The next job was to take over the city of Ai. This was a small city, vastly outnumbered by the tribes of Israel, so Joshua only sent 3,000 men. However, Achan, one of the men of Judah had stolen some of the loot from Jericho that was intended for destruction.
Because of this disobedience, the Lord was angry and did not bless their attempt to take Ai. When Joshua tore his clothes and wept for the loss, the Lord said
Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep … I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction (vv 10-12).
When Joshua brought this to everyone’s attention to discover the guilty party, Achan did not proactively confess. Instead he waited for every single tribe to be searched until at last he was caught and singled out. His family was stoned to death along with himself, his possessions, and all his animals.
God had set Jericho apart to be destroyed. Since Achan disrupted that plan, the Lord was completely justified (being Just himself) in punishing Achan and stopping his family line.
When we disobey we get in the way of his will for us. And don’t forget – his will is good! He wants the best for us like a good Father, but he also demands obedience. I know that the word “obedience” is a difficult one to swallow for some people. It conjures up ideas of tight-lipped disciplinarians and corporal punishment. Please don’t confuse that image with God because that is not who He is:
Obedience to God is not a blind following despite your own conscience, but rather a natural response to His kindness when we have turned our minds, hearts, and attention to His faithfulness. He chose us, not the other way around.
Thank you God for loving us and choosing us before the world was created to love you back and love each other. Thank you for sending your Son Jesus to die for us and cause these old ritual laws to be unnecessary to us today. If not for your sacrifice of perfect love, we would still be living in a world that required death as the price for sin.