Nipping it in the Bud — 7:1-26

The previous entry can be read here.

Sin. It’s a heavy topic. And it’s one that must be treated with grace or we do not understand the depths of our own depravity. Listening to the Dividing Line with Albert Mohler this week, I heard about Rachael Denhollander’s statement to the defendant—Larry Nassar—in his sentencing for abuse of young female gymnasts in his days as the USA gymnastic team’s doctor. (If nothing else, I highly recommend that you listen to the seven minutes by Dr. Mohler on that story.)

Here was a woman, who was physically abused by a man who abused many other young women in his time as a respected doctor for the best of America’s gymnasts, showing grace and extending the gospel to a man who—in the majority of peoples’ opinions—deserved to die immediately rather than rot in a jail cell. Rather than hating the man, she showed the greatest love possible. This is what Christianity is all about.

While it doesn’t line up perfectly with what occurs in our text today, it should raise the question in our minds: “How do I respond to sin?”

Today’s Text

Our historian writes (bolded text is today’s focus), “When Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in His hand. Joshua approached Him and asked, ‘Are You for us or for our enemies?’ ‘Neither,’ He replied. ‘I have now come as commander of the LORD’s army.’ Then Joshua bowed with his face to the ground in worship and asked Him, ‘What does my Lord want to say to His servant?’ The commander of the LORD’s army said to Joshua, ‘Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.’ And Joshua did so. Now Jericho was strongly fortified because of the Israelites—no one leaving or entering. The LORD said to Joshua, ‘Look, I have handed Jericho, its king, and its fighting men over to you. March around the city with all the men of war, circling the city one time. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry seven ram’s-horn trumpets in front of the ark. But on the seventh day, march around the city seven times, while the priests blow the trumpets. When there is a prolonged blast of the horn and you hear its sound, have all the people give a mighty shout. Then the city wall will collapse, and the people will advance, each man straight ahead.’ So Joshua son of Nun summoned the priests and said to them, ‘Take up the ark of the covenant and have seven priests carry seven trumpets in front of the ark of the LORD.’ He said to the people, ‘Move forward, march around the city, and have the armed troops go ahead of the ark of the LORD.’ After Joshua had spoken to the people, seven priests carrying seven trumpets before the LORD moved forward and blew the trumpets; the ark of the LORD’s covenant followed them. While the trumpets were blowing, the armed troops went in front of the priests who blew the trumpets, and the rear guard went behind the ark. But Joshua had commanded the people: ‘Do not shout or let your voice be heard. Don’t let one word come out of your mouth until the time I say, “Shout!” Then you are to shout.’ So the ark of the LORD was carried around the city, circling it once. They returned to the camp and spent the night there. Joshua got up early the next morning. The priests took the ark of the LORD, and the seven priests carrying seven trumpets marched in front of the ark of the LORD. While the trumpets were blowing, the armed troops went in front of them, and the rear guard went behind the ark of the LORD. On the second day they marched around the city once and returned to the camp. They did this for six days. Early on the seventh day, they started at dawn and marched around the city seven times in the same way. That was the only day they marched around the city seven times. After the seventh time, the priests blew the trumpets, and Joshua said to the people, ‘Shout! For the LORD has given you the city. But the city and everything in it are set apart to the LORD for destruction. Only Rahab the prostitute and everyone with her in the house will live, because she hid the men we sent. But keep yourselves from the things set apart, or you will be set apart for destruction. If you take any of those things, you will set apart the camp of Israel for destruction and bring disaster on it. For all the silver and gold, and the articles of bronze and iron, are dedicated to the LORD and must go into the LORD’s treasury.’ So the people shouted, and the trumpets sounded. When they heard the blast of the trumpet, the people gave a great shout, and the wall collapsed. The people advanced into the city, each man straight ahead, and they captured the city. They completely destroyed everything in the city with the sword—every man and woman, both young and old, and every ox, sheep, and donkey. Joshua said to the two men who had scouted the land, ‘Go to the prostitute’s house and bring the woman out of there, and all who are with her, just as you promised her.’ So the young men who had scouted went in and brought out Rahab and her father, mother, brothers, and all who belonged to her. They brought out her whole family and settled them outside the camp of Israel. They burned up the city and everything in it, but they put the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron into the treasury of the LORD’s house. However, Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, her father’s household, and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent to spy on Jericho, and she lives in Israel to this day. At that time Joshua imposed this curse: The man who undertakes the rebuilding of this city, Jericho, is cursed before the LORD. He will lay its foundation ⌊at the cost of⌋ his firstborn; he will set up its gates ⌊at the cost of⌋ his youngest. And the LORD was with Joshua, and his fame spread throughout the land. The Israelites, however, were unfaithful regarding the things set apart for destruction. Achan son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of what was set apart, and the LORD’s anger burned against the Israelites. Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth-aven, east of Bethel, and told them, ‘Go up and scout the land.’ So the men went up and scouted Ai. After returning to Joshua they reported to him, ‘Don’t send all the people, but send about 2,000 or 3,000 men to attack Ai. Since the people of Ai are so few, don’t wear out all our people there.’ So about 3,000 men went up there, but they fled from the men of Ai. The men of Ai struck down about 36 of them and chased them from outside the gate to the quarries, striking them down on the descent. As a result, the people’s hearts melted and became like water. Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell before the ark of the LORD with his face to the ground until evening, as did the elders of Israel; they all put dust on their heads. ‘Oh, Lord GOD,’ Joshua said, ‘why did You ever bring these people across the Jordan to hand us over to the Amorites for our destruction? If only we had been content to remain on the other side of the Jordan! What can I say, Lord, now that Israel has turned its back and run from its enemies? When the Canaanites and all who live in the land hear about this, they will surround us and wipe out our name from the earth. Then what will You do about Your great name?’ The LORD then said to Joshua, ‘Stand up! Why are you on the ground? Israel has sinned. They have violated My covenant that I appointed for them. They have taken some of what was set apart. They have stolen, deceived, and put the things with their own belongings. This is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies. They will turn their backs and run from their enemies, because they have been set apart for destruction. I will no longer be with you unless you remove from you what is set apart. Go and consecrate the people. Tell them to consecrate themselves for tomorrow, for this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: There are things that are set apart among you, Israel. You will not be able to stand against your enemies until you remove what is set apart. In the morning you must present yourselves tribe by tribe. The tribe the LORD selects is to come forward clan by clan. The clan the LORD selects is to come forward family by family. The family the LORD selects is to come forward man by man. The one who is caught with the things set apart must be burned, along with everything he has, because he has violated the LORD’s covenant and committed an outrage in Israel.’ Joshua got up early the next morning. He had Israel come forward tribe by tribe, and the tribe of Judah was selected. He had the clans of Judah come forward, and the Zerahite clan was selected. He had the Zerahite clan come forward by heads of families, and Zabdi was selected. He then had Zabdi’s family come forward man by man, and Achan son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was selected. So Joshua said to Achan, ‘My son, give glory to the LORD, the God of Israel, and make a confession to Him. I urge you, tell me what you have done. Don’t hide anything from me.’ Achan replied to Joshua, ‘It is true. I have sinned against the LORD, the God of Israel. This is what I did: When I saw among the spoils a beautiful cloak from Babylon, 200 silver shekels, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, I coveted them and took them. You can see for yourself. They are concealed in the ground inside my tent, with the money under the cloak.’ So Joshua sent messengers who ran to the tent, and there was the cloak, concealed in his tent, with the money underneath. They took the things from inside the tent, brought them to Joshua and all the Israelites, and spread them out in the LORD’s presence. Then Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan son of Zerah, the silver, the cloak, and the bar of gold, his sons and daughters, his ox, donkey, and sheep, his tent, and all that he had, and brought them up to the Valley of Achor. Joshua said, ‘Why have you troubled us? Today the LORD will trouble you!’ So all Israel stoned them to death. They burned their bodies, threw stones on them, and raised over him a large pile of rocks that remains to this day. Then the LORD turned from His burning anger. Therefore that place is called the Valley of Achor to this day.”

