The Temptation of Achan

Intro: For those who say that south Florida does not have any seasons, I would direct you to tomorrow. It is the beginning of our most publicized season – Hurricane season! It identifies a period of time when hurricanes are most probable, so as to be ready for them. When is the most probable time for sin? When are we most likely to be tempted to do wrong. A case could be made that it is when God’s blessings are most evident. As ironic and unlikely as that seems, consider:

  • the first sin in a perfect garden
  • Noah’s intoxication after his salvation from the flood
  • Lot and his daughter’s incest after their rescue from Sodom
  • the golden calf after the miraculous deliverance from Egypt
  • and then there is the intriguing narrative of Joshua 6 & 7.
  • The victory at Jericho and the sin of Achan. How could sin intrude at such a time of victory?

I. A City under a Ban: Turn to Joshua 6 and the account of Jericho’s fall. Jericho was the first city of Canaan to fall to the people of God. As such, the battle for Jericho was both strategically and spiritually important. How?

  • God intended to show the other people of Canaan that Israel’s God was uniquely powerful and could not be kept out. So, Jericho’s fall was not protracted, but swift. It was accomplished by a profound miracle that could not be denied.
  • God also intended to show Israel that it was their sanctification as His people that would sustain them in this new land. The land would belong to them, inasmuch as they belonged to Jehovah. They were not to take the things of Canaan and make them their own (idolatry, war instruments, even their form of gov’t – give us a king like the other nations). God’s people were to be sanctified.
  • The law had also addressed this from the negative perspective. Things that were condemned by God, as falling under His judgment, could not be redeemed. These things were considered accursed, or under a ban. The Hebrew word is “cherim” (some translations use the word “devoted”.) Lev 27:28-2928 “‘But nothing that a man owns and devotes to the Lord — whether man or animal or family land — may be sold or redeemed; everything so devoted is most holy to the Lord. 29 “‘No person devoted to destruction may be ransomed; he must be put to death. (NIV)
  • This ban applied especially to those things that belonged to idolatry. They could not be made clean again, and thus were devoted to destruction. (King Agag whom Saul refused to kill)

A. The Ban of Jericho: Josh 6:18-19 – “But as for you, only keep yourselves from the things under the ban, so that you do not covet them and take some of the things under the ban, and make the camp of Israel accursed and bring trouble on it. 19 ” But all the silver and gold and articles of bronze and iron are holy to the Lord; they shall go into the treasury of the Lord.”

1. The city and its contents (even the people) were doomed to destruction, and could not be redeemed for Israel’s personal use. The spoils from this first conquest belonged to God alone. Why did God make this restriction? Some thoughts:

• If every person were allowed to ransack the city, enemy nations would conclude that the army of Jehovah was motivated by greed. There was a higher purpose to the defeat of Jericho.

• It was to be given to God, so God would get the glory.

• God was sending a message that His people were not to accommodate the things of Canaan to their own life. They were to be different.

• The destruction of these things under the ban signaled God’s personal judgment on the pagan religion of the Canaanites. Their sins were full, and God would make a show of them.

II. The sin of Achan: Josh 7:1 – But the sons of Israel acted unfaithfully in regard to the things under the ban, for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah, took some of the things under the ban, therefore the anger of the Lord burned against the sons of Israel. Notice that the first indication of sin is pictured as the sin of all the people (sons of Israel). Achan’s sin polluted the entire nation. Holiness (God’s) is very restrictive, and allows no exceptions or subjective appraisal.

A. Israel’s Defeat at Ai. Josh 7:2-5 – Now Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth-aven, east of Bethel, and said to them, “Go up and spy out the land.” So the men went up and spied out Ai. 3 They returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not let all the people go up; only about two or three thousand men need go up to Ai; do not make all the people toil up there, for they are few.” 4 So about three thousand men from the people went up there, but they fled from the men of Ai. 5 The men of Ai struck down about thirty-six of their men, and pursued them from the gate as far as Shebarim and struck them down on the descent, so the hearts of the people melted and became as water. This is what you call a turnaround. As glorious as Jericho was, Ai was that disgraceful and humiliating.

1. Joshua’s Dismay: It seems that Joshua was perplexed by this turn of events. He grieved publicly and questioned God’s intent. Josh 7:6-9 – Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until the evening, both he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust on their heads. 7 Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord God, why did You ever bring this people over the Jordan, only to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? If only we had been willing to dwell beyond the Jordan! 8 “O Lord, what can I say since Israel has turned their back before their enemies? 9 ” For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it, and they will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will You do for Your great name?” Joshua easily recognized that God was sovereign here. He knows that God has defeated Israel, just as He was responsible for their victory – “delivered us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us” (v. 7)

B. God’s explanation: Get up and recognize that this is your fault (fault of Israel) – Josh 7:11-12 – 11 “Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. And they have even taken some of the things under the ban and have both stolen and deceived. Moreover, they have also put them among their own things. 12 “Therefore the sons of Israel cannot stand before their enemies; they turn their backs before their enemies, for they have become accursed. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy the things under the ban from your midst. The sin of Achan is attributed to the whole nation under the concept of holiness or “the ban”. The perpetrator had not yet been identified. Achan had successfully hidden his crime. But he could not hide his sin from God, and He would expose Achan.

