How Listening Spares Us Pain

Joshua 7:1–13

Listening does more than give us necessary information. Sometimes it spells the difference between success and failure, joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain. The failure to listen can cause us a great deal of heartache.

A good example of this is found in Joshua 7:1–13. Immediately after God gave the Israelites a great victory at Jericho, Joshua sent a group of soldiers to spy on the little town of Ai. He then commissioned a small force to overthrow it. Although Ai paled in size to Jericho, the Israelites were soundly defeated in a serious setback that caused grief and fear throughout the Israelite camp.

What differed in the two campaigns?

First, God gave Joshua an order to defeat Jericho and promised He would give the city into Joshua’s hand. Second, God gave Joshua the military strategy by which the victory could be won (Joshua 6). The victory was God’s, and received full glory of it.

The Lord no doubt had a battle plan for Ai, but Joshua didn’t ask to hear it. Instead he sent out spies, and when they came back with a report that Ai could easily be taken, he dispatched a few thousand men without consulting God. He relied solely on human opinion.

In addition, God had commanded the people not to touch the “accursed things” of Jericho — items considered unclean according to the Law, including various personal effects, They were to take only the silver, gold, bronze, and iron vessels for the house of the Lord and were to burn the rest (Joshua 6:18). But Achan chose not to obey the Lord. He brought accursed things into the camp, including a beautiful garment from Shinar (or Babylonia). He also took two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold for himself, burying them in the ground beneath his tent. It was only a matter of time before the Lord exposed Achan’s sin.

Israel’s defeat at Ai was humiliating. Had Joshua listened for the Lord’s counsel before moving against the city, no doubt God would have revealed what Achan had done. The problem probably would have been solved, and the assault on Ai would have been successful.

Sin robs us of the opportunity to live rightly before God. It entreats us to turn aside to selfish action while ignoring the ways of the Lord. But we do not have to fall for satan’s sinful folly. We have the power of Christ living within us, and we can learn how to walk in God’s truth and power.

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