God Judges Sin
Stephen Caswell © 1999
God Judges Sin
Illustration, Climbing Higher
The story is told of pastor Dale Kurtz, who laughed so hard that his sides ached. He was watching a frustrated squirrel trying to climb the metal pole supporting a bird feeder. The squirrel repeatedly got part way up, then slowly slid down the pole in a heap. In describing this incident, Kurtz wrote, " What the squirrel didn't know was that I had greased the pole! Greasing the pole is one of Satan's tactics to hinder Christians in their spiritual climb. The grease he often uses is our pride, complacency, and self sufficiency.
This morning we saw how Israel had a tremendous victory at Jericho. They obeyed God's unusual plan for battle. They exercised great faith because God had assured them of victory. They obeyed the Lord and he miraculously intervened causing the walls of Jerciho to fall down. Chapter 6 closes with these words: So the LORD was with Joshua; and his fame was noised throughout all the country. God was keeping His covenant promises to Joshua and Israel. I would like to say that Israel was in a strong position militarily, but they weren't. Chapter 7 starts with the ominous word But. They were precariously perched on the top of a hill and about to be knocked down. Of course Joshua and Israel did not know this at the time. As we look at their attack on Ai we see how God Judges Sin. There are two main points.
Firstly Sins Consequences
Secondly Sins Cleansing
I. Sins Consequences
Joshua 7:1 says: But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against the children of Israel.
Although Israel obeyed God's instructions regarding the procession around Jericho, they disobeyed Him concerning the accursed things. God had strictly forbidden them to take any spoil from Jericho. Everything from Jericho was devoted to God. It would be either destroyed or placed in the Lord's treasury. Joshua 6:17-19 says: And the city shall be accursed, even it, and all that are therein, to the LORD: only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent. And ye, in any wise keep yourselves from the accursed thing, lest ye make yourselves accursed, when ye take of the accursed thing, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it. But all the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are consecrated unto the LORD: they shall come into the treasury of the LORD. Achan took the accursed thing into his tent. He not only made himself accursed, he brought a curse upon Israel. The word accursed is used 8 times in chapter 7.
Anger Against Sin
God looked at this very seriously. He could not have made it any clearer, everything belonged to Him as the first fruits of the land. Achan disobeyed God's commandment. As we will see later he hid the accursed things his tent. But the Lord knew who he was and what he had done. God knew Achan very well, as indicated by the list of his ancestors. Achan had violated the covenant. He had deliberately disobeyed what he knew was right. That is why he hid the stuff in his tent. God was angry, and all Israel was affected. Israel as a nation would pay the price for Achan's sin. God held Israel responsible for this violation of the covenant.
Illustration Of The Trojan Horse
The Greeks wanted to capture the city of Troy. This was not an easy task since it was well fortified with high walls and strong gates. So they devised a plan to take the city by stealth. They made a wooden Trojan horse that was hollow inside. Then they placed the horse outside the city in the morning and then withdrew. The people of Troy opened their gates, came out, and took the Trojan horse inside the city. During the night when everyone was asleep the men inside the Trojan horse came out of the horse. They opened the city gates allowing the soldiers to come in under the cover of darkness. The city was taken before the citizens knew what had happened. This is what Satan did to Israel through Achan.
The same is true for us today. You cannot sin and get away with it. When you allow the accursed thing into your life you give the enemy a foothold. Sin affects more people than just the perpetrator. It spreads like yeast in bread. Others suffer the consequences of our sin. The sinful habits and lifestyles of parents are passed on to their children just as God said. This should cause us to think carefully before we do something we know is wrong.
Let me ask you, have you brought the accursed thing into your home? I am not talking about silver or gold. I am talking about things that God despises. Do you allow a curse to come into your home through television or music? If Jesus Christ were to sit next to you when you watched T V would your viewing habits change? Would God approve of the music you listen to? If our entertainment promotes wickedness then we are bringing a curse into our homes. Let me assure you God is present and He knows what you watch and listen to. He will not bless us if we take the accursed thing into our homes. We need to show discernment with what we allow into our homes. We need to exercise our wills and choose what is good and wholesome. We need to reject what is accursed.
Adversary's Stronghold In Israel's Camp
Unfortunately Joshua didn't know what had happened at Jericho. He thought everything was fine after their tremendous victory. He was riding high and keen to get on to the conquest of Ai. Joshua was full of confidence having seen God's miraculous help at Jericho. He was totally unaware that one of his soldiers had brought the accursed thing into the camp. He didn't know that the enemy had a foothold in their camp that would weaken their defences. Verse1 But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against the children of Israel.
