Ignorance of God’s sovereignty and affection for His people can lead to some pretty disastrous scenarios. The Bible explains that God is the Lord of Hosts. This means that God is the Lord of Armies (hosts meaning armies). This title or name of God refers to His sovereign control over all things. He is able to control any and all circumstances. This would include the people that live within the circumstances that God effects. God’s sovereignty is so great that He can control entire armies, people groups, and nations so that they act as His tools to accomplish His purposes. For example, the Bible often shows God making prophetic predictions concerning the judgment of His people. When Israel was disobedient, He would predict that certain nations such as the Assyrians or Babylonians, would come and destroy the children of Israel on account of their disobedience through idolatry.
How was God able to make such predictions? How was God able to know what these foreign people groups would be motivated and able to do in the future? Though God knows all things, the Bible teaches that His omniscience is supported by His omnipotence. God is able to know all things because He is able to do all things according to His knowledge. He was able to know about the Assyrian and Babylonian advances because God used them as tools, controlled by His own sovereign hand, to advance against His people. For example, in Ezekiel Chapter 38, the Bible speaks of a war that will take place in the future in which many powerful nations will assemble together against Israel. People today are marveling at the strategic alliances that are beginning to take place amongst the very nations that God mentioned by name. However, one does not have to marvel since the prophecy of Ezekiel states that God would exercise His sovereignty to force these nations to advance against Israel by putting “flesh hooks” in their jaws to control them and inspire them to fight against His people.
The challenge is that, while many nations have been able to bring defeat to the children of Israel, such defeat was on account of the work of God. The success of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Greece, Persia, and Rome was not on account of the power of those nations. God used those nations as His disciplinary tool against Israel due to the unfaithfulness in Israel at those given times. God warned His people of their disobedience, and when His people failed to repent, He sent these nations against them. Unfortunately, many of these nations figured their victories were on account of their own strength. Not knowing the sovereignty of God, they figured their conquests were due to their military brilliance and power. History shows that these nations became arrogant on account of their victories even though their victories were the work of God. As a result, God eventually had to humble these nations just like He had to discipline His own people, showing that He is ultimately in charge of all people!
The Book of Joshua is filled with these sorts of testimonies concerning God’s sovereignty. In Joshua 8:3-29 the Bible illustrates this exact principle of God. The scriptures explain that after Israel dealt with the sin in the camp concerning Achan by destroying him and his family, God commanded the children of Israel to prepare to advance against Ai again. God used Ai to humble His people and correct their spiritual focus. Upon correcting their issue and purging their sin, God would use the children of Israel as His tool of righteousness once again. This shows that God can use any people group at any time to accomplish His will. Though the people of Ai were to be the recipients of God’s judgment on account of their sin, God used them to humble Israel, leading them to repentance. Ai was to be judged, but God’s sovereign control was so great that He was able to use wicked people to achieve a righteous result to improve the condition of His own people. When that work was completed, God’s sovereign control was such that He would use the children of Israel again as an instrument of righteousness against the wicked people of Ai.
Joshua 8:3-29 explains that God commanded the children of Israel to set an ambush against the people of Ai. God, knowing the prideful nature of those people, told Joshua to leverage the arrogance of Ai against themselves to achieve victory. Since the people of Ai had chased Israel away once, God knew the people of Ai were arrogant in their position against Israel. God knew the people of Ai figured that they were powerful and intimidating. The people of Ai were ignorant to the sovereignty of God and did not know that God used them for a moment to discipline His people. The people of Ai did not credit God with their past victory and boasted of their own strength. The people of Ai did not understand that all strength and power comes from God, and when God does not share His strength, there is no strength available. Thus, as Joshua received the command to lay a trap and ambush the people of Ai, Joshua was confident in the strategy that God had commanded.
The Bible testifies that Joshua gathered 30,000 men to fight against Ai, which is a stark contrast to the 3,000 people he sent against Ai the first time. Joshua did not want to express the same foolishness and pride of the people of Ai by being presumptuous. Instead, Joshua, while confident in the Lord’s command, wanted to ensure the work of the Lord was done thoroughly. Joshua commanded that the army of Israel split up according to the command of the Lord. Joshua sent 5,000 men to lie and wait behind the city of Ai. The plan was that Joshua and the rest of his men would draw the people of Ai out of the city to fight, then retreat. God assured Joshua that the people of Ai would fully advance against Joshua and his men and chase them in pride, leaving their city unattended. The men of Ai would feel confident in their own ability to finish off the children of Israel and send every troop against them to chase them down, leaving their base and city unguarded. Sure enough, the Bible explains that as Joshua executed God’s plan, the people of Ai responded exactly as God said.
Joshua 8:3-29 explains that as Joshua and his men played on the pride of Ai and enticed them to fight and chase, Joshua and his men retreated into the wilderness. Just as God predicted, the people of Ai gave chase and sent every soldier after Joshua and his men. After leading them far away enough, God commanded Joshua to turn and look back to signal the 5,000 men that were hiding behind the city of Ai. God commanded Joshua to lift up his arm and hold out his staff to signal that Ai would be conquered and destroyed. Like when Aaron and Hur lifted the arms of Moses to reveal God as Jehovah Nissi (The Lord Our Banner), Joshua lifted his staff to signal to the people that God was about to fulfill His promise of victory. The scriptures testify that the 5,000 saw Joshua’s signal, went into Ai without opposition, and began to destroy the inhabitants that were left in the city. In the process of this ambush, they set the city of fire at which point the arrogant king and soldiers of Ai saw their homes on fire. In a panic, they turned back only to find that 5,000 men of Israel were in advance against them, while 25,000 others had turned back to advance from the other side. Scripture testifies that Joshua and his men slaughtered 12,000 people that day in their victory against Ai. They burned the city to the ground, took the spoil that God permitted them to take according to His Word, and hung the king as a display of God’s victory.
While this testimony documents a great slaughter and much carnage, the Bible proves that God is in charge of all things. Ai felt confident in their position against Israel because of the way God used them prior. However, God promised to curse those who curse Israel. Therefore, any person, people group or nation that opposes Israel will be judged at some point in time. No matter what type of success one might think they had in the past, God is the author of all advancement for all people. Therefore, one cannot gage past success as a measure of future success. God’s will is going to be done. Understanding this truth, one must not examine one’s historical success and victory as a mark for future confidence, but instead ensure one’s understanding of God’s purpose and ensure one properly aligned on the favorable side of His work in humility. The people of Ai were not the only ones that experienced this folly. God uses all people in various ways at different times to accomplish His purposes. One’s success at any time is NEVER on account of one’s own ability. Hence, all people should recognize the sovereignty of God knowing that His works are always dedicated towards the fulfillment of His promises to His people. Since His people, those who will receive the benefits of His eternally unconditional promises, are identified by their repentant faith, all people should seek the favor of the sovereign God through humble repentance and faith in His identity and purposes rather than being destroyed in arrogance and unbelief.
Living in the past is often counterproductive. When one reflects too much on the past, whether good or bad, it is often difficult to advance forward. Some get stuck remembering the goodness of a past time and fail to progress past nostalgia. Many more have a tendency of remembering past difficulties that often lead to various fears, which can be hindering to one’s progress in life. The scriptures encourage the people of God to move forward in life, absent fear, trusting in the eternally unconditional promises of God. It is true that all people make mistakes and face the consequences of those mistakes. However, the scriptures take great effort to remind God’s people that He transcends consequence. Regardless of the circumstances one has faced in the past, God desires His people to faithfully move forward according to His Word and commands, trusting that He is able to overcome associated difficulties, hindrances, and obstacles that might have brought trouble in the past. God wants His people to trust that, though one might have fallen in sin, He is eager to pick one up to restore them back to original purpose. One should not dwell on the fall, but instead, trust that God’s mercy and grace are greater than the fall, and that His faithfulness to His promises is sufficient to restore one back to productive purpose according to His will.
