«Now the Lord said to Joshua: «Do not be afraid, nor be dismayed; take all the people of war with you, and arise, go up to Ai. See, I have given into your hand the king of Ai, his people, his city, and his land» (Joshua 8:1).
Joshua sent spies to Ai who advised him not to assign many men to the battle because the city they had to conquer was small (see Joshua 7:2, 3). Full of self-confidence, they forgot that the victory over Canaan was not because of them but because of God’s providence. We too, often forget that our successes are thanks to God, even sometimes in spite of our own selves.
After a terrible defeat, Joshua fell to his knees and prayed to God. He knew that what had happened was a sign of God’s displeasure, but he did not understand the reasons. God indicated to him that there was «anathema» in the camp. Achan had disobeyed God’s explicit order and had taken booty from Jericho. As a result, they lost the following battle, several warriors died, and there was widespread fear. We fail when we do not take God into account. We think that being Christians guarantees success and we become independent of the Creator, forgetting that God’s divine presence in the past does not guarantee His blessing in the present. God wants to have a continuous relationship with us, not one that is sporadic or occasional.
The defeat at Ai did not end there. Achan resisted until God Himself revealed Achan’s hidden sin before he confessed and was stoned to death. God considers a group to be responsible for the actions of one of its members. «For one man’s sin the displeasure of God will rest upon His church till the transgression is searched out and put away.»—Patriarchs and Prophets, ch. 45, p. 497. «God requires His people to cooperate with their leaders (see Hebrews 13:17) and will not tolerate independent action on the part of individuals, in opposition to His appointed leadership. Great is the curse that comes upon those who are unfaithful in their task (see Isaiah 3:12; Isaiah 9:16; Jeremiah 13:20; Ezekiel 34:10), and upon those individuals who deliberately hinder them in their work (see Judges 5:23).»—SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 2, p. 208.
Finally, God assured Joshua of the victory, specifying that all the warriors should participate in the battle. «God will do great things for those who trust in Him. The reason why His professed people have no greater strength is that they trust so much to their own wisdom, and do not give the Lord an opportunity to reveal His power in their behalf. He will help His believing children in every emergency if they will place their entire confidence in Him and faithfully obey Him.»—Patriarchs and Prophets, ch. 45, p. 493.