Victory and Defeat
Here we have an illustration of the principle of Deuteronomy: obedience brings blessing, disobedience brings sorrow. Having crossed the Jordan, Israel must now conquer a key city, Jericho. God has a plan. This plan gives the Israelites a responsibility. They must march around the city and blow the trumpets precisely as God commands. They do this and God causes the walls to fall down; He produces the victory. So also with us. We are saved by grace alone; to God be the glory, but we must do what He tells us to do.
Having conquered powerful Jericho, the Israelites are faced with the little town of Ai. They send up a small force for this purpose and are shocked by being soundly defeated. Joshua does what he needs to do. He turns to God. He cries out as we often cry out, “Why?” The answer is, “Israel has sinned.” One man had sinned and it had affected the whole nation. The Bible constantly emphasizes corporate responsibility over against unhealthy individualism.
Could it be that unconfessed sin in a congregation today hinders the reception of the blessing of God? Has someone secretly committed adultery? Is there some businessman, perhaps a leader in the church, who is involved in dishonest practices? Is that why the church is not succeeding in its great mission? Let there be repentance!