6. Dreams that Seem to Fall Apart
A Word from Kay Daigle on how to use the resources for this study…I want to encourage you to complete the personal lesson below before you click on any of the accompanying elements that may be found with this lesson (audio lecture, manuscript, PowerPoint, or handout). This study was written to help you maximize your personal spiritual growth. That means that you first spend time with God through His word, and then hopefully, discuss what you learned with a small group of women. After that, if you want to hear the audio (or read the manuscript) and follow the PowerPoint, filling in the handout, then that is a great time to do it! I cannot cover all the verses in depth, but you can read and study them for yourself. It is best for you to think through the passages before hearing what anyone else thinks, even me! You will find some lessons without lectures. At our church we use some of those weeks to spend extra time in our small groups sharing life stories, having a longer prayer time, or expressing how God is working in our lives.
Thought to Cherish
“Get up! Ritually consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, because the LORD God of Israel says, ‘You are contaminated, O Israel! You will not be able to stand before your enemies until you remove what is contaminating you.’”
I have a good friend who recently fought off ecoli bacteria. Although it was only her mouth that took the contaminated food into her body, the truth is that it affected everything. She spent a couple of weeks in the hospital while the doctors worked to help her fight it off. Her usual positive and friendly disposition was gone, replaced by a hopelessness and fear. When she ingested these bacteria, it didn’t simply affect her mouth or stomach, but it polluted her entire body; even her emotions were affected.
In the spiritual realm, we are not loners but are part of a bigger reality called the church. What happens to one of us affects the whole. It was true of Israel during the days of Joshua as well.
Day One Lesson
Read Joshua 7:1-15. Be sure and memorize the Thought to Cherish, Josh. 7:13.
1. Summarize what happened when the army attacked Ai. Why did God take His hand off of the Israelites? If you like writing a newspaper type story, do that. Tell who, what, where, when, why, and how about the story if they are answered. Why don’t all of you at least write a headline?
Our American culture emphasizes individuality over group identity so it is hard for us to understand this story; however, God sees us not only as individuals but also as part of a whole, such as a family, nation, or church. The editors of the NET Bible say this about what happened at Ai: “This incident illustrates well the principle of corporate solidarity and corporate guilt. The sin of one man brought the LORD’s anger down upon the entire nation.”15
Dr. Woudstra comments, “Achan robbed the whole community of the purity and holiness which it ought to possess before God . . . Corporate guilt and individual responsibility go hand in hand in this story. Though all Israel is involved, Achan is singled out as the perpetrator of the sinful act.”16
Digging for Diamonds: Read Daniel’s prayer for the nation of Israel in Dan. 9:1-19. Although Daniel never personally committed these sins, he obviously understood that he shared the guilt as a member of the guilty nation. How did he reveal that attitude in his prayer? What do you learn for your prayers?
2. Read 1 Cor. 5:1-13. How does this passage relate to Achan’s story?
3. 1 Corinthians was written to a church which had failed to deal with the sin of the individual. What are you to do if you see sin within the body? Read Matt. 18:15-20 and write down the steps you should take.
Dr. Boice said, “. . .God takes sin seriously, even if we do not . . . sin is the real cause of defeat for God’s people.”17
4. Responding to God: Is there anything in your life that could be the reason that your God-given dream seems to have fallen apart or stalled? Is there some kind of contamination in your lifestyle or your heart—gossip, bitterness, judgmentalism, immorality, greed, etc.? Is there anything that you need to clean out before God can move? Spend time listening to God’s answers to these questions. Write down your response to Him, either to clean the contamination out or to spend more time listening for the answer with an open heart.
5. How did Joshua react to the defeat at Ai (vv.6-8)? What can we learn from Joshua about dealing with a defeat or set-back?
6. Sharing question: What situation have you seen or experienced in which the sin of one person eventually affected a whole—maybe a whole family, a church, or a business? OR tell about a time when you had to confront someone because of her/his sin. How did you feel, and what was the outcome?
Day Two Lesson
Review Joshua 7:1-15, and read Joshua 7:16-21.
7. What steps did Achan take that led him to sin? (Hint—note what he says he did and how each step led to the next one. Consider the verbs!)
