Joshua 7 The Sin of Achan
Joshua 7 Achan’s Sin
Principles of Strongholds
In Abyssinia, when a man is convicted of an offence for which he has to pay a fine, he must find a friend who will offer himself as a security that the culprit will not run away till the fine be paid. The prisoner and the man who has the misfortune to be his friend are then chained leg-to-leg and turned loose to roam about, sharing one another’s misfortunes, and begging together the money necessary to pay the fine, until either they are able to regain their liberty or the death of one puts an end to their existence.
—E. A. De Cosson
We continue with the book of Joshua today. We take up the story shortly after Jericho has been defeated. The Israelites are excited. God is on their side. They have seen some miraculous events over the last few weeks with the drying up of the flood swollen Jordan river and the miraculous collapse of the walls of Jericho.
Now before them stands the city of Ai, the gateway to the mountain cities, towering nearly 600 metres above them. So confident are the Israelites however that they opt to send only a small force of 3000 men to take Ai for there are few men there.
Much to their surprise however, the men of Ai easily rout the Israelites and chase them away, killing 36 Israelites in the process. This is an unmitigated disaster.
Joshua is shocked. He tore his clothes and lay face down before the Ark of the Covenant, staying there until evening. The elders of Israel did the same thing. They could not understand what had happened. It seemed that the favour God had given them was now dissipating. Joshua was in fear that the towns and cities that had been in fear of them would now rally together and come down to the plains of Jericho and attack the Israelites. The Israelites now had no place where they could go to escape. They were trapped by the swollen Jordan River behind them.
Then God spoke to the Israelites. He told them there was sin in the camp. When the Israelites had taken the city of Jericho they had destroyed everything except Rahab and her family and all the articles of silver, gold, bronze and iron they put into the treasury of the Lord’s house (6:24).
Now let me make my first point at this stage. Success today does not guarantee success tomorrow. The fact that Jericho had been successfully destroyed was not a guarantee that the next town would also be destroyed successfully. The success of the conquering of Jericho was due to the obedience of the Israelites to the commands and will of God. As long as they were faithful to God, He would protect and lead the people, but as soon as there was disobedience, God could no longer work with his people.
It is the same for us. When we are being led by the Holy Spirit, we can know the anointing of the Holy Spirit on our lives. As long as we are faithful to God the anointing remains, but as soon as we offend God in some way, the anointing disappears. The Holy Spirit is very sensitive.
If the Holy Spirit Anointing is lost, it is necessary to fast and pray until the point where the anointing left is identified. When this has been confessed and forgiveness obtained, the anointing of the Holy Spirit will normally return. We cannot expect that we can do whatever we please and expect God to continue to bless us. The anointing of God comes with conditions. The conditions are that we live lives that are in accord with the teachings and commands of Jesus Christ.
Now just as Joshua had to wait before God for a whole day before God answered him, once we move outside the anointing of God we have to wait on God before he will answer us. If you do something that offends you husband or wife, it is not possible to just take up the relationship as if nothing has happened. For communication to be reestablished at the level it was before the offence, there needs to be a time for things to settle and then a genuine apology. After the apology is accepted, the communication can be reestablished.
After a day of waiting before God, God spoke to Joshua. Joshua 7:10-11
10 The LORD said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? 11 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.
The root of the separation from God is sin! The root of all separation from God is sin. Remember the Israelites had promised to do whatever Joshua required of them and that they would keep the whole law (1:17-18). Now after the conquering of only one city, they find they are in sin before God.
What is this sin? God makes it clear to Joshua that some of the devoted things intended for use in the temple have been stolen. Then God says something that I really want you to hear clearly. Joshua 7:11-12
11 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. 12 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.
The Israelites have taken some of the devoted things and kept them in their own possession. The devoted things are those things that are devoted for use in the temple of God. The Israelites have taken of those things for their own pleasure that were intended to be used only in the temple of God. As a result, the Israelites are made liable for destruction.
Now think about this a little more. The Israelites have misused something intended only for use in the temple. Are we not the temple of the Holy Spirit? 1 Corinthians 6:19 states,
19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?
Yes, we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit lives within us. We are set apart for the work of God within us. If you like, our bodies have been set apart for the work of God’s service. Romans 12:1-2 states,
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
We are to be transformed so that our bodies are an acceptable sacrifice to God. In other words, our bodies are to become vessels for use by God. Do you see where this is leading?
The Israelites kept for themselves what was required by God for use in the house of God. When we withhold ourselves from God, we fall into the same sin that Achan committed. When I committed myself to Jesus and invited him to be Lord of my life, I gave the whole of my life to God for his use. When I withhold part of my life from him after it has been set aside, I find myself in sin before God. Either I am for God or I am for myself, but not both.
