Read: Joshua 7:1-26Dr. Karl Menniger wrote a book a few years ago entitled, “Whatever Became of Sin?” Dr. Menniger, a world-renowned psychiatrist, was lamenting the dangerous trend in society to become tolerant of all sorts of evil behavior. Sin was laughed at. Sin was commended. Sin was embraced. Sin was encouraged. This broad-based acceptance of evil was seen to have devastating effects on individuals, families, communities, countries, and the world. As long as sin was embraced and not eradicated, all civilization would be in peril. This account of “sin in the camp” is a powerful amen to Dr. Menniger’s thesis.
Israel had just won an amazing victory in conquering Jericho. Actually, God had won this victory. Their next battle would be against the small town of Ai. Joshua sent his spies to check out the area and the spies agreed that this battle would be a cakewalk! Joshua sent 3000 troops against the city. But to everyone’s surprise, the people of Ai soundly defeated Israel. The army of Israelites was routed and 36 men were killed. Joshua was devastated. He falls on his face before God and cries out in despair.(vs.7-9) God sternly tells Joshua to stand up and face the music...Israel has sinned. And sin was the cause of this terrible defeat.
Someone in the camp had directly and deliberately disobeyed God (6:18-19) by stealing a garment, gold, and silver and hiding it away. This hidden sin was the reason that Israel had lost the blessing and power of God resulting in defeat. And God ordered Joshua to deal with it right away. God did not specify who had sinned, but instructed Joshua to do something rather unusual. God would first identify the tribe, then the family, and then the individual men, and then the guilty man would be identified. There surely was a reason God chose to reveal the sinner in this manner. I believe God was giving Achan a chance to admit his sin before God had to bring it to light. Had he done so, I am of the opinion that God would have forgiven him and spared his life. Because Achan tried to hide his sin, the punishment was imposed.
After Achan was punished, a great heap of stones was raised up as a constant reminder of Achan’s sin and his tragic end. God wanted His people to long remember how much He hates our sin. After the sin had been dealt with, the battle against Ai resumed and God gave the victory. What would God desire that we learn from this account?
I. The Path toward Sin (Joshua 7:21)
II. The Pain of Sin (Joshua 7:4-11)
III. The Punishment for Sin (Joshua 7:23-25)
IV. The Purging of Sin (Joshua 7:26-8:25)
I. The Path toward Sin (Joshua 7:21)
A. Joshua confronts Achan and with sadness questions him about his sin
B. Achan then recounts the steps he took that led to this terrible time
1. “I saw”
a. What he saw appeared beautiful and desirable to him
b. And it no doubt was impressive. The Babylonian garment, the silver and the gold would be beautiful.
c. But he failed to see beyond the glitter. He failed to see these objects as God saw them. They were accursed things in the eyes of God.
d. Eve saw the forbidden fruit but didn’t see the disastrous consequences eating that fruit would unleash on the world.
e. David saw Bathsheba, but didn’t see the pain his sin would inflict.
f. Certainly, if we 20/20 vision, we are bound to see lots of things that are attractive or beautiful. That is not sin. But when we take the next step, we move to a slippery slope.
2. “I coveted”
a. The first glimpse of something can easily lead to “longing gazes”
b. When a person “covets” it means that he begins to fantasize about it. he hungers for it. He deeply desires it. It can become an overwhelming obsession. And the defenses against sin are weakened.
c. “You can’t keep a bird from flying over your head, but you can keep it from building a nest in your hair.” (Chinese Proverb)
1. When you allow your thoughts to dwell on something, not only will that bird build her nest; you’re about to get “egg on your face”.
d. It is in the thought life where all sin originates.
1. “Sow a thought. You will reap an action. Sow an action. You will reap a habit. Sow a habit. You will reap a lifetime. Sow a lifetime. You will reap an eternity.”
e. What was Achan thinking? We would have to speculate, but probably something like this went through his foolish mind.
1. “Babylonian threads! Classy outfit! Man, would the girls dig me in that! Designer label! I could never afford such an awesome suit of clothes on my salary! Who’s going to miss one garment? And while I’m at it, that gold and silver would be a nice addition to my bank account. I deserve a bonus for all my trouble. I’ve been marching around this city all week. We’ll consider this overtime pay.”
2. Maybe, he wasn’t so bold. Maybe he struggled before he stole. Maybe his thoughts were, “Would you look at that Babylonian garment? I have never had anything so fine. But God said that it was accursed and to leave it alone...So I’ll just leave it... But it looks just my size, like it was made for me! No. No. Joshua told us that God said to keep away from this stuff...But Joshua never has had a sense of style...What would be so bad about one fancy outfit? After all, our father, Joseph had a coat of many colors. So why shouldn’t I have one, too? I really shouldn’t...Nobody is looking. Nobody will know. One garment can’t hurt!”
