God Takes Sin Seriously, So Should We
Passage: Joshua 7
Sunday, January 7, 2018
Pastor Trent Broussard
Last week, we watched as Joshua led Israel to a most improbable victory. The walls of Jericho were built to withstand any army and would have most assuredly survived an assault from Israel had not the Lord been on their side. The story is well known. Israel did exactly as the Lord instructed and the walls came down. The instruction once the walls came down was simple: save Rahab and those in her household and save all the gold, silver, bronze and iron for the treasury of the Lord. Everything else was to be utterly destroyed. No prisoners were to be given quarter and no bounty was to be taken by any soldier. By and large, this happened exactly as the Lord commanded. Almost everyone obeyed the Lord.
Achan’s Sin Affects Others
Joshua 7:1 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 is interesting that the Lord holds all of the people of Israel accountable for the sin of one man. Remember the command from Joshua 6:18: But you, keep yourselves from the things devoted to destruction, lest when you have devoted them you take any of the devoted things and make the camp of Israel a thing for destruction and bring trouble upon it. One man stole the things devoted for destruction, not the nation. But God holds all Israel responsible. Romans 5:12 says Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned. Just like in the Garden of Eden, when the sin of one man brought a curse upon all men, one man’s sin in Jericho brought the anger of the Lord upon the people of Israel. Achan’s sin brought the anger of the Lord upon all of Israel. Sin not only affects the sinner but everyone around them. Sin destroys community.
Sin Destroys Hope
Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth-aven, east of Bethel, and said to them, “Go up and spy out the land.” And the men went up and spied out Ai. 3 And they returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not have all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and attack Ai. Do not make the whole people toil up there, for they are few.” 4 So about three thousand men went up there from the people. And they fled before the men of Ai, 5 and the men of Ai killed about thirty-six of their men and chased them before the gate as far as Shebarim and struck them at the descent. And the hearts of the people melted and became as water.
Joshua doesn’t know about Achan’s sin. Joshua doesn’t know the Lord is angry; he is simply making a strategic decision based on good intelligence from his men. Israel should have easily defeated Ai, just as Jericho should have easily defeated Israel. But instead, 36 men are killed as the 3,000 Israelites turn and run from the army of Ai. And look what the Scripture says in Joshua 7:5: And the hearts of the people melted and became as water. Just a couple of chapters earlier it was the Canaanites whose hearts were melting as Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground: Joshua 5:1 …Canaanites who were by the sea, heard that the LORD had dried up the waters of the Jordan for the people of Israel until they had crossed over, their hearts melted…
The sin of one man destroyed the spirit of an entire people. The people who crossed the Jordan River on dry ground, the people who marched around Jericho, played trumpets, gave a shout and watched the walls fall down, were now without hope and fearful. Jim Hamilton writes: This episode demonstrates that Yahweh’s righteousness is not limited by his commitment to Israel. His commitment to them does not cause him to show an unjust favoritism toward his chosen people. When they sin he punishes them, showing the glory of his justice. Sin destroyed hope for Israel. Even though they were God’s chosen people, the effects of sin brought them to despair.
Sin Causes Grief
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.  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!  O Lord, what can I say, when Israel has turned their backs before their enemies!  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?”
Remember that only Achan sinned, but the whole nation is suffering and grieving. A defeated Israel mourns the loss of 36 men. They grieve, and Joshua understands that the Lord has done this. Joshua’s appeal is not based on Israel’s goodness or deserved standing. Israel has no goodness. They do not deserve any standing with the Lord. Joshua appeals to the reputation of the Lord; he appeals to God’s name and his character.
Without Faith, Man Cannot Please God
The LORD said to Joshua, “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face? 11 Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings. 12 Therefore the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies. They turn their backs before their enemies, because they have become devoted for destruction. I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you. 13 Get up! Consecrate the people and say, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow; for thus says the LORD, God of Israel, “There are devoted things in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the devoted things from among you.” 14 In the morning therefore you shall be brought near by your tribes. And the tribe that the LORD takes by lot shall come near by clans. And the clan that the LORD takes shall come near by households. And the household that the LORD takes shall come near man by man. 15 And he who is taken with the devoted things shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he has transgressed the covenant of the LORD, and because he has done an outrageous thing in Israel.’”
God does not allow Joshua to continue his mourning and questioning of God. Instead God gets right to the point: Israel has sinned. Note God does not say Achan has sinned, but Israel has sinned. For the sin of one man, the entire community was held accountable.
What was Achan’s sin? Yes, Achan took what God had forbidden, but the heart of Achan’s sin was unbelief. He did not believe that God would hold him accountable. He did not believe that God would even know that he had taken the items. He did not believe. This was the root of his sin. Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. Achan did not have faith, he did not believe, so the Scripture says it was impossible for Achan to please God.
God Is Not Mocked
So Joshua rose early in the morning and brought Israel near tribe by tribe, and the tribe of Judah was taken. 17 And he brought near the clans of Judah, and the clan of the Zerahites was taken. And he brought near the clan of the Zerahites man by man, and Zabdi was taken. 18 And he brought near his household man by man, and Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken. 19 Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the LORD God of Israel and give praise to him. And tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.” 20 And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and this is what I did: 21 when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”
Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. God did see Achan sin. God did know what Achan had done. God does what he says he will do.
