Conquest & Commitment
Open Your Bible
Joshua 8:1-35, Exodus 20:22-24, Hebrews 8:8-12
When I landed my first job, I was just three credits short of my bachelor’s degree—just a little chemistry course. So I walked in my graduation ceremony, threw my hat in the air, and planned to sort out the nagging little detail of those three little credits at a community college… later. After all, my degree was ninety-eight percent finished, and such a little thing hardly seemed important. I was pretty much a college graduate, and no one would care about all the nuts and bolts involved with my degree. Oh, but they did care. To my boss, it was less a matter of what percentage of the degree was finished and more a literal desire to see my actual diploma.
Obedience matters. Actual black-and-white, toe-the-line obedience matters. In an age of self-worship, the notion of true obedience is an offense, making it a neglected virtue. We like to assert independent thought and maintain our autonomous individualism. But God is absolutely clear: He commands our obedience. It bears mentioning that God can require our faithfulness because He is actually God. Indiscriminate or blind obedience to earthly authorities can be at odds with what God asks of us. Petty, earthly rulers have the limited power God grants them, but our first allegiance is always with the King who sits on the eternal throne (Psalm 9:7).
The first defeat at Ai was the result of the disobedience of one man, Achan. As with Adam and Eve, however, his self-serving theft undid an entire people. Shiny things are tempting, but God had called His people to do more than just lay hold of territorial possession; they were to establish a culture rooted in His covenant with them. The conquest wasn’t about stuff—it was about culture. He was their God, and they were His people. And so Joshua instructed them as such:
“Follow the LORD’s command—
see that you do as I have ordered you” (Joshua 8:8).
The conquest of the land was built upon covenantal relationship. God wasn’t just giving earthly land-grants or stocks and shares in the gold market. He was doing something altogether different. He was calling His people to take dominion, as He had called Adam to take dominion. They were to remove idolatry from the land and be a people who honored God’s statutes and commandments.
Mercifully—though the lesson of obedience was costly—God restored the set-apartness of His people. They were called back to Ai, to this time be obedient to everything God commanded. Before, they had tried to go out in their own strength and had failed. But when they obeyed, they gained victory.
Disobedience undermines our fitness for the work of God’s kingdom. We cannot expect to see victory in our lives if we dally in disobedience. Still, God is merciful, and because of His great mercy, we can once again return to Him, making His word our joy and His command our delight (Psalm 119:16).