The book of Joshua is full of triumphs and defeats. Moses has died, so God appoints Joshua to lead His people into the land He has promised to them. They enter the land, but face many battles. They are not always victorious, but eventually conquer their enemies. The twelve tribes divide and inherit the land. Why are God’s chosen people sometimes victorious and at other times defeated? In these passages, sacred scripture gives us the chance to grasp an often repeated principle: while no one can prevent God from unfolding His will and revealing His glory, our actions have consequences. Obedience and faithfulness lead to blessing and the fullness of a life lived with God. Sin, disobedience, and unfaithfulness lead to destruction, separation, death, and exile.
s –Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. 3 March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. 4 Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. 5 When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.” Joshua 6:2-5
o – Look at verse two again. God says “I have delivered Jericho into your hands” before the battle has even begun. All the Israelites have to do is trust and obey. When they do, their powerful enemy is vanquished before them. The walls crumble and the army rushes in to take the city.
Contrast this with the very next chapter. While Joshua 7 wasn’t in this week’s reading plan, it paints a far different picture that can help us understand something important. Chapter 7 verse 1 sets the stage: “But the Israelites were unfaithful in regard to the devoted things.” Achan steals some of the plunder and “the anger of God burns against Israel.” When the Israelites are not consecrated and devoted to God alone, they no longer have His favor. After the triumph at Jericho, they face a staggering defeat at the battle of Ai.
a – We see this principle regarding faithfulness and unfaithfulness repeated over and over again in both the Old and New Testaments. After the battle of Ai, Israel repents, recommits itself to the Lord, and then succeeds. At the very end of the book, Joshua reminds the people of this truth. They have a choice – they can be faithful and enjoy God’s fullest blessing, or they can forsake the Lord and invite disaster. “But for me and my household, we will serve the Lord,” Joshua says. We can all make that same decision each and every day. God is faithful indeed. He has given us the knowledge of His son. He has given us the gift of new life. He has given us all we need, and He is working all things together for his Glory. Each day, many times a day, we can decide to walk in obedience, or we can turn away to our idols, our sin, and our flesh.
p – God, we recognize that you are the creator of all things and that all good gifts come from you. Thank you that you love us, and thank you that you give us the freedom to choose you. We want to respond to your love in a way that blesses and honors you. Help us choose each day to serve you and to walk humbly in obedience and faithfulness. We know that this is the way that leads to life at its fullest. Help us when we are tempted to do things without pausing to seek you and without yielding to you. Help us also when we deliberately choose to rebel, to sin, and to go our own way. Thank you that we can even repent. Thank you that you accept us back. Thank you that you are always good.