God created perfection in the Garden of Eden, Adam sinned, and death was the penalty. Adam and Eve deserved immediate death, but God was merciful and promised redemption through their seed. God destroyed all the population of the earth save Noah and his family due to the wickedness of the people. When Noah left the ark, it was like a new opportunity in Eden, yet Noah sinned and man's downward spiral continued. Here in Canaan, God has brought his people victory and given them the land. This is a new opportunity, a fresh start for the people of God. The faithless generation was gone, yet the pattern of sin continues, this time through Achan. The truth is, man has failed at every opportunity he has been given to follow God, and the truth is that all are deserving of destruction.
Notice the progression of sin in 7:21: I saw…I coveted…I took…I hid. We see the same progression with David and his sin with Bathsheba in 2 Sam 11: He saw her that she was beautiful, he inquired about her (coveted), he took, and then he murdered her husband to conceal his sin. In case you may be thinking this is an Old Testament issue and does not matter today, consider James 1:14–15: But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
Sin Is Costly And Cannot Be Ignored
So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent; and behold, it was hidden in his tent with the silver underneath. 23 And they took them out of the tent and brought them to Joshua and to all the people of Israel. And they laid them down before the LORD. 24 And Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver and the cloak and the bar of gold, and his sons and daughters and his oxen and donkeys and sheep and his tent and all that he had. And they brought them up to the Valley of Achor. 25 And Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble on us? The LORD brings trouble on you today.” And all Israel stoned him with stones. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones. 26 And they raised over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day. Then the LORD turned from his burning anger. Therefore, to this day the name of that place is called the Valley of Achor.
Jim Hamilton writes:
We must not too easily pass over this. A man received the death penalty, and his family died with him, because he plundered a cloak from Shinar along with some silver and gold (Josh. 7:21). It is only the majesty of Yahweh that makes this just. For this to be just, the greatness of Yahweh must be such that trusting in what one can see, rather than what Yahweh has said, is a crime that warrants the forfeiture of life. The ancient Israelites were not a barbaric, bloodthirsty people, but Yahweh is a God whose holiness is a consuming fire. Achan himself gives “glory to God” and “praise to him” and confesses his sin against Yahweh (7:19–20). Israel is saved from Yahweh’s wrath through the judgment that falls on Achan. Yahweh is shown to be just and merciful, and the awful demands of holiness thunder transcendent greatness.
Consider the story of Uzzah the priest who was helping transport the Ark of the Covenant in an ox cart for David. The ark slipped and was falling. Uzzah reflexively put his hand onto the Ark to steady it and was immediately struck dead by the Lord for his disobedience. God had strict rules for the holy things of the Tabernacle. Not only was Uzzah forbidden to touch the Ark, he was forbidden to even look at it. RC Sproul writes:
He touched it anyway. He stretched out his hand and placed it on the ark, steadying it in place lest it fall to the ground. An act of holy heroism? No! It was an act of arrogance, a sin of presumption. Uzzah assumed that his hand was less polluted than the earth. But it wasn’t the ground or the mud that woiuld desecrate the ark; it was the touch of man. The earth is an obedient creature. It does what God tells it to do. It brings forth its yield in its season. It obeys the laws of nature that God established. When the temperature falls to a certain point, the ground freezes. When water is added to the dust, it becomes mud, just as God designed it. The ground doesn’t commit treason. There is nothing polluted about the ground.
God gave specific rules about the ark, and as a priest, Uzzah knew the rules but ignored them anyway, arrogantly assuming the ground was more defiling than he would be. God gave specific rules for the destruction of Jericho. Achan knew the rules, but ignored them, believing that either God was not serious, or that he could actually hide his sin from God. Either way, his sin ultimately was a sin of disbelief. He did not believe that God would do what God said he would do. This is not simply the way God worked in the Old Testament. Consider Acts 5:1–11, the story of Ananias and Sapphira:
But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2 and with his wife's knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles' feet. 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” 5 When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. 6 The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.
7 After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” 9 But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.
Sin is big deal. It was big deal for Achan and the nation of Israel and it is a big deal for you and me.
Truths for the passage:
1. Sin always destroys communion
- Between God and man
- Between peopl
2. God sees it all
- There is no secret sin.
- God is aware of everything that you have ever done.
3. Death is necessary to pay for sin
- Achan’s life and the lives of his immediate family members was the required payment for sin.
- Christ has died for our sins.
1. Since God is serious about sin, we should be too.
Just because we are forgiven in Christ does not mean we now have a license for sin. Romans 6:1-4
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
If we are walking in sin, we are not walking in newness of life. Why do you think Paul wrote this to the church at Corinth? 2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! Sin is serious. We cannot take it lightly or simply make excuses. God expects us to change. He has given us everything we need for life and for godliness. We need to take inventory of our lives and confess our sin and repent. Christ died for our sin. It is that serious. If it wasn’t serious, Christ didn’t need to die.
2. Forgiveness restores relationships.
We will see in the passage next week that after Israel dealt with the sin of Achan, God’s blessing returned. We confess our sin and repent, and our relationship with God is restored. Likewise, when we confess our sins to one another and repent, our relationships with one another can be restored. This is why we are given this command in Ephesians 4:32: Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture is from the English Standard Version (Crossway, 2008).
Hamilton Jr., James M. God's Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology. (Crossway, 2010).
Sproul, RC. The Holiness of God. (Tyndale, 1985).