Last week, in the Problems at Ai, Part A, we
learned three important lessons: to remember to give God the credit for
our victory and resist the urge to be prideful, to always seek God's
advice, and to always seek His timing and direction beforehand!
But there are more lessons to be learned from the problems that Israel faced at Ai. You see, this was the day and age where angels with fiery swords became visible to man! God could have stopped them from going against Ai without His direction! Something was staying His hand!
It is interesting to note that Joshua 7, the chapter that records the story of Ai, actually begins with something that happened at Jericho: "But the Israelites acted unfaithfully in regard to the devoted things; Achan son of Carmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of them. So the LORD's anger burned against Israel." (Josh 7:1 NIV)
In other words, the "Lord's anger burned against Israel", because of something that had happened at Jericho! There was sin in the camp, and it stayed God's hand at Ai!
So what was this sin?
Jericho was the first miracle to happen once the people were in Canaan. The Bible tells us that they "… burned the whole city and everything in it, but they put the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron into the treasury of the LORD's house." (Josh 6:24-25 NIV) Jericho was the "first fruit" of the conquest, so to speak, and the plunder of the city was the Lord's. It was also the only city conquered where God required the plunder for Himself, for when the situation at Ai was finally settled and God told the people to go up against it, He told them: "You shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king, except that you may carry off their plunder and livestock for yourselves." (Josh 8:1-2 NIV)
But Achan couldn't wait for Ai. He "… violated the covenant of the LORD" and did "… a disgraceful thing in Israel" (Josh 7:15). In essence, he "stole" from the Lord.
Isaiah tells us that sin causes God to not be able to hear our voices: "Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear." (Isa 59:1-2 NIV). In other words, Achan's sin stood between God and His people, and the door was open for the people to go up against Ai without His blessing!
Please note here, that because of the sin of one man, the whole camp suffered. So often I hear people say that they know God hasn't forgiven their sin, because their bad circumstances are still with them. It is true that when we go against the Lord's direction, not only do we sin, but it actually stays God's hand, and when we are given specific direction from God, we need to follow it, to the letter! And it's also true that when we are faced with temptation, overcoming needs to be our #1 priority! But our own bad circumstances may not be rooted in our personal sin! Sometimes the bad things happen as a result of someone else's sin!
So what should we do in the face of bad circumstances and situations? It is always a good idea to search our own hearts and souls for unconfessed sin. God will reveal it if it's there, and if He does, our place is to repent. But if He doesn't reveal anything new, and the only things that are brought to mind are things that we have already confessed and repented of, then we need to understand that what is happening to us is not a result of our own sin!
God is the specialist of turning bad things into good ones. Sometimes the bad things don't reverse themselves, but God will ALWAYS bring something good out of the situation, and sometimes this "something good" is important lessons for us to learn.
So in the face of bad circumstances, yes, take that extra step, search your heart for unconfessed sin. But if there is none, then put your trust in God, ever knowing that He will bring you through!
Isn't this what He did at Ai? After Achan's sin was uncovered and dealt with, God said to Joshua: "Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Take the whole army with you, and go up and attack Ai. For I have delivered into your hands the king of Ai, his people, his city and his land." (Josh 8:1-2 NIV)
There is one more important lesson to be learned from Israel's problems at Ai. Join us next week for The Problems at Ai, Part C.
In His love,
Lyn Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two teens, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, www.scripturalnuggets.org, with Answers2Prayer Ministries, www.Answers2Prayer.org.