Caught Red-Handed (Part 5)
By Sophia Prinsloo
with Barbara Wilmerton Haas
Text Version | Afrikaans | For Younger Children
A Bible Story About Joshua
(Continued from Part 4)
Summer vacation was the favorite time of year for the Smith family. That’s when you’d find them having such a good time, camping by the river. How they loved being in and near the water! But all that rowing, sailing, fishing and swimming made everyone very hungry. The kids were craving something sweet so they decided it was time to make their special treat — mouth-watering chocolate, no-bake cookies.
When Annie went to fetch the items she needed to make the recipe, she discovered the most important ingredients had disappeared from the food box they had brought with them. How disappointing! There was no way they could make the cookies without tea biscuits and a bar of chocolate.
"Mom, where’s the pack of tea biscuits and the bar of chocolate? I know they were in the food box because I remember seeing them in there." Mom didn’t know and neither did Dad nor most of her siblings. They searched everywhere for the missing ingredients until someone finally noticed Jerry’s face, which had a look of extreme guilt. Worst of all, unmistakable crumbs and a brown stain clung to his chin.
Being cornered by the family, Jerry sheepishly blurted out, "I’m sorry. I couldn’t help myself. I’m the one who ate the tea biscuits and the bar of chocolate. There’s only a small piece of chocolate left and I hid that under my pillow. I really am sorry. Please forgive me."
The Smith children were utterly disappointed. They couldn’t have a single, no-bake cookie that vacation because the nearest grocery store was far, far away. After putting their heads together, they decided Jerry would have to make up for his nonsense. When they returned home, he would have to sacrifice his pocket money to buy ingredients to make a double portion of their favorite, no-bake cookies for them all to enjoy.
Joshua and the children of Israel were basking in their marvelous, supernatural victory over Jericho. It had really boosted their confidence and now they were eager to attack the next city in sight, the small city of Ai. Just as with Jericho, Joshua sent out spies to learn the best way to conquer Ai. The spies came back bragging to Joshua, "Sir, taking Ai is going to be like a walk in the park. We will only need two to three thousand soldiers."
Sadly, Joshua forgot something of vital importance. Without taking time to first carefully think it through, he decided to trust the advice of the spies, totally ignoring what God would want him to do. He moved ahead, hastily gathering an army of about 3,000 brave men…but something was terribly wrong. Lurking among them was an invisible enemy that would utterly lead them to destruction and death — something only one person knew about, something hidden, something banned.
Joshua was totally unaware of this hidden enemy. If only he would have first asked the Lord for instructions on how to conquer Ai, the Lord would have gladly revealed the hidden thing. But Joshua did not and, instead, followed the spies’ advice, sending 3,000 soldiers to attack Ai.
Well, of course, the whole thing turned into a complete DISASTER! To their utter horror, Ai’s men turned out to be too strong for Joshua’s men and wound up chasing them all the way to the quarries of Shebarim. Even worse, 36 Israelites were slain.
When Joshua and the children of Israel received word of the defeat, they were devastated. They didn’t understand why they had been defeated. Why didn’t the Lord give them victory as before? Was God no longer with them? Had He abandoned them?
Joshua and the elders were so heartbroken, they tore their clothes in anguish. Falling down humbly before the Lord, they threw dust on their heads and lay flat on their faces on the ground, before the Ark of the Covenant. Their wailing and crying could be heard throughout the whole camp until far into the evening.
When he had no more tears, Joshua told the Lord just how he felt: "Lord, why did You lead us supernaturally across the Jordan only to let our enemies kill us in the Promised Land? We should have stayed safely on the other side. What in the world must I do now? When all our enemies hear what has happened, they’ll start thinking we’re easy prey, that they can come and easily wipe us out! Just think how that will make You look to the heathen!"
Like a stern parent, the Lord wasn’t at all impressed with Joshua and the elders not seeking Him first in their decision to go to battle. Without beating around the bush, He answered, "Get up! It’s no use crying with your faces in the dust. That’s not going to solve the problem.
"Israel has sinned — SOMEONE did not take my commands seriously. The guilty person took some of Jericho’s spoil. Didn’t I tell you not to do that? I clearly told you the spoil belonged to Me alone. That person went against my word. Not only did he steal the spoil, but he also secretly hid the things he stole. This hidden sin caused Israel to be cursed and caused you to flee before your enemies. Until you deal with this sin and destroy it with fire, I cannot help you and you will continue to suffer defeat by the hand of your enemies."
