After the crossing of the Jordan, Israel’s enemies no longer wished to fight them. Joshua 5 says that (of the Amorites and the Canaanites) God “melted their hearts”. Once again, God went before Israel and fought their battles for them. They didn’t even have to raise a finger. Shortly thereafter, something devastating occurred which further hindered their journey to The Promise Land.
When God was about to give over Jericho to Joshua and his men, He gave strict instructions: Spare Rahab and her family, keep away from the devoted things, and all the gold, silver, bronze, and iron are sacred and are to go into the Lord’s treasury. They overtook Jericho in a great and mighty way that could only have been achieved with God on their side and now the next attack was supposed to be a simple feat. They were supposed to seize this small city of Ai. Ah, no problem, right? Wrong. They found themselves in a very strange predicament- they lost. Thirty-six men lost their lives, and they were chased back out into the hills. If word broke out of this, an attack by the Canaanites and Amorites would be imminent.
So, what happened to make them lose? Disobedience.
Joshua had to find out whom in the camp had gone against the Lord. God was not about to allow Israel to win until they consecrated themselves before the Lord. After calling the leaders forward, Joshua discovered that Achan had disobeyed God. Instead of heeding God’s orders to leave the sacred items alone, Achan had stolen a “beautiful robe, two hundred shekels of silver, and a gold piece weighing fifty shekels”. Sadly, Achan, his entire family, along with the cattle and the items he stole were burned up. Only then did the Lord turn from His anger (vs. 26).
We must be very careful when it comes to our disobedience. I think that many times we are so focused on the loving, merciful, generous God that we forget that He is still God and He deserves our utmost respect and reverence. Oftentimes we become overly casual with God and we become careless and even our disobedience will seem “not that bad”. Achan had to pay severely for what he did. It did not only affect him, but his family, his peers, and an entire nation. We may see God as being too harsh on Achan, but look at God’s mercy. God could have taken away His entire covering and allowed the neighboring enemies to overtake Israel.
I cannot pretend that I know how God manages the consequences of our sins, how much mercy or how much justice He will display in any given situation. However, I do know this, being disobedient will only slow you down on your journey, if not bring it to a halt indefinitely. Instead, repent and get right with God immediately. Get back on the path as quickly as possible. There’s just too much at stake not just in your own life, but in your family, your peers, your church, and even our nation.