It was a party till now. It was a rout. Jericho would be the first of dominos. Israel was "high" on the glory of God---which isn't a bad high. Then whammo, out of the blue, a major downer, for no apparent reason: ignomy at Ai. Joshua is almost sulking, almost angry at God.
The unexpected and stunning defeat of Israel before Ai reminds me of another party God spoiled, the day His wrath fell on Uzzah in the middle of a parade in God's honor, on the occasion of the return of the ark from Philistia. David was angry, too.
How often have I impugned God's justice, all because I didn't know all the circumstances? The portion of reality we see is always finite; God's is infinite.
The syllogism seemed air-tight: (1) God promised conquest of the land; (2) Ai is the next up; (3) Ai will be squashed like Jericho. Joshua didn't even bother sending out many men, for his commanders told him this one would be a piece of cake.
The reader of Joshua 7 knows what Joshua doesn't. One man in the camp has sinned, hoarded forbidden spoils in his tent. The camp is defiled. The defilement has to be dealt with before we can move forward. It seems severe, unfair.
One is reminded of the incident of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5, who are also dispatched unceremoniously for a hidden sin and cover-up. In both cases God is evidently intent on nipping something in the bud from the outset. Today's lesson: God is to be feared. It is best to get the ground rules straight from the beginning---this is not meanness but kindness. Welcome, reality. God is God and we're not. He cannot be otherwise. Once we have that clarified we can do business.
Because there is sin in the camp, "therefore the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies" (verse 7). Hidden sin will lead to defeat even if the sin is never discovered or known to a living soul, or even its host. I knew a man who committed adultery, and the affair was buried for 10 years, and the man moved on with his life. But as if the earth itself could hold it in no longer, the immorality was vomited it up in the end. By a series of improbably events, it resurfaced and destroyed him.
There are spiritual laws operating in the universe that we have no idea of. It is the strangest thing.
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