4 The Sin of Achan
Joshua 7:1-12, 19-26
In our lesson today, we know there are some things that never fail to happen. If I throw this ball up in the air we can count that it will come back down because the law of gravity. There is a law of nature that never fails, for instance, if you put your finger in a flame, you will be burned. If you have even been burned, you know how careful you are afterward to keep away from the fire. You have learned your lesson.
There are some things that never fail to happen in God’s working. Just as surely as fire burns, so sin has its consequences. Sin affects not only the one who sins, but others as well. We will see that in our story today. It is a very sad story about a man who tried to hide his sin.
Have you ever had a real sore thumb—you banged it with a hammer and it got all inflamed and red. Didn’t you hurt all over? You couldn’t forget the pain so much that your whole body was affected. All who belong to the Lord Jesus are part of one big family, and when one of us sins, we hurt the whole family. We dishonor the Lord and we hurt other Christians as well.
But in our story today we learn about a man who did not believe God’s way was best, so he disobeyed God’s commands. The Bible says “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper.” (This means that the one who hides his sin shall not prosper.) When we sin, we need to confess our sin to God. (This means we should agree with God that we have not obeyed and that we have done wrong, because God’s way is always the right way.) We need to be convinced that God’s plan is always best. We can never have a plan that is as good as His plan, and when we disobey God’s command, that is sin.
When the children of Israel, led by Joshua, crossed over the Jordan River, there were thousands of them. They lived together as families, as we do, but each family lived in a tent instead of a house. All the families of one tribe camped together. When they marched, they rolled up their tents and carried them. When they stopped for the night they put up their tents.
Living in one of these tents was a man named Achan. Achan had marched with the other men around the walls of Jericho. He had seen the walls fall down when they shouted. He had gone with the other men into the city of Jericho to destroy it.
God had commanded them to destroy the entire city because it was so sinful. God had told Joshua, and Joshua had told the people just what they were to do. The Lord told Joshua that when the Israelites conquered Jericho they were to burn everything in the city that belonged to the people of Jericho except the silver, gold, brass, and iron. These they were to bring to the House of the Lord. Joshua had carefully instructed his soldiers, and every man knew that these were the orders. Achan was a soldier who disobeyed the orders and hid a beautiful garment, and some silver and gold in his tent. Achan felt sure no one else would find out about this.
Not long after this, Joshua sent spies to see about taking a city called Ai. Joshua must have been praying and seeking God’s will about how to conquer Jericho, but he did not pray about Ai as he did about Jericho. God had said all the land was theirs but they must TAKE it city by city. When the spies came back to report to Joshua what they had seen, they bragged and said the city was small with few people and that it would be easy for them to take it. They said it would not be necessary to send the whole army, only 2,000 or 3,000 could conquer the city of Ai.
So the Israelites went to war with 2,000 to 3,000 men and were chased back badly defeated, and 36 men died. When the soldiers returned to the children of Israel giving this report, Joshua was broken hearted. Joshua did not understand why his men were defeated when God had promised them the land. Joshua and the leaders of the people prayed and ask God why this trouble had happened. Joshua thought God had left them alone to fight their enemies. Coming right after the miraculous fall of Jericho, it was a terrible shock to Israel.
The Lord told Joshua that Israel had been defeated in battle because someone had disobeyed and hidden goods in their tent. God also said He would not be with them in battle until the goods were brought forth and the sin dealt with. God told Joshua, “Tell the people to cleanse themselves, and in the morning I will show them the thief.” Notice God said “in the morning” which meant God gave Achan a chance to come and confess his sin before “in the morning.” Achan should have immediately come and confessed his sin to Joshua, but he didn’t. He waited hoping no one would know he was the guilty one.
The next morning, the Lord helped Joshua discover the guilty man by having the leader of each tribe come before Joshua. The Bible tells us, “Be sure your sin will find you out.” (Numbers 32:23) The people came forward and it was discovered that the goods were in Achan’s tent. The Lord commanded that Achan and all that belonged to him be burned. So Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan, his sons and daughters, oxen, donkeys and all that belonged to him into a valley. The children of Israel stoned them and burned them with fire.
You might ask yourself “why did Achan’s whole family die when only Achan had sinned?” God punishes sin. Sin has consequences not only for ourselves but for others. Not only did Achan’s family die, but many families of Israel suffered because of his sin—when 36 men were killed in battle. But we should not question the counsel of God because God’s way is always right. God sees in hearts things we cannot see.
Do you think Achan remembered that God had said, “All gold, silver, and iron was to go to the tabernacle? Yes, I think he remembered, but it was only after he was caught, convicted, and condemned that he said, “I saw it, I wanted it, I took it, and I hid it.” The steps were the same in the first sin of mankind ever committed. Do you remember Eve saw the fruit, she desired it, and then she took it, and gave it to Adam? Isn’t that the way sin works for every single one of us? We see something, we want it—even if it’s not good for us, even if it’s something we’re not supposed to have, and so we take it.
So Achan thought that everything he had taken was put away so safely that no one else would ever see it. He forgot that nothing is ever hidden from God, and that God’s eyes are everywhere. God saw the gold, the silver, and the garment. But more than that, he saw Achan’s heart. In it he saw the sin of disobedience. Achan had not confessed his sin, but hid it. God saw the sin of stealing. He saw deceit, as well, for Achan pretended that he knew nothing about it. He saw the sin of murder, for it was because of Achan’s sin that the 36 soldiers died. God can never shut His eyes to sin. He did NOT see faith in Achan’s heart. Instead Achan went on in unbelief and disobedience, and this brought death to himself and his family and sorrow to all the nation. Because Achan’s sin was not hid from God, it was not hid from the people.
We each should ask ourselves “Am I ever out of God’s sight?”
Perhaps when Mom and Dad are not looking, you fight with your brother or sister. Or, you may have promised to keep a secret, but you whisper it to someone.
God knows about it already. If you know of something that you have done that is wrong, then you need to confess it to Him and ask Him to help you in this area.
God was teaching the children of Israel that He is a holy God and wants a holy people. The nations around the children of Israel knew that this was a mighty God, but now they knew He was a holy God.
This incident happened long before Jesus came to earth to be the Savior for sinners. But God does not change. He is an absolutely holy God and hates sin. He must punish sin, but He is also a loving God. On one hand His love desires to bless man. On the other hand, His holiness says, “I must judge sin.” How is it possible for the two to be brought together? God has devised a plan whereby people who are sinners may be brought into the presence of God and not be under Divine condemnation, and He has done this through Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ is God, and He is holy. When He died on the cross, He was taking the punishment for sins so that we could be forgiven. Jesus deserved no punishment for He had never sinned. You know after Jesus was buried, He didn’t stay in the tomb. The Bible tells us He came back to life. He is a LIVING Lord. “For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 NIV)
None of us deserves to go to God’s home in heaven when we die. We could never make ourselves good enough. If you have never admitted to God that you think and do things that displease Him, you can do this any time on your own. Perhaps when you are home from church, in your room when no one else is around you will want to bow your head and tell him that sometimes you don’t obey your parents, and sometimes you are envious of what others have. Tell Him that you know these thoughts and deeds have separated you from such a holy God. Then thank Him for sending His only Son, who lived without sin on this earth, and died on the cross for sinners.
Do you know that you are a sinner? Are you grateful
Christ went to the cross so that you can be forgiven?