Where we’ve been…

At this point in the narrative we have seen time and time again God proving faithful to His people Israel. He promised Joshua in 1:5-9,

No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. I will be with you, just as I was with Moses. I will not leave you or forsake you.  “Be strong and courageous, for you will distribute the land I swore to their fathers to give them as an inheritance.  Above all, be strong and very courageous to carefully observe the whole instruction My servant Moses commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or the left, so that you will have success wherever you go.  This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to recite it day and night so that you may carefully observe everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do.  Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

This has proved true in the spies’ mission to Jericho, the crossing of the Jordan, and finally in the capture of Jericho (which we learned of last time). And then, before God miraculously brought down Jericho, He appeared to Joshua in the form of a soldier and said, “Neither. . . I have now come as commander of the LORD’s army” (5:14), when Joshua asked if the man was for Israel or her enemies.

It is important to grasp that God Himself says He is neither for Israel nor against Israel, especially when He had told Joshua in 1:5, “No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. I will be with you, just as I was with Moses. I will not leave you or forsake you.” Does God change His mind? By no means! (look at Numbers 23:19 to be sure). Instead, we have to take into account the entirety of what God had told Joshua in 1:5-9, particularly verse 7: “Above all, be strong and very courageous to carefully observe the whole instruction My servant Moses commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or the left, so that you will have success wherever you go.” It just so happens that one of the things Moses commanded was the following:

You are to gather all its spoil in the middle of the city square and completely burn up the city and all its spoil for the LORD your God. The city must remain a mound of ruins forever; it is not to be rebuilt.  Nothing set apart for destruction is to remain in your hand, so that the LORD will turn from His burning anger and grant you mercy, show you compassion, and multiply you as He swore to your fathers.  This ⌊will occur⌋ if you obey the LORD your God, keeping all His commands I am giving you today, doing what is right in the sight of the LORD your God. (Deuteronomy 13:16-18)

If we remember back to 6:16-19, we will remember the following words from Joshua:

Shout! For the LORD has given you the city.  But the city and everything in it are set apart to the LORD for destruction. Only Rahab the prostitute and everyone with her in the house will live, because she hid the men we sent.  But keep yourselves from the things set apart, or you will be set apart for destruction. If you take any of those things, you will set apart the camp of Israel for destruction and bring disaster on it.  For all the silver and gold, and the articles of bronze and iron, are dedicated to the LORD and must go into the LORD’s treasury.

Our historian gives the overall results of the conquest of Jericho in 6:21, 24. “They completely destroyed everything in the city with the sword—every man and woman, both young and old, and every ox, sheep, and donkey. . . They burned up the city and everything in it, but they put the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron into the treasury of the LORD’s house.” And then we read, at the start of chapter 7, “The Israelites, however, were unfaithful regarding the things set apart for destruction. Achan son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of what was set apart, and the LORD’s anger burned against the Israelites.”

For the most part, the people of Israel were obedient and devoted the city to destruction just as God commanded. However, one man took some for himself, and as such God saw the nation as a whole as not being obedient to the covenant. In our text today, our historian seeks to show just how dangerous even one individual’s “hidden” sin is to any group of people.

National consequences (7:2-5)

First we see the national consequences for sin. In verses 2-5 we read, “Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth-aven, east of Bethel, and told them, ‘Go up and scout the land.’ So the men went up and scouted Ai. After returning to Joshua they reported to him, ‘Don’t send all the people, but send about 2,000 or 3,000 men to attack Ai. Since the people of Ai are so few, don’t wear out all our people there.’ So about 3,000 men went up there, but they fled from the men of Ai. The men of Ai struck down about 36 of them and chased them from outside the gate to the quarries, striking them down on the descent. As a result, the people’s hearts melted and became like water.”

There is a lot going on in these four verses.[1] Joshua sends men out, much like in chapter 2, to spy out the land. They have currently set up camp near Jericho, so he sends them in the direction of Ai—their next target. It is interesting that the text tells us that Ai is east of Bethel. At this point, they have been making their way west into the Promised Land, first attacking Jericho. In Genesis 34:1, God had commanded Jacob, “Get up! Go to Bethel and settle there. Build an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.” At the end of the chapter we read, “Jacob came to his father Isaac at Mamre in Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had stayed.  Isaac lived 180 years.  He took his last breath and died, and was gathered to his people, old and full of days. His sons Esau and Jacob buried him” (Genesis 34:27-29). Then, at the beginning of 37, we read, “Jacob lived in the land where his father had stayed, the land of Canaan,” which means that he decided to stay in Hebron. It is interesting that God told him to settle in Bethel, and that Bethel is mentioned as being west of Ai. God is showing us subliminally that His people were not yet to a resting point.

