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The defeat coming so unexpectedly, we do not wonder at,
II. Joshua's distress
His conduct on this occasion was by no means unexceptionable
[The manner in which he complained to God reflected even upon the Deity himself; "O Lord God, wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites to destroy us?" Alas! alas! Is this Joshua, that thus accuses the Most High God of cruelty and treachery? Lord, what is man! What will not the best of men do, if left by thee to the workings of their own corruption! Such had been the language of the murmuring Israelites on many occasions: but we readily confess that Joshua, though he spake their sentiments, was by no means actuated by their rebellious spirit: yet he was wrong in entertaining for a moment such a thought. His distrust of God also was highly unbecoming; "Would to God we had been content, and dwelt on the other side Jordan!" What, dost thou so readily relinquish the possession of Canaan, because of this single check? Thou art afraid that "all the inhabitants of the land, hearing of this defeat, will be emboldened to environ you around, and to cut off the name of Israel from the earth:" but hast thou so soon forgotten all the wonders that God has wrought in order to bring thee into Canaan, and all that he has promised in relation to the ultimate possession of it? "Is God's hand shortened, that he cannot save, or his ear heavy, that he cannot hear?" "Has he at last forgotten to be gracious, and shut up his lovingkindness in displeasure?" Alas! Joshua, "this is thine infirmity." But it is an infirmity incident to the best of men under great and unexpected misfortunes. We are but too apt to give way to murmuring and desponding thoughts, both in relation to our temporal and spiritual concerns, when we should be rather encouraging ourselves with the recollection of past mercies, and pleading with God his promises of more effectual aid — — —] Yet on the whole there was much in it to be admired
[We cannot but highly applaud the concern he expressed for the loss of so many lives. Common generals would have accounted the loss of thirty-six men as nothing: but "the blood of Israel was precious in the sight" of Joshua. We might have expected that he would have blamed the spies for deceiving him in relation to the strength of the city; and have punished the soldiers for cowardice: but he viewed the hand of God, rather than of man, in this disaster: and this led to (what also we much
admire) his humiliation before God on account of it. This was very deep: "he rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the Lord until the even-tide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads." He had seen on many occasions how Moses and Aaron had succeeded in averting the divine displeasure from the people; and, in concert with the elders, he now tried the same means: and we may confidently say, that, if all the hosts of Israel had been defeated, this was the sure way to retrieve their affairs. But his tender regard for the honour of God was that which eminently distinguished him on this occasion; "O Lord, what wilt thou do unto thy great name?" This was the plea which Moses had often used, and to which God had paid especial regard1: and the man that feels it in his soul, and urges it in sincerity and truth, can never be ultimately foiled.
O that such were the disposition and conduct of our whole nation at this time! But alas! we hear of numbers slaughtered, without any emotion. We have fasts appointed; but how few are there who observe them with such humiliation as that before us! It is true, the honour of God's name, I fear, is but little interested in our success: perhaps it is rather interested in the destruction of such an ungrateful and rebellious people as we are. But in relation to his Church and the advancement of religion amongst us, his honour is concerned; because he has bestowed on us advantages equal, if not superior, to any that are enjoyed elsewhere on the face of the whole earth. Here then we may, and should, plead the honour of his name: he expects us to lay to heart the abounding of iniquity in the midst of us; and takes it ill at our hands that there are so few who "mourn for the afflictions of Josephm," and "cry for the abominations of Israel"." Let, however, the example of Joshua and the elders be impressed upon our minds, and serve as a pattern for our future imitation.]
[Let us not confine our attention to public calamities, but turn it to those afflictions which are personal and domestic. In this history we may behold the source and remedy of all the evil that can come upon us.
That God, in some particular case, may afflict his people, as he did Job, for the magnifying of his own power, and the furtherance of their welfare, we acknowledge: but yet we never can err in tracing our afflictions to sin, as their procuring cause: and, if only they be the means of discovering and mortifying our corruptions, we shall have reason to number them amongst the richest mercies we ever received
Let us then inquire of the Lord, "Wherefore he contendeth with us?" Let us set ourselves diligently to search out our iniquities; and let us beg of God to discover them to us, that no one sin may remain unrepented of and unmortified.
If in any thing we have been overcome by our spiritual enemies, let us not reflect upon God, as though he had tempted us to sin; nor, on the other hand, let us distrust him, as though he were either unable or unwilling to deliver us: but let us humble ourselves before him, remembering that he is still full of compassion and mercy; and relying on that gracious invitation," Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings, and love you freely."]
ACHAN'S GUILT AND PUNishment.
