In Joshua 7, we read of a story in which the Israelites find great defeat. At the hands of the men of Ai, they find themselves routed and chased from far their city. For Joshua and the people of God, this event comes as a shock. Had not God promised them victories? Were not they supposed to take full control of the land and wipe out all others? Tearing his clothes and falling facedown before the ark of the Lord, Joshua lets out a vivid lament to the Lord:
“Ah, Sovereign LORD, why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us? If only we had been content to stay on the other side of the Jordan! O Lord, what can I say, now that Israel has been routed by its enemies? The Canaanites and the other people of the country will hear about this and they will surround us and wipe out our name from the earth. What then will you do for your own great name?” (7:7-9)
Struck by defeat and confused as to why, having received such a promise, there army was so defeated, Joshua cries out to the Lord. He questions the very motives of God. He questions the plans of God. He questions the faithfulness of God. For Joshua, it simply makes no sense. Why would God bring them thus far, only to hand them over to their new enemies?
Joshua is then so bold as to ask God what He will possibly do for His name if the Israelites are defeated. As if without their nation, God would be rendered useless. As if without them, God would simply have to fold his hand, call it quits in the world, have no way to show the glory of His name. And God responds:
“Stand up! What are you doing on you face?” (7:10)
God rebukes Joshua. He corrects him. Joshua felt as though God was wronging the people by his absence. God makes it clear that it is their sin which has caused this. The people have broken the rules. They have taken for granted the precursor to God’s fighting on their behalf: Obedience.
Amidst Joshua’s excuses for why God has abandoned them, making the past useless, he forgets to first make sure they had been putting in the work on their end. Being God’s people isn’t easy. Having the Divine Warrior on your behalf is not without stipulations, primarily being obedient.
Joshua asks what God will do for His own name, and God replies by asking what Israel will do for His name.
This legendary Michael Jordan commercial reminds us that work comes before success.
Joshua blames God for all that is going wrong. He finds God at fault for not helping them through. And it is as if He needs some one to give him a message similar to this video: “Maybe it’s my fault. Or maybe… you’re just makin excuses.”
Being God’s people is not easy and was not easy from the start. The Israelites will have to repent, and continue to work at it every single day of their life if they desire success. So also, must we all realize that the Christian life does not come from mere belief in God, but through hard work, discipline, and obedience.
“Stand up! What are you doing on your face?” Maybe it’s someone else’s fault that things aren’t going as He promised or that your relationship with God is nominal. Or maybe… you’re just making excuses. What then will you do for His great name?