Our story tonight is one of the most dramatic warnings of the seriousness and the far-reaching consequences of sin.
Joshua 7 But the Israelites acted unfaithfully in regard to the devoted things; Achan son of Carmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of them. So the LORD’s anger burned against Israel.
Normally after a battle the fighting men would be entitled to the spoils of war. This was the case for most of Israel’s battles as they took possession of the Promised Land. By the time the tribes separated and took up residence in their allocated portions of Canaan they would each amass vast fortunes of gold and silver and metal objects as well as clothing and livestock as plunder. But for Jericho God had given different instructions.
6 17 The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the LORD. …. 18 But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it. 19 All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the LORD and must go into his treasury.”
After Jericho was defeated, God had commanded that certain things – items of silver and gold and bronze and iron –were to be “devoted” to the Lord, set apart for God. Perhaps this was because Jericho was such a significant city – it was the gateway to Canaan. Perhaps it was to remind the Israelites that they had not had to lift a finger to bring down the walls of Jericho. God had given them the victory. And more than that, destroying the spoils of war would be symbolic of God’s judgment on the Canaanites and their worship of false gods. So when God brought down the walls of Jericho, this is what happened.
20 When the trumpets sounded, the people shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the people gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so every man charged straight in, and they took the city. 21 They devoted the city to the LORD and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.
….24 Then they burned the whole 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.
The whole of Jericho was devoted to God. But out of all the Israelites one man, with the knowledge of his family, Achan disobeyed God.
Joshua 7 But the Israelites acted unfaithfully in regard to the devoted things; Achan son of Carmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of them.
When Joshua confronted Achan, here was his confession.
20 Achan replied, “It is true! I have sinned against the LORD, the God of Israel. This is what I have done: 21 When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”
The name of Achan itself means trouble. Achan would go down in history as the man who brought trouble on Israel by violating the ban on taking devoted things. Not only was this an act of direct disobedience to God’s specific command. It was an act of selfishness and greed. Even more than that, Achan robbed God of what was rightfully His. Not only did he rob God of the spoils of war but also of the glory which was due to the name of the Lord for bringing down those walls of Jericho. Joshua 7:1 tells us that this was an act of unfaithfulness and so the Lord’s anger burned against the whole of Israel..
I am sure Achan thought his sin wouldn’t matter. He kept it secret. He buried the loot under the tent where nobody would find it. But his theft was much more serious than that! Achan put his personal happiness above the glory of God and the welfare of the whole nation and God was angry! In many ways Achan’s attitude was no different from the attitudes of many people today. They think their own happiness is more important than anything else, more important than other people, more important than God. They rob God of what is rightfully His,
Even Christians can fall into this trap. If ever we think that the most important thing in life is for me to be happy and that God is only there to make me happy. If ever we think that compromise doesn’t matter, that God doesn’t care about our little sins as long as nobody else finds out about them.
The fact is that true happiness does not come from riches or possessions, or popularity or success or any of the things which this materialistic world chases after. True happiness only comes from knowing God. Yes, God wants us to be happy, but more than that God wants us to be HOLY! Consecrated. Set apart for Him. That is the only way to real happiness!
A. W. Tozer said “The true Christian ideal is not to be happy but to be holy.”
Oswald Chambers. “The destined end of man is not happiness, nor health, but holiness. God’s one aim is the production of saints. He is not an eternal blessing machine for men; he did not come to save men out of pity; he came to save men because he had created them to be holy.”
Achan thought he could get away with his dishonesty and greed. But all sin has
2 Now Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth Aven to the east of Bethel, and told them, “Go up and spy out the region.” So the men went up and spied out Ai.
3 When they returned to Joshua, they said, “Not all the people will have to go up against Ai. Send two or three thousand men to take it and do not weary all the people, for only a few men are there.” 4 So about three thousand men went up; but they were routed by the men of Ai, 5 who killed about thirty-six of them. They chased the Israelites from the city gate as far as the stone quarries and struck them down on the slopes. At this the hearts of the people melted and became like water.
What should have been an easy victory for the Israelites at Ai became a humiliating defeat. Some preachers say that this was because the Israelites had failed to consult God about the battle of Ai. Some preachers say that the Israelites were overconfident or that they weren’t trusting in God as they should have been. All of these suggestions completely miss the point.
Joshua 22:20 says this. 20 When Achan son of Zerah acted unfaithfully regarding the devoted things, did not wrath come upon the whole community of Israel? He was not the only one who died for his sin.’ ”
The disastrous defeat at Ai was due entirely to the sin of one man, Achan! It was his action which stirred God’s anger and brought suffering to the whole nation.