Josh. vii. 19, 20. And Joshua said unto Achan, My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the Lord God of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me. And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done.
THE rise, and progress, and termination of sin, afford as interesting a subject, as any that can be presented to our view. It is exhibited to us by St. James in few words, and with remarkable precision: "Man is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed: then, when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." Here we see the whole process: the inward corruption of the heart is first drawn forth by some enticing object; the desire of gratification is then formed, and the determination to attain it fixed. Then comes the act whereby it is attained; and then death, the bitter consequence of sin, inevitably follows. On this passage the history before us is an instructive comment. Achan saw a goodly Babylonish garment, with two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold, and coveted them: then he took them, contrary to the divine command; and then the penalty of his transgression was inflicted on him. In discoursing on this event, we would call your attention to,
a Jam. i. 14, 15.
I. His guilt
This act of his had been perpetrated with so much caution, that it was unperceived by any human being. The consequences of it were felt in the divine displeasure; but what evil had been committed, or by whom, no one knew. How then was it detected? How was the offence brought home to Achan? His guilt must be proved, before he can be punished: nay, there must be two witnesses, or testimony equivalent to that of two witnesses, before he can be put to death. Behold then by what means his guilt was ascertained: it was proved,
1. From unquestionable testimony
[Though the matter was altogether hidden from man, it was known to the omniscient, omnipresent God. "The darkness is no darkness to him; but the night and the day are both alike." God's eye was upon him, whilst he thought that no eye could see him: and God himself gave the information against him. He declared to Joshua what the true reason was of his displeasure, and of Israel's defeat. But though he revealed the fact, he did not name the person that had committed it, but left that to be discovered in a way more impressive to the nation, and more merciful to the offender, (inasmuch as it gave him time for repentance and voluntary acknowledgment,) summoning the whole nation, as it were, before him, first, by their tribes, that he might point out to which tribe the offender belonged; then, by their families; then, by their households; and lastly, by their individual persons and thus by four successive lots he fastened upon Achan as the guilty person. Never was there a more striking comment than this on those words of David, "Evil shall hunt the wicked man to overthrow him." The offender was out of sight; but his steps were traced with unerring certainty: the first lot shewed, that his scent, if I may so express myself, was found; and, when found, was followed with undeviating steadiness, and irresistible rapidity; till at last the criminal was seized, a lawful prey, a just victim to the divine displeasure.] 2. From personal confession
[The testimony of God would of itself have been sufficient; because he could neither deceive nor be deceived. But, as it was intended that the offender should be made a public monument of divine justice, and be held up as a warning to the whole nation, it was desirable that other proofs of Achan's guilt should be adduced, sufficient to convince the most scrupulous, and c Ps. cxl. 11.
b Deut. xvii. 6.
satisfy the most partial. Behold then, Achan himself supplies a testimony which none could controvert or doubt: he bears witness against himself.
Joshua, assured that God had fixed upon the guilty person, entreats the offender to declare openly wherein he had transgressed. And here, we cannot but admire the tenderness of Joshua's address. He insults not over Achan, nor loads him with reproaches; but, as a compassionate father, beseeches him to acknowledge the truth of God's testimony, and to “give glory to him by confessing" his crime. This indeed was known to Joshua, and might have been specified by him; but it could not be proved; and therefore he wishes to hear it from Achan's own mouth; more particularly as a confession of it would honour God in the sight of all; it would glorify his omniscience in discovering, his holiness in hating, and his justice in punishing the iniquity which had been committed.
Achan, convinced that any further attempt to conceal his guilt would be in vain, confessed it, and that too with an ingenuousness and fulness, which would have given us hopes concerning him, if the confession had not been extorted from him by a previous discovery.]
On this testimony, sentence might well have been passed and judgment executed. Nevertheless, that no doubt might remain on any mind, it was further desirable that his guilt should be ascertained also, as it eventually was,
3. From corroborating facts
[It has sometimes been found that persons have unjustly accused themselves: but it was not so in this case: for Achan, in confirmation of his word, told them where they might find the stolen property. A messenger is sent; the property is found; the proofs of his guilt are exhibited before the Lord and in the sight of all Israel. To this testimony nothing was wanting, nothing could be added. The truth of God was manifest, and the equity of his judgments was demonstrated: and nothing now remained but to execute on the offender the punishment he had deserved.]
Proceed we now to notice,
II. His punishment—
God had before declared that any person who should take to himself any part of the spoils of Jericho should be accursedd: and, after the transgression had been committed, he declared that he would no more be with his people till they should
d Josh. vi. 18, 19.