Attacked and defeated by the men of Ai, “the hearts of the people melted and became as water” 7:5). That’s what happens when we walk away from God as did Achan when he disobediently took for himself the spoils of war. Disobedience leads to fear because we know the discipline that will come. Indeed, the Lord disciplined the people, and then he gave them victory over Ai when they went up again a second time.
After the victory, Joshua built an altar to the Lord, led the people to burn offerings to the Lord, and read the Mosaic law to the people (ch. 8). That was good, but it was not long (the very next chapter) until there was more trouble, deception on the part of the Gibeonites. And then, immediately following (ch.10), is the story of the sun standing still and the Lord giving Israel a great victory over the five kings of the Amorites. From that victory, Israel moved on quickly to take Canaan as God gave them victories over their enemies.
Here’s the thing that strikes me about all this. The people go from faithfulness to disobedience back to faithfulness back to disobedience, and so on. They just seem to struggle to maintain for any long period of time a significant faithfulness to God. But he always is there with them and for them. God is faithful even when his people are not, and he welcomes us back to himself when we turn from our disobedience. What a picture of the Christian life! Rather a hymn, this morning, maybe a word from Isaiah:
But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (Isaiah 43:1-3).