My mind is running a hundred miles an hour this morning trying to consider which part of these chapters to comment on. There is just so much in these three little chapters. I have decided to look at something that I had never considered before while reading this text. It is amazing to me that no matter how many times we read His Word, or how familiar the passage is; God almost always gives new insight!
As we look at the conquest of Jericho and Ai God gives two different sets of instructions. When Jericho fell God considered all of their belongings accursed, but in Ai the people were allowed to keep the spoils of war. God is placing judgement on the people of Canaan and all involved are obviously wicked and contrary to God. So the question lingers; why did God allow the spoils of Ai and not Jericho? We can see the answer in later texts and even in the New Testament. Jericho was the first conquest of the Isrealites and God always demands our “first fruits.” The items that were found in Jericho were accursed to the people of Israel because they belonged to God. God commanded all of the precious metals to be put into the treasury of the temple and everything else burned with fire. When they took over Ai God allowed them the spoils. God wanted them to trust that more was coming and the He would meet their needs. In Joshua 5:12 it is stated that the manna had been stopped and they were to eat from the land. They now needed to trust God again, but in a different way, in order to survive. They had no kingdom, fields or grocery store, and the manna had stopped. To burn all available food and sustenance would be an act of faith; and that act of faith had to be accomplished. God did not take lightly this act of disobedience and began to punish the entire nation due to the disobedient act of unfaithfulness.
God, still today, demands our first fruits. People tend to give the “leftovers” after they have taken what they deem that they need. This requires no faith and is unacceptable giving. God does not need this first fruit, He owns it all! God does though, need us to trust Him and rely on Him for daily bread. In Malachi it talks about the tithe and asks the people what their governor would think of their offering if offered to him. He goes on to say how the people offer the blind and the lame to Him as sacrifice. See these would be the leftovers, the things that they had no need of. God is not satisfied with the leftovers and goes on to say that this is stealing from God. I am persuaded to believe that every Sunday morning there are a great number of stolen vehicles in the parking lot of my church. If angels were working the repo gig they would hit the jack pot in our church parking lot on a Sunday morning! The first fruits have been spent before it is even made with our toys and luxury while God gets, if anything, the leftovers. It is said that in the standard church only 20% of the people tithe. According to Malachi, 80% of our congregation are robbers. As we look at How Achan was dealt with is it any wonder why so many of our churches are plateaued or declining?
But we see what happens after the sin was rectified: Ai was taken and God said “take all the spoils.” Not some, but all! It is like an illustration that I heard years ago form a former pastor, Dr. Gregg Cooper. Dr. Cooper said that when in McDonald’s with his five year old daughter he asks her for a french fry. He doesn’t need a french fry, in fact he could buy enough french fries to bathe in them. But he wants to see if his little girl is willing to give him one. God doesn’t need our money, He wants our life and sadly enough our money so often keeps us from offering it to Him.