What now? Joshua was puzzled, but the Lord told him exactly how to deal with this problem. He said, "Now you go, tell the people to sanctify themselves tonight because tomorrow they all must come before Me to be judged, tribe by tribe. The tribe to which the guilty one belongs will be pointed out, then the clan, then the family and then the guilty one himself! He and all he has must be burned by fire because he broke the covenant of the Lord. He did a shameful and wicked thing because he stole from Me, bringing calamity over all of Israel."
So the people sanctified themselves that night as the Lord commanded them. They washed themselves and their clothes, but they didn’t realize that God REALLY ... REALLY ... REALLY sees every hidden thing and every secret sin, because He sees deep inside the heart of every man, woman and child.
The next morning, Joshua rose at dawn and brought Israel before the Lord, tribe by tribe. First, the tribe of Judah was pointed out...
...then the clan of Zerah was called
...followed by the family of Zabdi.
...Then Zabdi’s grandson, ACHAN, whose father was Carmi, was shown to be the guilty person.
With a heavy heart, Joshua sighed and said to Achan, "Son, give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel and confess your sin before Him. Tell me what you have done and don’t hide it from me one second longer."
Achan had no other choice than to be honest and confess his wickedness. It was the only honorable thing he could do after his hideous sin that had dumped Israel into calamity and wound up costing the lives of 36 men. He repentantly said, "Sir, I have sinned against the Lord and taken what belongs to Him for myself. This is what I have done. I saw a beautiful soft, silky robe, 200 shining silver coins and a bar of glittering gold. I coveted them so much that I did not bring them to the Lord’s treasury, as you instructed, but dug a hole in the ground underneath my tent and hid them there. You will find all the stolen goods still there."
Joshua immediately sent men to find the stolen robe, the silver and the gold in Achan’s tent. Eager to be rid of wickedness in the camp, they dug up the stolen stuff and took them all to Joshua. Then Achan and all his stolen goods, plus all his sons and daughters, his tent, his animals and all his possessions were taken to the Valley of Achor, which translated means Valley of Calamity. There they were all stoned and burned with fire. Then a great heap of stones were piled over them. Sin was purged from the Israelite camp, ending the curse and the fierce anger of the Lord.
Do you think Joshua and his men could conquer Ai now that this sin had been exposed and properly dealt with?
Well, after all this, the Lord spoke again. Joshua was mightily encouraged and filled with comforting relief and pure joy when he heard Him say, "Now that you have humbled yourselves and removed this hidden sin, do not fear or be discouraged anymore. Take your entire army to Ai for I have given it, its King and its land into your hands and you will conquer it."
The Lord also gave Joshua a brilliant plan. He said: "Set an ambush – hide some men for a surprise attack behind the city — and destroy it just as you did with Jericho. But this time you may keep the loot and the animals for yourselves."
So Joshua called together his fighting forces and explained to them God’s ambush plan. He selected 30,000 brave heroes, sending them out into the night said, "Go, sneak up to the west of the city, between Ai and Bethel, not too far from it, and be ready."
The men listened carefully as Joshua continued, "When I come from the other side to attack the city with the rest of the men, the soldiers of Ai will leave the city to fight against us. We’ll flee like the first time and let them pursue us. When they’re far enough away from the city, then you jump out of your hiding place and surprise Ai with an attack. Slay everyone with the sword and burn the city with fire."
Like the true, caring leader that he was, Joshua spent that night among his men, encouraging them. Early the next morning, he confidently led them as they marched towards Ai. Stopping at the edge of the valley, they made sure the spies of the King of Ai saw them. The spies immediately reported the whereabouts of Joshua and the Israelite army to the King of Ai, but they were totally unaware of the Israelite men hidden away, waiting in ambush. The King spent the next day getting his army ready to attack Joshua and his men. That night when all was dark, Joshua secretly sent another 5,000 men to join the troops in ambush.
At the crack of dawn the following morning, the King of Ai and his men attacked the Israelites with loud shouts and cheering in the Valley of Arabah. Joshua and his men fled before them in the direction of the wilderness, acting as if they were badly beaten and fleeing like scared rats from a hungry cat. The men of Ai were very excited when they saw Joshua and his men running away. The King thought they were on the verge of another victory against the children of Israel and summoned all the remaining soldiers who were still in Ai to chase after the Israelites as well. In their eagerness to catch up to Joshua and his men, they foolishly left the city with its gates open wide and not a single soldier to defend it.