But the spies return and they have good news. They say that the whole army need not go to war, for there are not many people in Ai. This is peculiar, because according to 8:25 there were 12,000 people there. So, when the news returns to Joshua he is told, “Only take 2-3,000 men against this city.” Joshua is not named as commanding the forces to attack (like he has been throughout the rest of the book so far—hearing from God and passing it on to the people), so it is likely that Joshua did not order this attack upon Ai (cf. 8:1 where God specifically commands it).

So the small force goes up against Ai, and God was not with them, so the scene becomes a reminder of the Proverb that states, “Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall” (16:18). The report of their mission is entirely negative; they aren’t even said to have attacked Ai; “but they fled from the men of Ai. The men of Ai struck down about 36 of them and chased them from outside the gate to the quarries, striking them down on the descent. As a result, the people’s hearts melted and became like water” (7:4-5). Hess writes,

The result, that the heart of the people melted recalls the same expression in 2:11 and 5:1. There it applies to the Canaanites; here it applies to the Israelites. The addition and became like water enhances the image beyond that experienced by the Canaanites. In five short verses the narrator has overturned the story of unbroken success that occupied the previous six chapters.[2]

Looking at the situation with the details from 7:1 we know why this happened. We know why God allowed the people to become prideful; to say, “We don’t need everybody”; to be defeated in battle before they even had a chance to attack. This is because, “The Israelites, however, were unfaithful regarding the things set apart for destruction.”

“But wasn’t it just one person?” we ask. Yes. The text says, “Achan son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of what was set apart.” But it also concludes by saying, “and the LORD’s anger burned against the Israelites.” We see the results of His anger in 7:2-5. “Thirty six Israelites were killed—a very small number compared to the numbers of Israel’s fighting forces, but it was thirty-six more than are recorded for the Jericho campaign—and the men of Ai gave chase for some distance.”[3] Even in God’s wrath, He remembered mercy. He could have wiped Israel out. God saw the nation as a unified whole, and if one person of His people was guilty of sin, then the entirety of the nation was no longer holy and God could not be in their presence.

I may be wrong, but I don’t believe that any church that preaches on unity has a view of unity this high. Some churches don’t know how to talk about anything but unity, but the unity this text exhibits should cause us to pause.

God had commanded Israel, “Be holy because I, Yahweh your God, am holy” (Leviticus 19:2), and Peter repeats this command as it pertains to the church in 1 Peter 1:15-16: “But as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy.” When Achan ceased to be holy it defiled the whole camp, much like if you drop your phone and the screen gets the tiniest of cracks, the whole screen is broken, because it is no longer completely flawless. In the Old Testament, the individuals who made up the nation of Israel were much more closely united in God’s eyes than the fellow members of our local churches are united in our eyes. When Achan sinned in Israel, the whole nation suffered a defeat.

The next section will lay out some of the theological ramifications of this fact.

Theological ramifications (7:6-15)

Joshua’s response (7:6-9)

Second, we see the theological ramifications for Achan’s sin. In verses 6-9 we read Joshua’s prayer to God as regards the national consequences: “Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell before the ark of the LORD with his face to the ground until evening, as did the elders of Israel; they all put dust on their heads. ‘Oh, Lord GOD,’ Joshua said, ‘why did You ever bring these people across the Jordan to hand us over to the Amorites for our destruction? If only we had been content to remain on the other side of the Jordan! What can I say, Lord, now that Israel has turned its back ⌊and run⌋ from its enemies? When the Canaanites and all who live in the land hear about this, they will surround us and wipe out our name from the earth. Then what will You do about Your great name?’”

Joshua’s faith has been shattered. Sure, he doesn’t realize that someone intentionally disobeyed God at this point, but this is what sin does. It damages faith. Joshua was not the only one in Israel in a state of mourning; all the elders of Israel were as well. The elders of Israel were the representatives of the tribes. Thirteen people were laying before the ark of God with dust on their heads; these thirteen represented the consensus of the nation: “What has happened? Where did you go, God?” Because of Achan’s sin, Israel’s faith was almost shipwrecked.