This desire of God’s is clearly illustrated in Joshua 8:1-2. This testimony explains that God commanded Joshua to assemble the army of Israel to prepare for a second advance against Ai. Though Israel had been defeated and shamed by Ai in the past, God commanded Joshua to advance against them and prepare for victory. Though Achan’s sin caused God to be angry against Israel, God commanded Joshua to prepare for victory against Ai. Though the children of Israel had to purge the sins of Achan by destroying him and his family, God commanded Joshua to prepare for victory against Ai. Though Israel had recently been embarrassed in battle and judged for one man’s rebellion, God commanded Joshua to prepare for victory against Ai. The point is, God made a promise to Himself concerning Israel and their land inheritance. It is true that Israel made mistakes. It is true that Israel had issues. Nevertheless, God would fulfill His promises as the issue of defilement was addressed. Since Israel was obedient to trust in the holy and righteous nature of God’s commands and promises, God was committed to moving forward towards the fulfillment of His promises, showing the extent of His faithfulness, mercy, and grace!
When God called Israel to move forward in Joshua 8:1-2, He specifically commanded Joshua not to be afraid or dismayed. God didn’t want Joshua to dwell on the past defeat they had experience. God didn’t want Joshua and the people to have their minds stuck on the consequences of God’s judgment and purifying work on Israel. God wanted His people to remain hopeful about the benefits of His promises. It is true that God must purify His people in order to usher them into the benefits of His promises. This purification process requires refinement that can be painful on account of rebuke, correction, and judgment. However, the scriptures teach that God chastises those whom He loves. Hence, the people of God should not examine the rebukes and corrections of God as a bad thing, but instead a necessary thing. The Bible teaches that there comes a point in time when a person is so rebellious against God, knowing the true intents and desires of their hearts, God gives them up to their wicked affections (Romans Chapter 1). This in turn leads to more tragic consequences. In contrast, when God corrects the course of His people by purging sin from the camp, it is for the purpose of advancement. Therefore, the people of God should be relieved that God is still present. The people of God should be thankful that God is merciful to forgive and remove that which corrupts His people without utterly destroying them. The people of God should rejoice in these types of challenges, trusting that God uses these difficulties to solidify one’s position in Him.
As the people of God recognize the necessary cleansing work of God in one’s life, the people of God should remain confident in the faithfulness of God to complete the work He promised to see to fulfillment. God’s promises are God’s promises. There is no volume of sin that can exceed the extent of God’s grace. The apostle Paul wrote, “Where sin abounded, grace did about much more.” Joshua 8:1-2 shows that God commanded the children of Israel to advance because, though He was angry at the sin in the midst of Israel at one point in time, when the sin was removed, God remained committed to the promises He made before that were also on the basis of grace. The judgment that God had to bring against Israel in their defeat from Ai was simply to get their attention fixed on the defilement within the camp. Once that defilement was removed, the people of God were expected to march on as previously commanded. The first command was to conquer Ai. Sin prohibited that from happening according to God’s will the first time. After the sin was dealt with, God expected His people to go back and finish the job that He first commanded, and do so with confidence!
This testimony reveals that God doesn’t hold grudges. Those who humble themselves before God and seek His forgiveness, are indeed forgiven and equipped to advance in His work toward the fulfillment of His promises. Those who humble themselves before God, allowing Him to purge the sin that resides in one’s heart, are truly cleansed and prepared as servants of God to do His work for His glory, advancing towards the fulfillment of His promises. While God wants His people to learn from mistakes, God doesn’t want His people crippled by the past. God demands that His people trust in His forgiveness and His effective work to sanctify His people unto Himself. God demands that His people trust that He is merciful to purge the sins of the humble without destroying the humble. God demands that His people move forward remembering that the essence of His promises was founded on grace, not one’s performance. Thus, as one may fall or require correction, one must remember that one’s perfection was never a part of the equation that led to the fulfillment of God’s promises. God made His promises and offers to share the benefits of them with all who believe; not with all who perform according to a certain standard.
Joshua 8:1-2 explains that God assured the children of Israel would be victorious against Ai the second time around. God had His people back on track. The accursed things were removed from the camp, so the original plan was put back into action. The children of Israel could be encouraged again. This shows that when one heeds the voice of God to remove defilement from one’s life in repentance, one can be encouraged to advance towards the fulfillment of God’s eternally unconditional promises. Hebrews 12:1 states, “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” God’s will is for the people of God to run and complete the course of faith that He lays before each of His people so that He is glorified by the work He does to enable His people to the finish line. However, the scriptures call for the people of God to lay aside the “weight” that can hinder progress.
When a runner seeks to move forward quickly, the runner does not add weight that causes resistance. Instead, the runner seeks to lighten the load to ensure the least amount of resistance as possible. Likewise, the people of God are called to “shed the weight” of sin to minimize resistance to God’s progress. According to Joshua 8:1-2, when God’s people have indeed shed weight, they should recognize the race that God has set before them and move forward trusting in the faithfulness of God to usher one to the finish line! When the weight of sin is removed, the goal is to move forward, not look back at the weight and dwell on past consequences. God is loving, and love covers a multitude of sins. God has given up His Son, whose blood was shed to cleanse those who believe from ALL sin and unrighteousness, enabling His people to continue on in the race, towards the glory of the finish line. Praise God for His forgiveness, mercy, and grace!
The Bible teaches that there are severe consequences for rebellion against the Lord. One cannot deny God’s grace and mercy and expect all things to go well and end well. It is true that God is loving and gracious, but it is also true that God is righteous and responds in jealous anger against sin on the behalf of the spiritual integrity of His people and in faithfulness to His eternally unconditional promises. God, knowing all things from the beginning to the end, responds violently against defilement in order to preserve the spiritual integrity of His people. This means that, those who refuse to repent or live in deception about their defiled position, will indeed suffer great calamity and tragedy. God is merciful, but God is also just. Those who reject the promises and provision of God in exchange for the wicked and accursed affections of the flesh will pay a price. Sometimes that price is severe!
The scriptures show that this was the case for a man and his family after the failed battle of Ai. In Joshua 7:16-26 the Bible explains that a man named Achan and his family suffered a horrible fate on account of Achan’s wickedness. The scriptures testified that Achan secretly took some of the accursed things from amongst the spoils of their victory against Jericho. It was not just that Achan took those things that God said not to, but the testimony of scripture shows that Achan’s heart was deceitful in the process. Achan knew his actions were sinful but tried to hide them, tempting God and His holy promises and righteousness. God allowed the sin of Achan to run its course. God warned the children of Israel that if they took the accursed things from the native inhabitants of the land as their own, God would ensure their defeat. Recall that part of God’s purpose in bringing victory to the children of Israel in the Promised Land was to use them as His tools of justice for the extent of sin that had been committed by the native inhabitants of the land. Therefore, their treasures and idols were as an abomination to God that He wanted destroyed from existence. His people were to be holy, having nothing to do with that which God would judge, lest they be judged as well.