Now notice how this sin is uncovered. After a day of prostration before God, God reveals that there is sin in the camp. However, God doesn’t say who has sinned. That is to be revealed through a process of elimination.
The people are told to go and prepare themselves. The following day, the twelve tribes of Judah come forward tribe by tribe and God chooses one tribe, the tribe of Judah. Next the tribe of Judah comes forward clan by clan and the Zerahites were chosen. Then the Zerahites came forward family by family and the family of Zimri was taken. Finally the family of Zimri came forward man by man and Achan was chosen.
At this point, Joshua knew the sin, but gave Achan the chance to own up. Achan did in Joshua 7:20-21,
20 And Achan answered Joshua and said, “Indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and this is what I have done: 21 When I saw among the spoils a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. And there they are, hidden in the earth in the midst of my tent, with the silver under it.”
After the items were reclaimed from the tent of Achan, they were taken along with Achan, his sons, daughters, cattle, donkeys and sheep and all that he had to the Valley of Achor where they were stoned and everything was burnt. To our western sensibilities the thought that all Achan family should be killed along with him seems offensive. But remember, they all lived in the one tent, so they would all have been a party to the sin and so shared in the guilt.
Now there are some principles here that apply to strongholds in our lives. Now you will remember that I talked about strongholds last week. They are incorrect ways of thinking that become blocks to the flow of the Holy Spirit and allow access to Satan or his demons into our lives. Strongholds are established when we are children as survival mechanisms and they are hidden behind because the truth is perceived as too difficult to face.
In the story of Achan we can see some of the principles of strongholds at work. The first is that the sin will always hide out of sight. Achan did not come forward and confess his sin. He remained hidden and had to be exposed by being confronted. In a stronghold, the cause of the stronghold will always hide. The sin might be known as it was in the case of Achan, but the cause of the sin will remain hidden as Achan did. Consequently Satan will have legal right into our lives to cause all sorts of disruption without us knowing why it is the case.
Second principle. The sin is discovered only if we are serious about getting right with God. Just as Joshua had to spend time on his face before God when it became clear that there was a problem with Israel, so we need to spend time with God when we know there is a problem. We must wait until the sin is exposed. God revealed to Joshua what the sin was, but he didn’t reveal how the sin come into the Israelite camp.
Third principle. The cause of the sin will not be immediately obvious. The tribes, clans, families and individuals had to pass before Joshua until Achan was identified. Achan was the access point. The access point has to be identified.
Fourth principle. A stronghold often has the support of related issues which help to conceal it. Achan was the entry point of sin into the Israelite camp, but the family of Achan were also involved in concealing the sin. Strongholds will often have supporting areas of false thinking which allow the strongholds to exist and allow access of Satan and families of demons into our lives at will, to stir up all sorts of trouble. For instance, I might have a stronghold of unforgiveness caused by an injustice I suffered as a child, but supporting the injustice might be associated areas of bitterness, revenge and anger. I might often errupt in anger when my stronghold of unforgiveness is touched, but I will have no idea that the root of my anger is unforgiveness until I take time before God allowing the procession of tribes, clans, families and individual causes of sin to come before me in God’s presence.
Fifth principle. The sin of one will affect the destiny of the whole. In one sense, Achan’s sin was personal, or at the most it was covered by his family. But in reality, his sin also jeopardised the whole nation of Israel. When we have a stronghold it likewise jeapordises the whole of our salvation. Where Satan has access to our lives, his purpose is not to affect only that area, but to bring us to hell. One small stronghold that is not in submission to the saving work of Jesus can bring our whole salvation into danger. A stronghold may masquerade as a friend but in reality it is our sworn enemy intent on bringing us down.
Sixth principle. Once the problem is identified, destroy it completely and all its related misthinking. A stronghold cannot be repaired. It must be destroyed completely just as Achan was. All the associated misthinking or families of lies that have helped to prop up the stronghold must also be destroyed, just as the whole of Achan’s family were destroyed. There is no place for mercy. Remember that we are talking here about access points for Satan and his demons to play around with our minds. Access must be denied and that is through the renewing of our minds. The lies that we have tolerated all our lives must be destroyed and replaced with the truth. It is the truth that will set us free. When the lies of our thinking are replaced with the truth, the access for Satan is denied. The door is bolted from the inside. The truth is discovered as we search the scriptures and allow ourselves to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.
The result of dealing with our strongholds is that we enter back under the blessing of God just as the Israelites returned to the blessing of God after they had dealt with the sin of Achan.
This week I would like to challenge you all to spend some time before God asking him to reveal areas of incorrect thinking that cause you problems in your life. These are your strongholds. Then seek new ways of thinking in line with the scriptures that will lead you into freedom. If you have problems, please ring me.
Invite people to come forward for prayer at the end of the service.