1. HIDDEN DANGER LURKING
a. After Jericho fell, of what hidden danger was Joshua unaware? Joshua 7:1. Meanwhile, what steps followed in the conquest of Canaan? Joshua 7:2, 3.
“Soon after the fall of Jericho, Joshua determined to attack Ai, a small town among the ravines a few miles to the west of the Jordan Valley. Spies sent to this place brought back the report that the inhabitants were but few, and that only a small force would be needed to overthrow it.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 493.
b. Based on the report of the spies, how many soldiers were sent to attack Ai? Joshua 7:4 (first part). What mistakes were made at this time?
“The great victory that God had gained for them had made the Israelites self-confident. Because He had promised them the land of Canaan they felt secure, and failed to realize that divine help alone could give them success. Even Joshua laid his plans for the conquest of Ai without seeking counsel from God.
“The Israelites had begun to exalt their own strength and to look with contempt upon their foes. An easy victory was expected.”—Ibid.
2. A CALL FOR HEART-SEARCHING
a. What unpleasant surprise shocked the Israelites at Ai? Joshua 7:4, 5.
“[Israel’s 3,000 soldiers] rushed to the attack without the assurance that God would be with them. They advanced nearly to the gate of the city, only to encounter the most determined resistance. Panic-stricken at the numbers and thorough preparation of their enemies, they fled in confusion down the steep descent. . . . Though the loss was small as to numbers—but thirty-six men being slain—the defeat was disheartening to the whole congregation. . . . This was the first time they had met the Canaanites in actual battle, and if put to flight before the defenders of this little town, what would be the result in the greater conflicts before them?”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 494.
b. How did Joshua react to the tragedy? Joshua 7:6–9. What was wrong with his reaction?
“Joshua manifested a true zeal for the honor of God, yet his petitions were mingled with doubt and unbelief. The thought that God had brought His people over the Jordan to deliver them up to the power of the heathen was a sinful one, unworthy of a leader of Israel. Joshua’s feelings of despondency and distrust were inexcusable in view of the mighty miracles which God had wrought for the deliverance of His people, and the repeated promise that He would be with them.”—The Signs of the Times, April 21, 1881.
“It is a sin in any church not to search for the cause of their darkness and of the afflictions which have been in the midst of them. The church in ----- cannot be a living, prosperous church until they are more awake to the wrongs among them, which hinder the blessing of God from coming upon them.”—Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 520.
“Let the churches who claim to believe the truth, who are advocating the law of God, keep that law and depart from all iniquity. Let the individual members of the church resist the temptations to practice evils and indulge in sin. Let the church commence the work of purification before God by repentance, humiliation, deep heart searching, for we are in the antitypical day of atonement—solemn hour fraught with eternal results.”—Selected Messages, vol. 2, p. 378.
3. GOD ANSWERS
a. How did God graciously respond when Joshua prayed, protesting over the humiliating defeat of the Israelite army at Ai? Joshua 7:10–12.
“Our merciful God did not visit his servant [Joshua] with wrath because of this error [of despondency and distrust]. He graciously accepted the humiliation and prayers of Joshua, and at the same time gently rebuked his unbelief, and then revealed to him the cause of their defeat.”—The Signs of the Times, April 21, 1881.
b. What are we to learn from this crisis? 1 Corinthians 10:1–5, 11, 12.
“[Joshua 7:10–12 quoted.]
“I have been shown that God here illustrates how He regards sin among those who profess to be His commandment-keeping people. Those whom He has specially honored with witnessing the remarkable exhibitions of His power, as did ancient Israel, and who will even then venture to disregard His express directions, will be subjects of His wrath. He would teach His people that disobedience and sin are exceedingly offensive to Him and are not to be lightly regarded. He shows us that when His people are found in sin they should at once take decided measures to put that sin from them, that His frown may not rest upon them all. But if the sins of the people are passed over by those in responsible positions, His frown will be upon them, and the people of God, as a body, will be held responsible for those sins. In His dealings with His people in the past the Lord shows the necessity of purifying the church from wrongs. One sinner may diffuse darkness that will exclude the light of God from the entire congregation. When the people realize that darkness is settling upon them, and they do not know the cause, they should seek God earnestly, in great humility and self-abasement, until the wrongs which grieve His Spirit are searched out and put away. . . .
