The law of “Cause & Effect” is one that we as humans are keenly aware of. The idea that certain actions or events will inevitably lead to certain effects is something we become familiar with at an extremely young age. As we grow and mature the reality of just how prevalent this law is in every aspect of our lives (health, finances, social, relationships, etc.) only become clearer. A good example of how we recognize this pattern can be seen when one becomes sick. They start to feel and observe certain symptoms (effects) and quickly start wondering, “what is the actual issue (cause) behind these issues?”. Applying this method of thinking to our spiritual lives, I wonder if certain sins that wound and hold us back currently, are just symptoms of bigger issues we have failed to recognize and deal with? Let’s turn to a familiar Old testament passage to see this very thing play out.
Joshua 7:2-5, “Now Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth-aven, east of Bethel, and said to them, “Go up and spy out the land.” So, the men went up and spied out Ai. They returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not let all the people go up; only about two or three thousand men need go up to Ai; do not make all the people toil up there, for they are few.” So about three thousand men from the people went up there, but they fled from the men of Ai. The men of Ai struck down about thirty-six of their men and pursued them from the gate as far as Shebarim and struck them down on the descent, so the hearts of the people melted and became as water.” Here we find Joshua and the children of Israel failing to conquer a small city state up the road from the already overthrown city of Jericho. In the verses that follow (7:6-9) Joshua will cry out to the Lord asking why He has allowed this defeat to happen and expressing his fear of enemies attacking them. It is in God’s response to this heart-felt prayer that we as the reader see the cause to this unfortunate effect. Joshua 7:10-12, “So the LORD said to Joshua, “Rise up! Why is it that you have fallen on your face? Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. And they have even taken some of the things under the ban and have both stolen and deceived. Moreover, they have also put them among their own things. Therefore, the sons of Israel cannot stand before their enemies; they turn their backs before their enemies, for they have become accursed. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy the things under the ban from your midst.” Joshua, and Israel as a whole, was suffering the effect (symptoms) of a bigger issue – there was sin in the camp. Achan’s terrible decision to keep some of the plunder from Jericho has led to this terrible state the nation is in.
It is in this story of how Joshua handles this defeat, that we today can find clues on how to deal with sin in our lives. As soon as Joshua recognizes the problem, defeat at Ai, instead of doubling down and simply sending more soldiers, instead he goes to God to uncover the real problem. I wonder how many times in my life I have only dealt with the effects and failed to “look upstream” and identify the real issue causing the sins/stressors in my life. Jesus would say later in this way, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30.)