Wednesday, September 28, 2016

DIFFICULT PASSAGES IN THE OLD TESTAMENT - JOSHUA 7 : "Why did Achan's Family have to die for his sin ?"

There is always somebody in the church who does not think  that God’s commands are  serious.  There are always people in the church who think that they can sin, and  they think  that this is their private problem  - and  not the church’s problem. In this study we want  to  do some serious reflection    upon the  effects  of our  sin upon others. We will learn that  that our private sins always have public effects. It is true  that some  of our sins will   have less visible impact  than others  - but they  will always  have  an impact to a greater or lesser degree.


Chapter  7:1  starts on a solemn and disturbing note.  “Achan took some of the devoted things. And the Lord’s anger burned  against the people of Israel“ .  This is the central verse  and concern of this chapter. There is  an individual  sin … and there is God’s wrath on a nation .

What happened? The story is described in terms of   (i) A   Cause  (ii) A Cure  and  (iii) A  Consequence

(i)  THE CAUSE :  (7:1-9)
One of the men  of Israel, Achan, did not take  God’s commandments  seriously. He disobeyed  the explicit  order  of  6:17 – 19 . The order could not have been clearer. But, there  is always someone  who  thinks that “no!”  means,  “try your luck”.
Well, what happened?  As Israel  was poised to take the next city  in the promised land,  Ai,  they  not only encountered stiff resistance, not only  were thirty six of their men  killed  in the battle  for that town, but they were decisively beaten, “and their hearts  melted  and became  as water“ (7:5).  Joshua’s  reaction  in  7: 6 – 9  shows that he  is utterly grieved and perplexed.   You and I  have already been given a ‘sneak preview’  in  7:1 as to  why this happened.  But   Joshua  has, as yet, no clue as  to what had caused this setback.  As far as he was concerned nothing could go wrong right now. The God of Israel had   assured them of His presence [see Chapter 1: 3,5,6,9,11,13,15].  He had already caused the waters of the  Jordan to dry up, so that they could walk into the promised land on dry foot.  God  had already  given  Jericho into their hands. But notice too,  that  the gift of the land is connected to  their obedience- see 1:7b - 8,17.
So, this  defeat  at Ai  is devastating!  What on earth is God doing?  Can you appreciate  Joshua’s despair in v.7? Joshua feels humiliated and mocked  (7:9“What will the Canaanites think of us?  What will the Canaanites think of  Israel’s God?“ The glory of God is at stake. Will God now  be humiliated  before  the Amorites?

(ii) THE CURE:  7: 10-23

Joshua’s desperate prayer  is heard by God (7: 10 -13). Mourning over the fact  will not do. “Get up!”  The problem is not with  God. It  is within Israel!  “Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant… they  have taken some of the devoted things  (referring to   6:18,19)!   The  reason is given   why   they cannot stand against  their enemies.  God says, “get rid of that problem among you  by destroying  it.”  
God does not  give Joshua the name(s)  of  the offender(s).  He simply says: “Assemble  the people. Then you take them one by one, and you question them. You’ll soon  find the guilty party”.  It doesn’t take long before the  matter is in the open (7:20).
The anatomy  and progression  of  Achan’s sin  is  powerfully  displayed in  7:20-21 : I saw – I coveted- I took”   ( cf.  James 1:14,15

[Note: seeing is no sin ; but coveting  and taking  are both forbidden in the 10 commandments]

(iii)     THE CONSEQUENCE: 7: 23 -26

Achan  was judged  guilty, and in consequence  his family and all his belongings were   destroyed.  This is a very  graphic illustration and  severe application   of Romans  6:23 :  “The wages of sin  is death”
This judgement no doubt  comes as a great shock to a  21st century reader of the Bible. Why did Achan’s family have to die  with him?  It doesn’t sit easy, does it? But that is precisely what sine does. It produces pain, it produces  grief because it produces death.  
Perhaps  your understanding  grows somewhat more   when you understand  what the selfish sin of Achan  had accomplished:  36 wives had perhaps lost their husbands, and many children would have  lost  their fathers  at the battle of Ai.  But even more significantly, the honour and the Name  of God  were  assaulted by a man  who thought that God  did not mean what  He said.   Private sins  have consequences!
The penalty is so severe because the sin is so serious!  

The problem is that we  have such a   poor understanding of  the nature of sin  and what it does to God and man. We think that it is a little thing  to sin against  God’s explicit commands! But it is no little thing  to sin against God. Perhaps  you will now appreciate  Jesus’  strong words  in Matthew  5:29ff  to  “ If your right eye causes you to sin,  tear it out… if your right hand causes you to sin , cut it off… it is better for you to lose one of your members  than that your whole body  go into hell.”  

We cannot treat  cancer  with plasters or vitamin pills  - it requires  radical surgery.  Sin is a spiritual cancer. It needs radical treatment.  


The primary lesson  from this text is that  private sin has  public consequences. Think  through some biblical  examples and then through some everyday examples:

  • In Joshua :  
  • The effects of  Achan’s private sin   on  Israel :  (i) Loss of life (ii) Loss of blessing (iii) Loss of  courage  (iv) Loss of protection

  •  In the rest of Scripture  

(i) Adam’s ‘private sin’   caused  the whole human race to  inherit the ‘sin virus’  and be cut off from God.   

(ii) David’s ‘private‘ sin  with Batsheba (2 Samuel 11)   caused the death of  her husband Uriah, and the death of the baby born  to  him and Batsheba. It also  ultimately cost him the kingdom.  

(iii) David’s  “private vanity”  in  2 Samuel 24, where he  calls for a headcount of all the fighting men, causes the Lord to burn with anger. It caused the death of 70 000 people  from Dan to Beersheba.

(iv)  King Herod’s  private fears about the announcement  of a “king  to be born in Israel “ causes a baby boy genocide  (Matt. 2:16).  Also, his  loose private words  and promises  cause  the death of John the Baptist  (Matt. 14: 1-12)

(v)  The private  selfishness and man-centeredness of the Corinthian church causes great divisions in the church.   

(vi)  Supremely, your, mine    and everyone else’s  ‘private sin‘  took Christ to the cross.  The holy, sinless Son of God  and Son of man had to  be destroyed by death. He had  to  die  in our place, so that our  sin could be forgiven.


(i)        A husband cheats on his wife. Wife, children, family, friends suffer. If he is a church member, the church also suffers.

(ii)       The private  “sex life” of people  who pass on AIDS has  horrifying upon our country  (25-30 % infected?) Many  children born in such relationships  are affected. families, employers,  health care systems  and economies  are affected.

Your sin is no private affair. 
Your sin does not happen in isolation, just as little  as cancer or Aids  manifests itself in isolation  to  the rest of the body. The nature of cancer,  AIDS  or flu for that matter is that it affects the whole body.  It eventually kills the body.  And the church is a body. And Israel is a body. 
Achan is part of Israel  and therefore Achan’s sin is her problem.  
The same is true  for sin in the church. Your  sin  becomes  the church’s problem. The Holy Spirit  is grieved.  It hurts everyone to varying degrees.  The church  cannot advance with sin in her midst. Subsequent  Church discipline is   always painful. Sometimes people have to be cut off.  It always leaves people grieving.   
Think about that! 

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