This week, lead pastor Keith Welton continues the sermon series from the book of Joshua. In Joshua 7, we see the personal and communal results of sin as the Israelites lose the battle with Ai due to Achan's disobedience.
To view or listen to the previous sermon in this series, click here.
Prop: Broken faith causes God’s anger to burn but faithfulness turns away his wrath.
The Breaking of Faith
The people of Israel acted faithlessly to the Lord in regard to the devoted things. The plunder of Jericho was to be dedicated to the Lord, but they took it for themselves. They were unfaithful to the Lord. The word for broken is also used of one who was unfaithful to their spouse. Broken faith with their spouse. All the sadness, anger, disappointment that go with adultery should go right here as well.
Transgressed the covenant. Walked over. Moved on from and alienated. Moved on to something better. Found a new girlfriend and transgressed his covenant.
Israel failed the test of prosperity. There are two types of tests. That of adversity and that of prosperity. The test of adversity focuses on overcoming great obstacles. The test of prosperity is what you do once you achieve your goal. Many work hard to overcome adversity. Few work hard to pass the test of prosperity. They have arrived. The struggle is gone. Failing the test of prosperity begins with assuming things you should not assume.
The great city of Jericho was defeated without losing a single life. They followed God’s instructions and the city fell by shouts and trumpets. God had truly given them into the Israelites' hands, certainly the promised land was theirs to have.
They assumed that since God gave Jericho into their hands they could now do whatever they wanted. There is something about being in dire need that makes us rely on God in greater ways. And when things are going well we are much less exacting in our devotion to God. On their knees listening to God, begging for victory over Jericho, now running around with no regard for the commands. Be careful of the test of prosperity.
Ai is nothing compared to Jericho. They don't need that many soldiers. Just send a few. To their surprise they are routed. Thirty-six people die. Not that many, but it’s 36 more than died in Jericho. They are defeated and left in despair. The hearts of the people melted.
One of the themes of this chapter is the Lord’s war on sin. The Canaanites are being removed for their evil. God uses the Israelites to bring judgment on the land of Canaan. But that does not mean Israel is free to behave however they want. If they go their own way, they are just as susceptible to the wrath of God as any other. One minute they are executing God’s judgment, next minute they are experiencing his wrath– all because they turned away.
Va yi char af. To cause fire to burn. Nostrils burned. Personification.
They have lost the presence and favor of God.
They lose the battle of Ai and so begins the…
The Search for Answers
Joshua draws near to God. He is praying beside the ark, the presence of God. Why, oh Lord?? Joshua prays. For the first time Joshua is afraid. Their hearts are like water.
The people were called to the land of Canaan, and they are to remove the people of the land of Canaan, but we will see this passage is about the Canaanization of the people of God. They begin to look more like Canaanites than like the people God calls them to be.
Why have you done this to us, God? He turns to the Lord in complaint, searching, inquiring. He doesn’t understand it. Doesn’t understand because they assume they have done everything correctly. Couldn’t possibly be a problem with me or us.
How often do we accuse God for things we have done wrong? I look back at some issues we walked through in various churches. Some problems seemed to last forever and we did not have clarity on what to do. Questioned why God would do that. I now look back and see my own indecision and fear as markers of prolonged difficulty. I didn’t hear and see what he was trying to show me.
Turn to him for answers. Be willing to hear what he has to say. Sometimes you don’t hear because you don’t want to hear.
Get up. There are times to mourn. There are also times to address sin head on. God calls Joshua to deal with the problem. Don't let sin fester.
God Knows What Is Hidden
Joshua doesn’t know what happened, nor does he know who did it. But God knows everything. They have stolen and they have lied. God is calling them to account.
God picks the tribe, the clan, the family, and the man. Would think that at this point Achan is sweating like he ate an habañero pepper. All of life has come to a standstill because of what he has done.
Jehovah Jireh. The Lord who sees. He sees me. He knows me. More than you know.
