After Israel experienced smashing success in Jericho when they marched around the city in obedience to God's direction, they came to the city, Ai. But Israel acted unfaithfully by disobeying God when they Achan took banned material from Jericho (Josh. 7:1). This one act affected the whole nation. No single person operates in isolation from the greater community.
Joshua instructed the army to spy on Ai and then suffered a surprising defeat, which melted the hearts of the people (Josh. 7:2-5). Ai was much smaller and seemed like an easy target compared to Jericho. They came to Ai with much confidence. This setback really discouraged Joshua. He complained to God and asked why God brought them across the Jordan to be humiliated (Josh. 7:6-9). When we fail, it's natural to ask why. It's also tempting to long for the "good times" when things seemed peaceful and less chaotic.
God brought Joshua back to reality. He communicated to Joshua that Israel sinned when things were stolen under the ban. God instructed Joshua to sanctify the people before Him (Josh. 7:10-13).
How does one go about this cleansing process? We have to get at the root and not treat symptoms. Joshua could have reasoned, "our defeat was due to poor self-image or lack of confidence or over-confidence or poor performance by the soldiers." Fortunately, he discerned that sin was responsible, which occurred in the person of Achan (Josh. 7:14-18).
Achan's confession of sin got to the root of the problem. It caused the defeat in Ai. Achan explained that his eyes saw the gold and silver, he coveted it, partook and then hid the evidence (Josh. 7:20-21). When we sin, we go through a similar proces of temptation when we see it, consider the sin more deeply by desiring and delighting in it instead of our relationship with God, act upon our longing and hide it from God and others. God looks at the body of Christ as an organic whole. Even a single sin affects the whole group.
Once we confess the sin by agreeing with God that it is wrong, we have to forsake it (Prov. 28:13). In Joshua's case, he stoned and burned the whole family of Achan (Josh. 7:25-26). Sin is terrible. It must be rooted out. We can't peacefully coexist with sin. Even one person sinning prevents our group, congregation or team from fulfilling our mission. God’s judgment teaches people to stay away from sin and trouble.
Do you now believe that sin is serious and not to be taken lightly? Ask God to reveal sin by having Him search your heart. Confess and forsake your sin today. Extra power comes when we confess our sin to a friend we can trust (James 5:16).