Joshua’s primary concern, when we get past the fact that his faith has been rocked to the core, is not so much that Israel will be destroyed by Canaan, but rather that if that happens, God’s reputation will be on the line. Joshua had—as should all believers in God today—the glory of God as primary on his mind. Sin and the glory of God are incompatible; do we take sin seriously?

God speaks (7:10-15)

In verses 10-15 we read about God’s response to Joshua. “The LORD then said to Joshua, ‘Stand up! Why are you on the ground? Israel has sinned. They have violated My covenant that I appointed for them. They have taken some of what was set apart. They have stolen, deceived, and put ⌊the things⌋ with their own belongings. This is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies. They will turn their backs ⌊and run⌋ from their enemies, because they have been set apart for destruction. I will no longer be with you unless you remove from you what is set apart. Go and consecrate the people. Tell them to consecrate themselves for tomorrow, for this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: There are things that are set apart among you, Israel. You will not be able to stand against your enemies until you remove what is set apart. In the morning you must present yourselves tribe by tribe. The tribe the LORD selects is to come forward clan by clan. The clan the LORD selects is to come forward family by family. The family the LORD selects is to come forward man by man. The one who is caught with the things set apart must be burned, along with everything he has, because he has violated the LORD’s covenant and committed an outrage in Israel.’”

God is quick to rebuke Joshua. “Stand up! Why are you on the ground? Israel has sinned.” God basically tells Joshua right off the bat, “You are 100% correct about what will happen if you don’t do something about it.” The sin in Israel had cut the people off from God’s faithfulness (though a case can be made that His grace was on display in only allowing 36 Israelites to be killed). God wants Joshua to know that unless he takes charge and destroys the sinful root, Israel would continue to suffer defeats similar to that at Ai.

God tells Joshua to have the people consecrate themselves (which included abstaining from sexual relations, cf. Exodus 19:14) and tells him that He Himself will point out the guilty party. God takes breaking His covenant seriously: “The one who is caught with the things set apart must be burned, along with everything he has, because he has violated the LORD’s covenant and committed an outrage in Israel” (7:15).

Do we take our sin seriously? Do we see it as breaking our fellowship with God? First John 4:16 describes staying in fellowship with God: “the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him.” When we sin, we are not doing our part to remain in God, and it leads to feelings of, “Maybe God is not remaining in me?” We must seek God in the Word, in prayer, in meditation, and in fasting; and this will help to prevent us from blatantly disregarding God’s commands; it will also draw us to confess and repent when we fall short (which is exactly what Achan here failed to do). But I leave you with the question: do you take your sin seriously or do you see it as no big deal?

Familial consequences (7:16-26)

Finally, we see the familial consequences for sin. In verses 16-26 we read, “Joshua got up early the next morning. He had Israel come forward tribe by tribe, and the tribe of Judah was selected. He had the clans of Judah come forward, and the Zerahite clan was selected. He had the Zerahite clan come forward by heads of families, and Zabdi was selected. He then had Zabdi’s family come forward man by man, and Achan son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was selected. So Joshua said to Achan, ‘My son, give glory to the LORD, the God of Israel, and make a confession to Him. I urge you, tell me what you have done. Don’t hide anything from me.’ Achan replied to Joshua, ‘It is true. I have sinned against the LORD, the God of Israel. This is what I did: When I saw among the spoils a beautiful cloak from Babylon, 200 silver shekels, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, I coveted them and took them. You can see for yourself. They are concealed in the ground inside my tent, with the money under the cloak.’ So Joshua sent messengers who ran to the tent, and there was the cloak, concealed in his tent, with the money underneath. They took the things from inside the tent, brought them to Joshua and all the Israelites, and spread them out in the LORD’s presence. Then Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan son of Zerah, the silver, the cloak, and the bar of gold, his sons and daughters, his ox, donkey, and sheep, his tent, and all that he had, and brought them up to the Valley of Achor. Joshua said, ‘Why have you troubled us? Today the LORD will trouble you!’ So all Israel stoned them to death. They burned their bodies, threw stones on them, and raised over him a large pile of rocks that remains to this day. Then the LORD turned from His burning anger. Therefore that place is called the Valley of Achor to this day.”

