What does it say?
Israeli males born in the wilderness had never been circumcised. Now, before crossing Jordan, they are circumcised in reaffirmation of the covenant relationship with Jehovah God (Jos 5). From Joshua’s reaction, it is clear that the man who appears to him in a private moment is a physical appearance of Christ.
Appearing as a warrior, the pre-incarnate Christ gives Joshua the battle plan to take Jericho (Jos 6). Joshua precisely executes the seven-day plan and the impregnable walls of Jericho fall to God’s power through the obedience of his people.
No sooner has Israel experienced the miraculous victory at Jericho, they are beaten back by the much smaller city of Ai (Jos 7). Achan had kept some of spoil for himself and his sin results in the Israel’s humiliating setback.
Israel deals with the sin in the camp and moves forward to conquer Ai (Jos 8). After the victory, in obedience to Moses’ instructions, the blessings and curses are pronounced to the nation from mounts Ebal and Gerizim.
What does it mean?
God takes symbols seriously, as evidenced by the need for Israel’s males to be circumcised before being ready to enter the land. How can we expect to experience any measure of success without being faithful to few symbols for which we are responsible, such as baptism and the Lord’s Supper? This story should also remind us of any other unfinished business or promised we have not kept. Our new life does not depend on our works, but we do suffer the consequences of our immaturity.
Joshua 6 is a celebration of God’s miraculous power, while Joshua 7 is a reminder of human frailty. Crossing Jordan into the Promised Land in no way guaranteed a problem-free life. Even when we finally come to grips with the call of God upon our lives and unreservedly surrender ourselves to his mission, we will have conflict and trial as well as suffering the consequences of our own sin and lapses of faith. What counts is how we deal with these setbacks and use them to learn and grow.
How will I respond?
What is the last serious sin or lapse of judgment or faith that I have experienced in my life? What have I learned from this experience, or what WILL I learn? Is there any unfinished business or promises to God that I need to keep?