Specifically, we must remember Yahweh’s perfect and destructive holiness. Remember, for example, the tension and anguish on whether Yahweh’s holiness could tolerate dwelling among the Israelites after their idolatry with the golden calf in Exodus 32 – 33. Remember also the deaths of Nadab and Abihu on their ordination day for presenting strange fire before Yahweh in Leviticus 10. Remember how their lack of respect for Yahweh’s holiness not only brought about their own death but put at risk the entire nation by contaminating the tabernacle.
Remember the seriousness with which the Israelites must celebrate the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16 to eliminate all the contamination of all Israel’s sins once each year. Remember too, that the purpose of the Levites is not only to help the priests but to serve as a buffer between Yahweh’s holiness and His people: “That there may be no plague among the people of Israel when the people of Israel come near the sanctuary” (Numbers 8:19). Recall how Korah’s rebellion caused a rupture in that buffer and led to the death of more than 14,700 in Numbers 16. Reflect once more on how Moses and Aaron could not enter the Promised Land: “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel”
(Numbers 20:12). Remember how 24,000 died in the idolatry at Baal-peor until Phineas made atonement for the people. In today’s reading, we see that Yahweh is no less holy in the book of Joshua. His holiness is equally perfect, intolerant of sin and consuming as in the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy.
That is the reason for the seriousness of what is announced at the beginning of today’s reading: “But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the LORD burned against the people of Israel” (Joshua 7:1). The covetousness of one man put the entire nation at risk; in truth, the Israelites should be thankful that only 36 men died in the first battle of Ai. For that reason, Joshua pleads desperately in intercession for Israel, Yahweh urges them to an immediate resolution of the issue, and the entire nation participates in Achan’s execution. They cannot tolerate even one moment longer under Yahweh’s righteous wrath for their offense against His holiness.
Therefore it is also appropriate that we end the reading with the fulfillment of the renovation of the covenant on Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim as Yahweh commanded in Deuteronomy 11:26-32 and all chapter 27. After condemning Achan’s sin, after being restored with Yahweh and walking in obedience with Him in the second battle of Ai, the Israelites reconfirm the covenant with Yahweh. And they do it completely: “There was not a word of all that Moses commanded that Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, and the women, and the little ones, and the sojourners who lived among them” (Joshua 8:35).
May our reaction to the sin in our lives be just as decisive in repentance and immediate in our recommitment to Yahweh and obedience to Him.