GOD: Arthur! Arthur, King of the Britons! Oh, don't grovel!
One thing I can't stand, it's people groveling.
GOD: And don't apologize. Every time I try to talk to someone it's 'sorry
this' and 'forgive me that' and 'I'm not worthy'.
What are you doing now?!
ARTHUR: I'm averting my eyes, O Lord.
GOD: Well, don't. It's like those miserable Psalms-- they're so depressing.
Now knock it off![i]
Admittedly Joshua and the Children of Israel had a serious problem. God had worked a tremendous miracle with them in the destruction of Jericho, and he had given them some clear directions. Among other things he said in effect, “All the stuff in the city is mine. It is devoted to me. Don’t touch the holy stuff.” One of the children of Israel stole a beautiful cloak, some silver and a bar of goal. He looked at the holy stuff and made the mistake of saying “Mine!” The result is that God does not go out to battle the next time with the Israelites; they lose the battle and about thirty-six of them die. That’s a serious problem. Now comes what to me is the interesting part.
6 Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the LORD until the evening, he and the elders of Israel. And they put dust on their heads. 7 And Joshua said, "Alas, O Lord GOD, why have you brought this people over the Jordan at all, to give us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us? Would that we had been content to dwell beyond the Jordan! 8 O Lord, what can I say, when Israel has turned their backs before their enemies! 9 For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it and will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will you do for your great name?"[ii]
We should have a great deal of empathy with Joshua because when a disaster happens that tends to be our response as well. We throw ourselves on the ground and throw dust on our heads, and cry, “Alas, O Lord God, why?” If Joshua stopped there it wouldn’t have been so bad, but he goes on with a bit of self-pitying wailing and moaning, all mixed with a lot of projection about how bad all this is going to turn out. What is God’s response? “Oh, stop that grovelling?”
“The Lord said to Joshua, ‘Get up! Why have you fallen on your face?”[iii]
I can almost feel God’s exasperation with us at points like this. Yes, this or that situation might be serious, but grovelling and over exaggerating really won’t help. What God calls for in the rest of Joshua’s story is a fresh consecration of Joshua and his people, and some God-directed steps to rectify the situation.