Joshua 7:2-5 And Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is beside Bethaven, on the east side of Bethel, and spake unto them, saying, Go up and view the country. And the men went up and viewed Ai. And they returned to Joshua, and said unto him, Let not all the people go up; but let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai; and make not all the people to labour thither; for they are but few. So there went up thither of the people about three thousand men: and they fled before the men of Ai. And the men of Ai smote of them about thirty and six men: for they chased them from before the gate even unto Shebarim, and smote them in the going down: wherefore the hearts of the people melted, and became as water.
Israel's Self - Confidence
Because everything turned out so well at Jericho, Joshua didn't think it necessary to consult the Lord. After all God had helped them to win. He had given them the victory and in an amazing way. Surely He was pleased with Israel, they had obeyed Him hadn't they? So Joshua sent out some spies to view the land. They came back and advised Joshua not to send all the soldiers just two or three thousand men would be enough. Ai was just a small city, nothing like the fortress of Jericho. The spies too were confident after Jericho. Unfortunately Joshua underestimated the defences at Ai. Ai had 2,000 people including 6,000 soldiers.
Most importantly they neglected to consult the Lord. They assumed that He would bless them as before. They were self confident, proud and complacent. But they were terribly mistaken. God promised victory at Jericho, He didn't do this at Ai. See 6:2 & 8:1 That is just when Satan strikes most powerfully. Yesterday's victories don't guarantee tomorrow's victories! We need new grace from God every day! Israel had broken the covenant and therefore God would not assist them in the conflict. They should have consulted Him first and sought His help and direction. He would have exposed their sin. Disobedience always leads to defeat.
The results were catastrophic. The small city of Ai defeated Israel and 36 men were killed in the conflict. Israel was forced to turn their backs on their enemy and run. This was far more serious than just the loss of 36 men. The word Lord or God is not mentioned once in this account. That's because He wasn't involved. The word Lord is mentioned 16 times in chapter 6. This defeat showed that God was no longer fighting with them. Unless this situation was corrected Israel could not conquer Canaan. Israel's morale had gone from soaring in the clouds to the depths of despair. Verse 5 closes with these words, wherefore the hearts of the people melted, and became as water. This description is given of the Canaanites in 2:10 & 5:1 Israel wondered why this happened and they were Discouraged.
The time we need to be most on our guard against the adversary is when we have just had a spiritual victory. When we are riding high after victory we are very vulnerable to pride and self confidence. Pride goes before a fall. It is at these times that we need to rely on the Lord more than ever to remain victorious. Satan is most active when we are troubling him or gaining new ground. So look out for him and keep trusting on the Lord, not yourself!
If you have disobeyed the Lord then deal with it quickly before it leads to defeat. You cannot hide your sin from God, so don't try! Deal with it immediately. Regain the ground from the enemy. Because Disobedience leads to Defeat which in turn leads to Discouragement.
Joshua 7:6-9 says: And Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the LORD until the eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads. And Joshua said, Alas, O Lord GOD, wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? would to God we had been content, and dwelt on the other side Jordan! O Lord, what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies! For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land shall hear of it, and shall environ us round, and cut off our name from the earth: and what wilt thou do unto thy great name?
Joshua's Grief And Amazement
Joshua was amazed by these turn of events and became greatly discouraged. He couldn't understand what went wrong after God's miraculous help at the Jordan and Jericho. His response was in keeping with middle eastern culture. People tore their clothes and layed in the dust to express their grief. The fact that he did this until evening showed how serious this matter was. Joshua looked to the right place for help. He turned to God falling on his face before the ark. He was honest before God and expressed his grief. The elders of Israel joined with him. It would seem that he said nothing all day. Then at evening Joshua called out to the Lord for guidance. His prayer be can be summarised in three questions.
1. Why did you bring us over the Jordan - to destroy us?
2. What can I say now that Israel has been defeated?
3. What will you do then to protect your great name?
Joshua's Ignorance Is Expressed
Joshua knew something was wrong but he didn't know what. He seems to blame God here for what happened. He acknowledged God's involvement in the victories at Jordan and Jericho. This helps us understand why he questions God about their defeat. Deuteronomy 28:7 says: The LORD shall cause thine enemies that rise up against thee to be smitten before thy face: they shall come out against thee one way, and flee before thee seven ways. God had promised to give them the land of Canaan. He had kept His covenant so far, but now Israel's defeat showed that the covenant was broken. Joshua didn't even consider that the blame might lie with Israel. He didn't know what Achan had done and therefore asked God why this had happened. God answered Joshua giving him Directions to remedy the situation.
If God has left you and you don't know why. If your prayers are not being answered and you don't know why. If you are constantly being Defeated in your Christian life. May I suggest that something has come between you and God. If this is your situation then I would like to encourage you to follow Joshua's example and seek the Lord. Tell Him what you are feeling. Be honest with Him. Remember to be reverent knowing that because God is holy and good, the fault lies with you. If you don't know what is between you and God, Then may I suggest that you humbly seek His guidance. God will show you what needs to be addressed. He will point out the sin that has come between you. God brings us Discouragement so that we will turn to Him and seek His Directions. Joshua experienced this. This brings our Second point:
II. Sins Cleansing
Joshua 7:10-15 says: And the LORD said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face? Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff. Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they were accursed: neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you.