C. Achan’s Exposure: Josh 7:14-15‘In the morning then you shall come near by your tribes. And it shall be that the tribe which the Lord takes by lot shall come near by families, and the family which the Lord takes shall come near by households, and the household which the Lord takes shall come near man by man. 15 ‘ It shall be that the one who is taken with the things under the ban shall be burned with fire, he and all that belongs to him, because he has transgressed the covenant of the Lord, and because he has committed a disgraceful thing in Israel.'”

• Can you imagine what Achan was thinking as each tribe and family were brought forward to Joshua. “Be sure your sin will find you out”; “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God

1. He still said nothing, believing that somehow he could go undetected (as a terrorist going through a metal detector). He was playing the hypocrite. Notice vs. 18He brought his household near man by man; and Achan, son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah, was taken.

2. Joshua urges Achan to tell the truth and come clean. (“give glory t God” – acknowledge that He has seen all and cannot be deceived.)

D. Achan’s confessionJosh 7:20-21 – 20 So Achan answered Joshua and said, “Truly, I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel, and this is what I did: 21 when I saw among the spoil a beautiful mantle from Shinar and two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold fifty shekels in weight, then I coveted them and took them; and behold, they are concealed in the earth inside my tent with the silver underneath it.” Achan’s description of his transgression is noticeably concise and straightforward. There is no rationalization or extrapolation. His words aptly describe the progression from temptation to sin that we have looked at several times this month. Consider also that Achan had a way of escape along the way…

1. “I saw… ” – His temptation to evil began with the lust of his eyes. Eyes are the portals through which sin enters the heart- Luke 11:34 – 4 The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness. The potential for sin is around us every moment of every day. Moments of curiosity, wonderment, exploring, excitement, etc. can all be times when we are tempted to sin. We need to be the time to be aware of spiritual dangers.

 -The way of escape? Consider Job’s words in Job 31:1 – “I have made a covenant with my eyes; Why then should I look upon a young woman?” decide now to control what you gaze at, or place before your eyes. Do not put yourself in the middle of temptation – Ps 26:5 – I have hated the assembly of evildoers, And will not sit with the wicked.

2. “I coveted…” – His look went further, and became lust. He focused on the beauty of the garment and the value of the gold.

– The way of escape? Displace the physical yearning with spiritual contemplation. Paul says it this way: Phil 4:8Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things.

3. “I took…” This was the moment of truth that we all face. Do I do what I know is wrong? Will I disobey God’s command? Achan decided to sin, but even after this he could have been contented with what God had provided, repented and returned what was taken. But instead…

4. “I hid…” The knowledge of what was right (God’s command) and the wrong of what he did led him to play the hypocrite and hide the booty in his tent. Notice when the Lord informs Joshua of Achan’s sin, He say he has” both stolen and deceived” (7:11), and put the banned things among their own things. Many times the decision to hide our transgressions is easier than the decision to sin in the first place. (David & Bathsheba – even to the point of murder.)

– Sin often hides out in God’s camp. There are Christians who are trying to sit on the accursed things they have brought into their lives. But God is not fooled. Jesus said, “Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops. (Luke 12:3)

E. Achan’s punishment: vs. 24-26 – Achan and all that he owned, including his family were brought to the Valley of Achor and destroyed (He and his family were stoned and burned with fire). The severity of God’s judgment portrays the seriousness of Achan’s crime. God has always dealt severely with hypocrisy. The ban resided on Achan and all that he had, and he could not be redeemed. He was “devoted” for destruction.

Conclusion: the temptation to sin can be most powerful during our times of victory. When things are going good, and God’s blessing can easily be seen. How could a nation and city who celebrated the arrival of their long awaited King be tempted to kill Him on a cross just days later? How could a man who is having his feet washed by the Son of God, be plotting His betrayal?

• “You that think you stand, take heed, lest you fall.”

• Sin, even one, is serious business with God. That can be seen in at least two ways (may not be really be two, but one)

1. In the way He punishes sin: events such this one, Uzzah and the ark, Nadab and Abihu, Ananias and Sapphira, etc. indicate that God is ready and willing to punish sin. Hell itself is a testament to the seriousness of a single sin.

2. In the way he forgives sin – He was willing to give His only Son to solve the problem. Calvary is God’s assessment of the tragedy of sin. So it should be ours. God’s love is greater than my sin.

• Are you under the ban…? Have you sinned? The good news is that you can be redeemed. Jesus can redeem those who are “devoted” for destruction, because He paid the price.

• Rom 5:8-9God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.

• 1 Peter 1:18-19knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.

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