In Joshua 7, the Israelites face their first setback since crossing the Jordan. The city of Jericho had fallen, but it can with the instruction to destroy all the devoted things that the people of Jericho used in their worship of other gods. One man, Achan, didn’t, and kept some for himself. The result was that God was no longer ahead of them in battle. The covenant had been compromised. The Israelites lost in battle to the people of Ai, a people that they should have been able to conquer.
Joshua’s response is intercession, though his prayer to God is accusatory and defeatist. God’s response to Joshua is ‘get up off your knees and rot out the sin of your people’. The community is responsible for the sins of others in it, and for the corporate keeping of the covenant. The punishment of Achan seems harsh, but his sin led indirectly to the killing of 26 people. It was necessary and served as a sign of God’s mercy on the rest of the people.
Don Carson: “The worst judgement occurs when God turns his back on people and resolutely lets sin take its course.”