According to the scriptures, Achan took these things lightly and all Israel suffered consequence as God promised. When Israel went into Ai to advance against them, they were forced to flee, loosing 36 men in the process. Joshua and the elders sought the Lord in morbidly depressed fashion at which point God rebuked Joshua and the elders. Joshua and the elders approached God as if they did not know why they suffered loss. God spoke to them, informing them that they should know. There was only one thing that would cause Israel to experience defeat. Therefore, God commanded Joshua to seek out the one that had sinned against God. God promised to reveal the man, but Joshua and the elders were held accountable to purge the sin from the camp of Israel by killing the guilty man and his family. Joshua 7:16-26 explains that Joshua gathered the entire congregation of Israel together. Exercising the wisdom of the Lord, Joshua separated the tribe of Judah from the rest, then separated the family of the Zarhites, then man by man, the family of Zabdi was taken. Going through this family, Joshua approached Achan and God revealed that this was the guilty man.
When Joshua approached Achan, Joshua knew that he was the man that needed to be dealt with. He made an interesting statement to Achan when approaching him. Joshua stated, “Give glory to the Lord God of Israel and make confession to Him.” According to the scriptures, God is glorified when His people confess their sins. God is exalted when His people admit their unrighteous inadequacy to meet the glorious standards of God. God is glorified when His righteousness is acknowledged compared to the failure of mankind. However, God is not glorified merely in the statement of guilt. There are many that profess of their imperfections, but do so in a proud manner, or in an unrepentant manner. The scriptures explain that Achan was willing to confess his sin, but was not excused from the consequence of it. Thus, there must be more to confession to glorify God in these types of situations.
Joshua 7:16-26 explains that Achan fessed up to his mistake. He admitted that he coveted some of the spoils from Jericho, took the spoils, and then hid them in his tent by burying them under his pillow area. Achan then tried to continually hide his actions, going about life as if he had done no wrong. One must examine the trail of Achan’s folly to understand why his guilt was held to him. Achan confessed that he “coveted” the accursed things. The Law commands the people of God not to covet their neighbor’s possessions – especially those things that come from wicked neighbors that were condemned to judgment, who’s things are considered accursed by God. In this way, Achan was already an offender of the Law. However, Achan did not seek forgiveness according to the instructions of the Law. Instead, Achan pursued his wicked affection for wicked things and took them. At this point, Achan became an offender of God’s covenant concerning the land inheritance. God’s covenant with the people was predicated on their willingness to live holy, reject the profane things of the native inhabitants of Canaan, and destroy that which God considered defiled. Upon doing so, God would guarantee victory in the land. When Achan succumbed to his fleshly desires and took the accursed things for himself, he broke the covenant that God made. He looked at the holy nature of the covenant and denied it. He examined the righteous nature of God and compromised it. He considered the promises of God and rejected them in exchange for the wicked desires of his heart. Lastly, Achan confessed that he hid the things that he took, which shows that he knew he was wrong, didn’t care, and was willing to live in deception amongst the people in order to have what he wanted. This reveals that Achan’s heart was not repentant but given over to deceit.
Though Achan confessed these things, the scriptures do not show Achan seeking forgiveness. The scriptures do not show that Achan recognized his wrongdoing in a manner that drove him to humbly pursue God’s righteousness in repentance. Joshua sent servants to check the tent of Achan and found everything there just as Achan had confessed. Upon verifying the evidence of sin and deceit, Joshua did as the Lord commanded. Joshua took Achan, his family, all of his possessions, and the accursed things that were taken from Jericho, and put them all in the Valley of Achor. Upon putting them in the valley, the people of Israel stoned Achan and his family to death, and then burned them up along with all of their possessions. After doing this, Joshua 7:16-26 explains that God turned from the fierceness of His anger and the people were able to proceed as before. Hence, God was glorified, not only in the exposing of deceit and sin, but also in the administration of judgment against the unrepentant. As Joshua led the children of Israel to destroy and purge defilement from the camp of Israel, the people of Israel made a statement – the holy nature of God is true, the righteousness of God is important, the covenants of God are serious, and the promises of God are better than any accursed possession. The willingness of the children of Israel to purge the deceitful sin and darkened hearts of Achan and his family was an expression that the people understood the need to abstain from sin and obey God’s commands in order to receive God’s favor.
The children of Israel buried Achan and his family under a heap of stones as a memorial to remind the people about the righteous judgment of God. Joshua wanted the people to remember that those who break the Law and do not seek forgiveness, but instead seek to live with hidden defilement against the purposes and promises of God will suffer consequence. The memorial was a reminder that no one can hide sin from the Lord. The memorial was a reminder that hypocrisy is a big deal to God and a heart that desires to deceive people cannot deceive God. The memorial was a reminder that God will not be mocked – that which a man sows, he will also reap. The memorial was a reminder that the people of God need to uphold the holiness and righteousness of God, and that when God’s holiness, righteousness and justice are exalted, the name of God is exalted to His glory.
The covenants and promises of God are not a joke. The Bible teaches and explains that God reveals Himself through His covenants and promises and in the various things that He does to fulfill them. One is able to know God and partake of the infinitely awesome benefits that are of His essence as an heir to His promises and as a believer in His covenants. Therefore, it is important for the people of God to know and understand God’s covenants and promises. It is important for God’s people to understand the magnitude of God’s covenants and promises. The details of God’s covenants and promises are not only for Bible teachers and theologians to know and understand. The scriptures are clear that God expects all of His people to know His covenants and promises, and to seek understanding of why He does what He does to fulfill them, desiring to see the manifestation and revelation of the Lord as He faithfully does His work. Since God uses His covenants and promises to reveal His essence and nature, one must consider the privilege associated with one’s position in God’s covenants and promises. There is a TREMENDOUS amount of mercy and grace that God gives to His people to be a part of His covenants and promises so that one should respond with great fear, respect, and humility towards God to honor Him in response to one’s position as an heir.
God expresses His perspective regarding the seriousness of His covenants and promises in Joshua 7:6-15. This portion of scripture reveals how God responds when people take His Word, covenants, and promises lightly. After the children of Israel sought to advance against the people of Ai and were forced to retreat, the scriptures explain that Joshua and the elders of Israel were distraught. Joshua and the elders went before the Ark of the Covenant and tore their clothes, putting ash across their foreheads, expressing deep sorrow and dismay over the loss of the battle. One must keep in perspective the true extent of the loss. While loss of life to any degree is terrible, it is often expected that there will be loss of life in war. The children of Israel deployed 3,000 men to fight at Ai and thirty-six men were killed. Though the numbers were few, Joshua and the elders responded as if all was lost.
It is important to recall that God assured Israel total victory. The children of Israel were not expecting to loose any men. After seeing God part the Jordan River then destroy the wall surrounding the city of Jericho in miraculous form, the people were anticipating more powerful miracles from God to guarantee total victory. Joshua and the elders were torn, not only about the loss of life, but the fact that they were forced to retreat from their advance. Joshua 7:6-15 explains that Joshua and the elders began to speculate about how they might be perceived by the other surrounding nations. They figured the rest of the native inhabitants of Canaan would sense weakness in Israel and destroy them. Though God had provided great victories according to His promises so far, they figured that the people would overcome them and destroy them. Hence, they humbly presented themselves to the Lord seeking direction and favor.
