The Lord said to Joshua, “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face?” Joshua 7:10
Have you ever been reprimanded? Hard? I have. I can tell you I didn’t like it one bit, but it made me a better man. It turns out, I’m not the first to have this happen. Joshua, God’s hand-picked to command after Moses, received a dressing-down very early in his military career. If you recall, his first battle was Jericho – a strange but decisive victory. Then, what should have been a minor engagement with Ai turned into a route against the mighty nation. How could this be? Israel even had the commander of the army of the Lord with him.
See how upset Joshua was at this. Remember, he lost about 36 men in this humiliating loss.
Joshua 7:6-7 Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord. And they put dust on their heads. And Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord God, why have you brought this people over to 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!
Joshua sounded just like Israel did so many times in the desert. “O had we only stayed in Egypt. Why did we allow ourselves to be taken out?” Joshua didn’t act like a commander – at all! He placed the blame square on God. Moses acknowledged their sin and begged God to forgive them. None of that for Joshua.
Yet, Joshua should have known exactly what the problem was. Let’s review Joshua’s marching orders, right after God outlined the territory he was sending Joshua to conquer.
Joshua 1:5-9 No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give to them.
That was God’s part. Here’s what God required from Joshua.
v. 7-9 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
Well, Joshua certainly was frightened, and he certainly was dismayed, wasn’t he? Why? He saw that the Lord wasn’t with him. Now, Joshua certainly should have asked WHY, but he did so by blaming God.
And, that, my friends, is why he was reprimanded. Hard. Joshua marched around Jericho just as the Lord had said. He had done everything correctly, or so he thought. Joshua gave specific orders to his soldiers.
6:18-19 But you, keep yourselves from the things devoted to destruction, lest when you have devoted them you take any of the devoted things and make the camp of Israel a thing for destruction and bring trouble upon it. But all silver and gold, and every vessel of bronze and iron, are holy to the Lord; they shall go into the treasury of the Lord.
That didn’t happen. One man took clothing, silver, and gold, and hid them for his personal use. That is why the Lord wasn’t with them at Ai. Joshua should have looked over the entire checklist of HIS responsibilities before blaming God. Right? Joshua should have known better than any how serious God was about people keeping treasure that belonged to him. Still, he blamed God.
Sitting on a different continent, some 3,400 years later, I can see Joshua’s error. If I was in HIS shoes, I would have done all that different, I’m sure. But, what a minute. Don’t I have battles, too? How do I fare with them? Are there times when I get beat up and blame God rather than looking at my own behavior? Do I have any right to blame God without first looking to see if I have sinned? Indeed, I have this example of Joshua, yet I fail on much smaller tests. This is a lesson I need to learn well. I’ll bet Joshua never forgot it. I would be wise to spend more time studying.
Father, teach me. Amen.