Today’s Reading: Joshua 7-24
A covenant is a formal or serious agreement between two people or two parties. God had entered into a covenant relationship with the people of Israel. The agreement was that the people of Israel would obey God out of love for Him and He would be with them and bless them. If they chose disobedience, there would be curses instead. God affirmed to Joshua that his success was dependent on listening obediently to God for his every move.
After their victory at Jericho, God gave specific instructions to NOT take any of the things from Jericho but to destroy everything. If anyone disobeyed, it would bring trouble to the entire camp. A man named Achan saw a beautiful robe, 200 silver coins and a bar of gold weighing more than a pound. He wanted them so much that he took them (7:21). God had supplied Achan’s every need but Achan was focused more on what he wanted but didn’t have, instead of on all God had provided.
Unaware of this hidden sin, Joshua led a group of 3000 warriors to the next town, but they were defeated and lost 36 of their men. God’s people were so confident that God would bless them and give them victory, yet God did not work as they expected. The people were paralyzed with fear at this turn of events and their courage melted away. They tore their clothes in dismay and bowed down to the ground asking God “why?”
I relate to this description of fear this morning. When I hear that a strong believer in the faith dies of cancer or loses their battle against disease or injury, my world is rocked and I find myself scared. I tend to live with this confidence that nothing bad will happen to us and then, when I see something bad happen to someone else, I find myself in dismay – paralyzed with fear, courage melting away. I fall to my knees and ask God to strengthen my faith and to protect my family. I long to trust God in spite of the pain and suffering all around. If I’ve learned anything from Joshua, it is to BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS – to not fear but to recognize God’s presence with me and before me, holding tight to God.
When Joshua and the people came to the Lord, seeking an answer for their defeat, God revealed that the covenant relationship had been broken. Achan was found guilty – his sin not only destroyed him and the 36 warriors who died in battle, but also his entire family. His selfish decision affected those he loved most and brought trouble to the entire camp.
Now that the sin was confessed and taken care of, God renewed His covenant and helped the Israelites find victory of the town of Ai, wiping out everyone and everything. Joshua then took the time to read the blessing and curses laid out in God’s covenant, reminding the people of the importance of obeying God (8:34-35). In spite of this renewed covenant, we read in Joshua 9 that the people of Israel still had a lesson to learn. They made a decision and entered into a peace treaty with the Gibeonites without consulting the Lord (9:14). Their foolishness, like that of Achan’s, reaped negative consequences.
So why does God want us to inquire of Him? RELATIONSHIP – it is evident even in the Old Testament that God wants a relationship with each of us. He does not want us to live independently, but to inquire of Him – to call on Him. And He will listen! He does not want us to live in fear, but in faith. God repeats His Joshua 1:9 instructions in Joshua 10:25, just like He reminds us again today:
“Don’t ever be afraid or discouraged,” Joshua told his men. “BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS, for the Lord is going to do this…” – Joshua 10:25
When five Amorite kings united in hopes to attack Gibeon and defeat Israel, the Lord confirmed to Joshua that he would give them victory. They called on God and He listened to them.
On the day the Lord gave the Israelites victory over the Amorites, Joshua prayed to the Lord in front of all the people of Israel. He said,
“Let the sun stand still over Gibeon, and the moon over the valley of Aijalon.”
So the sun stood still and the moon stayed in place until the nation of Israel had defeated its enemies….There has never been a day like this one before or since, when the Lord answered such a prayer. Surely the Lord fought for Israel that day! – Joshua 10:12-14
Not only will God listen to us, He will respond. Because God was fighting for them, the promised land of Canaan was conquered and divided between the tribes. Joshua knew the source of his victories because he had a relationship with God, the Victor. Joshua did as he was told, carefully obeying all the commands that the Lord had given Moses (11:15). He followed God wholeheartedly (14:8) and, at the end of his life, he had these words of advice for God’s people. Listen carefully for all the words that speak of RELATIONSHIP:
“Love the Lord your God, walk in his ways, obey his commands, hold firmly to him, and serve him with all your heart and all your soul.” – Joshua 22:5b
“Hold tight to God, your God, just as you’ve done up to now” (Joshua 23:8, The Message).
“So be very careful to love the Lord your God…Deep in your hearts you know that every promise of the Lord has come true. Not a single one has failed!” (Joshua 23:11,14).
“So fear the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly…Choose today whom you will serve…But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:14-15)
One of the last things Joshua told the people was to turn their hearts to the Lord, yielding to Him (24:23). Or, as The Message interprets it: Say an unqualified Yes to God!