3. “I took”
a. Once Achan became obsessed with taking the garment, the gold, and the silver, acting on that obsession was the natural next step.
b. Can you imagine the initial thrill he must have felt at that instant?
c. He was taking something strictly forbidden. He likely felt both elated that he possessed these things and frightened that someone might find out.
4. “I Hid”
a. Isn’t that ironic? He possessed this treasure and has to hide it all away!
b. By the time he will feel safe enough to wear his special garment, it will likely be moth eaten.
c. One of the sure signs that we have fallen into sin, is our eagerness to hide what we have done.
d. Saw an episode on coach when Coach Hayden Fox and Assistant Coach Dauber decide to purchase motorcycles. They had promised their wives they wouldn’t purchase them. But when they saw the bikes, they coveted the bikes, then they took the bikes, and went back to Hayden’s house and hid the bikes under the front porch.
e. The pathway of sin eventually leads to hiding. If you are hiding something in your life chances are, you have unconfessed sin in your life that needs to be eliminated before it does serious damage to you and yours.
II. The Pain of Sin (Joshua 7:4-11)
A. Sin never is a private matter.
1. Some would object: “Why did all of Israel suffer for Achan’s sin? That isn’t fair!”
2. That was precisely God’s point! Achan sinned but the entire 12 tribes would suffer because of it!
B. God had to teach Israel that sin has a way of hurting far more than the sinner.
1. The consequences of sin can harm countless others!
2. In this case 36 men of Israel died as a direct result of Achan’s sin
3. In the case of Adam and Eve, all creation continues to suffer
C. The shoplifter thinks, “What’s the big deal? This company is worth millions. They won’t miss one CD or one shirt or whatever”
1. But that act of shoplifting sets in motion a domino effect and everyone pays! Because of that act of shop lifting, the prices go up to pay the added costs for security measures and higher insurance rates and higher taxes to cover the cost of law enforcement. We all pay!
2. A corporate executive decides that they can make higher profits by cutting corners on the quality level of those tires. And he okays the manufacture of thousands of tires and they begin a pattern of blowouts and people are killed and seriously injured. Then someone investigates and the company hides until they are found out and profits tumble and deficits grow and employees lose their jobs and the domino continues.
3. Randy Downs foolishly decides that he can make extra money by making a drug delivery. He is promised $300. Just this one time and he sure could use that money. So he sees the money. He covets what is can buy. He takes the money. And isn’t able to hide. He is caught and the dominos fall!
He must pay legal fees far beyond that $300. His wife and children are humiliated and ashamed. His parents and brothers and sisters are drawn into the mess. He spends 3.5 years in prison. That amounts to 30,660 hours of his life for a net profit of $300. That amounts less than 1 cent per hour.
D. God was trying to teach Israel by Achan’s bad example that sin spreads like an epidemic and contaminates all it touches.
III. The Punishment for Sin (Joshua 7: 23-25)
A. We read about the severe punishment that was inflicted upon Achan and his family and it causes us to cringe. Sounds terribly cruel.
B. But God was trying to demonstrate to Israel how exceedingly bad sin is.
C. Frankly, this swift and serious punishment would likely be a deterrent to future crime.
D. God doesn’t always resort to such severe measures.
1. He killed Ananias and Sapphira for their lies in New Testament times
a. A good thing that isn’t God’s usual method or we would see politicians dropping like flies!.
E. Still, this severe punishment likely served the purpose to keep others from such disobedience AND it showed us just how serious God considers sin to be!
F. One reason that Jesus suffered and died by crucifixion was to emphasize the terrible problem of sin.
G. Understand all sin will be punished.
1. Either your sin will be punished on the cross
2. Or, you will be punished for it...Achan was stoned and then burned.
3. If you die in your sin, you will likewise die and then burn...but the flame is never quenched. God has issued His warning.
IV. The Purging of Sin
A. Once this sin was dealt with, Israel received the blessing and power of God.
B. They went back into battle and victory was won.
C. Spiritual victory will not be won so long as sin remains in our lives.
D. One of the most important keys to revival is to let the Lord cleanse us from sin.
1. “If my people which are called by my Name shall humble themselves and pray and seek my faceand turn from their wicked ways...then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and will heal their land.”
II Chron. 7:14
E. “If you will confess your sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” I John 1:9