Create In Me a Clean Heart (Lessons From Joshua)

(Joshua 7:1 – 8:29  Written as if the father of one of the soldiers killed at Ai were saying this.)  


A little banyan seed said to a palm tree one day, “I am weary of being tossed about by the wind; let me lodge in your branches.” “Remain as long as you like,” was the reply.  Soon the tree forgot all about its tiny guest, but the seed did not remain idle.  Immediately it began to work its roots under the bark and into the heart of the trunk itself.  Finally the tree cried out, “What are you doing?”  “I’m only the little seed you allowed to rest among your boughs,” came the reply.  “Get out!” exclaimed the palm.  “You’ve become too large and strong!”  “I cannot leave you now,” said the banyan.  “We have grown together, and I would kill you if I tore myself away.”  The tree tried desperately to shake itself loose, but to no avail.  Eventually its graceful leaves turned brown, and its trunk wasted away; but the banyan continued to thrive until its host could not longer be found.  Yes, a little seed can develop into a parasitic plant and do great damage.  In like manner, a tiny sin that is not confessed and forsaken can grow into an overpowering habit that chokes a Christian’s spiritual vitality and ruins his life.


Little sins can grow: anger, fear, lust, cruelty, cheating, violence, lying, stealing, pride, selfishness, laziness, greed, etc.  When they grow they bring destruction and death, not only to the one sinning but to others around them. 


My life was totally changed by someone else’s sin.  My son, my only son, was killed because of the sin of another.  His death was unnecessary, but if my loss can prevent another’s loss that may bring me some solace.  Let me tell you about it. 


I lived in the days of Joshua.  I came out of Egypt through the Red Sea after being protected under the Passover blood.  I was a teenager and remember it quite clearly.  Forty years later I walked through the Jordan, finally entering God’s Promised Land.  That, and the victory over Jericho, showed us that God was well able to protect and provide what He promised.  Then cam Ai.


Ai was a small military outpost further up the valley from Jericho.  It was nothing compared to Jericho, so Joshua just sent out a few thousand men to destroy it.  But instead of coming back victorious, they came back in defeat.  What’s worse, 36 soldiers were killed (Joshua 7:2-5).  One of them was my son, my only child.  He was married and had a family of his own.  He was our pride and joy.  He was our only source of help and support in old age.  Now his wife is a widow and his children are orphans.  Thirty five other families are also shocked and grieving.  Why did it happen?


For one thing, Joshua moved ahead too fast.  He didn’t go to God and ask God’s help.  He was overconfident, assumed he was doing God’s will and would be blessed.  We can never assume God will be on our side, we must always make sure we are on God’s side.  Joshua underestimated the strength of the enemy and overestimated our own strength.  That is pride, and it brings destruction.  There is nothing that is too ‘little’ to ask for God’s help.  There is nothing so small that we can handle it on our own without God’s help.


Still, I don’t hold it against Joshua, or God.  All of our lives are in His hands.  My con could have died in the desert or at Jericho, or have never been born in the first place.  It could have been someone else’s son who died at Ai.  I wouldn’t wish that loss on anyone!


I took my grief to God.  He understands.  His Son was more of an innocent victim than mine was.  I couldn’t have saved my son, but He could have.  He chose not to because His Son was paying for the sins of me and my son.  Because He sent His Son to die, I will be able to live eternally in heaven with my son.  I can’t complain about a God who does that!


If Joshua would have gone to God he would have been told what he later found out when he went to God after the loss (Joshua 7:1, 6-14).  In a very dramatic way God pointed out that one family had sinned.  It caused us all to search our hearts.  It could have been any one of us.  We all knew we were guilty of sin before God.  It was only His grace that kept all of us from being destroyed.


The guilty ones that were destroyed were a man named Achan and his family (7:1, 16-25).  We never knew just who brought the gold, silver and robe home from Jericho instead of destroying it, but everyone who knew and didn’t do anything were killed along with Achan for God considered them as guilty as he was.  That is very solemn and convicting!


Achan’s sin was greed.  Materialism ruled his heart.  He was also impatient, for it he’d have waited a few days he could have had free plunder from Ai (8:1-2).  He wasn’t content (Phil 4:11).  Things became his idol.  God clearly warns that sin brings death (Ezek 18:4; Rom 5:12; 6:23).  Sin starts small, but then it grows until it brings death and destruction.  That is always its pattern.  There are no exceptions.  God hates sin and punishes it.


God still hates sin in your day just as much and it still brings destruction (Rom 6:16; 7:11; I Cor 15:56; James 1:15).  What’s worse is that sin is never private.  It always affects those around us.  Please make sure there is no unconfessed sin in your life (Psalm 139:23-24).  Admit your sin to God ad ask for His mercy and grace in covering it with the blood of Jesus. 


(If I can answer questions or offer personal counsel, or if you would like a free copy of my Spiritual Warfare Handbook, email me at or download it from  My next book, Spiritual Warfare in the Bible, which is a more advanced treatment of spiritual warfare, is also available there for free.)



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