While the text doesn’t explicitly say that this is how the perpetrator was determined, Solomon tells us, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD” (Proverbs 16:33). Joshua wakes up early in the morning—showing heartfelt obedience to God—and the process of determining guilt begins. First, God selects the tribe of Judah; then the clan of Zerah was selected; then the family head, Zabdi, was chosen; then the family of Carmi was selected; and finally the individual responsible was identified: Achan.

Joshua speaks to Achan. From the words spoken it is clear that Joshua was hurt by this man’s actions. He doesn’t say, “Haha, you’re going to get it,” and that should never be a believer’s attitude toward people being punished for sin (think about the introductory example). Rather he says, “My son, give glory to the LORD, the God of Israel, and make a confession to Him. I urge you, tell me what you have done. Don’t hide anything from me” (7:19).

So Achan tells what he did. While he may have been confessing with the hope of escaping punishment, we already know what the consequence had to be (cf. 7:15). Because he had stolen what was set apart, their set-apartness had transferred to him and everything that belonged to him. The only way to remove the disgrace was to remove what was set-apart, which included Achan and everything that belonged to him. One writer says, “The purpose of Yahweh war [read: setting apart everything for destruction] in the case of Jericho is not so much to eliminate the gods and cultus of its inhabitants as to elevate Yahweh in the view of His own people.”[4] God punishes this sin swiftly because He wanted His people to know that He will not bless a sinfully rebellious nation that claims His name.

When Achan confesses his sin and thus glorifies God by saying, “I did wrong, and You are right, Lord,” he points out that he first saw, then he coveted, then he took. This is the same language that we see in Genesis 3:6. “Then the woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate ⌊it⌋; she also gave ⌊some⌋ to her husband, ⌊who was⌋ with her, and he ate ⌊it⌋” (the word for “desirable” is the same translated “coveted” in Joshua 7:21). He even admits that he knew that it was wrong to take them: he had hidden them in the ground in his tent so no one would find out.

Joshua sends some messengers to make sure that Achan’s words are true, and when they return, he is known to have been guilty because his testimony and confession were true. Because of this the nation takes Achan to a nearby valley and put him and his children and all his belongings to death by stoning and fire. Joshua explains the punishment this way: “Why have you troubled us? Today the LORD will trouble you!” (7:25). The whole nation participates in putting Achan and his family to death because they wanted to show that they did not condone this man’s actions; they wanted God to know that they were innocent.

And we may say, “It’s not fair for Achan’s children to suffer death because their father hid the stuff!” Perhaps. But in Exodus 34:7 God tells Moses about His own character: “But He will not leave ⌊the guilty⌋ unpunished, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ wrongdoing on the children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation.” This passage comes to life in today’s passage. The children of Achan suffer because he chose to rebel against God.

And there’s a lesson in this. Not only did national Israel suffer for Achan’s sin; not only did his sin mar their closeness to God; it also destroyed his own family. Do we take our sin seriously? Do we see it as potentially destroying our families? If we see it in this way, it should make us much more hesitant to secretly practice any sin—even if we don’t yet have a family of our own. While our kids won’t get stoned and burned for our sinful actions today, they suffer consequences in a plethora of other ways—divorce, abuse, orphanhood. We must seek to glorify God in all our dealings, even in secret, and not do things that could potentially wreck the families that God has given us. Do you take sin seriously?

We’re All Achans

If we’re honest, we must admit that we are all Achans. We all hide things and hope other people don’t find out. Even if it’s something small like an angry outburst every now and then, we hope that those in our church do not find out about it because we want it to remain a secret. We walk around saying one thing, but doing another—even if it’s not something that is premeditated—and we hope our lack of consistency is not found out. Exodus 34:6-7 says, poignantly,

Yahweh—Yahweh is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth,  maintaining faithful love to a thousand ⌊generations⌋, forgiving wrongdoing, rebellion, and sin. But He will not leave ⌊the guilty⌋ unpunished, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ wrongdoing on the children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation.

How can God be gracious and slow to anger, but also punish the guilty? That answer came 2,000 years ago.

Jesus Christ came to earth, lived a perfect life, and then was killed by Israel. Much like Israel all gathered together and stoned Achan outside the camp, so also Jesus was murdered by Israel outside the camp. The primary difference being that Jesus never rebelled against God. Jesus never hid anything. Jesus never stole anything. Jesus never desired what was not His to desire. But He took the punishment that all of us Achans deserve so that if we would just believe in Him we would receive His perfection, and He would be credited with our lust, theft, and deceitfulness.

