The Book of Joshua Series
Conquering the Land
Last Sunday, Pastor Brian preached on the fall of Jericho. As you might remember before raid upon Jericho, Joshua gave the command not take any of the spoils from the city because everything in Jericho had all been “devoted to destruction.” Before the Lord caused walls of Jericho to collapse, Joshua told the people “But as for you, only keep yourselves from the things under the ban, so that you do not covet them
and take some of the things under the ban, and make the camp of Israel accursed and bring trouble on it.” (6.19) After circling the city for seven days and seven times on the seventh day Joshua commanded the people to shout, the priest blew their trumpets, and the walls of Jericho fell flat to the ground. The people rushed the city utterly destroying everything in it. (6.20-21)
But the people of Israel broke the ban 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. (7.1)
Israel Has Sinned
During the raid upon Jericho, a man by the name of Achan, from the tribe of Judah, ignored the command of the Lord and took some of the spoils from Jericho in defiance to the Lord’s command. No one knew about his actions but because of Achan’s sin, the Lords anger burned against Israel. (7.1) Now Achan was the one who sinned, and the Lord knows this, but still He calls the issue at hand not Achan’s sin but Israel’s sin. Later in the chapter the Lord will say, Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. And they have even taken some of the things under the ban and have both stolen and deceived. Moreover, they have also put them among their own things. (7.11)
Israel Has Sinned
Why? Well the reason is because all of Israel was in a covenant with the Lord, and if any single person broke covenant it affected the whole, everyone, and damaged the relationship as a whole. The Bible tells us, “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” (ICor.12.26) Even though we often consider this verse with the idea of caring for one another, the reality is that this verse comes in the context of teaching us that we are one body with many members. (ICor.12.20) As American we pride ourselves for our independence but as Christians we are one body. Thus it is also true that we are only as strong as our weakest link! When I played football and one player went offside or caused a penalty it wasn’t only one player who was doing pushups or running sprints, it was the whole team! Thus we see the same with God’s people, all were in covenant with the Lord and when one link broke it damages the whole.
So unassumingly, the nation of Israel continues on with their conquest of the land and the next destination is the City of Ai.
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. 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.” So about three thousand men went up there from the people. And they fled before the men of Ai, 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. (7.2-5)
The Need for Spiritual Examination
Ai compared to Jericho should be considered a cakewalk for Israel. We see that not even the whole army was needed to defeat Ai. But Israel looses the battle and the Scripture says that their hearts became like water because they became so fearful. This is a battle that they should have easily had victory in! How is this possible? The battle wasn’t even close. In fact it was a landslide victory for Ai. The fact is that the Israelites had every reason to be fearful but not because of Ai. They should be fearful because they were waging battles without the Lord. Of course, they didn’t know this at the time of their lost but they will soon understand.
The Psalmist tells us, “Had it not been the Lord who was on our side when men rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us alive.” (Ps.124.2-3a) And this is what happen at Ai. The Lord was not with them. The book of First Samuel tells a story about an Old Testament priest named Eli who had two wayward sons who died in battle. The lost gave the enemy the opportunity to take the Ark of the Covenant. As we have seen in the crossing of the Jordan and the fall of Jericho the Ark of the Covenant symbolized the Lord’s presence among His people. When Eli, the priest, heard the terrible news that the Ark of the Covenant had been taken he fell backward off his chair, broke his neck, and dies. The wife of one of the sons who lost in battle was pregnant and when she heard the news went into labor and bore a son. “And she named the child Ichabod, saying, ‘The glory has departed from Israel!’ because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband. And she said, ‘The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.’” (ISam.4.21-22)
The Need for Spiritual Examination
Brothers and sisters, as we progress in our spiritual journey we need to periodically examine our lives to see if the Lord is at our side or if the glory has departed. We need to seek the Lord saying, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (Ps.139.23-24) This is the truth for us brothers and sisters, that unless God is with us in our battles, we have no reason to expect victory. We serve a God who not only has won the ultimate battle for our salvation but He is intimately involved within the struggles of our lives, and we can expect victory when He is with us.
