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SCRIPTURE REFERENCES FOR THIS SERMON:

Joshua 7:1-8:29

7:1 But the Israelites disobeyed the command about the city’s riches. Achan son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah, stole some of the riches. The Lord was furious with the Israelites.

2 Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai (which is located near Beth Aven, east of Bethel) and instructed them, “Go up and spy on the land.” So the men went up and spied on Ai. 3 They returned and reported to Joshua, “Don’t send the whole army. About two or three thousand men are adequate to defeat Ai. Don’t tire out the whole army, for Ai is small.”

4 So about three thousand men went up, but they fled from the men of Ai. 5 The men of Ai killed about thirty-six of them and chased them from in front of the city gate all the way to the fissures and defeated them on the steep slope. The people’s courage melted away like water.

6 Joshua tore his clothes; he and the leaders of Israel lay face down on the ground before the ark of the Lord until evening and threw dirt on their heads. 7 Joshua prayed, “O, Sovereign Lord! Why did you bring these people across the Jordan to hand us over to the Amorites so they could destroy us? If only we had been satisfied to live on the other side of the Jordan! 8 O Lord, what can I say now that Israel has retreated before its enemies? 9 When the Canaanites and all who live in the land hear about this, they will turn against us and destroy the very memory of us from the earth. What will you do to protect your great reputation?”

10 The Lord responded to Joshua, “Get up! Why are you lying there face down? 11 Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenantal commandment! They have taken some of the riches; they have stolen them and deceitfully put them among their own possessions. 12 The Israelites are unable to stand before their enemies; they retreat because they have become subject to annihilation. I will no longer be with you, unless you destroy what has contaminated you. 13 Get up! Ritually consecrate the people and tell them this: ‘Ritually consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, because this is what the Lord God of Israel has said, “You are contaminated, O Israel! You will not be able to stand before your enemies until you remove what is contaminating you.” 14 In the morning you must approach in tribal order. The tribe the Lord selects must approach by clans. The clan the Lord selects must approach by families. The family the Lord selects must approach man by man. 15 The one caught with the riches must be burned up along with all who belong to him, because he violated the Lord’s covenant and did such a disgraceful thing in Israel.’”

16 Bright and early the next morning Joshua made Israel approach in tribal order, and the tribe of Judah was selected. 17 He then made the clans of Judah approach, and the clan of the Zerahites was selected. He made the clan of the Zerahites approach, and Zabdi was selected. 18 He then made Zabdi’s family approach man by man and Achan son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah, was selected. 19 So Joshua said to Achan, “My son, honor the Lord God of Israel and give him praise! Tell me what you did; don’t hide anything from me!” 20 Achan told Joshua, “It is true. I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel in this way: 21 I saw among the goods we seized a nice robe from Babylon, two hundred silver pieces, and a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels. I wanted them, so I took them. They are hidden in the ground right in the middle of my tent with the silver underneath.”

22 Joshua sent messengers who ran to the tent. The things were hidden right in his tent, with the silver underneath. 23 They took it all from the middle of the tent, brought it to Joshua and all the Israelites, and placed it before the Lord. 24 Then Joshua and all Israel took Achan, son of Zerah, along with the silver, the robe, the bar of gold, his sons, daughters, ox, donkey, sheep, tent, and all that belonged to him and brought them up to the Valley of Disaster. 25 Joshua said, “Why have you brought disaster on us? The Lord will bring disaster on you today!” All Israel stoned him to death. (They also stoned and burned the others.) 26 Then they erected over him a large pile of stones (it remains to this very day ) and the Lord’s anger subsided. So that place is called the Valley of Disaster to this very day.

8:1 The Lord told Joshua, “Don’t be afraid and don’t panic! Take the whole army with you and march against Ai! See, I am handing over to you the king of Ai, along with his people, city, and land. 2 Do to Ai and its king what you did to Jericho and its king, except you may plunder its goods and cattle. Set an ambush behind the city!”

3 Joshua and the whole army marched against Ai. Joshua selected thirty thousand brave warriors and sent them out at night. 4 He ordered them, “Look, set an ambush behind the city. Don’t go very far from the city; all of you be ready! 5 I and all the troops who are with me will approach the city. When they come out to fight us like before, we will retreat from them. 6 They will attack us until we have lured them from the city, for they will say, ‘They are retreating from us like before.’ We will retreat from them. 7 Then you rise up from your hiding place and seize the city. The Lord your God will hand it over to you. 8 When you capture the city, set it on fire in keeping with the Lord’s message. See, I have given you orders.” 9 Joshua sent them away and they went to their hiding place west of Ai, between Bethel and Ai. Joshua spent that night with the army.

10 Bright and early the next morning Joshua gathered the army, and he and the leaders of Israel marched at the head of it to Ai. 11 All the troops that were with him marched up and drew near the city. They camped north of Ai on the other side of the valley. 12 He took five thousand men and set an ambush west of the city between Bethel and Ai. 13 The army was in position – the main army north of the city and the rear guard west of the city. That night Joshua went into the middle of the valley.

14 When the king of Ai saw Israel, they rushed to get up early. Then the men of the city went out to meet Israel in battle, he and all his people, at the meeting place near the rift valley. But he did not realize an ambush was waiting for him behind the city. 15 Joshua and all Israel pretended to be defeated by them and they retreated along the way to the wilderness. 16 All the reinforcements in Ai were ordered to chase them; they chased Joshua and were lured away from the city. 17 No men were left in Ai or Bethel; they all went out after Israel. They left the city wide open and chased Israel.

18 The Lord told Joshua, “Hold out toward Ai the curved sword in your hand, for I am handing the city over to you.” So Joshua held out toward Ai the curved sword in his hand. 19 When he held out his hand, the men waiting in ambush rose up quickly from their place and attacked. They entered the city, captured it, and immediately set it on fire. 20 When the men of Ai turned around, they saw the smoke from the city ascending into the sky and were so shocked they were unable to flee in any direction. In the meantime the men who were retreating to the wilderness turned against their pursuers. 21 When Joshua and all Israel saw that the men in ambush had captured the city and that the city was going up in smoke, they turned around and struck down the men of Ai. 22 At the same time the men who had taken the city came out to fight, and the men of Ai were trapped in the middle. The Israelites struck them down, leaving no survivors or refugees. 23 But they captured the king of Ai alive and brought him to Joshua.

24 When Israel had finished killing all the men of Ai who had chased them toward the wilderness (they all fell by the sword), all Israel returned to Ai and put the sword to it. 25 Twelve thousand men and women died that day, including all the men of Ai. 26 Joshua kept holding out his curved sword until Israel had annihilated all who lived in Ai. 27 But Israel did plunder the cattle and the goods of the city, in keeping with the Lord’s orders to Joshua. 28 Joshua burned Ai and made it a permanently uninhabited mound (it remains that way to this very day). 29 He hung the king of Ai on a tree, leaving him exposed until evening. At sunset Joshua ordered that his corpse be taken down from the tree. They threw it down at the entrance of the city gate and erected over it a large pile of stones (it remains to this very day).