Unfortunately, the scriptures reveal that Joshua and the elders sought the Lord in a manner that was full of fear, doubt, and foolishness. Joshua pleaded with God, asking why God had allowed the defeat. Though God clearly communicated the terms the people needed to abide by to receive victory according to His covenant, Joshua was distraught. God clearly stated that the children of Israel needed to be faithfully centered on God’s holy and righteous standards, keeping pure by separating themselves from the defilement of the native inhabitants of the land. God clearly commanded the children of Israel to keep from the accursed things that would be found in the land, and to destroy all of the people in the land to remain sanctified unto the Lord. God promised that if these things weren’t done, they would loose. On the contrary, God swore that if the people remained faithfully obedient, they would be undefeatable. Therefore, there was only one thing that could possibly lead to defeat – defilement amongst the people of Israel from disobedience to the commands and covenants of God. The only thing that could cause the children of Israel to loose was if the people began to separate themselves from the covenant of God.
Joshua and the elders did not consider this. Instead, they wallowed in their defeat. They questioned God’s faithfulness to fulfill His promises. Joshua feared the worse and assumed that the surrounding nations would hear about the defeat at Ai and then assemble together to destroy Israel. Despite the magnitude of victory that God had just brought at Jericho, Joshua was focused on the recent defeat, considering it to have been better if they would have just stayed on the other side of the Jordan River. Like the generation that came before him, Joshua examined the difficulty of sinful consequence in a manner that fooled him into thinking it would have been better to sit than advance towards the fulfillment of God’s promises. Unfortunately, this is a common human tendency. Many times people examine the consequence of sin and assume the worse, figuring it would have been better to do nothing rather than walk in obedience to the commands of God. This is a lie of the enemy and resembles the foolishness of the flesh. God was sure to let Joshua know.
Joshua 7:6-15 explains that God had choice words for Joshua concerning his attitude. First, God told Joshua to get up and stop crying. God had no sympathy for Joshua’s wallowing since God expected Joshua to know why they had been defeated. God had candidly warned Israel of the terms of His covenant. The issue was simple: someone broke the covenant of God, taking it lightly, desiring the affections of his flesh rather than the promises of God. God didn’t expect Joshua to wallow in self-pity, but instead to address the problem by purging the sin. God commanded Joshua to get up and explained that which Joshua should have already known – there was sin in the camp. God explained to Joshua that they had been defeated because someone took of the accursed things against the covenant of God. God assured Joshua that they would continue to loose battles so long as that defilement remained in the camp. God reminded Joshua of His covenant, and that the terms of the covenant required God’s people to live according to God’s nature – holy and separated from the defilement and sin of the native inhabitants of the land.
This was not a joke to God. This was not an optional choice. This was not something to take lightly. God was not giving the children of Israel the Promised Land simply because He wanted to be nice. The covenant that God made with Israel concerning the land was the tool God would use to reveal His character and nature as Yahweh Elohim. Therefore, God required His people to resemble the types of tools that the righteous and holy hand of God possesses. God was not interested in simply giving the people the land, but ensuring they inherited the land in a certain spiritual condition to testify of His own righteous nature. This does not mean that Israel had to prove their righteousness by works, but instead had to display their faith in God’s righteous nature by keeping corruption and darkness out of the midst of God’s holy work. Since they did not do that, God sternly put Israel on notice that He would not tolerate defilement in the midst of His work. God proved that one cannot deny and reject the promises of God and remove one from the covenants of God to pursue one’s own wicked affections and expect to receive the benefits that God desires to bring.
Joshua 7:6-15 explains that God would reveal the offender. God commanded Joshua to assemble the people so that He could reveal the person who had taken the accursed things by secret and expose the darkness in shame. God would bring forward the offender and required Joshua and the elders to purge the defilement from the camp by burning the guilty person. God not only wanted to remove the leaven that was affecting the whole lump, but also send a strong message that God’s covenants and promises are holy in nature, and He expects His people to respect them as such. God considered the heart of Achan as disgraceful. God considered the deceit of Achan as evil. God considered the desires of Achan to be dangerous and destructive to the rest of Israel. God did not want His people to be destroyed and doomed on account of the sin of one man that would have quickly and easily infected the whole camp (as later proven through Israel’s history). Therefore, God reminded the people about the seriousness of His covenants and promises and required the people to deal with defilement and sin by destroying it and removing it from the people and holy work God desired to do. God called the people to repent and reminded the people that those who choose the flesh over the holy and righteous covenants of God are doomed to destruction.
Scripture emphatically declares the grace of God. The Lord is gracious beyond measure and should be praised as a result. However, this does not mean that God just excuses sin by looking over it as if its no big deal. Though God is gracious, He is faithful, just, and righteous to deal with sin. He doesn’t always destroy the sinner in judgment (a demonstration of mercy and grace), but does deal with the sin. God especially makes sure to deal with the sins of His people since He expects His people to be witnesses of Him. God desires pure and undefiled worship and praise from His people. Sin cannot be a part of the praise and worship of God’s people if it is to be acceptable to God. Therefore, God is always sure to deal with the sins of His people in powerful and effective ways, that might seem harsh, but are successful to lead His people to humility and repentance.
Unfortunately, the children of Israel quickly proved this part of God’s character to be true soon after their victory in Jericho. In Joshua 7:1-5 the Bible explains that the children of Israel had a hard time dealing with their success. Often times, when the Lord provides victory, mankind has a tendency to relax in the flesh, thereby making foolish decisions that lead to sin. Such was the case in Joshua 7:1-5. In this portion of scripture, the Bible explains that a man named Achan took it upon himself to take some of the “accursed things” for himself from the spoil of the victory in Jericho. The mention of “accursed things” is a reference to any of the items that were idolatrous in nature, or used in the worship of false gods.
The Lord sternly commanded the people to abstain from those things. In fact, the Lord was clear that the children of Israel were to destroy all of the “accursed things” so that they wouldn’t later be tempted by them. Nevertheless, the scriptures explain that Achan went against the blatant commands of God and took some of the accursed things to himself, and hid them in his household. In that Achan took the items shows that he was being rebellious against God. In that Achan tried to hide the items shows that he knew what he was doing was wrong and did it any way. Before the children of Israel crossed the Jordan River, Moses warned the children of Israel about tempting the Lord in this way. Moses assured the people that He sees everything, and would faithfully purge any and all sin from Israel. Moses clearly communicated God’s expectation for His people to be holy and was sure to state the consequences for disobedience. Joshua repeated those things to the people so that Achan was without excuse.
The sin of Achan had devastating consequences that affected the people immediately. After destroying Jericho according to the commands of the Lord, Joshua sent spies to a neighboring city called Ai to scout it out and continue their advance in Canaan. When the spies returned, they were confident about the circumstances. The spies advised Joshua to send only a few soldiers into Ai since the town was small and considered weak. It was decided that they would not burden and weary the whole army, but instead elected to send only about 2,000 to 3,000 men. As the soldiers were sent into Ai, the expectation was for a quick and easy victory. However, the children of Israel were met with defeat. The Bible explains that when the children of Israel went into Ai, they were met with great opposition, and after thirty-six men were killed, the rest of the troops were scared and fled from the city in defeat.
The scriptures explain that the hearts of the people melted with discouragement. Though the people had just experienced a great victory, sin and defilement within the camp of Israel caused a great defeat. Though the defeat only involved the loss of thirty-six men, the defeat seemed greater because the people expected God to provide victory. Considering the manner of in which God brought victory in Jericho, the children of Israel had no doubt at all concerning their opportunities in Ai. The circumstances of Jericho were far more difficult than the circumstances of Ai. Yet still, the people lost the battle and were suddenly concerned about the Lord’s involvement in their battles. The deflation of the people was on account of the fear of God’s departure from the camp. The people interpreted the loss as a departure of the Lord.
