“But the Israelites were unfaithful in regard to the devoted things; Achan son of Karmi, 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.” (7:1).
Joshua and the people of Israel have just experienced great victory over Jericho. But the thrill of victory is so quickly replaced by the agony of defeat. Thirty-six men were dead, and the army is frightened. Joshua is confused, puzzled, and feels forsaken. Where is God’s promise (1:9) in all this?
But you see, there is secret sin in the camp. The summary of Achan’s confession is this: “I saw. I coveted. I took. I hid.” Achan has stolen, and not even from man, but from God Himself! And something else, friend: sin cannot be hidden from God. Sadly, sin is never a private matter. God tells Joshua, “I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction” (7:12).
I can confidently say that Achan was among those who were circumcised in chapter 5, and among those who witnessed the crossing of the Jordan on dry ground. What went wrong? Being “churched” and knowing the right Christian slogans doesn’t keep us from sinning.
There must have been an unaddressed passion that turned deadly. Falling away from faith is a slow defection rather than an abrupt departure. Character cannot be summoned at a moment of crisis if we have squandered it over the years. Those hundreds of seemingly insignificant, courageously-correct decisions made in private mold the character that plants victory at the middle of our battleground.
Victory comes only when we deal with sin. In Joshua 8:1 we read, “Then the Lord said to Joshua: ‘Do not be afraid, nor be dismayed; take all the people of war with you, and arise, go up to Ai. See, I have given into your hand the king of Ai, his people, his city, and his land.’” And in 8:28 the Bible states “So Joshua burned Ai and made it a permanent heap of ruins, a desolate place to this day.”
Achan may have thought that his sin affected only him. Yet when Joshua went before the Lord to find out why his army had been defeated at Ai, God said, “Israel sinned.” Achan’s sin caused grief to Joshua (7:6-7), to the families of the 36 men struck down at Ai (7:5), and especially to his own family (7:24-25). Achan’s sin not only hurt him, but everyone around him. Sin is deadly! This is not one of the popular topics today! The truth is, however, there are many secret sins among believers that if not addressed will destroy not only the sinner, but also their family, church, and nation.
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