When Joshua hear about the defeat to Ai and the lost of thirty-six soldiers, “Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until the evening, both he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust on their heads. Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord God, why did You ever bring this people over the Jordan, only to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? If only we had been willing to dwell beyond the Jordan! O Lord, what can I say since Israel has turned their back before their enemies? For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it, and they will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will You do for Your great name?” So the Lord said to Joshua, “Rise up! Why is it that you have fallen on your face? Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. And they have even taken some of the things under the ban and have both stolen and deceived. Moreover, they have also put them among their own things. (7.6-11)
Sin Has Consequences
The reason that Israel lost against Ai was simply due to the fact that they sinned against the Lord, and God truly hates sin. So the Lord rebuked Israel and brought punishment. The Psalms declare, “For You are not a God who delights in wickedness;
evil may not dwell with You.” (Ps.5.4) We can see here that the Lord does not tolerate sin, why? Because He is Holy! Sin is everything that the Lord does not stand for, and just how He hated when Israel sinned against Him so He hates when we sin against Him.
What Israel did, was the equivalent of spitting in our Lords face and cursing Him. And when we sin against Him that is exactly what we are doing as well. A man by the name of Paul Washer equated sin to this- “Picture God on the day of creation telling the stars to go toward their designated spot in the heavens and they bow down and obey Him. He declares the mountains to be lifted up and the valleys to be casted down and they bow down in worship, and declares toward the brave sea that it will come to this point and come no further and the sea adores. But when God commands you, you look Him straight in the face and you curse Him and tell Him no.” Brothers and sisters, our God is not a spiritual Ogre seeking for someone to punish. Our God is a heavenly Father who disciplines His children. He disciplines us for our good that we may share in His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. (Heb.12.10-11)
Joshua laments over the lost at Ai and expresses to the Lord his true feelings. (7.6-9) We never need to be ashamed to tell God how we feel. Brothers and sisters be encouraged God never fails. We fail but God remains faithful even in our failures! We see in the Lord’s response that He tells Joshua precisely the reason for this failure at Ai. He tells Joshua the reason for this defeat and rebukes Israel for their has sinned against Him.
Now that Joshua has been confronted with the truth about the sin of the people it is clear that Israel lost against Ai. Israel lost not because of a failed plan or lack of power. Israel was justly handed the rebuke given toward them because they sinned against the Lord. (7.10-12)
We Deserve God’s Punishment
This is the truth for Israel, and it is the truth for us today, that just as Israel deserved the bad consequence and rebuke that came their way, so do we. The reality is that just as Israel had sinned against the Lord, so have we and we deserve of any calamity, rebuke, or loss that comes our way us. Our attitude ought to be like the thief who was being crucified next to our Lord declared, “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve.” (Lk.23.41)
I realized that this is not the happiest chapter in the Bible but I have some good news for you. My sin is greater than I ever thought but the Gospel is greater that I ever imagined! The only thing I bring to God is my sin, which makes the Gospel most necessary. We know that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God! We deserve God’s displeasure but we thank Him for His sovereign mercy through Christ.
But it is in this reality, that the Gospel shines bright, just as the stars shine brightest in the darkest of nights so the Gospel shines brightest when we see the truth of our corruption.
The Lord tells Joshua, Therefore the sons of Israel cannot stand before their enemies; they turn their backs before their enemies, for they have become accursed. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy the things under the ban from your midst. Rise up! Consecrate the people and say, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, for thus the Lord, the God of Israel, has said, “There are things under the ban in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you have removed the things under the ban from your midst.” In the morning then you shall come near by your tribes. And it shall be that the tribe which the Lord takes by lot shall come near by families, and the family which the Lord takes shall come near by households, and the household which the Lord takes shall come near man by man. It shall be that the one who is taken with the things under the ban shall be burned with fire, he and all that belongs to him, because he has transgressed the covenant of the Lord, and because he has committed a disgraceful thing in Israel.’” (7.12-15)
Your Sin Will Find You Out
The Lord reveals to Joshua the way to find out who among them had committed thi sin against the Lord. As Joshua follows the Lord’s plan to uncovering the sinner we see that it is finally revealed that it is Achan from the tribe of Judah the culprit of sin.