10 The LORD said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? 11 Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. 12 That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.
Did you notice how God Himself says that it is the nation of Israel who have sinned, even though it will come to light that it was only one man, Achan. But because of that one man’s sin, God withdrew his blessing from the whole nation. This will not always be the case. But this story is a solemn warning that even secret sins can have spiritual consequences, not just for the individual but for the whole community. Remember what the apostle Paul teaches us about the church as the body of Christ.
1 Corinthians 12 12 The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. …. 14 Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. …. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 27
The actions of an individual Christian can have an enormous impact on the whole body. This isn’t just the case when prominent televangelists or senior clerics are accused of immorality. The actions of any one of us can affect the whole church.
We may think our sins are secret. But God sees everything. And listen to these words of Jesus.
Luke 12:1 …. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 3 What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.
Our secret sins not only bring God’s anger on us, but can affect His church as well!
Ultimately of course it was Achan and his family, who must have been in on what was going on, who had to face the consequences of his sin.
God said 15 He who is caught with the devoted things shall be destroyed by fire, along with all that belongs to him. He has violated the covenant of the LORD and has done a disgraceful thing in Israel!’ ”
And so it was that Achan was identified as the person responsible for Israel’s failure.
22 So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent, and there it was, hidden in his tent, with the silver underneath. 23 They took the things from the tent, brought them to Joshua and all the Israelites and spread them out before the LORD.
24 Then Joshua, together with all Israel, took Achan son of Zerah, the silver, the robe, the gold wedge, his sons and daughters, his cattle, donkeys and sheep, his tent and all that he had, to the Valley of Achor. 25 Joshua said, “Why have you brought this trouble on us? The LORD will bring trouble on you today.”
Then all Israel stoned him, and after they had stoned the rest, they burned them. 26 Over Achan they heaped up a large pile of rocks, which remains to this day. Then the LORD turned from his fierce anger. Therefore that place has been called the Valley of Achor ever since.
This story, like the story of Ananias and Sapphira lying to the apostles in Acts 5, remains a solemn warning of the seriousness of sin and the importance of holiness. Its message to everyone is simple.
Joshua 713 “Go, consecrate the people. Tell them, ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow; for this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: That which is devoted is among you, O Israel. You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove it.
Make yourselves holy. Set yourselves apart for God. We find the same call in so many places in Scripture.
1 Peter 113 Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
Heb 1214 Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord
I preached a couple of years ago on that saying of the 19th century Scottish preacher Robert Murray McCheyne who said “The greatest need of our church is … my personal holiness.” It was McCheyne’s famous prayer, “Make me as holy as a saved sinner can be.” Personal holiness is not just for super-keen Christians .We are ALL called to be saints – to be holy people!
Matthew 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
4th century St John Chrysostom (C. 347–407)
“If only ten among us be righteous, the ten will become twenty, the twenty fifty, the fifty a hundred, the hundred a thousand, and the thousand will become the entire city. As when ten lamps are kindled, a whole house may easily be filled with light; so it is with the progress of spiritual things. If but ten among us lead a holy life, we shall kindle a fire which shall light up the entire city.”
To be consecrated means to be holy, set apart for God, dedicated to God, sold out for God. It is up to each one of us how holy we are. Every Christian is as holy as he or she wants to be. We may not be as holy as we would like to be, or as we pretend to be to other people or even to ourselves. None of us is as holy as God longs for us to become. But every Christian is as holy as he or she wants to be. The church can’t make us holy. Home Groups can’t make us holy. Fellowship with other Christians can’t make us holy. The church can help! Home Groups can help! Fellowship with other Christians can help! Every Christian is as holy as he or she wants to be.
2 Timothy 2:19 “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.” 20 In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. 21 If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.
The biography of the great American evangelist D.L.Moody contains an inspiring story. In the summer of 1872 near Dublin, Ireland, Moody met with the prominent British evangelist Henry Varley. As they were talking Varley made a throw away remark, but the Holy Spirit took that remark and burned it into the heart & mind of D.L. Moody. It was a remark that affected him for the rest of his life. This is how Moody recorded it in his diary:
“ ‘The world has yet to see what God can do with and for and through a man who is fully and wholly consecrated to Him.’ … A man! Varley meant any man. Varley didn’t say he had to be educated, or brilliant, or anything else. Just a man. Well, by the Holy Spirit in me I’ll be that man!”
Consecrate yourselves. ‘The world has yet to see what God can do with and for and through a man who is fully and wholly consecrated to Him.’