1. “ISRAEL COMMITTED A TRESPASS”
a. What happened soon after the fall of Jericho? Joshua 7:2–5.
“The great victory that God had gained for them [over the fall of Jericho] 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, and three thousand men were thought sufficient to take the place. These rushed to the attack without the assurance that God would be with them.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 493, 494.
b. Why were the Israelites defeated? Joshua 7:1, 12.
“It was a time for prompt and decided action, and not for despair and lamentation. There was secret sin in the camp, and it must be searched out and put away before the presence and blessing of the Lord could be with His people. . . .
“God’s command had been disregarded by one of those appointed to execute His judgments. . . . Instruction was given to Joshua for the discovery and punishment of the criminal.”—Ibid., p. 494.
2. “THE NATION WAS HELD ACCOUNTABLE”
a. Was the command of God actually transgressed by the whole camp of Israel or by only one man? Joshua 7:18.
“God was very particular in regard to Jericho, lest the people should be charmed with the things that the inhabitants had worshiped and their hearts be diverted from God. He guarded His people by most positive commands; yet notwithstanding the solemn injunction from God by the mouth of Joshua, Achan ventured to transgress. His covetousness led him to take of the treasures that God had forbidden him to touch because the curse of God was upon them. And because of this man’s sin the Israel of God were as weak as water before their enemies.”—Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 264.
“The nation [of Israel] was held accountable for the guilt of the transgressor: ‘They have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also.’”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 494.
b. If only one individual sinned by acting consciously contrary to the divine prohibition, why did God put the responsibility on the whole nation? Joshua 7:11.
“Achan’s sin brought disaster upon the whole nation. For one man’s sin the displeasure of God will rest upon His church till the transgression is searched out and put away. The influence most to be feared by the church is not that of open opposers, infidels, and blasphemers, but of inconsistent professors of Christ. These are the ones that keep back the blessing of the God of Israel and bring weakness upon His people”—Ibid., p. 497.
“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.”—Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 265.
3. “GET THEE UP”
a. How did Joshua cry to the Lord, and what was he mostly concerned about? Joshua 7:6–9.
“Joshua and the elders of Israel were in great affliction. They lay before the ark of God in most abject humility because the Lord was wroth with His people. They prayed and wept before God.”— Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 264.
“You can see by the prayer of Joshua, if you have spiritual discernment, that that which was esteemed by Achan as a very little thing was the cause of great anguish and sorrow to the responsible men of Israel. . . . Achan, the guilty party, did not feel the burden. He took it very coolly.”—Christ Triumphant, p. 137.
b. What was the first work that God instructed Joshua to do? Joshua 7:10, 13.
“It was a time for prompt and decided action, and not for despair and lamentation. There was secret sin in the camp, and it must be searched out and put away before the presence and blessing of the Lord could be with His people.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 494.
“The Lord did not specify who was the guilty party; but He gave directions as to what was to be done.”—The Youth’s Instructor, January 25, 1894.
c. How do some people react when a similar work must be done in the church today? Isaiah 30:9, 10.
“The spirit of hatred which has existed with some because the wrongs among God’s people have been reproved has brought blindness and a fearful deception upon their own souls, making it impossible for them to discriminate between right and wrong. They have put out their own spiritual eyesight. They may witness wrongs, but they do not feel as did Joshua and humble themselves because the danger of souls is felt by them.”—Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 266.
4. “TAKE AWAY THE ACCURSED THING”
a. Why didn’t the Lord point out the culprit directly? Psalm 32:5. What is the difference between acceptable and unacceptable confessions?
“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.”— Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 494, 495.
“Achan . . . had seen the armies of Israel return from Ai defeated and disheartened; yet he did not come forward and confess his sin. He had seen Joshua and the elders of Israel bowed to the earth in grief too great for words. Had he then made confession, he would have given some proof of true penitence; but he still kept silence. He had listened to the proclamation that a great crime had been committed, and had even heard its character definitely stated. But his lips were sealed. . . . There is a vast difference between admitting facts after they have been proved and confessing sins known only to ourselves and to God. Achan would not have confessed had he not hoped by so doing to avert the consequences of his crime. But his confession only served to show that his punishment was just. There was no genuine repentance for sin, no contrition, no change of purpose, no abhorrence of evil.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 497, 498.
b. Why did God involve the whole congregation in a diligent search? 1 Corinthians 12:25, 26.
“God holds His people, as a body, responsible for the sins existing in individuals among them. 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.”—Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 269.
c. When it comes to helping the erring, what kind of wisdom should attend the needed pastoral work? James 1:5; 3:17, 18; Jude 22, 23.
5. “INDEED I HAVE SINNED . . .”
a. When the lot fell upon Achan, what did he say? Joshua 7:20, 21.
“To establish his guilt beyond all question, leaving no ground for the charge that he had been unjustly condemned, Joshua solemnly adjured Achan to acknowledge the truth. The wretched man made full confession of his crime.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 495.
“Confessions of sin made at the right time to relieve the people of God will be accepted of Him. But there are those among us who will make confessions, as did Achan, too late to save themselves.”—Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 272.
b. What punishment, applied to Achan, served as a warning for the rest of the people? Joshua 7:24, 25. How is it a warning to us?
“The deadly sin that led to Achan's ruin had its root in covetousness, of all sins one of the most common and the most lightly regarded. While other offenses meet with detection and punishment, how rarely does the violation of the tenth commandment so much as call forth censure. The enormity of this sin, and its terrible results, are the lessons of Achan’s history.
“Covetousness is an evil of gradual development. Achan had cherished greed of gain until it became a habit, binding him in fetters well-nigh impossible to break. While fostering this evil, he would have been filled with horror at the thought of bringing disaster upon Israel; but his perceptions were deadened by sin, and when temptation came, he fell an easy prey.
“Are not similar sins still committed, in the face of warnings as solemn and explicit? We are as directly forbidden to indulge covetousness as was Achan to appropriate the spoils of Jericho. God has declared it to be idolatry.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 496.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. Why were the Israelites defeated in the first encounter with the people of Ai?
2. What was the first work that God instructed Joshua to do?
3. Why did God involve the whole congregation in a diligent search for the culprit?
4. What kind of wisdom is needed to deal with erring church members?
5. Why was Achan’s confession unacceptable?