Joshua 7:19-21 (NIV) 19 Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the LORD, the God of Israel, and give him the praise. Tell me what you have done; do not hide it from me.” 20 Achan replied, “It is true! I have sinned against the LORD, the God of Israel. This is what I have done: 21 When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”
As I begin, let me warn you that I am going to preach two sermons this morning, so I’m going to talk fast! I want to talk about how sin gets started and about the problems it creates. Fasten your seatbelts, and please remain seated until the ride comes to a full and final stop.
How many of you had flood damage during the recent flash floods? We had flooding all throughout our basement. Our drains were overwhelmed. Our sump pump failed. We had never experienced anything like it. I was so thankful we were home at the time. Thom had the notion to go check on things and told me he was going to take a look. His departure from the family room was followed by shouts of, “Get as many towels as you can and put a note on FB that we need as many shop vacs as possible.” The tone of his voice let me know the situation was urgent, and I took off running and typing on my phone at the same time.
Water can have such destructive power. What struck me was how quickly the flood overtook our basement and what stayed with me was how much mud was deposited or left by behind in our home in just a short time. One of our rooms was so muddy. It took several shovelings and moppings in order for me to start to believe it was coming clean. What I realized is that what happened in about an hour and a half was going to take weeks and probably a couple of months to recover from.
God started to speak to me about the dangerous power of sin in our lives. What may take just a few seconds to do could deposit destruction in our lives that takes not only weeks and months to recover from, but sometimes sin causes issues that leave lasting, lifetime effects. Our basement will get “back to normal” eventually. Some episodes of sin, change our lives permanently. Oh, God’s grace is sufficient, and we can be forgiven of anything, but sometimes sin’s destructive power produces consequences that are lasting and permanent. We see this principle in the life of Achan, a guy who sinned big-time and actually lost his life for doing so.
Here’s the synopsis: The Israelites had just conquered Jericho. It was incredible. It was their first battle in the Promised Land. It was the greatest city at the time. It had thick impenetrable walls and a fortified army. God gave the Israelites specific, detailed instructions about how to take the city down. Even though the plan was crazy, they followed the instructions to a T, obeying God fully. They would march around the city for six days without saying a word. On the seventh day, they would march around the city seven times. The priests were to blow trumpets, the people were to shout, and the walls would come tumbling down. That is exactly what happened. It was awesome!
As the Israelites rushed into the broken-down city, they plundered it, taking the silver, gold, bronze and iron that they were to put into the Lord’s treasury. They were told in chapter six to make sure they kept away from those items which were to be devoted to the Lord. The plunder from this first conquest, didn’t in any way belong to them, but to God.
The man named Achan, however, couldn’t keep his hands off. He stole some of the stuff and hid it in his tent. The results were disastrous. The next battle the Israelites went into was a battle at a little town called Ai. They lost the battle and 36 of their men died. The Israelites were so discouraged. Joshua asked God what had gone wrong. God told him that there was sin in the camp. Achan confessed. His sin was the cause for the defeat at Ai. Let’s look at how it got started and how it progressed so that we can diagnose sin’s progression and safeguard ourselves from participating in sin and avoid such a huge defeat. I encourage you to take notes in your bulletin outline as we move through the message:
Let’s read out text again: 20 Achan replied, “It is true! I have sinned against the LORD, the God of Israel. This is what I have done: 21 When I SAW in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”
1. Sin starts with a look-I like/want this.
Achan saw some things that caught his attention. He saw a beautiful robe. He saw silver and gold. The things of the world appealed to him. He liked what he saw. His liking led to wanting. He admitted that he coveted things that were forbidden.
When we look back at the original sin in the Garden of Eden, we see this same principle. Genesis 2:8-9 8 Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. 9 And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground–trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Let’s admit the obvious that could be easy to overlook. There are some things that are off limits that do look good. Sin, the things of the world, the things that we aren’t supposed to engage in, are going to look good to us in the flesh. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be a temptation, right? If it didn’t look good, if it didn’t appeal to us, we wouldn’t be interested. There would be no struggle. But sinning, doing those things that are off limits, creates issues in our relationship with God.