The goods are in his tent, in the safe. Covered in the ground. Hidden inground so it cannot be found. He is playing games with God. Don’t play games you can’t win.
Hiding your sin is like the ostrich burying its head in the ground. Just cause you can’t see doesn’t mean God can’t see. Spitballs. No one knows you like God knows you. You can hide thoughts, desires, and acts from people. You cannot hide them from God. He knows you.
The Sin of Achan
Achan saw the wonderful plunder: "cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them and took them" (Jos 7:21 ESV).
Cloak from Shinar. Six pounds of silver, gold. What an average worker would make in a lifetime. He took it.
He saw. He coveted. He took. He sinned. Just like Adam and Eve in the garden. People fail in private before they fail in public.
Follow God, not your heart. The heart can be misguided. It is deceitful.
He hid the plunder. Knew it was wrong and doesn’t want to be found out. His family will suffer the same fate as him. They are treated as being complicit in the sin. They knew the ground was dug up in the tent.
Hiding sin is not the way to deal with sin. Achan will be called to give glory to God. That involves humbling yourself and laying it all bare.
When you hide your sin you give it the protection it needs to grow and consume you.
God’s word was clear. They were not to take this. He took it. There are consequences. For him and others. Ironic thing is, Jericho was the first city to conquer. God wants the first portion of what he gives. The plunder of all future victories was for the Israelites. Achan couldn't wait. Achan failed with his firstfruits. The danger of coveting!
He is a great picture of what you get when you combine Jesus and the world. Trade God for more stuff. He got neither God nor stuff. He lost it all.
One of your greatest threats is your own sinful nature. World, flesh, and devil. Sin begins in the heart. It is slick.
Lactantius. Man who overcomes himself.
There is a difference in knowing you are a sinner and really knowing that you are a sinner. If you really know then you will fight against it. You will be vigilant in dealing with it. You go after the seeds of it. I’m not good at taking care of our yard. I forget about the weeds until they are towering above the grass and flowering. Too late. Deal with it before it sprouts.
Our time together should consist of confessing sins. Confessing the seeds of sins. If your only prayer request with friends are your upcoming surgeries then you are blind to your sin. If you only care about not being found out, you are a hypocrite. If you are so complacent with your sin that you don’t even talk with other people about it then you don’t understand who God is.
Remember, Achan is not a Canaanite. He is not an outsider to the people of God. Achan is at church every Sunday. Achan knows the memory verses. He knows the promises of God. Among the people of God, but with a hard heart! His sin is the cancer that is killing the church today. This is the cancer that is in your life and heart. If you are not actively killing it, you are passively being devoured.
Any soil in the right conditions can become quicksand. Any heart in the right conditions can turn away.
The Place of God’s People
No man is an island unto himself. No Christian is detached from the body. Achan’s sin affects him, his family, and his nation. God deals with his people through his people. When you fail to walk with God, it affects many people.
God gives his people a role in dealing with the sin.
They are called to consecrate themselves. They are also those called to bring about the judgment of removing, stoning and burning the lawbreakers.
The church today does not stone, but it is called to maintain the integrity of the people. Matthew 19 lays out a pattern of addressing sin. First go to your brother and tell him his sin. If he repents then you gained your brother. Won him back. If he doesn’t, take another one or two to confront that person. Third, tell it to the church. Treat him as an unbeliever. Don’t stone him, treat him as dead. Treat as an unbeliever. Don’t allow sin to continue.
Let me say this. People who express contrition, sorrow, and need for help should find mercy. There are times we are dealing with weak faith, doubt. But we are trying to work through it. We need to move toward such people. Help them grow. Too often churches will see any sin as a need to remove and pronounce judgment. If someone is hardened in their sin, that may be necessary. If they are struggling and fighting for faith, though, we want to come alongside them and help them.
