The walls of Jericho had fallen. The Children of Israel were celebrating the victory and anxious to move on to the next conquest in their return to the Promised Land after being slaves in Egypt for 430 years (Exodus 12:40). The Canaanite city of Ai was scouted out and it was determined a small band of two to three thousand men was all that would be needed to take it. The others could remain in the camp resting from their seven days of marching around Jericho prior to its destruction.
The day of battle came when the inhabitants of Ai defended themselves and sent the Israelites running from the battle back towards their encampment. Thirty-six men of Israel lost their lives that day. The victory celebration over Jericho became the lamentation of a lost battle. Joshua 7 tells us Joshua tore his clothes, fell to the earth with his face on the ground before the Ark of the Covenant containing the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments until evening, he and the elders of Israel putting dust upon their heads in abject defeat. What one day was a mountaintop experience in Jericho became a valley of despair throughout the camp.
In response to Joshua’s prayer of agony to the Lord concerning their defeat at Ai and the loss of life, the LORD told Joshua to get up off the ground and deal with the sin that was in the camp. Through the process of elimination led by God it was determined Achan of the tribe of Judah had been the one to sin. Achan confessed to Joshua that it was indeed he who had sinned against the LORD God of Israel in taking a Babylonish garment from the ruins of Jericho, along with several pieces of silver and gold which God had specifically commanded before the Battle of Jericho to be collected from the destroyed city and put into the treasury of the LORD (Joshua 6:17-19). Because of one man’s sin in disobeying God’s well-defined command prior to battle the entire Israelite nation experienced defeat. Once Achan’s sin was dealt with, victory over Ai was achieved.
With God sin is not a little thing to be laughed at or mocked. It is very serious and can result in defeat in one’s life, let alone the life of a nation. There are no big sins and little sins with God. All sin is equally deplorable in His sight because of His holiness. For those who desire to achieve victory in life it is imperative to follow the admonition of Moses to the new generation of wanderers in the wilderness before their entrance into the Promised Land, “Thou shalt keep therefore His statutes, and His commandments, which I command thee this day, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee,” (Deuteronomy 6:40).