“So the Lord said to Joshua.” With these words we see the personal involvement of God in the lives of His people. God cares about our lives and ministries and is ever at work to reveal Himself and teach us about our own lives and what we need to be doing as we walk the pathway of life (1 Pet. 5:6-7; Heb. 13:5-6). The issue is, are we listening?
THE COMMAND TO JOSHUA (VS. 10A) “RISE UP!” This command comes to Joshua while he is lying face down on the ground with dirt on his head in typical oriental fashion. He was in a state of despair and panic. As mentioned, falling on his face may have demonstrated some humility since he was crying out to God, but in view of God’s response here, it seems this was mostly an act of despair and the product of a spirit of hopelessness and unbelief, as his words in verse 7 aptly demonstrate. Note again the word “Alas,” the Hebrew ‘ahah, an interjection, which, in this context, shows despair or deep concern. Since nothing is accomplished with our face in the dirt, the Lord tells Joshua to get up or rise up out of this condition. Such a condition, though very human and characteristic of all of us from time to time, is not a state we can afford to stay in: it accomplishes nothing, it dishonors God’s Person and promises, and neutralizes us for the Lord.
The Meaning of “Rise up!” The KJV has “get thee up,” the NIV has “stand up,” and the NASB has “rise up.” The verb here is the Hebrew qum which often means to rise up from a prostrate position for various reasons and from various conditions. From this literal meaning there is often a figurative idea that qum gave rise to. It was used of rising as an act of preparation for action, of rising out of a state of inaction or failure, of showing respect and worship, of rising to hear God’s Word, of becoming strong or powerful, of rising up to give deliverance, of assuming an office or responsibility (as a prophet or a judge), and of rising up to give testimony.
Several of these ideas are applicable here. This command calls for Joshua to rise up from his state of despair and futility to prepare himself for action, to listen to the Lord, to take up his responsibility, and lead the people in God’s deliverance. While the Lord understands and sympathizes with our problems and fears, and while humbling ourselves before the Lord is always needed, He nevertheless never condones our being prostrate in despair nor excuses us from appropriating His grace and moving out in obedience. His word to us is get up off your face, get your eyes on Me and deal with the problems in your life according to the principles and promises of Scripture.
The Question to Joshua: “Why is it that you have fallen on your face?” The nature of this question carries a note of rebuke. It says, in view of who God is, in view of His plan for Israel and His promises to Joshua, what possible reason could you have for such despair? Here then is a call for Joshua to get his eyes on the Lord!
Then, I think this is secondarily a call for Joshua, and for us when this is applicable, to examine the nature of what we are doing and the root causes for the defeats of life. We need to ask, what is God seeking to teach me? Is this caused by something I did or failed to do?
THE EXPLANATION TO JOSHUA (VSS. 11-12) The Cause of Israel’s Failure (vs. 11)
1) “Israel has sinned” (this states the basic nature of their failure and ours—sin [the Heb. is hata, meaning to miss, miss the way or goal or mark),
(2) “they have violated (Heb. is abar, to pass over, overstep, go beyond, transgress) my covenant, which I commanded them to keep” (this points to the specific issue),
(3) “they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen” (this shows how they had transgressed the covenant and just what this entailed, stealing—stealing that which belonged to the Lord as devoted to Him),
(4) “they have lied, they have put them with their own” (this describes the further consequences, the snowball effect of sin and brings out the selfish, coveting nature of what was done, which is the root of most of our sin).
The Consequences of Israel’s Failure (vs. 12)
We should pay special attention to the “therefore” that introduces this verse. The NIV has “that is why” and the NASB and KJV have “therefore.” In this way, we are pointed to one of consequences of the sin of Achan and of unconfessed sin in general—weakness, inability to serve and live for the Lord because of the way sin grieves and quenches the Spirit (Eph. 4:30; 1 Thess. 5:10). This illustrates the truth declared in John 15:1-7; Ephesians 4:30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19; 1 Corinthians 10:13; and Proverbs 28:13. In Christ we have the capacity to live victoriously for the Lord regardless of what we face, but the ability to do so always depends on fellowship with the Savior in the power of the Spirit; we need to walk in the light (1 John 1:5-9).
DIRECTIONS FOR THE PEOPLE (VSS. 13-15)
In preparation for his ministry of leadership, Joshua is again told to “rise up.” He can’t lead the people with his face in the dirt or while moping about, depressed over the defeat. This is in essence a call for restoration to fellowship and faith in the power of God. It’s like the Lord’s words to Peter in Luke 22. Peter was warned that Satan would sift him like wheat, but then the Lord told him, “and you, when once you have turned again (restoration to fellowship), strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32). Peter was not to allow his failure and denials to keep him from being a leader and ministering to others. So Peter himself would exhort the church in view of our salvation and forgiveness in Christ, “gird up the loins of your mind …” (1 Pet. 1:13). In view of what follows (the examination and discharge of discipline on Achan and his family), Joshua undoubtedly communicated this same command to the people.
Next, in verse 13, Joshua was told to “consecrate the people” to prepare them to deal with the problem. He was to call their attention to the sin of someone taking things that were under the ban which was also the cause of their failure in the battle against Ai. As the Lord had emphasized to Joshua, so he was to call the people’s attention to both the cause and the consequences of the sin. This also called for them to prepare themselves for the activities that would take place the next day. They were to set the day apart for this activity and to prepare their hearts perhaps by prayer and worship for what God would have to do.