The Lord has this unique ability as shown here to always reveal sin. Achan’s sin was hidden from the rest of the people, only he knew of his sin, yet we see that the Lord revealed his sin toward the nation. But more importantly, we see that Achan’s sin found Him out.
The Bible tells us, “your sin will find you out.” (Num.32.23b) Now what I mean by Achan’s sin has found Him out is not necessarily the fact that the whole nation of Israel found out about his sin, of course they did, but what I want to point out is the fact that whether or not your sin is discovered by the anyone else, your sin will discover you. What happens in Vegas – stays in Vegas – isn’t necessarily true.
You cannot run from the consequences of sin. You cannot tame sin or make it your ally. It is evil and it will bring you to your knees as a slave with dire consequences. No matter how safe you think you are, the one who toys willingly with sin, will soon become its slave and bear the consequences of it. Just as Achan’s sin found Him out, so is the same with us today that our sin always finds us out. It discovers us.
So Achan answered Joshua and said, “Truly, I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel, and this is what I did: 21 when I saw among the spoil a beautiful mantle from Shinar and two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold fifty shekels in weight, then I coveted them and took them; and behold, they are concealed in the earth inside my tent with the silver underneath it.” (7.20-21)
Brothers and sisters, Achan’s sin was deeper than stealing a beautiful mantle from Shinar and two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold fifty shekels. The Apostle James tells us that each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. (Js.1.14-15) Achan coveted the physical desires of treasure more so than the heavenly treasure of the Lord’s Law! Is there anything within our hearts today that we are desire more than to honor the Lord?
Achan sought to convince himself that God’s word said wasn’t really true. “God really won’t be upset about my sinning against His commands.” “God won’t be upset with me doing everything contrary toward His word.” But Achan wasn’t just lying to the people of Israel. He was lying to himself. God’s word is holy and inspired and it is His direction toward us and to compromise His word to compromise the rule and reign of God in our lives.
Lastly we see that Achan sought to conceal and hide his sin. This is the sad reality of all of us here today is that we hide our sin! We seek to conceal our shortcomings before the Lord in the same way a child hides evidence that he had his hand in the cookie jar! It takes a miraculous work of God in order to reveal and show us the sin we hide.
I believe that the Lord can use this situation with Achan to help us see that as we progress in our spiritual conquest in Christ we should be people who allow the Lord to search our hearts to discover if we are coveting, compromising, and concealing.
We must be cautious in trying to apply Achan’s sin and punishment directly to Christians today. Achan and the people of Israel were under a ban that was commanded by the Lord. And we see the Lord’s use of the ban ended after the conquest of the land. So, the ban and the consequences of disobeying it don’t apply to Christians today. But we can certainly see biblical principles that do apply to us today.
Basically, the Lord doesn’t want us to go the way of Achan by coveting things outside of His word, composing His commands in our lives, and concealing the sin. The Lord is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (2Pt.3.9) True repentance comes as we confess our sin to God, acknowledge His sovereign mercy, and embrace the good news of forgiveness through Jesus Christ freely offered to us in the gospel. And I would ask that we all seek true repentance today.
One last point I want to make this morning. I want you to notice that Achan from the tribe of Judah. Achan failed miserably but God would send another from the tribe of Judah to take our punishment, to endure God’s wrath, so that we would stand be forgiven. And that One from the tribe of Judah is the Lord Jesus Christ. All of us like sheep have gone astray. Each has turned to your own way. But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall upon Him. (Is.53.6)
Achan represents everything that it illegitimate and wrong within our nature. The fact is, we are a lot more similar toward Achan than we may even want to admit. But as I stated before, we must understand the depths of our depravity, so the Gospel can shine brighter than ever.
We must understand that yes, I have sinned in more ways than I comprehend. I have coveted, I have compromised on His word, I have concealed, and I have gone against the Lord and spat in His face. But thanks be to God that even though Achan from the tribe of Judah failed, Jesus Christ the perfect one from the tribe of Judah has succeeded forever and ever. Amen!