In the seventh chapter of the book of Joshua, there lies an important, yet overlooked principle. The principle of being forsaken. This principle is often overlooked because many Christians take it for granted. Many Christians believe that if God is with you once, he remains with you forever no matter what you do. However, that is simply not the case. Chapter seven of Joshua describes the sin of a man named Achan against God. We are going to examine this story to learn why God’s presence should not be taken for granted.
Let’s set up the backstory. Joshua and the Israelites had just taken down the wall of Jericho and took the city. The instructions of the Lord were to not take any of the devoted things for themselves. Rather they were to put the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and silver into the treasury of the Lord’s house, and that is exactly what they did. However, at the beginning of chapter seven, we find that a man named Achan took some of the devoted things. Because of his disobedience, the Lord was angry with Israel. After this, Israel goes to battle with Ai, but they lose. The men of Ai drive them out. Deeply saddened, Joshua cries out to God. Then God responds as to why this happened,
“The Lord said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.””
Some might be confused after reading this. Some might ask ‘Why would God leave them?’, ‘Doesn’t God say He will never leave us nor forsake us?’. Well to answer the second question, yes, God does say that (Deuteronomy 31:6). Then arises the question, is this a contradiction? At first glance, it would seem so. God says He will never leave us, and right here in Joshua we see that God will not be with Israel unless they destroy what they took. However, this is not a contradiction. Here we see a temporary separation between God and Israel. Why? Because Israel had just broken the covenant they made with God. God tells Jeremiah in Jeremiah 7:23, “but I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you.” The covenant between God and Israel was like a contract. As long as Israel obeyed God, God would be with them. However, if the contract was broken, then God would no longer be with them. And that is exactly what happened.
However, in this instance, we see God’s forgiving nature as well. God just doesn’t give up on Israel because they broke the covenant. God gives the Israelites another chance by allowing them to get rid of the possessions they took, and they did exactly that. At the end of the story, they burned the devoted things and stoned Achan, and the Lord was with Israel once again.
So in conclusion, God will be with us as long as we obey Him. Just as James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”. As long as we strive to obey Him and follow Him, he will be with us.