What we have to understand is that we should resist sin because we want to protect the relationship we have with God. If He says something is off limits, we need to respect that relationship and stay away from it.
Genesis 2:15-17 15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”
Our relationship with God needs to be more important than satisfying any fleshly desire. To look away and to choose to not sin is to choose to protect our relationship with God.
If you know that doing something will harm your relationship with your spouse or with your kids or with your friends, and you choose to do it anyway, you are placing the relationship below your personal desires. Do you see that? Resisting temptation is really saying, “God, my relationship with you is more important than me acting on what has piqued my curiosity or has gotten my attention.”
Genesis 3:6 tells us that Eve saw the forbidden fruit, and she thought it looked good. The look began the progression of sin for her, just as it did for Achan.
2. Sin continues with a leap-I need/deserve this.
We can be really good at convincing ourselves that we deserve to act on our impulses. We can be really good at justifying a lot of bad behavior in our own mind. We can be experts at talking ourselves into doing things that are wrong. We are quick to think if we desire it, we deserve it. We can leap into sin with little consideration about the dangers of what we are really doing.
Achan could have thought, “I was part of the reason we won the victory in Jericho. I marched around the city. I paid my dues. I put my life on the line. I went in and battled. Surely, I deserve part of the spoils of this war. I have earned this reward.”
Here is the truth about this faulty line of thinking. (The Holy Spirit showed this to me.) When we try to reward ourselves with the things of this world and the things that appeal to our flesh, when we try to reward or bless ourselves with things that are off limits, we are elevating ourselves to the position of God in our lives. We are ultimately saying we know better than God how we should be treated or rewarded.
Rather than believe God will bless us or that blessing will follow doing things God’s way, we look for a way to bless ourselves. That is sin against God as it elevates our will above His will in our lives.
Working hard glorifies God, but it doesn’t entitle us to satisfy our flesh as we see fit. Sacrificing to help others is a good thing, but it doesn’t mean that we deserve to be rewarded with things that are outside of God’s designs for us, but we can be really good at convincing ourselves we should be rewarded for whatever IT is that we think we have done.
3. Sin is perpetuated with lies-I can do what I want and am above the truth.
Achan hid the stuff he had taken in his tent. Look back at the text: Joshua 7:21 21 “When I SAW, I COVETED them and TOOK them. They are HIDDEN in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”
Do you see the folly in this whole deal? The things Achan was drawn to and wanted to enjoy were hiding in the ground in his tent. How was he enjoying them at all? Where was he ever going to wear the beautiful robe that he had stolen? He could never leave the tent with it. Everyone would know he didn’t own a Babylonian robe! How would he spend that silver without everyone questioning where he had gotten the money to buy such elaborate things?
Those things that we think we deserve and so desperately want to enjoy usually become things we have to hide and sneak around with and can’t really “enjoy” them the way we thought we would. The fact that Achan hid them in his home put him in a position where he was somewhat trapped. He had to stand guard over his home. He had to keep people out of his home. What if they saw the hole he had covered? What if they went snooping and saw what he had buried underground? Did he start sleeping with one eye open? Did the rest of his family know what he had done? Were they in on it or was he trying to keep it from them as well? How much anxiety comes to a person who is hiding things in a hole under their dwelling? I don’t want to know!
Any time you try to hide something, you are pretending, you are faking, you are lying. Hiding something is the same as lying. Achan was living a lie. He was going on with “business as usual,” business as usual at least, until he got caught. He had no choice but to come clean. Joshua questioned the people tribe by tribe, clan by clan, and person by person. When face to face with Joshua, when he had to look him in the eye, Achan came clean.
4. Sin ends with loss-Achan enjoyed nothing he had compromised himself to acquire, and he lost his life. Not only did Achan lose his life, but his entire family was stoned and then burned. I know that sounds harsh, but it points to the severity of sin. We often think “it is no big deal,” but it is a BIG DEAL to God. The Israelites were just getting started on their conquest of the Promised Land. God couldn’t have them being disobedient from the “get-go.” He made an example of Achan and his family so that the rest of the Israelites would understand that when God said something was “off limits” it truly was.
What else can we take away from this story? How about this idea:
Your greatest victory and greatest defeat could be separated by one single sin.
