The Story of Achan Part 1
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
The Story of Achan
(Sermon and Sunday School Lesson)
Background Passage: Joshua 7:1-26
Focal Passage: Joshua 7:6-7, 10-13, 16-21, 24-26
Let’s back up a few weeks and recap what’s already happened.
God had given the land of Canaan to the Israelites, but they still had to take it away from those who lived there.
That was easier said than done since Israel was blocked by the Jordan River, which was at that time at flood stage.
But God made a way—He stopped the flow of the River and Israel crossed on dry ground.
The first city they faced was Jericho.
When they were taking Jericho the Israelites were commanded by God to spare Rahab and her family and not to take for themselves certain things that belonged to God.
God said, “And all the silver, and gold, and vessels of copper and iron, shall be holy to Jehovah; they shall come into the treasury of Jehovah.”
Chapter 7 begins by telling us that the children of Israel committed a sin against the LORD, but it was only one man that did it.
It was Achan who committed the sin, but the whole nation had to suffer because of what Achan did.
Achan took some loot from the ruins of Jericho; he took some gold, silver and a valuable garment and he hid them in a hole he dug in the ground near the center of his tent.
Probably no one on earth, with the possible exception of his family, saw what he did, but God saw and He was very angry at the whole nation because of what Achan did.
We find that hard to understand; that God would punish a whole nation because of what one person did.
But our ways are not His ways.
Besides that, He did it twice before and the first time was way back at the beginning.
The first sin; the sin of Adam and Eve has affected every person born since then.
Because of that one sin everyone is born with Adam’s nature and in a lost condition
Later God punished the Egyptians because Pharaoh wouldn’t let the Israelites leave Egypt.
He went as far as taking the life of the first born male child in every household.
In the New Testament John was given a message from Jesus about seven churches.
One was in the city of Pergamos.
He told that church that they were going to be punished for not confronting a woman in the congregation called Jezebel, who was involved in fornication.
Jesus said that He would make her sick and kill her children unless she repented; her children would be punished for what she did.
A modern day example would be the natural disasters we have experienced in the last few years.
Did God send them?
We don’t know.
But if He didn’t send them, He at least knew all about it, and He didn’t stop them from taking lives and destroying homes.
Sometimes I think we forget that God does not only love but that He is also a just God who punishes sin.
Let’s remember that every sin we commit is a sin against God, and that sin not only hurts us, it also hurts others, and it hurts our relationship with the Father.
The story of Achan is a story of theft and deception and punishment.
People who steel may not be very smart according to an article I read.
The article said that those who steal aren’t too bright and here’s some evidence to prove it: A burglar in New Jersey stuck a piece of paper in the lock of an office building so he could later return for the heist.
The police had no problem locating the thief because the paper he used was a parking ticket that clearly identified who he was and where he lived.
A twenty-two-year-old man in Wichita, Kansas, got arrested for trying to pass counterfeit money at an airport hotel.
The counterfeit loot was two $16 bills.
Policemen in Rhode Island knew they had apprehended the right suspect when it came time to post bail.
The man was charged with a string of vending machine robberies and paid his $400 bail entirely in quarters.
God says stealing is a sin, and sin always has consequences.
You never get away with sin, because “Your sins will find you out.”
Soon after Jericho’s defeat, Joshua sent some of his men to spy on the city of Ai.
It was a small city with around 12,000 residents, and when the spies compared it to Jericho it looked to them like it was going to be an easy victory.
When they returned to camp they told Joshua, “It’s a small city and it won’t take more than two or three thousand of us to destroy it; there’s no point in all of us going there.”
So approximately three thousand soldiers were sent—and they were soundly defeated.
About thirty-six of the Israelis were killed during the attack, and many others died while being chased by the men of Ai.
The Israeli army was paralyzed with fear by this turn of events.
Their success at Jericho had given them confidence in God and in themselves.
However, defeat sometimes leads people to abandon their faith in God, when they need it the most.
We forget that God doesn’t always see us through difficulties without blood and toil, sweat and tears, and disappointment.
Joshua was worried that the low morale of his troops might keep his army from fighting and that God may have forsaken them.
He was also worried that the Canaanites would have a revival of hope and see them as weak because they were defeated easily by such a small city.
They might think, “A god who would allow His people to be defeated didn’t have much power.”
Joshua’s sins weren’t responsible for the defeat, but as a leader, he was responsible for what his people did.
That’s the background for today’s lesson that begins with verse 6.
WITH THE WARNING, DON’T BLAME GOD
6 And Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the LORD until the eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads.
7 And Joshua said, Alas, O Lord GOD, wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? would to God we had been content, and dwelt on the other side(of the) Jordan(River)!
Many times defeat comes after victory, because that’s when we least expect it.
That’s when we feel the strongest in ourselves.
And that’s when we should turn to God, and not try to fix the problem ourselves.
Self-confidence can be dangerous, as we’re told in 1 Corinthians 10:12; “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”
Have you known people who were smart, highly educated and perhaps wealthy that seemed to be able to do anything they set their mind to?
They’re cocky and they think they don’t need God, and then they catch a virus and die, or they are killed in a car wreck or plane crash.
Israel had become proud and they thought that God would always help them, but they were wrong.
God helped them defeat Jericho, but he didn’t give them any help when they attacked Ai.
The people didn’t pray before going against Ai, and the Lord didn’t command them to go, as He had commanded them to take Jericho.
Consequently, they learned painfully that all was not well; something had changed.
The Canaanites were not any stronger, but Israel was weaker, and the reason was that sin had entered the camp.
Joshua tore his clothes as a public display of grief, and then he fell to the ground and put dust on his head.
That’s when he began to sing the blues.
We have heard this song before.
When the children of Israel were in the wilderness they complained that God had brought them there to die from thirst and hunger.
Now Joshua’s prayer blames God for their defeat.
He tells God that he’s sorry that they ever entered the Promised Land, and that they would be better off if they had stayed on the other side of the Jordan River.
But wanting to return to the past doesn’t help us deal with the present or prepare for the future because we can’t change a thing.
Instead of longing to return to the past we need to ask what God wants us to do now.
Can any good come out of our failures? What do you think? (I like the words to a song that says, “I can’t even walk without You holding my hand.” Our failures reveal how weak and puny we really are. We can learn from them and grow in faith and we might be a little bit smarter.)
Joshua continued to pray, “What can I say to encourage the people who will be downcast by this defeat, while their enemies will become more courageous. When the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land hear about it, they will surround us and wipe us out forever; and that will hurt your great name.”
The disgrace that sin brings upon the kingdom of God is a real and very terrible thing.
Beginning in verse 10 we have God’s answer to Joshua.
IT”S A CALL FOR CONSECRATION
10 And the LORD said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face?
Joshua is having a pity Party and God had enough of it, so He tells him to get up and act like a man.
God wants him to take some action and find the cause of the sin.
The LORD told Joshua that this wasn’t a time for prayer but a time for action.
We are told in the Bible to pray about all things, but don’t you think there is a time to get up off your knees and take action; go to that lost person you have been praying for and show him how to become a child of God? What do you think?