Have you believed in this marvelous Savior? If you’ve read this far, and you have yet to believe, I plead with you: place your faith in Him! Apart from Jesus’ salvation none of us are any better than Larry Nassar; sure, our lives might look better externally, but inside we’re still dead and full of WICKED sin potential. Please place your faith in Christ! He rose from the dead three days later to prove that He is who He claims He is! No other religion can claim that of their leader.

Just like Nassar was still sentenced, and Denhollander herself asked for a serious sentence to be handed down, so also our sins have consequences, even if we do believe in Christ. The consequences may not be as serious as Nassar’s punishment, but it is still punishment; and if you don’t believe in Christ, the most significant punishment you will receive is hell. I plead with you today: Trust Christ before it is too late!

I must draw our eyes to the last verse of our text today. After Achan and his belongings were destroyed, “the LORD turned from His burning anger” (7:26). When Jesus died on the cross, God poured out His burning anger on Him for three hours. At the end, Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30) to show that God’s wrath against His peoples’ sins had been satisfied. If you don’t place your faith in Christ, and you die that way, you—like Achan—will have to perish eternally in hell. Place your faith in Jesus to be spared the anger of God. He takes sin seriously; so should we!

In conclusion, I would be remiss if I did not tie in one more application and encouragement/rebuke. Depending on your position in these final paragraphs will determine how you understand it: rebuke or encouragement.

While we must take sin seriously in our lives, we are NOT called to go out and stone people who disobey God. We can’t even stone the people in our churches who don’t seem to be able to beat certain sins. (Even if we don’t like them, we can’t stone them.) If a person truly believes in Jesus they will still struggle with sin. Sure, certain sins should disappear over time (like certain Canaanite nations disappear over the course of the book of Joshua), but there will never be a day when a Christian is sinless—until he or she stands before Jesus. We are united to Christ now, much closer than Israel ever was united to God in the Old Testament, because His blood is more efficacious than that of bulls and goats (cf. Hebrews 10:4).

A true Christian doesn’t sin by saying, “Screw it! I hate God, and I want to do this sin, so no one better stop me.” Rather, it is more of an unintentional failure to pay close attention to how we walk (cf. 1 Timothy 4:16). If churches enact church discipline on people who are striving to be free from a sin, but are just failing to use every resource Christ has provided them, then these churches have an unhealthy and unbiblical view of unity and a false view of holiness.

However, as Israel was made incompetent to fight and win against Ai in our text today because of Achan’s sin, so also the church can be made impotent by rebellious sin being allowed and propogated. When a church denomination ordains homosexual elders and deacons it is rebelling against the clear word of God, and it is on its way to being judged. When a church denomination refuses to preach the Gospel and refuses to point exclusively to Christ as the answer, it is well on its way to being judged. When a denomination claims that all roads lead to heaven, it has lost the presence of God, and it is being judged.

We must see sin as God sees sin. In our lives it is often something that can be answered by self-control and reliance on Christ; but if it is not checked there, it can grow and infect the church as a whole until the church is made powerless in the world. This is why God always responded to sin quickly and decisively in the transitional periods of His people (Leviticus 10; Joshua 7; Acts 5). Let’s learn why He reacts like this and apply today’s text rightfully, by remembering the serious consequences of sin, and looking to Jesus as our only hope! He became Achan so we didn’t have to remain as Achans.

Solus Christus

Soli Deo Gloria

The next post can be found here.

 

[1] Today, I am going to attempt to keep this post as short as possible, while at the same time heavily touching on the primary point of the author. You can let me know how well I accomplish this in the comments below. Also, if there is something you would like more information on from the text of Joshua 7:1-26, leave a comment requesting it.

[2] Richard S. Hess, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries – Joshua, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Academic, 2011), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 161. The phrase is translated “lost heart” in 2:11 and 5:1 in the HCSB.

[3] David M. Howard, New American Commentary – Volume 5: Joshua, (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 1998), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 189.

[4] Eugene H. Merrill, “The Case for Moderate Discontinuity,” in Show Them No Mercy: four views on God and Canaanite Genocide (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003), 80.

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