8. Compare Achan’s descent into sin to Eve’s in Gen. 3:6.
Digging for Diamonds: How does James 1:13-15 apply to Achan’s story? Feel free to read any commentaries that you have on the James passage.
9. In light of how Achan and Eve fell into sin, how would you explain the seriousness of the 10th of the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:17) to someone who is unfamiliar with the Bible?
10. Sharing question: What do you “look at” that tempts you to sin? Perhaps you have never actually stolen anything, but what about the temptation to be discontent with what God has given you? Maybe shopping makes you want more than you need or can afford. Perhaps watching commercials or reading about the rich makes you long for a different place to live or wish for other luxuries. You may look at other women’s husbands and see yours come up short. Or maybe you just want a husband! Write down one thing you can do to flee such temptation. Ask your group to pray for you in this area this week.
11. Responding to God: Talk to God about your discontent or other sin that comes from what you see or read. Commit before Him to change a habit that leads you into temptation. Pray for His Spirit to give you strength to follow through instead of falling into temptation.
Day Three Lesson
Review Joshua 7:1, 19-21 and read Joshua 7:22-23.
12. Despite Achan’s attempt to hide what he had stolen, God knew because He was right there with him! Read Psalm 139:1-12. How did the psalmist describe God’s omnipresence, the fact that He is everywhere and sees everything?
13. Sharing question: Which verse from Psalm 139 concerning God’s omnipresence is most meaningful to you? Why? How does God’s omnipresence give your encouragement, and how does it give you a healthy fear of Him?
Read Joshua 7:24-26.
Most English translations do not translate the word achor; however, the NET Bible does, using the name “Valley of Disaster”. The note says, “Or ‘Trouble’ the name is ‘Achor’ in Hebrew, which means ‘disaster’ or ‘trouble’”.18 It is the same word found twice in v. 25 when Joshua said to Achan, “Why have you brought disaster on us? The LORD will bring disaster on you today!” (NET),
14. What “disaster” or “trouble” did God bring on Achan that day?
15. Read Deut. 24:16. What does this suggest about Achan’s family in light of what happened to them?
We read in Joshua 4 that God had the people of Israel build a pile of stones to remind them of how He had brought them across the River Jordan. It was a token of the goodness, the power, and the grace of God. In this case they built a similar pile of stones to remind them of the story of Achan, a story where God’s dream for them seemed to be falling apart.
16. Sharing question: Imagine walking by the pile of stones that were put in the Valley of Achor to remind God’s people about Achan. What would the stones teach those who paid attention? What feelings would they evoke in you about yourself and about God?
Digging for Diamonds: Can you think of other biblical stories that left examples of what not to do? What biblical characters had to deal with severe consequences because of their sins? If you can’t think of any such stories, read Acts 5:1-11, or review the story of Moses and the water that we considered in Week One of this study (Num. 20:2-13). Why do you think that God brought such severe consequences in these particular cases when we know situations where He seemingly let other people off the hook?
17. Responding to God: Draw a picture of a pile of stones. What has happened to you or those around you that serves as a warning in your life not to take sin lightly? Give your stones a name related to that story. Talk to God about how this reminder should affect you.
Day Four Lesson
Read Joshua 8:1-29. This is a longer passage than I usually ask you to read in one day, but it completes the story of the city of Ai.
18. What did God promise before the second battle of Ai, and what instructions did He give Joshua? (8:1-2, 18)
God expected the Israelite army to fight. He could have simply destroyed the city and its people with fire, as He did Sodom and Gomorrah so many years before. So often we have trouble understanding that our God-given dreams still depend upon our implementation; we have to work toward the dream as if the realization depended totally upon us. Both are true—God is the One bringing the dream to fruition, and we have to work to bring it about. It’s somewhat of a paradox.
19. Read these verses and write down how they relate to these truths:
a. John 15:5
aa. Gal. 5:22-23
bb. Phil. 2:12-13
cc. Col. 1:28-2:1
Digging for Diamonds: How do all of the verses in #19 work together? Explain it as if you are teaching a new believer or a child to help them live out these truths. Feel free to use other verses with which you are familiar.
God has given us as His people the dream of His kingdom, both in us and for eternity. Just as the land of Canaan belonged to the people of Israel long before they set foot in it or owned a piece of it (Heb. 11:8-9, 13), we are citizens of God’s kingdom although it has not yet fully arrived. Although Jesus defeated our enemy at the cross (Heb. 2:14-15), we are left here to fight for the kingdom.