Then the Lord told Joshua, "Lift up and point your spear towards Ai because I am giving you victory over it." Joshua immediately obeyed. When the Israelite men hiding in ambush saw his signal, they jumped up and surprised the people of Ai by pouring into the city and setting it on fire. Soon the crackling sound of a blazing inferno could be heard all over the city as smoke began rising, signaling the destruction of Ai.
In the meantime, the King of Ai and his soldiers looked around, expecting some more soldiers of Ai to arrive and help them pursue Joshua and his men. What they saw, shocked them to their core. Ai was burning with a billow of thick smoke rising high into the air.
At the same time, when Joshua and the men with him saw the smoke, they took heart because they could see God’s plan was working. They turned around and began attacking and slaying the soldiers of Ai. Clanging swords could be heard on all sides. The Israelite troops, who had set Ai on fire, also came to help Joshua and his troops. They trapped Ai’s men, overpowering them so that none of them survived.
That day, Joshua kept pointing his spear at the city until all the people of Ai were no more — all 12,000 of them. The city burned to the ground and was left in ruins. The Israelite troops caught the King of Ai alive. They brought him to Joshua, and he was hanged on a tree till the evening when his body was thrown in front of the city gates and covered with a pile of stones. Ai was conquered to the glory of the Lord!
This whole experience with Achan taught Joshua that the people needed to hear the Word of God more often to help them remember it. He didn’t want them to make the same mistakes again. So he built an altar for the Lord at Mount Ebal with boulders that had not been carved or broken, just as Moses instructed, and he carved the Ten Commandments on the stones of the altar. The priests sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings to the Lord on the altar.
Then Joshua divided the people of Israel into two groups. One group stood at the foot of Mount Egbal and the other half at the foot of Mount Gerizim. The Ark of the Covenant was in the middle, between the two groups. There he read out loud, in front of everyone, the entire Law of Moses, as well as the blessings the children of Israel would receive if they obeyed, and the curses that would fall on them if they disobeyed the Law.
Joshua and the children of Israel learned some valuable lessons when they were defeated. They learned to seek God first each day, to confess sins when God reveals them, to deal with the problem and move on, keeping their spiritual eyes on the Lord. They also learned to never ever give up when mistakes are made, because a great deal can be learned from mistakes.
(Continued in Part 6)
God sees everything. Be quick to acknowledge and confess your sin, make things right if you can and trust God for his mercy. Ask Him to help you learn from your mistakes.
1. Why did the Israelites suffer defeat against Ai?
2. Who was the guilty person?
3. What did he steal?
4. Could his sin stay hidden?
5. Was he punished for his sin?
6. When the sin was dealt with, did the Lord have mercy on Israel and give them victory again?
7. What did Joshua do to help the people to remember not to sin?
A VERSE TO LEARN
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).
AN ALTERNATIVE VERSE TO LEARN
"Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word" (Psalm 119:9).
"Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after" (1 Timothy 5:24).
"...all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do" (Hebrews 4:13).
Is there a secret place or a container in your house where sweet or salty treats are being stashed? Have you ever been tempted to take some of treats without asking? What about taking something like a pencil or toy from a sibling or friend without their knowledge? Or is there some other sinful thing you don't want others to know about? Were you caught red-handed and punished, or did you get away with it? If you got away with it, be careful, because you may be tempted to do it again or sin even worse.
[After discussion:] Remember, God sees everything we do and He knows we sometimes make mistakes. The wages of sin is death, but that’s why God sent his Son, Jesus, to die for our sin on the cross. If you’ll confess your sin to Him with a sincere heart, He is willing to forgive you and make you righteous before Him. Would you like to do that now?
Let’s take a moment in prayer and ask God to forgive all our sins. Let’s also ask his Holy Spirit to open our eyes when we read the Word of God so that we can find wisdom and strength to avoid and conquer sin.
Heavenly Father, prompt our hearts when we sin
against You, even those sins other people can’t see.
Teach us to confess our sins and show us how to deal
with them. Open our eyes by your Holy Spirit when we
read the Word of God so we can learn to do the right
thing. We thank You for your grace, mercy and love
which are far greater than our sins.
In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
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