“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. ..Then all Israel stoned him, and after they had stoned the rest, they burned them. Over Achan they heaped up a large pile of rocks, which remains to this day. Then the LORD turned from his fierce anger.” Joshua 7:1, 25-26
When you read Joshua 7, what’s your heart’s reaction? Are you appalled with Achan’s sin? Or are you upset with God for his apparent lack of mercy?
The problem is that sin is deceitful. It passes itself off as little. We see it as a little gnat in the soup, easily removed, when really the whole soup is poisoned. We see sin as the spot of spaghetti sauce on our white t-shirt, easily soaked with cleaner, when really, the whole white t-shirt has been dyed an irreversible tomato-orange. When consequences seem slim, what’s the matter with a little sin?
Achan saw and coveted items left behind in Jericho. But Achan didn’t steal from Jericho. He stole from the Lord Almighty who had already claimed the spoils of Jericho for Himself. Achan’s heat-of-the-battle theft blossomed into secrecy (hiding possessions under his tent), which affected his fellow Israelites who attempted to fight a battle but were defeated. And finally, Achan hardened his heart until nothing but unrepentance ruled.
Here’s the mercy: Achan had his chances to come clean. When the men from Israel went up to Ai and were routed because of his sin, Achan could have torn his robe and repented in ashes. When Joshua fell before the Lord and received the instructions to consecrate the people and bring them forward tribe by tribe, Achan could have repented. When the tribes, clans, and families started to parade in front of Joshua and the elders, Achan still could have repented. He had ample time, but he lacked conviction. His heart was hardened.
To a just God, there is no small sin. Sin is always ugly and deserving of death. And so God acted as He had to act. Achan reaped what he sowed.
Are we revolted by our sin? Do we realize the entire nature of our sinfulness? By that I mean, we not only do and think sinful things, we are inherently sinful from our minds to our hearts. And we are all one day going to be marched in front of a holy God, who by nature being holy, cannot exist with unholiness.
Here’s our mercy: The blood of Christ. His death instead of ours. But it takes repentance. He will not save those who do not recognize their sin and need. It’s not enough to confess (admit) to our sin problem. We must repent. It’s a step beyond confession. It’s a turning away from sin and to Jesus as the only solution.
Are you living in the Christ’s extended mercy? Do you hate sin? Let us learn some good lessons from Achan.