“But Israel violated the instructions about the things set apart for the Lord. A man named Achan had stolen some of these dedicated things, so the Lord was very angry with the Israelites. Achan was the son of Carmi, a descendant of Zimri son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah. 2 Joshua sent some of his men from Jericho to spy out the town of Ai, east of Bethel, near Beth-aven. 3 When they returned, they told Joshua, “There’s no need for all of us to go up there; it won’t take more than two or three thousand men to attack Ai. Since there are so few of them, don’t make all our people struggle to go up there.” 4 So approximately 3,000 warriors were sent, but they were soundly defeated. The men of Ai 5 chased the Israelites from the town gate as far as the quarries, and they killed about thirty-six who were retreating down the slope. The Israelites were paralyzed with fear at this turn of events, and their courage melted away. 6 Joshua and the elders of Israel tore their clothing in dismay, threw dust on their heads, and bowed face down to the ground before the Ark of the Lord until evening. 7 Then Joshua cried out, “Oh, Sovereign Lord, why did you bring us across the Jordan River if you are going to let the Amorites kill us? If only we had been content to stay on the other side! 8 Lord, what can I say now that Israel has fled from its enemies? 9 For when the Canaanites and all the other people living in the land hear about it, they will surround us and wipe our name off the face of the earth. And then what will happen to the honor of your great name?” 10 But the Lord said to Joshua, “Get up! Why are you lying on your face like this? 11 Israel has sinned and broken my covenant! They have stolen some of the things that I commanded must be set apart for me. And they have not only stolen them but have lied about it and hidden the things among their own belongings. 12 That is why the Israelites are running from their enemies in defeat. For now Israel itself has been set apart for destruction. I will not remain with you any longer unless you destroy the things among you that were set apart for destruction. 13 “Get up! Command the people to purify themselves in preparation for tomorrow. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Hidden among you, O Israel, are things set apart for the Lord. You will never defeat your enemies until you remove these things from among you. 14 “In the morning you must present yourselves by tribes, and the Lord will point out the tribe to which the guilty man belongs. That tribe must come forward with its clans, and the Lord will point out the guilty clan. That clan will then come forward, and the Lord will point out the guilty family. Finally, each member of the guilty family must come forward one by one. 15 The one who has stolen what was set apart for destruction will himself be burned with fire, along with everything he has, for he has broken the covenant of the Lord and has done a horrible thing in Israel.” 16 Early the next morning Joshua brought the tribes of Israel before the Lord, and the tribe of Judah was singled out. 17 Then the clans of Judah came forward, and the clan of Zerah was singled out. Then the families of Zerah came forward, and the family of Zimri was singled out. 18 Every member of Zimri’s family was brought forward person by person, and Achan was singled out. 19 Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel, by telling the truth. Make your confession and tell me what you have done. Don’t hide it from me.” 20 Achan replied, “It is true! I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel. 21 Among the plunder I saw a beautiful robe from Babylon,200 silver coins, and a bar of gold weighing more than a pound. I wanted them so much that I took them. They are hidden in the ground beneath my tent, with the silver buried deeper than the rest.” 22 So Joshua sent some men to make a search. They ran to the tent and found the stolen goods hidden there, just as Achan had said, with the silver buried beneath the rest. 23 They took the things from the tent and brought them to Joshua and all the Israelites. Then they laid them on the ground in the presence of the Lord.”
Last time as we looked at the story of Jericho, we saw the power of God displayed in the presence of His obedient people. God removed the problem that stood in the way of His promise; there are no strongholds that can stand against the strength of God. We discovered that an obedience life is the key to a victorious one. Joshua not only believed God but he lived out his belief in obedience. He took hold of God’s promise regarding his current situation and saw the conquering power of God in his current circumstances. Have you commit yourself to a total willingness to do whatever God calls, are you obeying His directives? Joshua was not only called to participate in God’s plan but to practice patience in the midst of the plan> He had to march around the city day after day, believing and resting in God’s Word. Are you exercising the patience that is required for God to accomplish his purpose and plan in your life? They conquered Jericho by committing themselves to faithfully following God’s commands. As God’s people we like the stories of God’s power and promise, but unfortunately the bible is not just filled with stories of success but also ones of sin and failure. As we move from chapter 6 to 7 we move from the story of success to one of sin, from faithfulness to failure. On the heels of obedient success we see the sin of:
It is here that God’s Word gives us a clear warning, the war is not won in a single battle but through a lifetime of obedience. This is a cautionary lesson of consequences, one which we should be careful to take to heart. Most people are individualistic; they tend to view life through the lens of self, what is best for me, and what’s in it for me. We speak about personal responsibility but we tend to forget that our lives are inter-connected. Relationships rest on and in each other, they tend to be woven together much like a web. The implication and impact of those relationships is what comes into focus in Joshua chapter 7. Just as obedience resulted in success by destroyed the stronghold that was standing in their so disobedience destroyed their future success. Disobedience is like a disease that infects and inflicts death. Unfortunately it doesn’t just affect the sinner but also those around. So what was Achan’s sin? God had given a clear command that none of the wealth of Jericho was to be personally taken by the warriors. Instead it was to be given to the national treasury in God’s name. Take a moment an imagine the temptation that these soldiers faced after their victory at Jericho. They had been refugees wondering in the wilderness for over 40 years, and prior to this they and their assertors had been slaves in Egypt for over 400 years. Now as the smoke swirls and the dust of the destroyed city settled they start to gather up the gold, silver, and other wealth to deliver to Joshua. For many they would have seen more wealth in that moment than they had ever seen. This was the first real opportunity for these warriors to accumulate a little wealth. So Achan chose to focus on the wealth rather than God’s Word, so sidetracked by the shiny silver he stole from God. Achan isn’t so very different from you and me, he was a man who appreciated the good life. He became mesmerized more by money than the Master, which led to the terrible mistake of caring more for the cash than God’s commands. Achan let his desire for the good life become his first priority, taking the lead over his devotion to the Lord. Which takes greater priority in your life, God or the gold? Achan’s sin was that he stole what belonged to God, something we may think we would never do, so what does this story mean for us today? The Bible teaches us that we belong to God, “You are not your own; you were bought with a price.” 1 Corinthians 6:20; “You are a chosen people…a people belonging to God!” 1 Peter 2:9. When we grab our lives from God, seizing control and choosing to do as we please, we are actually stealing from Him. When we use the treasure of time for our own selfish pursuits rather than pursuing God’s plan we are stealing from Him. When we waste our talents and gifts we are stealing from God. When we reject the still small voice of the Spirit we are stealing from God. When we try to live in His lime light and steal the show we are grabbing God’s glory. God is not just the Lord of 10% of our time, talents and treasures. Contrary to the way many of us try to live our lives God does not work on a percentage commission basis with us. We are totally His, or not His at all, there is no middle ground. Disobedience causes us to divide our loyalties, our love and our lives. Achan end up living for and lusting after the temporary treasure of this world instead of the wealth that comes from listening to God’s Word and living His way. What would you rather have, silver or success? Are you living an obedient life? Are you conforming to His commands or converting something more than the Master? Is your heart beat in rhythm with the Word or wondering? Are you focused on God or gain? Is there any area of your life where you are stealing from the Savior?