Up, sanctify the people, and say, Sanctify yourselves against to morrow: for thus saith the LORD God of Israel, There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you. In the morning therefore ye shall be brought according to your tribes: and it shall be, that the tribe which the LORD taketh shall come according to the families thereof; and the family which the LORD shall take shall come by households; and the household which the LORD shall take shall come man by man. And it shall be, that he that is taken with the accursed thing shall be burnt with fire, he and all that he hath: because he hath transgressed the covenant of the LORD, and because he hath wrought folly in Israel.
The Lord addressed Joshua with a question, " Why are you lying on your face? " God wanted Joshua to act. Joshua was right in seeking God. He just should have asked the Lord's guidance before evening. God revealed Israel's sin caused their defeat. The Lord said that Israel had sinned and then went on to describe it specifically. They transgressed the covenant that God had commanded them. Transgression has the idea of stepping over the line of what is right. They took of the accursed things, stealing them and putting them with their own goods. This was done deceitfully. God knew all about Achan's sin and held Israel responsible.
Because Israel broke the covenant they could not stand before their enemies. God had not helped them neither would He be present with them unless they dealt with their sin. The Lord said that they had to destroy the accursed thing from amongst them. Achan had stolen something that belonged to God. Therefore he was cursed just as God had said. Furthermore he brought a curse upon Israel too. God's solution was for this sin to be dealt with so Israel could come back into covenant relationship with God. They had to mend the covenant they had broken. Israel must separate itself from the accursed thing. They must sanctify themselves to the Lord again since He would come amongst them to judge this sin. The guilty person and his possessions were to be burned with fire for breaking the covenant.
God is holy. He has not changed. He will not bless our lives whilst we hide the accursed thing in our homes. If you have sin in your life then you must deal with it. If the music you listen to is offensive to God then you need to remove it from your homes. If the shows you watch on TV are immoral, violent or have vulgar language stop watching them. Look at the TV guide to see if there are any decent shows before you turn the TV on. If your books contain material that is impure or vulgar get rid of them. Put these things aside so that you can be holy and sanctified unto God. Ask the question," What would Jesus think of this show or that music? "
Romans 12:1-2 says: I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
Joshua 7:16-21 says: So Joshua rose up early in the morning, and brought Israel by their tribes; and the tribe of Judah was taken: And he brought the family of Judah; and he took the family of the Zarhites: and he brought the family of the Zarhites man by man; and Zabdi was taken: And he brought his household man by man; and Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken. And Joshua said unto Achan, My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the LORD God of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me. And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Indeed I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done: When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it.
Achan Is Caught
Early the next day Joshua started searching for the offender. He chose representative from the twelve tribes and cast lots to determine which tribe was to be examined. This may seem like taking a guess but in fact it was the exact opposite. Proverbs 16:33 says: The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD. God ensured that the right tribe was chosen. Then he took representatives from the clans that made up the tribes and repeated the process. He continued this process until the offender was caught. But why didn't God just reveal the name of the guilty party? Why did he allow Israel to go through this long process?
I believe that God did it this way to show that the whole nation was caught up in this transgression. Sin quickly spreads and affects others. This gave Israel a serious warning about sin. They had seen this in their defeat and the loss of 36 men. Now they see that God holds them all responsible to deal with it. It also gave Achan time to repent and confess his sin. If he had come forward and pleaded for mercy he may have been forgiven. There was no sacrifice for high handed sin. David had no sacrifice to offer for his sin with Bathsheba. But God spared him because he confessed his sin and pleaded for mercy. When Achan was Discovered he was only sorry for being caught not for his sin. He must have sensed that God knew it was him when the lot kept closing in on him. He should have responded to God's conviction. Now caught, Joshua encouraged him to admit his guilt and give glory to God.
Going To The Doctor
A friend of ours in Brisbane went to the doctor recently for tests. He had been bleeding for some months but would not go. The doctor gave him tests and found out he has got stomach cancer. Now they know what is wrong they can treat him for it. He should have gone for a check up in the first place. Then he would have had a better chance of being cured! In the same way we need to seek God's directions when we are spiritually unwell. He can diagnose what is wrong and show us how do deal with it. Only after we expose our lives to God can He bring forgiveness and cleansing.