“If wrongs are apparent among His people, and if the servants of God pass on indifferent to them, they virtually sustain and justify the sinner, and are alike guilty and will just as surely receive the displeasure of God; for they will be made responsible for the sins of the guilty.”—Testimonies, vol. 3, pp. 265, 266.
4. A WORK IN THESE LAST DAYS
a. What action did God direct Joshua to take in the crisis that had caused weakness and defeat at Ai? Joshua 7:13–15. What can we learn from this?
“[Some] may witness wrongs, but they do not feel as did Joshua and humble themselves because the danger of souls is felt by them.
“The true people of God, who have the spirit of the work of the Lord and the salvation of souls at heart, will ever view sin in its real, sinful character. They will always be on the side of faithful and plain dealing with sins which easily beset the people of God. Especially in the closing work for the church, in the sealing time of the one hundred and forty-four thousand who are to stand without fault before the throne of God, will they feel most deeply the wrongs of God’s professed people. . . .
“Who are standing in the counsel of God at this time? Is it those who virtually excuse wrongs among the professed people of God and who murmur in their hearts, if not openly, against those who would reprove sin? Is it those who take their stand against them and sympathize with those who commit wrong? No, indeed! Unless they repent, and leave the work of Satan in oppressing those who have the burden of the work and in holding up the hands of sinners in Zion, they will never receive the mark of God’s sealing approval.”—Testimonies, vol. 3, pp. 266, 267.
“If the leaders of the church neglect to diligently search out the sins which bring the displeasure of God upon the body, they become responsible for these sins.”—Ibid., p. 269.
b. How did Joshua obediently proceed? Joshua 7:16–18.
“Instruction was given to Joshua for the discovery and punishment of the criminal. The lot was to be employed for the detection of the guilty. The sinner was not directly pointed out, the matter being left in doubt for a time, that the people might feel their responsibility for the sins existing among them, and thus be led to searching of heart and humiliation before God. . . .
“Achan the son of Carmi, of the tribe of Judah, was pointed out by the finger of God as the troubler of Israel.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 494, 495.
5. TRUE LEADERSHIP IN A CRISIS
a. What did Joshua tactfully ask Achan to do, and what was Achan’s response? Joshua 7:19–21. How does God regard indifference in times of crisis? Zephaniah 1:12.
“There are many who do not have the discretion of Joshua and who have no special duty to search out wrongs and to deal promptly with the sins existing among them. Let not such . . . stand in the way of those who have this duty to do. . . .
“The manner of Achan’s confession was similar to the confessions that some among us have made and will make. They hide their wrongs and refuse to make a voluntary confession until God searches them out, and then they acknowledge their sins. A few persons pass on in a course of wrong until they become hardened. They may even know that the church is burdened. . . . Yet their consciences do not condemn them. They will not relieve the church by humbling their proud, rebellious hearts before God and putting away their wrongs. God’s displeasure is upon His people, and He will not manifest His power in the midst of them while sins exist among them and are fostered by those in responsible positions.
“Those who work in the fear of God to rid the church of hindrances and to correct grievous wrongs, that the people of God may see the necessity of abhorring sin and may prosper in purity, and that the name of God may be glorified, will ever meet with resisting influences from the unconsecrated.”—Testimonies, vol. 3, pp. 270, 271.
“The church as a whole is in a degree responsible for the wrongs of its individual members because they countenance the evil in not lifting up their voice against it.”—Ibid., vol. 4, p. 491.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. What factors caused the Israelites to be defeated at Ai?
2. What showed faith and what showed doubt in Joshua’s prayer to God?
3. Explain the duty of the remnant church that seriously prepares for Christ’s second coming.
4. What leadership qualities in Joshua chapter 7 would I be well to develop?
5. Why must I avoid hindering the vital task of expelling sin from the camp?