Do you remember Achan’s sin? He stole some silver, a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and a bar of gold from the city of Jericho. God had absolutely and clearly forbidden them to take anything from the city because it was all devoted to HIM, as all firstfruits should be. Achan directly disobeyed the word of God and stole those things, hiding them under his tent.
Thirty-six Israelites died in a small battle they should have easily won against Ai, all because of Achan’s sin.
Joshua was mad because God had let them lose such a small battle–what would the people of the land think when they found out about it? They would be emboldened to fight against Israel, and God’s name would not be glorified.
But God told Joshua someone had sinned, and until Joshua removed the sin from the camp, God would not be with them; they would continue to lose.
So Joshua and the Israelites discovered Achan, heard his confession, dug up the contraband, and then stoned him AND his wife AND his kids AND his animals. Then they burned them with fire and heaped a huge pile of stones over their bodies.
Yes, that’s exactly what God wanted them to do.
Here is where we hear indictments against God. Shocked individuals cry, “How could God allow such a thing?!” Perhaps they could imagine how God could hold Achan accountable for his own sin, but how could God hold it against the whole family? There is no indication that the family knew what Achan had done, and surely we wouldn’t hold little children responsible.
Before we continue thinking about God, what else might we learn from this account?
1. Sin is serious. We are apt to label our own sins as “mistakes” or “issues,” downplaying and trivializing them. How often do we honestly look at what we have done and use God’s language? I have sinned and “transgressed [God’s] covenant that [He] commanded” me (Joshua 7.11). Call it a lie. Call it stealing. Call it fornication. Call it adultery. Call it unfaithfulness. Call it pride and arrogance. Call it what it is, and recognize how serious it is.
2. Sin never hurts only me. One of Satan’s great lies is this: “It’s okay because it doesn’t really hurt anyone else.” This is total nonsense. The teenage junky uses this logic, while her parents pray and mourn and worry at home. The watcher of pornography uses this logic, while the ladies in his life suffer because of his warped way of viewing women. The drunkard uses this logic, right up until he is charged for vehicular homicide. Achan probably thought, “It won’t hurt anyone…” Thirty-six men and his whole family died as a direct result.
But back to God’s actions. Instead of sitting in judgment over God and questioning His decisions and actions, the healthy way of reading Scripture is to attempt to understand God and how we should relate to Him.
2. God has all authority, and He makes rules for us to follow. We don’t get to question His authority; neither can we disobey without consequences. Every day men and women flaunt His authority because they don’t like God’s rules, but just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s not fully true!
3. God doesn’t act like you or me. Sometimes God acts much more severely than I would. But most of the time He acts much less severely! When we truly understand sin and how it attacks and spurns our Creator, we realize that He has a right to kill each and every one of us because we have all disobeyed His rules. Why does He put up with us? Why does He let us live? Once we come to grips with that, then we see His harsh judgments upon some sinners is totally justified.
Why are folks continually upset with God? Either they don’t understand His complete authority over them or they don’t agree with His assessment of their sins. People reject God because they don’t like Him.
What about you?