The reality is that the Lord had never departed from Israel. Instead, one man in Israel had departed from the Lord, and that departure had a consequence that affected the rest of the camp. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” The testimony of Joshua 7:1-5 proves that to be true. The scriptures teach that an offense in one part of the Law makes one guilty of the whole Law. The Bible shows that God does not see sins as “small” or “great.” In the eyes of the holy and righteous God, sin is sin – period. The spiritual condition of God’s people is important to God, so God allowed the people to see the consequence of what happens when one man departs from Him. Achan decided to keep the accursed things, showing that his heart was not set on the things of God. His heart had departed from the Lord. When one departs from the Lord, one will not see victory. One will see defeat, and the defeat is not dependent on circumstances. Even though the people of Ai were small in number and weak, Israel was defeated.
The scriptures prove that, though God is gracious, there is consequence for sin, and sin will affect others. God will not allow defilement in the camp. He is swift to respond against defilement in the midst of His people, understanding that lingering defilement is far more dangerous than circumstantial defeat. It is true that God is gracious and merciful, but God will let people learn the hard way, that one cannot win without Him. One cannot progress towards the fulfillment of His promises when one’s heart is set upon the things of the world. One cannot inherit the benefits that God gives in a defiled condition. The people of God cannot enjoy the spoils of God’s essence when sin is in the camp. The scriptures show that there are no exceptions. While the defeat at Ai was small in comparison to some of God’s other judgments, it was effective in getting the attention of the people. God allowed just enough calamity to cause His people to turn back to Him and to remain fearful about departing from Him. God is merciful and gracious, but is willing to do whatever it takes to ensure the spiritual integrity of His people, being connected to Him – including allow His people to experience the devastating consequences of sin.
Though many people despise the judgment that God promised against sin and those that reject God’s grace to identify with sin (rather than Christ), God ensures that all know that His judgment is real. The Bible even testifies that in the last days, people will mock the idea of Jesus’ return and the judgment that comes with His return. The Bible predicts that many will say, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” In other words, people will think that, since its been so long and nothing has happened, nothing will happen. However, those who think such ways ignore the evidence that God has left behind about judgments that He has already brought. For example, one of the fundamental reasons that God used water in His judgment upon earth in the flood was because of the abundance of evidence and proof that it leaves behind. When God judges, God wants people to know that He judged so that people can recognize His righteousness, the reason for judgment, and keep from repeating such offenses. In many instances in scripture, God’s judgment was committed in such a way that it would serve as a memorial about His righteousness, His justice, and His eternally unconditional promises.
Such a testimony exists in Joshua 6:26-27. This portion of scripture reveals how God wanted to finish off His work in Jericho. After God had brought victory to Israel, He spoke to the children of Israel through Joshua about what to do with Jericho from that moment on. God had revealed His sovereign power over mankind and the very laws of physics in order to destroy the city. The victory that God brought was a step in the direction of fulfillment of God’s promises to give Israel a great land inheritance, but more fundamentally, God was judging the native inhabitants of Canaan. When God first spoke to Abraham concerning the promises of the land, God explained that He was going to wait to give Israel the land because He was waiting for the sins of the people to reach its measure, thereby causing Him to judge. The victory over Jericho was not only a demonstration of God’s faithfulness towards Israel, but also God’s faithfulness to destroy sin, which was reflective of promises God made well before the conception of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Knowing this truth, one must examine the victory of Israel over Jericho from both perspectives. God was showing grace to Israel, and wrath to Jericho. When one understands this truth, one can better interpret the meaning of the curse Joshua pronounced against Jericho in Joshua 6:26-27. There, the Bible explains that Joshua reflected the heart of God concerning His judgments and the manner in which He displays them. Joshua 6:26-27 explains that, as God revealed His powerful nature to destroy Jericho, anyone who sought to rebuild the city would be cursed! The scriptures testify that the curse would extend to the children of the one that sought to rebuild the city. The curse specifically stated, “Cursed be the man before the Lord who rises up and build this city Jericho; he shall lay its foundation with his firstborn, and with his youngest he shall set up its gates.” This means that the man that sought to rebuild Jericho would start such a venture with their firstborn son, but that son would die before the completion of the rebuilding, thereby making it so that the youngest son would have to be the one to help set up the gates much later. The curse implies that the firstborn, youngest son, and every son in between would die in the process of the rebuilding of Jericho.
This curse eventually became a prophecy that was fulfilled during the days of the evil king Ahab. In 1 Kings 16:34 the Bible explains that Hiel of Bethel sought to rebuild Jericho under the permission of the wicked king Ahab and his wicked wife Jezebel. As promised, Hiel was cursed and his two sons (and maybe more) died in the reconstruction of the city. Knowing this, one must consider God’s reason for issuing, then 500 years later, fulfilling such a curse against His own people. When one figures that God was not only advancing Israel, but also judging the people of Canaan, one will see that God wanted Jericho to serve as a memorial of His judgment against wicked people. Jericho was a wicked nation that had provoked God to anger, living contrary to His righteousness for many generations. The people of Jericho knew of God’s work through Israel, feared Him, yet did not seek His mercy. The people would not repent. The people instead figured that their manmade structures would withhold God’s work and progress through His people. The desolation of Jericho was to serve as a sign that no one can contend against God. No one can sin against God without repentance and live. God will not be mocked. That which a person sows, they will also reap. The heap of rubble of Jericho was to remain in such a condition so that future generations would see that God is serious about sin and His promise to judge it! Thus, the one that sought to erase God’s memorial concerning judgment would be cursed, and history proves that God’s Word was true.
While the Lord was using the carnage of Jericho as a memorial of His judgment, Joshua 6:26-27 explains that God was also using Joshua as a testimony of His righteous judgment. God judged in certain ways that the surrounding people would know AND remember God’s work. The scriptures declare that the Lord was with Joshua so that his fame spread throughout the land. One must consider the full context of the victory in Jericho. Joshua never did a thing that resembled hero-like qualities. Joshua simply heard the Word of God, repeated the Word of God, and obeyed the Word of God. Joshua’s obedience was governed by faith and only required him to lead the people by marching. Joshua did not win his war with skilled fighting or strategy. Thus, as the fame of Joshua spread, one cannot look at the character or works of Joshua as the cause. Joshua’s fame spread by the work of God, and the manner in which it spread was that people recognized the presence of the Lord with him! The scriptures show that it is the greatest of compliments that a person can receive when others recognize the presence of the Lord amongst them. Moses, Samuel, David, and others were revered for the same reasons. Therefore, the exaltation that Joshua received was actually on account of God exalting Himself in righteous judgments. The fame of Joshua was further proof of God’s righteous promises to judge sin and those that deny the mercy of God. Consequently, none were with a valid excuse in their defeat as God gave plenty of evidence to recognize the fulfillment of the work He promised to do.
