So the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame spread throughout the land.
But the Israelites acted unfaithfully in regard to the devoted things; Achan son of Carmi, 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.
Now Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth Aven to the east of Bethel, and told them, “Go up and spy out the region.” So the men went up and spied out Ai.
When they returned to Joshua, they said, “Not all the people will have to go up against Ai. Send two or three thousand men to take it and do not weary all the people, for only a few men are there.” So about three thousand men went up; but they were routed by the men of Ai, who killed about thirty- six of them. They chased the Israelites from the city gate as far as the stone quarries and struck them down on the slopes. At this the hearts of the people melted and became like water.
Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell facedown to the ground before the ark of the Lord, remaining there till evening. The elders of Israel did the same, and sprinkled dust on their heads. And Joshua said, “Ah, Sovereign Lord, why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us? If only we had been content to stay on the other side of the Jordan! O Lord, what can I say, now that Israel has been routed by its enemies? The Canaanites and the other people of the country will hear about this and they will surround us and wipe out our name from the earth. What then will you do for your own great name?”
The Lord said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.
“Go, consecrate the people. Tell them, ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow; for this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says:That which is devoted is among you, O Israel. You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove it.
” ‘In the morning, present yourselves tribe by tribe. The tribe that the Lord takes shall come forward clan by clan; the clan that the Lord takes shall come forward family by family; and the family that the Lord takes shall come forward man by man. He who is caught with the devoted things shall be destroyed by fire, along with all that belongs to him. He has violated the covenant of the Lord and has done a disgraceful thing in Israel! ‘”
Early the next morning Joshua had Israel come forward by tribes, and Judah was taken. The clans of Judah came forward, and he took the Zerahites. He had the clan of the Zerahites come forward by families, and Zimri was taken. Joshua had his family come forward man by man, and Achan son of Carmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken.
Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel, and give him the praise. Tell me what you have done; do not hide it from me.”
Achan replied, “It is true! I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel. This is what I have done: When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”
So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent, and there it was, hidden in his tent, with the silver underneath. They took the things from the tent, brought them to Joshua and all the Israelites and spread them out before the Lord.
Then Joshua, together with all Israel, took Achan son of Zerah, the silver, the robe, the gold wedge, his sons and daughters, his cattle, donkeys and sheep, his tent and all that he had, to the Valley of Achor. Joshua said, “Why have you brought this trouble on us? The Lord will bring trouble on you today.”
Then all Israel stoned him, and after they had stoned the rest, they burned them. Over Achan they heaped up a large pile of rocks, which remains to this day. Then the Lord turned from his fierce anger. Therefore that place has been called the Valley of Achor ever since.
Again, the Scripture is rich with truth. I would love to take the time to go through this in depth but for the sake of this devotional, I will not. But I am going to take the time to consider the great violence here demanded by God. Out of an entire city full of riches, Achan stole just a few things. Yes, he was commanded to not take anything. He willingly disobeyed, but this just seems like such a harsh punishment. And what about his family and his children. And I have to also bring up Jericho where the Lord commanded the Israelites to kill everyone. I know that many, as I did at one time, have read this passage and other Old Testament passages like this and wondered why. Why did God call for Achan to die? After all, doesn’t the Ten Commandments teach us not to kill? I know that this is a source of confusion for so many people so we must not ignore this.
Was the Lord being exceedingly merciless with Achan and his family or was the Lord exceedingly merciful with everyone else. The Scripture tells us that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). And all of us have sinned (Romans 3:23). Therefore, do we not all deserve death upon our first sin? I know that seems harsh, but the moment I knowingly disobey what I know to be God’s desires, I deserve death. I deserve death on Earth and death for eternity. And so does every person ever born including all of these characters in Scripture. Some may say that God should not have punished those who did not know Him. That would really seem unfair. Yet the Lord says that He accepts men from every nation that fear (reverence) Him and do what is right (Acts 10:34). The Lord has also given us a conscience so that every society has judged between right and wrong even if they did not know who God was (Romans 2:14). God revealed Himself through nature that man would reverence Him and God revealed His will by giving all men a conscience to know right from wrong. And those who have never heard of God still receive mercy if they fear the Lord and do what is right. Because the Lord does not change, though we learn these principles in the New Testament, we must believe that God gave mercy to nations who did not know Him specifically as Jehovah, but had fear for God, the Creator, and who did right. At the same time, there was punishment for those who did not know Him specifically as Jehovah, but did not fear God and did not treasure justice and doing what was right. This helps us with Jericho, but what about Achan. He, after all, was an Israelite.
Though the entire world had sinned and deserved death, God did not flood the Earth as He had done in the time of Noah, though He would have been justified. Instead, He gave great mercy and spared the lives of Israel. At the same time, the Lord was building the foundation necessary for Israel to prosper and enjoy all of the benefits of His Covenant. He was making a point to the Israelites. So the righteous punishment for sin allows the Lord to call for Achan’s death while at the same time displaying His great mercy. Praise His name!
The lesson taught is the power of sin and the need to expel it out of our life. One man’s sin stifled an entire nation and kept them from victory. One man’s sin brought down death and destruction on his entire family. How powerful is sin? We do not fully understand the power of sin or we, especially those of us who are believers, would not allow as much sin into our life as we do. Whether we are robbing a bank or telling a little white lie, sin is destructive. The sting of death is sin. When we sin, the spirit of death attacks us and kills us slowly. Not only this, the disciples were warned about the ‘yeast of the Pharisees’ (Matthew 16:6) The Lord was speaking of a particular kind of sin, having a religious and condemning spirit. Nevertheless, sin is compared to yeast which spreads throughout the whole batch of dough. When we sin, even if we are physically alone, spiritually it affects many more people than ourself. It moves us away from God even if just the tiniest bit. We have less love; less patience; less ability to forgive; in fact, less of everything from God. And if repentance does not occur, we continue to move further away from God one step at a time. The effect of this is not isolated to the one who sins, but to all those around them.
Whatever sin is in your life, confess it. Stone it. Burn it. And throw away the ashes. It is stifling your life and those around you. No matter how desirable the sin, it is destructive.
What sins in your life need to be stoned and burned out that you might enjoy more victory in your life?
From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”