Joshua 7:1 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. ESV
Though it appeared on the surface that everything went well in Joshua’s conquest of Jericho, something terrible thing happened behind the scenes. One of Joshua’s soldiers, by the name of Achan, committed a terrible sin. Although God had commanded the Israelites to not take a single thing from Jericho for themselves, Achan secretly took a piece of gold, some silver coins, and a beautiful garment. The Bible says that Achan took these things and hid them in his tent, thinking no one would never notice.
With Jericho under their belt, the people were ready to move forward and conquer the rest of the land.
Joshua 7:2 Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Bethaven, east of Bethel, and said to them, “Go up and spy out the land.” And the men went up and spied out Ai. 3 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.” 4 So about three thousand men went up there from the people. And they fled before the men of Ai, 5 and the men of Ai killed about thirty-six of their men and chased them before the gate as far as Shebarim and struck them at the descent. And the hearts of the people melted and became as water. ESV
Ai was a much smaller place than Jericho; therefore, it was determined that only a few men would be needed to defeat them. But to Israel’s surprise, Ai got the upper hand in the battle and thirty-six Israelite soldiers died. How could this be? How could they so easily conquer a mighty city like Jericho without receiving even a scratch, and then thirty-six of their men die at a small village like Ai?
Joshua 7:6 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. 7 And Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord God, why have you brought this people over the Jordan at all, to give us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us? Would that we had been content to dwell beyond the Jordan! 8 O Lord, what can I say, when Israel has turned their backs before their enemies! 9 For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it and will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will you do for your great name?” ESV
Joshua did what we often do whenever things don’t go right. Joshua questioned the wisdom and goodness of God. But the Lord said to Joshua – “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face? Israel has sinned…’(Joshua 7:10-11 ESV)
In case we might be tempted to think that the story of Achan is something only for the Old Testament, we should read Acts 5:1-11 and the story of a man named Ananias and his wife Sapphira. The Apostle Paul tells us that “a little leaven leavens the whole lump.” (Galatians 5:9) A little sin can have a very negative impact upon the work of Christ. Not only will it weaken us personally; it will also weaken the work of the entire body of Christ.