20. Read Eph. 6:10-20 and write down what you learn about fighting the enemy while you wait for the fulfillment of the promised kingdom.
21. Sharing question: How do you balance the truths that you must let God work and yet you must work? How do you keep from taking the credit even in your own heart when you have struggled to change or to do God’s work? How do you keep striving diligently to become the woman God desires you to be when you know He has to do it from within you? Share your struggle and the things that help you in this area with your group.
22. Responding to God: Write out a prayer based on one of the passages from #19.
Day Five Lesson
Read Joshua 8:30-35.
23. What was the next event for the people of Israel after the victory at Ai? How does it relate to Deut. 27:1-13?
Imagine yourself at the scene with Joshua and the people. Dr. Woudstra finds great significance in the timing of this event: “In unmistakably clear symbolism the reader is told that the right of possessing the promised land is tied to the proclamation of, and subjection to, God’s covenant claims upon his people.“19
24. Read through the curses of Deut. 27:14-26. Then, read through the blessings of Deut. 28:1-14. Write down the curses and blessings that particularly strike you.
“Investigations have indicated that the acoustical qualities of that site are excellent for such a ceremony.”20
25. If you had been there, how would you have felt as part of this covenant renewal, particularly in light of the victories at both Jericho and Ai?
Digging for Diamonds: Read in a commentary, Bible encyclopedia, or dictionary about covenant-renewal ceremonies. If you don’t have any of these tools, see what you can find online. There is a related article about the covenant renewal of Deuteronomy on bible.org.21
We as New Covenant believers are not part of this covenant that included the blessings and the curses. We need not worry about God cursing us as He did Israel. Although ours is a covenant of grace, we know that God does ask us to align our lives to His will and His purposes. When we don’t, we risk His loving hand of discipline (Heb. 12:5-13).
26. Sharing question: The renewing of the covenant reminded the people of their responsibilities to the God they served, who had brought them to this land of God-given dream. It warned them not to take lightly the temptation to turn away from God. How do you as a believer under the New Covenant remind yourself of God’s will for you and of the risks of His discipline in your life? Share with your group a practical way you keep these things in mind. OR share with your group how God brought discipline into your life when you strayed from His path.
27. Responding to God: Write a prayer or poem about the love of God that reaches out and brings people into covenant relationship to Him.
BJ shares how God disciplined her because she was contaminated by the sin of gossip and contaminated others. She had to clean up both her heart and the mess she had made! As you read it, consider if you have completely cleaned up what you have contaminated!
I was at a church basketball league game many years ago and became quite agitated with the umpire (one of the church deacons). Unfortunately, I let my mouth run before my brain or the Holy Spirit. It wasn’t bad enough that I yelled some unkind things, I began to talk about him to others after the game.
The Holy Spirit began to convict me of my sin of gossip and slander, but I just “quenched Him” with all kinds of rationale and justifications. There were even some phone calls that ensued over the next day that brought up the subject.
The next Sunday was to be the Lord’s Supper and the Father had been dealing with me, but I continued on in my rebellion. Ever the loving Father, He had the deacon sit right in front of me during the service prior to the Lord’s Supper. All I had to do was lean over and ask his forgiveness. But no…I stubbornly held on to my “righteous indignation”. I completely ignored the scripture in 1 Corinthians 11:27-28 to “let a man examine himself” and “not drink unworthily”. I just charged on ahead and took the cup and the bread. That next morning I awakened with a VERY sore throat and no voice above a whisper! Having had no previous symptoms of being ill, the Lord took me to those passages and convicted me of my “unworthy taking” of the Lord’s Supper. He told me to call the deacon on the phone and ask his forgiveness. Yes, with only being able to whisper. Then He recalled all those I had gossiped to/with and they were to be called also!
After finishing all the phone calls and seeking forgiveness, my throat was fine and my voice returned. Now when the Lord’s Supper is offered, I do due diligence with the “examine” myself during those very quiet moments that are given during the service.
15 Note 7 in NET Bible, 404.
16 Woudstra, 120-121.
17 Boice, 58.
18 Note 11 in NET Bible, 405.
19 Woudstra, 144.
20 Woudstra, 149.