Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

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18 The Defeating discouragement of Disobedience – Part 2

Joshua 7:1-7:23

“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 moved from Joshua chapter 6 to 7 we saw that on the heels of obedient success came the sin of disobedience, and it was this disobedience that led to:

  • Defeat

When Israel went up to fight the little city of Ai they were so filled with confidence that they only sent part of their army. After the resounding success of Jericho, I’m sure that they though that Ai would be a walk over. But imagine the discouragement and dismay when the walk-over turned into a whipping. The triumph of Jericho quickly turned to tragedy and defeat as 36 men dropped dead and the rest ran for cover. Scripture says that “the Israelites were paralyzed with fear at this turn of events, and their courage melted away, Joshua and the elders of Israel tore their clothing in dismay.” Why did they experience defeat? Disobedience, God reveals the rebellion to Joshua in verse 11 saying, “Israel has sinned and broken my covenant.” Disobedience always leads to disaster, and one of the most sobering aspects of this story is a principle that this scripture points out and that is still true today: When one of God’s kids chooses to disobey the expressed, clear directive of God, he can cause great distress, demoralization, and defeat among the entire family. 1 Corinthians 12:26 says “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” You cannot sin and suffer the consequences alone. No matter how carefully concealed your choices their consequences will touch others as surely as a stone thrown into a pond causes waves on the water’s surface to ripple all the way to the shore. As John Donne the English poet wrote, “No man is an island.” You may think that your actions are not hurting others but remember that the one who chooses to involve themselves in an adulterous affair is not only hurting themselves, but also their spouse, their children as well as the one with whom they are involved along with that persons family. Those who walk away from the Word of God don’t just affect their lives but it also has bearing on those who look to them as an example. Kids who dabble in drugs don’t just destroy their lives but their actions pierce their parents hearts and cause pain in their families.  Even silent sins have a way of surfacing. We need to realize that Judgment Day is not always the following morning but as Moses warned in Numbers 32:23 “You may be sure that your sin will find you out” The story of Achan reminds us of the double tragedy of sin, not only is there a penalty but there is no pleasure. Achan not only paid the penalty with his life but he also never got to enjoy any of the money, even for a moment. Satan wants to seduce us with sin and then watch us suffer. His plan is simply to lure us in with a promise of pleasure that will only ever produce pain.  What drives Satan is our destruction; he wants to ruin our relationship with our Heavenly Father. We end up trading God for guilt. Not only does disobedience lead to defeat but it also leads to:

  • Discipline

Our choices come with a cost, they carry consequences. The tragedy of what Achan took is seen in the price that was paid. Sin always has a serious cost. It cost him his life, the lives of his family, and the lives of 36 Israelite soldiers. It cost time from the conquest. It cost dismay and anguish in the heart of Joshua as well as discouragement in the people at a critical time in their history, it cost them courage. There was also the cost of the disgrace of defeat that reflected not just on Israel but on their God. Sin is a serious thing and we need to wise up and stop excusing away our disobedience. We need to stop acting as if sin is no big deal. Deliberate disobedience to the will of God is deadly. Your choices are critical, today’s actions become tomorrow’s habit and tomorrow’s habit become your way of life. Galatians 6:7 calls this the principle of sowing and reaping, and it comes with a promise that is both positive and negative: “No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life” – The Message. The truth is that today’s actions are never neutral, we are either actively moving toward God or going our own way. Sin is never static, it has serious consequences and even if it doesn’t cost us our life remember it did cost Christ His. My sin cost Jesus the anguish of Calvary, separation from His Father and the agony of crucifixion. We need to be aware of the frog in the frying pan syndrome, it’s a metaphor that points to peoples unwillingness to respond to the threats that occur gradually in their lives. Like the frog we may think things are fine but if we stay in the sin we won’t just simmer we will steam. We will suffer the consequences and pay the cost. If we are not intentional about listening to the Lord and putting obedience into practice then we will become de-sensitized to our own sinfulness. Achan was no more wicked than any other Israelite, he just forgot what was important and took his focus off of the Father for a few moments. In that lapse, his spiritual vision was clouded by silver coins and gold that caught his attention more than God. Being a believer does not mean that you will not be tempted, but when you are tempted you don’t have to turn from truth, you can trust God. We need to resolve to listen to the Redeemer, to hear His call and create a habit of obedience, so that in the moment of temptation we will not fail God, our church, our family, and ourselves. Is there any area of your life where you have turned from truth and are tolerating sin? If so then repent, run from the sin, and return to a right relationship with the Savior.