Key verse: Joshua 7:13
Big idea: To receive God's victory, we must follow God's Word.
The victory at Jericho was not untarnished. Although no Israelites died in the assault on the fortress, they were defeated in their very next assault on the small village of Ai (pronounced "aye" or like the letters A. I.). 36 people died and the army was chased away and forced to retreat for a staggering 16 miles. The people's hearts "melted like water," and Joshua fell down in mourning. What had happened? How could victory turn to destruction so quickly? Remember that the conquest of Jericho was a sacred event. God had set apart all of Jericho as holy - it was exclusively His property and was to be destroyed in sacrifice. Nothing was to be taken for their own personal gain, it all belonged to God.
One Israelite, Achan, had violated this commandment by taking a cloak, some silver, and some gold. He hid them beneath his tent (where his family surely would have known what he was doing) and thought that he had succeeded in robbing God. The parallels to the Fall in Genesis 3 are stunning: he saw, he desired, he took, and brought death on the whole community. Israel had taken the things devoted to destruction and become devoted to destruction themselves (much like those who worship useless idols would become useless themselves, as described by the later prophets). Only when Achan was found and punished would God give the Israelites victory over their enemies once again.
Unfortunately, we often want God to bless one part of our life and stay out of the others. Help me with my job or my schoolwork, Lord, but stay away from my temper. I am so stressed out God, give me some peace while letting me keep all of the relationships and behaviors that stress me. Give us victory over Ai while we cherish the things You have called to be destroyed from Jericho. Maybe the greatest tragedy is that God allowed the people to keep the spoils of Ai (Joshua 8:27), but it was too late for Achan. God will give us greater blessings than we could want in His time, but our rebellion will rob us of our blessings.
Discussion idea: Read James 1:14-15 and compare it to the cycle that Achan and Eve fell into (see - covet - take - die). What do you notice? How should this principle affect our lives?
Prayer focus: Ask God for forgiveness for any sin you are holding onto and for His strrength to serve Him.
Key Verse: Luke 22:19
Big Idea: The Son of Man gave His life for ours.
On the night before He died, Jesus called His disciples together to celebrate the Passover. Almost the equivalent of Thanksgiving and Christmas combined, Passover was such a dramatic event in Israel's history that the entire calendar was changed to make it the first month (Exodus 12:2).The feast, where each family gathered and ate a lamb, remembered the night that God delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and truly made them a nation for the first time. But it also looked forward to the day that the slavery to sin would be broken by the blood of a new Lamb, who would make a new family, not of genetic ancestry, but of faith.
Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper, one of two pictures He gave His churches, by refashioning the Passover. The unleavened bread would represent His sinless body, and the wine His blood. When they took the Lord's Supper, they would reflect on how the loss of His life is what gives us the sustenance we need to live. But just as the Passover pointed both forward and backward, the Lord's Supper has another element. It looks forward to the day when the risen Jesus returns and breaks the power of sin once and for all. The basis of our unity with one another is our simple dependence on God and our common hope in His return.
But before this symbol had been digested, one of the apostles, Judas Iscariot, had already betrayed Jesus into the hands of the mob that took Him to an illegal trial before the Sanhedrin. When Jesus waited on them to come and take Him away, He prayed alone. Beaten, mocked and denied by even Peter - Jesus knew it was coming, and proved it by instituting this supper. He could have stopped it, but He chose to give His life for ours.
Discussion Idea: Why do you think Jesus gave us symbols like baptism and the Lord's Supper to serve as pictures of our faith?
Prayer Focus: Pray for the kind of two-sided perspective the Lord's Supper teaches: one eye on the death and resurrection of Jesus and another on His return. May God give us the ability to have that point of view for our lives.