shinar, which was to be destroyed, two hundred shekels of silver, and a bar of gold, both of which were to be placed inside the treasury of the Lord [cf. Joshua 7:20-21]).
As a result of Achan’s disobedience, Israel was defeated in battle at Ai. The men of Ai killed thirty-six Israelite men, which ultimately caused the remaining Israelites to retreat in fear and discouragement. In anguish, Joshua and the elders of Israel cried out to the Lord and questioned why He allowed them to cross the Jordan only to suffer defeat. He mentions that the Canaanites and all the other inhabitants of the land will attack them once they hear that they fled from Ai. Joshua ultimately appeals to the Lord’s reputation, citing that if He allows this to happen, other nations will question His ability to keep the very people He brought over the Jordan.
In response to his plea, God commands Joshua sternly to “Get up!” He informs Joshua that He allowed Israel to succumb to defeat due to their violation of His covenant with them, in which He clearly instructed them to keep themselves away from all the items under the ban that were meant to either be destroyed or deposited into the treasury of the Lord. Therefore, God instructed Joshua to make this proclamation to the nation of Israel: “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.” The Amplified Version synonymously reads “You cannot stand [victorious] before your enemies until you remove the things under the ban from among you.” Although Achan was technically the only one who disobeyed the Lord’s instructions, God charged his sin to the account of the entire nation of Israel. Achan’s sin was treated as corporate sin. While operating in covetousness, Achan did not fully consider the severity of his iniquity and how it would affect his countrymen, even though Joshua specifically warned them all that anyone who disobeyed the Lord’s instructions regarding the items under the ban would bring trouble upon the nation.
The corporate effect of Achan’s individual, private sin clearly demonstrates that sin does not solely affect you as the individual, but also the people in connection or relationship with you, such as friends, family, co-workers, etc. Most importantly, God instructed Joshua to declare to Israel that they would not be able to stand victorious against their enemies unless they removed and destroyed the items from among them that were under the ban, or forbidden from personal possession. In likewise manner, we as believers cannot stand victorious against our enemies if we do not surrender those things from our lives that God has banned! We can exhaust so much energy and effort in trying to fight the temptation of sin, and all other enemies of righteousness and holiness all the while not realizing that our unwillingness to surrender those ungodly habits, mindsets, and even relationships will subject us to an ongoing cycle of defeat, even though we are truly victorious in Christ Jesus!
There is victory in surrender! Ultimately, we must trust and believe in what the Lord says is both good and not good for us, even if that opportunity or desire is a good and pure one, but not good for us in a particular season! One of the fruits of faith is obedience! (If you don't believe so, simply refer to the individuals highlighted in the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11 to see the correlation between their faith and resulting obedience). If we continue to believe and operate in such a way that suggests that we know better than God, we will continue to fall and subject ourselves to cycles of sin, dysfunction, and confusion, and ultimately cause detriment to the people in relationship with us! Just as Jesus declares in Mark 10:9 “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate”, so also, we should say in likewise manner that what God has forbidden, let no one pursue or possess!