“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.”'”
The story of Ai is tragic. Thirty-six men lost their lives that day. Thirty six sons, brothers, fathers, husbands and friends, fell in battle. Their deaths had a devastating effect upon the people. Not only were they filled with the normal grief of losing loved ones, but this grief was compounded by the fact they had been sent by the Lord into Canaan, and now they had lost the battle and thirty-six lives. The ripples of this were so great, even Joshua, their heroic leader, wished they had never crossed the Jordan. This passage is filled with applications for us today. Not the least of which is, their failure in battle was due to failure in their private lives. That failure is twofold.
First, there was the sin of Joshua. When surveying Jericho he encountered the Lord and got his marching orders. Here he surveyed the land but neglected to seek the Lord. Had he sought God, the sin of Achan would have been exposed before the battle started, and lives would have been saved. It is clear from the text, God’s method for taking the city, was far different than the plan Joshua came up with on His own.
Second, there was the sin of Achan. Israel was commanded to dedicate all the spoil of Jericho to the Lord. This fits with the principle of the ‘firstfruit’ belonging to God. However, we find that one man, Achan by name, took some of what was under the ban, and hid it away in his tent. When confronted, Achan shares what happened. He said, “I saw, I coveted, I took and I hid” (Joshua 7:21). He ignored the warning of God, and placed himself in a position where the temptation became too great to resist. It was only a matter of time before he would fall.
We learn from this that personal sin impacts the whole congregation. No man is an island. Our personal decisions have an impact upon others, and upon the work of the Lord. Whenever a person chooses to devote himself more fully to the Lord, the Kingdom is strengthened, but whenever a person chooses to compromise, the whole congregation is effected.
The solution is simple. We cannot stand before our enemies until we remove the accursed things. If we want to have success in our walk, and service to the Lord, we must get the things out of our lives that do not belong. These things come out through confession and repentance.