When one examines the work of God in the Bible, it is clear to see the love of God, and impossible to ignore the judgments of God. The Lord is merciful and gracious. The Lord is long suffering towards His people. The Lord is faithful to His people concerning His promises. The Lord is awesome to reveal facets of His holy nature in a manner that His people can receive them. At the same time, the Bible shows that God is righteous. God operates based on a clearly defined set of standards to define what is right and wrong in His eyes. The scriptures teach that God is light and there is no darkness in Him; and at the same time, He is faithful to destroy the effects of darkness according to His eternally unconditional promises. God’s ways are always right and true – including His judgments. When one considers the faithfulness of God, it is impossible to ignore the judgments of God and the display of God’s righteousness when He judges. In fact, the very basis of salvation is predicated on one’s trust that God will judge as promised, but that God is merciful to save those who believe upon His Son. Christians refer to the benefits of faith as “salvation” because it is based on the fact that God will judge and destroy sin and all of those who reject His mercy and grace to identify with sin rather than Christ. Salvation is referred to as such because Christians will be rescued from the coming wrath of God. Hence, God’s people should be excited in faith, knowing that God’s people are NOT appointed to wrath, but are assured safety and security in the bosom of the Father when He brings His judgment.
This facet of God’s faithfulness has always been clear in scripture. In Joshua 6:22-25 the Bible documents how Joshua and the children of Israel dealt with Rahab and her family when they advanced against Jericho. The scriptures explained that the children of Israel marched around the protective walls of the city for a week according to the specific and detailed commands of God. As the men shouted on the seventh day, the Bible teaches that God brought the walls of the city down, enabling the children of Israel to easily advance against the people of Jericho and run them through with the sword. However, it is important to recall that Rahab, the harlot that helped the spies that Joshua previously sent into Jericho to scout, asked to be spared. She risked her life in faith, trusting in the judgments of God, hoping to align herself with the people of God to receive the favor of God. Rahab and the spies made an agreement, ratified by the scarlet cord that was hanging from her window, that those in her house would be saved from the coming destruction that God would bring against the people. The agreement stated that if Rahab kept the scarlet cord (prophetically symbolizing the blood of Jesus Christ) displayed from her window, much like the blood of the lamb on Passover, then the children of Israel would be obligation to spare Rahab and those in her household in exchange for the assistance she provided to the spies.
Joshua 6:22-25 explains that God performed a miracle to protect Rahab and her household, then used the circumstances to illustrate the manner in which He deals with His people in the midst of judgment against sin. First, one must consider that the Bible previously testified that Rahab’s home was located on the wall of Jericho (Joshua 2:15). This is the very wall that God destroyed when the children of Israel marched around the city. Notice that God promised to destroy the wall, but first promised to spare Rahab and her household. This means that, while God would display His power to destroy and judge in great magnitude, His power would have to be delivered with targeted precision and restraint in order to ensure the safety of Rahab and her household. Though God would bring down an entire wall, He would have to ensure the integrity of at least one section of that wall to ensure the people within Rahab’s home were safe. God would have to show that He could bring destruction anywhere He desired, but also preserve those within specified areas in the midst of such destruction. According to the testimony of Joshua 6:22-25, God did exactly that!
It is important to notice that God had done this type of miracle before in scripture. When God sent the Angel of death into Egypt to kill all of the firstborn of Egypt on the Passover night, He did the same work. God exacted judgment against the Egyptians and had targets on certain people, and was accurate to ensure His judgment only affected those He targeted. There is no collateral damage with God. Though there was great terror and destruction in Egypt, those in the homes identified by the blood of the lamb were preserved and kept safe. There God illustrated His ability to direct His wrath and judgment only to those who rejected His mercy. There God showed that His people are not appointed to wrath and judgment, but instead, mercy and life! The Bible also explains God did a similar work with Lot, the nephew of Abraham, when He set out to destroy Sodom. Though God pronounced judgment against the city on account of the abominations that were taking place in it, God sent angels to rescue Lot and his family, protect him from the coming judgment, and deliver him from the destruction. Again, God revealed that He will not subject His people to wrath and will only bring judgment upon those who deny Him.
The testimony of Joshua 6:22-25 explains that Joshua sent the two spies that first met with Rahab into Rahab’s home. The Bible explains that the spies found Rahab, her father, her mother, her brothers, and others in her home safe. The two spies brought the people in Rahab’s home out from the destruction, and escorted them to safety outside of the camp of Israel. As the children of Israel took advantage of the judgment of God against Jericho, taking the spoils of God’s victory unto themselves to place in God’s treasury, the household of Rahab was totally unaffected. As the people of Jericho feared, God destroyed the city. Yet Rahab was preserved and brought into safety despite how close she was to the work of judgment God was doing, proving once again, that those who seek the mercy of God will not experience His wrath in judgment upon sin. To emphasize the point of Rahab’s safety and the full extent of God’s faithfulness to protect His people from His duty to judge, Joshua 6:22-25 testifies that Rahab and her family dwelt with the children of Israel continually, even until the time that the Book of Joshua was written.
Additionally, one must consider that, God not only protected Rahab and her household in the midst of His judgment, but made good use of her faith in the midst of His Messianic plans. While Joshua serves as a prophetic picture and symbol of Jesus, one will find that Jesus is the means by which God’s people are protected in the midst of the Father’s obligation to righteously judge sin. Joshua 6:22-25 explains that Joshua was the one that sent the two spies into Jericho to remove Rahab and her family from the midst of the rubble and coming slaughter. Joshua was the one that commanded Rahab to be taken out of the carnage. Joshua was the one that ensured Rahab and her family were well protected and accepted into the camp of Israel. Then, the New Testament genealogies show that the Father amplified His faithfulness by including Rahab in the genealogy of the Messiah Himself! As Rahab was preserved from the destruction of Jericho, God used her family to promote the bloodline that Jesus would ultimately come from! In the same way that Joshua did these things, Jesus is the One that does the same in a spiritual perspective. Jesus is the means by which God’s people are protected and preserved from the coming wrath of the Father. Those who desire to escape the coming wrath and judgment of God must pursue God’s mercy through faith in Jesus as the Son of God and Messiah, and can confidently do so looking to Rahab as proof that God is faithful to deliver His people from the judgment He swore against sin, death, and hell!
The scriptures teach that God’s ways are not like the ways of normal human rationale. The habits of God transcend the habits of humans, which are flawed and wicked in nature. God’s ways are perfect. However, in addition to being perfect, God exercises His almighty and sovereign nature to perform works and accomplish his purposes in ways that mankind could never duplicate in order to reveal the magnitude of His righteousness. Therefore, when one reads the scriptures, one will often find that God performed great miracles to show His people what He is capable of, and to prove to His people that He is the One ultimately responsible for the fulfillment of His promises.
One of the most phenomenal ways that God proved this point to be true is in the testimony of Joshua 6:1-21. This portion of scripture documents the work that God did to bring victory to the children of Israel over the people of Jericho. The scriptures explain that God commanded Joshua to lead the people into battle in one of the most unusual and unorthodox ways. God’s commands for victory were simple in nature, but insane compared to human reasoning concerning warfare. God commanded the children of Israel to march around the walls of the city of Jericho for 6 days, one time per day. The children of Israel were to march around the city in battle formation with the Ark of the Covenant going before the people. The men of war were not to have swords draw. The men of Israel were not to prepare weaponry. The men of Israel were to march for six days straight. God also explained that the children of Israel were to march on the seventh day as well. However, rather than march around the city once, they were to march around the city seven times. Upon circling the city the seventh time, seven priests that were bearing seven ram’s horns were to blow them as trumpets. Next, God promised that the walls of the city would come crumbling down upon shouting at the top of their voices after the playing of the trumpets.
