Today we continue our message series entitled “Courageous Leadership.” In this series, we’re going through the exciting book of Joshua, one of the greatest leaders in the Bible. We’re learning leadership principles that can be applied to each of our lives.
This morning my message is entitled “Leadership Challenges.” Last Sunday, we talked about the incredible victory over Jericho, where God caused the city walls to miraculously collapse. You would think that after that great victory against insurmountable odds, the next battle would not be a big deal. But, today, we’re going to see that even for a great leader, things don’t always go smoothly. There are challenges in life for each one of us.
James 1:2-3 (ESV) Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
James clearly tells us that as believers, we are going to meet trials or challenges of various kinds as we go through life. Rather than worrying or being upset at life’s challenges, we are to rejoice. Why? Because God has allows those trials to come into our lives for a purpose. The purpose is that through the testing of our faith, it would grow stronger and purer. When trials or challenges come into our lives, we are tempted to blame what happens on other people, Satan or even God. Blaming others for our trials doesn’t help anything and certainly isn’t counting it all joy, is it. Sometimes, the reason for the trials that we face, isn’t with others, but with ourselves.
James 5:15-16a (ESV) And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.
Sickness is a trial or challenge in life, that we all face from time to time. When we are sick, we are to have other believers pray for us. When we pray for healing, these verses indicate that an impediment to healing is sin in a person’s life. Now, the Bible is clear that not all sickness is a result of sin, but some is. So, when we are seeking prayer for healing, we must be careful to deal with any unconfessed sin in our lives, so that God’s healing power can be released. Unconfessed sin in a person’s life can stop the flow of God’s blessing and can instead bring God’s judgment.
Today, we’re going to learn from the life of Joshua, how hidden sin can have tragic consequences. Not just for the person who sinned, but for the entire group of God’s people that the person is a part of.
Joshua 7:1 (ESV) But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the LORD burned against the people of Israel.
God had commanded all of Israel to not take any of the plunder from the conquest of Jericho. All of the perishable items were to be destroyed by fire. And the gold and the silver were to be used in the tent of meeting. However, one man, Achan, took some of the devoted things and hid them. God was angry against, not just Achan, but the entire nation of Israel. There was a corporate consequence to the individual sin of Achan.
At this point in the story, the writer tells us about what happened, but neither Joshua, not any of the other Israelites, except Achan and his family knew anything about this sin. The next city to be conquered was Ai. Joshua again sent some men to spy out the city and they returned to Joshua with their report.
Joshua 7:3-4 (ESV) And they returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not have all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and attack Ai. Do not make the whole people toil up there, for they are few.” So about three thousand men went up there from the people. And they fled before the men of Ai,
Having defeated the powerful city of Jericho, the spies were confident that it would be very easy to defeat the small city of Ai. So, they recommended just taking a few thousand men to attack the city. This was a small fraction of the entire army of Israel, estimated to be around 200,000 men. Well, things did not go as planned. When the three thousand Israelites attacked Ai, the army of Ai counter-attacked and the Israelites fled. As they were being routed, thirty six of their soldiers were killed. The defeated soldiers came back to report to Joshua.
Joshua 7:6 (ESV) Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the LORD until the evening, he and the elders of Israel. And they put dust on their heads.
Joshua knew that something was terribly wrong. God had delivered Jericho into their hands, but what had happened at Ai. Not only had the Israelites been defeated by a smaller force, word of this would spread to the surrounding enemies. The news of Israel’s defeat would embolden their enemies and possibly cause them to form an alliance to defeat Israel. So, Joshua and the leaders of Israel mourned before the presence of the Lord in the ark of the covenant.
Joshua 7:10-11 (ESV) The LORD said to Joshua, “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face? Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings.
The Lord now reveals the cause for the defeat at Ai, which we have known from the beginning of chapter 7. Someone in Israel had stolen some of the devoted things and hidden them among their belongings. The sin of one man had impacted an entire nation and had already caused the death of thirty six soldiers. Sin has serious corporate consequences.
