BOOK BY BOOK BIBLE STUDY
BIBLE STUDY LESSON
For the week beginning Sunday August 26, 2012
THE ACCOUNTIBILITY DARE
(Accepting responsibility for our sins, and then, seeking GOD’s remedy)
Early on in the Israelites quest to conquer the land of Canaan, they suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of a tiny city called Ai. When Moses described the “Promised Land” as “a place of hills and valleys with plenty of rain” (Deuteronomy 11:11), I believe he was speaking of much more than just the physical geographical landscape. Spiritually he was describing the ups and downs, and many disappointments, that, future generations would suffer with because of their propensity toward sin and disobedience to GOD.
In Joshua chapter 7, shortly after the Israelite’s annihilation of the great city of Jericho, Joshua sends spies to the tiny town of Ai, which was an Ammonite city located just east of Bethel near Heshbon. Its name means “Heap of ruins”, but as it turned out, they were one of the, more, stronger cities in the region, and because of their size, the proud Israelite spies would sorely underestimate they might.
The opening lines of this, now famous chapter, gives us the real reason why the Israelites would have to suffer defeat at the hands of this small pagan city. Verse 1 tells us that Israel had been “unfaithful concerning the things set apart for the LORD”. This unfaithfulness would manifest itself in the person of a man named Achan, who had stolen some of the things that the LORD had told Israel not to take up for themselves, while involved in this “holy war” campaign against the pagan civilizations of Canaan.
Achan had taken a beautiful robe, which the Israelites were supposed to burn at Jericho, and he also kept gold and silver for himself, which they were to take and keep to deposit in the LORD’s treasury (Joshua 6:18-19). Achan, instead, deposited those articles in his own personal tent, most likely in the witness of his immediate family, putting their lives in jeopardy along with his, as they had to have abetted him in keeping this disobedience a secret.
And so when the small Israelite regimen of about 3000 men invaded Ai they were soundly defeated. The men of Ai chased them out of town killing 36 Israelites as they retreated down the hill. The Israelites were paralyzed with fear at what had happened to them and their courage melted away.
When Joshua and the other leaders heard about what had happened they tore their clothing in dismay, threw dust on their heads, and bowed down facing the Ark of the Covenant until evening, praying and crying out to the LORD, asking why HE had abandoned them in their quest at Ai. The LORD replied to Joshua that it was because they had sinned and broken HIS Covenant, and that, hidden among them were things that had been set apart for HIM. HE told Joshua that they would never defeat their enemies again until these things are removed from among them and put in their proper places.
Joshua had rightly interpreted their defeat at Ai as the result of GOD’s withdrawal of HIS divine help from them. And now, through a divine process, GOD would show the Israelites exactly who the culprit was, living among them. In the original Hebrew, the phrase “nabalah beyisrael” in verse 15, is translated “a disgraceful thing in Israel”. It comes from the same root word as “nabal” which means “fool”. However, this word “nabal” actually describes “the gross immorality of one who denies GOD, and remains forever closed to HIM” (only a “fool” says in their heart, there is no GOD – Psalm 14:1a).
To commit a “disgraceful thing in Israel” is to actually defy the standards of the believing community, and, to selfishly gratify one’s own perverted desires. After Achan’s sin was exposed through GOD’s divine process, he and his entire immediate family were taken out and stoned to death, and their bodies burned. Achan’s sin caused the deaths of 36 Israelites soldiers, causing pain in the lives of those soldiers families, and then, ultimately, his sin also cost him his life, and, the lives of his entire family. He is forever remembered in biblical history as “the man who troubled Israel” (Joshua 7:25).
Notice in this passage of the book of Joshua that GOD made it perfectly clear that “Israel” had sinned, not just Achan (Vs. 1 & 11). And why would GOD blame the whole nation for the sins of one individual? Because GOD looks at Israel as one people in HIS body, not just a collection of tribes, clans, families, and individuals.
Even today GOD’s people are one body in CHRIST, and consequently, we as Christians, belong to each other. We both, need each other, and, affect each other in what we do as individuals. CHRIST’ Church is one body, and any weakness or infection in one part of the body can ultimately infect the whole body (1 Corinthians 5:1-7).
When anyone in the body disobeys GOD, they automatically defile the whole camp. Each individual in the Church must strive to keep the church holy and in line with GOD’s plan. And so each individual has to also have a personal, experiential relationship with GOD, obtained through prayer and a deep study of HIS Word. It is the only way that we are going to be able to recognize the counterfeit that satan is so frequently handing to us, and more often than not, it seems, nowadays, we so readily accept.
A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website