Examining these commands, one would not find anything logical about them concerning military strategy. Many have tried to rationalize the commands of God with physics principles, speculating that the weight of the soldiers marching might have had an affect on the integrity of the wall. Though many foolish speculations have been presented to try to explain God’s purposes, one must recognize that God intentionally worked in ways that were unexplainable. Under no set of rational circumstances should marching, trumpets, and screaming make a giant wall fall down. Yet the Bible presents recorded historical narrative to prove that this exact thing happened! Joshua 6:1-21 testifies as historical narrative, that when the children of Israel did as commanded, the walls indeed came down! The men diligently and faithfully woke up early in the morning for six mornings to march around the city once per day. The men diligently and faithfully woke up early in the morning at dawn to march around the city seven times on the seventh day. The seven priests blew seven trumpets seven times as commanded. Notice the multiple mentions of “seven.” The Bible explains that the number seven represents the number of complete. In other words, God guaranteed complete and total victory over Jericho!
The testimony of Joshua 6:1-21 reveals that even though God gave usual commands, Joshua was faithful and trusting of God’s Word to repeat the commands to the people and facilitate obedience. The Bible explains that the men of Israel were obedient to the Word of God despite the unorthodox fighting methods. Having just crossed the Jordan River by miraculous methods, reinstituted the covenant of circumcision, and celebrated the Passover, the children of Israel were on a spiritual high! They trusted the Word of God, no matter how odd it seemed. They had the work and power of God in the forefront of their minds so that they did EXACTLY as the Lord commanded. Perhaps more importantly, the scriptures explain that the people were silent during that week of marching. They didn’t say a word while marching once in the six-day period. They didn’t say a word while marching seven times on the seventh day. Though the generation of Israelites had grown accustomed to complaining against God and grumbling against His ways, this generation of Israelites was responding in true faith – quietly. The children of Israel didn’t make a sound with their mouths until they were commanded; and when they were told to shout, they did so with passion, zeal, confidence and anticipation for the miraculous work of the Living God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob!
Part of the reason that the faith of the children of Israel was so profound was on account of the leadership of Joshua. Serving as a prophetic picture of Jesus Christ, filled with the Spirit of God, and serving according to the ordination of God, Joshua was centered on God’s spiritual principles, holiness, and righteous commands. Joshua was not only focused on the physical circumstances of the victory, but the spiritual condition of the people to receive God’s victory the right way. Joshua 6:1-21 documents that Joshua took efforts to prepare the hearts of the people to receive God’s victory. This shows that, while God will bring victory on account of His own power and sovereignty according to His promises, one must be in the proper heart condition to receive the benefits of the victory that God brings. The Bible explains that Joshua reminded the people about the holiness of God by instructing them about the spoils of war, and how to deal with them. Joshua told the people to refrain from coming in contact with “accursed things,” referring to the idols of the people of Jericho. The children of Israel were not to have anything to do with those things. Joshua was clear to warn the people that should they seek to pursue the “accursed things,” they would become accursed themselves – cut off from the promises of God.
In a like manner, Joshua reminded the people that God was ultimately responsible for the victory that was to take place. The children of Israel were not to take all of the spoil for themselves. Joshua told the people that the remaining items that were of value, that were not accursed, were to be given over to the treasury of the Lord. Joshua sought to take all of the spoils of the war and give them over to the Lord as a demonstration of faith that He was ultimately responsible for the victory. While God was not in need of earthly riches of any kind, Joshua was motivated to honor God in this way, showing that his motivation was to obey God for greater rewards than the spoils of war. Joshua looked to greater value. Joshua looked forward to more valuable spoils. Joshua looked forward to the fulfillment of God’s eternally unconditional promises that were much greater in value than gold, silver, and bronze. Therefore, the people were to give those things over to the Lord in tribute to thank the Lord for the obvious work that the Lord had done.
Joshua 6:1-21 explains that the children of Israel were not the only ones confident in the work that God would do to destroy the city. The testimony actually begins by documenting the attitudes of the people of Jericho. The Bible states that the people of Jericho had locked the city down so that no one could enter, or exit. The people were panicked and paranoid. Recall that Rahab testified that the hearts of the people of Jericho had melted with fear. The people had no confidence in their ability to defend themselves against the God of Israel. Therefore, the text explains that their actions were a sign of the victory that God ultimately provided. The people of Jericho didn’t know what God would do, or how He would do it, but they were fearful that God would be successful regardless. As the children of Israel observed this behavior from Jericho, they were encouraged. God told Joshua to look at the reactions of the people of Jericho as evidence that He would destroy them. The hearts of the wicked don’t melt on account of coming judgment because God’s judgment is a hoax. The children of Israel were able to recognize the fear in the hearts of the people of Jericho, which encouraged them to trust in the Lord and the fulfillment of His promises. Even the hearts of the opposition bore witness of God’s faithfulness to do exactly as He promised!
Then, the testimony of scripture proves that the people feared for good reason. As promised, God obliterated the walls of the city, even though the actions of the men would have had no physical effect on it. The men of Israel methodically stormed the city, each man walking straight, running every person through with the sword, seemingly with no opposition. The Bible explains that, with the exception of Rahab and her household, every man and woman, young and old, ox, sheep and donkey was utterly destroyed with the edge of the sword. God’s purging work of the wickedness in Canaan had begun and the faith of God’s people caused them to enjoy the benefits of God’s judgment rather than suffer His wrath. Thus, victory came on account of God’s work, and His people were able to enjoy the fruits of God’s labor on account of their faith in God’s Word (regardless of how odd it seemed) and obedience to God’s commands.
The scriptures are helpful to explain how desperately all people need the provision, protection, and providence of the Living God. The Bible explains clearly that one can do NOTHING without the Lord. The very breath that every human being takes in order to live comes from the God Most High. Knowing this, God only asks for His people to confess such inadequacy and express dependency on Him. God does not ask His people to perform in order to receive His favor knowing that any form of performance will ultimately come from Him. Instead, God just asks that His people confess their disability and call on Him to do that which cannot be done without Him. All human beings will ultimately fall and fail to meet the righteous expectations of God, and so it is in the best interest for all human beings to come to terms with this reality, humbly confess this reality, and trust in the work of God Himself in order to please Him. One must not look within one’s own will to try and please the holy Lord. One must look to the Lord in faith trusting that He will do what pleases Him on behalf of the humble according to His promises.
An illustration of this truth is provided in Joshua 5:13-15. In this portion of scripture, Joshua has an encounter with a person referred to as “the Commander of the Lord’s armies.” It is important to recognize the identity of this person in order to understand how God examines His people and works in spite of them to fulfill His promises. Joshua 5:13-15 explains that as Joshua was preparing to take the armies into Jericho, he lifted his eyes and saw a man opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand. Joshua responded in fear asking of the Man was a friend or foe of Israel. The Man responded by calling Himself, “the Commander of the armies of the Lord.” As the Man made this proclamation, the Bible explains that Joshua fell to his face to worship the Man with the drawn sword and referred to himself as the Man’s servant. Joshua worshiped the Commander and asked what would be done with him as a servant of the Commander. The Commander simply instructed Joshua to take his sandals off of his feet since the place where they were standing was suddenly considered holy.
Examining the details of this testimony, one can learn the following things about the Man with the drawn sword. First, the Man referred to Himself as “the Commander of the Lord’s armies.” The scriptures explain that Yahweh Elohim is also referred to as “the Lord of Hosts,” which means “Lord of armies.” God describes His sovereignty over all people groups and their armies by calling Himself the Lord of Hosts. He is in charge of all military efforts amongst any people group, having control over all people and their efforts as the Creator. When one compares this truth to the title of the Man with the drawn sword, one must understand that this man presented Himself as the authority over God’s sovereignty. This man was the fleshly manifestation of God’s sovereign control over military efforts.
