This week we have been studying the important story of a man named Achan and the terrible consequences of his sin. Scripture says that just before God sent Joshua to defeat Jericho, God gave him these instructions-
Joshua 6:17 And the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the Lord for destruction… 18 … keep yourselves from the things devoted to destruction, lest when you have devoted them you take any of the devoted things and make the camp of Israel a thing for destruction and bring trouble upon it. ESV
God commanded the people to take nothing from Jericho for themselves. Everything was to be either destroyed, or brought into the treasury of the Lord.
At first it seemed that all of Israel obeyed God’s command. Jericho was defeated and destroyed. But then we read –
Joshua 7:1 But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan … took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel. ESV
Achan tried to secretly take some of the treasure and hide it in his tent. For a while it appeared as though Achan had gotten by with his sin and no one knew what he had done. But then we read –
Joshua 7:2 Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai… 5 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. ESV
During the next battle at Ai, thirty-six of the Jewish soldiers were killed. At first Joshua couldn’t understand why God would allow something like this to happen. The Bible indicates that Joshua even tried to accuse the Lord of not being faithful to His people. But then we read –
Joshua 7:10 The Lord said to Joshua, “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face? 11 Israel has sinned…
Though only one man disobeyed God’s command, the entire nation suffered the consequences. This might seem unfair to many of us, yet it emphasizes the importance of spiritual purity. The Bible says that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. (see 1 John 1:5) God will not align Himself with that which is evil.
As we continue our story we see that God would not allow Israel to simply sweep Achan’s sin under the rug. Achan had to be held accountable.
Joshua 7:13 … for thus says the Lord, God of Israel, “There are devoted things in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the devoted things from among you… 15 And he who is taken with the devoted things shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he has transgressed the covenant of the Lord, and because he has done an outrageous thing in Israel.
Joshua 7:18 And he brought near his household man by man, and Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken. 19 Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the Lord God of Israel and give praise to him. And tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.”
20 And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and this is what I did: 21 when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”
22 So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent; and behold, it was hidden in his tent with the silver underneath. 23 And they took them out of the tent and brought them to Joshua and to all the people of Israel. And they laid them down before the Lord. 24 And Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver and the cloak and the bar of gold, and his sons and daughters and his oxen and donkeys and sheep and his tent and all that he had. And they brought them up to the Valley of Achor. 25 And Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble on us? The Lord brings trouble on you today.” And all Israel stoned him with stones. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones. ESV
Jewish law prohibited innocent family members from being punished for a relative’s sins, (see Deut 24:16); therefore, it is most likely that the entire family of Achan must have been aware of what he had done.
I’m not sure how this week’s study has affected you, but it has caused me to search my heart. As I have done a self-examination, I have asked myself these questions:
Is there something in my life that is displeasing to God and prohibiting Him from fully manifesting Himself in and through me?
Am I truly repentant of these sins or do I treat them as though they were not a big deal?
Do I seek not only forgiveness for these sins, but also a transformation of my life so that I might not so easily commit them again?
Do I appreciate what Jesus did for me when He died on the cross for my sins?
The story of Achan is a dramatic story, yet it’s a story that every Christian needs to review periodically. Perhaps if we considered it more often, we might experience more of the power of God as we seek to reach the lost and to minister to God’s people.