Slippery Slopes to Sin
N°6. Lessons from Joshua.
"But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the LORD burned against the people of Israel."
It was so inviting. No-
As the Israelites had crossed the Jordan to enter into the Promised Land they did so with promises of success ringing in their ears. All they had to do was do things the LORD’s way and in doing so they would enjoy success. The LORD too would be honoured for the inhabitants of the land had already heard what he had done for Israel and they knew he was with his people.
Now we must be careful not to make the events that we are about to consider say too much.
Yes, it is true that the Bible generally teaches that obedience leads to reward whereas disobedience or rebellion leads to loss.
No, it is not true to argue that wickedness is always quickly punished or that obedience is always quickly rewarded.
Our time frame is often very different from the LORD’s. Even here in this episode there are great differences.
The wickedness of the nations about to be destroyed had been building for a very long time. God had spoken to Abraham about their wickedness more than 400 years previously and their wickedness was only now completed in God’s sight leading to their destruction.
On the other the disobedience of one man meets its consequences in just a matter of a few days.
If we don’t keep this in mind we may be tempted to think that wickedness and disobedience don’t matter that much because we see the wicked prospering.
If we don’t keep this in mind we may be tempted to think obedience is pointless when we see that the righteous don’t immediately gain their anticipated reward.
With those provisos in place what can the Jericho incident and its aftermath teach us today?
It was so inviting...
Yes, it was so inviting. No-
He had been involved with his fellow Israelites in winning the battle of Jericho.
When the LORD caused the walls to suddenly collapse the Israelites had rushed into the city quickly securing victory. According to the instructions they had received they were careful to devote everything to destruction – no plunder was to be taken and the only things spared were the precious metals which were brought into the LORD’s treasury. In this way the people acknowledged that what they had achieved was not due to their own skill and prowess but to the Lord who gave the victory.
But there it was. It was so inviting. A Savile Row suit and some gold and silver. It was the chance of a lifetime. He’d never seen anything quite like it and no-
And so Achan gave way to temptation. The clothing was sumptuous and surely the gold and silver would come in very handy some day soon. Yes, he knew the instructions the LORD had given about personal plunder but he was sure he could get away with it, no-
When the day begun I doubt very much that Achan set out with settled plans to disobey the LORD – that’s not normally the way things happen – but when the opportunity presented itself he found himself in the grip of lust and desire.
A new era was about to open up for the Israelites and to have something put away would surely come in handy. It wouldn’t be long and the whole country would be theirs, there would be spoils all round and no-
So he took what he saw and hid it away.
I wonder if any of his family knew what he had done. Did they wonder about the activity in his tent as he dug his hiding place for his ill-
Did Achan really convince himself that he had got away with it? Men and women often imagine that they have:
a secret liaison with someone else’s husband or wife
a hand in the till and a falsifying of the accounts
a sly slipping of a drug into the drink and that first date turns into a date-
a misjudgement outside the supermarket, a dent in someone else’s car, and a hasty move to park on the other side of the car park
You see there are always consequences that follow sin not least because does God see and is offended. Some folk of course ridicule such an idea. They maintain that the wicked never seem to get their comeuppance and get away with blue murder and it is true some folk "do get away with it for a long time". However the NT is unequivocal. Even if men might escape the consequences of their sin in this life there is a reckoning coming:
"it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment," (Heb 9:27)
The episode we are considering isn’t one of those cases. This particular episode is one in which the consequences are quasi-
Winning the battle of Jericho did not mean that the conquest of the Promised was complete – Jericho was the first, the beginning and other cities would need to be taken one by one.
The next city in line was more of a hilltop town really: it was called Ai. It wasn’t very significant or impressive and the Israelites thought it would be a push-
In the event, Ai marked a defeat and this caused Joshua, the leader of the Israelites, grave anxiety. The battle was lost and it was a loss that included 36 fatalities on the Israelite side. But Achan, who was responsible for the LORD not enabling the people of Israel to stand before their enemies, was not one of those 36 killed in the skirmish.
Could there be any clearer indication of the seriousness of sin? The consequences of Achan’s sinful disobedience included the death of innocent third parties!
Now, I very much doubt whether the immediate consequences of your sin or mine will be quite so dramatic, quite so stark, but let us consider this a little more closely.
The first and most serious consequence of Achan’s sin was that it offended God. Thus offended the LORD ceased from blessing his people. Sadly, so many of us are not overly bothered about offending him and go on as though we can sin with impunity. But could it be that the very complacency with regard to sin found amongst Christians today is causing the LORD to withhold his blessing from the UK? Or in our church here at Sunnyhill?
Joshua and the other leaders were devastated by the defeat and they responded by humbling themselves before God as they desperately sought to understand what had happened and what was going on.
The LORD’s answer was a simple one and the remedy proposed straightforward. Sin was in his people’s camp and just had to be dealt with; blessing in the form of victory would not come again until it was.
And so the guilty party had to be flushed out. Sadly, as the procedure progressed, Achan showed no sign of repentance. In fact he will only ‘own up’ to what he had done when he had been singled out and identified – he simply couldn’t try to bluff it out any longer.
Achan’s secret sin, which lay behind the death of 36 of his compatriots, is about to be personally repaid in full. Achan is about to lose his own life – after all, the wages of sin is death.
However if you know your NT well you’ll recognise that verse to which I’ve just referred. You’ll know it is Rom.6:23 and you’ll too that I haven’t quoted the whole verse: it continues with "but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Achan had been drawn in by his lust and desire for material possessions and he hadn’t given a second thought to anything other than his own personal self-
He had tried to hide what he had done and only admits his fault when forced into the open and can do nothing else. No repentance, not a hint of it, and he forfeits everything he has – he loses his possessions, his family and his own life too.
Let’s try to make sure that we don’t following his footsteps. His particular sin was covetousness ignited by envy and lust and then compounded with deception and deceit.
We too can be tempted by an inordinate desire to possess things that are not ours and we too can seek to cover our tracks as we too operate in dishonest ways. But it is not just covetousness that can be hidden away – any sinner can be compounded with the additional sin of the cover-
Let’s try to avoid doing what Achan did.
But if and when we do slip up and fall into sin the worst way to respond is to follow Achan into trying to cover up what we’ve done.
We mustn’t hide try to our sin from God – a futile task.
We mustn’t try to bluff our way out
We must instead follow the clear teaching of the NT:
Achan’s example shows us in a vivid manner some of the effects of sin. John’s teaching in the NT, following the coming of the Saviour Jesus Christ, shows us that there is "a way back to God from the dark paths of sin." So let us be sure to take it.