Sin in the Camp

God answers Joshua's prayer, and He is not pleased. 

Joshua 7 (4)

So the LORD said to Joshua: “Get up! Why do you lie thus on your face? Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. For they have even taken some of the accursed things, and have both stolen and deceived; and they have also put it among their own stuff. Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they have become doomed to destruction. Neither will I be with you anymore, unless you destroy the accursed from among you. Get up, sanctify the people, and say, Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow, because thus says the LORD God of Israel: “There is an accursed thing in your midst, O Israel; you cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the accursed thing from among you.” In the morning therefore you shall be brought according to your tribes. And it shall be thatthe tribe which the LORD takes shall come according to families; and the family which the LORD takes shall come by households; and the household which the LORD takes shall come man by man. Then it shall be that he who is taken with the accursed thing shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he has transgressed the covenant of the LORD, and because he has done a disgraceful thing in Israel.’” Joshua 7.10-15

1.  Someone had stolen from the Lord, and all Israel was made to suffer. What does this suggest about sin? 

2.  God connects sin with breaking His covenant. Why do we not want to break God’s covenant?

Think about it.
God is clearly angry here, and justifiably so. Not only has someone stolen from Him and tried to deceive Him, but Joshua has put the blame on God for Israel’s defeat at Ai. Instead of whining and complaining before God, Joshua should have been looking for the source of Israel’s problem elsewhere.

We may think we can sin without repercussions, but this is only because we don’t understand the corrosive power of sin. Our sins, though we indulge them privately, will affect the people around us. When we harbor sin in our lives, we put ourselves outside the protections and promises of God’s covenant, and we set ourselves up for His chastening (Heb. 12.3-11). This is what Joshua should have been doing, and not lying here on his face accusing God of wrongdoing.

God could have told Joshua who was at fault here and how to deal with the matter privately. But the sin of the one had already brought humiliation to the nation, and God wanted the entire nation to participate in this rite of cleansing and renewal. It would be an important lesson for everyone.

We notice a subtle correction on God’s part, to remind Joshua of His nearness and covenant. Joshua had referred to Him as Lord GOD– literally, Lord LORD. This seems a bit formal and distant, God’s role as Lord preceding His Name. God referred to Himself as LORD God of Israel, His covenant Name first, and His uniqueness as God – and not some Canaanite baal – emphasized second. This is more covenantal, personal, immanent, and even gracious. God had come to judge His people, but He was still their covenant God and Redeemer, not some impersonal, distant, vengeful deity, like the gods of Canaan.

Meditate and discuss.
1.  Meditate on Psalm 66.18. How important is it that we not harbor sin in our lives?

2.  What was God expecting the people to do in sanctifying themselves (v. 13)? Is it a good idea for us to sanctify ourselves from time to time? Why?

3.  How should this incident affect our view of sin? What can we do to keep sin from ruining our lives and the lives of those we love?

“Although the word קדשhas a more extensive meaning, yet as the subject in question is the expiation of the people, I have no doubt that it prescribes a formal rite of sanctification. Those, therefore, who interpret it generally as equivalent to prepare, do not, in my judgment, give it its full force. Nay, as they were now to be in a manner brought into the divine presence, there was need of purification that they might not come while unclean.” John Calvin, Commentary on Joshua (1509-1564 AD)

Search me, Lord! Search me continuously, and show me any hidden sins, so that I can repent and…

Pray Psalm 139.23, 24.

Memorize these two verses, and add them to your prayers each day.

Psalm 139.23, 24 (Ripley: Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah, O My Soul)
Search my heart, O Lord, and know me, as You only, Lord, can do.
Test my thoughts and contemplations, whether they be vain or true.
Let there be no sin in me, Lord, nothing that Your Spirit grieves.
Lead me in the righteous way, Lord, unto everlasting peace!

T. M. Moore

Where does the book of Joshua fit in the ongoing story of God’s covenant? Our workbook, God’s Covenant, can help you discover the place in God’s work of redemption not only of Joshua but of all the books of the Bible. God’s Covenant is a valuable resource to guide you in all your studies in God’s Word. To order your copy, click here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT. 

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