The principles we are talking about in this point is a huge blind spot for Americans. As Americans, we are very individualistic. We believe that our actions, right or wrong, don’t really impact other people. Yet, this sin of Achan, even though he hadn’t stolen from any of his fellow Israelites, brought God’s anger and judgement upon the entire nation. Sin is deadly and it always impacts both the person who commits the sin and those around him. The sin of one person impacts their family, their church, their state and their nation.
Some sins are more serious than others. Since the Roe v Wade decision by the Supreme Court in 1973, 60 million babies have been murdered through abortion. Because of this great sin, God’s judgement is upon America. We have been going downhill morally at an increasing pace in the past years. The Bible speaks in many places about the sin of child sacrifice, the shedding of innocent blood. It is the worst sin in God’s eyes. Many false teachers are teaching today that abortion is just one of many issues. So, they say, it shouldn’t be the deciding factor in how you vote. According to Scripture, it is the most terrible sin and we must vote for the leaders and party that is doing the most to eradicate it from our country. Sin has corporate consequences.
Joshua 7:12 (ESV) Therefore the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies. They turn their backs before their enemies, because they have become devoted for destruction. I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you.
God goes on to tell Joshua what were the consequences of the sin on Israel. Because of an individual sin, the entire nation was defeated. In fact, since they had stolen something from the plunder devoted for destruction, they had become devoted for destruction. In other words, God’s presence had departed from Israel and He would no longer protect them or fight for them. Joshua and the leadership of Israel must destroy the devoted things that had been stolen and hidden among them,, as well as the people.
Joshua 7:13 (ESV) Get up! Consecrate the people and say, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow; for thus says the LORD, God of Israel, “There are devoted things in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the devoted things from among you.”
The people of Israel were to be consecrated to the Lord. To consecrate is to be set apart as holy unto God. The sin that was in their midst must be exposed and removed. God gave instructions to divide the people into groups and He would tell them which groups to pick. The groups would get smaller and smaller until they came down to one family, that was responsible for the taking of the devoted things.
Joshua 7:15 (ESV) And he who is taken with the devoted things shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he has transgressed the covenant of the LORD, and because he has done an outrageous thing in Israel.’”
The consequences for the one found to be guilty of this great sin, was that he and all he had, including his family would be destroyed. He had broken the covenant commands of the Lord and done an outrageous or terrible thing in the nation.
Joshua 7:24 (ESV) And Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver and the cloak and the bar of gold, and his sons and daughters and his oxen and donkeys and sheep and his tent and all that he had.
Acahn was chosen and it was found that he had stolen some silver, gold and a cloak. All of his family, his animals and his possessions were brought before the nation of Israel.
Joshua 7:25-26 (ESV) And Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble on us? The LORD brings trouble on you today.” And all Israel stoned him with stones. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones. … Then the LORD turned from his burning anger.
The entire family was stoned until dead and then burned with fire, as the Lord had commanded. Joshua executed God’s judgment upon them to remove the sin from the nation. A monument of stones was raised when Israel crossed the Jordan river miraculously. The family of Achan was covered with a huge heap of stones. A monument to what happens to someone who disobeys God and brings his judgement upon the nation.
Why did Achan’s family receive the same fate as him? Undoubtedly, the family was aware that Achan had stolen the things and they did nothing about it. They shared in his guilt. There are great individual consequences to sin.
In America today, sin is often laughed at and many times glorified. As Christians, we must stand for what is right and true according to God’s Word. There is a remedy for sin, no matter how terrible. That is the forgiveness of Jesus, by putting your faith and trust in Him. Yet, even for believers, sin can bring great consequences, both individually and corporately.
As believers, we are warriors for God, just as the soldiers were for Joshua. Sin in our lives, creates chinks in our armor. These are unprotected areas that can be attacked by Satan and his demons. Unconfessed sin often leads to greater sin and bondage of all kinds. The New Testament makes clear that the sin of one person in a church can lead to God’s judgment upon the whole church. So, we must be careful to walk in holiness and confess any sin in our lives. We must also do our part to expose sin around us so that it can be dealt with and cause no more harm. God is exposing sin in America today and that is going to continue. The individual consequences of sin are tragic.
