Joshua 5-7

Sin in the Camp.

“Get up! Command the people to purify themselves in preparation for tomorrow. For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: Hidden among you, O Israel, are things set apart for the LORD. You will never defeat your enemies until you remove these things.”Joshua 7:13 NLT

These three chapters offer us two extremes. On one hand we see the incredible, miraculous victory of God over the fortified city of Jericho. In a strangely fable-like story, the walls of Jericho fall after the people spend seven days marching around them and simply shouting. But then we see a demoralizing defeat take place against the much smaller city of Ai. In a matter or days, the people go from ecstasy to agony, from victory to defeat. What happened? Sin in the camp. They had disobeyed God. But not everyone. Just one man had decided to ignore God’s command not to covet and take anything under the ban.

Do not take any of the things set apart for destruction, or you yourselves will be completely destroyed, and you will bring trouble on all Israel. Everything made from silver, gold, bronze, or iron is sacred to the LORD and must be brought into his treasury. – Joshua 6:18-19 NLT

They were to completely destroy the city, its inhabitants, and everything in it. Only the gold, silver, bronze and iron were to be given to the Lord’s treasury. Nothing else was to be taken by the people. But someone decided to take matters into his own hands. And his disobedience led to the defeat at Ai. “But Israel was unfaithful concerning the things set apart for the LORD. A man named Achan had stolen some of these things, so the LORD was very angry with the Israelites. Achan was the son of Carmi, of the family of Zimri, of the clan of Zerah, and of the tribe of Judah” (Joshua 7:1 NLT). Isn’t it interesting that chapter seven starts off with the phrase, “But Israel was unfaithful”? Even though one man had sinned, the whole nation was held guilty. While only Achan had ignored the ban and disobeyed God, the entire nation was being held responsible.

There was sin in the camp. And as long as there was sin in the camp, there would be no victory. The presence and power of the Lord would no longer be available to them. “That is why the Israelites are running from their enemies in defeat. For now Israel has been set apart for destruction. I will not remain with you any longer unless you destroy the things among you that were set apart for destruction” (Joshua 7:13 NLT).

God wanted them to purge the camp. He wanted them to expose the sin and remove it from their midst. Until they did, they would continue to suffer defeat. “”Rise up! Consecrate the people and say, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, for thus the LORD, the God of Israel, has said, “There are things under the ban in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you have removed the things under the ban from your midst.” (Joshua 7:13 NLT). In our day, we have decided that faith is an individualized thing. It is something that is simply between God and myself. What I do is my own business. But we have lost sight of the reality of the fact that we are part of the body of Christ, and our sins have impact on everyone, not just ourselves. Our individual sins have corporate consequences. The power of God is limited by the presence of sin in the camp. And we seem content to tolerate it. To turn our heads at the sins being committed by the people of God that end up preventing the power of God to be displayed among us. This is not a call for a witch hunt, but a reminder that God takes sin seriously and so should we. We cannot afford to wink at sin and tolerate its presence. It is serious business and has serious consequences. Defeat is a result of disobedience. God is ready to give us victory, but first we must purge the sin from the camp.

Father, show us the sins that exist in our camp. Open our eyes and let us see where we are being disobedient to You. Maybe it is our love affair with the world. Perhaps it is the sins of immorality that exist among us. But whatever it is, help us to see it and deal with it. To confess it and allow You to cleanse us so that we can experience the full extent of Your presence and power. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org