Sin in God’s Camp

Joshua 6-8    Review Activities for this Lesson

After their victory at Jericho, the Israelites thought the rest of their battles would be easy. Joshua could see that God was helping them and knew with His help no enemy could stand before them. Therefore, when they went up to the next town of Ai, Joshua sent only 3,000 soldiers. Ai was a small town and his spies had said there were not many people there. Imagine their surprise, then, when the men of Ai killed thirty-six of the Israelites and chased the rest of them back down the hill. The people of Israel were so frightened that their hearts melted and became like water. In his distress Joshua tore his clothes. Then he and the elders of the people fell before the ark of the Lord, throwing dust on their heads.

Joshua went to the Lord to find out what was wrong. “Alas, Lord God”, he prayed, “why have You brought this people over the Jordan at all - - to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us?” If only they had been satisfied just to stay on the other side of the Jordan River, Joshua thought. Now when the nations of Canaan heard about Ai, they would wipe Israel off the earth.

“Get up!” God told Joshua. “Why do you lie thus on your face? Israel has sinned.” Then the Lord told Joshua someone in the camp had not followed all of God’s commands when they fought Jericho.

Before the walls had fallen the Lord had spoken through Joshua to tell the people everything in Jericho was accursed and should be destroyed. No one was to keep any of its riches for himself. Even all the flocks and herds were to be killed. They were to save only the gold and silver and vessels of iron and bronze to go into the treasury of the tabernacle.

But someone had not followed those instructions and had taken some of the accursed things for himself. Because of this, the men of Ai had won the victory.

God told Joshua to get up and bring the people together the next morning and say, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: There is an accursed thing in your midst, O Israel: you cannot stand until you take away the accursed thing from among you.” The person who had done it would have to be burned with fire, along with everything he had, because he had done a disgraceful thing.

The Lord told Joshua how to find the man who had done wrong. He was to have all the tribes file by and God would show the tribe of the sinner. After that, God would narrow it down until they knew the family, then the household of culprit.

Joshua followed God’s directions and a man named Achan from the tribe of Judah was picked out. “My son,” Joshua told Achan, “I beg you, give glory to the Lord God of Israel and make confession unto Him, and tell me now what you have done. Do not hide it from me.”

Achan confessed that he had indeed sinned before God. He had taken some silver coins, a large wedge of pure gold and a beautiful Babylonian garment from Jericho. They were all buried in the ground under his tent. Joshua sent messengers who ran to look and came back with the accursed things.

Then Joshua brought everything Achan had out to the Valley of Achor and said, “Why have you troubled us? The Lord will trouble you this day.”

So all Israel stoned Achan with stones and burned everything he had with fire. A great heap of stones was raised over the place to remind people of what happens when people do not obey God.

Then God told Joshua, “Do not be afraid nor be dismayed; take all the people of war with you, and arise, go up to Ai. See, I have given into your hand the King of Ai, his people, his city and his land.” So Joshua did as he was commanded and there was a great victory over their enemies that day.

Talking it Over:

1. Talk about how foolish Achan was to risk his life and everything he had for some gold and silver and something to wear. How can people be foolish in the same way today? Look up “covetousness” in a dictionary, then find the Scriptures that tell about it. (Use a concordance.)
2. Joshua did not know about Achan’s sin until God told him. Is it possible to hide our sins from others today? From God?
3. What did Ai’s victory over Israel show? How does God help us fight our battles today?

Memory Verse:
“… One’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” Luke 12:15
Jesus says here that having “things” does not make us happy. What does make us happy?

Text by Betty Belue Haynes, originally published in Bible Talk Times. Used here with the kind permission of the author. Users are free to reproduce for use, but not for publication.