Joshua 8:1 (ESV) And the LORD said to Joshua, “Do not fear and do not be dismayed. Take all the fighting men with you, and arise, go up to Ai. See, I have given into your hand the king of Ai, and his people, his city, and his land.
We’ve already seen that when the sin of Achan was dealt with, God turned his anger away from Israel. Now, we see that God gives new instructions to Joshua. It is important to note that in the first attack on Ai, there was no seeking of God, nor did God give any instructions. Now, God again tells Joshua to not be afraid, despite what had just happened at Ai. He was not to assume that the defeat of Ai would be easy. He was to take all the of the fighting men, which would be an overwhelming force. God then gave Joshua the assurance that He would help him defeat Ai.
Joshua 8:2 (ESV) And you shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king. Only its spoil and its livestock you shall take as plunder for yourselves. Lay an ambush against the city, behind it.”
Just as at Jericho, the Lord gave Joshua specific instructions both in a battle plan and in how to deal with the plunder. The plunder, consisting of the animals and other spoil could be taken this time. The battle plan was to lay an ambush behind the city. So, Joshua divided the entire army up into two forces. One force, a smaller force, would attack from the front. The larger force would circle behind the city. The smaller force would draw the soldiers from Ai out of the city to pursue them. Then the larger force would invade Ai, set it on fire and trap the army between the two forces.
Joshua 8:26, 28 (ESV) But Joshua did not draw back his hand with which he stretched out the javelin until he had devoted all the inhabitants of Ai to destruction. So Joshua burned Ai and made it forever a heap of ruins, as it is to this day.
The plan of the Lord was carried out and all of the people in the city, 12000 were destroyed according to the Lord’s command. The conquered city was burned and became a heap of ruins, never to be rebuilt. When sin was removed from Israel, the Lord was again with them in battle and gave them the victory.
People often wonder why every person in the cities that Israel conquered were to be destroyed. The reason is two-fold. First of all, these Canaanite nations were incredibly decadent and sinful. They indulged in every sexual perversion, such as homosexuality, bestiality, ritual sexual practices in their idol worship and even child sacrifice to their demonic idols. So, the first reason for their destruction was God’s judgment on their sin. In a sense, this is a picture of the final judgement, when God’s wrath will be poured out on all unbelievers for their sin.
The second reason for the destruction of the Canaanites, was that their sinful presence would serve as temptations for the Israelites to follow in their ways. Removal of that temptation would help Israel to stay true to the Lord God. Unfortunately, as the conquest continued, not all the Canaanites were destroyed and Israel succumbed to their pagan idols and practices again and again.
How does this apply to us today? We are surrounded by unbelievers, whose ways are sinful and perverted. The Bible speaks of them and their lives as the world. As believers, we are to be separate from the world and its sinful ways. In our own lives, we are commanded to put to death the sinful deeds of the flesh that arise from succumbing to worldly temptation. We are to ruthlessly eliminate all sources of temptation from our lives.
Jesus made the shocking statement, that if our hand causes us to sin, we should cut it off. For it’s better to go to heaven with one hand, then hell with two. As Israel dealt with the wicked Canaanites, so we should deal with the things and people that cause us to sin. Of course, I don’t mean to kill them, but to eliminate ungodly influences from our lives. As we remove sin and temptations from our lives, we will reap the benefits of God’s protection, God’s guidance and God’s presence. When God is with us, we will win the victories He has for us as we follow His plans.
Today, we’ve talked about the reason for the shocking defeat of Israel at Ai. There was hidden, unconfessed sin in the camp of Israel. As a result, God’s anger was directed toward His people. When God is angry, the relationship with Him is broken and the entire nation was defeated. Our sin has consequences for those in our circle of influence. There are also person and individual consequences for our sin. God will bring judgement on us to get us to turn away from our sin.
The answer is to confess our sins and receive God’s forgiveness. When we are consecrated to God and walking in holiness, His presence is with us. We must deal ruthlessly with sources of temptation in the world around us. As we do, God will lead us into His victory in every area of our lives.