“And Joshua said, ‘Alas, O Lord God, why have you brought this people over the Jordan at all, to give us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us? Would that we have been content to dwell beyond the Jordan! . . .The Lord said to Joshua, ‘Get up! Why have you fallen on your face?'” (ESV – Read the chapter)
Joshua was devastated and dismayed. He had put his entire being on the line before the people that God was leading them to occupy this land and drive out its inhabitants entirely. They had crossed the Jordan on dry ground. They had conquered Jericho with its impregnable walls. There was nothing that could stand in their way for the Lord was obviously with them. And then they got beat by Ai.
This would be a little like a conquering army coming up against the city of Charlotte, NC, utterly destroying it, and then getting beat by the tiny town of Oakboro immediately afterwards. Proud and strong as it may be, the forces of Oakboro don’t have any business defeating an army that conquers Charlotte.
This loss would have been demoralizing and embarrassing and an occasion for some serious soul-searching. Joshua’s head and heart were reeling. Where was the God who had promised to be with them? Was it all a bad joke? Had he gotten the character of God wrong the whole time? Had the grumblers among the people who had been the source of so much trouble been right all along? Had the Lord really brought them out of Egypt to destroy them?
Have you been here before? Things have fallen apart before your eyes and you don’t understand it at all. Up seems to be down and down seems to be up and the world doesn’t make sense anymore. You cry out to God because you don’t know what else to do. This is not a fun place to be.
But then God answers Joshua. He basically says, “Get up and quit your whining.” Talk about getting Joshua’s attention. Here he was having a rocking pity-party and God shows up and tells everybody to go home. How rude! How inconsiderate! How utterly gone-deaf to his misery. How…wait…why did God respond so apparently heartlessly anyway?
Because the world hadn’t gone crazy after all. The people had sinned. Have you been here? Have you been bewildered by an apparently sudden unfortunate or painful turn of events only to realize that the chaos is of your own making because of some sin you had fallen into and were letting keep distance between you and God? The unfortunate turn wasn’t sudden or otherwise out of left field at all. It was the natural result of your sinfulness. You just weren’t paying enough attention. The solution isn’t to cry out to God and bemoan the brokenness of the world. The solution is to repent and quit sinning.
Now, this doesn’t at all mean that every time things go bonkers in our lives that we’re to blame. It does mean that when things seem to go haywire we are wise to at least ask the question. Before we cry out to God like a spoiled child who didn’t get what he wanted, let’s get just a bit reflective and ask the hard questions: Is this the result of sin? More specifically, is this the result of my sin? Is the ultimate solution to this God’s righting my wrongs and fighting my battles, or is it my repenting and getting back on track with Him?
I don’t know what the solution is in your situation. For Israel, it was sin and the solution was repentance. I do know this: If you’ve run into trouble that seems otherwise inexplicable, take a minute and at least ask the question. Sometimes trouble is the only way for God to get us to look up long enough to listen. Don’t miss the opportunity.