Text: Joshua 7:1-26, Joshua 8:1-35, Deuteronomy 9:26-29
Who of us has not lamented like Joshua, beating our breasts and rending our garments, surveying the landscape of darkness, rebellion, and fear in front of us? Many of us have fretted that God’s name will not be made great, but all too often we say, “What can we do to make Your name great?” Joshua, praise God, got the pronoun right: “What will You do for your own great name?” (Joshua 7:9, emphasis mine).
It’s strange, the knots we tie ourselves up in, the puzzles we struggle to fit ourselves into, the efforts we put forth to be the bringers of greatness to God. We want to be the world changers and the history makers, the people of God for God, with nothing standing in our way. But Joshua, in the face of Israel’s abundant sin, knew if God’s name was to be great, He Himself would be the one to do it—not man.
We think the world will be changed by our short-term missionary journeys, fiery sermons, and quippy books. We think we can bring glory to God’s name with our efforts of authenticity, by racking up social media “likes” and “followers,” by planting new churches, both big and small. We think we’ll glorify Him by performing awesome acts in His name and creating large gatherings for prayer and praise—by centering most things on the gospel, and relying on great graphics to take care of the rest.
But in Joshua chapter 7, here is how God chose to make His name great:
Joshua lines up the twelve tribes.
Within those tribes, the clans.
Within those clans, the households.
Within those households, the men.
Then one man: Achen.
To him, Joshua says, “My son, give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel, and make a confession to Him. I urge you, tell me what you have done. Don’t hide anything from me” (v. 19).
And here, among an entire nation, Achen is found out and then tells the truth: “I have stolen and I have hidden what I have stolen, and here is where it is” (vv. 20-21, my paraphrase).
But God already knew Achen and his actions. He knows ours, too.
What if the way God chooses to make His name great is the difficult, relentless, painful, and excruciatingly long process of unearthing sin in our lives? What if the way God makes His name great is not through public acts of piety, but private acts of repentance? What if His greatest act of glory is in exposing the darkest of lies our hearts have clung to, only to replace them with the light of His mercy and Truth?
As Charles Spurgeon said, “It is far easier to fight with sin in public, than to pray against it in private.”
Today, as you read this passage, do not ask how you can do great things for God. Instead, ask Him to unearth the secret sins in your heart, the places that need exposure to His light and healing in His presence. He knows them already and loves you still.
Lore Ferguson Wilbert is a writer, thinker, and learner. She blogs at Sayable, tweets @lorewilbert, and posts photos @loreferguson. She has a husband named Nate, a puppy named Harper Nelle, and too many books to read in one lifetime.