After the Israelites crossed the Jordan River into the promised land, the Lord instructed them to destroy the city of Jericho and everything in it. An Israelite named Achan took items from Jericho that were forbidden. As a result, the Israelites were defeated when they tried to destroy the city of Ai. After Achan was held accountable, the Lord again assisted Israel in battle.
Before class, list on the board a few standards or commandments that some youth may find difficult to obey, such as the following (these phrases come from For the Strength of Youth [booklet, 2011], 4, 7, 30–31):
As class begins, invite students to read the statements on the board. Ask the class if they or someone they know has ever questioned why these standards are important to obey.
What other commandments or standards has the Lord given that some may question the importance of? (As students respond, you may want to list their answers on the board.)
Explain that as the Israelites entered the land of Canaan, the Lord gave them unusual commandments or instructions for how they were to attack the well-fortified city of Jericho. To some of the Israelites, these commandments may have seemed strange or unreasonable. Invite students to look for truths as they study Joshua 6 that can guide them when they or others may not understand the purposes for the Lord’s commandments.
Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Joshua 6:1–5. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how the Lord instructed the Israelites to attack the city of Jericho. (You may need to explain that to compass the city means to go around it.)
What did the Lord instruct the Israelites to do?
Explain that Joshua 6:6–11 shows that Joshua relayed the Lord’s instructions to the Israelites.
If you had been in the position of an Israelite soldier, what might seem strange to you about these instructions?
What do you imagine the soldiers’ conversations were like that first night as they finished walking around Jericho and then returned to camp?
Invite a student to read Joshua 6:12–15 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how the Israelites showed their faith in the Lord and His prophet.
How did the Israelites show faith? (The Israelites obeyed the Lord when His instructions may not have made sense to them, and they did so with exactness.)
Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from Joshua 6:16, 20–21, 27. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what happened because Joshua and the Israelites obeyed the Lord with exactness. (You may want to remind the class that the Lord had previously commanded Israel to “utterly destroy” the inhabitants of the promised land to prevent their sins from spreading to the children of Israel [see Deuteronomy 20:15–18].)
What happened because Joshua and the Israelites obeyed with exactness?
Invite students to imagine themselves as Israelite soldiers who perhaps did not understand the purpose of the Lord’s instructions for how to attack Jericho. However, they chose to obey with exactness and then witnessed the walls of Jericho fall. Ask students to respond to the following question by writing in their class notebooks or scripture study journals:
What principles would you have learned from this experience of following the Lord’s commands?
Invite a few students to report what they wrote. As students share the principles they have identified, emphasize the following: We can show faith in the Lord by choosing to obey His commandments, even when we do not understand the purposes for them, and as we act in faith to obey the Lord with exactness, He will be with us and help us do things we could not do by ourselves.
To help students understand and feel the truth and importance of these principles, you may want to discuss some or all of the following questions:
When have you shown faith in the Lord by choosing to obey His commandments even when you did not understand the purposes for them?
What are some examples of how people might only partially obey the standards and commandments described on the board?
How have you felt blessed as you have sought to obey the Lord with exactness?
You may want to testify that students will be blessed as they faithfully obey with exactness.
Invite students to look through the For the Strength of Youth booklet (if available) for standards they feel they could obey with greater faith or exactness. Invite them to write on a piece of paper how they will obey that commandment or standard with greater faith or exactness. Encourage them to place this paper where they can be reminded daily of their goal.
Explain that in addition to the instructions the Lord gave for how Israel was to attack Jericho, Joshua instructed Israel regarding what they should do once they had taken the city. Invite a student to read Joshua 6:17–19 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Joshua instructed the Israelites to do with all that was in Jericho.
What did Joshua instruct the Israelites to do with all that was in Jericho?
Explain that the word accursed in these verses refers to all things associated with wickedness and disobedience. All the people (except for Rahab and her kindred [see verses 17, 22–23, 25]) and all the objects in Jericho were considered accursed. The Israelites were not to keep anything in the city for themselves but were to turn the wealth of the city over to Joshua to be consecrated to the Lord.
According to verse 18, what would be the consequence if an Israelite took something that was accursed?
Display a piece of clothing and a few coins (or draw them on the board).
If you had been in the position of an Israelite soldier, what might you have wanted to do if you saw some valuable items in Jericho?
Invite students to read Joshua 7:1 silently, looking for what an Israelite named Achan did that was contrary to the Lord’s commandments.
What choice did Achan make? What was wrong with his choice?
Invite students to watch for the effects of Achan’s choice as they study Joshua 7.
Invite a student to read Joshua 7:2–5 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what happened to Israel when they went to destroy the city of Ai.
Why did the Israelites send fewer soldiers against the city of Ai than they sent against Jericho? (Ai was small and seemed easy to conquer.)
How many Israelites died in the battle against the men of Ai?
Summarize Joshua 7:6–9 by explaining that Joshua grieved after hearing the news of Israel’s defeat. Joshua asked the Lord to reveal to him why Israel had suffered this defeat.
Invite a student to read Joshua 7:11–12 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the reason the Lord gave for Israel’s defeat.
Why could Israel not stand before their enemies?
How did Achan’s choice affect the rest of the children of Israel?
What principle can we learn from this story about the consequences of choosing to disobey the Lord? (Students may use different words, but make sure it is clear that if we choose to disobey the commandments, it can bring negative consequences upon ourselves and others. Consider writing this principle on the board.)
Invite a student to read Joshua 7:13 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord commanded the Israelites to do so they could prevail against their enemies.
What did the Lord command the Israelites to do?
You may need to explain that one meaning of the word sanctify is to become free from sin.
Summarize Joshua 7:14–18 by explaining that the Lord instructed Joshua to gather Israel according to their tribes and that the Lord would reveal to Joshua the person who was guilty of harboring the accursed thing. When called upon, Achan stood before Joshua.
Invite a student to read Joshua 7:19–21 aloud. Ask students to follow along and look for what happened when Joshua confronted Achan.
What truth can we learn from Joshua’s words to Achan that apply to us today? (Students may use different words, but make sure it is clear that we cannot hide our sins from the Lord.)
To help students understand why we cannot hide our sins from the Lord, ask a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“Do not take comfort in the fact that your transgressions are not known by others. That is like an ostrich with his head buried in the sand. He sees only darkness and feels comfortably hidden. In reality he is ridiculously conspicuous. Likewise our every act is seen by our Father in Heaven and His Beloved Son” (“Finding Forgiveness,” Ensign, May 1995, 77).
How can understanding that we cannot hide our sins from the Lord affect our choices?
Explain that in Joshua 7:22–26, we read that Achan was held accountable for his sins. Achan and his children were put to death, and the accursed things he took were destroyed as the Lord commanded. Joshua would have been aware of the law that children were not to be punished for the acts of their parents (see Deuteronomy 24:16). Thus, the deaths of Achan’s children suggest that they were guilty of the same sin as their father; otherwise they would have been spared.
Summarize Joshua 8–10 by explaining that after Israel punished Achan and removed the “accursed thing” from among them, the Lord helped them to defeat the people of Ai, the Amorites, and many of the cities in Canaan. Invite students to read Joshua 10:42 silently and look for why the armies of Israel were so successful in battle. Ask students to report what they find.
You may want to conclude by testifying of the truths you have discussed today. Invite students to act on these truths by choosing to faithfully obey the Lord’s commandments and repent rather than hide any sins they may have committed.