Secondly, the Commander received worship from Joshua. When Joshua fell down before the Man, He allowed Joshua to worship Him. There are testimonies in the Bible, most notably in the Book of Revelation, where angles corrected men that sought to worship them, redirecting their worship to God. The Commander did no such thing. Hence, while the Commander was the fleshly manifestation of God’s sovereignty, He also had the authority to receive worship on behalf of God. Joshua was God’s ordained leader and yet he surrendered himself to the Commander as His servant. The Commander allowed this to take place, and there is no place in scripture that suggests Joshua was wrong for his actions of worship. The Commander was able to receive worship as God while exercising the sovereign authority of God.
Next, the scriptures explain that the Commander was able to impart holiness unto that which was cursed. Joshua 5:13-15 explains that the Commander gave a command to Joshua to remove his sandals because the presence of the Commander made the ground holy. This testimony is parallel to the testimony of God doing the same thing with Moses when he was first called into the ministry. In Exodus Chapter 3, God spoke as the Angel of the Lord through the burning bush and stated that His presence caused the ground to be holy. In the conversation that Moses had with the Angel of the Lord in the midst of the burning bush, Moses referred to Him as God. Thus, the presence of God was able to transform the condition of the ground that had been cursed by sin (Genesis 3:16). The Commander of the armies of the Lord had the same ability. His presence was also able to transform the condition of the cursed ground so that it was holy. Therefore, He commanded Joshua to remove his shoes and Joshua was obedient to do so.
These details explain that the manifestation of the Commander was a manifestation of God in flesh. The only other entity that possesses the sovereignty of God, the authority of God, and the power of God in the flesh is none other than Jesus Christ. Hence, the appearance of the Commander is considered as “Christophony,” or an Old Testament appearance of Jesus. When one understands this truth, one can better understand how God responds to the weaknesses of His people. God commanded the children of Israel to overtake the Promised Land. However, He also confessed that the children of Israel were weak, small, and ill-equipped to fight the native inhabitants that were well trained in warfare. Therefore, God manifested Himself in the flesh as Jesus, with His sword drawn, to let Joshua know that He was prepared to fight on behalf of the people. God would not rely on the expertise or experience of the children of Israel to conquer the land. They would not be able. Instead, God revealed Himself, His power, and His authority in the flesh to ensure Joshua understood how the fighting would take place. As God promised to Moses, God would fight on behalf of His people.
The appearance of Jesus as the Commander of the armies of the Lord reveals that when God commands His people to advance, He goes first, ready to do the work Himself. All His people are required to do is follow His lead, trusting in His ability according to His promises. No matter how long one has been walking with the Lord, or how much one knows of Him, the people of God have no ability of themselves as proven by God’s revelation.
When God’s people receive favor from the Lord, the scriptures explain that there is a response that the Lord expects. God’s people are not at liberty to invent their own form of gratitude towards the Lord. One must always understand that human nature is sinful in nature. Thus, the output of one’s own essence is corrupt in the eyes of God. Since God is holy, God will not accept any form of praise and/or sacrifice. Since God is holy, God will not accept any form of thanks. The Bible teaches that God is seeking those who will worship Him “in spirit and in truth.” The Bible teaches that God must be the one that motivates, facilitates and equips thanks, praise, and worship. Knowing this, God documented how the Holy Spirit provides the inspiration and ability to drive God’s people to worship and thank Him properly. Additionally, God gave the Law to the children of Israel to provide a certain set of standards and practical works through the feast days that were designed to teach the children of Israel how to thank the Lord.
Some of Israel’s most glorious moments in the Bible are when the scriptures show the people celebrating the feast days with genuine humility and desire to praise God for His promises, provision, and protection. The various instances when Israel was restored after judgments show that Israel often looked to the feast days as a way to express their gratitude towards the favorable work of the Living God. It was a privilege for the people to celebrate the feast days during those times, and the sacrifices and other practices that took place during those times was glorifying to God. Such was the case after the children of Israel crossed the Jordan River. The children of Israel were excited. Though they were preparing for battle to overtake the Promised Land, they had great focus on the promises of God and knew that God would be faithful to fulfill them. The people were convinced that God would do as He swore because of the miracle that God did at the Jordan River. Therefore, the people were in agreement to spiritually prepare themselves for the work God was about to do. They followed Joshua’s command to circumcise all of the males in Israel, and then followed up their statement of faith by celebrating the Passover.
In Joshua 5:10-12 the Bible explains that the people celebrated the Passover before making final preparations to advance against Jericho. Since they crossed the Jordan River around the time of the Passover, they stayed camped at Gilgal until the fourteenth day of the moth, and celebrated the feast day in the plains of Jericho. This means that the people offered sacrifices. The people considered God’s redemption from Egypt. The people were focused on the identity of the Lord and the work that He had done so far to take them into the Promised Land. The people did not find the commands of God concerning the Passover to be a burden, but instead a privilege. The Bible explains that the people were able to celebrate the Passover a new way in Joshua 5:10-12. Rather than relying on food from the wilderness, or manna bread from God, the people were actually able to celebrate the feast day by eating the produce of the land! God was doing what He promised He would and the people were already in a position to enjoy some of the benefits, with many more to come!
The testimony of Joshua 5:10-12 also explains that God stopped giving the people manna bread. The day of the Passover documented in Joshua 5:10-12 was the day that the manna stopped coming. God was done with that phase of His work. The people were no longer wandering the in the wilderness. God would provide a new way. He would provide as promised and give the people the fruit and produce of the land of Canaan. The celebration of the Passover shows that God’s redemption ultimately leads to God’s provision; and God’s provision is of His essence – good! The scriptures testify that the year the people crossed over the Jordan River, they were immediately able to eat the food of the land, receiving the benefits of God’s promises in a real and tangible way. God’s word was true. God’s redemption was real. God’s favor was delicious!
The order of events is important to consider in this testimony. One must acknowledge that before the people celebrated the Passover, they honored the covenant of circumcision to get back on track in that area. Joshua understood that the people were out of sorts concerning their identification with the Lord as His people and needed to address this issue. The circumcision of Israel was representative of the trust Israel was placing in the Lord to fulfill His promises, but also demonstrated their desire to separate from the flesh and the world in order to partake of His promises. The covenant of circumcision was ultimately a testimony of the heart; a symbolic gesture to show one’s desire to separate from darkness and wickedness of the flesh and the world in order to allow God to draw one unto Himself as an heir to His eternally unconditional promises.
It was not until after the children of Israel did this that they celebrated the Passover. They would not celebrate God’s redemption from Egypt until they all first acknowledged the issue with their own sin and flesh. Upon recognizing the need to forsake the flesh due to their naturally wicked hearts, they celebrated the work God had done to redeem His people unto Himself. It was at that time that the children of Israel were able to take advantage of the produce in the land and the benefits of God’s promises. Thus, the scriptures show that, in order to enjoy the benefits of God’s promises, one must confess one’s inadequacy as a sinner and forsake the flesh in repentance, recognize God as Redeemer and consider the work God has already done as Redeemer to draw His people unto His promises. This is the way the scriptures explain one should show gratitude to God – apart from the flesh, focused on His work to save. When one humbly presents one’s self before God with a circumcised heart, recognizing the magnitude of mercy and grace God has already shown, the Bible teaches that one will supernaturally be compelled to rejoice, at which point one is able to truly enjoy the benefits of God’s eternally unconditional promises!