Next, in verse 14 specific instructions were given for purging out this sin from their midst. First, there is to be examination of the people tribe by tribe, family by family, and finally, man by man. Note also how the men are the ones held responsible for their families. The examination would reveal the guilty party. Verse 15 describes the punishment that was to be carried out on the guilty party with the reason given for the severity of the punishment.
The Discovery of Achan Described
THE SEARCH FOR THE GUILTY PARTY (VSS. 16-18)
“So Joshua rose early in the morning” (NASB), “Early the next morning Joshua had Israel” (NIV). Four times we read in Joshua that he rose early in the morning to take care of important business. Joshua was not a procrastinator. Next, we find that in verses 16 through 18 the discovery of Achan began with all Israel and was narrowed down by tribes to Judah, then by families or clans to the Zerathites, then by the families of that clan to the family of Zimri, and then from that family to Achan.
Now, why did Joshua follow this procedure and how was he able to narrow the search to Achan? The answer is found for us in verse 14 in the repeated words, “which the Lord takes.” The words by lot found in the NASB are in italics and are not in the original, but they most likely express the means that were used because of the words, “which the Lord takes.” “Which the Lord takes” or “was taken” (NIV) in vss. 16-18 refers to a choice probably based on the use of the Urim and the Thummim in accordance with Exodus 28:15, 30 (cf. Num. 27:21), which somehow involved the casting of lots (cf. Prov. 16:33; Jos. 14:1-2; 18:6).
A key question is what was the Urim and the Thummim? They appear in Scripture without explanation, but the following may help us. Explanation of the Urim and Thummim:
1. The Hebrew for this phrase probably means “the lights” and “the perfections.” The Hebrew word for Urim (‘urim) is probably derived from ‘or “be light.” Thummim probably comes from a Hebrew word meaning “perfection.” 2. Urim begins with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet (aleph) and Thummim (thummim) begins with the last letter (taw).
3. The Urim and Thummim appear in Scripture without explanatory identification, except that they were to be put “in the breastplate … and be upon Aaron’s heart” (Ex. 28:30), which may suggest that these are none other than descriptive terms for the twelve precious stones of the immediately preceding context, inscribed with the names of the tribes of Israel (vss. 17-21), and set in the breastplate of judgment upon Aaron’s heart (vs. 29).6 Some believe they consisted of only two special stones.
4. They were contained in the breastplate or pouch of judgment worn on the outside of the ephod. The point is they were a means of seeking divine guidance and answers to questions and crises beyond human perception through the ministry of the priest.
Dr. Hannah in The Bible Knowledge Commentary says:
How they were used in determining God’s will is unknown, but some suggest the Urim represented a negative answer and the Thummim a positive answer. Perhaps this view is indicated by the fact that Urim … begins with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and Thummim … with the last latter. Others suggest that the objects simply symbolized the high priest’s authority to inquire of God, or the assurance that the priest would receive enlightenment (“lights”) and perfect knowledge (“perfections”) from God.7
Perhaps, as the Law which was built on the Hebrew alphabet (aleph to taw) stood for God’s moral will, so the Urim and Thummim stood for God’s guidance in special situations beyond human knowledge and ability.
Whatever, they were sacred lots and were often used in times of crisis to determine the will of God (see Num. 27:21). Every decision of the Urim was from the Lord (Prov. 16:33). The use of the Urim and the Thummim to determine God’s decisions or to find His will was to be done by the high priest because he alone could wear the ephod which contained the Urim and Thummim.
In 1 Samuel 2:28 three tasks of the priests are mentioned: (1) to go up to my altar, i.e., to perform the sacrificial rites at the altar of burnt offering in the courtyard of the tabernacle; (2) to burn incense at the altar of incense in the Holy Place (Ex 30:1-10), and (3) to wear an ephod. This is a reference to the special ephod to be worn by the high priests. This included the breastplate or pouch which contained the Urim and Thummim, the divinely ordained means of communication with God and to make decisions all of which was some how related to casting lots.
God gave divine direction and Achan was discovered by supernatural means. He did not come forth voluntarily to confess or repent and throw himself on the mercy of God. His failure to do so stands in contrast with the attitude of the prodigal and the publican of the New Testament.
THE LESSON FROM ACHAN’S SIN (VSS. 20-21)
As 1 Corinthians 10 reminds us, what happened to Achan is recorded for our warning and instruction to remind us of one of the processes to sin. The process to Achan’s sin was a familiar one. He saw, he coveted, and he took. It was the same with Eve (Gen. 3:6) and with David (2 Sam. 11:2-4) and it is the same with us. Joshua’s approach was tender, yet firm. He hated the sin, but loved the sinner. Achan’s confession while honest, was too late and the product of discovery. It was not an act of repentance or godly sorrow that leads to repentance (2 Cor. 7:8-11).
Are there not lessons for us here somewhere? Yes there are, and we will learn about them in tomorrow's Lesson. I know that this is sort of deep for some of you, but hang in there, we are almost to the end.
Be Blessed, and: "Don't Forget To Say Your Prayers!" Prayer doesn't just change things; prayer changes everything!