Achan gave a full confession of what he had done. In fact his sin is parallel to that of Eve in the garden of Eden. He saw the spoils, then he coveted them and finally he took them. You can see a progression from seeing, to desiring something that wasn't his, to taking it. The fact that he calls them spoils shows that he did not agree with God's command regarding the devoted things. Spoils is the term used of booty or treasure that victorious armies take after the battle. Achan felt he had a right to take these things. But God had said that everything in Jericho was dedicated to him. When Israel captured Ai the Lord allowed them to keep the spoils of the city. They only destroyed the city and the people. The cattle and its riches were theirs to keep. But Jericho was the first fruits of the land and therefore belonged to God.
Be sure your sins will find you out. God knows our secret sins. He knows all about us. The amazing thing is that he loves us. He wants us to deal with our sin. Romans 2:4 says that it is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance. God allowed Israel to suffer Defeat and Discouragement so that they would seek His Directions. Then He could help them Discover the sin in their midst. The Lord works the same way with us. He wants us to confess our sin so that He can cleanse us. But if we will not deal with our sin then He will Discipline us so that we will confess it. 1 John 1:8-9 If we say that we have no sin we deceicve ourselves.....
c. Discipline - Death
Joshua 7:22-26 says: So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran unto the tent; and, behold, it was hid in his tent, and the silver under it. And they took them out of the midst of the tent, and brought them unto Joshua, and unto all the children of Israel, and laid them out before the LORD. And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had: and they brought them unto the valley of Achor. And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the LORD shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones. And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So the LORD turned from the fierceness of his anger. Wherefore the name of that place was called, The valley of Achor, unto this day.
Joshua Verifies The Sin
Joshua sent messengers to Achan's tent to verify his confession. They found the stolen goods buried under his tent just as he had said. They brought them unto Joshua and spread them out before the Lord. The sin confessed was now exposed for all to see. Joshua and the people took Achan, his family and all their possessions out of the city. Then they stoned them for breaking God's covenant and bringing trouble upon Israel. They destroyed all that he owned with fire. By going out of the camp the people were distancing themselves from Achan's sin. By stoning them they would cut off all remembrance of his family. Why did they put to death the sons and daughters? Probably because they knew of this sin. The goods were hidden in the family tent. They should have told Joshua about it. They suffered the same punishment.
If you feel this punishment was to severe, remember that God authorised it in verse 12. He told them to destroy the accursed thing amongst them. In war the commands given by the leaders must be followed or people lose their lives. In fact 36 men lost their lives because of Achan's sin. He knew the consequences, God had warned them all. And in Joshua 1:18 we read: Whosoever he be that doth rebel against thy commandment, and will not hearken unto thy words in all that thou commandest him, he shall be put to death:
Removing Cancer From Someone
In today's society more people than ever are being affected by terminal diseases. Many people are affected by cancer. When detected early there is a good chance people can recover from it. But it must be removed by surgery or iradicated through chemotherapy. You might think that a few deformed cells couldn't do much harm. But even though there are trillions of good cells and only a few cancerous cells they can still kill you. They have a way of spreading and contaminating the rest of the body. They must be removed, exterminated if the person is to live. The same is true of sin. It must be removed or it will contaminate others.
They stoned them and then burned them with fire because the sin was very serious. The large pile of stones heaped upon them was to form a memorial. This would serve as warning to others who might break the Lord's covenant. The Lord approved of the way Israel dealt with this matter. Because He turned away from the fierceness of His wrath. The covenant had been restored and Israel would enjoy His blessing and fellowship once again.
God still views sin very seriously. Annanias and Saphira suffered a similar fete in the early church. The Lord still Disciplines His children to lead them to repentance. Hebrews 12:5-7, 11 says: And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? ... Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.
Israel learnt the seriousness of sin in the camp. God judges sin! But they also received the fruit of righteousness after. I trust that we too might not take sin lightly. God is holy and commands us to be holy too. Therefore we shouldn't treat God's grace lightly. Let us walk in obedience to His commands. Disobedience left unchecked, always leads to Defeat. When we sin let us confess it immediately and seek His cleansing. This allows us to maintain our fellowship with God. It also protects us from suffering major defeat in our Christian life. God judges our sin so that we will return to Him. Don't give the enemy a foothold in your life by leaving sin unconfessed. Don't allow him to gain territory in your home by bringing in the accursed thing.
Our success in the Christian life is very much related to our obedience in these areas. If your physical life is undisciplined then it cannot but affect your Christian life. The two are connected, as Israel found out the hard way. If you are Defeated don't wallow in Discouragement seek God's Directions. He will help you to discover the sin that needs cleansing. Then you can regain your fellowship with God and experience His blessing once more. Don't ignore it like Achan did and suffer the Lord's Discipline. God doesn't want us to live a life of defeat. He wants us to be victorious, but He will not bless us when we sin. If we sin let us follow Joshua's example and deal with it openly. For then God will bless! Amen
Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, 21 make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.