Israel had won an amazing victory at Jericho, but that didn’t mean they were now invincible. They went from great victory to great defeat because of one person’s sin. I have said it before, and I will repeat it this morning, “We could all be one decision away from calamity.” We must continue to walk in obedience to God. Thank God for His grace and mercy which seem to be extended to us in this age between Christ’s coming and His coming again, but let’s not use His grace as a license to sin and fool ourselves into thinking there will be no consequence.
Sin’s consequences are clear. God has never sugarcoated, skirted or minimized the consequences of sin. He told Adam and Eve that disobedience to God would bring death, and it did. Spiritual death and eventual physical death were the consequences of sin. Sin still has consequences. A so-called “good time” will have a price to pay. No one can stand before God and say, “I didn’t know doing wrong was wrong.” God has told us what He expects.
Allow me to move quickly to the problems with sin besides those I have mentioned.
• Sin produces problems for other people. Joshua 7:1 1 But the Israelites acted unfaithfully in regard to the devoted things; Achan son of Carmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of them. So the LORD’s anger burned against Israel.
Let me get this straight: The Israelites acted unfaithfully? It was ONE person. The Lord’s anger burned against Israel because of one person’s sin.
I haven’t counted the times God held the entire nation of Israel responsible for the sin of one person, but I think the principle is clear: What we do outside of the will of God has the potential to harm other people. Satan wants us to think that what we do doesn’t impact anyone else, that no one will know, that it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. That isn’t the case. The Devil likes to harm as many people as possible with his schemes. He is very efficient that way.
Achan’s sin made the whole nation of Israel vulnerable to their enemy. Here is another principle: Sin will make you weak.
Ai should have been a piece of cake. Joshua sent spies there to check it out and when the spies came back they told Joshua, “No worries. We don’t even need to send all of our army. We’ve got this. This victory is in the bag.” Israel sent a small army and they were pummeled. 36 of their soldiers were killed. They had taken the great city of Jericho because they had fully obeyed God. They were defeated at little Ai because of one person’s disobedience. Achan’s sin made them vulnerable to their enemy. Our sin will leave us open to an attack from our enemy, Satan, as well. And let me just say, Satan is prowling around looking for an opening. He wants to weaken your walk, weaken your faith, and put you in situations that have potential to compromise your Promised Land experience with God.
• Sin ruins our reputations.Joshua 7:8-9 8 O Lord, what can I say, now that Israel has been routed by its enemies? 9 The Canaanites and the other people of the country will hear about this and they will surround us and wipe out our name from the earth. What then will you do for your own great name?”
When the Canannites and the other people will hear . . . The Israelites, the mighty warriors, the ones who took down Jericho, will become easy prey, easy targets, no match for anyone. They will be pursued rather than run from. God had set them up for success by giving them such a huge victory right out of the shoot, but now, their reputation for being mighty was destroyed.
Sin, disobedience to God, brings death and destruction.
If someone were to ask me to make a list of pros and cons about sin, I would have nothing for the “pro” column. Sin adds no value to our lives. It steals life from us. Besides that fact that sin offends the holiness of God, God absolutely hates what it does to us. Think about the people you love. Do you want to see them in distress? Do you want them sitting in the middle of broken pieces? Do you want them to deal with destruction? Do you want them to lose battles? No. How much more, then, does a perfect God, who possesses a perfect love, want us to be free from anything that could take life from us?
When we turn from sin we have nothing to lose but heartache and sorrow, pain and destruction. We have everything to gain. God’s word tells us that He has given us everything we need for life and godliness. II Peter 1:3
We CAN look away. We CAN run away from temptation. We CAN live in obedience to God. God has given us a way to deal with our sin. It is through the blood of Jesus. It can cleanse us from every stain, but it has no power to remove what we are hiding in our tents. We have to be honest with God about our sin and desire to live free.
Achan’s life was an example of what could happen to someone who chooses sin rather than obedience. Today, would you commit me with that our desire is to become examples of what could happen when we allow God to determine our steps and we choose to faithfully follow Him. Let’s put away sin. Let’s stop its progression in our lives. Let’s avoid the problems it creates. Let’s obey the Lord.