God calls his people into a distinct community. It runs all through the Bible. This is just another way we see it. People question being a committed part of a community. The world doesn’t gather to read the word, pray, and deal with sin. This should be distinct in a church community. People in the redeemed community are not all knowing. I can't hold you accountable. You can make yourself accountable. If you have things you want help with then lay them on the table and I can help. I am not Nathan the prophet and don’t know all that you have done.
We need to be distinct from the world. We also need to be distinct from the majority of the Christian culture of our nation. There is a complacency of Christians today that scares me. I'm worried about the loss of religious freedoms in our nation. I'm worried about the destructive things being taught about sexuality. I'm most concerned with the complacency of God’s people. It has become normal to call yourself a Christian but not pursue him, to not go to church, to not read the word, to neglect the care of our hearts and souls. I believe this passage teaches us our greatest adversary is not the world but the devotion of our own people.
Israel was to take their holiness seriously. They were to devote themselves to God.
God’s Anger Is Turned
Achan and his family are struck down. Is it too harsh? God made clear the consequences beforehand. Achan has no excuse. He transgressed God’s law. Now he suffers the consequences.
His family dies with him. They were probably aware of what he did. They were complicit. Don’t support people in their sin. Get up.
God’s nostrils burn because of what his people did. But in the end his anger is turned away. Just as you get mad at injustice, so does God. Riot in 2020 because of the death of George Floyd and the racist inclinations of the officer. It is right to be angry at such evil. It was quelled with a guilty verdict. God is right to be angry at our transgressing his commands.
His anger is turned away through the death of Achan and those involved.
If you have sinned then the question for you is how can God’s wrath against me be turned away?
There is something tragic in the death of Achan. No one pleads for Achan. No one asks for mercy. No one steps in to defend Achan. Perhaps they knew the law and knew what must happen. Perhaps they were concerned their sin deserved the same and they were content to let another fall. I’m sure Achan looked through the crowd hoping something or someone might intervene. It remained silent. No one came forward.
But this passage also shows us something much greater. God’s anger, hovering over his people, is satisfied through the death of a man. The sin is atoned through death and destruction that was justly deserved.
If you believe this seems too harsh and bitter then hear this and where the story goes. God’s people are spared in this event, and yet they will continue in their struggle with sin. In the fullness of time, God sends his Son to atone for the sins of his people. Jesus lived a perfect life, and was completely obedient, but the cloud of sin and judgment hung over his people, and he spoke up. He intervened and took their place of punishment. He saw you in the circle of judgment about to be stoned for what you did, and he said, “I will take the punishment so they can be set free.”
His death propitiated the wrath of God.
God’s just wrath toward sin is taken away by the death of Jesus. He dies not for his sin, but for your sin. He dies in order to save you from the condemnation that Achan experienced.
Guilt of your sin is taken away. No longer guilty, but even more, you’re brought into the family of God. Sons and daughters of the living God.
“Until sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet.” Thomas Boston
We all deserve what Achan got. God has made a way to receive mercy. We don’t have to tremble and live in fear. We can be forgiven. We don’t hide our sin. We give glory to God and bring it to him. Some of you need to stop hiding sin. Stop protecting it. Bring it into the open.
Some of you need to be set free from the past. Don’t have to live in fear. Bring your stolen goods and lay them down. Bring the fruit of your sin and lay it at the cross. Stop trying to live with Jesus in one hand and the world in the other. Let it all go for him.
Breaking from your sin means you come to God on his terms. Stop following your heart and doing your own thing and expect him to bless you.
Stop holding on to Jesus and the world.
Give glory to God. Confess your sin. Confess your faith in him. Make a break from your old way.
Died for his sin
Satisfied the demand for justice
Died for the nation
Had no one to intercede or plead for mercy.
His death removed guilt
His sin corrupted his family and nation.
Died for our sin
Satisfied the demand for righteousness
Died for the world
His death was an intervention for all.
His death made righteous.
HIs death brings righteousness